Despise the church

The other day I posted on Facebook about the LDS General Conference.  In response, I was asked "Why do you want to watch conference if you despise the church so much?"  Having been asked such a thing, I believe that I should take the opportunity to articulate my feelings concerning the church so there is no confusion.

I do not despise the church.  I love the church.  Why do I love it?  Partly because I was raised to love it.  My parents love it and they taught me to love it while I was young.  Partly because it has played a significant role in my life--shaping and molding me into who I am today.  Partly because I have so many loved ones who are members of the church--my parents and siblings, nearly all of my extended family, and hundreds of friends I have made throughout the years.  And partly because there are so many good things that the church encourages people to do.

How can I honestly say that I love the church when I've said some of the things I have said about the church?  It is not a perfect organization.  I believe any one of my friends would admit as much.  There is plenty of room for improvement.  When someone loves me, they tell me how I can improve myself.  This criticism isn't always as welcome as it should be, but I do appreciate it.  When I see something wrong with an organization that I love, I wish to point it out so that it can be, at the very least, acknowledged and assessed.

But, much more than the church itself, I love all of my friends and family who are members of it.  My love for the members of the church is truly great.  So great, in fact, that most people would likely be surprised to hear what I would be willing to do to show it.  The whole time I was a believing Mormon, I had several different callings (usually just one at a time, but several throughout the years) and other responsibilities in the church, all of which I fulfilled with a glad heart.  Some of the things that I did, that were by no means required, was to pick up people that needed a ride to church and to help the missionaries in various ways.

To this day, if someone from church were to call me up and ask for a ride to church (assuming that I was awake to receive the call), I would gladly do so.  I most likely would not stay for the meetings, but I would gladly drop them off and pick them back up again.  Any day that I have no previous engagements, I would happily feed the missionaries, as I did so many, many times prior to leaving the church.  There are many things that I would be willing to do to help out a friend in need.  Why do any of this if I believe the church is false?  Because I believe that people are valuable.  I love my friends, and they are more important to me than their beliefs or being right or anything else.  I was a missionary once and I remember exactly how nice it was to have someone invite us over to feed us dinner, even if it was strange Japanese food that I didn't know how to eat.  I like to flatter myself that I am an empathetic man.  And, in the case of helping missionaries, I truly was.  There were times when I would feed them multiple times in the same week.  And I would still do so.

The day that I told the missionaries that I was gay was the last time I ever saw them outside of church or a church-related activity.  They have not been in my car since, nor have they come to my house since, except when they were knocking doors on my street.  My friends from my ward here have one by one stopped talking to me.  But I have not stopped loving any of them.  There was one family that I used to home teach that would regularly call me and ask for help fixing something in their house or their parents'. It would brighten my day to receive such a call now.  I find a great sense of fulfillment in my life by helping other people.

None of the things I have ever said--about homosexuality or about the LDS church--has ever been about hurting anyone.  I have not intended to hurt the LDS church (in fact, that would be impossible for me to do singlehandedly) nor any of its members.  I acknowledge that many people's feelings have been hurt by the unrefined way in which I present my thoughts.  But, it was all unintentional.  My intent has only been to declare what I believe to be true and what I believe to be false--to express in no uncertain terms what my beliefs and opinions are.  Why should I do so?  Because I believe that other people may be interested in me--in my life and my thoughts--and therefore, me expressing myself is a good way to include others in my life.

So, no, I do not despise the church.  I don't even know if I am capable of despising anything or anyone.  I love the church.  It pains me to see it hurt gay people and lie about its own past, but I still love it.  I respect the leaders of the church--especially the lay ministry who give all of their time without any compensation. I love my friends and family who are in the church.  I hope that this has served to clarify any confusion that you might have had concerning my feelings about Mormonism.