With General Conference last weekend, and the dissenting vote that was voiced during the sustainings, I have been thinking a lot about personal apostasy. I consider my testimony to be fairly strong, but no one is safe and I've definitely had my moments.
I think we all have things about church history, or church policy, or whatever - that we don't totally love. For example, I don't love going to church for 3 hours. Ever. Even when it's 9:00 church. And I don't love the fact that we are called on daily to drop whatever we may be doing for our family or ourselves (yes, that's important too) and go clean someone's nasty house, that they only needed help with because they let it get so bad. (Just an example). Recently a returned missionary, married-in-the-temple friend with a strong family started questioning things about polygamy in the early days of the church, and which leaders practiced it. This friend was completely thrown to learn that Joseph Smith was indeed one of the prophets who was commanded to practice this law. The fact is, it was a commandment that was given during that time, for whatever reason. Just like Nephi being commanded to slay Laban . . . just like Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son. I don't know about you . . . those things have never made sense to me - but in both of those cases the Lord had his reasons, and the only thing required of those mortal, imperfect men was obedience.
There are so many, many ways we can be drawn away from that Rod of Iron. Whenever I hear of someone leaving the church, my first question is, "Were they reading the Book of Mormon daily?" If not, go figure. We learn that even the righteous, the ones who partook of the fruit were clinging to the Iron Rod all the way to the Tree. Not gliding along with one hand on it, not reaching out every once in a while just to make sure it was there and making their own way the rest of the time. CLINGING. When they finally reached their destination, they FELL DOWN at the base of the tree. Have you ever done this? Maybe after a physically taxing or emotionally draining day? Just collapsed on the first surface that would hold your weight? That kind of reaction indicates a really tough road traveled. It's not supposed to be easy, folks. And even after all that, some of those faithful saints who struggled down the path bit into the fruit, only to be shamed by the mocking coming from the great and spacious building. The fact is, some of these saints let the fruit fall from their hands after they'd partaken, and fell away themselves.
This is one reason I am so enamored with the Book of Mormon. Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life is one of those things that was clearly written for our day. I see so many parallels in it to our modern world. It is easy to get caught up in these little snares, these "strange roads" that will ultimately lead us away from that white tree and its precious fruit. So for me, it helps to focus on what I know to be true. When I was struggling with some of the above-mentioned issues a while back, the spirit whispered to me to write my testimony. Start at the very basic thing that I know to be true. I was amazed with how much I do know to be true - and how much of it was the very foundation of our religion. Church policies come and go for the most part, and that isn't what our testimony should be based on. God is our Father, Jesus Christ is our Elder Brother and Savior. The Holy Ghost truly is a gift, the most precious gift our Father could give us. Joseph Smith was a prophet. He did see God the Father and the Son. The spirit has witnessed this to me so many times. The Book of Mormon is the best book in the world . . . everything, EVERYTHING in it is for us, and the more I read it, the clearer it becomes. Because I have a personal testimony of these things, which are the foundation of everything else church-related, I don't worry about things that are less eternal in nature. So, if any of you find yourselves feeling disgruntled about church-related things, maybe not feeling a burning in your bosom over something or other, try starting with what you know.