Thursday, October 2, 2014

You Belong In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Anyone who ever attended Primary remembers singing the words “I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” These words come from a catchy little anthem I sang in sharing time. The song taught me how to say the full name of the church. It helped establish a mission statement in my little mind and helped teach me what the church was all about. It taught me some basic principles of the gospel and helped pass the time until Mom got out of Relief Society and took me off the hands of my tired Primary teacher. The song is a nice little ditty for nice little children.

But it seems as you get older, what it means to be LDS can no longer be summed up in a little song. The truth is more complex.
Gone are the days when church was all about coloring pictures of Jesus and trying not to wiggle too much during sacrament meeting.  Somewhere along the line it becomes a lot more difficult to know your place in the church. It seems like things were perfectly clear in cub scouts but by the time Institute rolls around you don’t seem to fit in so easily anymore. Like at some point before leaving Beehives or maybe even after having your first child that you realize that maybe your plans to be a picture-perfect Mormon haven't quite panned out. You feel like you don’t fit the mold.

Everyone has their own reasons. Maybe you aren’t interested in quilting and casserole-making like your fellow sisters in Zion. Maybe you served a mission and, while you liked it and you did what you should, you can’t honestly say it was “the best two years of your life” like all the other guys seem to do. Maybe you’ve somehow, some way found it in your sick and twisted heart to be a Democrat. So it’s only natural for you to squirm a little in Sunday school when Brother Johnson makes yet another comment about why Mitt Romney should have won the election so he could have saved the Constitution from dangling by a thread (the thread from which it always seems to be dangling come November in Utah). Or maybe it’s the fact that you didn’t grow up in the Church at all and never experienced sacrament meeting Cheerios and sharing-time songs like everyone else. (You missed out big time. Mainly on the Cheerios…)

See, all of us know we belong to the Church, but not so many of us feel we belong in it. When the gospel says come as you are, but Mormon culture gives us a mold we feel obligated to fit into, it can be difficult to know where we stand. Not all of us come from Jell-O-and-white-bread families. Not all of us think the same way and sometimes living the standards taught in church can seem to be more of a challenge for you than it is for those guys over there. 
So, if you’re feeling like you just don’t fit in, like you want to do this gospel thing but aren’t sure you make the cultural cut, if you wonder whether it would be easier to be who you are by dropping out of the Mormon game, let me just say to you… I get it. It’s a “heck” of a struggle to stay strong in a church with a culture that doesn’t seem to fit you. I'm sure you’ve done great so far, and I say you deserve some recognition!

So here’s to you.

Here’s to the ones who stick it out. The ones who are here despite their struggles. The ones who don’t let a misinformed culture get the best of them. Here’s to the ones who are strong.

Here’s to the converts. The ones still learning the ropes. The ones who want to be a part of this wonderful gospel despite a steep learning curve. Good on you. You’re gonna make it.

Here’s to the broken families. The ones with less-than-perfect parents, children, or siblings. The ones who don’t have picture-perfect F.H.E. every Monday. The ones who look at the Jones family with their happy, Von Trapp-style family and wonder where they themselves went wrong. The ones affected by divorce, wayward children and other things that don’t fit the perfect-Mormon-mold. It’s okay. You’re loved.

Here’s to the childless. The ones whose circumstances won’t allow their home to be a bouncing baby menagerie like the one they’ve got over at the Johnsons. You're still wonderful. Glad you’re with us.

Here’s to the not-so-young single adults who just can’t make it work with that guy or girl sister Smith keeps setting them up with. The one who goes to all those church-sponsored dances and activities only to find the field is less than white. The one who is still striving for eternal marriage, even though she has been waiting for it a little longer than others. You’re still great. Way to keep trying.

Here’s to those whose missions were cut short, and those that never even got to start. The ones who had desires to serve God, but then God had other plans. The ones who don’t feel they are enough. You are. Thanks for your strength.

Here’s to the ones struggling to put food on the table. Here’s to the ones who feel alone. Here’s to the ones with questions and maybe even a few doubts. Here’s to the ethnic minority, the one struggling with same-sex attraction, the recently reactivated, and anyone else who feels a little weird and out of place in Mormondom. Here’s to the ones who fully embrace the gospel but won't conform to every facet of Mormon culture. You’re great. You make this Church tick. You prove that it isn’t just what you do but who you are that matters. You hold on and take part in this gospel not because it’s easy and not because it’s fun. You do it because you believe. You believe in Jesus Christ and you believe in his Church. You follow his commandments and study his word because you love Him. You show that it’s not culture and appearances that matter. What matters is Christ and his Atonement, which every Latter-day Saint must take advantage of every single day. Whatever you do, don't quit now. To leave the true Church because of a not-so-true culture would be to throw the proverbial baby out with its proverbial bathwater. Don't risk losing eternity because of a few silly traditions that will go away in time. Stick with it. You can do it. I know you can.

So here’s to you. Let’s you and me raise a cup of juice in your honor (or caffeinated soda if you’re feeling edgy). Thanks for sticking it out and showing us how to really “do what is right” and “follow his light.” Thanks for showing the rest of us that even if we still haven’t got 100% on our home teaching, or we haven’t quite got that 3-month supply of food storage in, that we’re still enough. Thanks for showing us the gospel in action. Way to be. And don’t worry. No matter what, you belong in the church. Not just to it. 

SourcesUchtdorf, Dieter F. "Come, Join with Us." Ensign Oct. 2013: n. pag. Web.

1 comment:

  1. Wowwy Austin! You are amazing! Thank you for making a difference and sharing your testimony. I loved reading your blog. You get it!