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I just got back from a funeral.

It caused me to think, as funerals tend to do. The man who died and the services held in his honor were emblematic of my relationship to Mormonism.

The man who died was the bishop to whom I first confessed my sins. He tried to help me the best he knew how, but our shared belief in Mormonism got in our way. Instead of telling me that I was acceptable just exactly as I was, he tried to help fix me, to help me meet an arbitrary standard. Though he was kindhearted, our interaction led to years of heartbreak.

Everything in my life has been a mixture of good and bad.

Going to the funeral was a homecoming. The church was the same building where I spent long hours in stake conference as a child and where I attended my freshman year of early morning seminary. The people that I saw were the faces of my childhood: teachers, leaders, old friends, people whom I haven’t seen in years, people with a smiles of recognition when they see me, everyone a little older and worn down by life. The lilt and rhythm of Mormon thought weaved itself through the entire occasion and helped to impart to my mind a sense of timelessness. So many parts of my life were connected in this moment. My childhood folded in on the present moment.

I appreciate Mormon funerals. Because they sincerely believe that they will see their family and friends again, their funerals take on the air of a somewhat melancholy family reunion. I don’t share their hope for a continuation of life after death, but I want my funeral to celebrate that life goes on. Saying goodbye is the inevitable price of building relationships. We can’t have the one without the other.

I sat listening to stories about his life mixed in with assertions of supernatural miracles and certainty for unjustified beliefs. I briefly wished that we could dispense with the nonsense and focus on who the man was. However, these beliefs were part of him. They were an appropriate part of his funeral because he received a sense of meaning from them. Even though my feelings about Mormonism range from ambivalence to repugnance, if I wanted to acknowledge this man as a friend, I had to make peace with the parts of him that I dislike.

I can’t say that I willingly accept the bad with the good. But what choice do I have when the two are inseparable?

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