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Dreaming of a Calling

by Kelly Ann

I dream lots of things.  Most are random associations of people and things that reveal something odd about my psyche.  However, the other night, I had a powerful dream.

At a ward conference, the stake leadership was greeting everyone with the known possibility of re-shuffling current leadership.  I sat in the back of the chapel avoiding making eye-contact as I knew I couldn’t accept any calling.  But called to the front of the room, they greeted me with hugs and I knew I wanted to accept the calling of Young Women’s President.  This surprised my dreaming self as well as made me think afterwards …

As commented by others here, I wonder what influence I could have by staying in the church although I have majorly stepped out and have been content in doing so.  Embracing full activity in the church again would not be so simple as giving someone a hug.  I have distanced myself in many beliefs and practices.

I recently had a conversation with a new roommate who actively participates in the local Buddhist center.  When asked about my religious background, I indicated that I have distanced myself from the church after its involvement in Prop8 but I go occasionally.  She then said something to the effect of how in a religious community, there are always differences of opinion and the best growth comes from dealing with those.  I was also reminded by a friend’s comment in November that the church needs people like me.

However, in thinking about that, I realized something.  In a church that claims that it has continuing revelation and “is the one true church,” is there no room for slack?  As discussed in the thread of my previous post, what level of imperfection is acceptable?

I walked out because I no longer saw the divinity of the system in many regards.  It wasn’t about the people so much as the structure.  As much as I would like to positively influence the teenagers, if I no longer believe some of the core principles of Mormondom (although being Mormon is still my culture), I think I would I do more harm than good to myself and to everyone else.

But I guess there is still part of me that wants to effect change through the traditional system.  I’ll influence people by my current position but I guess it would be easier to re-adopt the old that I know so well.  Is it wrong to dream of a calling I am not worthy of or really want?  I guess am still trying to figure it out.

I would be interested to know other people’s perspectives on if it is reasonable to want to effect change and how you go about it.

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30 Responses

  1. Sharon LDS in Tennessee says:

    Dear dear sister….My heart cries for you with your pain of searching for answers for your heart and intellect.
    Peace from the practice of our religion along with the joy of progression that is giving us answers that echo in our souls can be illusive at times.
    I send you a hug and encourage you to look for answers in the one place that will NEVER disappoint you, if we ask using the guidlines we’ve been told that are unfailing.
    With an open, soft, humble, sincere, with real intent, with faith heart, trusting God as a loving FATHER, and in the name of Jesus Christ (the one who gives us strength and can save us from ALL darkness and confusion.
    May I share with you what I have come to understand faith is?
    A literal BEAM that is shined – aimed – pointed to the HEART of God – using unconditional love from the very HEART of our being——-to touch the very center
    from your very center—Unseen by human eyes, but having SUBSTANCE / energy / frequency (like positive electricity).
    It carries part of YOU right to HIM. IT allows the “coming back to you, to the inside of your heart / soul” the feeling of connection / love. It gives to you a touch of testimony that can be had NO OTHER WAY. It can be felt in a strong physical way as well as even seen in your inner mind / or experience in your emotion. But it is always a quiet, FILLING, light-filled, healing, loving thing. I ran away from God for many years, afraid of His asking too much of me, or that I could not DO what he might ask should I become close to Him, know Him more.
    WRONG.
    When I chose to get closer, “tried to connect one-on-one” Wow. WHOA.
    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, acceptance. Rejoicing
    from Him to me for trusting Him. So much MORE back TO me than my puny efforts.
    This FAITH BEAM works…in prayer…and in a daily FOCUS..like directly to Christ.
    Lastly..remember this: the TRUE church teaches you the intelligent light and truth thru the gospel – which leads you to true worship – which can get you to the presence (intimate relationship) of (the head/true/God (with ALL CORE answers you will ever need about life/church/self/more).
    Love to you – your sister indeed.

  2. amyb says:

    I had a dream last night that the primary program in my family’s ward (the ward in which I grew up) was falling apart. The problem was that people were refusing to teach from the manuals because they didn’t agree with certain teachings.

    Perhaps if enough people speak up, change can happen. The church would change out of necessity if the membership at large started rebelling like the teachers of my dream did. I have often felt your same desire to affect change. Ultimately I decided it wasn’t worth the angst it caused me, and that there were plenty of people happy with the church as it is. I could find the change I wanted elsewhere.

  3. adamf says:

    I wish more people with diverse views and ways of being with faith and religion felt comfortable more actively participating, and that they would be embraced rather than kept quiet. Our wards (and the church as a whole) are really missing out. Makes me sad.

  4. Caroline says:

    Sadly, I think there’s not a lot we can do on an institutional level to effect change. But on a personal/ward level, I think there are some things.

    (This is just my theory – take it for what it’s worth) First, and this is hard and it’s something I struggle with, is to show up and volunteer. Be the first to sign up to bring the dinners or visit the old person, etc. By doing that you build up credibility. People see you as a kind Christian person. Second, speak your mind and be honest about where you are in your beliefs and struggles. This forces the people around you to deal with the idea that not everything is black and white. They begin to grapple with the realization that there are good people in our church who have major issues, who pick and choose, etc.

    As Adamf said, I think everyone is better off when there are people from all over the belief spectrum at church. If we all just hang around with people who completely agree with us in every way, I think we all miss out on valuable ways to learn to appreciate those we disagree with.

    Also your presence will help those other few people who are likewise struggling. They will need you there.

    That being said, I totally affirm those who find the cognitive dissonance too painful to deal with and ultimately decide to leave to find a community that better reflects their priorities. For my emotional health, I had to leave during the Prop 8 situation, so I really understand when others likewise decide they just can’t do it anymore.

  5. mb says:

    No level of imperfection is ultimately acceptable to God. However, I think you are asking how much imperfection can you live with in the meantime.

    The answer is, I think, that it is up to you. For me, ultimately, the question has been how much do I trust God to be able to fully heal the harm done by those who seek to serve him but inadvertantly make huge mistakes that cause sorrow and misunderstanding? How much do I trust him to be able to make those who refuse to see, ultimately see? How patient can I be while I watch his work accomplished? How well can I learn to disagree with my fellows and completely love at the same time?

    I went through a time when I felt personally responsible to correct the errors I perceived in the lives and work of my church leaders. I fiercely wanted to avoid being affiliated in anyone’s mind with the errors of thinking and action that I saw in others who represented my congregation or my church. I could not bear to be associated with those gross imperfections in the minds of others.

    My God taught me to trust him more, to hand that correcting to him, to cease to tie my self-image with my church and demand constant saintliness from it in order to feel okay with being associated with it. He taught me that the work I did would only be influential if I truly loved and readily forgave those with whom I worked, and helped them to understand and forgive each other. And, you know, He was right.

    I sense that you have the potential to be a profound influence for good in the church, but like most all of us Christians, it will not be because we are heard, or if we consciously correct but rather, if we can humble ourselves, learn to listen to the Spirit and speak with humility and power when it moves us and to keep silent when it says to pause, truly love and forgive and unselfconsciously do as much kind good as we can see. Perhaps you know a few souls who have learned how to do that. I know a few, for whose example I am profoundly grateful.

    So yes, my experience has taught me that it is reasonable to want to effect change, but if that is your only motive your pride and self-consciousness will trip you up. But if your motive is love and your ego isn’t involved and you’re in touch with the Holy Spirit, and you are willing to go at the speed and in the ways he directs, not yours, you will make a profound difference.

  6. Kelly Ann says:

    Sharon, Yes, it is a matter of faith.

    AmyB, I agree with you that the question is is the angst worth it?

    AdamF, It is the being kept quiet that really bothers me.

    Caroline, I am learning to be honest. But it is hard to let people down so to speak. I still have a reputation I have to counter. It has helped me to know that their are other people with major issues who pick and choose. But for me, the card deck fell all at once which makes it really hard. It really just became too much and now I find myself rebuilding everything. So when I go, I’m trying to be more honest. I still haven’t “come out” to all my friends.

    MB, Yes, my journey is teaching me how to trust God in a completely different way. I am no longer on the standard Mormon projectory. I’m just relearning how to listen and be humble and figure out what is the right fit. And I hope that as I first effect change in myself, I will make a difference no matter what my course.

    I just wish I didn’t have to live with so much cognitive dissonance to stay within the church. Because there are so many things I don’t think are right.

  7. Jana says:

    (hopefully not too much of a threadjack, but I’d really like to discuss this)
    mb, you said:

    No level of imperfection is ultimately acceptable to God.

    My question is why. Why can’t god accept imperfection or times in our lives when we need to ‘slack’ a little? And if he really can’t tolerate this, then why did he create a flawed world peopled by flawed beings, who sometimes need to let things rest for awhile?

  8. mb says:

    Jana, I guess I wasn’t clear. The key here is “ultimately”. I was talking about way, way, down the road, long after this life is far behind us. He doesn’t expect perfection now. He knows we mess up and loves us through that. And he has certainly given me blessed “down times” to balance the times when my life requires amounts of goodness and love and devotion and work beyond what I think I can do. I hope you’ve felt them too.

    So no, I wasn’t saying he doesn’t tolerate and understand imperfection in us right now. He certainly does, both in us and in the people in church whose imperfections drive us crazy.

    God really does have great compassion for our sins and imperfections and, as you point out, we desparately need that “slack” from him. He totally and lovingly understands our imperfectness and my experience is that he endlessly compensates for them when I try to work with him.

    Can you see, however, how nonsensical it is for us to declare our reasonable need for his patience and forgiveness and “slack” and respite, which he lovingly gives us and then, at the same time, we chafe so fully and in such anguish and frustration at the follies and errors we perceive in the lives of misguided church leaders or the fallout from their actions?

    We need to be more like him in mercy.

  9. Phannie says:

    I wish that I had a great and powerful answer for you, but I don’t. I struggle every day with things that “the church” does or doesn’t do. Some of those things are local things and some are world wide (ex-prop8). I have really struggled to make myself seperate the difference between the ward leaders and the prophet. It’s hard.

    For me it boils down to what I believe. I have turned down callings for similar reasons. I really wanted to run in the opposite direction from the church. And some days I tell my hubby I’m not going back, but I do. There are things about the temple and my covenants that I just don’t want to give up. I stay. All the while doing my best to open eyes. I don’t do it in a manner that is received by everyone, but I do it. Someone will hear me.

    My therapist told me I was “normal” and that the church in Utah needed more people like me here. It made me feel better, not great, but better.

    I would only suggest you make sure you know what you really believe and truely feel. If there isn’t anything left, then there isn’t anything left. If there is something that you cannot let go of yet, don’t let go. Not yet anyway.

    Stick to the core principles that Christ taught. They’re what is important.

  10. Chris says:

    I voted against Prop 8, but I guess I haven’t evangelized my decision too much. I figure I can do simpler things such as saying the following in a talk in sac meeting yesterday:

    “In my mind, the best goals are of willingness to love and serve other
    people. Are we sure that we treat people of other political parties,
    ethnicities, and economic status the same? To make sure, we might
    invite friends of a diverse background into our home and serve them a
    meal or a kind word.”

    “Are we sure that we never assume that our membership in the church
    makes us special or better than non-members? To make sure, are we
    willing to become friends with and serve non-members, even if they
    make it clear they will not join the church?”

    BTW, how do I meet single women with the sort of open mind shown here? I guess I could start visiting singles wards on fast-n-test sunday, and from the pulpit ask for everyone who has questions about Prop 8 to meet me afterwards… 😉 Maybe not.

  11. Kelly Ann says:

    Jana & MB, Thanks for pursuing that line further. I think God does tolerate imperfection in us. We will never be perfect without him. I have always accepted imperfection in other people. What gets me is the fallout of leader’s actions, problems from the top so to speak – where it is greater than one person.

    Chris, thank you for sharing your perspective. In church you might have a problem, but online there are single women like myself who share similar opinions … However, in fairness, dealing with differences is not just an issue in dating – many do it in marriage.

  12. Kelly Ann says:

    And Phannie, what keeps me going is that it is a matter of belief. I just deal with what I believe one day at a time.

  13. Jessawhy says:

    Chris,
    I’ve also been wondering about how open-minded single Mormons could find each other.

    If anyone knows of a good way, I’m happy to pass it along to my single friends.

  14. Caroline says:

    Chris, I say check out Sunstone. Particularly the Salt Lake one. Not only is it fantastically fun, it’s a great way to form friendships and communities with other progressive/academic Mormons.

  15. mb says:

    Kelly, you wrote:

    “I have always accepted imperfection in other people. What gets me is the fallout of leader’s actions, problems from the top so to speak – where it is greater than one person.”

    I hear you. One of the things I have learned about myself is that if I am unable to accept imperfection in others it is usually a case of my failing to understand and exercise forgiveness and if I am unable to let go of anguish over fallout of the actions of leaders (problems from the top) it is because I really don’t trust Jesus’ ability to heal all wounds and undo all sorrows.

    I have decided that I can live in frustration mode (in the mode of feeling betrayed and severely disappointed and sorrowful) or I can stay with and love and associate with both the inadvertent wounders and the inadvertently wounded, and work to assist God’s healing (which really will be complete in its time). The latter takes thought, patience, the Spirit, articulateness and constant kindness, but, I can tell you, its fruit is sweet.

  16. Emily U says:

    I feel like saying to anyone who’s thinking of leaving the church, Please stay. Please stay. I need you to stay. And to anyone who’s left, please come back. Even if you don’t believe all of it and even if you’re not orthodox. You have something important to give. When someone leaves, the true things that person could share will never be said, and we all lose something.

  17. Kelly Ann says:

    Emily U, It would be nice to feel like I could stay. I finally “came out” all the way to my mom yesterday (told her I stopped wearing my garments and that I stopped believing a lot of things) She told me that I should just embrace the good. In response, to feminist issues, she responded “you’re just figuring out the church is sexist?” She has lots of her own issues but she successfully shelves them.

    Besides Prop8 pissing me off, I realized that it reflected my lack of faith in the leadership. I don’t consider all of it inspired. I also don’t consider the discrimination against blacks or women inspired. I don’t consider a lot of church history inspired like polygamy, polyandry, the adam-god doctrine, blood atonement, the danites, etc. (some of which I was not aware of until recently) I have never had a strong testimony of Joseph Smith. I believed on the faith of others and on the premise of “why not”. But I am asking why now …

    And although I believe God has the power to reveal himself to whomever he chooses, and that Joseph Smith was inspired on many accounts (as is the current church leadership), that he was nuts and took advantage of a lot of people. I believe a lot of people have been inspired like other religious leaders and do the same.

    So while I recognize the church has made me a better person, and there are good people here, I can not embrace “the one true church” rhetoric and that sets me a part. It is not a matter of one doctrine or two. To come back into full activity with that fundamental discrepancy just is too much for me.

    But to some extent, as mb says, I am still embracing “frustration mode” and trying to be patient, understanding, loving, and seek for spiritual experiences. Whatever they may be.

    Perhaps my beliefs will shift back, I don’t know. The question is what is enough to fit in?

  18. D'Arcy says:

    Kelly Ann, I’m in a very similar place as you. I keep questioning what it is worth to stay. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life the past year that have been SO good for me, and yet go against so much of what the church teaches. Its hard not to be able to go and take the sacrament because I truly feel that God and I are good and that he wouldn’t mind me making my covenants with him, that I havne’t really broken those baptisimal covenants. And yet, I wonder what parts of my life it will cost me to stay and endure so much that I don’t believe in and to know that I’ll always be on the outskirts and that people will be afraid and skeptical of what I represent.

    Like you, I’m dealing with it one day at a time. Best of luck friend!

  19. D'Arcy says:

    Kelly Ann, I’m in a very similar place as you. I keep questioning what it is worth to stay. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life the past year that have been SO good for me, and yet go against so much of what the church teaches. Its hard not to be able to go and take the sacrament because I truly feel that God and I are good and that he wouldn’t mind me making my covenants with him, that I havne’t really broken those baptisimal covenants. And yet, I wonder what parts of my life it will cost me to stay and endure so much that I don’t believe in and to know that I’ll always be on the outskirts and that people will be afraid and skeptical of what I represent.

    Like you, I’m dealing with it one day at a time. Best of luck friend!

  20. D'Arcy says:

    Kelly Ann, I’m in a very similar place as you. I keep questioning what it is worth to stay. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life the past year that have been SO good for me, and yet go against so much of what the church teaches. Its hard not to be able to go and take the sacrament because I truly feel that God and I are good and that he wouldn’t mind me making my covenants with him, that I havne’t really broken those baptisimal covenants. And yet, I wonder what parts of my life it will cost me to stay and endure so much that I don’t believe in and to know that I’ll always be on the outskirts and that people will be afraid and skeptical of what I represent.

    Like you, I’m dealing with it one day at a time. Best of luck friend!

  21. D'Arcy says:

    Kelly Ann, I’m in a very similar place as you. I keep questioning what it is worth to stay. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life the past year that have been SO good for me, and yet go against so much of what the church teaches. Its hard not to be able to go and take the sacrament because I truly feel that God and I are good and that he wouldn’t mind me making my covenants with him, that I havne’t really broken those baptisimal covenants. And yet, I wonder what parts of my life it will cost me to stay and endure so much that I don’t believe in and to know that I’ll always be on the outskirts and that people will be afraid and skeptical of what I represent.

    Like you, I’m dealing with it one day at a time. Best of luck friend!

  22. mb says:

    Kelly Ann,
    You wrote:
    “I also don’t consider the discrimination against blacks or women inspired. I don’t consider a lot of church history inspired like polygamy, polyandry, the adam-god doctrine, blood atonement, the danites, etc. (some of which I was not aware of until recently) …. I can not embrace “the one true church” rhetoric and that sets me a part. It is not a matter of one doctrine or two.”

    I think one of the best things my faithful, church-going parents did when I was growing up was to speak frankly and honestly about the uninspired parts of church history. I was fully aware of all of the things you mentioned before I was half-way through high school. Heck, one of my ancestors’ brothers was one of those danite types and the family has always known about him and that he was an irresponsible, unpredictable, hot-tempered guy that none of us were to ever to consider growing up to be like.

    We do the rising generation a great disservice when we are afraid, as teachers, to look at some of the follies of the past and talk about them. When we paint only the “beautiful picture” then our students and children think “the one true church” means “the never-do-anything-stupid, always-be-totally-inspired church” (which it doesn’t). It makes it a lot harder for them when they find out about the not so inspired parts in both the past and the present.

  23. Caroline says:

    Loved that last paragraph, mb. Well said.

  24. AS says:

    I like this article, and I particularly liked mb’s response. We are a church of imperfect people, and as I’ve said plenty of times, “If I was going to leave because I didn’t agree with a leader, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

    Unfortunately, we are living in a world where many things are acceptable, and many good people are doing things that we are told are wrong. If the Lord says those things are wrong, then those things are wrong. The people who participate in the wrong things are not bad, and it gets difficult to distinguish between the good people and the unacceptable behaviors and/or beliefs. It is heartbreaking to feel like something that we feel is a part of us or someone we love is unacceptable in the eyes of God. It is heartbreaking for me to realize all of the bad things that God lets happen to good people, and to be honest, I haven’t completey come to terms with it. But, I do have a testimony of Jesus Christ and his church her on earth. And because I know it is true, I know the Lord will be patient with me as I try to work these other things out.

  25. Kelly Ann says:

    AS, in response to your comment that “If I was going to leave because I didn’t agree with a leader, I would’ve left a long time ago,” I would like to say that I have and could put up with a lot.

    I have seen local leaders make poor organizational decisions, give poor speeches, be hypocritical, get released or even disciplined for misconduct. Honestly, I tolerated that. I saw that they were exceptions rather than rules. I still believed in general inspiration. I know people aren’t perfect. I have always believed and defended that.

    However, my departure isn’t just about Prop8 although it is intimately connected to it. Can I give the prophet “slack” for being wrong? Can I give the area presidency “slack” for implementing a program with the First Presidency’s approval that I believe crossed the lines?

    For me, it wasn’t the issue. I have posted comments here in threads before describing my experience. When I go to church, I should not feel personally attacked. I should not feel like it is a political campaign. My mother who has nothing should not have been asked to donate a set amount of money from the Bishop based on her tithing records. People I know who disagreed should not have been released from prominent callings. Leadership should not have been publicly required (yes, required) to pray for Prop8 in Sacrament meeting before the election.

    But as my head has spun in response to my experiences, I realized that I don’t believe the top is always inspired. When I looked at church history, I saw the same thing. Bullying at times by the leadership. I could no longer justify polygamy and all the other issues I mentioned. It seemed easier to let the card deck fall.

    So while I still see the good, that’s what gets me. My faith in the divine aspect is kind of shot. As MB says, I know that the church isn’t “the never-do-anything-stupid, always-be-totally-inspired church” but I need to trust that the top is more inspired than it appears to have been.

  26. Kiri Close says:

    Sounds like you’re bored in church membership.

    I am too.

    And it’s normal.

    Thank goodnes for X-2, and the few really amazing, AWARE, LDS friends.

  27. Kiri Close says:

    Girlfriend, I love you wherever you are (in/out of church, streaking in the street, etc.).

    This is not our parent’s church, and I personally stay to help change from within (but, girl, I’m mad every Sunday at something LDS affiliated!!! Don’t feel alone!).

    And I believe my remaining (and still loving this church while also hating it) has inspired some change of thought & action (for example, I heavily lectured our current branch president for his ‘kind’ way of publicly bullying people, singling people out to make an example of them–I wasn’t sweet about it, either).

  28. Kelly Ann says:

    Kiri, I love you wherever you are as well!

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