Either way, I always have something to talk about. Lately it's been the church. I have friends all across the board as far as ties to the church go. Some have left the church, some are leaving, some are staying but wishing they were leaving, some are indifferent and just stay out of habit, some are fighting to stay, and some like staying so much they teach at the MTC (a sentiment that not only cements membership, but encourages others joining as well). I guess we've all just hit that point in our lives where we are no longer accountable to our parents, we don't yet have a spouse or children to influence us, and so it's down to us. Do we actually believe all of it? Does it actually sit right?
What I have been surprised most by is my empathy with those that are between wishing to leave and actually have left. That although the idea of leaving the church threatens a mental implosion for me, I don't find my friends apostate or crazy. I was raised to be aghast at the thought of not adhering to all the particulars of our faith, and so expected myself to have complete disdain for those who left. Gratefully, I feel differently.
The way I see it, God just wants us to be happy. If He gives a commandment, it's simply for our lives to run more smoothly and for us to experience less unnecessary pain. He gives us church, prayer, scriptures, church callings, and a host of other resources to help us be closer to Him and thus also happier. Personally, I like these resources. They provide structure and meaning for me. I believe in God and worship the way I do because I want to, and it makes me happier to do so.
In fact, one of the articles of faith of the LDS church states that "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
Now, where is the surprise in this? The surprise is that I used to think I knew best what other people should do to be closer to God. I'm finding that I can't make that call. (I know- shocker) You cannot determine what living "according to the dictates of their own conscience" means for another person. Let them worship how they may. This may seem contradictory seeing as my job is to teach missionaries, but I don't think it is. The purpose of missionaries is to invite people to Christ, not force them.
Do I believe in the LDS faith? Yes, I really do. But more than being LDS, I believe in a loving God and a compassionate Christ. Being LDS is how I make those beliefs part of my life, but I am learning that I cannot hold it against someone for manifesting their beliefs another way, or really even judge it. I don't think religious superiority or even division of any kind is what God intended. I just think He wants us to find truth, and I think part of that is pushing the limits of our own understanding and learning from each other, wherever we stand in whatever faith.
There is much to learn. Here's to life.