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The Dream

by Anonymous

The other night I crawled into bed, my body physically aching with the pain of a newly broken heart.  It took an hour for sleep to come, but when it came I slept soundly.  Until I woke with a start at 2:30 in the morning having just had the most bizarre dream. 

I dreamed I was with my family.  We were all there, but one of my siblings and I were most present.  We had all built a contraption of some sort—a structure.  It was large and shiny, made of metal—almost monumental.  We sat outside it competing with one another.  The competition involved taking a small bird with a long feathery tail in our hands and throwing it into the sky.  It never seemed to catch anything; it just circled around and around, never going out of sight.  After circling for a few minutes, the bird would return.  I would raise my hand for it to land.  Each time it did, it hurt me—clawing up my hand until it drew blood. 

When we launched this little bird, we had to use a utensil that was part of the structure we had built.  We each had our own utensil, because we each competed alone.  The utensil rested inside a holder that stayed in place on the structure; the two together formed a single key unit of the structure.  That utensil helped us launch our bird with as much velocity as we could so it would fly higher and higher.  The utensils were at the top of the structure, so they weren’t foundational; but they were central to the structure’s integrity.  The structure stood with no problem when we removed them because the holder stayed in place.  When I first took hold of my utensil in the dream, it forced me to realize the actual size of the structure: even though these pieces were central, they were no larger than a knife or fork.  The structure was not actually that big after all.

At some point, the structure needed repair.  My sibling took the piece that had my utensil in it and moved it.  It had been at the top of the structure with the others’ utensils, available for me to use.  But my sibling moved it to the base where it now formed part of the foundation. 

We recommenced our bird competition.  It was beautiful.  Fascinating.  And so painful.  So much tearing of flesh on the hands.  But I loved my little bird.  When I needed my utensil, I looked around for it.  I discovered it at the bottom of the structure, flipped around and inverted.  I carefully found a way to extract my utensil from its holder without threatening the collapse of the structure.  I wanted to continue competing—to give my bird flight.  Even though the structure remained standing, my sibling was very angry with me—for threatening the collapse of the structure; for putting my need for that vital component of our competition before the integrity of the structure as a whole.  My sibling thought I should have sacrificed my need in order to not risk the integrity of this structure—a structure that ended up being smaller than it seemed.  And which stood when I took my utensil out anyway.  I was filled with an intense sense of loss—because I had not been permitted to continue; because my sibling’s idea of how the structure should be was deemed more important than my continued participation.

 
I woke up from this dream with absolute clarity of vision and mind.  I remembered all the details—the flash of sunlight on the metal structure; the bird whirling in the sky, its tail flowing behind it; its claws tearing into my flesh as I raised my hand to greet it.  And I knew that this dream was true.  I’ve had one other dream this revelatory—also at a time of intense emotional pain.  That dream seven years ago was also figurative, incredibly detailed, and directly applicable to what was happening in my life at the time.  After that dream, I also woke up with a perfectly clear recollection of the dream’s details and with an absolute conviction that it communicated truth to me.  I knew I should write it down, but I didn’t.  I fell asleep and when I woke again some of the detail was gone.  So when I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago, remembering every detail and knowing that the dream communicated truth, I reached for my computer and recorded it.  I knew immediately that it was about my relationship with my own soul and the church.

I have struggled with the church for years.  I love it.  It is so much of my background.  It defines much of how I relate to my family and many of my friends.  I love the principles of Christ’s gospel.  They are beautiful and precious to me and I try to live by them as fully as I can each day.  But I often find myself full of pain and anger because of the emphasis the church and its members put on what could be called church superstructure.  Modesty.  Hair length.  Movies and TV shows.  Whether one appears to be living as one should.  Coffee and tea.  Keeping house and ironing clothes.  We spend so much energy on such insignificant things.  And at the moment I am finding myself more and more disillusioned with the church’s commitment to honesty and agency.  It seems to have completely abandoned Joseph Smith’s counsel to teach the members correct principles and let them govern themselves.  The methods used to instruct the members on Prop. 8 in California have been painfully obvious examples of church-sanctioned thought control. 

Before sleeping the other night, and before having my heart broken, I had come to the realization that my spiritual health, and the health of my relationships, depends on separating myself from these superficialities.  I knew that so long as I continue to battle with the church—seeing and trying to counteract the misdirections and misinformation which I believe work directly against the gospel of Christ—, I will not enjoy peace of mind or peace of conscience.  When I woke from my dream, I knew it confirmed what I had decided earlier. 

I don’t anticipate completely leaving the church.  I love some peculiarly Mormon interpretations of Christ’s gospel.  And practicing Mormonism has led me to some intensely meaningful personal revelations about life.  When I am able to engage with those truths rather than with the petty attempts at controlling mind and behavior, I am spiritually happy.  So I hope to find a way to continue to engage with the church on that level.  But I refuse to carry a burden of pain and anguish because I cannot conform to everyone else’s perception of what it means to be Mormon.  I simply will not do it.  Life is too good and sweet and beautiful to spend it watching a small part of my soul whirling in circles only to return to me and claw at my flesh, and then to be denied even that small portion. 

Note: This post is not about Prop. 8 so we ask that you not comment about Prop. 8.  Any comment that references Prop. 8, regardless of its tone or content, may be deleted.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this dream. I wish my dreams
    were as life changing.
    My heart has been broken for the second time in a few short months. My husband has admitted to being addicted to
    ###########. This enlightenment came after the birth
    of our fifth child. I am at a loss as what to do. I
    have read everything that I can, but I have such feeling of hate. I find that the teachings of the church are
    all about support for him. I love the same things that
    you do about the Mormon Church, and I keep going
    for my family and for the hope that I will at some
    point find something that will help me get through
    this ordeal.
    I am sorry that this Prop. has hurt your soul.
    Maybe it isn’t entirely the Prop, but it is the
    comments that come from those that you love and want
    to admire.

  2. RoAnn says:

    Thank you for sharing this vivid dream, Anon.
    Your beautiful, heartfelt and poignant essay reminded me once again of how differently we may perceive the Gospel of Christ,the LDS Church and its leaders, and the imperfect members with come in contact with.

    Things that you describe as “church superstructure” which you consider “insignificant,” or things you label as “petty attempts at controlling mind and behavior,” do not really strike me in the same way.

    Perhaps we are all somewhat similar to the group of blind men trying to describe an elephant based on touching only one part of it.

    Our experiences are so very different, and our limited mortal understanding usually keeps us from seeing the total picture. It’s unfortunate that we often judge others unfairly, and forget to extend to all the charity we need and hope to receive ourselves.

    I hope you can cling to the truths which bring you peace and joy, and forgive those who have caused you pain.

  3. Caroline says:

    This is a profound dream. I must admit I’m a bit jealous that others can have such revelatory experiences in their dreams. My dreams generally consist of me not being able to find my gate at the airport or having the pricipal come in to my classroom when I don’t have a lesson prepared. Or most recently, dreaming that a harmless old frat friend of my brother was the nefarious mastermind of Prop 8. (sorry, wasn’t supposed to mention that.)

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. It’s intriguing to think about what your new relationship with the church will look like. You mention not doing battle any more. Does that mean no longer contributing in SS or RS lessons? Does that mean not accepting callings unless you really want them? Does it mean disengaging with the current Church (and not caring about it so much), but instead just focusing on those grand visions of humanity set forth by JS?

    I’m looking for peace too, so these are the questions I ask myself as well.

    Anonymous commenter, my heart goes out to you. Best of luck with your current struggle. I hope you find peace in the end.

  4. Amy Elizabeth says:

    thank you for sharing this. What an amazing and fascinating dream.

    And your story. It really resounded with where I personally am with a lot of my life and relationship with the church. I feel that there is no seperating myself from the gospel– I could never really “leave” because I don’t know where I end and where the gospel begins (did that make sense at all?)– Not suggesting that you are leaving.

    I sometimes have to take a week off, though, to “cleanse” myself from some of the overwhelming cultural and perhaps (non-doctrinal) indoctrinating emphases that permeate the meetings. I spend my time trying to focus a lot on the scriptures and other non-cannonized scriptures that I do hold as truth.

    Otherwise, it just becomes too overwhelming and sad for me to handle… because if I were to accept all of that shtuff as the truth and keeping nodding or smiling while gritting my teeth, parts of my core would be further stifled, suffocated, and beaten down. Not that I don’t interject my opinions, but I don’t want to sound like a broken record.

    Funny side-note on that, my mother limits herself to just one or two comments per lesson so she doesn’t feel like she’s going overboard. Even though it can be really hard to get through the lessons in the extremely conservative southern state she lives in.

  5. Kli says:

    I love this. I’ve been reading more on Carl Jung and the interpretation of dreams. More frequently, but not diligently, I’ve begun writing down my dreams first thing in the morning…after which they seem to disappear from my memories…until I reread the dream entry a week later. I think it’s my soul/spirit trying to speak with me in a safe place. Sounds like yours is doing the same thing with you. I too am learning that I can’t conform to anyone else’s perception of what it means to be Mormon and in doing so have been able to lesson a lot of the pain I felt. It’s hard to explain. I haven’t really reconciled any of the issues I have with the Church…but my love for it seems to be growing. I find it’s the same type of love of a sibling/family member- where I find myself simply excusing, or dismissing things I don’t like… that’s at the stage I’m at right now.

  6. Dissident Daughter says:

    Anonymous author, your dream is such a beautiful gift. I hope you follow your heart and are greeted with continued clarity and support in your journey.

    As one who has chosen the road less traveled for many similar reasons, I am just now finding my sea legs in an ocean of people disappointed at my turning away from what they see as sacred and that I finally allowed myself to admit was toxic to my soul. (RoAnn, I very sincerely acknowledge and agree with your genuine response to everyone seeing the world differently. However, I reject the idea that leaving or breaking away from the church is a failure on her part to see eternity clearly. As one who no longer believes in a “one true way”, I find that kind of sympathy patronizing at its worst and empty at best. If that was not your intent, please forgive my assumption.)

  7. RoAnn says:

    Dissident Daughter,
    It was certainly not my intent to be in any way patronizing! I thought that I had made it clear that I think that our mortal condition makes it impossible for any of us to “see eternity clearly;” and thus we should judge others less, and extend compassion and forgiveness to all–whether or not they believe the same way we do.

  8. saintalbatross says:

    Warning: man post ahead!! *wince*

    I had a dream right at the time I left the church. I’ve written about it a couple times on the ‘naccle. As in yours, the images and impressions it made on me were very precise, and their meaning to me very clear. It not only told me about leaving the church, but who I should be and how I should act upon returning.

    I actually find the church MUCH less controlling not only of thinking but of the inessential minutia than the church I grew up in. The thing is, no one is spiritually nourished by discussions about hair length. We are deeply spiritually nourished by, to use some dream imagery, living water. A lot of what is personally, emotionally resonant doesn’t qualify as living water, however.

    If I learned one thing in my years it is that archetypal image I have of my “true” self is a poor source of direction, and is in fact, in the end, largely an illusion. The actual archetypal image to follow is the image of Christ. Jung calls Christ the ‘symbol of the self.’ By that he means a whole (holy) and complete self. Following _only_ after what is personally resonant feels expansive, but it ultimately leaves us as half a wo/man, or less, and tied something that cannot grow beyond its bounds. This is an emotional paradox, but it is so. We are actually designed to be so much more. I recall what was for so long the most difficult scripture for me (paraphrasing) ‘he that finds his life will lose it, but he that loses his life _for my sake_ will find it.’

    I have found it to be the easiest thing in the world to simply not give those little things more gravity than a little thing warrants. If there is someone among my companions, say my family, that thinks that their salvation is a matter of not seeing a PG-13 movie, then, truthfully, I kind of feel annoyed. But they are still my companion (neighbor) and there is still mutual responsibility (!!) between us.

    Best to you, in any case. 🙂

    Anonymous poster #1. I’m imagining that your husband has admitted to an addiction to porn. I don’t enough space to talk about this. But I can say without qualification that it is something that can be overcome, and that that process is a deep heart process, and that you would be missing out to not take part in it, however painful it might be at certain points. Your husband is one of millions and millions of men – but also women. I’ve known many women involved in the sex industry in my younger years. You can’t believe that his problem defines him – even though it may feel that way to you both. He is many many things besides his addiction. And even though his ability to love you as well as he might his hampered by his addiction, there is a part of him that feels that pain and disappointment. It can be like walking a mine field finding those points of connection and tenderness. I’ve had to take care of my own addiction to the sex industry alone, because my wife hasn’t always seen it as a problem to be overcome. That loneliness made it doubly difficult. On the other hand, I certainly don’t blame anyone for the decisions they make when confronted by deeply painful realities. I don’t beleive that one answer fits all. Double best to you. 🙂

    ~

    ~

  9. jks says:

    “We spend so much energy on such insignificant things.”

    I wonder, though, who spends more energy on insignificant things? It takes no time and little energy to turn off a bad TV show. It’s just a hairstyle. If it isn’t important, then why would someone cling to it? If your wardrobe is already modest, there is little energy spent thinking about it.
    Perhaps you will read this and decide I’m just one of the Mormon crowd you seem to think wastes energy on these issues. But I except for the TV thing (my husband watches more TV than I do and I’m not always happy with the content for myself or the kids), I am not at church discussing modesty and hair length or ironing 24/7.
    I guess I am in a wonderful ward. I can’t imagine having to live up to an image, or have people talking about how righteous they are because their house is clean or their kids have short haircuts.
    I am not perfect, and there are things that the prophet has said that I don’t quite manage to live up to. Someday, maybe, someday I’ll read the scriptures everyday or invite nonmembers to church. But even as I realize I can’t quite do it all, I don’t disagree with what the prophet asks of us, or what our church leaders ask of us.

    “I refuse to carry a burden of pain and anguish because I cannot conform to everyone else’s perception of what it means to be Mormon. ”
    This statement makes me sad. I do not know what stage of life you are in, but I used to go around always aware of what people thought of me (anywhere I went). I have slowly let go of this complete self-consciousness. My self-esteem has always been high, but it didn’t matter, I was still ultra-selfconscious.
    I can’t tell what experiences you’ve had that make you feel like you are being judged so harshly. But I hope that you can see the church as a help to your growth in the gospel. The only thing that you should be conforming to is God’s will, not other people’s individual perceptions.

  10. Kli says:

    JKS writes:

    “I can’t tell what experiences you’ve had that make you feel like you are being judged so harshly.”

    Really? Reading your comment made me see exactly why I feel so similarly to Anon’s post and I’m surprised that you can not understand her discomfort with judgement, when that is precisely what you are doing. You say you feel so sad for Anon, but Anon is saying she is spiritually happy! She does not need your pity.

  11. jks says:

    “I refuse to carry a burden of pain and anguish because I cannot conform to everyone else’s perception of what it means to be Mormon. ”

    Kli,
    When she said this, I thought there had been pain and anguish. This made me sad. Not only did her pain and anguish make me sad, but the fact that she had at some point felt a burden of other people’s expectations of what it means to be a church member, instead of Christ’s expectations.
    You and I, she and I may well differ in what we think Christ’s expectations are. But that is a completely different idea and I wasn’t refering to that.
    I was talking about the fact that if I go to church late, for instance, I might have the feeling that everyone else is judging me.
    However, if I arrive at church late, I do not have to be self-conscious about it. If I know I was doing my best to live the gospel, that is enough for me and for God.
    I said in my post that I have slowly lost this kind of self-consciousness. I was a shy child who moved a lot and often felt out of place.
    And I stand by the innocuous statement that I do not know what kinds of experiences she has had. How is she treated by LDS friends and acquaintances and ward members? I have no idea. She, and you, apparently feel judged, but I am not sure in what way. So I said I didn’t know what experiences she had had. Every ward is different, every person has a different experience. In my ward, I don’t feel like anyone is judging anyone.
    I have had different experiences than her. I think what I am saying about feeling self-consciousness might be applicable, and I think it is too bad that that idea is being lost because of your belief that I am judging.

  12. Kli says:

    jks- thanks for the reply. I can see where you’re coming from. I’ve had family members leave the church- and they are happy and doing well- so I don’t appreciate it when someone hears about them and will say, “oh, I’m so sorry”- as if they’ve died or something.

    To me, my ‘self-conciousness’ in church isn’t necessarily about what people will think of me,or whether or not people are judging me. Honestly- I could care less at this point in my life. It’s more what I think of MYSELF and how I feel in a situation where I am not comfortable with what is being said. Sometimes it can get tiring, sitting in relief society and hearing lessons that simply don’t sit right with my own consciousness. Now, instead of holding my tongue- I’ll speak up. While I may not be the most popular gal in relief society, I find that I’m not as frustrated.

    My main point is, I don’t believe that Anon is simply basing her feelings about staying in and out of the church based on what others think about her. I actually don’t see her as a self-conscious/ low-self esteem individual…I think she is actually a lot stronger by discovering her own truths and then standing up to them and to those who would deem those personal truths false.

  13. G says:

    thank you, anon for sharing this dream. I’m so glad you made the effort to remember, record and share it.

    adding little bit to jks’s and kli’s comments; I have also been feeling extraordinary pain when I attend church (therefore I am taking a break) but it has nothing to do with feeling judged by the people in my ward- they have all only been kind and welcoming. The problem lay in the fact that every single talk/lesson/etc was about things I didn’t believe in. That sort of mental gymnastics every Sunday for a three-hour block is nerve-wracking, unpleasant and, I decided, unnecessary.

    but I do love the people in that ward. it will just be better for everyone involved if we just do dinner parties instead of sunday-school lessons together for a while. (still finding out if that will fly.)

  14. Doc says:

    I share your love for the beautiful principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray you may learn to forgive, love, and heal. Best of luck in your journey.

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