20 November 2011

An Authoritarian Church without the Authorities

I wrote this almost five years ago and posted it on a now-long-defunct blog, but I keep thinking about it this time around. I'd emphasize some different things if I were writing this now, but it's all still basically true for me now:

It is a rather interesting experience to be a member of an centralized, authoritarian (if we're phrasing this in governmental terms) church, but not have anyone in authority over you. In most parts of the world, you have a long line of authority and there is always someone to go to, whether it's a question or something you need help with.

But there's no one to turn to Kyrgyzstan. The best we can do is email a busy General Authority [in 2011, we email the secretary to the GA over us] who understandably may or may not have time to deal with stray members living in odd countries. If this were a decentralized church, like many Christian sects are, it would matter far less. In fact, many Christians come to this part of the world and organize their own services, do missionary work as they please, and so on (this creates its own set of problems, but that's not what this particular post is about).

Our church isn't that way. While we're encouraged to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, there are things we could do here that would not be appreciated. In the US, we didn't have to ask permission to read the Book of Mormon with anyone, member or not, or to tell someone about the church, or even to pray outside our home. But now that we have more questions, there is no one to ask. Some of those questions we want to ask might not have an answer even if we find someone to ask. But it could be a problem if we just go ahead and do what we think is best.

It was simple in the Middle East. You just didn't talk about the gospel. There was no confusion. We also were interacting with people in an entirely different way there. There also were branches there so even if we had had questions, there would have been someone to ask.

While we still love (and I mean love) homechurching [another 2011 update- the love is a little different with older kids], the isolation here is sometimes hard to deal with. While I am busier and more service-oriented than I ever was in the US, and while I have plenty of friends, it has been trying sometimes.

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