Sunday, October 16, 2011

I fail

A month ago I was angry. Today I am sad. Sad that there is no way that I can ever be a good Mormon again. Sad that I will never achieve a couple of my goals--attending a session in the Manti Temple, and serving in the Young Women's organization. Trust me--they won't let me anywhere near the youth with my bad language and apostate ideas.

For the last month, I have been luke-warm with my church dedication and attendance. I watched/listened to a lot of conference (while doing yard work on Saturday and taking a nap on Sunday, LOL. Not sure how much I actually heard.) The kids and I have been sick off and on, so we've missed some meetings and gone to others. Glee started up again on Tuesday nights, so the kids, between homework and Glee,--and the Pink Dot event this last Tuesday--have not wanted to attend their youth meetings/activities.

But today, there was no hesitation from any of us to get up and get ready for church. The boys got themselves up and dressed, and they helped get the baby ready since I was still eating breakfast. No one whined about not wanting to go or about having a sore throat or an upset stomach. I was not dreading it; it just seemed like the normal "this is what we do every week" type of thing.

During Sacrament meeting, I read through my patriarchal blessing--pondering on how it fits into my life now, and sort of feeling inspired about continuing my church attendance the best I could, despite feeling like I would never have a temple recommend again. Maybe I would have it again someday when I had local leaders that I could actually sustain. In the mean time, I can endure. Members without recommends are second class, but I can handle being second class, right?

Then the second high council speaker was assigned President Benson's famous "14 points of following the prophet" or something like that. Scott and I have discussed this talk before and some of the issues he has with it. I have never read or listened to it very carefully. To illustrate one of the points, a story was told of a man that came from a different country to America to join the members of the church because a prophet told him to. Now he was complaining and disagreeing with the words of the current prophet. There was some quote read about how someone who cannot agree with the words of the prophets and apostles is on "the high road to apostasy."

Yep, I guess that is me. I felt a little down over the words, but not devastated. Not like I didn't already know that opinion. Yep, I'm an apostate. I've discussed this with one of my friends at school that is also an active member of the church. He agrees that there are problems in the church with leadership, with following blindly, with an attitude that "all is well in Zion." He is concerned, like I am, that the church has taken a turn from encouraging members to seek and follow personal revelation if it results in any deviation of a person from church policy to follow the spirit in their own lives.

There is much discussion in the news right now because of Mormon politicians about whether or not Mormonism might actually be a cult. This may sound horrible coming from a practicing Latter-day-saint, but you have to admit there is some cult-like behavior and ideas. Quotes like, "When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done" remind me of the attitudes in terrorists, thinking they are only doing what they have been asked to do so that they can be with God. But that's different, Mormons say. Our church is actually true, and our prophet is actually telling us to do things that are good, like refusing to accept our gay loved one's partners or even consider that everyone should have equal rights when it comes to parenting and marriage.

Some of you may think I'm being too hard on myself for thinking I will never be anything but a second class Mormon. But when my own soul-searching and personal revelation ends up over and over and over that I should support gay marriage, and stand up for it, then how can I possibly ever answer those temple recommend questions honestly? At one point I thought I could, but the whole process has made me so angry, that I can't anymore. No, I don't sustain general and local authorities of the church. Some of them I do. President Uchdorf for example. I love that man. But President Packer? My stake President? Never going to happen. They are not willing to bend on their pet focus in life any more than I am. I cannot deny the mission that God has given me to be a gay-rights advocate, and my stake president apparently cannot stop shoving the message of "follow the prophet. follow your leaders. No matter what" down the throats of everyone who attends church in his stake. The two things do not go together. They cannot coexist. And since he is not going anywhere soon, to my knowledge, then I guess I have to be the one to go.

Wow, I blog so I can rant sometimes, and this is feeling good, so thanks for sticking with me.

Next failure of the day--scouting. Three years ago, my oldest son turned eleven and began participating in boy scouts, as every good Mormon boy does. The leaders stopped telling me exactly what he needed to do to earn whatever thing came next, like the cub-scout leaders do. So in three years, I don't think he has advanced in Scouts, even though he has attended two week-long summer camps, at least two winter camps and Klondikes, and many, many weekly scout meetings. Today the new Scout committee chair, who happens to also be a good friend of mine that I unloaded on a couple of weeks ago about my temple recommend situation, came outside and visited with me during Sunday School. It was all well and good until she started asking about which ones of my children were in scouts and what their rankings are. I had no idea. I don't know what he's earned, what is completed, and what he still has to do. It's all signed in his book, his former scout master says, when I went inside to get some information. Will his dad help him, the committee chair asks? Probably not. Scott's response: he doesn't feel like he is the one that earned his "Eagle Scout" awards and ranking. So he is of the opinion that if our sons want to earn ranks in scouting, then they should be the ones to read the book and figure out what they still need to do, and do it, rather than us holding their hand and dragging them through the process like he was. That makes sense. I should not have to feel guilty about what I don't get done. I have so much on my plate already. The same goes for my daughter's personal progress. She helps me so much. In my eyes, she has earned the highest award for being such a willing support and help to me. So if she doesn't end up getting the certificate and medallion on her own, does it really matter? It does if you want to be a first class Mormon, which our family obviously is not. Oh well. I'm so good at making myself feel guilty and feeling like a failure. I started this paragraph with the fact that our son started scouts 3 years ago. Scott came out of the closet 3 years and 3 months ago. Is is a coincidence that I have no idea what he has done in scouts? I think not. Give me a break. (She was not rude, FYI. I am telling myself and my own imposed guilt to give me a break. :)

Lastly, I go to relief society feeling like an apostate and a failure as a scout mom, and the lesson is on "signs of the second coming." By the end of the lesson, which included perusing the 45th section of the doctrine and covenants, I am convinced that since at the second coming it is black and white--there are the good people in the New Jerusalem in Missouri, and then there are the horrible people that are at war and their hearts have waxed cold with no love, lovers only of their own selves, filled with iniquity--that I am not good, so therefore I am doomed to be part of the second group. Remember I am on the high road to apostasy. Remember that I say things like "effin prophet" on facebook. Remember that I take my kids to the Pink Dot event instead of sending them to Scouts and Young Women's activities. Remember that I will never have a temple recommend again, so I am no longer qualified to stand in holy places.

Needless to say, I sobbed through the closing hymn, "Come let us rejoice", LOL. Tears ran down my face as I played "Master the tempest is raging" for postlude, as loud as I could, pounding my frustrating into the piano keys. And I continued to cry as I drove us home from church, dropping off my son and his friend to do fast offering call-backs.

The same son was ordained to be a teacher today, because even though he was sustained in Sacrament meeting last week, he was not feeling well, so I took him home. I asked the bishop if it was happening today. He asked if any family was coming. I said no. He asked who I wanted to do the ordination. I said I didn't care. I only wanted to be there if it was happening. So my son came to get me, and I attended as the Young Men's President ordained him and every Melchizedek priesthood holder in the room participated--probably 7 or 8 men. And then I went back to Relief Society and let everything sink in, and started to cry.

I fail.


Amigakitty said...

You havent failed Sarah! You have five kids that love you and are good kids! You are a strong woman and you have not failed at remaining strong in your support of gay rights and of Scott. You have been through alot in 3 years including having another baby! You hold down a job, raise your kids and make time for women who are behind you in this fab MOM process. You have shown grace and strength - more than I could do. I am sorry that your church is not supportive but I for one will not let you feel like you have failed.

A.J. said...

You haven't failed the church your local church leaders have failed you. The church isn't the gospel. Luke10:27 that is what it's all about. You haven't fail at the most important stuff loving others. Mormonism is filled with busy work that in the long term is meaningless.

Scott N said...

Be glad that you've "failed" in becoming the mindless cookie-cutter Molly Mormon the church has tried so hard to turn you into. That "failure" is something to rejoice about!!!

On the other hand, you've succeeded, far better than any other woman I've met or heard of, at navigating the coming out of a spouse and the subsequent end of a marriage. You've done it with love, with grace, with your head held high. You've done it without soul-eating bitterness or the animosity that too often ends up hurting the children more than anyone else.

You've succeeded at endearing yourself to hundreds of people who trust your love and your devotion implicitly, when they can't even trust the love of their own family.

You've raised children who are courteous and respectful (though I like to think I might have had some part in that)... who are intelligent and able to think for themselves, and who value love and respect more than the mindless adherence to other peoples' rules that often leads to judgment and bigotry.

Don't you dare feel "less than" for "failing" to live up to "doctrines" that were considered heresies just 50 years ago. As A.J. said, the institutional church has failed you, by failing to support you in your spiritual journey.

If the church has any valid purpose, it would be to get you closer to God, and instead it's doing its best to beat out of you every bit of Godliness you've managed to develop over these last three years. Shame on it!


Matthew Plooster said...

Oh wow, Sarah. I think it's been a rough Sunday for a lot of people. I was having such a rough time with the sacrament talk on "virtue" and "standing in holy places," I wanted to burst. I stayed to finish my organist duties, and the closing hymn really hit me - have I done any good in the world today. During the closing prayer, I was thinking back to probably 16 or 17 years ago when there was severe flooding in Blackfoot. I remember that day in church when we took the sacrament, and the meeting was immediately over. The bishop announced that a catholic church group organized some relief efforts for the emergency crew, and that helping out there and actually doing good was more important than sitting in a dry church singing about doing good. After the postlude, I packed up my organ shoes, books, and headed to the car for a drive and some thinking time.

So often in the church we find that attitude that if the LDS church and it's superior members haven't given something their almighty stamp of approval, it's a waste of our time. Scouting is a great example of that. An international business owner was my Priests group advisor, and he always said that "eagle scout" was the first thing he looked for on a man's resumé. If it wasn't there, he wouldn't consider them. Sure, scouts learn hard work and other great ethics and virtues, but it's not a determinant of goodness or wickedness, just as a mission doesn't determine the future of any elder or sister.

I'm with Scott - be glad you've failed in becoming a mindless cookie-cutter Molly Mormon. You have thoughts, you have knowledge. Your testimony, be it strong or weak at the moment, is based on trials you've faced and concepts that you've honestly debated. If only every member of the church was lucky enough to have such a qualitative faith.

Thinking of you, and hope the rains of today bring a more beautiful tomorrow. Message, text, call me if you'd like to chat.


Sarah said...

I should be sleeping, but instead I began reading through my blog posts from the last few months, I guess because I got a message from a friend that I knew 18 years ago and an indication that she had been reading my blog this evening. So I wanted to remember what I had written and what she had probably been reading. All I could remember was the frustrating church and temple recommend stuff of the last couple months.

But this post from the summer was amazing. Clarity and Faith I've been thinking for a while that I need to read back through my entire childhood/youth journal. But maybe I should also read through my entire blog one of these days. To see how I've grown. And to see if I might have any advice for myself. I seem to show some mature wisdom once in a while. :)

mandi said...

Stop letting other peoples ideas define you. You most certainly have not failed. You are following what God is telling you to do, regardless of what the results are. That, my friend, is NOT failure.

Michelle said...

You're inspirational, this post is awesome, and Glee is a fantastic alternative to church activities!

Bri said...

I know that you have no idea who I am, but I have been reading your blog and wanted to tell you that you have not failed! You are a wonderful person, an inspiration and a comfort to many people (like me!). I've cried over things that you have written, cried so many times because I know (in a different way) the pain you are going/have been through.

I want you to know that you ought not worry about what will happen in the second coming or hereafter (I taught the same lesson in my RS a couple of sundays ago). I know this: that people will be judged by what is in their hearts and by their actions.

All that I have read on your blog has been about love, about acceptance, understanding, overcoming and being brave. For standing up for what is right and decent. For loving and throwing all judgments aside.

You are raising an amazing family, with children who will be just as kind to people who may be different from them, who will love and cry with and take care of those who need that the most. The world would be the best place if more people like you and your family were here with us. The church, most assuredly, would be improved greatly.

Don't ever feel bad because other people, specifically speaking of the lds community, don't understand and want to (knowingly or not) make you feel unwelcome. You are a great woman, with a great mind and God loves you. Don't let them stop you from being such a strong and brave woman! You're my hero!

Anonymous said...

Sarah, your blog was so sad. I want you to know I have been in your shoes, but please don’t despair. I believe satan wants you to feel like you’ve failed. Why? Because then you’ll stop trying. And I’m sorry if I sound a bit defensive, but ‘the church’ doesn’t think you’re a second class member. Oh some people may, but they’re not the church. They’re people who also don’t understand and most likely because they’re dealing with their own burdens or issues. I think we often want to beat ourselves up and blame the church because it gives us something concrete to blame. But what the church gives us is a higher plane to live life by. Is everything critical? Absolutely not. Does it offer some ways to enhance our life? Yes. My sons got their eagle because I was there for them, not their dad. Was it critical to achieve? Once again of course not. Did they learn some invaluable skills? Yes. Same with the young women stuff. Don’t blame the program because it doesn’t work right now for you, or because it’s hard, or because someone might be encouraging your kids to try. Yes, some leaders get caught up in the program for the wrong reason, but hey, they may not get the whole picture themselves either. What I’m trying to say is that the gospel, and the church are your personal way to worship. It’s there to elevate if you go seeking for that. You can sit back and be critical, cynical, and hurt, and yes, some leaders don’t help, but when you lump everyone together take a minute to see those people who genuinely ask how you’re doing and in private pray for your family. And the sister who wants to sit with you because she knows how hard it is to come and sit alone. Those who want to rally with you and your family but don’t quite know how, but love you deeply. Those people are ‘the church’. I know because they have lifted and supported me for quite some time now. This is all difficult. I was married to a gay man for a long time. I don’t get it either, but I have faith enough to know that the Lord loves me, is helping my family and I have not failed. I don’t have to judge others, I don’t have to judge my past husband. I don’t have to judge. Sorry this is so long.

Beck said...

You are my hero! Big hugs!