Yesterday, the news came that--according to new Church policy--children of those in a same-sex relationship will no longer be considered eligible for a name and a blessing or to be baptized. Many are incensed. Still more are deeply saddened. I have seen people on social media and in my own family begin to question things they had always held to be true. It's devastating to me, personally: not because I'm losing my testimony but because I'm seeing so many people I know and love begin to lose theirs. So I feel like it's my duty to give my perspective if only to strengthen those trees of faith breaking under the stress of doubt's wind.
I'm not going to give a clever way that the Church leaders are right in all of this, despite everything that appears contrary to that. It might be the case that this is a huge misunderstanding and that, somehow, we've all gotten scared of nothing. But I personally doubt that will happen in any big way. No, in this post I'm acknowledging that, yes, the Church has done something morally wrong in the objective sense of the phrase. It's a tragedy that will alienate members from their families and tear families apart. But of course, this wouldn't be the first time that the leaders of the Church have done something immoral. Didn't Joseph Smith have many secret wives, with some of whom we now definitively know he had actual intercourse? Didn't the Church declare as doctrine for over a hundred years that black people were ineligible for the priesthood? And it wasn't just "culture" or "cultural practices"--it was doctrine in the same way that most teachings today are doctrine.
Church leaders and prophets are imperfect. This is an increasingly common refrain among members trying to reconcile their image of prophets with stark realities. But have you ever considered that a prophet or prophets could do something blatantly, morally wrong? This happens, as much as we don't like to think about it. But this doesn't mean that they're not inspired, and it doesn't mean that God isn't using them for His own purposes. Adam S. Miller eloquently says on this point that:
“While it is scary to think that God works through weak, partial, and limited mortals like us, the only thing scarier would be thinking that he doesn’t.”
God works with sinners--who else does he have? Murderers like Moses, persecutors of the church like Paul and Alma the Younger, thieves, and prostitutes are all tools in God's hands. The Church may be on the wrong moral foot here (and again, I may be proven wrong), but God knows this and is working more largely and deeply than we can see at the moment.
For God and His work isn't the Church. As far as I can tell (and drawing on thinkers like Terryl and Fiona Givens), He has delegated the leaders of the Church authority to do and teach what they think is best at the moment. This doesn't mean that Thomas S. Monson has a white phone in his office where Christ can ring him up and tell him this and that to teach. Instead, the leaders do what they think is best through the medium of their own limitations. And mistakes will be made in this process--as they have again and again in the past. Does this mean that God isn't at the head of His church, that God's and His servant's voice isn't one and the same? Not quite. Like a parent letting his child fall over as that child is learning to ride a bike, God effectively says: "whatever you decide, I'll honor." It isn't that God changes His mind--we do, and God goes with it based on His trust in the leaders of the Church.
And God has his eye on the far future here. I'm confident that--somehow--God will take this stumble and transmute it into goodness and love like He always does. An intuition I have is that it will purify the faith of those who really desire to have faith, getting them to the point where they no longer idolatrously worship leaders and instead worship God for God's sake. Or perhaps not, but I have hope (in the scriptural sense) that everything will work out toward the end of the gathering of Israel and the coming of Christ to the earth.
But the questions on many of your minds might be: "since the church's policies don't make sense, why should I desire to have a testimony and believe in its teachings? What's so special about the Church in the first place?" Let me tell you. In the Church, I have seen miracles. The trials of faith I've gone through--in which the Church's policies gave me repeated self-hatred and remorse--have been transmuted to my good; I wouldn't be the same person I am today without them, and without them I most likely wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am today. In taking the sacrament, I've experienced peace and comfort to transcend everything I felt during the week. I've experienced both myself and others suddenly start speaking things in church which they didn't plan or even think about beforehand, but which left everyone there full of the Spirit's fire. And in the temple, I have openly and profusely wept when getting confirmed for one of my ancestors, a feeling I didn't anticipate and which doesn't make sense from a secular perspective. Even now I feel tears coming to my eyes as I remember the goodness and love I've felt in the Church.
I bear you my solemn testimony that the Church is true--this doesn't mean that the leaders are perfect or that everything that comes out of their mouths is objectively right. Instead, it means that God is here with us, that his sacred fire and his life circulate through and between us like blood, that we are all connected together through an atonement and a gathering that are making themselves known now more than ever. It means that despite whatever disappointments and setbacks we experience in the Church, faith, hope, and love will always prevail and have the last word. And it means that even now, through the tears and the sorrows we're feeling, God is coming ever closer to the world and the gathering is getting that much closer to its realization.
I bear you my testimony that God lives and that He is here in the Church. I have felt Him again and again, and--though I'm not sure why--I know that these setbacks will only bring Him closer to the world. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.