Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Today I watched an uncomfortable exchange on Facebook between a friend and someone he knows (whom I don't). This person's friend has obviously moved on from the church, physically if not mentally quite yet.

Some people wonder why it's so hard to "leave the church alone" once a person has decided it no longer works for him or her.

I don't think there's an easy answer for that. And I don't know this person at all so I'm not going to say I know for sure what's going through her head when she tries to convince friends (and strangers, even) that they've all been duped and why can't you all see it??

Dr. Phil said (and I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M ABOUT TO QUOTE DR. PHIL BUT IF YOU EXPECTED ANY BETTER FROM THIS STUPID BLOG THEN I AM SORRY, YE HARDLY KNEW ME) that when it comes to divorce it's only truly right when both parties can walk away without feelings either way for the other person, whether they be positive or negative.

The pain a person feels breaking away from the church is so real. And to feel like you have to walk away because the church betrayed you and you no longer know what to make of that betrayal is totally legit. And until that pain subsides it's hard to truly put the church aside.

I went offline for a couple a couple of days because I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing on this stupid blog. (1)

One of the posts that made its way back onto the blog after a little more thought was the one where I admit that I felt impressed to forgive the church.

I'm sure there are some that would feel that's a terrible or presumptuous thing to say or feel.

But it felt so good to do it. To forgive.

Because, gosh darn it, I want this relationship to work. I still feel something for it and I'm not willing to walk away.

Indeed, my biggest fear right now is that the church will walk away from me. That my new approach to it will seem so unorthodox that other members (or even leadership) will eventually make me feel like I truly don't belong.

I hope that doesn't happen.

I am going to keep writing on this stupid, stupid blog because I want to legitimize the pain a person feels when learning that correlated materials are at best misleading and at worst a lie. THIS FEELS BAD.

I am going to keep writing on this stupid, stupid blog because I hope to show that I think (slow, oh so slow) change is afoot (like, eventually) and that I love the church.

And because I have recently asked God if I, myself, should stay or go. And the fact that I asked this question (and am admitting it) scares the holy heck out of me.

But that is how real it feels. Scary. And painful. But I do not want to go. I just don't.

So I'm here to say, work through it with me, will you?

And if you won't stay for that, I will occasionally still talk about Andy Gibb. (2)


(1) I actually have a folder on my computer named "stupid blog" where I file things related to this stupid blog. I'm ok with the fact that it's stupid; it's a term of endearment.)

(2) So handsome.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I was saying to my sister today writing out my experiences on this stupid blog is really helping me sort through and appreciate what I've been through so far. I like that.

But I wonder if maybe this couldn't be done just as effectively in a journal. Like one that isn't open to, like, THE WORLD.

Maybe what I say will be helpful to someone. Maybe that only someone is me?

Just in case it's not just me, I'm going to start pointing to things that have built (or continue to build) my faith. Things that I find interesting. Stories, essays, podcasts.

Maybe what they say will be helpful to someone. Maybe that someone is you?

Here is a podcast I listened to the other day that I liked. The first part is mostly Bill Reel's conversion story. The second part deals more with possibly the most critical time of his faith crisis which happened to coincide with his time serving as a bishop. Fascinating. And faithful.

PART ONE

PART TWO

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?
He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.
How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go?
He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.

My primary kids always know what's coming when we sing this song.

How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?
He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.
What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?

It's inevitable, and the snuggliest of my angels - the ones that always manage to find a place in my lap or tucked under my arm during sharing time - look up at me now.

Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.
What does he ask? Live like his Son.

And my eyes well up with tears. It gets me every time.

----------------------

If I were to pick a time when I felt the most, oh I don't know... bitter?... about the challenges to my faith I would say it was last year.

Garett had been called as a ward missionary and, as such, was worked into the rotation as Gospel Principles instructor. His first lesson was on honesty.

As I sometimes do, I read the chapter along with him so that we could discuss it and generate ideas for his lesson.

I couldn't believe both what I read and what I didn't read.

What I read is that, apparently, we are capable of being completely honest. This is neither my observation nor my experience (1). The tendency to lie is a natural one. That doesn't make it right; it's just a challenge of being human. Honestly is certainly something to practice, and studies show that those who do choose to practice it become better and better at it. Striving to live an honest life is, of course, our goal; succeeding at it completely is probably beyond the grasp of our mortal selves.

But thankfully that's where Christ comes in.

Except you're not going to read about Him in the chapter on honesty in Gospel Principles.

If you are a new member or investigator, don't expect to talk about Christ this hour?

Grrr.

Something in me changed, snapped, turned.

For the first time in all the years that I had sincerely struggled to reconcile what I had been taught and what was (closer to) the actual truth I felt.... manipulated.

Because up until this point, I had been stretching to empathize and to understand why the church felt it needed to tell half-truths and lies to its members. I earnestly wanted to find a way to excuse the choice to mislead us. Because otherwise it was just too painful to admit that I could have been manipulated.

But maybe it wasn't manipulation. Maybe the church and the men running it really and truly lacked the self-awareness necessary to see the problem? Could that be it?

I didn't know... But I did know I was pissed. This ushered in a period of time where I felt the most angry toward the church. Pretty much every hour of the day.

Except when I actually went to church.

And I sat in primary. And I sang the songs. And those little ones snuggled in the crook of my arm. And the spirit touched me as we sang, "Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way."

Super cheese-balls? Right? What can I say... I am a Mormon after all.

No, wait. Actually... I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Mormonism is the framework I have chosen to put my discipleship into practice.

And I started to say such. Out loud.

But framing it this way helped me. Because foremost it was in and through my Savior that I exercised a little faith, dared to have a little hope and focused on helping others on their way.

And it wasn't long before I felt prompted to forgive the church.

It hadn't occurred to me before. Forgive the church for being flawed. Forgive the church for deception. Forgive the church for not living up to the perfection that I expected of it, but that I certainly can't live up to myself.

And as is often the case, I felt better after I had forgiven. And I didn't feel quite so angry anymore.

But I still think someone should rewrite the Gospel Principles manual.

Because, really?



(1) I'm not a fan of human beings who use their quest for complete honesty to justify insensitivity or who use it as an excuse to say whatever is in their heads. Think about it this way: what always comes after the phrase "to be perfectly honest"? I don't want to hear it; it's not usually very nice. For heaven's sake... I really doubt you're going to hell for telling someone their hair looks nice. Just do it. You're going to be OK.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Sometimes I get caught up in words. I fixate on their meanings and the way they are used. This is dumb. Language is arbitrary, imperfect and as a user of language I am inadequate, imprecise.

But at the same time language is powerful. God thought so. After all, He gave us the Word.

............

I'd like to reclaim a word that has been relegated to second-class status in the lexicon of my religion.

The word is belief.

I recently learned that, once upon a time, belief meant "trust in God." I believe meant simply I trust in God.

The Renaissance and later the Age of Enlightenment contributed to the change in how we used the word belief over time. (1)

Secularism increased. New knowledge about how the world works was discovered. Things that once were attributed to God's hand or laws could now be explained in a new way, through the laws of nature. Eventually it felt necessary to differentiate.

I believe in God now meant Despite the lack of empirical evidence, I nevertheless believe that God exists.

In turn, this new  usage triggered a change in the way the word know is often used in religious context.

Enlightenment Scholar: So you believe in God?
Believer: Yes.
ES: How quaint.
B: No, what I mean is that I know that God exists.
ES: That's adorable.(2)

So flash-forward to today and we are still sometimes trying to strengthen our pro-God stance with the word know. Which is fine, but it's kind of a shame.

It is my opinion that something was definitely lost in translation.

The earlier uses of the word believe more closely fit where I am in my spiritual life today.

............

I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It gives me purpose and peace. It challenges me and prompts me to self-evaluation and personal improvement. Other times it takes me outside of myself completely and gives me the chance to give to others. It blesses me. It has earned my trust in these regards.

I believe in God. I trust him. I look at my life and I choose to see His hand in it. I feel He is guiding me and I trust where He is trying to take me. I see Him everywhere.

I believe in Jesus Christ. I am a broken soul and the only complete thing about me is my dependence on Him. I love Him. I trust that His sacrifice was real and necessary. I feel His grace touch and heal me. I trust Him.

But amazingly, I feel He trusts me too and this leaves me awed.

I have been trusted with a faithful and kind husband with whom I can love and grow. I have been trusted with three unique souls and charged to love them (I do) and teach them (I give my best). I have been trusted with a band of sweet 6-year-olds in my congregation and charged to love them (I do) and teach them (I give my best).

What a humble honor it is for such an imperfect person to be given such sacred responsibilities. I am touched that I am trusted.

That trust has given me spiritual confidence. The confidence to know what God wants for me and to feel His love. The confidence to raise my children in the ways that they need to be raised even after I walked away from a group of Mormon women and overheard them say as I departed, "Yeah, can you believe some LDS families do that?" The confidence to run a marathon on a Sunday and feel God's approval and to see that He had a plan for me all along in the experience. The confidence to take the words of my leaders and apply the power of discernment to them: This is my Word for you, He tells me; or other times, These are the words of a loving and well-intentioned man, take them into your heart as such.

These are the blessings of being loved and trusted. I have every reason to reciprocate and I do it with the whole of my heart.

(1) This is bad history. I'm a bad historian.
(2) Like seriously. Bad history.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I am going to write a bunch of posts about my spiritual life. (1) They are going to be personal. (2) They will represent where I have been and where I am now. In a year, I will be in a completely different place. Or at least I hope to be.

Line upon line, right?

It's probably necessary for you to know that I have struggled with my religion. (3) About five years ago I was called to teach the Doctrine & Covenants in my congregation's Sunday School class.

Feeling overwhelmed by the task and more than a little inadequate I thought... I should read some history of my church to prepare!

Lol, as they say. (4)

Five years later, I emphatically shake my fist at you, Church Correlated Materials! Sure we all want a clean history with a simple narrative painting us only in the most flattering light. I get that! (5)

But too often the discrepancies between what actually happened and what I had been taught my whole life felt... deceptive. Sometimes the discrepancy itself was more disconcerting to me than, well, what actually happened. Sometimes.

Other times I straight up struggled with the historical truth. (6)

Sigh.

But in between all the sighs and fist-shaking, I felt an assurance from God that it was important to go through this experience, not only because it's 2014 and I have, well... an internet connection, but also because I have children growing up in 2014 with a, well... internet connection. (7) (8)

My children, I felt the spirit prompt, will need to be guided through our collective historical past to arrive at their individual spiritual futures.

I've talked previously here about my wisdoms (few) and wanderings (many). I think it has been important for me to get down this path ahead of my children, hopefully getting as many wanderings out of the way as possible. (Not likely. But I try.)

One thing that I want to be especially sensitive to as I write about the complexity of reconciling the history of men with the desires of God for us is not triggering a crisis of faith for anyone else.

No matter what, my path is not your path. On the other hand, I may need to reference things that were catalysts for me. I'll try to do so carefully. I'll try to walk a self-imposed line of sensitivity to the people (my friends and family) and the things (the Church) I love.

I hope you'll trust me. And when I am done I promise to get right back to talking about Andy Gibb.(9)

(1) Yawn?
(2) Ugh. Gross.
(3) Gasp!
(4) Do they say this? I do, but who am I? Just an old lady with a laptop and an internet connection.
(5)  High school? I remember nothing.
(6) Often still do.
(7) Google. A blessing and a curse. But it settles a lot of arguments... quickly.
(8) I did not start this journey with an internet search. I chose sources written by devoted,  honest, qualified historians and writers. Of course I knew not to start with the internet. But will our children know this? That will not be their instinct.
(9) I could have saved him.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Last night I wrote a post about how we are subject to the choices of our parents, for better or for worse.

Today the Universe reminded me that the converse is also true.

Parents are subject to the choices of their children, for better or for worse.

Oy.