Sunday, December 28, 2008

Blessings of Testimony

This is a continuation of my earlier blog post, so you might want to read that first if you haven't already.

After the family stuff this morning, we came home, I threw my last blog post together, and then my daughter and I left for the last bits of our own church meeting. She was being set apart in the Beehive presidency today and wanted to be there for Young Womens. Sunday School was still in session, so I went to the Relief Society room, made sure I knew what songs we were singing, distributed hymn books evenly through the room, and then sat down and read through today's lesson. I prayed for the spirit as I read the lesson. I desperately wanted to feel some comfort from the morning's events, something to strengthen me. It was a nice conference talk about testimony from Elder Hales, and while no earth-shattering feelings came to my heart, I was happy that it would be an uplifting, benign lesson. My tears of earlier were gone and I was easily able to put on a happy face as women started to enter the room.

The lesson was good. Partway through, a sister was asked to get up and share part of her life story. She spoke of having a stroke a few years ago, and although she lost many of her memories, including scriptures and hymns that she knew by heart, she still knew that she had a testimony of God and Jesus Christ. She spoke of how our testimonies can truly help us through times of trial.

Then another sister sang a song, "I have a testimony." It was an oldie, so I don't know the exact title or composer, but the words were touching.

Finally, the instructor got up and concluded, bore her testimony of what a blessing it is to have a testimony during times of trial, and then she left about 15 minutes for people to bear their testimonies. It was silent for a while. I had time to put thoughts together, thinking about the church and my testimony, and I've blogged about this before, but I have been so grateful that my strong testimony has so far kept me staying in the church. My heart started to pound. I started to think through what I would say if I actually got up. I told myself that it was silly to get up and really tell them how I was feeling right now. Finally, someone got up and broke the silence. My heart did not slow. She sat down, a few seconds elapsed and I was on my feet, tears rolling down my face, my body shuttering as I sobbed. I can't remember exactly what I said, but it was something like this:

"I'm not sure I should even get up and say this, but my heart is pounding. I am so grateful for my testimony. I am really struggling right now with the church's recent political activity. It has really tested me. Scott and I would have left the church weeks ago if it weren't for our testimonies. We were both brought up in the church, and it is hard to let go of something that has been part of our lives for so long. I know God lives. I know he loves me. I know Jesus is the Christ and that he is there for me. I know the gospel is true.

But it has been so hard. Just this morning I attended a baby blessing. The high counsel spoke and the talks were both on the very thing I struggle with. By the end of the meeting, I was crying and saying to myself that I never wanted to go back to church. But I had a calling to fulfill here, I hadn't arranged for a substitute, so I came to lead the music and to hope for a good church experience. It has been just what I needed.

I love all of you sisters so much. I have felt your love for me and Scott and our family over the last couple of months. Your support has been amazing as you have reached out to us and loved us. The only thing I ask of you more is to pray for us to be able to hold onto our testimonies and make it through this. It is harder to stay than you can even imagine.

Thanks again. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

A couple of other sisters got up right after me. They were tearful and poignant. The last one was my "favorite" RS teacher. She threw in something preachy at the end of her testimony that sounded more like one of her lessons, something about following the prophet, etc.

The lady conducting got up to close the meeting. I was trying to stop my crying so that I could be ready to lead the closing hymn. Then she goes and says, "Sarah, I want you to know how much we all love you and are praying for you." There go the tears again. The lady behind me offered to lead. I shook my head and stood up. I cried through the closing song, "Silent Night". Everyone knows the words to that familiar Christmas hymn, but their eyes were glued to their books instead of at my red and puffy face. Then, I gave the closing prayer as I had been asked to do at the beginning of the meeting. The tears subsided and my voice was strong and sure.

I had barely returned to my seat to get my purse and I instantly had a line of sisters beside me to hug me. They were crying with me. They told me they loved me, that they honor my strength, that everything will work out, to stay strong, that they are praying for me. The line kept going and going. My "favorite" R.S. teacher was the only one to offer advice in addition to comfort. Read things on both sides of the issue, follow the prophet, you will know that he is right and it is God's will. I just pleasantly smiled and told her that my research and prayers were not one-sided.

Finally, the room was clear except for the Relief Society President and my next door neighbor, both of whom I sent letters to in August. RS Pres asked me what more she could do for me. I told her to just love us. Then I added to that: just love us, don't judge us, don't offer us advice. Scott and I have both prayed about this a lot, and we still feel like we should side with our gay friends rather than the church. Don't judge us for that. Giving us advice to the contrary will push us away more than anything else. I told them that we are doing much good, that we have many gay friends we have met through our blogs, and we are their angels and they are our angels. It is a hard thing, but at least my marriage is strong even if I am struggling with the church.

Both sisters nodded and cried with me. I came home and cried some more. I think it is finally working its way out of my system. What a day. Thank you for all of your support and prayers.


invisible said...

God bless you! I admire you so much! Where I lost my chance to voice my feelings - you voiced them for me. You and Scott are angels and with out you and your blogs (esp. today) I would be farther off the path than I am.

Kengo Biddles said...

I commented on the first part, but I'm glad that you had such a good experience in your own ward. I think one thing that also helps me is to remember that no matter how stupid people can be, or pig-headed, or just blatantly bigoted, unless it's the First-Presidency, or Apostles, they're not prophets, it's not gospel, and they're not speaking for the church. They're speaking for themselves, from their own limited viewpoint.

October Rising said...

wow, quite the ordeal. i have always been fortunate while attending church up here in Washington to never have to deal with thoughtless political comments like these.

Pieces of Me said...

Just finished reading your last two posts, what an emotional day. I feel for you I have been there were you feel the lowest of the low, only to then feel the high of being surrounded by those who love you unconditionally and do not judge you. Hang in there, and know that I care.