Paul Mero: Faith Matters damages faith by forgetting our sacrificial unity

Once again, we observe people trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.

(Faith Matters) The Millennial Choirs and Orchestras perform at the Restore gathering at Sandy's Mountain America Exposition Center in October 2023.

I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sept. 30, 1978, 45 years ago, the day at which members during General Conference sustained the earlier revelation that year about the priesthood being open to all worthy males.

My wife, Sally, and I joined the church when we were married teenagers. We now have six children and 23 grandchildren. Though we originally are from just outside of Washington, D.C. — married, baptized and sealed while living there — my work at Sutherland Institute brought us to Utah for 20 years.

Unless you were born after 2000, you probably know of me through my public policy work at Sutherland Institute — conservative, fearless, controversial and effective. I am an orthodox Saint.

Here is what most people do not know about me: I am perhaps the most authentically unorthodox orthodox Latter-day Saint you will ever meet. Sally and I now live in Las Vegas. I have long hair. I have three tattoos. We left Utah on purpose because we hate — yes, hate — Utah’s hyper-Latter-day Saint culture. We grew wearisome over living up to other people’s expectations for us. We have one God, why did we need 400 more every Sunday?

Of course, there were many other personal emotions involved in leaving Utah. Just as everyone reading this, we too are unique in our gospel and church experiences.

We have lived in Las Vegas for over two years. Sally and I have always been temple-attending Saints and, yet, Sally has not attended church or the temple since we moved here. I attend church alone. I attend the Las Vegas Temple alone. I miss her. We talk a lot about it. She is her own person and an exceptionally Christlike person at that. She has her reasons for not attending church right now — reasons that do not include concerns dear to Faith Matters.

Faith Matters reveals its breadth of arrogance in assuming that its voice of diversity represents all perceived problems among church members. Speak for yourself. Your problems are clearly and ultimately with the Lord, not his servants or his church.

I say that to say this: Being faithful, practically speaking, plays out in our hearts and minds on a daily continuum and is a unique experience for every person. But, at some point, faithfulness needs to be “faith full.”

Yes, faith matters, but not Faith Matters. The end goal of faith is not how unique we are. The end goal of faith is one heart and one mind, able to bear celestial law, not a gospel of our own making. The answer to personal happiness is not found in 17 million differing ways to be happy. Happiness, or joy, only comes through living a celestial life. Think celestial, right?

As reported about the “Restore” event, love was a central topic. But love does not constructively answer questions of faith when love is used as a noun, defined individually and spread across a rainbow. Faith Matters damages faith by perpetuating that message. God’s love is much different. “God is love” is not some protester’s sign. Love in the gospel of Jesus Christ is sacrifice. Pure love is sacrificial. Each of us, individually, is required to sacrifice the crosses we bear and lay them at the feet of our Savior — meaning we leave them behind, not double down to embrace them.

There is a reason why Faith Matters tries to upsell a single B.H. Roberts comment about differences among the Saints. That message might appeal greatly to youths struggling with faith and to older generations whose faith has comfortably plateaued. But the strength of the church is not found in our natural differences. Its strength is found in our sacrificial unity.

Here is a special test of real faith for devotees of Faith Matters: Were you comfortable with the most recent General Conference messages from President Russell M. Nelson about not listening to nonbelievers and President Dallin H. Oaks’ categorical affirmation of the family proclamation? Or did you take solace only from other general authorities who spoke about the second great commandment?

If your answer to the first question is no and your answer to the second question is yes, you are out of the mainstream of the church. Your Faith Matters for all of the wrong reasons. Once again, we observe people trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.

Paul Mero

Paul Mero is the former president of Sutherland Institute and author of a forthcoming book, “The Zion Option: A Latter-day Saint’s Witness and Warning From 40 Years Deep Inside the Modern American Culture War.”

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