Thursday, April 08, 2010

Faithless

Pin It I need to tell you all this. But it isn't funny. (DANCE, CLOWN, DANCE!) Sorry.  

And it might take a couple of posts. But I want to tell it anyway.  So I will.  

BOOOyah. 

This is Part One.

A few weeks ago, I got together with a few local bloggers for a kind of round-table discussion thingie (technical term) where we talked about blogging.  Eventually, the discussion got around to faith, and a few people talked about how they approach faith on their blogs.

When it was my turn, I told everyone that I didn't talk about faith on my blog, other than anecdotally.  I copped to being a coward, to not wanting to invite that kind of controversy into my silly little world.

I told them I didn't want to end up being in a position where I had to be the Defender of Mormonism - because honestly, the church could hardly have a more ineffective spokesperson.  I see the kind of crap Courtney goes through and I think - NO.  No way.  That is Not For Me.

(I'm courageous, what can I say.)

All of those things are true, but not COMPLETELY true.  I left a lot of stuff out.

The truth is, I don't talk about my faith because I have so very little of it to go around, and what I have I guard jealously - I don't usually put it out on display for people to take whacks at it.  This is not that blog.  I am not that blogger.

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When I started Mormon Mommy Blogs, I wasn't doing it out of some sense of uber-religiousity, or because I wanted to surround myself with other bloggers who believed what I did.  I was doing it because I had an ax to grind.

I was irritated with the big clutch of blogs known as the "Bloggernacle" - a group of mostly faithful blogs where people discuss doctrine and theology and issues related to the church.

I was spending a lot of time on some of those blogs, reading, thinking, trying to figure some things out about my faith.

I read a succession of dismissive comments about "mommy bloggers" and the attitude I was sensing - that we were silly and inconsequential and not at all relevant to mormon blogging as a whole - it irritated me. Grated on me. Made me want to throw stuff.

So I thought, I'll start a list.  A list of mormon mommy bloggers, to show them how many of us there were.  How NOT inconsequential we were.  To show "them" - whoever that was - how many of these women were great writers.  How many of them had readerships.  How many of them were not entirely frivolous. 

Elisa came on board at MMB right after I started it - she took care of adding the blogs whenever people asked to be put on the list (which was ALL THE TIME).  And she said This could be something more.  This could be a big thing.  We could really build this into something.  

It probably perplexed her, the way she would say, Sue, let's do this and this and this, and I would hem and haw and say, well, let's think about it for a while.  She would say, I think we should have contributing writers and I would say hmmmm.   She would email me a question and I would respond days later.  I was reluctant to do anything with my creation.

Eventually, I handed it over to her - just walked away from it, handed her the keys and signed out.  (And as you can clearly see, she implemented her ideas successfully once I got the heck out of dodge.)

I made a few excuses, but never really told her why I was fleeing the crime scene.

I should've told her the truth.

I didn't want anything to do with continuing to build that site because I felt like a fraud.

Here's Sue, the most faithless mormon ever, founding and running a site called Mormon Mommy Blogs.

I felt like a hypocrite.

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At that point in time I was still up to my neck in a huge crisis of faith, one that had been going on for a couple of years.

I wasn't unfaithful in any way that you could see.  I did and said the standard mormon things. I went to church (mostly). I wasn't off participating in drunken orgies.  I followed the commandments the best I could.  I think I was a pretty typical mormon - in word and deed.

But not in my fickle little heart.

In fact, I'd told my sister Diana a few months before, "I think I'm agnostic."

(How you doing Mom?  O.K.?  Hanging in there?  DEEP BREATHS, Mom.  DEEP BREATHS. IT'LL BE O.K. It was a POINT IN THE JOURNEY, Mom. A point in the journey.)

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I was born and raised a mormon - a true believer, down to the core.

Even during those times when I wasn't behaving like it, I still believed it. I just did what I wanted to do and then felt incredibly guilty about it afterward.

My whole life I had nightmares about Christ returning and sending me off to burn in the fiery pits, even though this isn't what mormons believe, strictly speaking. We lived by an airforce base and in the middle of the night planes would fly overhead and rattle the walls. I would think it was the second coming and would jump out of bed screaming, and then drop to my knees to fervently, rapidly pray for forgiveness.  As a teen I was almost pathologically religious - but not righteous - and full of self-loathing for all of the ways in which I felt I was failing to be a worthwhile human being.

Later on, after I'd sort of gotten my head on straight, spiritually and mentally speaking, I got my act together and proceeded to embark on the typical mormon experience - went to a church college (Ricks, back when it WAS Ricks), met a returned missionary, and married him in the temple.

It should tell you something about how firmly entrenched I was in my beliefs that I was absolutely, cartoonishly SHOCKED when my faithful little sister married a convert.

Let me repeat that.  I was worried because she married a guy who CONVERTED.  Not a guy with different religious beliefs.  Just someone who came to them a little later in the game.

It embarrasses me now, remembering how I expressed my concern for her and judgmentally clucked my tongue.  I meant well, I just thought it was incredibly risky for her to link up with a guy who MIGHT NOT BE THAT STRONG IN THE FAITH.

{facepalm}

Ooooooh, I was smug.  God probably thought I needed a smack-down.  I'm guessing.

One day I was "talking" (read: debating) with a friend about religion and she said something sort of shocking about the history of our church.  I told her she was wrong, that what she was saying was ludicrous.  We went back and forth for a while, each firm in our own position, and when we hung up I jumped online and googled. And stared at the screen in disbelief.

A few weeks later my faith was in tatters.  Not because of the things I read that were demonstrably false, but because of a few of the things that it turned out were actually true.

(I think this is part of why I'm so unwilling to debate people about ANYTHING anymore - politics, religion, the importance of boots - I feel extremely insecure in my positions. If my feelings about religion can change, then - anything can. I no longer feel comfortable expressing strong opinions that might come back to bite me in the future.)

I won't get into all of the study and research I compulsively, hysterically participated in for the next few months, but trust me - it was extensive.  And after that, I talked to my bishop - who had no answers for me, who didn't even want to DISCUSS my questions.  I talked to my stake president - he was more comforting, but couldn't give me the hard, solid answers I felt I needed.

I found solace in a group of mormon blogs where they actually discussed these issues from a faithful perspective and found a tentative peace with some of the things that were keeping me up at night.  (And I don't want to get into any of that here - what those issues were, or how I resolved them. This post is not about that.)

But still, I struggled.

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Can I just say that it always really bugs me when I hear stories about how people prayed to find their lost watch, and God answered their prayers?  Or about how they prayed to pass a test, or they prayed about what color of shoelaces to buy?  For one, I don't think God cares about your test - He gave you a brain for a reason and if you didn't study that's your own dang fault.  For another - if He cares about shoelaces, why doesn't He care about, say, Rwanda?  I've never been able to reconcile it.  I don't like the idea of such a trivial and capricious God.

But I did believe that God cared about spiritual things - that if you wanted to know something about spirituality, about what was true and right and good - that He would answer those kinds of prayers because that was His arena.  Ask and ye shall receive, and all that jazz.

So I would pray about these issues I was having, pray to get SOME KIND OF answer. Pray to know if, despite all of these sticky little issues, there was still some kind of truth there.

If this was a story in a church magazine, what would've happened next is that I would've felt the spirit and known it was all true.

What I got?

Was radio silence.

God did not, apparently, feel in any particular hurry to confirm or deny. 


TO BE CONTINUED (As in, this is not necessarily where I'm at TODAY.  It's just where I'm at in the retelling.)

(DUN Dun dun) 

(Part Two is here.)

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To be clear: This is not about Mormonism - not really...  It's just about faith.  What it's like to have it, and to not have it, and to sort of have your own version of it, and the points in between. 

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68 comments:

  1. Thanks for always being willing to share your imperfections!

    I've also read faithful testimonies and found mine paled in comparison.

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  2. You know, I know where you are coming from. At this time in my life I am in this same general area regarding my religion (not Mormon). Let me say that I have had 'ah ha' moments - I know that they will come again. Hopefully sooner than later, but I will admit that I feel like a hypocrite dragging my children to church, and having them seek God as well. I know that in time it will all make sense to me again. I think this is just part of life. (If one chooses to recognize it and admit it.)

    I love your blog and have been following for quite some time. You are real. Thank you.

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  3. I think one of the hardest part of being a member of any faith, or really any group at all, is the pressure we put on ourselves to live up to the image everyone else is projecting. I have a sneaking suspicion that if we all had our layers peeled back like you were brave enough to do, we'd find a lot of doubt, a lot of guilt, and plenty of self-loathing from the most devout and confident among us. This urge to match what we think everyone else comes by naturally is the downfall of the best-laid plans. I don't pretend to know what you're dealing with and I'm doing my best to fight the typical male urge to try and fix it, but I'm really happy to hear you were able to find a least some comfort in the group you have and I hope it helps to know that no one else has it all together. Yeah, even that lady you just thought of when I said that. She's got SERIOUS issues, trust me.

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  4. You've spent some time in my head, haven't you?

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  5. Holy crap, it really is like you've spent some time in my head too. I literally sat and stared at my computer screen after reading because it hit so close to home. I would love to know what mormon blogs you went to and discussed your issues, I could really use that right now...

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  6. My husband has had a question on one point of doctrine for quite a while now. He talked to lots of people, read lots of talks, and offered lots of prayers.

    He still doesn't know the answer. I don't know that he ever will.

    It is NOT an easy thing.

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  7. People who have crises of faith are more interesting people.

    As you said, this is all a point on a journey, and we all have a journey to follow.

    I'm proud of you for sharing this because I know how hard it was for you.

    (And let's not get me started on the bloggernacle because I just can't.)

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  8. Thank you for being you--and being real.

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  9. I know where you are coming from and it is soo hard sometimes. I am glad you wrote about it. It is nice to know that I'm not the only one going through something like this. I would also like to know where you went to discuss.

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  10. Interesting timing. :)

    No dilemma on this earth is temporal. All has a spiritual purpose: doubts, Rwanda, silences after uttered prayers, and, yes, even shoelaces. God may not care about a lost watch, but he does care about the person praying about it. (And yes, I've had my share of prayed-over but un-found keys and wallets. Twice each. Surely, God is teaching my husband to love his annoyingly absent-minded wife. See what a vital part I'm playing in the growth of his testimony?)

    Anyway, I think the process you've shared thus far here is VERY NORMAL and VERY SPIRITUAL. You may not recognize it yet just because it's not neatly typed up in a glossy periodical with appropriate discussion questions offered at the end.

    Also, I feel great love for you. But in a pixels, bandwidth, internety I've-never-met-you kind of way, so no need to get all weird about it.

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  11. The blogs in the bloggernacle (www.ldsblogs.org) actually were incredibly helpful to me.

    Not actually for discussion - but reading through the archives to see where people posted about topics that were problematic for me. Getting faithful perspectives on those issues. Times and Seasons and By Common Consent.

    I got irritated by the tone of a few commenters later on, but can't and won't discount the significance of the help I found by reading some of those blogs. It kept me from running off the proverbial rails.

    Some people also like FARMS, but it's too ranty for me.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your story. Even if we haven't had the issues, we can really learn and grow from other people's experiences. I appreciate your frankness.

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  13. not sure if I've ever commented but I have to say bravo for writing all of this. This is hard to admit in front of friends and family with expectations. But as you can see from the other comments, so many others struggle too and everyone resolves it in their own way.

    I'm basically a lapsed mormon who lost my faith and really questions what faith I ever had. For me, when I finally decided to just stop banging my head against the wall in an effort to conform and followed my own heart instead, happiness followed. This worries my mother to no end as her faith is deep and wide but no longer enough to keep me. I agree it is all a journey and mine is definitely not over, I just couldn't keep placing questions and doubts and "what does that mean" and "I just don't believe that" thoughts on a shelf in the back of my mind and continue to attend church. So I stopped and I feel lighter and less burdened. Happier. This is hard to admit to the faithful who will either assume you want to drag them down to hell with you or that you are in denial because of course happiness is only in the gospel and of course you have a testimony because you always appeared to have one. For my particular questions and struggles I find feminist mormon housewives to have some great perspectives.

    Sorry for the novel-like comment, this obviously really speaks to me so I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your journey.

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  14. This is the side I want to hear, the coming back, the coming to terms with the big, hairy monster in the closet that is Faith.

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  15. You know that "I think I might be agnostic" point? Ya... right there... right NOW.

    You know what is surprising about it all to me? How many other people struggle with these things too. I had no idea until I voiced my doubts, just how many others there were who also had the same feelings.

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  16. I love you. You are one of my favorite writers on this green earth, and this is just one of the many reasons why. You call yourself chicken, and yet you still reveal so much about yourself and your various life journeys that I'm proud to call myself a blog follower of yours.

    We, even the most faithful among us, don't have all our questions answered. There are some BIG questions that I imagine I'll never, ever have answered, and when you're trying to defend your church/religion/faith against attackers, let alone yourself and your own doubts, it's downright heart-wrenching. Even I find myself wavering between This Is THE True Church and I KNOW it, and Is There Even a God? It ain't easy. But that's the whole reason behind our existence, isn't it? If we already knew and believed and did, we wouldn't be here. So I imagine you're doing just what you're supposed to do.

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  17. Was it because Brigham Young said people were living on the moon? Because I think he was just kidding, don't stress about.
    There all fixed now, you're welcome.

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  18. In a similar place of quandary a wise bishop once told me, "Don't lose faith in the things you DO know because of the things you DON'T know."

    I think about that every time the topic of polygamy comes up.

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  19. Sue, how very brave of you to share your struggles on your (usually hilarious) blog. Your struggle is not unique to so many of us. I was particularly drawn to your comment about praying for spiritual answers and not really hearing from God. I'd encourage you to take those questions straight to the Bible. The answers are there. Trust Him to show them to you. May the Lord bless you in your sincere search for His truth! :)

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  20. what happened to my comment? Oh well, I will post it again.

    You know that point of "I think I might be agnostic"? Well, I'm there ... right NOW.

    What I find interesting is that as I have opened up about my trepidation I have had people open up and bare their souls to me about some of the very same doubts.

    I'm a big fan of "Mormon Stories" podcast at the moment and find that it helps me to put things into an LDS perspective. If however, you don't want to hear of things you do not know about... please don't blame John for you listening.

    I hope in the end I will end up staying Mormon, but honestly, at this point... I think I might be agnostic...

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  21. Cassie4:03 PM

    I feel like you're telling me story too. The guilt, the confusion, the unanswered questions. It's tough to keep moving in the "right" direction when you have so many hang-ups, and seemingly no way to resolve them. Sounds like you found peace, I'm interested to hear how that happened. Or is still happening. thanks for sharing.

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  22. First, I love you lady.

    Second, I hope you know you're not alone in your feelings and struggles with faith.

    Third, I will say that living and being LDS in Utah has been one of the more difficult and personal "crisis of faith" that I've experienced. I feel like it's more difficult to be more genuine with my feelings and testimony living here than anywhere. Don't get me wrong, I love Utah. I love all you "Utah Mormons" but having such a culture can create a weird vortex of passive/aggressive/what the crapness if that makes ANY sense at all.

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  23. Honestly, I have a hard time believing that most people don't have a crisis of faith at one point or another. We are all given challenges in our lives that test our faith and our beliefs.

    Right now, mine is a really crappy branch, where I feel like no one cares if we are there or not. I wouldn't say my faith is necessarily tested, but my dedication sure is.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  24. I feel like a fraud just about every day. I enjoyed reading a "real" story of personal journey and look forward to reading the rest. Hopefully I can remember to put you in my reader this time. ;o)

    And on a completely unrelated, slightly stalker-ish note, I saw you at the Snuggie for Seniors thingy and wanted to come get your autograph or something but was too chicken. Maybe next time I'll be grown up enough to say "hi".

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  25. You have stirred so many thoughts that I might actually have to blog a response to your blog. First, thank you for sharing. I got hooked on your blog because I needed the extreme laugh that I got every time I read it. I'm glad you are giving up the bigger blogger thing because I agree, it just wasn't you - well I'm not sure I really know what's you - I'm kind of new in your readership - but I liked the old you better. And while I'm looking forward to the next big laugh, I am sincerely appreciative of your very real and honest blogs, like this one. Talk about guts, Girl, you've got them. I recently posted a blog about all the things I did wrong as a mother - actually not ALL - cuz there isn't enough room and I'm not willing to tell ALL - and, well, I was too chicken to tell ALL. Anyway, my point is that your realness is refreshing AND seriously eye-opening (comments included). I had no idea so many people had these kinds of struggles. I'm having a major aha moment. I'll add one more thought, then move to my blog, to continue... I am rock solid in my faith and I completely agree with your stance on putting yourself out there to be argued with. I can't handle contention, at all.

    Can't wait to read the ending. Hope your mom is surviving this, as well. :)

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  26. First, I have to say I think you are wonderful for telling everyone that you have questions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having questions. The bad thing is when you DO have questions and then rather than finding out the answers to the questions you simply throw in the towel.

    Second, I have to agree with what Kalli said. My crisis of Faith came when I moved to Utah. Living here "in Zion" created a crisis of faith like I had never had before.

    Faith is a process, not a destination and good for you for admitting that you are on that journey.

    Lastly, I think you are wonderful and I'm glad that MMB brought us together.

    xoxo

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  27. I'm so proud of you for sharing something so deep and personal. I just made a post about my faith (kind of), but nothing too deep. I'm not super shy about it, but it definitely isn't as comfortable as say, filling out surveys... which I definitely do well. Love your blog! =)

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  28. You are one brave woman for telling it like it is, and I commend you for it. I think we all have our faith challenged at one point or another--thank you for being honest enough to talk about it. I'm just hoping your story has a happy ending.

    And talk about feeling like a hypocrite--I signed up for the Service Soapbox, but my life is so busy I haven't been able to come and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to come--at least not this month. I'm hoping my life will slow down (in the summer? or fall?) and I'll be able to start coming to the meetings.

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  29. Just to clarify:

    I really admire you for being willing to take the journey of faith. It takes way more courage to ask the questions and then seek the answers than it does to just walk away.

    You are the bomb.com!

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  30. Sue, I just love you. You rock.

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  31. Anonymous7:44 PM

    You know I think it's more concerning to be an instant follower, believe everything and never question. I am not LDS, but there is a lot in every religion to question and to work things out in your head.

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  32. Can I say another thing? I'm trying to be tactful and respectful because I really like the person I'm going to disagree with (even if she doesn't know me from Eve)...

    Walking away doesn't necessarily mean that someone hasn't sought and found answers, it may mean that the answers they found didn't work for them or bring them peace... and it's not always the "easy" thing to do either... especially if you live in "Mormonville".

    I don't think she intended to imply that... but I just thought I should get that out there...

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  33. I followed your reasoning for starting MMB and I have to admit that I was a little gleeful about it. I think I kind of guessed part of your reasoning for handing it over, too. It *is* nice to have an online hub for Mormon bloggers and I appreciate both that you got it going, and that others have been willing to take it from there.

    I will say that I'm a big believer that God does help us find lost things or do well on tests, as WELL as caring about genocides and other incomprehensibly hard problems. He says he notices the fall of a sparrow, so why should we put limitations on what He can care about or help with, based on our ideas of what is or isn't important? "From small things proceedeth that which is great," and maybe someone whose faith is increased when they find a lost possession will go on to help create greater world peace or defend an innocent. Certainly small tender mercies helped build faith for people in places like Haiti, whose faith later helped sustain them through very large trials. Of course we should still study for our tests, but I don't see why that should preclude also asking God to help us remember what we've studied, be calm, and do our best. And, again, maybe doing well on that one test doesn't matter, but on the whole doing well in our studies might help prepare us for some larger mission.

    Anyway, I realize that's a bit of a tangent, but it's something I care about (as someone who's fairly often had help finding lost stuff, truth to tell). I just don't think with our limited understanding we can always know what is or isn't big or small or important or unimportant to God.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I definitely have times when I'm just clinging to what I *do* know so I don't lose it in my doubts over things I still don't know.

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  34. I'm there now. I should be the happiest, most fulfilled person on the planet. My husband is going to church even though he's not a believer but still. And I'm miserable. I'm having a hard time because I don't feel that I "fit in". I know my testimony has been strong before but now? Just not there.

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  35. Really, Sue, a crisis of faith is normal. I think God wants us to have them. He's such a tease.

    I'm a Jewish woman raising Catholic kids. I just always assume that I'm where God wants me to be. I'm fiercely ecumenical. I love religions and love how different ones suit different people. I believe God is present in all of them, understanding that we all need different paths to Him.

    The praying about shoelaces bothers me, too. Even CS Lewis couldn't quite tease out the riddle of supplicatory prayer. We all do it, almost automatically; so it is probably necessary in some sense, if not in the sense of getting what we want when we want it. I think it is more important as an acknowledgment that things are not in our control in this world.

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  36. I sent a response to you on this one via e-mail. So be sure to read it!! :)

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  37. Sue, this is beautiful. I don't talk about my faith on my blog very often either. I think I need to, but I just don't know how to say it.

    As motherboard stated, faith is a journey. I know it may seem long and tenuous, but in between there are some sweet moments.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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  38. thanks for the post, it made me think a lot about things i can be a little uncomfortable thinking about, but need to be thought about.

    i've never really lost faith in the church, but have been inactive at different periods in my life for different reasons. i talk to people about these times frequently because i hate the stigma that surrounds "less active" members, especially in utah. it's like, uhhhh shut up--just because you get to church ten minutes early doesn't mean you love god more than i do.

    so yeah, i appreciate your point of view a great deal and i'm glad you shared it. it's not always easy to tell other people you're not as committed to something as you'd like to be, but it's never a bad thing to be a human. i.e. to make mistakes.

    and p.s. you are a bitchin writer.

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  39. wonderfully put- and although you may not write of "faith" - your faith does come across. being able to write about keeping your faith protected is a wonderful way of sharing your testimony, even if you feel you lack the faith. I believe in not "casting your pearls before swine." Sharing it with anecdotes and stories is a fantastic example of how you believe.

    I enjoy your blog and your honesty.

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  40. I can't even begin to tell you how much I relate to every single point on this. Except the one about doing the research because my piddling faith could NOT survive the doubt. My own rational brain gives me enough trouble as it is. I just get up every day and make the choice to believe and sometimes at night, I feel like I do.

    It's hard.

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  41. I've read this post and breathed easily through it all, Sue. I've realized for quite a while that you have been struggling, but I've felt it was something you need to work out for yourself. Telling you my experiences won't make them YOUR experiences. One concept that might help you, that I was taught more clearly recently: the scriptures teach that "there is a law irrevocably decreed in Heaven upon which all blessings are predicated..". Notice that it says "A LAW", not a separate law for each kind of blessing that we want. That one law is faith in Jesus Christ, that He is who He said He is, and that He kept His promises to us and will continue to keep them. If you can develop that faith, I think you will find the details of religion easier to work out.
    Should we pray for little things? We are commanded to "pray always," which I interpret as keeping God in our thoughts and in our perspective, especially when we have problems, large or small. I've had very clear answers to some prayers, and there have been many tender mercies extended to me. On the other hand, there have been times when I've wondered whether anyone up there is listening, much less answering. Even those who lived with Jesus had doubts. I like to remember the one who said, "Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief."
    We are to "work out our salvation." That implies no easy process or quick answers, and it likely won't all happen in this lifetime. Certainly we are not given all the answers, or why would we need faith? I think our goal is to come to know God, through prayer, study, living the principles that we do accept to be true, and loving others. As we do that much, more light will come. Hang in there. Love you!

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  42. Whew.

    (My mom pretty much rocks.)

    Love you Mom.

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  43. Hi Sue,

    I've never read your blog or commented until now, but have seen your name via a friend, @kristysf.

    I was raised in the Baptist church and have navigated a very smilar route. I was raised to think being agnostic was an evil word, but now that I know more, I think it may be the answer.

    My father passed away recently and that event alone has made me question everything. Like you, I am in search mode. When I went home, everyone's saying was, "God is in the details." I found this particularly ironic given that the Devil lives there, too. It's hard to trust people who just live so blindly without any real researchh or knowledge--and there's a lot to learn about theology and how it was all formed.

    I got a letter from my mom last week on this topic becacuse I had shared with her that I was questioning the existance of Heavan and life after death. She ended with, "Look at nature, a tree for example. You can chop one down, but the shoots keep coming up. Unless you dig it up from the roots, it keeps sprouting, and we've got roots all over the place." Mom's are good that way. :)

    Good luck with your quest! And trust your heart. It's the little voice behind the little voice--that's the one to guide you!

    Amie

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  44. And oh! I forgot to say the one thing I really wanted to say. The book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd has some great insights.

    Sorry about all my mispellings above. Spellers of the world untie (unite)!

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  45. I'm glad someone else brought up the Utah/lack of faith connection. It seems like all the people I know who really struggle with their faith live in Utah. Is it something about Utah or is it just because there are more members of the church there? I know from personal experience that living there made me dislike the church (well, really the members. And the nepotism), but not the gospel. I had to get out of that place to save my sanity.

    Being the only Mormon to ever have attended my school (to this day!) I had to figure out my faith really, really early. It's hard to stand up for something if you don't believe in it.


    I don't like to talk about my faith on my blog either. I also don't want to talk about politics or how I think In n Out burger is for mindless chumps. I just don't want to get into it with people.

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  46. Oh, Sue. I echo you over and over and over again here. I recently had a long conversation with my husband (who feels the same way) about so many of these issues. As I said to him, I wish that it was easy for me to give myself fully to faith, but I suspect it will always be a wrestle. And I've come to the conclusion that it isn't such a bad thing if that's how it is for me/us for the rest of our lives. The scariest thing in the world to me is not doubt. The scariest thing in the world is not thinking.

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  47. Yep. Your mom really does rock.

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  48. Growth comes out of suffering underground, digging deeper looking for water, stretching skyward in search of light and nourishment. Nothing about growth is easy. Your growth, your questions, show just how faithful you are to your values and beliefs. It's a journey, and it's yours. If you profess it here and someone doesn't like it then let them say it. It means you've touched a nerve on their journey, caused them to question and comment. Don't be afraid of the negativity because there is so much more positive here in your comments. Love your blog. Love your questioning faith. Love watching the growth. God bless your every breath!

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  49. Jennie - I can understand what you're saying, but that is definitely not the case for me. We were living in Las Vegas when everything fell to pieces around me - and had been living there for over 30 years.

    Living here in Utah, for ME, has actually been very good for me - especially in this wonderful neighborhood, where there are so many thoroughly good people who are earnestly trying to be like Christ. Really. To see that there are many different ways to be faithful and to express that faith. I don't know what I would've done without these people.

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  50. Hi Sue,

    When did you go to Ricks? I went there too!

    I found your post fascinating because I believe that at some point in all of our lives we all have to go through something like this. We all have to have our faith questioned regardless of our religion. At different points in my life the questions have been different. As a young single adult my questions were completely different then they are today as a mother of three.

    The bottom line is I believe that God wants all of us to be happy. And sometimes the answers to our questions don't come right away. We have to study it out for ourselves. And even then when the answers don't come we have to set our fear aside and use our faith (as big or little as that maybe) to trust that God loves us and wants us to be happy and that EVENTUALLY we will get the answers that we so desperately need.

    Regardless of what your shoelace color is, God loves all of us. He has our best interest in His mind. (Even sometimes when our mind doesn't coincide with God's mind, He still loves us and is award of us.)

    Thanks for sharing! Aprel :)

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  51. I, too, am so glad you posted this. What makes me even more glad is the respectful discussion in the comments. Sometimes I'm afraid to click on comments to posts that could be confrontational (I don't like wading through the hate) but everyone on here seems to be genuinly interested in sharing and building each other up, regardless of religion or different life philosophies. Thanks again to you and to your readers!

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  52. I hope I can be as cool as you & your mom someday. :)

    Thank you for posting about your faith and your crisis and your progression. I always ponder my faith a bit more around Easter - not just because it is Easter but because I left the church on Easter Sunday 21 years ago. Both my husband and I came back to the Lord around Easter time 16 years ago. It seems to be season of self-examination for me.

    I've actually been thinking of writing about it but have been hesitant because, like you, I don't want my blog to turn into a target. And now I'll feel like a copy cat. ;) You are brave. Keep being awesome.

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  54. hugs and squishes.

    and DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED on the Bloggernacle... no seriously. Don't.

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  55. I bet I can guess which issue got you. Got me too. Still working on it. (Being smart's a bitch.) Didn't kill the faith though. Only because I did not receive radio silence. Earlier. On this subject, I got nada. Have nada. Hoping to have a Father-daughter chat about it at some point in the future.

    In spite of the smugness, the Bloggernacle saved my sanity during the worst of the discovery stage. Lots of good people there.

    Hugs. Or a hearty handshake. Whichever you feel more comfortable with.

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  56. Been there, done that. I'm starting to wonder if there are any mothers of young children (I'm not sure what the kids have to do with it but it seems to be a common thread) who really have a complete whole-hearted testimony. For years I didn't really know what I actually believed but I just kept going to church because that's what you do and I was too tired to put the work into figuring out what I actually believed. It's getting better.

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  57. PS Pardon the language, dear readers.

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  58. How incredibly brave of you to put this out here for all to see.
    One must have a crisis of one's faith in order to know if one truly believes. (can't remember who said what I'm paraphrasing, but somebody important/interesting). I have tried to have open discussions and many Q&A with my boys so they can have their crisis sooner rather than later. It must come to us all.
    It's not a popular way to behave, being a "thinking" Mormon. I had friends who told me frequently that if I wasn't careful I'd "think myself right out of the church". Just exactly what did you think He meant by "the glory of God is intelligence" then?
    Sorry - getting carried away by my own issues with Mormondom. Which we know is not the same as the Gospel.
    Can't wait to read what happens next.

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  59. Yup, your mom's awesome... almost as awesome as MINE! Mwhahahaha! :)

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  60. Wow. Just wow! So much real-ness and transparency to digest.

    Will comment more when I can actually wade through all the comments!

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  61. I can't read all the comments. My head hurts too much. And for some reason, the noise in my life has risen to radar-jamming levels, so i'm behind on the reading of loved ones. I am coming late to every party, with only half a brain.

    But once again, you make it impossible for me to pass without working out my response to what you have written. I told you this is your gift - to speak what others feel but don't know how to express. I only hope they read on, because some seem to think that you are left here at this point - and that they are more comfortable, feeling they are not alone in it.

    One of the problems with religious people, and LDS in particular, since i know more about them (us) than about other people's specific patterns - a lot of members of the church just don't get it. The gospel gets replaced by conventions, behavioral check-off-the-box kinds of things. And the God who loves us because the Father Who Will Be Mad if we don't check off those boxes.

    And that's it. That's where the religion begins and ends, somehow. Not many people think past those things - going to church, doing your calling, not gossiping, paying your tithing, etc. etc. And all of those things are important. Obedience and trying are inarguably very important.

    But they are the skin of the orange. In the middle of the orange, you have the reality of the universe. The huge, incredibly outside of our imagination universe. And you have eternities. And Gods. You have Endless debates (that would be, debates involving God and the Son of God and the rest of us). You have something so much deeper than this Sunday's getting to church on time, we can't really begin to perceive it.

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  62. And the prophet thing. People don't understand what a prophet is. They think he's supposed to be an oracle. Or a fortune teller. They think that every thing he does and says is somehow spoken in the Voice of the Prophet. But the truth is that Prophet is like Bishop. It's a job. A Bishop isn't qualified to enter your house and make pronouncements about what you have for dinner. A Bishop's political opinions have nothing to do with his flock's opinions - he does not have the authority to impose himself in any of these ways.

    A prophet's job, as I see it, is two fold: when God has something to say to the people, the prophet's job is to say that thing. And how often have we heard something on that level - on the Moses level? Mostly what we hear is loving counsel, gentle chastisement, encouragement. And the second part of the job is to administer the church - this means, to make policy that is appropriate for the times and situations that arise while that prophet is The Guy.

    Outside of these things, prophets are allowed to be people. I'm sure they're allowed to wonder. B. Young remarked about the age of the earth that some people thought it was supposed to be 6000 years period, but that science, which he respected profoundly, said millions. The PROPHET said he didn't KNOW, and didn't CARE how old the earth is.

    So prophets do NOT get a "Wecome to the Job" kit with the explanation of How Everything Happened and How Everything in the Universe Is - included. So if a prophet back in the 1800s wonders about things and thinks there might have once been life on the moon - that's not God talking. That's him wondering. And you have to be careful with context, also. I'm pretty sure that the Millennial Star was never considered scripture.

    But I'm just blathering here. The gospel is the same as it always was. And it's not about the history of the church. It's about each person's way of working out how to achieve being her real self, approaching joy.

    All those church magazine stories about wonderful answers, etc? I'm the most spiritually stone deaf person IN the world. There have been moments in my life when I've had some sacred - moments. Just moments. But by and large, I am stupid. Deaf. Not that God doesn't speak to me; I can't hear him. - and maybe he doesn't. I handled each of my children differently, depending on what seemed to work with each, and what each one seemed to need. So maybe he "puts his arms around" all those girls in my BYU ward who seemed to feel that regularly, and he didn't do it for me - because I needed something different.

    But you can wear yourself out with conjecture. I have to read the second half of this, obviously. It just is so hard for me to think of you throwing yourself on your knees, thinking it's the second coming and worrying about going to hell. I'd shoot myself in the head if I ever thought my kids were thinking that way. The point is to learn joy. Not to be afraid of failure. The point is to love on the highest levels - charity, compassion, the passion to serve and to heal and to help.

    Na - I've got to read the next part. But as always, you set me to thinking -

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  63. Your mother made a heck of a lot more sense than I just did. And said it beautifully.

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  64. I'm going to read all the comments and then come back and comment like a big girl.
    For now?
    WORD.

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  65. I have nothing wise or witty to share here in the comments. But I wanted to let you know that I was here and thank you for sharing this. I am off to read part two!

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  66. A lot of the answer-prayers-things hinges on free agency. You can't pray for a dictator to be made to change his mind and expect it to happen. The big conflict between Satan and Jesus was free agency.

    However, if you choose to listen to the spirit, you might get revelation about missing shoes, and you may choose to look where you're prompted to look. Or you may be in too much of a panic to hear what anyone is saying, spirit or otherwise. We all panic sometimes.

    Also, a simple argument can block the spirit (Joseph Smith not translating until apologizing to Emma for harsh words); it doesn't take huge sins to block the light.

    A dictator sure can be prompted. But considering the choices he/she made to get where they're at, probably they aren't able to hear the path to walk in the light.

    I think that those who pass on have a hand in answering prayers too. I think they work for the spirit. I think if the veil were drawn, it wouldn't seem mystical, but would be simple, like the way an ER room works with millions of simple details to work the miracle of saving lives.

    I think that doctrine isn't where the lifeblood is at. It's helpful to build a framework on, like a skeleton, but it isn't the electricity that turns on the light.

    The really good people in life love, and do good, and seek the light, and don't let themselves get quicksanded down by snares and albatrosses around the neck.

    I think the point is seeking the path of light.

    I think you need to think.

    I think Heavenly Father is logical, and when we are confused, it's because we haven't learned all of his "laws of physics" that rule his universe.

    I know he loves us and that he wants the best for us and that as children we don't get it all right now.

    My 2 year old doesn't understand why I won't let him play in the street. Really. He thinks I'm mean.

    I also know that depression and anxiety can twist your (or my) mind until we are looking over our shoulder, convinced that we're walking forward.

    Take a deep breath. Find your center of peace. Seek the light within yourself, as you see it. Trust that if there is a God, he's good, not malevolent. If he were evil, he wouldn't be God. And then we could just be humanists, and still try to make the world a better place than we found it.

    Don't let your power go to waste.

    :)

    Btw, in the culture where I grew up, we speak our mind, not to lecture per se, but to get it all out in the open. I realize that some cultures (UT, Japan, etc.) feel attacked when such openness occurs, so I apologize if my cultural style of communication comes across as pushy. I believe wholeheartedly in the liberty of free agency, so just think it over, don't take it as any effort to make you do/feel anything. Just another perspective to add to the whole picture of life.

    Thanks.

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