Today at quarter past noon, I meet with my Bishop for what I’m calling a meeting of the minds.
Last week, after I told the Sunday School President that I could no longer teach the Temple Class, the Bishop’s secretary texted me asking me to come meet with the Bishop.
A few days before our meeting, the Bishop emailed me two talks and asked me to read them prior to Sunday. The talks were about accepting and magnifying callings.
I re-read the talks as they were ones I was already familiar with as I had heard them both during the April 2017 General Conference of the Church. Elder Clayton and Elder Bednar both spoke about the importance of accepting and magnifying callings. The Bishop must have been under the impression that I simply didn’t like my calling and wanted a new one. That, however, was not the case. And the Bishop clearly had no idea concerning my situation.
Before I begin recounting the details of our conversation, allow me to say that I do love my Bishop. He’s a really great guy with a heart as good as gold. I’m sure there are a million other things he’d rather be doing in his spare time than being a Bishop of a Mormon congregation. What a service and what a sacrifice.
Okay, so to our meeting. It went well. Bishop began by asking me what I thought of the talks. I told him I thought they were great, but that the reason I had told the Sunday School President I could no longer teach the Temple class wasn’t because I didn’t like my calling and wanted a different one, but was because I didn’t believe what I was teaching and that I personally could not stand before others and teach something I did not believe in.
He didn’t act shocked. In fact, I was surprised at how well he handled the revelation. I told him that what I was about to summarize in 30 seconds was something I had been struggling with for quite some time and something that I felt I could no longer suppress. I told him I didn’t believe our church to be the only true church upon the earth.
I shared my vehicle analogy. The one wherein I compare institutionalized religions to vehicles making their way back to God. I explained that I believe God doesn’t much care whether you are driving a Ford or a Honda–He cares that you are moving toward Him, essentially striving to make your way back to Him and help others along the way.
In fact, He doesn’t even care if you travel the highway of life in a vehicle. If you want or need the pre-packaged, ready made meal institutionalized religion provides in order to worship and serve God–then pick the meal you feel will most please your palate and dig in.
And if ready made meals aren’t your style and you feel like footin’ it back to God rather than driving, lace up your shoes and run with it! Not everyone requires–nor desires–the scaffolding organized religion provides. Not everyone needs ready made programs, rites, and rituals in order to lead spiritual, God-like lives.
Next, I told Him how I feel about temple worship, ordinances, polygamy, gays and transgenders, and the former church policies about race and the priesthood. Honestly, I didn’t do much talking. He did. He testified and shared his beliefs with me. He confessed to a lot of “I don’t know,” and then we talked about how the men who lead the church are not perfect and make mistakes. In fact, the Bishop works for the church as a facilities manager and he shared a story about when President Monson called him up and chewed him out for not having hot water. He said he knew in that moment that Thomas S. Monson was acting as a man and not as a prophet.
The Bishop didn’t have any new insights or information I hadn’t already considered. In fact, listening to him share his beliefs and contradict himself in many ways made me realize what I already knew to be true–we all have our own beliefs. He asked me if I knew what his personal belief on polygamy was? I said no. He asked me if I knew what his personal belief on blacks and the priesthood is? I said no. He said, “See, you don’t need to know what I personally believe, but I come here and worship the same.” For me, that wasn’t a compelling argument. It just made me feel like we are all a bunch of disingenuous persons pretending to subscribe to doctrines and beliefs that we don’t really personally believe.
To me, that isn’t living with integrity. I want to worship with people that I can share my beliefs with. And when I say “share” I don’t mean that we both have to hold the same beliefs. What I mean is that I want to be able to speak freely about what I believe and not worry about whether expressing my beliefs will cause you doubt or destroy your faith. Likewise, I want others to be able to freely share what they personally believe. Yes, I would have rather heard what my Bishop personally believed about polygamy and blacks and the priesthood than to just hear him insinuate that he doesn’t agree with them either. For me, walking around keeping my mouth shut for fear that what I say may cause someone else to doubt what their organized religion or faith culture teaches is not an option. I am a teacher. God planted that seed in my soul. Therefore, I have a burning desire to teach that which I’m studying or coming to know.
I cannot include all of our conversation simply because I want to go eat dinner. But another thing he did say that I want to mention is how he spoke of there being no church in heaven. I really liked that because I feel it supports my belief that we don’t really need one true church here either. What we really do need is more love, compassion, and service–more love for God and our fellow man. Churches can help people do that, but many times, especially when they focus on preaching that they are the only true church, it causes more division and dissension than it does love and unity.
I agree with the Dahli Llama who said if we took all children at the age of 5 years old and had them meditate for one hour on compassion, we would eliminate in just one generation all violence, hate, and injustice. Peace would prevail by simply teaching children how to love one another. Compassion meditations can be done by anyone. Man and Woman alike. Not one above the other. No need for priestly robes and vestitures, or ordinances, covenants or crusades.
I concluded the meeting by asking if he would like me to turn in my temple recommend. He said I could keep it because he didn’t see that I was doing anything wrong. He blessed me in my quest for truth and told me that he trusted me to know whether I could or should use it. I told him it expired in Oct anyway and that at this time I didn’t feel I would be coming back in to renew it as I couldn’t pass the question about whether I believed this to be the only true church on the earth. I also told him that I was living all the other commandments as I felt they were a great way to live. I didn’t say that I may start paying 10% elsewhere simply because right now I don’t have the time to investigate other good causes to give 10% of my income to and I believe 100% in the law of tithing. So for now, I’ll continue to pay my tithing to the LDS organization.
The Bishop didn’t say whether he would release me. I think he thinks I’m going to get some answers in the next week or two. I told him I’m totally open to being wrong and having the Lord correct me. I explained that I pray every day to be led in truth and light as it’s my greatest desire. But I also confessed that the more I study other religions, the more I realize I don’t really even like the Mormon version of Heaven. I said I had no desire to be a plural wife of a man in Heaven and to birth babies to populate worlds wherein I do temple work all day. I said I’d rather be in Hell than a harem. 🙂
It was a lovely day. A weight has been lifted off my heart. I feel square before God, but now I face another conundrum. What do I tell everyone else when they ask me about my class and my calling? I left after sacrament because I cannot tell a lie. If anyone were to ask me I would simply reply, “I am no longer teaching that class because I don’t believe it.” See, that’s not good either. I don’t know what to do. And the other problem I see is that if I teach others what I believe about organized religion and start openly sharing my beliefs, I could be excommunicated. I guess I shouldn’t care if I don’t believe it, but I want to be able to sit with my family at church on Sunday. But I guess I can get over that too.
I’ll write later about the great conversations I’ve had with the kids as I explained to them my situation and why I was meeting with the Bishop. Stay tuned and later I promise to share our family meeting of the minds.