It seems that people from many different cultures like comparing things in life to farming and gardening. I tend to like those analogies more than the ones dealing with money, which seem to pervade American culture and language, as well as much of Christianity. I prefer to think in terms of planting, growing and harvesting than investment, "buying into" something and being redeemed like an empty bottle. I'm not a farmer or gardener. But I'm not an investment banker or economist either.
We hear about seeds of faith, seeds of doubt, seeds of dissent, seeds of disaffection, seeds of change, seeds of renewal. I've sewn seeds of all those types during various seasons of my life. (Change and renewal seem to be dominant right now.) I've harvested both good and bad things. Sometimes nothing has grown from what seemed at first to be a promising seed. And sometimes things have grown that I didn't expect--those expectations being based on my own assumptions or the assurances I got about what I planted. For a long time, I just assumed the seeds I was given were ones that would work for me. Bad assumption. Believing or assuming a tomato seed will grow an orange tree will never make it so.
When I finally started questioning and researching for myself what would be truly good for me (both in terms of personal issues and specifically the church's role in my life), I began to find and plant seeds of reality. The garden of my life is healthier now as a result. What I'm growing now is thriving in the soil of my soul. I still have some pruning and weeding to do. There are still some things to remove and some seeds yet to plant. Going through that process helps me feel good and more like a whole, integrated person.
The seeds of reality for me regarding the LDS church were mostly planted during the time I was in the same ward with Steve Benson, a grandson of Ezra Taft Benson. Much has been written about Steve (a lot of it by Steve himself) and his experience questioning and leaving the church. I haven't spoken to Steve for many years. Not due to anything bad. It's just that I was a teenager at the time I was in the same ward with him and his family and had moved away from home by the time he finally left the church. I think the last time I saw Steve was at the airport not long after my mission.
I followed news accounts and internet chatter surrounding Steve's experience. It would be fun to reconnect with him sometime--especially now that I see the church from a non-believer's perspective. My critical thinking and search for sensible reasoning in my professional life has helped me to apply those same things to my personal life, especially when it has come to the church and its history, doctrine and culture.
My own experience has been different than Steve's. But those who question the church and disconnect from it institutionally in the way that works best for them share many things in common. Among the most significant commonalities is the staggering shift in one's perspective. It takes a lot to move from a magical, authority-worship worldview to embracing the reality of uncertainty and finding joy in questioning. Conformity in Mormon culture is a very powerful thing. Asserting oneself can be a dangerous prospect. Many who do are forced out or no longer feel truly welcome among "the saints."
The price of cultivating a healthy sense of reality may be disconnection from the familiar. But I've found that reassessing what the church and my Mormon upbringing mean to me doesn't have to mean casting away all that I like about my Mormon heritage. There is a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. My personal garden may not be full of as many typically Mormon things as it used to, but much remains and will always remain. As the seasons of life continue to unfold, it will be interesting to see what the seeds I'm tending now will become.