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