As the argument unfolds following the LDS church’s new policies it occurs to me that here we might just have a reversal on the old “blind people groping an elephant” metaphor. For those not familiar with it, the concept is that a group of blind people each feeling a different part of an elephant will each describe the animal very differently based on where they grab. It is an apt metaphor for people arguing needlessly when they could just work together to get clarity.
Now to reverse the idea. What if when the traditional Mormons say “the church” they are describing an entirely different animal than the more progressive members. It seems like ever since I returned to church in my late teens I have been arguing with other members about what was right, about the meanings and applications of various scriptures. I’ve spent years telling myself we were just at different ends of the same elephant but as this policy change came out and the Brethren seemed to be surprised by the response, I can’t help but think they are the guys who are supposed to really define the elephant for the rest of us, and they may not be touching the same beast as me at all. And maybe they never were.
Time to put the metaphor to bed.
The church in which I thought I maintained membership was not one of exclusion. It would not place women lower than men. It would not exclude the children of gay couples on the risk of normalizing sin (this if how I explain the new policy), and it would not try to mislead its followers about why it did hard things. These are prerequisites to be the church of the Christ I know. Initially it seemed like that church as the holy ghost confirmed for me the good parts, but more and more it did not stand up to the criteria for me.
I have friends who are upset, but plan to change the church back. They say “It is my church too!” They discuss how they will teach change and will force the church to be better. There is just one problem. I don’t want a church made in my own image. I don’t want it to be my church. I want it to be God’s church. And I believe I will recognize it when I feel it. Maybe it hasn’t been restored yet, or it doesn’t need to be, but I don’t believe trying to fix the LDS one will do any good.
Here is why: This isn’t the same as preaching repentance to the Nephites or even the Lamanites. This time it is Abinadi going to King Noah and his priests. And this time the Lamanites won’t be burning the leadership to ashes so a new better church led by Alma can save the day. This time the 15 know what you have to say, and they disagree after genuine thought and prayer (having sought more light and knowledge that same way we do). The best you can do is incrementally lead some people to agree with you. What is even the point? You are still implying support for guys who disagree with what you value most.
For me the answer is to not hope for the church to improve. In my mind the church is mostly just a normal human organization with good intentions, but that is led by some old conservatives so it changes a few decades behind the times after a new generation has figured out that rock music is not evil and evolution is actually obvious.
Instead of being and activist I will enjoy the good things about the church, the positive stories (maybe fables?) of the book of Mormon, the excellent scholarship, and generally good people and ignore its claims of divine authority and demands that I obey. I will live my life seeking to draw near to my savior without any middle man church regulating that relationship and I welcome any friend to join me, gay or straight, male or female, of any color or culture, in loving God and each other.