Ads 468x60px

God and Guns

Why are God and violence so easily mixed?

Let me explain my question a little more. I took in a small town parade a few weeks ago. I was there in the capacity of my job as a journalist taking pictures and notes for an upcoming article. I watched high school football players and little Cub Scouts toss jawbreakers and Tootsie Rolls to the crowd lined up along the road.

Living where I do, there was no shock seeing several church sponsored floats file past along with the fire trucks and riders from the local saddle club. All were Christian, mostly Baptist or some other evangelical denomination. Cheerful floats decorated flowers and littered with smiling children filed past, pulled slowly along by pick-up trucks decorated in a similar manner.

Adjusting the zoom for another shot, I caught a glimpse of a man standing on a short trailer while several small children sat on hay bales below a beautifully carved wooden cross. The man standing at the head of the display caused me to put down my camera and look with my own eyes. Could I be seeing this right? He was dressed in battle fatigues, holding a black semi-automatic rifle. A banner on the side of the float said “Going to Battle for what is Right”.

I held my breath and took the shot, thinking that this was the strangest paradox I had seen in a long time. At one end of the small float were small children at the feet of a cross draped in a deep purple cloth. Just a few feet away stood this G.I. Joe for Jesus.

After the parade I walked through the small fair and watched costumed battle re-enactors lay wreaths on memorial tombstones to honor the soldiers that had fallen in a long ago battle that played out on the very grass where we stood. One soldier stepped forward, recounting the battlefield history, lending due attention casualties suffered by both sides. He spoke articulately about the horrors of war and the need to remember the past in the hopes of letting it die in the history books. He said we remember the fallen and the realities of war in the hope for peace. I closed my eyes in reverence as he asked for moment of silence..

With my eyes closed I thought again of the soldier for God. Why is there such a close kinship between religion and war? The first scene of note in the Book of Mormon involves the violent beheading of a drunken man. The scriptures claim that it is better for one man to fall than for nations to descend into unbelief.

I want to know why. Why is killing and maiming superior to the possibility that an ideology might evolve over time?

Why does one part of the Bible read like a volume of the history of war on the earth, but another extols peace and love, the Golden Rule and turning the other cheek?

How can anyone who was ever touched by The Sermon on the Mount not recoil at the thought of harming another soul in the name of God?

Reflecting on the killing in the world in the name of God in just my own lifetime makes my head spin. Why is it so easy for people to take up arms in the name of the divine, feeling fully justified committing murder in the name of God? If this made sense to me once, it certainly does not now. It doesn’t even come close.

I read Under the Banner of Heaven a few years back. I was completely floored by the easy leap between the Church I loved and lived and the mentality of the Lafferty brothers that gave them enough reason to slit the throat of their tiny infant niece. The scripture they read that gave them the justification for two chilling murders is right there in black and white in the same triple combination that sits on my bookshelf. The same section of the Doctrine and Covenants has inspired many cut throat dissenters from the Church, down to the man who took Elizabeth Smart from her home.

Last week we published a fictional account inspired by the life of a participant of Mountain Meadows Massacre. Thinking of the justifications I have heard from apologists and true believers for the killings sends the same cold shivers down my spine that I felt seeing a man with an AK-47 so close to small children on that parade float.

Reason seems to demand that the more devoted one is to a religion, the more guns, death, war, and killing should repulse them. But the opposite seems to be true. Many of the wars in the history of this planet have begun in the name of religion. Maybe this is one of the reasons why organized religion has ceased to have a place in my life.

The God I believe in is not a sponsor of wars in his name. The God I know is about peace and love for all of mankind. Maybe I am missing something. Maybe the gospel really is violent and my peace loving heart is wicked and black and hard. I guess that’s a chance I am willing to take.

Never again will I march under a banner that so easily mixes a loving God with the sharp point of a sword.

Great Quote

Sundance GT shared this quote on New Order Mormon. I thought it was so good I wanted to re-post it here.

"I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion. Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of sunlight and fragrance of the growing world. They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees. "--Apostle Stephen L. Richards

It's too bad that "the enemies of true religion" seem to be the way of religion now.

The Muddy Water of the Mukuntuweap

Guest contributor Scott writes about the ancestor that inspired this fictional short story about Mountain Meadows Massacre. If you have spent much time around Mormon history, then you know that the Mountain Meadows Massacre is one of the singular events in Church history that has caused the most damage to testimonies, even some one hundred fifty-four years after the event. Many Latter-day Saints report either complete ignorance of the events until they began investigating the history on their own, or being given the idea that it was the Mormons who were the victims.

Few of us really grasped the unmitigated horror of the events. Few of us are able to buy the apologist explanations for the premeditated murder of 120 defenseless men, women, and children.

Read on and enjoy Scott's historical fiction piece.

One of my Mormon ancestors was Nephi Johnson, perhaps most famous for his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I've often thought about the pain he suffered at the end of his life (he died in 1919), when he cried out the words "blood! blood! blood!" (as accounted by witnesses and Juanita Brooks) on his deathbed. I wrote this short story as a fictional account of a reporter attempting to interview him towards the end of his life about his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. To me, the ultimate message of the story, is that there is always hope. There is hope in disillusion and there is hope when we have lost faith. Most important, it shows how important the events of our life (especially the trying ones) are in shaping who God wants us to become.

The Muddy Water of the Mukuntuweap

On the last leg of a journey from Denver, David Gilbride had travelled along the Virgin River to Bunkerville, Nevada. The trip had been hot and dry, but the interview at hand was worth the trip. David hoped to deliver a powerful story for his editor at The Denver Post.

“You know why they call her the ‘dirty Virgin’ River don’t you?” rasped the bedridden man.

“No, why?” replied David.

A corner of the mouth beneath the old man’s white beard curled in a half smile. Sadness showed in his deep, gray eyes.

“Well, they call her the ‘dirty Virgin’ River because no one has ever seen her bottom.”

The old man managed a weak laugh, followed by an ugly coughing fit. David gave the man a reassuring smile, and then continued his quest to put the man at ease.

“That’s a very funny joke, Mr. Johnson. Do you remember the first time that you saw the Virgin River?”

A haze came over the old man’s eyes. Despite the empty look, David knew that the man was thinking back to another time. Mr. Johnson paused in a daze for a few moments before shaking his head at the interviewer.

“I . . . I don’t know that I can recall an event as specific as that. I’m very old, young man. I’m afraid my memory isn’t as sharp as it once was.”

He did remember the first time that he saw the Virgin River. Only she wasn’t dirty then. The sediment that comes during the spring and summer run-off had passed through months before. The river was smaller, but it was clearer—cleaner. He remembered the small desert trees that lined the bank of the river, and was surprised by how green the trees were. Surely the dry desert heat would have yellowed them by September. It was 1848; he was 15.

Before accepting the assignment to interview Mr. Johnson, David’s editor had warned that the man may be senile; however, despite this potential senility, David could not reject the assignment. It held too much promise.

“Of course, please forgive me, Mr. Johnson” replied the interviewer. “Let me start with some basic questions.”

“Can you please state your full name?”

The old man sat up straight. Rays of sunlight from a lone window highlighted the desert dust that flittered in the air.

“My name is Nephi Johnson.”

“Mr. Johnson, can you please tell me the year that you were born and where you were born?”

“I was born in 1833, in Kirtland, Ohio.” This reply was quicker than the others. The haze was gone. The interviewer began to feel more confident in the lucidity of his subject.

“Can you tell me the names of your father and mother?”

“My father’s name is Joel Hills Johnson and my . . . mother is . . .” His voice trailed off into a mumble. The haze was back.

When he was seven, his mother, Annie, was struck down with a horrible fever. It was malaria. She died in September of 1840. He always remembered that day and always remembered her. The morning that she died, his father was receiving counsel from Brother Joseph in Nauvoo. They were separated by the waters of the Mississippi. He remembered watching the rushing water for hours after she had passed. The sounds of the water were soothing to the innocent boy. When his father returned in the evening, they both wept by the bank of the wide, dark river.

Despite the distraction that he saw in his interviewee, David Gilbride pressed forward. With a better feel for the fragility of the man, he started into the most important questions of the interview.

“Mr. Johnson, this summer President Taft is scheduled to dedicate Mukuntuweap Canyon as a national park. I understand that you were the first white man to explore Mukuntuweap, specifically The Narrows of the Mukuntuweap. Is that correct?”

Nephi Johnson’s eyes grew wide at the question. A spark crossed his eye, and he thought about the question for a few moments before replying.

“The Mukun’tuweap . . . I haven’t heard that name in years. Yes, I scouted the Mukun’tuweap many, many years ago.”

The red rock walls of the Mukun’tuweap act as sentinels for the precious waters of the Virgin. The river’s water flows straight through the infinite caverns of the canyon. He was the first white man to see The Narrows of the Mukun’tuweap, though it was through no exploratory efforts of his own. For hundreds of years, only the Paiutes knew of the Narrows’ existence. Many explorers wandered through the plateau of the Markagunt, but they never found The Narrows. The Narrows are sacred to the Paiutes. They represent the temple of the Nuwuvi, the people. It is their Zion. He was led there by a Pah Vant chieftain to take part in their rite of passage. When a Paiute boy comes of age, he must travel alone into The Narrows to enter into manhood. This rite of passage is done in the spring when flashfloods are a constant danger. Wading through the waters of the Virgin, the boy must grasp to the gritty rock walls or risk falling into the fast moving water. To fall into the water shows only weakness, but grasping the sandy walls bloodies the hands. A young Paiute must make a choice: fall into innocence, weakness to his people, or bare the sting of raw hands on roughened rock.

“You were also an amazing Indian interpreter. They say that you spoke the Paiute language better than anyone, Mr. Johnson, better than Jacob Hamblin even.” At this, Mr. Gilbride began to sense more discomfort in the old man. Nephi Johnson became more agitated, he spoke words that David had never heard, and then he began to repeat the same word over and over.

“Mukun’tuweap, Mukun’tuweap, Mukun’tuweap . . .” The old man again fell into mumbles and began to sway back in forth in his bed. The accent of the mumbles reminded David of an old Indian mourning the loss of a loved one.

David Gilbride realized that Nephi Johnson knew where the interview was headed. Surely there had been others who had probed before. He thought about waiting to ask the question, but instead chose to ask before the man completely withdrew.

“Mr. Johnson . . . I wondered if you could tell me about the massacre at Mountain Meadows. I don’t know if you are aware, but you are the last living settler who has a recollection of that day. Can you recall any memories from the massacre?”

The swaying stopped. The sadness in Aaron Johnson’s eyes was replaced by flinches of something worse—pain.

“If you want memories, you can read the court testimony that I gave 40 years ago. There’s nothing more to recall” came the reply.

But he did recall. For over 60 years he had tried to shake the memories of that day. Over time, he was able to blank out the unimportant memories, but others were forever etched in his mind. Contrasts of colors, sounds, and smells swirled through his head: a white flag, the galloping horses, the smell of sage, the screams of the Paiutes—no not just Paiutes . . . the screams of children. He heard the screams of the virgin and saw the muddy water of the virgin—no, not muddy water . . . blood.

“Mukun’tuweap, Mukun’tuweap, Mukun’tuweap . . .” the mumbling and swaying returned. A fear gripped the old man, and he clung to his grimy handkerchief. After what seemed like an eternity, Nephi Johnson again sat up straight again. He was still once more.

“Mr. Gilbride, I will always cherish my memories of the Mukun’tuweap. I’m sure it will make a wonderful national park for the country.”

Had he seen The Narrows of the Mukun’tuweap before the massacre, they would have held no meaning. In fact, he would not have been led into The Narrows. He would not have understood. The bloodied hands of his soul gave him understanding—painful understanding. Although the innocent water that he waded through tried in vain to cleanse, his worn and bloody hands grasped continually to the rock until he reached the darkness of the deep canyon. In the darkness of the canyon came a waterfall. He removed his bloody hands from the walls of the canyon and allowed the rushing water to pull him into the shadowy waters below.

David Gilbride tried every way possible to get more information from Nephi Johnson. He spent nearly two hours with the man in the warn Nevada afternoon. At the end of their meeting together, both men were exhausted. David Gilbride returned to Denver with a heavy heart. Although he had enough material for a story, his interview with Nephi Johnson had not provided the groundbreaking revelations that he had hoped to hear.

He saw the Virgin River once more in the spring of 1918. It was a month after his interview with David Gilbride and two months before his own death. It would be the last time he passed by her. The clear water that he first saw as a boy was no more. The water was muddied, and the river was faster—furious. He realized that the clear waters he first saw in his youth were only temporary. Upstream the filth would come. The old man took some solace in his pain though. Something still remained the same: desert trees still grew at the banks of the river. They were green even. The small trees thrived from the virtue of the Virgin. However dirty she was, she still provided nourishment.

For What Does It Profit a Man

Have you ever split something like a chocolate chip cookie between 4-year-olds? The first thing they will do is look at the size of the OTHER half of the cookie. Once they establish that the half they have is equal to or greater than the cookie their friend has they will settle in content to eat it, right up until the point that the 4-year-old next them says “Hey, her cookies is bigger than mine.” or “Hey, her cookie has more chocolate chips than mine.” If the situation isn’t resolved in the mind of the 4-year-old that feels slighted he or she will demand justice at the feet of the caregiver and if they don’t get it they will walk away from the table and not eat the cookie at all. Meanwhile the other child will be munching away, swinging their legs, humming a tune and even watch the other child throw a fit while they sit calmly eating the cookie. All of this because one child felt someone else unfairly received more than they deserved.

There is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants Section 88 that talks about all of God’s children being happy regardless of the kingdom they inherit. It first covers celestial then terrestrial and finally in verse 31 it reads:

“and also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same EVEN A FULLNESS.

32) And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

33) For what does it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receives not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

Most of my life has been spent in a church forcing me into the highest kingdom. There is no room for individuality in this plan. You are a child of God and “entitled” to this highest kingdom. Anything that convinces you otherwise is Satan leading you astray. You are not Gay, you can’t be single, if you don’t have a spouse in this life one will be appointed to you in the next like it or not, and once you and your husband make it into the highest kingdom, he will probably be given more wives, but don’t worry you’re numero uno!

I have been told how to act, how to pray, what to wear, what to eat, what not to drink, who I should and should not socialize with, what to say and what special knowledge I will need to take with me in order to receive the gift of the Celestial Kingdom. A gift that I have also been told I am not worthy to open on my own, I must have a husband do it for me. As I have made a mental exit from Mormonism I have realized this is a gift I have never wanted. From everything I have been told about the Celestial Kingdom it does not fit my personality. I believe with all my heart that I am capable of attaining the Celestial Kingdom. I also know with all my heart that I will not be happy while doing it. It fits me about as well as draping RuPaul across the arm of Boyd k. Packer like a fashion accessory as he enters the tabernacle of the next general conference. Simply put I could not enjoy the gift that would be given to me.

What I find interesting is that there are millions of people who will enjoy it and amongst those are some of my friends who I am pretty sure will only enjoy it if those in other kingdoms are miserable. I honestly believe that they will not be able to focus on the gift that is in front of them if people like me are just as happy as they are while spending eternity in a “lesser” kingdom.

I have encountered many LDS members who share the belief that you can’t possibly be happy in any other kingdom other than the Celestial Kingdom because you will always be painfully aware of what you could have had. Well I could have had liver for dinner last night but I chose chicken instead- I prefer it. Others are quick to point out that those who are not quite as valiant as they are can still be happy, but will be so as servants to them. They strip away all family ties and even like taking away anyone’s sexuality who fails to make the highest degree of heaven. It doesn’t matter to them that Joseph Smith once remarked that if you could see even the lowest kingdom you would want to die to get there as soon as you could. Some are quick to tell anyone who has left the church that they are now destined for outer darkness. When I ask them why it would bother them if other people could be just as happy as they are but living in “lesser” kingdoms a common response is “Why should I have to sacrifice so much and you so little for us both to end up just as happy?” This is a very telling response. If they were truly happy living the gospel, it just wouldn’t feel like that big of a sacrifice. Makes me wonder how happy they will actually be living with their hard fought eternal reward.

This desire for others to suffer if they don’t follow the straight and narrow path is not unique to Mormonism. I have born again friends who without a flinch in their conscience will tell me that I along with millions of others am going to hell unless we all believe as they do. Who needs Christ as a judge when we have so many experts among us?

What makes the human family so unique is our diversity. What makes one person happy doesn’t make everyone happy. We may all have the potential to be a successful businessman but not all of us want to be. Take the guy who is the CEO of Fortune 500 company. He is happy, rich, doesn’t really want for anything. Does this mean we should all want to be the CEO of Fortune 500 company and if we don’t we will be miserable? Well, maybe as far as the CEO is concerned everyone who doesn’t have what he has seems unhappy to him. But what about the guy/girl who wakes up every morning, hits waves as the sun is coming up, shares an apartment with a few great friends, works enough hours at the local restaurant to pay the rent and on a good day can hit the waves before the sun sets again. From the perspective of the surfer, the CEO’s life is a corporate prison.

So I have to ask myself, what gift am I willing to enjoy? None of us know what comes after death. At best we hope life goes on. And if it does I want to be comfortable in my own skin for eternity. To do that, I think it’s pretty important that I know what makes me comfortable in my own skin here and now. And that is really all I can do right now. I don’t know what the afterlife is all about, but in the meantime I can explore the depths of my own humanity and learn as much as I can while I’m here. In most Christian teachings including Mormonism to be placed anywhere other than where God is has been seen as punishment. But in Mormonism it stands to reason that having several kingdoms allows God to show tremendous love and compassion by taking the individual and placing him or her where that person will be the most happy for eternity, not sentence them to an eternity of pining away for the things they could have had.

I think there will be some pretty unhappy people in heaven, angry that I and others like me can be so happy with the gift that we were willing to receive. And while they throw themselves at the feet of the judge and demand that you and I and all other apostates suffer, I will be sitting in my place, swinging my legs, humming a happy tune all while enjoying the gift that I was willing to receive. Who knows, maybe you and I can peacefully share a chocolate chip cookie, you know, like adults.

Letter of apology

Dear Bxxxx Exxxx,

My name is Tom Perry. You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you. A few years ago you lived in my ward (XXXXXX Ward) for a brief period of time. In this ward, I was the Elder’s Quorum President. One evening, you let me and one of my councilors in your home. I went to your home knowing you were inactive with the intentions of being able to help resolve your concerns and potentially reactivate you. I also remember at the time you told us that you were separated from your wife.

There are a few reasons this particular evening has been forever scarred in my memory. Let me try to explain the events from my perspective so you can understand where I’m coming from. First and foremost, I remember you being very warm and welcoming. I remember you showing us your custom arcade machine (which I’m still very impressed about, by the way). Then the conversation slowly changed toward the Church. I remember you specifically responding to the question as to why don’t you attend. It was something like, “I just don’t think the church is what it claims. I don’t think the church is the one and only true church. I think it can be a good thing, I just don’t believe in it anymore.”

I remember being stunned and shocked. I recall asking if you had served a mission. I asked what your feelings were about your spiritual experiences while serving. You responded very politely and said that after much reflection and study you no longer believe those experiences were a direct consequence of the spirit. I seem to recall you said that you thought that the spirit might just be our own personal feelings and emotions, nothing else.

Now let me get to my reason for writing this. Just a few years after our meeting, I went through a crisis of faith of my own. It was completely unrelated to meeting with you, but I can’t help but think that some of your words planted a seed or two in my thoughts. I confronted the historical issue of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and all of its deep conflicts, which I had never fully understood until then. I turned to Apologetics, which only sped up my disaffection. About 18 months later I came to the conclusion that I no longer believe that the church is what it claims to be.

I confronted all those important in my life: spouse, friends and family. I collected my research and wrote a long letter to all of them. I was serving on the High Council at the time. It was a very dark time in my life. I suffered threats, shunning, and my marriage was on very thin ice. Only a very small number of people actually accepted me and my new changes. Long story short, my wife and I have found some common ground to rebuild our relationship from the ground up and are still happily together today. But, I have suffered permanent damage in other relationships, namely with parents and siblings. I do know the importance of good trustworthy friends in a time like that.

So, now that I am a disbeliever who still attends church for the sole reason to keep peace and hold his family together, I can’t help but reflect on that discussion we had that day. If I could go back, this is what I would have liked to have said to you: “Bxxxx, I can’t imagine the pain you are suffering and going through right now. I think it is immensely wrong that you have to suffer the loss of many committed and loved friendships because of your lack of belief in the church. I would like to offer you my friendship. And may I say this one thing. I commend you for your integrity. You stood up for what was honest and truthful, even at the risk and cost of losing relationships. You sir, are a man of honor and integrity. I am proud to say that I have met you and had the chance to have spoken with you.”

So in the end Bxxxx, can I just say one thing? I am truly sorry. I am sorry that I didn’t listen to you. I am sorry I responded exactly the way the church would have wanted me to respond. I’m sorry that I wasn’t a friend for you in that dark time. If only I would have genuinely listened to you instead of dismissing you outright... Who knows.

This letter may seem a bit silly and a bit over reactive, but I needed to say it. That meeting with you has kept me up at night. I’ve been ashamed of my actions that day and I hope that someday you could forgive me. Maybe you hold no resentment towards me, well then maybe all this is just a way where I can begin to forgive myself.


The Environment of Mormon Stories

Melanny Cowley cleaning headstones for the Mormon Stories service project.

In my master’s program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State, we students were continually encouraged by our mentors to reconsider the term “environment.” What does an environment encompass? To some, it might automatically mean nature or the depletion of natural resources, but I think “environment” refers to anything outside our sense of self that influences or shapes our present experience. My emphasis in the program was focused on religion as environment, and never have the reflections of those studies been more heightened than during the San Diego Mormon Stories Conference erected by local Open Mormons this past weekend.

To dabble in unorthodoxy is to unwittingly alter your religious environment, even if you never say or do a thing differently. As I found myself challenging authoritarianism within my religion, I found myself in new environments with like-minded individuals: Sunstone, online communities, NOM meet ups, and recently, a Post Mormon dinner, each of these communities embracing, edifying and supportive as I processed the greatest spiritual shift of my life.

But what is most compelling to me about my faith journey is that I don’t feel that I left my orthodox LDS environment. I feel that my environment left me. It is true that I changed, but it is also true that others encouraged me to simply go rather than voice concerns. It is true that many people who love and (perhaps) respect me, chose to ignore me the way you would ignore a distressed homeless person on a bus. And I received the message more than once, “Please leave. We have nothing to offer you.” I no longer believe the LDS church is the one true church on the earth, but if it is, I can’t help but consider how many individuals and leaders have failed to make a place for me, however misguided I may be. I found my Mormon environment pushing away from me like a boat from a dock. Since I have worked diligently to seek truth and better myself, I cannot help or change who I have become. I am simply hoping for the next ship to sail through.

The personal interaction you have with others within a particular environment is most influential in your assessing the value of that environment. For example, if you went to Hawaii but was mugged the day you arrived, you may not have good feelings about Hawaii, even though it is often considered a universally beautiful setting. As I sat in a honey colored chapel in blissfully temperate San Diego, and listened to Laura Compton testify of Christ, and Dave Reveley present on disengaging from an authoritarian culture as an ex evangelical, and Shari Crall describe how she raised her gay son Mormon, (including giving him the Especially for Youth pamphlet with a few red pen edits) I asked myself, what environment is this?

Community is the most powerful environmental factor for an individual experience. Is it any wonder that we cry and hurt as we feel a familiar community slip away from us? In a small church in San Diego, we laughed, we cried, but most of all, we listened, and we held each other in those moments. The members of Mormon Stories have forged a community of peace, acceptance and unconditional love. I sat among Ex Mormons and temple recommend holders and closet doubters and proud atheists. Are we more similar than we are different? I like to think so. I never felt more at home, being able to claim them all, to proudly look around the room and say, yes it’s all of us. And this is my tribe.

Where Love Is...

These are the memories that really get to me. My eyes fill up with tears as I recall the little voices in Primary singing these lines:

Where love is

There God is also

Where love is

I want to be

I dreaded conducting on the days when the music leader would choose Where Love Is as the reverent song. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep the crack of a sob out of my voice.

When I am feeling particularly nostalgic, I log onto the music player on and listen to the song again from the Children’s Songbook.

The words hold special meaning to me, though meaning has changed since my days serving in a Primary presidency.

I take them quite literally. Where love is, there God is. Where love is, I want to be.

Finding where love is, searching for God in my life has become something of a personal quest since losing my belief in the Church. Along with my membership, I lost my bearings. When I would stand in the middle of the Primary room, or sit in the chapel I always, always knew what I was supposed to think about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I could close my eyes in the middle of the Sacrament prayers and repeat the words fluently, bringing into my mind a painting of Christ beseeching his father in the Garden of Gethsemane.

When I lost my grounding in the LDS gospel, my anchor to God was rendered loose and adrift. My thoughts towards God have run the gamut between clinging to the concept of Heavenly parents to edging close to the borders of atheism.

It has been a tough ride.

In those days that seem so far from me now…standing there listening to the voices of the little ones sing about the loving arms of God surrounding them, I did not simply listen enjoying the sweet innocence of their voices. I was a believer, stalwart and immoveable. Every word etched into my heart, providing me with comfort and peace and meaning.

Feeling that assurance slip from my grasp left me wondering around blind. But when you begin to see the holes in a doctrine, teachings about God lose their meaning as well. If Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God, what does that mean about what I have learned about God since my birth?

Suddenly, there is nothing sure left worth clinging to; it all becomes very clear that no one really knows anything. Religion is made up of the philosophies of some very well-meaning men.

Losing that reassuring belief in God makes for some very lonely and dark nights. Staring into the heavens I wondered, is there really anything there? Is it all just random?

Am I alone?

The ache in my heart has been almost too much to bear.

Time is, however, a faithful healer. As it moves forward, I find more peace and meaning in the world around me.

Simple things began to teach me a little more about the God I walk with now. There is so much love in this world, and in my heart and mind I cannot accept that it is merely an accident.

Where love is, there God is also.

Love teaches me that God loves all of his children, and whoever it is or whatever that means, is quite unlike the picture humanity has painted.

I do not accept that God is a man who sits in the heavens keeping track of the missteps of his children below. I do not think that God is fulfilling eternal laws that require him to punish the wayward among his offspring.

I think it matters little to God who we find to love. I doubt withholding civil rights from a corner of humanity in God’s name is really an accurate practice. Mankind has put a lot of unkind words in God’s mouth over the subject of gender roles and differences.

So, where does that leave God?

It leaves God wherever love is.

The gospel message I get these days goes a little like this:

Treat one another well. Let go of destructive things like jealousy, hate, envy, and vengeance. Practice kindness, live in fairness, embrace love.

Ethics and morality are not the sole property of religious folk; atheists and unbelievers love and serve their fellow man without hope for reward or fear of punishment.

Are we alone? Absolutely not. God, that spark of divine love within each of us, finds its way to uplift and bless those of us here below. It happens around the world every minute of the day. Someone lends another a helping hand, smiles erase the pain of those who feel used up and left alone, miracles occur all of the time. Love radiates outward from the amazing hearts of humanity.

And where love is, there God is.

who we are

Welcome to The Peacewriter.

We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.

If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

Lose your testimony, and you stand to lose everything that matters.

There are those who exist on the fringes of the Church, who feel disenfranchised, even unwanted. If you are single, gay or lesbian, feminist, atheist, or uncorrelated, it can be tough to feel like a part of the community. You may feel that you do not belong.

You belong here.

If you have ever loved someone who endured a faith crisis, you know that there are a lot of gray areas. Uncertainty is the dominant force; black and white become moot points.

Those who have walked the same path share a common bond, understood by few who have not traveled the same road.

This is the place to share common experiences, to find a voice, to be heard. This is the place to seek after peace, and to find it in the common ties we share.

This is The Peacewriter.

Please visit, and visit often. We intend to post new submissions regularly. If you want to contact us directly, click on the Contact Page or email us at

We welcome your feedback and submissions.