Monday, January 16, 2012

Gospel Principles = Happiness?

Today (actually, I guess it was yesterday) our home teacher came and gave us a short lesson about setting a good example. He is a great man and friend, and teaches things in a very humble but confident way, very down to earth. In his message he commented that someday someone might thank us for our example, for standing up for what we know is right. But that no one would ever thank us for doing the wrong thing. Like "thanks for drinking that beer last night" or "thank you for watching that inappropriate movie."

It seemed as though he was mostly talking to my teenagers, not because he thought they needed it, but just because it is a common topic of choice for youth.

But I couldn't help but question the word "never" in his examples. When he gave the beer example, my mind wandered to my New Year's celebration, and how my friends at my house seemed surprised and maybe proud of me that I was willing to try a sip of the champagne that Scott had brought (He pre-approved bringing it with me first, for you curious stalkers out there.) It is now normal for me to try a sip of whatever drink Scott has ordered when we are out to dinner somewhere. So far the only thing that I have liked at all has been a sangria at Applebees. Even then, though, I limited myself to the one sip and I have never desired more. I really can't stand the taste of anything else I have tried, and I hate the way it burns going down my throat. When I first started tasting his drinks, I still had a temple recommend, and I did not feel bad about it. But now that I realize I shall never again have a recommend, it would seem that nothing should stop me from partaking. At least that is how it is with Scott and many of my other friends. But I have no desire to feel the affects of alcohol or to do anything other than taste.

Later today at Scott's parent's house, I overheard a conversation between Scott's dad and a nephew that is preparing for a mission. I was in and out of the audible location of the conversation since I was packing up food I had brought so that my family would be ready to leave. At one point I heard him say "Following gospel principals always makes life easier." I don't know if it was because he became aware of me standing by him at the time, but he seemed to glance at me and say "at least it usually does."

I reponded with "I don't know about that. I was following gospel principles when all hell broke loose in my life."

To which he responded, "But it does make it easier to handle things that come into our lives."

I could have said more, but instead I walked away since I had the cake packaged up and was ready to go. It's moments like these that make me understand why Scott is so uncomfortable in the presence of his family, and why he has chosen not to come at all for the last seven months, other than dinner on Christmas Eve.

On the way home, I sort of processed my thoughts outloud with my daughter. Last week I went to Sacrament meeting and later to a fireside about the upcoming stake pioneer trek this summer, and I spent time crying as a result, with my typical messed-up recovery day on Monday. I ended up crying at lunch to my friends about my post-traumatic stress with listening to my Stake President speak. My active Mormon friends suggested that it was essential that I stop putting myself in that situation and that attending a different ward in a different stake might be a good option.

So I mentioned to my daughter that last weekend was hard on me because of my church attendance, but that today was wonderful with no church attendance. I was going to go because a couple of our neighbors were reporting on their missions, and in fact last week the kids and I had decided that we would all go, but the three oldest kids went while I stayed home with the younger two, the three of us suffering from a mild cold.

So, does following the principle of attending church meetings make life easier? For me and lots of other people I know, absolutely not. That even includes gay-friendly firesides, where the presiding leader gets up to give closing remarks, and knowing his audience, still talks about following the prophet and attending the temple. And that was not in my stake, so I'm not sure that attending somewhere else would be any better for me.

I apologized to my daughter for my being such a bad example (such as sipping champagne on New Years) and she said "You aren't a bad example. You are a good example." She has chosen (at the moment) to be active in the church, and it does not seem to be causing her any anxiety or changing the ways she views gay rights or our gay friends. She honors and recognizes my struggle and decisions regarding church attendance, and does not hold it against me in the least. And she smiled and said, "Be glad that all of this has kept you from becoming like the _________." (Insert name of an extremely righteous family in our ward with extrememly sheltered children.)

If gospel principles are just those outlined in the fourth article of faith, then that would be faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and gift of the holy ghost. I do the first two, and I've done the second two. I guess I don't repent of what others think I should repent of--like dissing the prophet on facebook (which was really more like dissing the gospel principles manual), and I guess I have not been attending Sacrament meeting very much lately to take the Sacrament and renew my baptismal covenants, but is all that being too technical? I still try to repent of things that I do that I realize are actually wrong, and right the wrong when possible.

Now that I've brought up the gospel principles manual, I believe that is more likely what my father-in-law means by gospel principles, including honesty and law of chastity and word of wisdom, etc, etc.

As I was processing with my daughter, I mentioned that most Mormons are way to picky about following all of the tiny guidelines with exactness, without deviation, firmly believing that is the only way to be happy.

But I am happier now that I've loosened up a bit with regards to Scott drinking, and by showing him that I really have with my sincere desire to taste-test. I believe it has helped to strengthen our friendship and our newly-defined relationship as co-parents and friends.

I am usually happier now that I don't attend all of my church meetings, other than a bit of guilt that comes from 37 years of regular church attendance.

Happier now that I have a broader view of life and religion and spirituality. (I've begun attending a class on "Integral Spirituality" at a Universal Unitarian church one evening a week.)

I believe that I continue to maintain values and beliefs that will keep me out of trouble and help me to be more happy in the long run, and I am teaching those to my children. In fact, we just decided last week to follow a weekly reading schedule in the Book of Mormon as outlined in the January issue of The Friend magazine.

But I have no idea exactly where the path I am on will end up, and at the moment, I am okay with that. (Who knows how I might feel about it tomorrow.)

Thanks for reading my ramblings, as usual. I wish I had time to post more often. Goodnight.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

"your faithful avoidance of inappropriate movies"

Haha. You are funny. Scott and I went through a phase of watching every gay movie we could get our hands on, regardless of the rating. But that was a while ago. Maybe I've repented and changed my ways... :)

Thank you for your comment, annon.

Sarah said...

Wait. Where did your comment go? Now my comment makes no sense...

I swear I just got this comment in my email:

Hey, Sarah, thanks for sipping that champagne on New Year's! There you go.

So...setting a good example. Your post contains a few ideas for doing this that came up in your interactions with others:

No beer. Follow the WoW.
No inappropriate movies.
Attend church meetings.
No unchaste sex.
Be honest.

It's not a very likely set of reasons for admiring a person. We've just had Martin Luther King Day. Looking at his Wikipedia entry, I see allegations of adultery and plagiarism. Supposing them to be true, he would score below 100% on "gospel principles". Where on the checklist would we give him credit for his enormous courage and leadership? Under "repentance", is there room amid the little judgments of his personal life for us to note his role in bringing the United States closer to repentance for a great national sin?

I'm glad your daughter had a chance to tell you that you are a good example. I'm sure she has much better reasons to think so than your faithful avoidance of inappropriate movies.

Matt said...

Hi love. Thanks for writing here.

Sarah said...

Thanks Matt for letting me know you were here.