There is No One Right Way to be a Latter-day Saint
A good friend of mine recently became angry with me because of differing views on a matter. It had been several weeks since we had even discussed that matter. His reaction was sudden and surprising. In retrospect, I doubt his anger could have stemmed solely from that one matter. I’m guessing that, as the weeks unfolded, he increasingly decided that I didn’t fit his vision of a good, righteous member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In contrast, there’s my neighbor who, after reading my recently published memoir, stopped by just to tell me how grateful she was that I was willing to share my story so openly. She wrapped her arms around me and, with tears in her eyes, told me that she finally felt seen. She finally felt like she wasn’t alone in the similar trials she had experienced in her life.
During a Sunday School lesson about trials (pre-COVID), a man openly shared about getting help from the bishop as he worked through his struggles with pornography. I rarely hear people talk that openly about their trials — especially ones that can be seen as taboo, and especially when they are still in the middle of that trial. Not everyone has the courage to own their story while they’re in it. I don’t remember who gave the comment (I was new in the ward, and we began at-home church shortly after), but I remember the acceptance and gratitude felt in that room. I have no doubt that this individual gave a voice for others in the class.
In episode 323 of the Listen Learn and Love podcast, host Richard “Papa” Ostler spoke to Parker and Alex Hadley-Hone, a same-sex couple who had recently gotten married. Though they don’t look like the typical LDS couple, they have been welcomed into their local congregation with open arms — a fact that they are extremely grateful for, acknowledging that this is not always the case in such a situation. They love God, they love the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they consciously choose to stay in the church.
This is discipleship — from Parker, Alex, and their entire ward family.
There is no one right way to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no one right way to worship or to live our lives. Believing that is very limiting.
We are taught to love one another. The words “Visitors Welcome” appear on every church building. Do we really believe it? Do we really live it?
During a BYU Fireside in 1994, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:
It is a responsibility divinely laid upon each of us to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, to lift one another, to look for the good in one another, and to emphasize that good.
It is our divine responsibility as Latter-day Saints to bear one another’s burdens, strengthen, encourage, lift, and look for the good in one another, and to emphasize that good. I see no qualifiers in that statement. You don’t have to be perfect to receive love and acceptance — or to give it.
If you don’t look, think, act, live, etc. like you think the ideal Latter-day Saint would, please stay. Your unique, individual journey and testimony have a place in this gospel. Please embrace exactly who you are, and whatever journey you are on right now. Your Heavenly Father loves exactly who you are, and there are no conditions attached to that.
If you are holding yourself to some invisible “ideal” standard, please let go. And if you are holding others to that standard, please absolutely let go. That is not a commandment that Christ gave. Rather, His exact words were,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
(Matthew 22:37–39 KJV)
I am still working at this, but it’s a principle that I’m grateful to have become more aware of this year. It’s been a joy expanding my vision of discipleship. I invite you to do the same.