Last year I left my church. I also returned. To make it short- I left over historical muck & I had very valid reasons. That is a long story which I will also share- but not here. My purpose now is to talk about coming back- the things I learned about from this experience (of which I am terribly ashamed). Originally I came back after researching some passages in the Bible which talk about things in the Millennium or the second coming of Christ. Those scriptures (mainly Malachi 3 & 4) talked about how to find Christ's church before the Millennium- that we would bring tithes into the storehouse, that there would be a temple, that there would be "Levites" (or temple workers/priesthood holders), and there would be a herald to prepare the way before His coming. The commentaries online had 3 interpretations for this. 1. The temple was Christ in the Meridian of time. (I accept this as one interpretation, in the scriptures there are often a few interpretations that prove viable for the same verse). 2. The temple was an actual stone temple in the Millennial Day. (This is supported when you take out the chapter breaks and realize they are talking about the final days). 3. There might have been another interpretation about the temple being in our hearts. So, I had concluded that the pattern shown in the meridian of time- with a herald going before Christ, was a divine pattern which had been repeated for the second coming- to prepare the world. This acknowledgement only solved one issue for me though- it said that I had a testimony of temples and a testimony that Joseph was a herald (He having had a visit from Elias- John the Baptist as part of the restoration)- but so many things about his life and some of the things he did were too weird to shove into my heart to fill the gap between those two items. Which had me wondering again and again- Why would a God let all of this muck surround the beginnings of His restorative work on the Earth? This All knowing God seems pretty foolish.
The beginning of that answer comes by great patience and humility. "The wisdom of God is foolishness to men" (1 Cor 1:18,25; 2:14).
Lets start at the beginning- God created an Earth and sent us here to learn, to grow, and to test our hearts. By tests we are made strong. In this fallen world, we find many things to grow strong against. One of the key characteristics of our journey here is our ability to choose & have faith in things we don't see. So, we find the wisdom of God in (his allowance of historical muck & lack of scientific evidences for His work) because:
1. Life = A Heart Test- Not a Mind Test: In the final judgement, God will look on the state of our hearts- not the wealth of knowledge we have obtained. Our first purpose here is to love God with all our hearts- to be sanctified by His Holy Spirit, to follow Christ. Knowledge is good, it will stay with us forever & continually bless us. However, when I say this life is a heart test- not a mind test, I mean that it is to feel and know by your spirit that Jesus is the Christ- to trust your spirit which "comprehends things that man cannot comprehend for the spirit is of God & understands Godly things"(not a direct quote- 1 Cor 2:10), over your personal research and logic. As humanity, we know so much! Yet, there is so much that we do not know- We have only scratched the surface of science and history and obtainable knowledge. This means we can acknowledge our limited information and listen to the Spirit. Instead of proving faith is viable logically- by finding archaeological/scientific evidence and then exercising it. We know by God that Jesus is the Christ, that this is His church. " , Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto , but my Father which is in heaven."
2. Choice & Faith: God is loving and He is wise in that love. He does not want to have our devotion by any means other than by faith. If we follow him because Archaeology and History prove He is God & Jesus is our Savior & our minds cannot say otherwise- then of what value is our conversion? We don't believe because he touched our hearts- but because he convinced our minds. Therefore, he gives our minds considerable evidence to make the choice for ourselves whether we trust Him or our own reasoning. When we came to this Earth, did we come with a memory of Heaven? No. God placed a veil over our memories so that we could be tested in another way... perfecting another part of our being. If we know, we have no reason to have faith. Faith is a belief in things hoped for and not seen. The scriptures are full of explanations on how one builds faith. None of those examples says that you have to find historical evidence to back it up and if you don't find that evidence, abandon your faith. Instead, it says that your evidences will be felt and seen with spiritual eyes. On occasion after you have exercised faith, you will also experience miracles & that will also serve as your evidence.
3. Judging God by the things of God and not by the flaws of men. It is very possible God works through flawed means to bring about great things. "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by and are great brought to pass; and means in many instances doth confound the wise" (Alma 37:6). He uses flawed humans and sometimes even the imperfect means that they have of accessing Him to do His work. When God chooses a prophet, that man is not perfect. He is not the Christ, he is an imperfect man. There are expectations we have about who God should choose. People also had expectations about what Christ should be like; the humility of His humanity in his mortal ministry offended them. God can preserve an imperfect thing through time and bring an imperfect prophet to restore it to it's godly design (temples). He never has a perfect set of everything on Earth to work with. I believe also that no mortal hand can stay the work of God. It is His work and He has preserved all of the important pieces for us. Of all things to preserve on this Earth, His word is most precious. God works with many imperfections, but He is perfect.
4. History is a mystery: we have so much information about History- we have journals, documents, We know facts about what happened then! Nevertheless, we do not have neither will we ever have a complete picture. There are the ways each person experiences the same historical event- there are missing pieces in every story. What if those are the vital pieces that would make a weird story make sense? Acknowledge how little we know about history! Even how little you know about your own personal history! How many times have people judged you and been wrong about your motives or character? How often have you had stories told about you that were fictional? Even the smallest part being an assumption or filler detail makes the story a work of fiction in some manner. BUT! what about our eternal source of truth? Surely when we pray, the true story will be revealed. -This is not so easily done. The reason is, Historical questions are complicated- the most complicated to receive an answer from your heart to your head. Also, is the purpose of God to answer all of our historical questions or is it to bring us to Heaven? Which questions will He place priority on? ones that satisfy our minds or our spirits? Sometimes the two meet- I had such a wonderful blessing fall in my lap- I had prayed with fervency for God to answer my historical questions. They were affecting my Spirit & I wanted to know if I could trust Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God. One day in church a lady invited whomever would come with her to a fireside which was given by the in-church authority on Joseph Smith. This man had worked extensively on publishing the Joseph Smith papers and he wrote his own book on Joseph Smith. "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling". It was a small fireside. The man was in town for his grandson's baptism. I think He was in town for me. I am after all, God's favorite child and he organized the universe around my salvation... at least, that's how I think sometimes. He talked about the relationship between Joseph and Emma- it was good to hear this. It was wonderful to hear from a man who loved the church and spoke well of Joseph as many of Joseph's close associated had & He explained a character for Joseph that seemed to fit very well with the history. He acknowledged the odd stories and didn't seek to 'make' an explanation for them- but to 'discover' the explanation for them. He did not answer all of my questions, but he answered the most important one (I also forgot to ask him my questions); I believe this man knows the character of Joseph. After he spoke of that relationship between Joseph nad Emma and the struggles the two of them faced and the decisions Joseph made... He opened the floor to questions! I loved the answers He gave- I was so grateful I could hardly think of anything to ask Him after the fireside- I just thanked him and thanked God for him. God knows what is important to you. To me- Honesty is a great driving force in my life. I am not only a terrible liar, I'm terrible at holding close to anything that seems to have shadows of untruth. I didn't want to lie to myself- to cover up things that were un-fitting. I felt my heart needed some historical answers to satisfy it's desire for honesty. I wanted answers so that I could defend the church- if not to anyone else, to myself. I live on honesty & on truth... you have no idea how frightening it was to be unsettled- to feel I was without a place to stand. Character is something that is understood from heart to heart. There are hints to it in some places in History- in journal accounts where people describe the type of man He was. It was nice to have this man, brother Bushman, shine a light on the character of Joseph Smith.
So, this is my belief. This is why I am still Mormon. It's not only those explanations... but it is also the many tests I have given to this gospel throughout my life. It is the product of this faith that is remarkable- it produces a people who are unafraid of knowledge- they seek it out and they prosper and they are also full of faith. The pattern usually goes that as one increases in knowledge, they decrease in Faith. It is not so in my Church. People are excited not because of their ignorance but because of the wealth of their knowledge & understanding. They have autonomy & encouragement to discover truth in their hearts and to know it for themselves. This is a personal journey for all people & it is yours and it is mine. I love the autonomy of spirituality I have in this church. I love the joy it pours into my life. I love the flurry of blessings & the virtue it pours into my heart. I love how it shapes my character. How it teaches me to love, to be good to others and to find qualities I don't have- like ambition! I love the knowledge that God is involved in my life. It is the most comforting knowledge! He knows me & He is still creating me in His image and He is preparing great things for me! Because I have Him, I have someone to thank for the light and love my children share with me. Someone to thank for the perfectly suited for me husband... the perfect way in which we found each other & fell in love. I have a testimony that there is a God in Heaven. He is the creator and organizer of the universe. He loves me. He sent His perfect son to die for me. He shines His love on my heart and on my life. The love of God is unlike anything found in this world. It is ennobling, it fills your soul with light and joy. It changes your desires. This love, it is real and perfect and stronger than any other love. When it fills you it becomes a part of you. I bear this testimony to you in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.