Tunnel over railroad tracks in the fall.

Death, Patriarchy, and the Struggle of Discipleship

The answer is not to give up when tough questions arise—but to understand that the struggle is part of something greater. 

From one overthinker to another, I’m going to be real with you: this time, you’re not overthinking it. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be tough—really tough. 

As members of the Church we have a lot to be proud of: ongoing revelation, personal revelation, eternal families, the Book of Mormon, Elder Holland’s mic-dropping talks, and much more. But there are things that some members, including me, really struggle to wrap their brains around: the history of race and the priesthood, seemingly institutionalized sexism, and treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, to name a few. 

Person at the end of a waterfall with a quote by Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye that says, "The worst thing is to live life in a way that requires no transformative struggle from ourselves, and that makes no difference for good in the lives of others."

Photo by Sorasak

Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye, PhD, a professor of Chinese history and a faithful Latter-day Saint, understands these difficulties too. In her Maxwell Institute lecture “Making Zion,” Inouye argues that a life with the Church can be a rich, fulfilling one, in spite of the difficult questions we face. For her, death, patriarchy, and baldness—symbols for suffering, imbalance, and indignity—are not the worst things. “The worst thing is to live life in a way that requires no transformative struggle from ourselves, and that makes no difference for good in the lives of others.” 

As a member of the Church, I have definitely been transformed in positive ways; even when I roll my eyes during a Relief Society lesson, I can’t deny that living the gospel (or at least trying to) has made me a better person. Like Inouye, “My faith as a Latter-day Saint is not defined entirely by our mistakes, our imbalance, and our weakness.…My faith as a Latter-day Saint encompasses both the deep flaws and the deep beauty of [the Church].” Discipleship can be complicated, messy, and frustrating—but if we stay on this path, we’ll continue having opportunities to do good, opportunities for self-improvement, opportunities to help the Church progress to become the best it can be. 

Read or listen to Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye’s lecture “Making Zion” for a frank and compassionate look at the burdens and blessings of discipleship. 

Source: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

—Anessa Pennington, Latter-day Saint Insights

FEATURE IMAGE BY FLORIAN VAN DUYN

Find more insights 

Read Morgan Reese’s  “Thinking Critically about Our Faith” for insights on how to use critical thinking to deepen spiritual experiences.

Check out the Ensign article “Faith and Intellect” for more wisdom from Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye.

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