Last Thursday, news broke of an update to Church policy in regards to same-sex couples, their children, and baptism. Unless you are committed enough to be living a totally off-the-grid lifestyle in the deep woods with your organic herb garden and wolf dog, you heard about it. I’m not going to talk about it. At least, not the issue directly. Truth is, I wasn’t going to talk about anything related to it at all, until I turned on my computer today to see that, like Coriantumr and Shiz at the end of the book of Ether, some of you are still virtually going at each other’s throats.
This is what I want to talk about. Not the issue, not the ‘why’, not the questions of what will happen…no. What I want to talk about is this trend I see among members and ex-members that disgusts me. It disgusts me because it carves an even deeper divide between us, and it disgusts me because it is one of the greatest obstacles that I know of standing in the way of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That trend is being scathing, rude, bitter, vitriolic, and unsympathetic on the Internet. If that sounds like a description of your social media activity, congratulations. You’re part of the problem.
For four days, my newsfeeds have consisted of members of the church attacking and belittling each other and church leadership with comments like, “Disagree? JUST GET OUT.” or “I’m LDS and this infuriates me, and if you’re a member of the church who’s okay with this, you’re deluded.” For four days, my newsfeeds have been filled with friends who have left the church pulling every Reddit, John Dehlin/Kate Kelly commentary, NYT story, scripture, and ex-Mormon blog they can find out of a hat to shove in members’ faces and say, “See! The church is filled with bigots and you’re all idiots for staying.” For four whole days, I have seen nothing but hatred and hurt feelings all around, because everybody on the whole entire planet feels like they are an expert on this subject. Probably the worst of it is to see both sides taking the words of Jesus Christ and shoving it in each others’ faces to say, “SEE! WHAT JESUS DO YOU BELIEVE IN?! ‘CAUSE YOU’RE WRONG.”
With as much force as I can muster to put across in a blog post, GET OFF YOUR COMPUTER AND STOP THIS. NOW.
Do we honestly think that we will solve any issue by being monsters on the Internet? Do we? Because lately, I get the impression that people seem to think that is the case. If this whole issue stems from concern for the feelings and wellbeing of our brothers and sisters, then how dare we and why dare we try to fix it by going at each other? Is this building up the Kingdom of God? Is this sharing the joy that can be found from the Gospel? Absolutely not. Is this the appropriate way to handle issues you have with the church you’ve left? Is being horrible or rude or sarcastic to people who deeply love and believe in the gospel going to win you any Reddit points? Probably, but decent human points? Absolutely not.Internet shaming and contention are not Christlike. Period. Nor do these things help you become a better person. I address ex-Mormons and current Mormons here, because frankly, there are a lot of people in both groups that need to sit down and reevaluate what they are doing. Courage is unflinchingly standing up for what you believe. Courage is not belittling and mocking other people while you do it. This weekend, I’ve seen members belittling and mocking members, ex-members belittling and mocking members, and members belittling and mocking ex-members. It’s left a terribly bad taste in my mouth.
To members: the point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not kicking people out. The point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not antagonizing people, hating people, or heatedly debating with people. It isn’t the church’s stance on gay marriage, the church’s stance on abortion, or how you happen to feel about any of those things. The WHOLE point is Jesus Christ. Have we forgotten this? Have we forgotten Him? A lot of us seem pretty convinced that we know what Jesus would say or how He would act, but in the process, very few of us remember how He expects us to act as His representatives. If you are pushing other people away from Him, or using His words as a means to shame other people, you are not getting who He was and is. No, Christ did not condone sin. Yes, Christ turned the tables of the money-changers in the temple. But do you know what Christ also did? He loved everyone and He invited everyone to come unto Him. I don’t really think you can take it upon yourself to “turn the tables of the money-changers” without loving your brothers/sisters, then claim you’re being Christlike. Being Christlike takes courage and it takes love. Together. All of us could do better at standing up for what we believe and loving our brothers and sisters in the process. For some of us, loving others takes the most courage.To ex-members: I know many of you are steaming mad right now, or maybe gleeful. I know this because I see all of the mass resignation party flyers you’re disseminating on the Internet and I see the scathing and snide comments you’re making on Internet threads. Some of you have taken it upon yourselves to tear down and ridicule your Facebook friends for their testimonies. Some of you have chosen to be bitter and antagonistic about beliefs that, at one point, you once adored. There are many of you that I love, and it hurts to see the things you have said. Some of you still believe in Jesus Christ. I ask you, would He condone the way you are treating members of the church? Would He smile and pat you on the back for calling your member friends bigots and telling them they’re delusional? If you think so, you don’t know Him either. If you don’t believe in Him anymore, at least believe that all people, regardless of what they believe, should be treated with respect. That is true no matter what church or organization you belong to. And I’m sorry, but being bitter and sarcastic about the church or church leadership does not become you. Bitterness, in fact, becomes no one.
Guys, life is too short for us to spend our time arguing all of the time. Not only that, but if you believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you should realize that no contentment or joy will be found from doing anything less than trying to become like Him and move toward Him. At a time when our beliefs are constantly challenged and ridiculed, let’s take the moral high ground and defend them with dignity and respect. Let’s not get involved with online threads that will turn us into angry, embittered people. Let’s not destroy our friendships simply because we disagree. Let’s all try harder to be more decent. We are all brothers and sisters, and the Savior atoned for all of us. Every single one of us. Let’s allow our social media and conversations to reflect that, okay?
We cannot be good representatives of Christ if we’re too busy tearing down people He has atoned for.