Friday, June 13, 2014

Because I Have Been Given Much

Right now people are hurting. They are hurting because those to whom they looked up, found comfort, and saw examples of heroism are seemingly being rejected by their church.

Somehow all of this leaves me feeling guilty. I feel guilty because while I did my best to mourn with those who mourned, I didn’t share the anchor of hope that has given me a sense of calm in the current storm. I hope to remedy that right now.

Like anyone else, I have my questions and concerns regarding the Church, its history, and some of its more esoteric doctrine. There have been issues that have brought me to my knees, not just in prayer, but because they have felt like kicks to my gut. Aside from the acute pain associated with them, I also suffered from a nagging feeling of embarrassment from having aligned myself with a religion that could cause me to feel this way.

There was a time in my life when I dealt with daily emotional turmoil from an issue I had with Church doctrine. This issue had always been on the surface of things that made me feel uncomfortable, but when a family member made a hurtful comment towards me regarding it (I happened to be at my most vulnerable when this happened), my qualms began to fester. The pain was indescribable. –More important, the pain was real. I took the natural course of action: I read the scriptures, prayed, fasted, and even met with church leaders on the matter. Those things brought comfort, but it wasn’t enduring. My husband, seeing my suffering, began to ask around about what to do. One day he came home and told me that he learned something that he thought would be most useful to me. He said he spoke with a lady in our ward who had similar concerns and had them resolved. Great! I thought. Tell me how she did it! I asked. “She was washing dishes,” he said. That was it. She had taken it to the Lord, didn’t receive her answer right away, and then one day while she was at the sink a sense of peace and calm came to her. I found this answer highly unsatisfying.

So I suffered.

I spent YEARS agonizing over this one issue until one day, for whatever reason, God dropped a pearl of wisdom from the heavens and it illuminated my mind. I found a verse, a single verse of scripture that I had read several times before, and this time it opened the flood gates of hope for me. Aha! I thought, so this is how it works: You suffer, and suffer, and suffer, and then maybe God gives you the answer!

I accepted that “fact” and was happy to move on with my life.  I also vowed to avoid “hang-ups,” issues that would drag me down and consume too much of my life again, but of course that’s not how life works.

Women’s equality, political diversity, and social justice have been at the forefront of Mormon theology lately. You can’t avoid the issues, and frankly I’m the type of person who likes to get into these discussions. Naturally issues came up, questions were raised. With this as a backdrop, another significant thing occurred in my life: I came down with a chronic illness. More questions arose from that. Finally, as a  pièce de résistance, my husband and I had what could best be called a “falling out” with our ward family. In total, this was a difficult and complex time to say the least.

I had always told myself that abandoning my religion was never an option for one reason: I felt the Holy Ghost during a missionary discussion. The veracity of the Gospel was confirmed and I can never deny it. Period. Ad infinitum. Thus it was a frightening discovery for me to learn that there are plenty of people who leave Mormonism who DO know the Church is true! It begged the question, how was I to move forward with my life when this religion felt like a daily inconvenient truth?

I expected to suffer, sufferer, suffer, and maybe I’d get another pearl of wisdom. That is, after all, what I had concluded earlier.

So I pushed forward. And I wasn’t happy. –That is until a few small steps began to accumulate and a snowball effect occurred.

With my illness I found that journaling helped to make sense of my symptoms (giving them a timeline) and also allowed me to get things off my chest. So long as I was journaling, I thought I might as well read my scriptures and include some insights from that along the way. –I admit it, my intent was to leave behind a journal so pious my posterity would think me a righteous woman.– As I read, I had thoughts come to mind that I felt would be helpful in better understanding the temple. Ah, yes, the temple, a place where I could get away from ward drama and be alone in my thoughts! So, I started going every week. Wednesday mornings became my time and I was usually the only patron there.  

This combination, humility (I can’t take credit, it was forced upon me through illness), daily scripture reading, reflection, and regular temple attendance. . . I want to write something as boorish as “OMG,” because really, it’s as if the clouds of Heaven opened and showers of pearls, gems, and gold are pouring out on me. The insight that I’ve had, the reassurances given to me, the outpouring of love from Heavenly Father, I’m swimming in all of it. I’ve had my “at the sink’” moment and more. On top of that (as if that weren’t enough), I’ve also had solid answers given to me about some very tricky issues. Yes, I have had some problems solved absolutely. 

This brings me back to my guilt.

I’m seeing people I care about, some of them my closest friends, going down for the count with regards to their Church activity, even membership. In the most extreme case, I went to the temple and saw Adam and Eve appear as two of my friends (a married couple) while Satan tempted them to apostatize. Two days later, the husband informed me they were both going inactive.

I also see other Church members trying to lift up those who are stumbling right now, but not infrequently these attempts unintentionally do even more damage.  For examples: Telling women who have wrestled with the issue of gender-specific ordination for years that they just don’t understand the doctrine, or need to humble themselves. Trying to “cheer up” homosexuals by saying they’re just like single straight members. Admonishing democrats to change their ways (and voter registration). I could go on.

So while I’m swimming in sunshine, these my dear brothers and sisters are wading in sadness and regret. Moreover, so many members of the Church will not even acknowledge that suffering. They see them only as giddy agitators, and have expressed relief when they stop showing up on Sundays.

How do I share the sunshine?

What has made my recent experience so different from my earlier attempts to find peace?

In each case I've described, I eventually received answers that brought me comfort, but the key difference this time around is that that even prior to those revelations I had peace. Recently I had some "but if not" moment(s) and did not feel alone.

What made the difference is Gratitude. In my earlier struggles, I missed the life I had before I carried the "burden" of the Gospel. I had made many sacrifices during my conversion and my quest to get married in the temple came at a high price in terms of treasured relationships. I cannot say that I was deeply thankful for the tradeoff. Despite “doing all the right things,” like Lot’s wife I looked back. This time around, I feel like everything has been stripped away from me so that all I can do is look up: If I wake up not in pain, I’m thankful. If I still have friends, I’m so appreciative. When I can eat regular food, I'm ecstatic. (My gratitude is the byproduct of working through disease, clearly it doesn't have to be this way for everyone else.)

The gift of gratitude fuels my interactions with God and His Church, and helps me to go on. Because the Church WILL still go on, of course. Its members will continue to be imperfect, questionable things will be done, but the ordinances and promises remain the same. The fork in the road at which we now find ourselves is obvious: Let go or hold on. If you’re still holding on by the skin of your teeth, the key is to have hope that there is a future in this Church that includes happiness for you. You can tap into that hope by findings things in the Gospel for which you can be grateful. Once you develop hope, your burdens will be cast at the Savior’s feet, and He will carry you home. That road home might not make much sense right now, but PLEASE take comfort in knowing that while we don’t know the meaning of all things, we do know that God loves His children (1Ne11:17). All of them.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Monique! You are an inspiration to me and I couldn't agree more with what you say. I truly believe that gratitude is a gift from God and makes all the difference. I love how you describe your experience in the Temple because I have also received "pearls, gems and gold" in the midst of personal questions and struggles. I wish everybody could experience what we have felt and learned in the Temple.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Erica. We need to meet up!

  2. That talk by Elder Wickman is, if not my all time favorite, one of my favorite talks. So much power. Your story reminds me of Elder Holland's recent talk about fuleling the flame of your faith.