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by Zenaida

When were my first moments of doubt?

Was it when I first fathomed the possibility of eternal polygamy, or the some of the details of how it began with Jospeh Smith?  Was it when I read that Blacks are “descendants of Cain” and are punished for the sins of their father with black skin condemning so many of Gods children from the moment they’re born?

Was it the realization that I had to admit that one of my closest friends is gay?  Was it seeing a happy, functional, loving gay relationship for the first time?

Is truth simply what I chose it to be?  People say there’s absolute truth… beyond human truth, beyond God, that exists independently of us.  Why does God change His mind?  I wouldn’t want to be told that my skin is black because my first ancestor after Adam was a murderer.  And, now they are allowed to have the priesthood?  Do we simply have to overcome those things?  And what is the alternative if we don’t?  Would God really leave me in the Terrestial kingdom for all eternity because I couldn’t figure it out here, or is that generous?  If I told him, I don’t want to be given in marriage or be a rib forever?

I’ve been looking at the fruits of different communities as carefully as I can.  Mormon communities do seem to be very alive.

When were there moments of truth?

Was it at my grandmother’s death?  Hearing of Heavenly Mother taking an active role in someone’s life? (A friend who had been struck by lightening was told in a blessing that his Heavenly Mother was there.)  Hearing Pres. Hinckley say that life was more than being barefoot and pregnant for women?  Was it being comforted in the temple while crying over being forced to veil my face?

Was it holding a newborn for the first time?

Do I doubt only because I didn’t get the Mormon fairy tale?  Because I didn’t get what I wanted?  Because I can’t have everything, a family, a career?  So I self-sabotage until I’m wearing a circular rut into the ground?

Why do all of these have to be questions?  Can’t I know something for a change?

Like: “I know the church is true.  I know God lives and loves us individually.  I know Jesus suffered the atonement for me and for you.  I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and [insert current prophet] is a prophet of God and speaks for Him today.”

These are the words I would have said.  The words I have crafted and refined, making sure I hit every point since the moment my mother whispered them in my ear in the first time I stepped to the pulpit.  Will I have to live with the bitter disappointment on her face for the rest of my life?

So what is truth?  Is it my truth?  Is it absolute truth?  Would I chose absolute truth if I didn’t like it?

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16 Responses

  1. Maria says:

    Beautiful. My husband likes to say that we don’t believe in things/ideas because they are true… they are true because we believe in them. Truth then becomes individual, as individual as each of our relationships with diety or religion.

  2. G says:

    thank you.

  3. AS says:

    I have been musing on some of those same things. I was just reading a book about Mormon polygamy… I just don’t get it. Thankfully right now I don’t have to. And I can’t imagine going on a mission and not being able to teach anyone that has black skin in their geneology (I have had older people tell me of those experiences). I still feel like I have a strong testimony, but perhaps I was put her on the earth at this time because I do have a hard time understanding those things. I do believe in the core truths and consequently the rest follows. If I don’t understand, I will pray that I will understand if I need to…

  4. Kaylana says:

    I’ve wondered the same thing throughout my Mormon life. How am I equal with a man when so many things in the Church tell I’m not. I bawled in the Celestial Room the first time realizing I had to veil my face and the men didn’t; realizing I was to be a Priestess to my husband and not to God, like him. When there’s no mention of a heavenly mother, really. What’s my role in this life and what’s it going to be like in the next? Do I want it? So many questions. But peace and answers at different times have come so I stay and try to be faithful and hoping it works out in the end somehow…

  5. Lolo says:

    This topic has been weighing on my brain quite heavily lately. I love that you said: “Do I doubt only because I didn’t get the Mormon fairy tale? Because I didn’t get what I wanted? ” I find myself starting all over in life, not only because the Mormon temple marriage fairy tale did not work, but my religious tradition based on all of these “truths” and “promises” did not exactly work they way I thought they would. My sister emailed me earlier today for their was a post on one of her groups about this such topic. This is what was said, and i found myself really feeling some good vibrations from it. “I know the Church is true; Not as some people seem to “need” it to be, some perfect image on a pedestal, but true in the sense that a 2×4 or perhaps an arrow is ‘true’—straight and functionally useful. That is the Church, to me. God set it in place; God sustains it today; It supplies us with what we need if we give our hearts to Christ.”

    and I don’t think I can answer your questions yet. I would like to say that i would chose absolute truth even if i didn’t like it…but now…no way. Someday.

  6. mb says:

    Nice point about “true”, Lolo. As used in the Book of Mormon “true” is defined as “persuadeth men to do good”, “good” and “administered [however imperfectly] according to the commandments of Christ”.

    I believe that there is absolute truth but I do not believe any of us see it fully. Nor do I believe that “knowing” means seeing complete truth. It means being strong in conviction. And I believe it is a gift. Let me explain.

    I have a friend who is in her 80s. She grew up in and still lives in a poverty stricken pocket of Appalachia. She married (and still chooses to be married to) an erratic man when she was in her teens and, working hard all her life, raised a passel of daughters, some of whom found the church and introduced it to her when she was a grandmother in her 40s. She struggles with learning disabilities and is hard of hearing and is constantly anxious about her family, poverty and keeping her household going. She bears a joyful and absolutely certain testimony (“I know… I know… I know…) and that testimony is a rock that keeps her going and determined and strong in the midst of a million vicissitudes. It is clear to me that she has been given a gift to know. It is what helps her weather life and have the courage to keep doing good.

    I grew up in a family full of faith, kindness, courage and clear vision, received an excellent college education and married an outstanding man. Where my friend sees black and white I see some black, some white, a million shades of gray and many mistakes and misconceptions. The more I learn the more I realize that none of us, even the most divinely inspired, see the whole thing as it really is and all of us, even the most enlightened, have built parts of our lives on foundations that are based on error and faulty thinking, mingled with our own psychological needs for reason. It is clear to me that while my friend has been given “the gift to know”, I have been given the gift of being able to discern error, imperfection and incompleteness. The question of course is, whatever for? I think it is to keep me humble (knowing that everyone else is subject to serious error and misconceptions, I must constantly view with humility my own attempts to conceptualize truth) and to cause me to consciously choose what I will embrace. I am given the opportunity to see the possibility of a myriad of definitions of what is real and what is true, the opportunity to discern errors, and, knowing that I will, in this life, always have doubts, choose which things will be my “foundation of truths” and which things I will consign to my little “rubble pile of errors”. That lifelong process of consciously discerning, choosing, ignoring, correcting, trusting promptings in spite of second guessing them and then committing myself will be what helps me to weather life and keep doing good.

    I do not “know”. That is not my gift. But I’ve been given a good one. It sounds like you may have been too, Zenaida.

  7. D'Arcy says:

    i’ve learned more and more throughout life that truth is changeable. That goes against everything that the church teaches, but for some “truths” (and maybe they aren’t truths) I have changed. I used to believe everything the church told me, now I pick and choose and find my own truth. Do I believe that there is life after death…yes…do I believe that only people who get temple work done will go to “heaven”…no…there are so many things that sit better in my mind than what I used to hold as concrete truth. And truthfully speaking, I like my life better now.

  8. Carol says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching during the past year as I’ve faced some difficult challenges. Two things I know for sure: that God lives and that He loves His children. As I focus on that, I find great peace. Sure, I have questions, ie. why did Joseph Smith practice polyandry when adultery is clearly considered a sin in all scripture, including the BofM and D&C? Why do Church leaders excommunicate female abuse victims and leave the abusers in leadership positions? Why are woman sometimes treated as slaves in wards where the leaders delegated many of the most difficult duties to the RS?

    Although I am troubled by the injustice and sorrow that I experienced and seen, I am comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that God lives and that He loves His children–and that everyone who has ever lived is a precious, infinitely loved child of Go.d

  9. A says:

    This is remarkable. Is it just me or do you seem to see an acceleration of women in the church having these same questions lately? I love Lolo’s description of “True”, and it helps me to see things a bit less painfully.

    Isn’t this difficult? Being born and raised (another Mo cliché), it’s really hard to even let yourself ask these questions. Now if I could just get past the guilt associated with the curiosity.

  10. Zenaida says:

    Maria, I want to agree in details. Details like “I believe in Jesus Christ,” or “I believe in Allah,” are so individual, but it seems like there should be fundamental ethics that tell us things like, “Life is precious.”
    Lolo, I also relate to the need for “One True Church” vs. the church as guidepost.

    G, I’m with you. 🙂

    D’Arcy, It’s nice to know that others are finding their truth. Have you found anchors that keep you grounded? I find myself wandering a lot.

    Carol, Navigating the human element is a difficult thing. It’s been interesting for me to see the human failings that take place in church structure, because we are all human. It takes more than I thought to see the full beautiful, flawed, human person and love them for it.

    A, I don’t know about an acceleration. It’s possible. From what I can tell, the accessibility of information is accelerating curiosity and questioning among a lot of people in the church. And as for guilt… That’s a tricky thing. I’ve faced some pretty tough consequences that have affected not only myself, but those closest to me in pretty dramatic ways from holding on to guilt. I wish you all the best in your exploration!

  11. Zenaida says:

    Kaylana, and AS, you and me both. You both sound more patient in those struggles than I have been. What keeps you going? Why do you try to continue faithful?

    mb, “Where my friend sees black and white I see some black, some white, a million shades of gray and many mistakes and misconceptions. The more I learn the more I realize that none of us, even the most divinely inspired, see the whole thing as it really is and all of us, even the most enlightened, have built parts of our lives on foundations that are based on error and faulty thinking, mingled with our own psychological needs for reason.”

    I love that. That was a hard lesson to learn, and I’m sure I’ll continue learning it the rest of my life. I like to think of my errors as the windows I’ve carved into the walls to see more clearly.

  12. EmilyCC says:

    Thanks for this post, Z. I often wonder (mostly due to Jessawhy’s “Path of Least Resistance” post , if I’m able to keep going in the Church because I do have the Mormon fairy tale. I don’t know that I’d be in the same position if I was still single. (In fact, I highly doubt I would be.)

  13. Jill says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for this. I have a lot of the same questions and doubts. Growing up in a very active, believing, orthodox home, I never EVER pictured myself doubting, and if not for some unexpected events in my own life, I probably never would have. But, having started down the path of questions, I know I will ever look at the church in quite the same way again. I will never have the “simple faith” I once had. And like you, it pains me so much to face the disappointment of my loving, devout parents. Thanks again for sharing, and know that you’re not alone.

  14. Susan Wilson says:

    I can’t answer what truth is for you, however I do know that truth is eternal and unchanging. What can and does change is our own perception of it. It is interesting from reading your article and the posts below – one point seems to be common. Perhaps I will not express it as best as it could be, but I will try. The common thread seems to be one of how our perception of truth changes when we face significant disappointment or life not turning out how we want it to.

    I’ll give an example from my own life. I have been married twice, both times to mormons. One a convert, the other a mormon with pioneer ancestry. The first offered a sealing but soon broke the covenants and wasn’t able to find the strength to resolve the issues. The second can’t offer a sealing due to unresolved and outstanding broken covenants of his own and isn’t able to find the strength to resolve the issues. A casual reading of this could lead you to think that the second at least should understand the significance of the sealing and or lack of it to his spouse and should know better. Life however is not so black and white.

    I can say this, marriage is not wasted, and the only choices we are responsible and accountable for are our own. I have found the peace of God as I have sought to understand what will happen to me in the eternities in the absence of a spouse who wants to make the attempt to go there together with me. I have learned the absolute truth of this: if I, as an individual, do the very best that I can under the life circumstances I face, if I try my best, then the lord truly will withhold nothing from me.

    One of the great challenges in that is to love my current spouse wholeheartedly, without reservation, even though I have had a spiritual witness that he will not, in my lifetime, resolve the outstanding issues that prevent him from offering me a sealing. It doesn’t matter, I still have to live the best life I can under the circumstances. I don’t have to look any further for meaning than that!

    I wish you well in your search for truth and meaning as you face the vicissitudes of life.

  15. Brooke says:

    Thanks for this post, Zenaida. Very raw and personal. I will read it often.

  16. Kiri Close says:

    ‘truth’ is just a word.

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