Many have questioned the validity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because of the fallibility of it’s leaders. There are some uncomfortable parts in Church history that have caused members to abandon the Church, and many an outsider to assume that the Saints are living in blind faith.
There are sticky points in Church history, culture and doctrine for me too. But my discomfort, when I have turned it over to passionate study and sincere prayer, has increased my faith every single time. This is because my faith isn’t just wishful thinking or filling in the gaps with optimism. My faith is spiritual knowledge gained by experience.
I love that God, in scriptures, has extended challenges such as “Prove me now herewith…”
What does it mean to prove something? It means to have indisputable, replicable evidence gained by experience.
I like how David S. Miller put it: “Faith is more like being faithful to your husband or wife than it is like believing in magic. Fidelity is the key. You may fall in love with someone because of how well they complement your story, but you’ll prove yourself faithful to them only when you care more for the flawed, difficult and unplotted life you end up sharing with them. Faith isn’t the opposite of knowledge. Rather, like love, faith perfects knowledge by practicing fidelity to it.” -Letters to a Young Mormon
Faith has ample room for questions and doubts. In fact, I think those are essential components. In my experience, every doubt has become a blessing. Every question has been a chance to grow closer to God. Every human error has been an opportunity to see God’s hand (I’m pretty sure the Prophet Joseph would agree with me.)
I am, unequivocally, a believer in the restored church. I believe that God the Father and Christ the Son called upon a young, uneducated boy, Joseph Smith, to bring forth the Book of Mormon and re-establish Christ’s ancient church, in preparation for the second coming. And I believe that the current Church is led by true and living prophets. But you’ll never hear me say the oft repeated testimony, “I know the Church is true.”
Why? Because the Church, God’s Kingdom on Earth, is not a glorified, completed, perfected organization. The GOSPEL is true, the Church is not. It’s still growing, still receiving further light and knowledge, and currently being led by prophets who are good good good and inspired men called of God, but still imperfect humans.
So why get baptized? Why give a tithe? Why sacrifice a large portion of time and means? What’s the difference between this Church and any other? What’s the use of organized religion anyhow?
I’ve worked over many years to get answers to those questions for myself. And I’ve received them. I won’t share all those answers now, because it was the process of working for answers that has been the greatest spiritual gift. But one of the outcomes of my effort has been to discover the virtue in fallibility.
God works miracles through the weak and the flawed.
Jonah was a reluctant prophet who never really got it.
Joseph Smith lost the manuscript pages and fell prey to human weakness.
Peter denied Christ 3 times and then went on to be the head of the Church.
God doesn’t call perfect people to the work. He calls the weak.
When I was employed by the Church, members would often say “It must be amazing to work for the Church!” With stars in their eyes they seemed to imagine that angels would come down during PowerPoint presentations and give us clear instructions on how each project should be done. Then, of course, the prophet would meander down the hall and nod his approval.
In reality, a lot of the work wasn’t ecclesiastical. It was corporate. There was a lot of politics and bureaucracy. There were ineffective programs and failed projects. There was even, dare I say it, sexism.
I still believe that the Church, including it’s corporate holdings, are part of God’s Kingdom on Earth. A perfect God is willing to put His name and blessings on our flawed attempts because He is using it to educate us and prepare us. He is proving US by experience. He is refining us as we wrestle to subdue our egos and ambitions as we attempt to do His work “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”.
We saints may be fallible and flawed. But we have been bound by covenants to an infallible and perfect God, through the blood of an infallible and perfect Savior. And those covenants give us access to the Power of God in the tiny details of life. Miracles. Unbelievable miracles. And even more wonderful, personal growth as we see what He can do with us even in our weakness. All of this He does because of LOVE. Love for us not because of our potential, not because of our productivity, not because of our proven worth. But simply because we are. We are loved IN our fallibility, not in spite of it. A lot of healing comes from that. And with that healing comes the faith and motivation to keep building up His Kingdom.