Friday, April 17, 2015

The Latter Days of Being LDS

I’m in the final few days of being LDS. Sort of. Technically, I’ll remain LDS until I either get excommunicated or I have my name removed from the records of the LDS Church (which I have no immediate plans to do). But, by noon on Sunday, I’ll be an official member of Community of Christ. And in many LDS minds, I suppose that means I’m ipso facto no longer a member of the LDS Church, official LDS Church record to the contrary notwithstanding. Whatever. I think the LDS Church is pretty loosey-goosey with their membership accounting, including as many people as they can so as to boost their numbers. Since I assume they’ll continue to count me so long as they consider it advantageous to do so, I’ll continue to do the same. I have no moral qualms with that. As I’ve noted previously, I’m not joining Community of Christ because I want to leave the LDS Church. It’s just that leaving the LDS Church—regardless of how official or formalized my departure becomes in the long run—is incidental to my heeding God’s call in my life today.

Last Sunday (the 12th) was a busy day for us. We started with our normal church services in the morning, then had to rush across the valley to attend the baby blessing of my nephew James’ four-month-old daughter, Coraline. It’s been years since I’ve seen James. He’s noticeably older, and it’s kind of strange. But he was really sweet about seeing me, which touched me. Coraline is incredibly cute, even more so in person than she is in her many Facebook photos. I was happy to attend the blessing, and was grateful we made it on time. When we arrived, I ran in first while Melanie helped Beegy change his shirt. Melanie was only a minute behind me, but she walked in at the same moment Coraline was being led to the front of the chapel, followed by the multitude of men who would participate in her blessing. (I didn’t participate because I hadn’t been invited to, but I would’ve participated both happily and without hesitation had I been asked. It’s worth noting that my lack of participation had nothing to do with Community of Christ.) We barely made it, in other words. After the baby blessing, the relevant priesthood holders blessed and passed the sacrament (i.e. communion). I partook without any hesitation. I recognize the validity of the ordinance and saw no reason not to partake. I appreciated the quiet that attends the LDS sacrament. At Community of Christ, they usually play music during communion, which I’m not accustomed to. I find it more difficult to get into a prayerful, contemplative state. So, that was a perk to being back in an LDS worship service. Following the sacrament, it was open mic for the bearing of testimonies. It’s been a few months since I’ve been at an LDS testimony meeting, and it’s funny how the further removed you get, the more things stand out to you. There were nice things said, of course, but testimony meetings are always a bit of a mixed bag. More than ever, the dogmatism that underlies much of what is said was absolutely deafening (metaphorically speaking). I suppose it’s not unlike growing up and discovering only by exposure to other families that your own family has some bizarre quirks and habits and ways of thinking that you never knew were so darn bizarre. Mormons sound increasingly nutty to me and out of harmony with their own theology and scriptures. I don’t know how to say that in a way that doesn’t make me seem incredibly arrogant, but it’s an honest observation. I don’t think you have to be nuts to be Mormon, mind you. As I’ve noted previously, I retain the nuanced theological beliefs I held as a Mormon, beliefs I developed from studying and thinking about Mormon scripture and teachings. (I wonder how long I’ll feel it necessary to include such caveats and disclaimers whenever I discuss the LDS Church.)

After the LDS worship service ended, Melanie and I had only a short time before we had to be back at Community of Christ for “Pizza with the Prophet.” I think that’s just the local name that was given to the event, which consisted of watching a live webcast of Community of Christ President Stephen M. Veazey followed (in our local congregation, at least) by pizza. I enjoyed the webcast. There were some beautiful messages in it. With perhaps a couple of very minor exceptions, this was my first real exposure to the President of Community of Christ. I don’t have much more to say about it other than that I liked what was shared. There is a very different mentality toward church leaders in Community of Christ than in the LDS Church. I can imagine LDS friends and family asking if I felt a witness that President Veazey is a prophet of God, wanting to compare their church president to mine. If I were asked that by an LDS person, I wouldn’t even be comfortable with the question. It’s too loaded with LDS assumptions and biases. Community of Christ does consider Stephen Veazey a “prophet-president,” but they have different expectations of how the whole prophet thing is supposed to work. They emphasize being a “prophetic people” as a whole, with the church collectively deciphering the will of God. Stephen Veazey has a special role in that, a special obligation to seek for and present counsel to the church that is then considered and either accepted or rejected. This is much more in line with what I see in the Doctrine and Covenants and is how I’ve personally regarded the church president’s role in the LDS Church for a very long time. But despite its matching the process outlined in canonized scripture, incredibly few LDS people see the role of the church president in this manner. So, keeping in mind that I’m working from a different set of assumptions, I am content to say that I recognized divine truths in Stephen Veazey’s message. Those who are interested can decide for themselves by watching this portion of the webcast (which I do recommend):

Last night, I had the privilege of meeting with a very good friend at a coffee shop. I consider him a good friend although I’ve only been in his physical presence a few times since first getting to know him back in late 2012 or early 2013. He participates in some of the same Facebook groups that I do, and I consider him a kindred spirit. The things he says match my own experiences and thoughts so closely, I usually feel as though I could have written his comments myself. He has said the same thing of me … which basically proves my point. He is LDS, and he wanted to hear a bit about my spiritual journey and of how it has led me into Community of Christ. I shared with him some of the more significant aspects of that journey, including some that I have kept mostly to myself, and he marveled at the elements common to both my story and his own most profound spiritual experiences. He’s a good man—an earnest seeker with tenacious faith and an inquisitive mind, the very recipe that has led many people to find themselves at odd with the LDS mainstream despite loving Mormonism and having a resilient testimony of its value and truth. I have a great fondness for this man. He plans to be at the baptism, and I’m grateful for that.

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