What I’m Thankful For: Being Mormon
There’s no doubt about it: I’m an unconventional Mormon. I have a tattoo that says “grace” on my upper back. I attend an evangelical Bible study every Friday. I’ve even been known to drink the occasional chai latte, just because I can. Over the past several years I’ve wrestled mightily with my testimony of Mormonism, my commitment to the Restored Gospel. Eventually, I decided to stay…partly because I find deep beauty in many of our distinctly Mormon doctrines — doctrines which I genuinely hope are true — and partly because I feel there is value in loyalty to the faith community in which I was born and raised.
I am generally content with my decision. I no longer question it every day. Still, there are moments when I am discouraged, fearful: perhaps I’m fooling myself. Maybe I’m settling when there is something Bigger and Better beyond Mormonism. Maybe God would lead me elsewhere if I had the faith to follow Him. I know this candid confession might come as a surprise to some who are reading this (to others, it might explain a lot), but I want to share the context from which the next part of my post emerges.
You see, tonight I had an experience that confirmed to me the wisdom of remaining Mormon despite my doubts, that instilled in me a deep gratitude for my Mormon identity, culture, belief, and practice.
A dear friend spoke in the evening session of her stake conference. I rarely attend evening sessions (who needs extra church meetings?: boundaries, people), but I wanted to be supportive, so I donned my skirt and blouse, dropped my daughter off at the babysitter, and went.
What happened next might sound simple, even mundane. There was a congregational hymn accompanied by the organ. The organ. It has to be the most outdated instrument in the history of the world. A cultural relic. But as those harsh tones blared from the pipes mounted on the wall, something washed over me — a peace, a sense of belonging. Of Home.
Next came the prayer. A beautiful, simple prayer, couched in yet more archaic ritual: the “thees” and “thous” of Mormon prayer-speak. “Grant us thy peace for our daily struggles,” he said. And when he finished, I said “Amen.” And meant it.
Next the talks — the counselor in the stake presidency with the oh-so formal announcement of the program. Then the first speaker. Then the next. Some of the messages (like my friend’s) were spectacularly eloquent. Others halting, even clumsy. Some were deeply personal. Others broad. But each talk moved me with its sincerity, its genuine appeal to the God who gave us Life — and even in those moments when I disagreed with, or questioned, an approach or concept, I knew it came from a place of love. And somehow, that made it okay.
The thing is, I believe that God deals in specifics. He works with our specific needs, weaknesses, and in our specific relationships. He is not an abstract God, but a God of context. And what is Mormonism, but a vibrant, complex community thick with context? Our vocabulary, our culture, our history, values, goals, problems, sins, fears, and struggles — some of them universal, some of them uniquely ours — are the very fabric of what allows us to relate to one another; and in one another, Him.
It’s hard to explain what happened to me tonight. Merely that as I sat there in that room, surrounded by those people — people with whom I have more in common than not — I thanked God for giving me a community as distinct and a spiritual heritage as rich as Mormonism.
Yes, I am an unconventional Mormon. But I am Mormon to my core. And I am very proud of that.
This post is one in a series. Get the rest of the posts here.
Posted on November 7, 2010, in Gratitude, Mormonism, Personal, Thoughts on God, Uncategorized and tagged acceptance, charity, community, faith, gratitude, heritage, Mormonism, stake conference, testimony. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.