Pin It There is this story in the Book of Mormon.
Lehi announces that he's had a vision that Jerusalem is going to be destroyed. He tells his family, including his sons Laman and Lemuel, that they need to gather a few items and leave their home, to set off into the wilderness immediately.
Laman and Lemuel are the villains of the story. They follow their father, but they're skeptical. They start off in the story merely questioning and grumbling, and eventually, over time, become more and more rebellious.
I always sort of related to Laman and Lemuel.
If my father had announced he'd had a vision, that we were leaving our home and going to live in the desert, I would've thought he was nuts too. I understood their reluctance to do all of those hard things based only on faith.
And it's not as though they didn't GO into the wilderness. They did. They went. They were, at first, outwardly righteous. They started off doing what they were supposed to be doing. But it all went to hell later on, because they just didn't have enough faith.
I was always a fairly skeptical child. I believed because I'd been brought up to believe, because it was just what we did - we believed. I had a strong desire to be good, or at least to be THOUGHT OF as good.
But now and then I would turn to my mom and say How can we think WE'RE right when there are all of those people in China who are just as convinced THEY'RE right? How can we know for sure? There's a whole lot more of them than us.
It didn't make sense to me, why God would allow so many people not to know our truth - missionaries or no missionaries. It didn't make sense to me, statistically, that we would be the ones who were right. Those people probably had testimonies of their truth too. How could we be sure?
As a kid, sometimes I felt like the stories I heard - from the bible, from the book of mormon, from church history - they seemed almost too fantastic. Somebody walked on water? Somebody survived in the belly of a whale? Somebody found golden plates? Somebody rose from the dead? An ark? Really? If I'd told stories like that, I would've been soundly spanked and sent to bed with no dinner.
Oh, I believed God was there and could see all of the naughty things I was doing, that He was writing them down and OH BOY WAS I GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE.
THAT, I believed.
But sometimes the details gave me pause. Having a testimony required a suspension of disbelief that was sometimes difficult for me. The whole cognitive dissonance thing.
Before I got married I was on my way home from a ski trip with The Boy Who Shall Not Be Named and I was pontificating about dinosaurs, and wondering out loud about how on earth could anyone possibly deny the reality of evolution, and he bit my head off, told me to stop focusing on such trivial crap and look at the big picture. I was wounded, but managed to snap back, I SEE THE BIG PICTURE, but it doesn't make the little pictures invisible you big freak. I just meant that someday I'll have a lot of questions for God. GOSH. You're such a JERK.
That was pretty much how I felt, minus the insulting comments.
I had doubts, but I had enough faith to get past them.
When we lived in Las Vegas, shortly after I started having issues, I was called to be a Relief Society teacher. (Relief Society is the women's organization.) I will be totally non-humble for a second and tell you that I was a GREAT Relief Society teacher. I could make people laugh, make them cry, get a good discussion going.
Every time I gave a lesson crowds of people would come up to me afterward, thank me for the lesson, tell me how strongly they felt the spirit. That they could feel my testimony.
I would go home even more confused because - how could that be? If a whole room full of women couldn't distinguish between the spirit and a charismatic speaker, how was I supposed to be able to recognize it?
I went to girl's camp as a teenager, stood up in the testimony meeting we were having around a campfire and gave a cathartic, weeping declaration of faith, then sat down feeling drained and bonded and happy, but another part of my brain thinking, well THAT was a bit much, wasn't it Sue?
Angel on one shoulder, devil on the other.
The few people I confided in would say, Sue, you just need to have faith.
I would say, THAT'S THE PROBLEM. I don't HAVE any.
They would tell me to pray, to read my scriptures, to take it to the Lord.
I would say, I'm doing that, I promise - because I WANT TO BELIEVE. I WANT ANSWERS. I LIKE being a mormon. I ROCK at being a mormon. It's MY WHOLE THING. I want these doubts to just - go plague someone else. To get out of my head. I'm doing that and I'm getting NOTHING.
Usually, that's when they would imply that it must be because I was sinning.
After all, God talked to THEM, so clearly, I must be doing it wrong. Or I wasn't recognizing it.
But I'd heard His voice before. I knew what it sounded like.
One starry night, Laman and Lemuel are beating their brother with a stick and an Angel of the Lord comes down and tells them to knock it off, Or Else.
They forget this lesson approximately 12.2 seconds after they learn it.
People are always perplexed by this story. How could this be? If an angel came and told you to stop doing something, wouldn't it make an impression?
If God intervened in your life that directly, how could you ever forget it? How could you ever deny it?
When I was twenty-nine, my husband and I had been married for five years. He was almost done with his degree and attending the police academy, and I was firmly entrenched in a challenging, well-paying job that I absolutely hated.
We had no children. This made us sort of an oddity in the Mormon world. Nearly thirty and childless in a mormon context is like nearly forty in the rest of the world. We'd been trying, but my uterus was not cooperating, and when we finally did get pregnant, I had a miscarriage. My best friend got pregnant right after my miscarriage, and I tried hard to be happy for her, but I was heartbroken.
In the mormon world, teenagers get this thing called a patriarchal blessing. You go see the patriarch for your area and he gives you a special blessing with guidance just for you - specific to your life. They record it for you and give it to you to keep and refer back to throughout your life - kind of like a road map, or (as I rather mystically believed) like a fortune cookie, but from God, and typically more realistic.
I'd never gotten mine. When I was a teenager, I was sure that an invitation to have God speak directly to me would invite him to say things like "YOU FOOLISH GIRL" and "I KNOW WHAT YOU WERE DOING IN THE BATHROOM LAST NIGHT." It was not something I wanted to deal with. And then later on, it didn't feel right, so I didn't get it.
But at 29, without children, without a clear path for my life, I felt like maybe it was time.
We showed up there one Sunday morning at the appointed time, and chit-chatted for a minute, awkward small talk between strangers, before going into another room where he laid his hands on my head and pronounced a blessing.
He said the Lord knew the desires of my heart and knew how wounded I felt. He said that I would be a mother. He said that my husband should give me a blessing of healing. He told us the specific words my husband should say. He told me the Lord knew how much I worried and fretted over things I'd done in the past, and that he wanted me to know it was o.k. He said the Lord knew how hard I'd been on myself, and he wanted me to stop it, that those were no longer my burdens to carry.
And I felt something. Something I'd never felt before (or since). Not the feeling of being kind of touched, that feeling I typically took to be the spirit (like that feeling you got after you watched a particularly moving Hallmark commercial), but a literal warmth and filling. A physical weight, pressing down on me, an internal heater set full-blast.
I sat there, shocked and crying.
Ten months later, Megan was born.
My husband would say to me, how can you possibly lack faith, knowing how Megan got here?
And I would cry and say, I don't know. I don't know. I just have these questions and these doubts and I don't know how to make them go away.
I figured I took my doubts to the Lord and he didn't send me any kind of reassuring feeling, so it was on HIM.
TO BE CONTINUED
(DUN, Dun, dun) (some more)
(Part Three is here)
PS: I hesitate to tell the story of the blessing, because I don't want my infertile friends to be hurt by the story. Because they are vastly more faithful than I am. I don't know why God answered that prayer for me. I only know that He did.