I stay for many of the same reasons outlined in the post: community, values, and heritage. My ward is absolutely fabulous my interactions with the members of my ward fuels my hope and faith. I have a deep Mormon heritage that goes down into my bones and pervades all of my soul. But, ultimately I stay for one reason: I know that this is where God wants me.
I have hard questions. Soul wrenching questions that aren't going away. They can't be prayed away or answered by reading more scriptures. If that was the case they would have been gone long ago. When I ask these questions in prayer, heaven is generally silent. But when I ask, "Do you want me in this church? Even with all the pain and frustration?" I feel an overwhelming sense that my Father and Mother in Heaven love me and are present, and their joint answer is, "Yes. Stay. Continue holding on to your hope for things you can't see."
So, I like Jess, choose to stay. But, she says, she would probably not encourage others to join. This statement wouldn't sit well with most members. One of my family members responded to the post in part with the following:
"In my opinion to be truly converted to the gospel you could never make the following statement: 'But would I ever encourage any one else to join the church? If I’m being honest, the answer is no, probably not.'
Her statement is like saying 'I enjoy living in a safe and comfortable house, but I would never recommend it to my friends who's houses are on fire. After all, they have their agency.'"
I like the image of the church as a house: a place that offers shelter, room for family to gather, a place that feels like home. I'd like to expand on that idea and perhaps give you a better idea of how I see things.
As a child I loved watching This Old House, a program that showed beautiful old houses being restored. I see many of these types of houses in the Avenues in Salt Lake City near the hospital where I work. I marvel at their beauty and grandeur.
In many ways the church is like one of these grand old homes. Built by our pioneer ancestors, the house of the church is solid, built on a firm foundation. The architecture is lofty and inspiring. There is also much sense of history here. I can see the pictures of my parents, grandparents, generations of love in this home. This is where the people I love gather, sit around the table and share a hearty meal. There is true Christian service. There is joy in this house and I love it dearly.
But, if I look closely I can see some of the paint is peeling. There's a leaky sink here, a drafty window there. Our family has expanded over the years too. We've opened our doors, not just to our family but now to our neighbors and friends. It's wonderful to share the goodness, but we've got people sleeping on the couch and on the floor. And only half the family has a key to the place that is supposed to be home to all.
I loved watching the workers on This Old House transform old homes. When you repair and improve an old home it is called restoration. Now there's a word we are familiar with. Recently President Uchtdorf reminded the members that the restoration of the church is an on going process. I believe wholeheartedly in his words:
"Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”"
When some of us try to speak up and suggest that maybe the leaky window in the back upstairs bedroom needs to be repaired we are met with exclamations of surprise, "My bedroom window is fine! You're just looking to complain." or "Why can't you just focus on the good?" Well, my room's so cold and night and I'm getting sick. When we suggest that maybe it's time to build an addition so we can fit all those who want to join us, we are told, "You should be happy with the house the way it is. It's perfect. If you don't like it, why don't you just leave?"
I won't leave because I also believe these words from President Uchtdorf:
"There is too much at stake for us as individuals, as families, and as Christ’s Church to give only a halfhearted effort to this sacred work.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not an effort of once a week or once a day. It is an effort of once and for all."
I am committed to this church. But I won't be one to be lulled into security and say, "All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well."
I'm not leaving because this is my home and I love it. The plans are divine, but the construction is mortal. We have some work to do; we can fix some of our leaks, finish washing and putting away our laundry and replace our windows with the new Energy Star version. And, like a good Mormon girl I'm going to be humming a hymn while I work, because I'll "help the good work move along, and put my shoulder to the wheel."