I recently read an article by a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was full of bitterness and derogatory terms towards the church. It claimed that questioning LDS doctrine draws criticism and isolation from other member friends, and even rejection from family. I feel saddened that this was the experience the author had and hope it is not common. It is hard to believe that the church I belong to, and the church the author used to belong to, is one and the same. I do believe we are often too quick to criticize one another for differing opinions, and we should not judge one another's worthiness; however, I wondered how much of the article was truth and how much has been distorted with time and negativity.
The author claimed that we honor "blind obedience more than critical thinking." I'd like to blend those together: we honor critical thinking followed by obedience. We are asked to sustain and support our leaders. But we are also told to pray for personal revelation, to find our own testimonies of gospel truths. When President Monson and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak, I pay attention. Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, until he revealeth his words unto his servants the prophets". The Holy Ghost witnesses to me that their words are true. Therefore, I follow my own witness, which falls in line with official doctrine of the church. For example, my brother is about to serve a two-year mission for the church. This is asked of young men when they turn 19 years old by our church leaders, but my brother received his own confirmation that he should serve a mission before he sent in his mission papers.
President Boyd K. Packer addressed this topic: "Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. … We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see" (Agency and Control, Ensign, May 1983, 66)".
What is so wrong with following leaders who have been ordained of God? Absolutely nothing. Following God's prophet is an intelligent decision. We believe our doctrine is pure, meaning our truths are the same as Jesus Christ taught when he was on the earth. Our church is His church, restored again through the prophet Joseph Smith. Therefore, when our general authorities speak as Special Witnesses of Christ, they are saying what Christ wants us to hear. It's good to listen up!
Jesus Christ taught, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). If following the prophet makes me a sheep, then BAAAA!
Obedience to our leaders and the gospel principles they espouse unites us as members of the church. Our unity makes us stronger together and is a key characteristic of a Godlike people. "And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness..." (Moses 7:18).
So much doctrine has been polluted over time by individual opinions. A woman recently argued that since not everything in the Bible is true, the verses that teach that homesexuality is a sin are not true. I completely agree that we should love everyone no matter their sexual orientation and would not shun or refuse to befriend someone based upon that, but I cannot agree with justifying a lifestyle that Jesus Christ taught was a sin. I support my leaders in accepting everyone into the fold who chooses to live gospel teachings; I also support them when they reiterate that that sexual relations should be saved for marriage, which is ordained of God between man and woman.
When you pick and choose what doctrine to follow as you would food at a buffet, you are, in a way, creating your own church with a customized set of doctrines. This can distance you from the influence of the Holy Ghost. For many people, this has lead to leaving, and eventually even fighting, against the church, as the Amalekites and the Amulonites did to the Nephites and Anti-Nephi-Lehites in the Book of Mormon:
"And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things" (Alma 24: 30).
I love The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe it is the only church on earth with a complete restoration of all truth. Therefore, I trust our prophet and do my best to follow him. I believe people can and do find happiness in other churches, and I respect that. We are all on the same team when we are following Jesus; in this day when morals are considered outdated and old-fashioned, we need all the allies we can get. I feel peace and happiness when I live my life in accordance to the teachings of Christ's church. I feel content knowing my life has a purpose and a plan put in place by a loving Father who knows me. For me, that peace cannot be found by following anything else.