Worlds Without End is pleased to present this guest contribution from Viliami Pauni. Viliami is married with four daughters and currently resides in South Jordan, Utah. He loves Bob Marley more than Brigham Young, but not as much as Joseph.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl
I chose to become inactive a little more than a year ago. It was a good choice. It has brought me a great deal of freedom and happiness. Lately, most of my spiritual experiences have been within a Zen Buddhist context. That said, there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t thought about Mormonism. I watch Mormonism from the sidelines as I suspect many others do. I see the struggle for equality. I know more than a few who agitate for change within the Church and they suffer as the fight wages on. I often wonder if the Brethren are listening. I’m sure they hear the cries of the Saints as they plead for relief but I don’t think they are actively listening. I sometimes wonder why these good people don’t just walk away from the Church as I did? Their participation is voluntary and so is their suffering. Why not simply choose to distance themselves from the source of their pain? I groan within myself and scream, “Just leave! Be done with it all!”
Pain is mandatory but suffering is optional. Suffering within the Church is definitely optional. Just choose to leave and the suffering will end. Why not? Why? Why? Why?!?!
For more than a year I struggled to find answers to these questions. None came…until this week. When the changes to the Church Handbook were leaked I was driving to dinner with a friend. From the passenger seat he read the changes aloud. I felt like I had been kicked in the heart. I masked most of my emotions. The friends we had dinner with that night are all involved in Mormon Studies in some form or another so it was natural for us to talk about the changes. Our discussion was mostly cerebral. I don’t think any of us were ready and willing to discuss our innermost feelings. I wish I would have said more. I wish I would have shared feelings and not just thoughts. I left unsettled and unsatisfied.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I got up quietly from my bed and went downstairs. I sat down, put my head in my hands, and began to weep. I stayed like that for some time. I asked myself why I was suffering? My soul was troubled. Something was very wrong. Why was I choosing to suffer when the suffering was optional? Why not just disengage? The suffering could end anytime I wanted it to. Why? Why? Why? The answer came in a moment of inspiration and clarity.
Because I am Mormon! I will always be Mormon. I may not go to Church anymore but these are my people. In baptism I was sealed to all Mormons in a covenant relationship:
Behold, here are the waters of Mormon . . . and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death.
I may not understand your suffering completely, but I will suffer with you. I will love you. I will comfort you. I will succor you. I will support you. I have not gone too far away. I am near enough to offer you the right hand of fellowship, and if needs be, a shoulder to catch your tears.
Pain is mandatory. Suffering is optional, but when it comes to my brothers and sister in the gospel, I choose to suffer with you. We are a family—and families are forever.
All my love,