Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My name is Charmaine and I am a Mormon...

Mormon by heritage and culture, but not belief. Make no mistake that this opinion is coming from one who does not believe nor practice Mormonism. With that said, I am so incredibly disappointed with the religion of my heritage. I spent many years reciting a theme that included beautiful values that I have carried into adulthood and even out of religion. These values have stuck with me because they are good and valuable and universal.

Faith. I no longer have faith in a god I can't see and don't feel, but I do have faith in the beauty of humankind. I have faith that within each and every person there is a bit of divinity. That human beings can be astonishingly kind and creative and just beautiful.

I was also taught about the divine nature and the individual worth of all of "God's creations" which is why I still believe in that divinity in everyone. It's also why I try to implement in myself and my kids a respect for all of creation, because whether God created this universe or it's an evolution of elements, it is still glorious and beautiful to behold.

"The glory of God is intelligence." A statement written on the walls of Mormon temples. Knowledge and learning are important and valued. I grew up in an area where some of the best and most interesting Sunday School teachers were women. When I started college, I fell in love with learning. When I took my first religion class in a secular setting, I finally knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be like those teachers at church, Jacque Awerkamp, Vanis Bartlett, LeIsle Jacobson, Ravae Johnson, Cathy Chamberlain, and many more. I wanted to be a scriptorian. I never served a mission for the church, but I studied as hard and often as any missionary. And that same zeal as continued. Intelligence and knowledge and learning are just as glorious as they ever were. I still want to become like god, except now it's the gods of learning and science and logic and reason.

Choice and accountability. What a good lesson to each all young people. Every one makes choices and there are consequences to all our choices. I have spoken in the past about our little family's reminder of the weight of our choices - the scale of good and bad. Where do I put my choices? Are they contributing to good and beauty or not?

Good works. Service. Helping others. That's one thing that I actually miss about my church attendance and participation - the weekly opportunities for service, whether it's teaching sunday school to teenagers or working with young girls on activities. Now I have to look a little harder and be a little more conscious about opportunities to serve.

And finally integrity. My greatest fulfillment comes from being authentic, from living an authentic life without pretense. I'm not perfect at it, but it feels great to be authentic - to be a person of integrity. And it's also the reason why I have been open and honest with my family and friends about my disaffection and disbelief with the church. It's also why I have written 2 different blog posts about this subject but did not publish them.

I have heard my whole entire that "the church is true and perfect, the members aren't." But the thing is... you can tell a tree by its fruit. Since I have questioned and subsequently left the church I have had some beautiful and loving interactions with members of the church, most of my family and friends have been loving and accepting. Right before I decided I was done, I met with Elder Child - a general leader. He was kind and compassionate and when I told him my questions, he was honest and loving and took time to express his feelings. But I have also heard some the most hateful and mean things from members of this church - some family and friends and even from the very highest of general leaders. Which leads me to what is happening right now. John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, and Rock Waterman, all members of the church with varying degrees of belief and activity, were facing church discipline and possible excommunication from the church for what is being called apostasy. John's leaders have downgraded from a church court for apostasy to a meeting with leaders to discuss options and feelings. But I don't want to take the time to speak about all of them; I will take a moment to speak about Ms Kelly, because for me, hers is the most disgusting and appalling of the three.

Kate Kelly is an active and believing Mormon. She believes all the truth claims of the church and has never spoken ill of the church's rocky history or even of its leaders, all she has done is founded the Ordain Women movement, which asks that the church leadership ask god in faith to extend the priesthood to women. She is asking for more opportunities to serve and her bishop and stake president are threatening her with excommunication. She cannot speak up in church. She cannot so much as read a scripture in a church meeting, let alone pray or offer an opinion. She served a mission for this church and she is being silenced. I, as a Mormon in culture and heritage and even still on paper, think this is a gross abuse of power and authority. It has been stated that this is coming from her local leaders and not from the general church leadership, but Salt Lake can and should stop this. I am a nobody within this worldwide church of millions of members, but it is important to still talk about it and voice that I will stand with Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman. I don't care about my church membership or association, but they do. And Elder Uchtdorf said, there is room for everyone in this church. Prove it.

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