Taylor Kerby is a life long member of the church and holds Masters’ Degrees in Religion and Education. None of that matters to his four-year old who just woke up and wants pancakes.
When I was a boy I thought I’d be a prophet.
This quiet dream was never spoken; I would never have admitted to it. But I kept it, close inside. It was a secret vision playing on loop in my imagination. This secret influenced my behavior and choice. I would think to myself- would a prophet do that?
This idea was not fully of my own ego’s making. Growing up taking God and church as seriously as I did, there was something of a feedback loop created by the adults around me and reinforced by my narcissistic imagination.
One Primary teacher told me that having me in class was like “having another teacher in here.”
A deacons quorum adviser told me not to worry about not getting along with the other boys because I was at a “different spiritual level than them.”
A young men’s leader told me that after I spoke in church his wife told him that I “strengthened her testimony that a 14 year old boy could be a prophet.”
There are more examples, but I suppose they don’t really matter. I just knew-knew– I was different and special. And I knew that for far, far too long.
As it stands, I am not a prophet.
Nor, do I harbor any expectations of that changing.
I am, however, an English teacher. Every year there comes a point when my students ask if I’m a Mormon. Last year that moment came very early in the year, to be honest I don’t remember how. Regardless, I told them I was in fact a Mormon.
Before we continue, I wish to say for the record, while I am not a prophet I do hold a temple recommend. I read my scriptures and attend church. I teach Sunday School. By all measures I am deeply committed to my faith.
My students couldn’t believe it.
You’re a Mormon?
Oh how thou art fallen.
This exchange with my students hurt me, more than it probably should. I’m not sure what factors stood out to them as not being sufficiently Mormon. Occasionally I will drop a curse word in the classroom. It may be unprofessional but it keeps the teenagers interested. They know I’m politically liberal. Teaching in Arizona as I do I’ve also made a point to be as LGBT affirming as I can.
I would imagine all of those have something to do with it. But it hurt and it hurt on several levels.
First, I felt my faith being questioned in a way I felt I didn’t deserve. I know what I believe and I also know the extent to which faith plays a role in my life.
It hit at old insecurities of not being good enough; not living up to my future prophetic career.
But it also made me wonder about my LDS brothers and sisters. What had we taught these teenagers, through our actions, about what it means to be a good Mormon?
Does being a good Mormon mean no cursing?
Being politically conservative?
Being uncomfortable around gay people?
If so, I am indeed a bad Mormon. For the record, several of the students had previous bad experiences with members of the church. Nothing, too serious but they had felt judged. A few said that the Mormons they knew acted like they were better than them. Which, of course, also hurt.
The question of what makes a good member of the Church of Jesus Christ won’t be sufficiently answered in this post. Additionally, as one progresses in their discipleship that answer should also grow. It’s a deeply personal question, I feel. One that should be answered in consultation with the Holy Spirit. To that end, I wouldn’t try to provide a universal answer anyway. We Mormons could do better at letting our brothers and sisters figure their stuff out.
For me, my Mormonism is indelibly tied to our idea of universal family. We are all children of God, we say. Beyond that, we believe we all lived together before. That we all walked with God together. We had relationships with one another before our births.
Occasionally, when I think about a student I’m struggling with or a coworker I can’t stand, or a Facebook friend whose politics offend my convictions I will (in those moments I can appeal to my better angels) wonder- were we friends before?
The fun thing about our idea of Pre-existance is we can’t say for certain, if we weren’t.
To that end, maybe I should treat people like we were.
Obviously there is more to my faith than this. But this is how it starts, in recognition of our universal humanity and the unseen love that ought to seal us together.
For me being a good Mormon should start somewhere in there.
And maybe end in proactive loving action.
Perfect worship is, after all, emulation.
Emulation of Jesus Christ.
As it stands, I continue to not be a Prophet. But I am a member of the Church. And, contrary to how it may appear to my students, I am trying, as we say, to be like Jesus.