But declaring our faith is what makes us part of this community of believers, and denying it removes us from it. In that sense, there are no "cultural Mormons," and no "varying degrees."
I think of former Olympic athlete Peter Vidmar who, having been chosen as chef de mission for the U.S. Olympic team in the 2012 Games, came under fire because of the LDS position on the definition of marriage.
Vidmar didn't find his relationship with the church "tough to define." When it became clear that he couldn't do a good job of leading the U.S. Olympic team while his loyalty to LDS doctrine led to controversy, he easily distinguished between a job he wanted and could have done well, and his core faith. He withdrew from the Olympic post.
Those of us who lead public lives have the opportunity of standing for something. I have never concealed my commitment to my faith and to the church.
My bio on every publication tags me as having served an LDS mission, and while I don't use my fiction to proselytize and I reach far beyond the church for my audience, I never deny or evade my commitment to the gospel of Christ as defined by the modern prophets.
Is there a cost? Of course. I have been rewarded with savage slanders, heckling at public appearances and various attempts to boycott my work.
Time and again, various interviewers have tried to offer me a way to avoid these negatives. All I have to do is oppose the church on this or that issue.
All I have to say is that my relationship with the church and the gospel is "tough to define."
Even Mormons seem to expect this. I am amused and exasperated by letters from church members who claim to admire my books, but then assume that I was merely "raised Mormon" and no longer believe in the gospel — as if I can't be a man of letters and a faithful Latter-day Saint.
Then there are the fundamentalist Christians who assume that all my writing is part of a Mormon conspiracy to subvert the faith of "real" Christians; balance them against the atheists who assume that my claim of faith means I am either deceived or a deceiver.
The result is that I am not invited to speak or teach at most universities, despite the popularity of my fiction on college campuses; I am rarely mentioned for awards in my field. Few are the fellow writers who list me on social networking sites, or make positive references to my work (though I admire the courage of those who do).
What my critics don't understand is that if I did not declare for the gospel of Christ, that would be the same as a declaration against it. But I am for it, and if I denied my faith and loyalty I would not be the same man who writes the books for which I am known.
If a member has lost his faith, but still has respect for the church and its believing members, what would it cost him to say so? Far less, I think, than to try to have it both ways.
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