Friday, June 17, 2011

Clarity and faith

The week following my last post, I took the time to do some serious thinking and feeling. I was encouraged in part to do so because of an email Scott sent to me that explained some of the reasons his testimony has evaporated. I felt a need to attend the temple to seek some answers.

Here are some of my thoughts during my drive on the way there, and then while sitting on the temple grounds after doing some initiatory work. Some of the thoughts stem from Scott's words, which I am choosing not to post.

  • Yes, there are other churches with good and bad pieces, with people that will be rewarded for their good works and faith.
  • God lives. Jesus is the Christ.
  • It does not matter if leaders are perfect or not, if church history is twisted, if policies change, if it seems sometimes that things are so conflicting, contradictory, hypocritical. God allows things to happen, mistakes to be made, for a reason.
  • Culture...Life...Policies...Ways of doing things are ever changing, and always will be changing. But God is the same forever. He loves all of us--liberals, conservatives, atheists, believers--and he knows what is in our hearts, how our experiences have brought us each to where we are. No one but Him can truly judge why each of us act or think the ways we do. He allows changes to happen when and how is best. Key word there that I feel strongly about is "allow." We have our agency--each of us, even church leaders. But just like cleaning a room, where sometimes it has to get messier first before it improves, God is doing his own cleaning using agency, and we cannot yet see where the end result will be. But all will be well. We must have faith. We cannot forget the testimony-building experiences in our individual pasts just because it is a little messy now.
  • The contradictions and the call for obedience, and what often seems like blind obedience, are frustrating. I know that. I have felt and experienced that in many ways over the years. What does matter is doing the best we can with what we've got. Finding a place, a religion, a philosophy that works best for each of us, whether that be where we are most comfortable or where we have the greatest opportunity for growth, and often where we can help others grow along with us.

I began to relate these thoughts to me personally, to something that helps me understand why God and church leaders do the things they do, why obedience is so important, and why change in what once seemed like the unchangeable sometimes happens.

Over the 13 years of being a teacher, my policies have also been ever-changing. I try one thing, and then the next year or semester I tweak or completely change something. But while that policy is in place, I try to be consistent in enforcing it. Students sometimes question my policies. Sometimes I explain, sometimes I say it just is the way it is so deal with it. Despite my efforts to be consistent (justice), there are exceptions (mercy), or there are times when I help a student all that I can to meet my own policy, wishing I didn't have to enforce it for that student, but making up the difference so it works out. If a student really desires not to fail, I make it possible for them not to fail, as long as they follow make-up tasks I give them, which are often quite easy. Despite the easiness, many still do not listen to know what they can do, or they don't care, or they don't even try. Someday they might regret it. Some will do credit recovery. Some will drop out and never graduate. Some will get their GED later. There are different paths to get the same place, and some take much longer, and some are just different.

Sometime within the last couple of years, when one of my neighbors bore her testimony in Sacrament meeting, she spoke of her family hiking to delicate arch. She mentioned that her older son ended up going a different way, but he still made it there. She related it to this life, and how some of us follow the marked trail, others of us follow other trails that end up the same place. Some trails might be more difficult than others, or one that is difficult for one person is amazingly right for another person. Sometimes we think someone is lost, but they are just going a different way. I don't remember exactly what she said, and I might be adding some of my own thoughts, but you get the idea.

We recently went to Arches National Park as a family. The trail to delicate arch was harder than I remembered, but the end result was also more spectacular than I remembered from the last time I was there 20 + years ago. I thought of this friend's testimony and analogy to life. Life is hard, we all follow our own path, and the path that someone follows may be right for that person even though it is not for another.

Many people like to quote scriptures that I feel like they are directing at people like me, like "straight is the path and narrow the way that leads to eternal life." For some that may be true. The "straight and narrow path" of the "tree of life" analogy in the Book of Mormon is just another analogy--an analogy that some can relate to but others cannot. I think I might want to spend some more time thinking about Lehi's dream of the tree of life, and determining what it means for me personally, finding myself there, and understanding how the "great and spacious building" fits in. Stay tuned for that one...

A little side note of thoughts that I gleaned from my time in the temple itself:

1. I am blessed to know the difference between truth and error. I couldn't stop thinking about a line in my patriarchal blessing that says I have a talent to believe and accept truth. I realized that I inherintly know that God lives, that the basic gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and that is all that matters. Strange historical facts from the early days of the church that tear apart peoples' testimonies--I don't need to know if that is true or not. It doesn't matter. I can still know in my heart that Joseph Smith was a prophet that spoke to God.

2. I should listen to the council of my husband and the council of God. Scott has much good insight. The same email contained some advice for me regarding the children, about being more consistant in requiring them to be responsible with their chores. I can do better. I am trying to do better, and hopefully that will make the summer break and life in general easier for all of us.

3. I will be protected from the destroyer. I'm leaving out some details because these are sacred words from the temple, and I feel like it is not appropriate for me to say more. But I was impressed that I am doing what is right to keep myself safe from the clutches of Satan, that I am truly not the evil I that I wondered if I could be after reading that talk in last month's Ensign magazine.

One of the main things I did the night I received Scott's email and the following morning at the temple was pondering spiritual experiences in my past, experiences that I simply cannot deny coming from a loving Heavenly Father. Even as I write this, I feel overwhelmed by his love for all of his children, gay or straight, citizen or alien, believing member or cynical x-member. He loves all of us and focuses on the good in each of us. And eventually we will all end up where we are supposed to be. Maybe exhaultation is easier to get to than we think it is, or maybe the Celestial Kingdom is simply not the right place for everyone. I don't know. All I know is that I am at peace with where I am, with my activity in the church. And if Scott (and many others that I know that have resigned their church membership) is at peace with where he is, then maybe that is what is right for him. Maybe someday he will come back. Maybe he won't. But he is still a good man, and God knows that and can judge that when no one else can.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


My thoughts are jumbled, but there is a feeling of conflict and unrest within my heart.

I've been at peace with church attendance for about a year now.

(A little background info--I took a break for a few months early in 2010, and before that, attending church was a struggle, laced with fear and panic attacks since my year-long stint as primary president in 2006. I had intense traumatic experiences with the bishop and others in the ward even prior to Scott's coming out in 2008 and the subsequent additional trauma that ensued with our church leaders and others. Nevertheless, my testimony was strong, so I endured the discomfort and continued to attend and fulfill various callings until my "break".)

But today I really struggled with being at church. I tried to seek the spirit in prayer, specifically during the sacrament ordinance. But I felt nothing, and my mind wandered to the experience of our third pride celebration last Sunday as we walked in the parade with the Utah Gay Father's Association. The euphoria and chills I experienced as the crowds of people along the parade route cheered on the fathers (some with, some without their children) was much more powerful than the "nothing" I felt at church today, and I desperately wanted to feel something. Where is my testimony going?

The talks in Sacrament meeting were good. They were on missionary work, but focused on unconditional love and not judging others. The theme continued in Sunday School as we discussed some key parables in the new testament, and loving and serving others came up several times. I really allowed my mind to wander as the relief society lesson focused on obedience, and it seemed that not many others were really paying attention either, because there were very few comments and little discussion.

After church as I was conversing with Scott, he mentioned that there was an article in this month's Ensign magazine encouraging members to do all they can to promote family. I found the article and read it. Gay marriage was not specifically mentioned, but was strongly alluded to. I only read through the article once, and trying to put a positive spin on it, I allowed myself to think about the fact that I am all for strengthening and promoting family, and that I wanted to re-read the article and find the good in it.

Various friends on facebook, however, were discussing the flaws of the article, and I realized that they were probably right. That the article was written with the gay marriage battle in mind, and that my enjoyable participation in the pride festival last week places me as one who is calling evil good and good evil, one who is in the great and spacious building. (At least according to the article...)

Then mix with that with an article in the deseret news today about how gay-rights activists ask for tolerance, but are not tolerant of those on the other side of the issue. Then the tony awards tonight, (so many awesome moments with Neil Patrick Harris!) and the success of the "Book of Mormon" Musical. Then there are my feelings from reading part of "Goodbye, I love you" by Carol Lynn Pearson today, and my emotions and thoughts are just so jumbled and confused and troubled right now.

Where do I stand with the church? Where do I stand with gay rights? Where is my life heading with regards to these two things? Can they continue to co-exist without tearing me apart? And all of this with trying to support my family--my kids and my best friend (aka legal husband). We are doing our damn best to make family the center of our lives, in the middle of chaos called life, and then an article about family in the Ensign puts us on the "evil" side of the issue, when it is the church's teaching on family and its influence on Scott's youth that has us where we are in the first place!

If I despise gay rights, then I am not taking care of my family. Scott and I would not get along, and my children would not have the stable situation right now with both of their parents raising them together. If I despise gay rights, then I am denying what is in my heart.

But if I embrace gay rights, I am the evil one, the deceived and worldly spacious building-dweller. I am the enemy to family and society.

No wonder I feel nothing at church any more. The constant battle is taking its toll, and it has been just a bit too much for me to handle today.

I'm sure this troubled feeling is momentary. Maybe the coming week will bring moments of clarity for me, and all will again be well.

I hope.