I wrote the following with love and an open heart. I hope that it’s received with compassion and an open mind. I’ll begin with a few stats for my active LDS friends to consider:
-Worldwide membership of the LDS church: 15.4 million.
-Worldwide estimated population: 7.2 billion.
-Percentage of Heavenly Father’s children who are not LDS: 99.7%.
Can we just stop and re-read the last stat one more time: 99.7% of God’s children on this earth are NOT members of the LDS church. Now, these aren’t exact numbers, but you get the idea. The Church was restored in 1830. Here we are, 185 years later, and the worldwide membership of the Church isn’t even half of 1% of the world’s population. 85,000 missionaries? 145 operating temples? Impressive and staggering to consider, but is this rate of growth enough to ensure that the other 99% is converted within the next 185 years?
As I consider the math, I don’t lose sight of miracles and the phenomenal growth that the Church has experienced over the last two centuries. I am also mindful of the millennium and the events that we believe will take place during that span of time. But I strongly feel that a loving, kind, merciful Heavenly Father is just fine with the math I’ve presented. It's 2015 and still, a tiny portion of His children are active LDS. He knows what He’s doing and He has everything under control. I believe with all my heart that He loves ALL of His children and that He is fully invested in bringing about the eternal life of the believers and non-believers, the righteous and the wicked, the Mormons, the ex-Mormons, the Catholics, the Buddhists, the Jewish, the Muslims, the non-religious, the Atheists, etc. I believe that through His Son, He has truly made every possible consideration to ensure that the majority of His children return home to Him.
I don’t share these stats to discourage, to disrespect or to dishearten anyone. My membership in the LDS Church still means a great deal to me. I’ve been a part of missionary work and temple work and have enjoyed some very meaningful experiences as a result. I’ve taken time to visit Kirtland, Nauvoo, Carthage, Palmyra, Adam-ondi-Ahman, Far West, Liberty Jail and other places where I experienced real and powerful emotions that I, to this day, believe came from a heavenly source. I have served in a variety of callings within the Church and very much enjoyed these experiences. I continue to believe and have a testimony of things that I consider to be sacred.
I have loved this Church and have truly been grateful for my membership in it. But consider this: Members of the Church like some of you are pushing members of the Church like me out. In droves. Completely. Unapologetically. In the name of righteousness. I am here to speak up and ask for change. I’m asking my brothers and sisters in the Church to expand their views and open their hearts. If God is just fine with 99% of His children not being members of “the only true church” in the year 2015, perhaps we can calm down and be more prepared to accept our brothers and sisters from all walks of life. Then, maybe we can go a step further and see that many different paths lead to the same destination.
For the most part, my experience has been that members of the Church are among the kindest, most loving and most giving people around. It's this kind of association that makes me proud to be a member of the Church. But at the same time, I become amazed at how unwilling we can be to have conversations where beliefs are presented that differ from our own. Our entire world view can be shaped by how we were raised without any thought as to what God has in mind for the billions of men and women who weren't born and raised in the Church or given the chance to accept the gospel as taught by the Church. We tend to especially freak out a bit when someone who has been raised in the Church turns away and pursues a different path. "How can that differing path lead back home?", we demand. My next entry will provide 5 different ways that we, as members of the Church, can be more open and show a willingness to have interesting, insightful conversations with each other and, more importantly, with those who do not believe as we do. Check back later this week for that.
I'm going to close this entry with a quote that one of my dearest friends, David Bennett, turned me on to. It's from Hugh B. Brown, a former member of the First Presidency of the Church:
"I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent—if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it (emphasis added)."