After last week's column on the miserable job I'm doing obeying the Ten Commandments, a reader suggested it was high time that I renounce my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"You aren't doing a good job obeying the Articals [sic] of Faith either. Why don't you leave the church for once and all because you aren't being a true member if you don't want to have faith like the rest of us."
It's true. I don't want to "have faith like the rest of you." I couldn't even if I did. I'm not wired that way. Fortunately, I don't have to be for faith to work.
I sent the woman a copy of LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland's recent conference talk ("Lord, I Believe"), in which he said, "I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have."
If that isn't recognition that people aren't the same when it comes to faith, I don't know what is. What I do know is that it's OK for me to have doubts as long as I focus on what works for me.
To solidify this point, I also sent the woman a copy of my "13 Particles of Faith," a personal manifesto against cloned worship. The 11th particle reads: "I claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to it being none of your &%#@ business, and allow all men the same privilege except megachurch pastors, self-help gurus and some cannibals."
The woman immediately fired back with "unfaithful" and "unspiritual." I'll go out on a limb here and assume she was referring to me rather than Holland. The Lord's anointed or the spiritually disjointed, apparently neither piece worked for her. But because it leaves me in good company (for once), I'm good.
When it comes to matters of faith about anything, it's important to play to your strengths. I didn't always know this.
It took a long time to figure out that faith is a deeply personal matter, and I could drive myself nuts trying to fit someone else's circus under my tent. So I stopped.
I didn't stop being faithful. I stopped stressing about the things I didn't have much faith in and focused instead on what did it for me. It was amazing how fast it took for the rest to matter less.
Ironically, I don't just get this zero tolerance, everybody-the-same, all-or-nothing faith logic from fellow churchgoers.
I also get it from ex-Mormons, non-Mormons, and anti-Mormons, people every bit as insistent on correlating my faith. If I don't agree with everything at church, why would I believe anything? I should leave with them.
"I don't understand how a liberal-thinking guy like you can actually be a Mormon."
That's easy. My pathologically unsynchronizable brain believes 11th Particle of Faith works on them just as well.
Maybe it's just me but I don't believe everything about anything or anyone. I don't even believe my wife when she says something like, "Well, we don't have the money for that."
It's a lie. We probably do have the money. I just don't know where it is. And because she isn't going to tell me, it works out to me taking it on faith.
Here's the thing: I don't plan on leaving her over this major issue. I focus on what she says that I can believe and the amazing things she brings to my life when she isn't making me crazy. Apparently there's enough of that because we aren't penniless and divorced.
I'm still married, still going to church, still working and still a citizen. I even still have a few friends. Wow. All of that from focusing on the parts I do have faith in.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.
Kirby's 13 Particles of Faith
1. • I believe in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and in mankind's inability to tell the difference between them and a giant ball of fire or an extremely intolerant political party.
2. • I believe that men will be punished for their own transgressions, including stuff we did completely by accident or because of testosterone. Women will probably just get probation.
3. • I believe that through the atonement of Christ, everyone will one day be able to tell annoying church leaders where to get off.
4. • I believe that the first principles and ordinances of the LDS Church are boring speakers, meetings that last forever, music that sounds like whale sonograms, food storage gone bad and idiotic bickering over caffeine and movie ratings.
5. • I believe that a man must be called by God, by prophecy and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, and that Facebook posts and texting do not apply. Meanwhile, women answer only to a biological clock.
6. • I believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church: deacons, teachers, centurions, lepers, thieves, virgins, lunatics, mustard seeds and demonically possessed swine.
7. • I believe in the gift of tongues and would die a happy man if, just once, some smarta would have the guts to try it when I was around.
8. • I believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon to be the word of God as far as I personally can translate them correctly, which I try not to do because it scares me.
9. • I believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal and I believe he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the colossal foolishness of the entire human race.
10. • I believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes, most of whom will work for Microsoft; that the New Jerusalem will be built on this (North American) continent by undocumented migrant labor and that Christ eventually will rain personality on a generally colorless church.
11. • I claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to it being none of your &%#@ business, and allow all men the same privilege, except for megachurch pastors, self-help gurus and some cannibals.
12. • I believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magis. . . wait, no I don't.
13. • I believe in being honest to a point, true to myself, chased by the police, benevolent to the deserving, virtuous on the Internet and in doing whatever my wife says. Indeed, I may say that I follow the admonition of Paul in believing, hoping and enduring and that all of this damn well better be worth it in the end.