"Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations [trials, afflictions]: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:5-7).
So, in truth, I haven't been neglecting writing for the sake of learning to be a doer of the word so much as I was lying on the couch a lot and crying and trying not to vomit. I'm actually pregnant, and my brain and body aren't super friendly places to hang out when I'm making people. But now that my body at least is on the more functional end of the spectrum, I'm hoping that forcing myself to write occasionally will help my brain follow suit.
I am in a necessary season of heaviness that Peter describes, not just physically and emotionally, but spiritually. I have hesitated and hesitated to disclose my spiritual heaviness in full because I do not want to introduce anyone to heaviness that they don't already experience. If I'm being totally honest with myself, too, I just don't want people to know, because I've already had glimpses of what happens when people know, and it's stuff that has tended to make my pregnant self all weepy even more than usual. I want everyone to think I'm awesome all the time. So there.
But dangit to heck, because I am supposed to be writing these things. Maybe God wanted me to start this blog because of these very things, even though these are the things that are going to make me squirm more than any other embarrassing post yet. God liberates sometimes in that way, I guess.
So let's get to it. Back in October, there was a talk in General Conference that made me, well, angry. A previous version of the same talk had been given a year before, and it made me super uncomfortable then, too, so I'd dutifully studied and prayed about it for the next six months before I finally just threw my hands up and said it needed to be shelved, because I couldn't get humble enough to accept it at the moment. When the same talk was presented six months later, I came a little unglued and decided I was tired of shelving this particular issue, and I was going to get to the bottom of it. I speed-read the Book of Mormon and looked up every reference pertaining to the issue in the rest of the canon, and instead of finding peace, I got a lot more uncomfortable. It seemed like the scriptures were consistently offering evidence in favor of my discomfort, which is something I'd never encountered before. A scriptural narrative that I'd never noticed was also becoming very pronounced and apparent, and it was one that introduced a whole new set of very pressing questions.
I'm not going to talk about which addresses prompted my search or what the issue was specifically for now, because if it bugged you, you probably already know what I'm talking about, and if it didn't, I'm not interested in introducing new territories of doubt for anybody. The material point is that after several weeks of feverish research, some crazy thoughts started to emerge. I took to the internet to see if I was as crazy as I felt (probably not the smartest move, let's be real), and I was so relieved to discover that lots of other people had found the same things I had and still had intact testimonies. My relief instantly evaporated when I eventually realized that every single one of these people had been excommunicated.
My research eventually made me feel distinctly overwhelmed, and I finally realized I was falling into a familiar old trap of mine and intellectualizing everything instead of taking it directly to God. I felt a strong prompting to make my question a matter of prayer instead, so I did. And for the first time in my life, my answer to a question of doubt was not silence or a gentle reminder to be patient in faith or a tiny thought of something else I hadn't yet considered that could fuel my search for understanding until another day. My answer was clear and concise and direct, and it was in perfect and total opposition to a pretty key doctrine of my church.
I completely freaked out. I felt fear and confusion and lots of other things, and my brain started going a million miles an hour. Then God pulled me back to sanity by telling me to listen to my heart instead of my head, and I realized I impossibly felt total peace in that deep center of myself. I felt God telling me that everything would be okay, that I don't need to understand everything at once. I felt all tension leave, and I accepted my answer. I've learned many times before that telling God to try again in the response department is never smart, so I decided I would move forward accordingly.
For a couple months, that didn't mean very much. It meant continuing to study and pray and try and listen for what all this meant for me. After Christmas, however, some things happened that made me realize I wasn't living with integrity by keeping my temple recommend. There's a set of questions you answer every two years to renew your recommend, and the question I prayed is one of those questions. My recommend didn't expire until 2017, so I figured I had lots of time before I had to formally confront the elephant in my faith room, but I realized just waiting for my interview when I already knew what the outcome would be was not only dishonesty to myself but also to everyone around me. Having a temple recommend says things about a person, and I knew one of those things was false.
So the first Saturday of January, I went to the temple with my husband, and I cried the whole time. I love the temple so, so much. I have studied it extensively over the past few years and made it my spiritual home. I know it is a house of literal power and a place of profound revelation. I cannot overstate this: I love the temple. I also had a powerful experience that night as every part of the ceremony taught me personally and told me in no uncertain terms that this was a goodbye, and that broke my heart.
I had an interview with my bishop the next morning and, as expected, turned in my recommend. For those who aren't Mormon, that might not mean much, but not having access to the temple is a very serious and heavy thing. And even though I felt strong confirmations that God was pleased with my actions, it felt really terrible to be without a card that signifies a privilege I've carried for 16 years and never once anticipated losing. The temple has always been an anchor to me, even in times when I've struggled with it, and unmoored is an excellent way to describe how I felt in the weeks following.
My bishop gave me several assignments to work on this month with the intention of getting me back to where I can go to the temple. I hate to admit this, but I have to say that I don't anticipate that happening anytime soon. This is not an issue of not having a testimony yet. I am super comfortable with that territory; doubt and I are buds with a long history. This is having a testimony that contradicts taught doctrine, and until I receive further information that clarifies how the two can work together (not unprecedented, I should add), I have to act according to my testimony. But I did like the assignments he gave me, for the most part.
The first is to ask God what he wants me to learn from this experience. So I've been asking, and hooboy, have I been getting answers. And they're so good! They're also 100% not the answers I expected, and I'm positive they're not the answers my bishop is expecting. But they are good, and I feel like I'm supposed to share some of them. Therefore, I'm going to start a little series of posts detailing certain lessons God is teaching me through this experience. I hope they can be a source of light for others, as well.
There is a perfectly reasonable possibility that I'm wrong, that my answer was imagined or misunderstood or the result of psychosis. I've entertained all of these possibilities. They're freaky to contemplate. What if I'm digging my own personal trench to hell? My superbly wonderful husband shared some thoughts with me on that point have been helpful. He said that God tends to choose Sauls to become Pauls because they show that they have conviction and act on it, not because they're right all the time. Those verses about spewing forth the lukewarm out of God's mouth don't sound particularly fun, either. I'm showing God that I'm willing to do whatever I think he's asking me to do, and I hope that counts for something even if I'm wrong, because the past month especially has been rather excruciating in many ways. I am learning that the requirement that we be willing to sacrifice all things is not merely a figurative overstatement.
I should finish by clarifying that I have no intention of leaving the Church. I am a Mormon, and I believe in our doctrine. I just believe certain things are maybe not what we think they are, and I also believe our doctrine in some ways that might be a little unorthodox. This is my home, and these are my people. I do not plan to leave. For the first time, however, I understand why some people feel like there's no room for them in Mormonism, because I have also felt that way recently at times. This is no one's fault but my own, and I do not believe it to be true, and writing this post is one way for me to show myself that my feelings are false. There is room for me here, and I am claiming it.
The only reason I'm sharing all this is because I need to be real with people. I have no desire for everyone to know, trust me, because my ego enjoys the way a lot of people see me, and this information will certainly change that. I also know that my experience is currently outside the realm of what I previously considered a possibility, so sometimes my behavior toward people was not what I would want it to be now. Maybe you could call it an awareness campaign for those of us in a sometimes awkward place at church for reasons other than spiritual laziness or a crazy urge to commit egregious sin.
Please be gentle with people. Please don't assume your experiences with God trump someone else's; I've done this for most of my life, and God is currently teaching me that doing that to people hurts them and inhibits our own learning. Please love and reserve judgment whenever possible. We cannot know what we haven't experienced, and everyone's experience really is unique. Remember that God loves each of us fiercely, no matter where we are. That's the most important one.
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.