I walked on the empty beach in Lincoln City, Oregon, hand-in-hand with my then high school sweetheart. She was very pretty, blunt (if not a little shy on wits) and Mormon. There is something odd about how proximity to the vastness of the sea can bring about some of our most contemplative moments. Finally, in that time of serenity with only the sound of the lapping ocean on distance rocks and the steady rumble of waves breaking on the sandy shore, we spoke truly about God. I remember saying, in the sort of bluntness that she was so fond of, “you know, you’re Mormon and I’m not.”
Now, what some would take as a minor difference in religious opinion, I was feeling intensely conflicted about. It was long past time for this conversation to happen. I remember her response as clearly as anything, “Yes, but we really believe in the same God.”
Yes. Of course we do. We believe in the same God. And Mormons believe in Jesus, so all is done and good. I should have been unfettered from all remnants of guilt. There really was no significant difference in belief. And I could have taken her response and swallowed it like any other man who swallows poison in a vainglorious attempt to feign strength. But I could not. I remember talking to her about the truly insurmountable differences between our faiths. [bra_blockquote align=”]I found myself, even in that very moment, realizing with potent clarity that my God was simply too big for Mormonism.[/bra_blockquote]God the Father was never a sinful human, nor did he ever win his Godhood through good behavior some finite time ago. My God is Trinity, and unfathomably perfect beyond imagination. Jesus was not the brother of Satan and is truly one with the Father. How could I justly worship what I too could one day become? I, for one, could not. I found myself, even in that very moment, realizing with potent clarity that my God was simply too big for Mormonism.
And what was meant to be our little break from the world at an empty beach, ended up being our break from one another. I recognize now that it may have been the very vastness of the ocean before me that gave me the words to articulate the vast differences between two Gods that could never be the same.
That is what doctrine does for the Church. It gives the body bones and says I can yield only this much lest I break. When Churches stand for nothing they fall for anything. [bra_blockquote align=’right’]That is what doctrine does for the Church. It gives the body bones and says I can yield only this much lest I break. When Churches stand for nothing they fall for anything.[/bra_blockquote]I could have believed, that long time ago, that my God was the same as hers. But what would I have gained—unity at the cost of meaning, integrity and, worst of all, truth. Many churches now have murdered dogma and doctrine in hopes of endearing themselves to the world. In this recklessness they have sought to stand for anything and everything and therefore nothing in particular. These churches we may refer to as the invertebrate church.
This series will be on the importance of Church doctrine. I will do my best to articulate important differences in faith and why such differences do or do not truly matter. It is my hope that these insights will help the Church grow, not because of what it sacrifices, but because of what it stands for.