How Did You Handle Questions on Your Mission?

New question in the inbox!  Huzzah!  This one’s anonymous!  Here it is:

You seem to take issue with some aspects of the LDS religion. I remember that you served a mission, and I’m wondering what you did while on it when someone would ask you questions about some of these things.

Great question!  Boy y’all sure like to ask questions about Mormonism, eh?  Well, turns out it’s one of my favorite topics.  I like talking about Mormonism here on this blog because I don’t get too many opportunities to talk about it in real life.

Anyway, on to answering the question:  Yes, my spiritual path is sometimes at odds with the teachings of the LDS church.  Many of the things that feel right in my heart are not always aligned with church doctrines or policies.  I feel that it’s important for us to trust ourselves, our experiences, and our judgement.  One of my favorite LDS teachings is the idea that each of us has the ability to receive direct instruction and guidance from God.  Yes, it’s painful when that guidance doesn’t seem to correlate with the teachings of my chosen faith community.  It was a long and painful process that led me to a spiritual place where I am now entirely comfortable disagreeing with the church on some things.

However, I was in a much different spiritual place than I am now while I was a missionary.  I could sum my 19-year-old spiritual beliefs up pretty well by saying I had no idea what I did or didn’t believe.  That posed an obvious problem for an LDS missionary.  However, while this meant that I was never fully committed to all of the ideas within Mormonism, it also meant that I was never committed to any ideas outside Mormonism either.  I saw any differences between my shaky personal beliefs and the churches teachings not as a clashing of ideas, but as a profound lack of worthiness and faith on my part.  When there was disagreement, the church was always right, and I was always wrong – and I was doing everything I knew how to bring myself in line with church teachings.  This proved to be a depressing and unhealthy way to approach God and religion.

 As a missionary, I was taking the proverbial step into the dark tunnel, with faith that my foot would land on solid ground – the same basic message I was asking those I was teaching about Mormonism to embrace.  I chose to become a missionary, in part, as an act of faith.  I studied and taught Mormonism for two years as an act of faith.  I remain an active member of the church today, despite my disagreements, as an act of faith.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the difference between dishonesty and speaking in faith with a great hope that it was true. Since returning home from my mission, I have spent a great deal of time trying to decide if I returned home with my integrity intact.  I’m still trying to figure it out.

Sorry this post was such a downer (frown)!

Ask Me Anything!!!

5 thoughts on “How Did You Handle Questions on Your Mission?”

  1. @Sassy Sarah – I'm glad you liked it. I'm always nervous when I post things like this because I know many active members of the church will take offense, or at least find it not helpful for their own spiritual journeys. I've gotten a few emails and facebook messages accusing me of heresy or calling me to repentance for some of the things I've published here. It's nice to hear when someone likes something I've written.

    btw – I enjoyed the photos of your rock climbing adventures! Looks like fun. You guys are TOTALLY into rock climbing!

  2. I don't think of this post as a downer at all. To the contrary, I find it encouraging.

    I used to chew people out online many years ago for being "cafeteria Mormons". Then I got off my high horse I realized we all pick and choose what we adhere to whether it's in our religion or what civil laws we obey or even what manners we mind. We all choose. And none of us are perfect in execution even of those things we feel strongly about.

    So we gotta live and let live – or waste or time being annoyed with others (and realize they're probably annoyed by us, too).

  3. @Katie – Thanks for the flattering words. I always appreciate your comments on my posts about Mormonism.

    The issue of whether or not Missionaries need to be better educated is a tricky one. On one hand, I like to think that more education is always a good thing. At the same time, I'm not sure it's totally realistic to expect the church (or any organization) to be the ones spreading the word about the skeletons in their own closet. Is there any organization that actively does this? It sort of seems like they're damned if they do talk about it and damned if they don't.

    @Ren – I agree completely. We all pick and choose.

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