I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with a friend about my faith and about my perception of my faith.
It was the second time. I had an almost identical conversation five years ago with another friend. Both over coffee/hot chocolate, at Starbucks. Talk about Deja Vu.
The question was, in a non-threatening way, how do you belong to your church and believe in __________. (If you’re my friend and you know me you could fill in the blank with anything from polygamy to gay marriage. And that’s precisely what happened).
At the end of the conversation I told my friend, “I don’t broadcast these parts of me because they seem inconsistent. It makes me feel weak.”
As I reflected on those words when I got home I realized that it wasn’t that I felt weak. Weakness is not something I actually think I know how to feel. Vulnerable is the more accurate word. I feel vulnerable. When I expose parts of myself to the world (which is something I’ve started to do a lot over the past 2-3 years on this blog) I feel vulnerable. I don’t like feeling so exposed in certain aspects of my life.
But I’m working this year on feeling beautiful in a roomful of beautiful people. I don’t know who frequents this blog on a daily-ish basis, but I’m going to assume that most of my readers are good people. Beautiful people with excellent hearts.
I’ve decided I want to be more honest than I’ve ever felt before. I’m going to show sides of myself that I haven’t shown yet. If anything, for me. I’m doing this to help me feel beautiful and vulnerable at the same time. To feel beautiful not in spite of my flaws but because of them.
Some people have rock solid testimonies of the faith they adhere to. They believe it and so they accept and faithfully believe everything that goes with it. I know a lot of people like that. I admire them. I married one. I go to church with many. I’m friends with many.
I’m not one of them. I believe. I believe certain things with a fierceness that I can’t even describe. And because I believe those things, I pattern my life after the Savior. The way the church teaches me to. Some of the things the church, and essentially Heavenly Father, teaches/asks make sense to me or eventually come to make sense to me. Some of the things the church asks of me, may not be innately part of my make up. Yet because of the things that do make sense. Because of the things that I do believe. I live the way I believe my Father in Heaven has asked me to. That’s what it comes down to. Do I believe The Church is asking me to follow these commandments and listen to these teachings or do I believe it is God? And when push comes to shove, despite my lack of ability to understand or make sense of something…I still think it comes from God. And so I listen. I still question, I still study, I still pray about it, but I listen and I try to live a Christlike life.
And it brings me peace and happiness. My peace doesn’t come from a church building. My peace doesn’t come from the temple. My peace comes from taking a leap of faith and living a life of obedience.
My peace comes from taking things away from church on Sunday and applying them to my life. My peace comes from service. My peace comes from living a life worthy of temple attendance. That’s where my peace comes from.
Even when I have questions. Even when I have doubts.
I have lots of questions. I will probably never be at peace with polygamy (and any of the other things I may not understand) until I meet my maker and all things are brought to my remembrance. It’s just not something that my heart and mind are ready or willing to accept at this time.
I feel peace when I turn my life to the Savior. I feel peace when I keep the promises I made in the temple.
I feel truth when I hear Thomas S. Monson speak–or any leaders of the church, even local ones. When the prophet and apostles speak it’s more than truth that I hear. It’s a sense of obligation and I just know that they speak with God. I know that they are obligated to share what they know. It can’t be easy for them. The things they ask us are ever declining in popularity in the world we live in today. Yet they speak it. Not for their own benefit but because they are seers and revelators.
I feel power when Priesthood ordinances are being performed. My wedding day can be summed up in many words but the one I always defer to is powerful. I felt things for my Heavenly Father and for my husband that I didn’t expect to feel when the Sealer had us make covenants to one another and God. I can’t deny those things. Those experiences are so real.
I know that I have a spirit and I know that I lived with my family before I came to earth. I know that. It just makes sense to me. Every bit as much as the fact that families are forever and that the family unit is part of God’s plan.
I believe those things. I know those things. I feel those things.
And those things, along with many more, are what I use to carry me over my questions and my doubts. Those are the things that I clung to with all I had when I lost my grandpa and I started to wonder, “Is what I believe real? Can it be?”
And again, that question was answered in the words of a song, sung by the Priesthood holders in my grandfather’s ward. The men who took him to work and back every day. The men who reworked their schedules to fit his. The men who came and gave him blessings, had him over for dinner, and spent time talking with him. Those good men sang words of truth at his funeral:
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.
When the men sang those words, my head was bowed and my hand was intertwined with Zach’s. At the exact same moment, both of our tears fell onto our clasped hands. We both felt it. We both knew. My grandpa was home.
That moment will go down in my history books as one of the most spiritually defining moments of my life.
It will be a moment I cling to when someone gives me a fact (shady or not) about my church’s history. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. My testimony may have questions that need answered, but it gives me the opportunity to exercise my faith. I get the chance to fill in those gaps with what I do know to be true. It may not be enough for you.But I know that it is enough for Him and so it is enough for me.
***And just ’cause, here’s an interesting look at The Church’s history with polygamy from a convert’s standpoint. I love what she says about God doing things that we can’t rationalize…so true.