Monday, October 26, 2015

On LDS Historical Honesty/Dishonesty

Last week Brian Whitney wrote a post which did a fine job of telling the history behind the telling of LDS history. It's well worth the read. The original title distracted from the solid content, suggesting it was imperative to take a stand on whether or not we've been lied to by the Church. Wisely, the title was changed to: "History vs Heritage: Maybe We Should Stop Saying That We’ve Been Lied to by the Church". (I personally would have titled it something like "History vs Heritage: the History behind LDS History," because I think it solidly explains how church leaders who preferred the "heritage approach" prevailed over over those who preferred a "historical approach" and how we now find ourselves paying the price during the internet age, even as the Church has shifted toward the historical approach.

The debate of whether or not we've been "lied to" really was another issue altogether, and naturally much more controversial. Nevertheless, much of the discussion has steered in that direction. So be it. I believe in open dialogue and the value of letting thoughtful opinions be heard. We mustn't shy away from hard conversations just because they're hard, nor assume that disagreement equates to contention. Ralph Waldo Emmerson spoke a profound truth when he said: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” Likewise, Hugh B. Brown spoke a profound truth when he said we should "respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression."

While many of the loudest Mormon or Ex-Mormon voices tend to gravitate to either extreme poles of complete adulation of church leaders or complete disaffection with church leaders, I find it far more wise (and compassionate) to strive to exist between either extreme by looking for both positive things to say but also expressing valid and constructive criticism. Emily Grover recently shared a great F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” That, I believeis what most of us middle-way Mormons strive for.

Whether middle-way Mormons attend church because the church is "true" for them, or whether they attend church despite the fact they no longer believe in such a thing as a "one and only true church," they tend to have an ‘eye’s and hearts wide open approach’ to the Mormon community. We sustain and show compassion for our leaders not because we believe they're always wise and inspired, but rather because they deserve love and support even if we believe they're wrong and more fallible than they themselves realize. The following guest post comes from such a middle-way Mormon, writing in response to Brian Whitney's "Heritage vs History" post. It too is a valuable read. The author, who expresses both appreciation and dissent, requested for his name to be withheld:
First off, I would like to say how thoroughly impressed I was with the post. It was well laid out, very thoughtful and it included a lot of historical context, which is helpful in understanding how we find ourselves in this position. The title to the article was sensational, but the content was very sincere and well put together. As I read it, I felt that I gained insight to Brian’s perspective. I agree the issue is complex, however I disagree with Brian’s opinion. I do agree with his assertion that the current leadership were raised on black and white thinking, and it is likely that they believed suppression of the truth was helpful in keeping the faithful, faithful. What I loved most about the article was that it spoke to me as if I was an adult, capable of understanding complex topics. As I read it I couldn’t help but think, why wasn’t this written by the brethren? I respect Brian’s opinion, for those of you who care I want to share my opinion of why I disagree with him. 
I will start with the essays. To me the way the church has handled these essays is dishonest. It’s been nearly three years since they started silently placing them on the internet, unsigned and anonymous. It’s unsettling because it goes entirely against how the church does everything else. This organization is masterful at getting information to members, and the world, that they want to be heard. Have you heard about “Meet the Mormons”, what about the “Family Proclamation”, or the “Church’s stance on gay marriage”? The fact that the majority of members still don’t even know they exist, and those that do, haven’t read them, boggles my mind. I have several friends who are actually afraid to read them. I get it, it’s a red pill, blue pill type of thing, and lots of people opt for the blue pill.

I’ve been in the faith crisis coming up on a year now. That means I have gone through two conferences in my current unbelieving state. Instead of hearing talks addressing the hard issues, and genuine logical responses to these hard issues, I have heard attacks on doubters, and Elder Uchtdorf telling me to stay off the internet. The pompous way they stand there with their brows furrowed, shoulders shrugged, arms raised, shaking their heads at how one could be so stupid to allow Satan to lead them into doubt, all while never acknowledging these essays exist, speaks volumes to me about their character. I see them use fear as their main weapon of choice. The fear of losing friends and family, is real, it is powerful. I will acknowledge that there have been positive messages in these conferences, but these are the talks that focus on universal kindness. Something that the LDS church does not have a patent on. A main theme [among middle-way Mormons] is to take the messages that resonate with you and leave the others behind. This is something I struggle with, the condescending tone of the brethren regarding doubt, renders all of their other words useless and hollow to me. I only wish they could speak to me as an adult, like Brian did in his article.

My second point of focus is on the role of a prophet. As a young missionary I read the book “Our Search for Happiness” by M Russell Ballard. I loved the book. Two stories from the book resonated with me. Elder Ballard was asked the question as a mission president, “what separates your church from the others?” Elder Ballard replied, roughly “If Moses were coming to town and was going to speak, would you be interested in what he had to say? Well we have a modern prophet just like Moses that speaks for God today.” That was powerful for me at the time, it made sense. Of course if Moses was in town we would all want to hear what he had to say. Of course we had a prophet just like Moses on earth today.

He also tells the incredible experience of his grandfather’s (it could be his father, I honestly can’t remember now) meeting the savior. He called it a sacred experience, but one he felt was appropriate to share in this book. I remember reading this account and hoping that one day I could have that experience. It also followed logically that if Elder Ballard’s grandfather had seen the savior, then of course all of the brethren and the prophet had seen him. This book was in the missionary library. All good missionaries were supposed to read it. I believe this story was placed in the book to lead us all to the conclusion that the brethren speak with God. We all want to believe that this church is being led by something more than just feelings. We all want to believe that the prophet is receiving direct face to face counsel with the Lord just like Moses, and Joseph Smith. Stories like this, conference addresses where the brethren refer to each other as the Lords anointed, and even the word prophet, denotes a communication with God that is more than just feelings. The brethren are implying to everyone that they talk with God. The company line now, is that these experiences are just too sacred to share. I believe they have taken this stance so they can feel better about not lying. If these men were honest they would tell us if they had actually seen the Savior or not. When you begin to think more critically, it becomes very difficult to accept 150 years of racist and sexist policies when it was the savior in charge all the time.

Small point on this one, apologists love to cite Russell Nelson’s 1992 talk to mission presidents where he mentions the stone in the hat. Somehow they think this example shows that the church has always been open and honest about its past, to me, this does exactly the opposite. How do you explain Russell Nelson not correcting this image being portrayed incorrectly in literally every instance where the church portrayed it? Blaming the artists is dishonest to my intelligence.

Lastly I would cite the movie “Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration”. Apologists love to cite the essays and the Joseph Smith Papers project as proof of the new openness of the church. This movie was first made in 2006 and then redone in 2011, long after the Joseph Smith Papers Project was well underway. If you haven’t watched this movie I highly recommend it. If after watching it you can’t see the dishonesty in it, we will have to simply agree to disagree.

I realize that all of this is just my opinion so take it for what it’s worth, but I believe the church has, and is, currently being dishonest with me. I know most of these men probably really believe what they are saying. However, these men lived through the 60’s & 70’s with the Tanners, (I’ve met Sandra Tanner, lovely woman) the 80’s with Mark Hoffman, the 90’s with the September Six. They know the issues. If they had good answers we would have heard them by now. The truth, in my opinion, is that they have no good answers, so they assassinate the character of those who dare speak the truth, and belittle the intelligence of those who dare to doubt.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The General Conference Buffet: Both Good AND Bad

I really tried--God knows I tried--to not let my skeptical side taint my desire to simply focus on the good and the positive. But implicit in my last post where I referred to General Conference as a "buffet" is the fact that we all pick and choose from multiple offerings what we individually find most appetizing. And sometimes we overdo it and get sick.

This General Conference started great for me. The music and President Uchtdorf's opening message to simplify was spot on. It was refreshing to have him remind the Church to "focus on 'the simplicity that is in Christ' and allow His grace to lift and carry us" rather than get bogged down by the behemoth of the institutional church. Not as refreshing was the implied fear of the internet, especially when the faith crisis of many a church member begins not from being bamboozled by the CES Letter but because they feel bamboozled by the Church itself after encountering the Church's own online historical essays. Many awaken to the realization that they hadn't been given the whole story until the internet forced the Church to become more transparent. Case in point: art commissioned by the church on the left versus art actually closer to the real history now acknowledged by the church on the right:

It's not that there was some vast conspiracy, but there was deception leading to really bad history. The folks in charge who favored a "heritage" approach rather than "historical" approach won out, and then the internet age happened and we're paying the consequences now. (I would like to believe those leaders would’ve changed their minds if they could have actually looked into the future of the internet age and see what consequences we’re paying collectively as a church by going with that approach. But of course that would have taken the actual gift of seer-ship. Today we sustain them to be the guys to seek such gifts, but typically we don't enjoy the actual fruits of those gifts.)

I was, however, delighted that in revisiting the Old Ship Zion analogy I actually sensed progress from Elder Ballard. I felt like he had actually read or heard feedback about my post "On Being Seasick While Staying In The Boat" after his last conference talk. In addition, version 2.0 was arguably an unprecedented acknowledgement of apostolic fallibility. I saw this as a very positive sign for the Mormon culture still desperately in need of repentance for its idolatry of infallible leadership.

However, soon after the afternoon session commenced, I felt embarrassed--even mad--that I had allowed myself to get my hopes up with such a historic opportunity to call in some diversity among the three open positions among the Twelve, only to be stunned as three white men from Utah were called. Again. I confess my initial reaction was a big letdown. I even confess I was too stunned to enjoy much of the rest of the session. The good news is, like Jana and Kalani and others, I've already found lots of good about them and their commitment to compassion--especially Elder Renlund and his wife--and there's no question that I'll sustain all of them, keeping in mind what sustaining really means. Nevertheless, despite great international growth, this remains a predominantly white Utah church led by white Utah men. This is particularly jarring in light of our indefensible and embarrassing racial history.

Elder Anderson may be Joseph Smith's biggest cheerleader these days. Last conference he called Joseph Smith "a holy man, a righteous man" even though Joseph Smith himself is on record saying "I don't want you to think I am very righteous, for I am not very righteous." This conference he recommended we "give Joseph a break" at which point I began to wonder if Elder Anderson is capable of demonstrating any sympathy for those of us who no longer hold to a white-washed and correlated paradigm of the prophet. History and truth require more than revisionist cheerleading or the dismissal of actual facts.

Russell M. Nelson's plea for women's voices to be heard was significant, though many have pointed out the irony that such few women are asked to speak in General Conference. But I love that he explicitly told women over the pulpit as President of the Quorum of the Twelve: "We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices." Of course this comes a little too late for Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly who was excommunicated for trying to do just that, but it was a great message--and much welcomed by this male Mormon feminist (yours truly) even if I personally am ready for them to go further.

All in all, as Conference came to a close, I found myself at a loss for words. I struggled to articulate how I could feel both inspired but also sickened by the very same conference--sometimes by the very same talk. Thankfully, I no longer need to struggle to find the right words because Emily Grover has done it for me--quite beautifully I might add--with this thoughtful post: "Recovering My Sea Legs on the Old Ship Zion." An excerpt:
My Facebook feed is glutted with polarized responses to the recent General Conference: on the one hand, conference memes are ubiquitous to the point of becoming trite and status updates affect unparalleled enthusiasm for every conference talk; on the other, status updates bicker and criticize, nit-picking at all perceived weaknesses in the talks and the selected speakers. Despite how my feed implies that there are but two poles—unquestioning acceptance or critical outrage—I find myself agreeing with and being repulsed by both corners. I feel like I can’t publicly express gratitude for Elder Nelson’s or Elder Holland’s talks on women, because by doing so I might be seen as ignoring the fact that only 5 of the 39 speakers in this last conference were female (and 3 of those 5 spoke in the Women’s General Broadcast). I want to celebrate Elder Nelson’s call for women to “speak up and speak out,” but in the same breath I also want to argue that this message would have been more convincing had more women actually been invited to speak up and out during this conference. 
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I use this quotation to teach critical thinking to college freshmen, but it seems suitable to my testimony these days, too. Why shouldn’t I let myself see through multiple perspectives at once? Why shouldn’t I be bothered by the lack of a woman’s presence in baby blessing circles while still being able to appreciate the love and beauty already inherent in the current practice? Why shouldn’t I be disappointed that the three new apostles called are all white men born in Utah while still being able to love and sustain these good men in their overwhelmingly selfless and life-changing callings? Why shouldn’t I be inspired, uplifted, and elevated by the same conference talks that also bother me?
I absolutely concur with that. And I also just want to add an "amen" to her conclusion:
What will help many members desirous of staying in the boat in spite of their seasickness is if there is more room for discourse within the mainstream conversations of the church that would allow for questions, concerns, discomfort, pain, and frustrations. I think many members trying to hold on will find their legs miraculously strengthened beneath them just by being listened to and understood, by having their questions and concerns validated. In return, it would be good for those of us yearning for changes in the church to remove those filters that keep us from perceiving what is still already light and good and true before us. Our collective efforts could carve a larger space more conducive for minds that, like Fitzgerald’s, can work amid dissonance: a space that would encompass the fruitful, compromising middle grounds between the poles of dogmatic orthodoxy and full-on dissent. I would love to take my journey on a boat like that.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

LDS General Conference Is Great...Except For The Bad Parts

A metaphor for the Church itself?

Most Mormons view General Conference as quite a treat--I generally do. It's a special treat to stay home and watch conference in my pajamas on my comfortable leather couch. It's also a treat to spend uninterrupted hours with my family while seeking goodness, truth, and inspiration. For me personally, that goodness and inspiration comes most often in the form of the music we hear in General Conference. My experience has been that General Conference music is routinely exceptional--sometimes even supernal (a word sometimes used in conjunction with General Conference.) And from time to time there are a few talks that even reach that point for me. For example, these four from our last General Conference:
Of the latter I could hardly wait to blog about how it was itself a grace to me, like an oasis in the desert. I'm well aware, however, that since we all bring different background knowledge, experience, and even different lenses with us to General Conference, a "great" message to one can fall flat for another. This was brought home to me recently when my brother shared a talk he liked from that same conference in our family group text--Which Way Do You Face?. I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer, but my first instinct was to cringe and think of the Mormonad above. I decided, in the interest of fairness, I should re-read the talk to give it a second chance. There was, indeed, more relatively good stuff than I had remembered. My memory had only held onto the parts that had caused me concern. More on this in a minute.

First a disclaimer. I know most people aren't accustomed to watching General Conference like a film critic watches a movie, but it's a natural occupational hazard for those of us who've undergone a faith transition/transformation. I like the term "transformation" because I think of the metaphor of the caterpillar in its cocoon. The transformation can initially feel dark and lonely but like a butterfly, my personal faith came out on the other end more nuanced, colorful, and even beautiful. I admit it can be frustrating at times still when I encounter those who think I should act more like a caterpillar than the butterfly that's since taken flight.

I still use both my "mind and heart" in order to discern inspiration amongst the hours we spend in the buffet of messages known as General Conference. It's just that I can't quite bring myself to share in the same joy expressed by others who view everything in General Conference as "modern day revelation." My standard for "revelation" is much higher than that, and I would argue that Joseph Smith set the bar pretty high by publishing his revelations for all the world to see. Of course, one could claim that the LDS Church publishes the Ensign magazine for all the world to see, but what I clearly see is a huge difference between the revelations published in the Standard Works and what's published in the Ensign. Considering how little we Latter-day Saints have added to our "open" cannon since Joseph's day (at least the Brighamite branch of the Restoration movement), perhaps the "revelation" bar is too high for today's "prophets, seers, and revelators."

That's not to say that I can't enjoy goodness and inspiration in General Conference. It's just harder when I can't automatically take it all in as equally inspired. There's a lot of "good" in my church sundae, to be sure. But there's some very conspicuous "bad" that I cannot simply ignore.

As I follow the dictates of my conscience, I choose to magnify my individual responsibility to discern if what I'm hearing over the pulpit at any given time actually represents the mind and will of God. It's not an easy job, and naturally it's a subjective process, but all religion is subjective--all of it. And religion isn't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to challenge us, change us, and transform us into more compassionate beings--not passive sheep.

Neither am I passive while watching General Conference. Sometimes there are sermons meant to challenge us, and sometimes there are sermons that ought to be challenged. And as I read over the sermon my brother had recommended I found things that indeed resonated with me and that I generally found inspiring. This quote, for example, was great and still resonates with me: "Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments." That's great advice to put God first over other men/women, and I include in that even institutions such as the LDS Church.

But I also found some things that caused me concern. The first cringe moment came in the form of a quote by the late Boyd K. Packer: “A Seventy does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people. Never forget which way you face!” This viewpoint is one of a top-down-only hierarchy--a viewpoint which happens to be one of the things I least like about the current institutional church. That top-down-only attitude completely misses an opportunity to have good counsel between everybody else not already in the leadership-hierarchy flow chart. It also contradicts the way things are supposed to work at the local level in terms of ward and stake councils.

But I had stronger reservations with this part: "Thinking one can please God and at the same time condone the disobedience of men isn’t neutrality but duplicity, or being two-faced or trying to “serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24; 3 Nephi 13:24). The obsession with making clear what you condemn or condone in others gets in the way of true compassion, and I believe that can be sin in and of itself. I don't accept the false dichotomy that you're either "for us or against us", the conflation of prophets with God (implied throughout), and also the preoccupation with righteousness and purity.

While Mormons traditionally place much emphasis on righteousness and purity, Jesus himself was historically subversive to the righteousness/purity system of the contemporary religious establishment. I saw this very clearly while reading Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith. "Compassion, not holiness, is the dominant quality of God, and is therefore to be the ethos of the community that mirrors God" (Borg, p. 54.) In other words, "an interpretation of scripture faithful to Jesus and the early Christian movement sees the Bible through the lens of compassion, not purity." Borg uses a specific example on page 59:
I am convinced that much of the strongly negative attitude toward homosexuality on the part of some Christians has arisen because, in addition to whatever nonreligious homophobic reasons may be involved, homosexuality is seen (often unconsciously) as a purity issue. For these Christians, there's something "dirty" about it, boundaries are being crossed, things are being put together that do not belong together, and so forth. Indeed, homosexuality was a purity issue in ancient Judaism. The prohibition against it is found in the purity laws of the book of Leviticus. 
It seems to me that the shattering of purity boundaries by both Jesus and Paul should also apply to the purity code's perception of homosexuality. Homosexual behavior should therefore be evaluated by the same criteria as heterosexual behavior. It also seems to me that the passage [Galatians 3:28] in which Paul negates the other central polarities of his world also means, "In Christ, there is neither straight nor gay." Granted, Paul didn't say that, but the logic of "life in the spirit" and the ethos of compassion imply it.
When I watch General Conference now, I can't help but take issue with various "purity" interpretations. For example, from the same talk my brother sent: "Lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of a society’s inappropriate behavior is—apostasy." 

Let me be clear: I have no problem accepting that the Lord has standards that are unchanging and wise. However, our human understanding of the Lord's standards is imperfect and is always filtered through a human brain. History teaches that we've been wrong about His will before. And history doesn't hide the fact that sometimes regular Mormons have greater insight into truth than those sustained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." [See here and especially here, for example.] Our understanding of the Lord's will and His standards constantly evolve and change as we receive greater light and knowledge. And hopefully our moral conscience continues to evolve.

Elder Robbins also makes his own definition of apostasy, and my personal concern is that his statement of what constitutes "apostasy" will be used as ammunition to expel dissenters like me from the body of Christ, not to mention if it even aligns with the explanation of apostasy given recently by the First Presidency of the Church.

Last point of concern: "When others demand approval in defiance of God’s commandments, may we always remember whose disciples we are."

The problem for me isn't forgetting that I'm first and foremost a disciple of Christ/God; the problem is that "God's commandments" have always been interpreted and declared by imperfect human filters, and fallible men often misinterpret/mistake the Divine will. I remember like it was yesterday a General Conference five years ago where I surprised myself by reflexively shouting "That's not right!" as soon as President Packer shared a personal opinion about how homosexuality fit into God's plan. His talk was edited by the time it came out in the print version a few days later.

It's my opinion (and I'm entitled to my own opinion) that just as the Church now "disavows the theories advanced in the past" (such as that interracial marriage was a sin, which was declared to be "doctrine" according to some general authorities in the not too distant past), I personally believe there will come a day when the future Church disavows current teachings that being a happily married gay person was a "sin." Of all people, Mormons with a messy polygamous past probably shouldn't be painting with such a broad brush as though we've figured out the full picture clearly.

love the Brethren, but I disagree that there are no acceptable ways to act on one's homosexuality without it being inherently sinful. My love for the Brethren is not conditional based on whether I agree or disagree with them about homosexuality. I think Mormons who believe that the Church's current stance is "right" deserve for me to show them true love and compassion, regardless of the fact that I disagree with the Church's current stance. It's easier to love people who think like you. But that's why I personally think I need the Church in my life, not because I always think alike, but because I need to learn to love people who are radically different than me.

Of course, ultimately we're all more alike than we are different, whether in or out of the Church. People historically have killed each other over believing the "right" dogma or over behavior deemed "inappropriate" in God's eyes. That's a shame. I believe we mustn't let dogma get in the way of love. Compassion must always come first. Love can be the bridge between people who disagree on dogma (and is preferable than killing, shaming, or even excommunicating people over differences in belief.)

In the mean time, drawing these artificial lines in the sand causes real pain and harm. I believe it to be imperative that we be more focused on inclusiveness and compassion over righteousness and exclusivity. Our differences in belief don't need to matter when we focus on loving each other through Christ's compassionate lens. I hope we can all agree that Christ's main message is one of love and compassion rather than judging others according to our church's current standard of "sin."

Because I believe, with Richard Poll, "that everyone, including Paul and other prophets, sees eternity 'through a glass darkly' (l Cor. 13:12), prophetic infallibility, scriptural inerrancy and unquestioning obedience are not elements of my faith." And that's why I approach General Conference the way I do. If one were to just assume that what we're hearing in General Conference automatically represents the mind and will of God, one is primed to be led astray. Despite frequent assurances that Mormon prophets can't lead us astray, history proves that myth wrong. The scriptures themselves prove the myth of infallibility wrong, yet in spite of common sense, many Mormons continue to imply infallibility without even realizing it--with very striking consequences. Our shared fallibility makes embracing compassion and grace all the more important.

So yes, church really is great, except for the bad parts. We can't expect perfection when the church is made up entirely of human beings. We need to be supportive of each other, especially in our weakness. Last spring I participated in podcast interview about my current faith and some of the difficulties I face within the institutional church. (If you're interested in listening, my segment's in part one of episode 096: Hard to Stay – Harder to Leave and begins at the 29:10 minute mark.) A friend of mine who found the "A Thoughtful Faith" podcast valuable transcribed a quote of mine. I thought I'd include it here for any who may question why I remain in the LDS Church feeling the way I do:
There is something to be said of community. I want to stay in the church because it is a support community of people trying to seek Christ. Not because it’s perfect, because it’s not. And not because it has all the truth, because it doesn’t. But because it can be a good support network to people who are trying to love each other and follow Christ. As long as that’s the case, it’s great. 
But when it starts to get an unhealthy over-emphasis on "follow the prophet, follow the prophet" and all this other business like gender inequality (that frustrates me and I wish we'd change quicker), then that makes it harder to stay. Especially I have hope on the LGBT issue that the church will one day wake up and realize: "Hey, the gospel includes everybody, the gospel is for everybody. Our church though--our policies--are keeping people away. And we're going to continue to lose people and the church might just hollow out unless it adapts. But history gives me hope that it will adapt. It's just sometimes slow to adapt." [ends at 52:48
Unapologetically I embrace whatever is good and I reject whatever causes harm. Mormonism is a sausage makers religion and we each choose for ourselves what speaks to our conscience and what violates our conscience. Whether in this church, another church, or no church at all--the bottom line is all the same. The bottom line is learning to love everyone (even those radically different than ourselves) and serve and do some good. I find that in this church. It may not always be comfortable, but I'm still onboard.

Brigham Young once famously said of a great valley with a few bad parts: "This is the right place. Drive on.” That pretty much sums up how I currently feel about my membership in the institutional church. I particularly love how Sharon Eubank put it last year:
The right place doesn’t mean there is not going to be blinding salt flats and black crickets and all kinds of naysayers and killing frosts and all of those things. But it is still the right place. And I also think we ought to be probably driving on. Rolling up our sleeves and doing the thing that our doctrine allows us to do which is to say: Everybody is valuable. Everybody has unique individual gifts. The Lord’s plan allows for everybody to use their gifts. I can be respectful. I have responsibility to do it and I’m going to roll up my sleeves and go to work.