Friday, April 30, 2010

Faithless - Part The Third

Pin It (Part One is here and Part Two is here)

I've been debating this post in my mind over the last couple of weeks, torn between two options.

1)  Tying it all up in a pretty package, saying "Whew - what a journey - thank goodness THAT's over," and making it vague enough to ensure that my friends and relatives will stop worrying about the eternal state of my soul

2) Sticking with the messier truth

(Insert aggrieved dramatic sigh here.)

This is the first time I've talked about religion on my blog, and it will probably be the last.  I'm about five zillion miles outside of my comfort zone. It isn't funny, and it makes me nervous to write things that aren't at least 40% ridiculous.

It makes me uncomfortable not to be able to stand up here and say something definitive to you.  But I wanted to say it, so that when you read my blog, and you know I'm a Mormon, you don't think I'm representing mormon mommy bloggers.  Let that be Heather or Nat or Kalli.  But not me.

Never me.

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So there I was.  I was trying to make sense of it all.  My brain was telling me one thing, my heart another.  I clung to my One True Miracle.

What about the blessing? I asked an athiest friend.

The body is a mysterious thing.  We're just starting to learn about the power of the brain to heal the body.

What about the blessing? I asked a Christian friend.

Just because Mormonism isn't true doesn't mean God won't still answer your prayers, she said.

What about the blessing? My husband would ask me.

I don't know, I would say.

What about the blessing, I would ask myself, and ask myself, and ask myself.  Sometimes I asked God, but He still didn't answer me. 

After a while I stopped asking.

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To me, it felt like a tornado had come through my spiritual town.  All of my landmarks, everything I used to get my bearings - all of it was gone and I felt lost.

It was weird not to be able to definitively say, Yes, I believe it, or No, I don't.

For a long time, I struggled.

For years.

YEARS.

Years that I spent going to church but carefully avoiding bearing my testimony.

Years when I bit my tongue whenever the subject of religion came up, because I had no idea what to say.

Years where I waffled and qwaffled and flipped and flopped.

(I feel I should tell you - if I mentioned it here?  It isn't something that I really had an issue with.  Those were all examples of things that niggled at me when I DID have a measure of faith - those weren't the issues that actually destroyed it.)

(And there is a difference, I think, between that normal leap of faith we all take, where we have questions and doubts about dinosaurs and gender politics and statistical probabilities, and the leap that I felt was in front of me.  Once upon a time, I had questions and doubts, but I was looking at them from a place of faith, and the gap felt very small and inconsequential.  But now I was standing on the other side, coming from a place where there was so little left that I believed, so little left that I felt was true, that I felt the chasm between me and faith was far too wide to jump over without some kind of divine intervention. And absent that divine intervention...) 

In some ways the silent treatment was very good for me.

No longer sure that God would swoop down and sort out all of the injustice in the world, I felt a lot more responsibility to do what I could.

No longer sure that I knew what was Right and what was Wrong, I was a lot less judgmental. It softened me in a lot of ways.  I didn't have much to feel self-righteous about.

Not knowing what I believed, I hedged my bets.  Kept going to church, kept teaching my children.  We concentrated on the basics - be good, be honest, be loving. I tried to keep things The Same, tried not to rock the boat of our family's faith, even though I felt adrift.

I struggled and struggled and struggled.

And then one day, I woke up, and I didn't anymore.

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I already talked to you, that one time. 

That was the impression that wouldn't leave my mind one morning.

It wasn't a gentle, warm feeling this time.  It was more like a shove.  Like, COME ON, Sue.  I don't have time for this.

And the impression I had wasn't necessarily It's True, It's True, It's All True, Every Bit, but more this is where I want you to be right now.  

I stood at the kitchen sink thinking, well FINALLY.  THANK YOU.  

(Actually, that isn't true. At first I ignored it, because it wasn't a strong impression, more like one of those things where you get a feeling, and you wonder, "OK, is this just the voices in my head talking to me again, or is this actually, you know, COMMUNICATION?"  But after a while, when the thought wouldn't leave me alone, then I said THANK YOU.)

(Although - I don't even know - is it appropriate to be grateful with God but irritated at the same time?  Like - thanks - but good grief, it took You long enough.) 

I told my husband that night, "I think we should start having Family Home Evening. And family prayer. We should try that. I'm thinking we should get our act together."

He gave me the curious eyeballs, but didn't ask many questions, probably because some of our talks on religion don't really go All That Well, if you want to know the truth.

He didn't know what to make of my apparent change of heart.

Neither did I, frankly.

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It wasn't as though I had some big spiritual epiphany.  I didn't get neat answers to all of my questions.  I still have questions. I still have doubt.  I still hate reading my scriptures.  I still skip church a little bit too much.  I'm incredibly skeptical about a lot of things.

I am, I will admit, a cafeteria mormon.  I grab my tray and take portions of the stuff I can get on board with, like service and Jesus and loving one another, but I steer away from things like Prop 8 and the Book of Abraham and temple work.

I know a lot of people will disapprove of this.  They will tell me to get off the fence.  But I think the Lord gets it.  I think He knows I'm a work in progress, doing what I can.

My ex-mormon friends will say I've talked myself into it.  Maybe I have, I don't know.

But I feel at peace with it. I feel that I can believe some things, even if I can't believe all things.  When I pray now, I feel something.  Not anything big, but something.

Enough.  For now, it's enough.

Because what I feel? In my heart?

Is that this is where I'm supposed to be.

And hallelujah for that.

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UPDATE:  I feel compelled to update this.  After a few years I couldn't maintain the mental gymnastics required to stay active and believing and I more or less left the church, although some of my family still attends.  I was mostly kidding myself in the last installment of this post.  I didn't believe it, but I WANTED to believe it, because it made my life so much easier to believe it.  I also didn't want to hurt my mom, but I'd written myself into a corner where I had to tie it up somehow, and this was the way I wrote myself out.  

I know I'm supposed to be "fallen" now, but I'm good.  I'm happier.  I'm less anxious.  I'm no longer conflicted and I no longer second guess every decision I make.  I've been mormon for so long that I basically still live my life as a mormon, just - without the guilt and angst.  I feel much more of a responsibility to do good things in the world, since I don't feel like God is going to swoop down and make everything right.  My family is happy and healthy, and we're doing great.  I know what kinds of things I want my children to learn and know, and I strive to teach them those things.  I still love and appreciate the millions of mormons in my life, and respect you all to bits, even if we no longer believe all of the same things.

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77 comments:

  1. Love this. Thanks for sharing it, even it if made you uncomfortable.

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  2. Thank you.

    You've given me a lot of insight into my brother. And into myself, if the truth be told. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself.

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  3. I see myself in a lot of what you've said. I've had very powerful spiritual experiences, but others not so much. Like after reading the BoM I asked if it was true. The only answer I got was "You already know it is." Like a "Stop pestering me for a different or better answer and accept the one I've given you" kinda answer. Kind of a let-down, but I did get my answer at least.

    As for picking and choosing, I don't think you're alone there. I don't think people necessarily intentionally pick and choose, rather they have an easier time having faith in some things than others.

    Prop 8 is hard for me, too. On the one hand you have God telling us to love our fellow neighbors, not to judge others, allow others their freedoms, etc. And on the other hand you have God telling us to take away these people's happiness in the name of a greater good. We are to hurt people who never hurt us to protect the name of something that might not end up being protected in the end anyway. Is it just a test? Why the contradicting commands? Are we just supposed to do what we're told, even if it's all for naught, and even if it seems like the un-Christlike uncharitable thing to do? All very confusing. I don't think that's picking and choosing, that's just thinking before acting. I see nothing wrong in exercising your brain before making a decision.

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  4. Sorry to be useless on the service front, but I'm a little lost in my private morass just now. I'm with you. But I'm doing nothing - literally nothing - for the moment. Trying to re-orient.

    I love where you are. One time, when I was in college, I was going through this passionate (isn't everything when you're that age) interpersonal trauma, worse because my parents were going to show up the next day and nothing was working out right. I went to bed that Saturday night and it was like sleeping on rocky ground - no where to lie - no sleep to be had, only hot, tossing distress. And every time I tossed, I prayed about it.

    Unti finally, it's like a really did hear a voice in my head. The only time I ever have in all my decades on the planet. And it said, "How dare you disturb my Sabbath?" It was like the mother (Father) cat turning around finally and saying, "What? YOu think I didn't hear you the first time?" And all the worry turned off, and I went to sleep. Maybe, now I think about it, simply because for that moment, I knew somebody had heard me. Funny. Even a slap is better than silence.

    I'm in pretty much the same place you are in some ways. But I trust this place. It isn't absolute. It doesn't dictate to God his own mind. It allows for doubt and fear and hope, all at the same time.

    I think - and this is just me - that there are going to be a lot of folks who are absolutely sure they have everything understood who are going to be a little shaken up when they pass through the veil. I think the spirit can help us with anything - whatever is appropriate for the moment - but I think that over-all, we're here to learn problem solving, selflessness and a great big dose of obedience (but only to the truth).

    I think we are going to be surprised about a lot of things. As I have said, I see the church as the earthly housing of the priesthood - it administers those ordinances, and it is an institution that allows us to serve each other and discuss and discover- saving one another temporally the whole time, as you are doing with your service. The body to the spiritual core and life.

    There are so many, many things that are not covered by church policy - that, if you look them up on LDS.org, conclude - this is between you and your Heavenly Father. Things people are too quick to define and set in cement as though God had dictated a hard line rule. When we do that, we slam the door on the spirit, because we think we already know.

    I think that the place you are can actually be called humility. Ha. Surprised you with that one, huh? And I know the little explosions of pride you are thinking of. But really? Yeah. That's what I think.

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  5. I really loved Abby's comment.

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  6. I have really liked this series. Likely because I went through a huge faithless, questioning time myself. I know it makes you uncomfortable, but this whole sharing the things you DO know? It's powerful. I totally felt the spirit, especially when you told how God shoved you. Thanks for venturing out of your comfort zone.

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  7. ..sigh. That was contentment. It's a beautiful thing to hold on to what you DO know and put the rest up on a shelf to be looked at later. So many people just can't.

    One of my favorite things that I've learned recently about God? That he's big enough to take it when I'm mad at him. He won't shy away, or change the subject, or pass the buck. He'll listen and still love me and help me figure out what to do with my anger.

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  8. Well not me entirely either, when I write about faith or my feelings on living my life and being LDS a lot of the time I feel like a fraud, because the truth is I struggle daily with it. There are times I want to throw in the towel. Being Mormon is hard. Faith is hard. Knowing or not knowing and everything that goes on between is even more difficult. But then so is life is it not?

    I'm not introspective enough to delve deeply into it I think. Some days being Mormon is awesome. Some days it's not. That's about it for me.

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  9. if you have found peace with it, that is all that matters. God works in ways of peace, not termoil. So all those nay-sayers on BOTH sides of the fence can just stop. If you found peace then you are right where you need to be!

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  10. I get this in a very big way. Thank you for the posts!

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  11. Tamara1:31 PM

    I'm so happy there was no pretty packaging. I was looking forward to and dreading the final post in this series all at the same time. It's so hard to be in a church where the stories go like this: "I had a problem, I prayed, I got a fairy tale ending, the end." We need to hear more of this, more often, in our meetings and in our interactions with eachother. It takes courage to share such things, but by doing so, you may very well be lighting the path for another individual who feels like a fraud, or doesn't quite know what to think most of the time. So, all in all, a very long way to say Thank You!

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  12. Anonymous1:44 PM

    This has been such an interesting series for me. I feel like I could have written the whole thing, except God still isn't talking to me. I have quit praying, I rarely go to church, but I still feel like I'm a really good person who is kind and generous.
    Part of my lack of faith has to do with high school and seminary. I LOVED seminary, it was the time in my life when I was most in tune with spiritual things. I never felt like God responded to me though. Everyone said that it was because I was doing something wrong in my life. Excuse me, but what in the H--- can a 15 year old chaste, shy, non-drinking, non-swearing girl be doing that God won't talk to her?
    I have a patriarchal blessing too, and yeah, sometimes I think about it and use the bits I can remember. It says I will live to a ripe old age and that comforts me when I have to travel on a plane or something like that. But, I'm not sure how I can have faith in that one little thing and pretty much nothing else.
    I'm glad you found your resolution. I don't know if I ever will, or if I will ever be on speaking terms with God again.

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  13. This is such a brave, brave series, Sue. I really relate to spiritual questioning, to not knowing if I really believed what I said I believed - and I went through a very long period as a very vocal athiest before I finally made my way back to faith. I'm not brave enough to write about it, but I'm so glad you are.

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  14. So glad to have finally read your blog. These posts (Parts 1-3) were honest and well-written. Made me think a lot about myself. You helped me out a great deal. So don't let anybody give you any crap over this. Thank you.

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  15. This has been an interesting journey you've shared, especially because it is so different from my own experiences. For me, one of the things I've loved about the gospel is how beautifully the pieces fit together. Each new thing I learn is an "aha" moment. I can see why it is necessary, and I can see how it helps me and my family personally.

    I'm not saying that I could never be shaken if presented the right information. I know that there could be a subtle blend of truth and lies that would give me pause. My miracle happened when I was only six, and I've had little miracles sprinkled throughout my life since. I think it would take an awful lot to break apart the life of peace, trust, and love that I have built around the gospel.

    I like how you said that in some ways the silent treatment was good for you. In my life, I've had both the silent treatment and great outpourings of information. Both were just right and just what I needed at the time. I think it shows how much God respects you to let you find your way. I'm sure, in the long run, it will be much more meaningful to you than if He had simply spoon fed you the answer the first time you asked.

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  16. Thank you for sharing so honestly -- I believe that it doesn't do any good to anyone to pretend that all Mormons have picture-perfect faith and know all the answers to all the questions. We're all just people, somewhere on the continuum, doing our best to do our best. Keep it up! (And by "it," I guess I mean life in general, and your blog...)

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  17. Love you, Sue. Truly.

    I don't think there are many people on this earth who are firmly on one side of the fence. We tend to make small choices day to day, instead of the one big one that would make all the small ones a moot point, if that makes sense. I think most of us are up there with you, but we like to pretend we're not. We like to pretend that because we believe a lot of it, and act on some of it, that we're doing okay. We're doing enough.

    Deep down, I think we know better than that. I think YOU know better than that, and you're just honest enough to admit. Faith is complicated stuff. I can't pretend to have it even half figured out. Sometimes I amaze myself, sometimes I feel ashamed. Faith is a rollercoaster for me. Sometimes I think Heaven is going to be finally getting off this crazy ride, walking jiggly-leggedly across the clouds, and collapsing in a relieved heap saying, "I'm so glad THAT'S over."

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  18. Thanks for sharing this so well. It has helped me feel better about being in my own sort of bubble-of-hesitation. I feel like I'm going along, operating under the assumption that it's all true, but I don't really feel anything at all lately.

    But, of course, I've also had moments where I knew, just knew, that this was where I was supposed to be as well, and if I have to keep up appearances for a while for the sake of my children until I figure enough stuff out, I'm okay with that now - even if God won't give me a refresher course in feeling inspired. I guess it's just hard to be happy with adequate answers sometimes.

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  19. Thanks so much for sharing this. This is how I feel most of the time. It's the reason why I don't want to go to Relief Society and feel bad that my experiences are quiet and not worth sharing in a BIG way. Thanks again, it's a miracle to me that others feel this way also.

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  20. Thank you. And I love you. You know that, right? xo

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  21. I don't think any religion has to be 100 percent "correct" to serve its purpose - bringing us closer to God and to loving our neighbor. Whatever works, works. I've reached the same sort of detente with Him, myself - I'll never really belong to any one religious group. I'm a mutt, and I adore each one for what's good in it and I leave the bad. I believe in God, and I think that for Him, that is enough. He will guide me to where he wants me, I trust.

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  22. I'm a bit more like Shelli. Faith is an easy concept for me. I don't need to understand everything and along with that, I can be obedient without asking questions. My husband is the opposite. I don't believe one is right and one is wrong. Rather, I strongly believe that we are where we are because of what the Lord needs us to be at that time. We do have to work for faith and experiences and communication but even then sometimes, as you learned, it doesn't come right away. I think as women, our biggest downfall is comparing ourselves with everyone around us instead of seeing where and who we are and why that's ok with God for now. Thank you for sharing your story! What a great lesson for us all.

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  23. You know, I will argue to the day I die that God is sneaky in the way He makes you work for stuff. They say Faith Precedes the Miracle, and I say Works Precede the Faith. And that's why it's hard. I guess that's the point? I guess that's why so many people aren't religious, is because it is so easy to convince yourself that you only believe because you are trying so hard to believe? Anyway, I really loved this whole series, and our stories are very similar, and I agree with you and support your assertion. God knows us so well, He knows where we're headed and why certain things are difficult and I am pretty sure He is okay with all of it. Obviously He made us the way we are for a reason. Also, I love you!

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  24. Whoa - Knowing that this is exactly where I am supposed to be is what I fall back on whenever those pesky questions and concerns raise their voices in my head. I don't know how much of what we are taught is true and how much is only what we are able to deal with now and how much is creative writing, but I do know there is a God and that he wants me to be a Mormon so that is what I am. End of story.

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  25. I wish I had time to read all of the comments but I'll have to come back to that tomorrow - or Sunday - or maybe Monday when everyone leaves for school. But I want to say Thank You for being so honest. We do EVERYONE a disservice when we teach or imply that to be a "good" Mormon you have to be 100% on board all the time. Our faith has room for doubt and debate and introspection and haggling with the Lord over the things we don't understand. I'm still debating with Him on a lot of issues and I expect that I'll need to continue to have those discussions well into eternity.

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  26. I love you Sue. Amen.

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  27. You know what? I *heart* your honesty, your transparency, and your real-ness. I do.
    xoxoxo

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  28. Well said. Honest. Real. I guess when it comes down to it, the church doesn't really ask us to do anything bad (except maybe visiting teaching..haha). It teaches good principles for living. That alone is enough for me. Sometimes "truth" isn't even a factor. Sometimes it's good to just follow good principles for living.
    Thanks for your candidness, honesty, and for being brave enough to make a post you know will ruffle feathers.

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  29. SO thankful to you for sharing your story, and that you didn't try to tie it all up like a pretty package. I can relate to a lot of what you said. Thanks.

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  30. That was a good post.
    You actually Put Into Words, things that you were feeling, yet not sure how to identify and afraid to put it out there. (does that make sense)
    I BELIEVE. and yet struggle
    every single day.
    I am LDS with lots of questions.
    I try not to worry about what I DON'T KNOW.

    people sometimes try to judge me and I want to slap them and say
    YOU------------YOU do not know my relationship with my Father in Heaven and don't you dare think you do.

    it's hard sometimes

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  31. Anonymous9:40 PM

    As a non-Mormon with many Mormon friends (my graduate school was a popular place for Mormons) I find that what I have always liked about your blog was that you DID NOT talk about religion, because I personally think faith is very private, and I don't try to tell people my beliefs are right, so I don't like hearing others preach about their faith, either. (Key word their is preach, I think discussions are awesome and enlightening). HOWEVER, if anyone can talk about religion without making it seem judgmental or preachy, I should have known you could. I think a lot of people struggle with their beliefs and I find that your honesty and integrity in talking about your own feelings without making me feel like I am an outsider was so moving that reading about religion was unexpectedly refreshing.

    I am struggling with my own faith, not in religion so much, as faith in my life, in my marriage. Reading about a journey that ends in finding peace gives me hope.

    Thank you.

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  32. Thank you for sharing that story. It must have been hard for you.
    You put the words so beautifully.

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  33. Delurking to thank you for posting this series. I'm on the other side of this issue, as in, my husband is the one struggling to figure out who he is and what he believes. Do you have any advice for how I can be more supportive of him? Thank you for sharing your story.

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  34. Beautiful. I hope you'll continue to speak candidly about this journey.

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  35. Thank you for writing this series. I have been eagerly anticipating the end to see what sort of conclusion you would share. I have been struggling with much of the same issues of faith for nearly 12 years. I have been going through the motions for so long that I am just ready to stop. I appreciated hearing that you still struggle with some tenets of the church. I too pick and choose what works for me and that helps slightly. I am not sure that I will ever be 100% to the Mormon religion ever again but I do take comfort from your series as well as some of the comments, that I am not alone. Thank you again for sharing.

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  36. Sue- So glad to get to hear your ending, or might I say beginning. I am so impressed by your honesty. It is so refreshing. I love that you are so real, it makes me feel more normal to have someone similar to me to relate to. I remember a few years ago you got up and bore your testimony, you talked about how you were struggling and trying to get back on track. I remember thinking, I want to be her friend, she seems so much more normal than others around me. Anyways, if you ever need a person to relate to and drink diet coke with, I am just a few houses away. P.S. I promise I will teach Meagan all the good parts of the gospel, but I confess when we talked creation I didn't say dinosaurs just happened to be dumped here, we talked a little bit of evolution. But mostly we played games and ate candy and I reminded them that Jesus is awesome and they should all try to be more like him. Your friend - Marcee

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  37. Thanks Sue, for having the courage to be so honest.

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  38. I love you, Sue. There have been times in my life when I have felt I was crossing a dark chasm on a single thread, but when I've clung to the thread and continued to inch forward, I've felt more security and peace. I think for most of us, answers come gradually; and the struggle to connect earth to Heaven is a lifetime pursuit. I agree with those who have said that we need more honest, open discussion among members about feelings of uncertainty and questioning. There are too many silent voices in Relief Society, where love, compassion, and understanding should be paramount.

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  39. So I have a brother and sister-in-law who no longer go to church and say they don't believe it anymore (I don't believe them). I guess maybe I'm being judgmental, but your post gave me a lot more insight into their states of minds. Not that you can talk for them, but what you say here makes sense, so I can see how somebody who once believed it all (something I know they did 100%) could, well, forget. Again I'm not putting words in your or their mouths, it's just my perception, after reading your post, that it's possible to be a Mormon but not the Mormon that I think they should be (through my hypocritical, judgmental mind).

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  40. Thanks for your honesty.

    You know, I write and blog but don't discuss my faith much. But, like you, I've had my questions and ups and downs. Even being a returned missionary myself, raised in the church, BYU grad, temple marriage, Primary Pres, etc etc.

    I'm learning to have more faith and to keep on loving and giving. I'm one of those eternal students of spirituality and life. And it's OK.

    Love you.
    --Terresa

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  41. Thanks. Not to sound like everyone else, but you pretty much summed up me.

    Definitely a fan of the cafeteria mormonism, I duck my head and bite my tongue a lot.

    But I also have my one big thing that I fall back on when all the doubts creep in. And for me it works.

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  42. "This is where I'm supposed to be. And hallelujah for that."

    Amen.

    If I could I'd love to resolve for you anything I don't still struggle with, but I don't suppose we can hand things to people on a platter. And I think being where the Spirit tells us to be gets us where we're supposed to go, and things that seem small (exercising a particle of faith) can lead to great things.

    I'll admit to being uncomfortable with pick-and-choose religion when it's expressed as "This part of my Church's teachings is true, but this part is absolutely WRONG." In our whole-enchilada belief system, that approach just doesn't make sense to me. But what I don't have a problem with at all (and what I think *you're* saying) is "I have a personal testimony of this part of my Church's teachings, but I still struggle with this other part." Which would, I think, accurately represent almost any of us.

    Where picking and choosing can become absurd is in an instance such as a comment I once heard from a man in Sunday School who liked the Book of Mormon but not the Old Testament, so he said, "I'm glad Nephi is my prophet and not Isaiah." Uh, okay . . . and which prophet does Nephi quote more than anyone else? I'll admit to being a little impatient with that variety of selective faith. I'd have had less of a problem with it if he'd expressed himself differently, and said he liked Nephi better than Isaiah and that Nephi's easier for him to understand and resonates with him better. That's probably even what he meant, but what he said did come out sounding like a wholesale rejection of Isaiah. (Well, and even if he'd worded it better, I'd still have found it a little amusing, since Nephi loved Isaiah so much.)

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  43. I was inactive for about ten years and came back about 3 years ago. I still consider myself a "Mormon of my own understanding" I can bear testimony of what I know is true but am grateful I haven't been called to primary or young womens because I can't really give Sunday school answers. I am very open about my political leanings which are far to the left, I run the stake 12 step group alittle more like an AA meeting than most, I take what applies and leave the rest. See, it didn't work for me to not be Mormon. Things were missing. I have found balance that many probably wouldn't be comfortable with, but god and I, we are good. It probably helps that I am a convert and have no cultural baggage, but I am happy, my family is happy and my ward is cool with me. I think I crack them up. Sometimes the testimony I have is that God won't actually ask me to do or believe anything unless he gives me assurance that it is true. My husband and I attend the temple but we probably don't take from it what other Mormons do. Keep it going and keep sharing, it is lovely to have others to relate to.

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  44. I love this and relate to every little bit of it. I hope this won't be your last foray into exploring your faith in the blogosphere. Clearly, there are a few of us getting a whole lot out of it, and feeling a little less crazy in our own journey.

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  45. yea, what Kristen said.

    and also. what you may be talking about here is surrender. Just simply surrendering to the now, to the way you are and the way you think while still holding tightly to the faith you do have because you can't shake something that's in your heart. If that run-on maybe any sense at all. It did in my head.

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  46. Good one. Thanks for sharing

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  47. faith, though there are some that think differently, has always been a very personal thing. it's between you and your Heavenly Father, and that's it.
    Funny you'd mention the kitchen sink. I swear, for years, that's where I did my best praying and pondering. The noise of the water, the fact that nobody wants to have to help with the dishes, so you're alone. Something about that just worked for me.
    Not everyone wants to put their faith out there for all to see. Nothing wrong with that. It's YOUR faith - do with it what you feel is right.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  48. Belief does not come as easily to some people as it does to others (and most of them blog about it). Remember that quote, "Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief." I think about that sometimes.

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  49. Speaking as a non-Mormon, I think this kind of searching happens more often, among more individuals of all faiths than the church organizations would like us to think. Heaven knows I've been there myself, and like you, got an answer that was not bright lights and sparkles, but much, much quieter.

    In an interview once, Mother Teresa said that she heard from God when it was time to start her mission (in her late teens or early 20s, I don't remember exactly). And then she never heard from God again. She went her whole life on the faith of that one encounter.

    And I couldn't help thinking, "Man, I'm glad I'm not Mother Teresa. I am NOT that strong." ;)

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  50. You know, I think a lot of Mormons and Christians in general automatically classify things as Good and Bad. Faith, good. Doubt, bad. FHE, good. Caffeine, bad. But I just don't think it works that way.

    I think we're all on a journey here, and our experiences and choices are just that: experiences and choices. I'd rather see someone fight to find the truth and screw up along the way, than go through the motions but never really know God.

    And I think you're good.

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  51. Faith is so much a choice, in my mind. If we were all so certain and had so many strong, frequent experiences to reassure us, then it wouldn't really be faith.

    I try to remember that as well as the fact that we all have different spiritual gifts. Some "know," some believe on others' words, some learn quickly, etc. And when we want a particular spiritual gift, we can ask for it.

    And, as a side note, I really feel that "the Church" is a hospital for sinners and that we all belong and are there to help each other, physically and spiritually. None of us in not in need of some sort of help. That comforts me a great deal.

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  52. Thank you for writing this Sue.

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  53. I'm supposed to represent Mormon Mommy blogs? Crap.

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  54. I love what your mom wrote, too!

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  55. Hi Anonymous.

    You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. If you had even the slightest idea of the issues I had regarding temple work, the book of abraham, etc., were you wouldn't dismiss them so easily. But clearly you have NO IDEA. You are me, six years ago. Although I could spell, so there's that.

    Here is a link that may help you to become a little more understanding and empathetic. Or not.

    http://shenpawarrior.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/joseph-smith-and-losing-faith-over-history/

    I think Jesus will probably be able to deal with my doubt, when I am trying to do what is right. I doubt he will be as accepting about your hateful attitude. Jesus never talked about the Book of Abraham but he had plenty to say about loving your neighbor.

    Since you weren't brave enough to use an actual name, your comment goes in the circular file.

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  56. Hallelujah for that.

    My nearly-grown daughter bore her testimony to me today. "I'm pretty sure the sun will rise tomorrow." I look forward to her being thankful and irritated at God at the same time.

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  57. Thanks for part 3 - neither the end, nor the beginning?

    I came up with an analogy years ago when someone was complaining about how hard it is to be a Mormon. I thought about going swimming in the ocean. I love swimming in the ocean, but I hate wading in the ocean. When you are wading, you stand knee deep or thigh deep and the waves come up and splash against you. The cold water splashes in your face or on your back, when you try to protect your face, and it is shockingly cold and miserable to stand there and get splashed by waves. But if you just run through the waves and jump in and swim - it is marvelous. Refreshing and swirling and wheeeeeee!

    Some people live just enough of the gospel to be miserable. They get some of the benefit, but not all of it. And truth be told - being a Mormon is hard. But if you live it all the way, you get all of the benefit, and the benefits make it easy.

    I'm not saying you, or anyone else in particular, are living it part way. I'm not qualified to make that judgement. I have had times where I was swimming in the refreshing, swirling, joy of the gospel, and I've had times I've been standing in it up to my waist - and there is a definite difference. So as much as I can, I choose to keep swimming. I'm not interested in being miserable.

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  58. If you are finished with the faith writing, then PLEASE visit my blog and chime in since no one reading my posts...*sigh*. framechangers.com.

    I really have tried to jump in your shoes during your faith posts and I don't know how you did it emotionally. It seems like you have family reading it and that would make me want to write in shorthand! I really wish you had a secret identity blog to continue the discussions! It seems like there are a lot of women who empathize and share in your doubts/journey. I loved your linked article to "anon's" comment. That was very interesting!

    I will be praying for you Sue.

    All for Him!

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  59. I could relate to EVERYthing you said. I think that sometimes our mormom-culture habit of bluffing perfect assurance all the time cripples us. If we have no doubts, where is the room for faith?

    We all question sometime (or all the time) and if we don't ecognize it, there is no way for our children, friends, or other questioning members to have the opportunity they need to ask those important questions. To act like we never doubt makes the doubter an outcast. And we should never make our members into outcasts when all they are seeking is knowledge and comfort.

    I think it is also off-putting to non-members (if you will excuse the phrase). The world IS imperfect. Some problems are just too big for anyone to have all of the answers for. To ignore that makes us look like idiots to the rest of the world. Or more importantly, unapproachable.

    You said it brilliantly: "No longer sure that God would swoop down and sort out all of the injustice in the world, I felt a lot more responsibility to do what I could.

    No longer sure that I knew what was Right and what was Wrong, I was a lot less judgmental. It softened me in a lot of ways. I didn't have much to feel self-righteous about."

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  60. thank you for this. while I am not Mormon I have gone through a period where I doubted my own faith. I kept going through the paces and worried that there might be something wrong with me - it is a comfort to hear that others struggle with their faith and find their way back again. I have since found my own path again. Good luck to you as you continue your journey.

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  61. If you haven't read it already, I cannot recommend "Dark Night of the Soul" by St. John of the Cross (16th century Spanish monk). He speaks just to these experiences, where we know God in our head, but feel far from knowing Him in the most intimate sense. In short, it's ok. It is in these times that God is in fact nearest to us.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Authenticity such as this should be praised.

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  62. I'm not Mormon, but totally get this. Thanks for sharing!

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  63. Thank you for sharing this. I think all of us feel this way at times but don't feel like it's something we can discuss without being criticized. I to choose to believe even though there are things that don't add up for me. Bottom line is it's worth believing in.

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  64. Hmmm. So life's got you by the throat, too, huh?

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  65. You continued to keep going even when you thought you didn't have faith. You continued to pray, go to church and teach your children the gospel even when you thought God stopped answering your prayers. As I read your posts I was amazed at how much trust you put in the Lord, in the gospel and in what you once felt. Someone without faith would have walked away. You didn't. You kept going until you recieved the answer you needed. To me, it didn't sound like you had no faith. It sounded like you had a ton of it. :-)

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  66. I think we all go through times like this no matter where we are with our testimony. I know I have.

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  67. I ended up here in the most random way, but I am so happy I did.
    I can't begin to tell you how happy I feel to know I'm not the only mormon woman who isn't sure about everything.
    I told my friend the other day, "What if it's all true?" and I couldn't help but think that sounded backwards.
    When I'm in church listening to the other women in RS talk and bear testimony I feel like such a fraud.
    Anyway, thanks for being brave enough to share.
    I read somewhere that the things we feel the deepest are the most universal. So, I'm happy to know that I'm not alone.
    :)

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  68. just wanted to let you know i'm thinking of you, even though we don't know each other.

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  69. I actually wanted to comment on your most recent post and, since you didn't cover any of my thoughts in your convenient list, I thought I would do so here. Thank you so much for posting all your angst. My blog is almost entirely angst these days. I was thinking the other day of you and Amy Lawson and how you both post such upbeat things regardless of the crap in your life and wishing, so much so, that I could be more like you. So, thank you for helping me feel less like a failure and more like a human. I feel the same way about your faithless posts; I have had my own crisis of faith and it is reassuring to know I'm not the only one who walks around with doubts and uncertainties.

    I hope that this is taken positively, because it's meant to be.

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  70. Anonymous12:57 PM

    I found your blog through this series of posts on your particular experiences with faith. A friend on Facebook posted a link to it with a comment that said she could completely identify. And so can I.

    I recently saw an episode of "Lost" (from Season 2, yeah... I'm a few years behind the cultural curve, but I'm catching up) where there is a juxtaposition of two characters (man of science vs. man of faith). At one point, the two are arguing about whether or not they should continue to push a button, because they've been told that if they don't push it at a specified interval, the world will end. The man of science character doesn't want to do it because it's so implausible; the man of faith wants to, because he believes. At one point, the man of science character frustratedly asks the man of faith character why it is so easy for him to believe. The man of faith frustratedly shouts back that it isn't easy. It has never been easy. I can identify with that too.

    Do I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is true? Absolutely. Do I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church? Yes. Do I ever wonder if I'm wrong or if maybe I've just talked myself into it? Every day.

    It isn't easy to believe. It has never been easy. I always have to raise my eyebrows at people who claim to have never struggled with their faith. The struggle is very much a part of the believing.

    Thank you for being honest and candid about your struggle. I wish you all the best in your struggle as I hope for all the best in my own.

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  71. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. A Cafeteria Mormon - what a descriptive phrase...knowing that I'm one, doesn't make me proud, but I'm working on this, one day at a time.

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  72. I really loved that series :) And The two posts you won't leave open to comments above, because I wouldn't leave any of those comments. Just, I've so been there.

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  73. I just found your blog through a friend today.

    This is EXACTLY like my experience. So close, it is scary. I've never really heard anyone describe it so closely. I always feel like I'm in the middle, too proud and confused for the believers, too meek and gullible for the Ex's. And now I'm just where I am, nevermind everyone else. I don't know where it is, but I'm okay with it. That's about all I can say. I don't know if I'll ever get anything more definite than that in this life. But that's my journey and I'm okay with it.

    Only you are braver than I am, because I could never put it on my blog, because I worry about what my family would think. Some of them. Enough of them that I won't say it out loud, except to my husband.

    But you put it on your blog, so people will read it (a hell of a lot more than read *my* blog, anyway!) and so your word is out, and my word, and other people will know that they only *feel* alone. They aren't really alone.

    I hope you read all these comments, and get to mine way down at the bottom, because I will literally sleep better tonight knowing that you felt this, and feel it, and wrote it. Thank you.

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  74. Thanks. Just.... Thanks... So I am not alone. I still have not had my "moment"... But Oh. My. Gosh. Reading that made me feel so much better.

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  75. Well said. Beautiful really. It's great to read good and honest writing.

    If you don't mind, I'd like to share my own story, the short version--

    My faith comes down to this: Love.
    And also: In the end, Jesus wins.

    (The longer version involves all sorts of concerns about a pattern of power and corruption of truth and doctrine that seems to recur throughout recorded religious history within every group of God's Chosen People. And why would the current group be any different. [Here's to honest writing.])

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