Guest Post: It’s Not about Faith Anymore
As a devout teenager and developing member of the Mormon church, I was often told many things about our church and its history that would make me want to turn heel and run. I often asked myself: Is it true? I had a difficult time dealing with polygamy, the lack of priesthood authority for women, and even many of the church’s current policies and practices. Don’t get me started on cultural norms that are typical in areas that have a high LDS concentration. I struggled with the things that many members struggle with. I was often telling myself to just keep the faith to stay in it. My teenage years were brutal at times. On days when I felt like I was merely existing, I knew I could turn to prayer, scripture study, my patriarchal blessing and conference talks to find that inner peace I craved. But real answers rarely came. And by rare, I mean never. I know I can thank my mom, my sister, and my many kind and thoughtful leaders at the time for preventing me from becoming self-destructive and sinister. But even they never had answers to my feelings of injustice and the church’s inability to meet my many idealistic expectations. My fears were often eventually quieted, and there were even times when I chose denial because it was simply more relieving than anything else.
My faith and constant mindfulness of direction from the Spirit prevented me from so many harmful situations, while also steering me to so many wonderful things. I couldn’t deny the positive influence of the church in my life, so I kept it going strong.
One recent experience was a major turning point in my entire paradigm surrounding my uncertainty. It was a particularly hard day. I was discussing the issue of the early polygamy of the church with a friend whose husband left the church a few years ago. She was feeling very worried about some alleged information her husband gave her and she questioned his truthfulness. I didn’t reassure her; I’m not sure that would have helped, anyway. After all, I didn’t know if the information was true or false. I told her about how I had read an article from a church historian the day before on a similar subject. We speculated, asked each other questions, and left on a pretty good note. She told me that she was very grateful that she could talk to someone about it.
I wish I could say that I was feeling uplifted and inspired after that conversation. I wasn’t. I, once again, left that conversation asking myself if I was delusional for committing so much of my time to a church that many “post-members” and opponents have asserted was started by power-hungry, sexually-driven men only committed to fulfilling the patriarchal order. Confusion and frustration were racking my very core and I asked myself time and again if I was on the verge of renouncing my membership and joining the ranks of many estranged others. Maybe I wasn’t really, maybe it was only a fleeting moment of weakness. But I prayed. I prayed to make sure that God Almighty was turning all of his undivided attention on me. I prayed to ask for help to increase my faith and let go of it all. I prayed to ask if I was supposed to leave. I prayed to ask if I was supposed to stay. I knew in my heart that I would eventually feel peace, but it was so hard to not immediately have it.
And then, like so many times before when I kneeled with hopelessness in my heart, a light came on and brightened as I continued to ponder on it.
It really isn’t about having faith anymore. I know the Plan of Salvation is true, and I know that its effects have completely and literally saved my life and given me hope and purpose in my existence. Now, it’s about my forgiveness. It’s about my humility. God wasn’t asking for perfect people to usher in the newest dispensation, he was asking the most willing, the ones he had prepared.
Do I think they made mistakes? Yeah. Maybe even big ones. But this wasn’t their work to begin with. It was God and Jesus Christ’s. And because it was God and Christ’s work, the work cannot fail. As this thought of simply forgiving them was implemented in my mind, I knew it was the right course of action. I felt peace and closure that I had never experienced before. Peace, closure, and even determination. I don’t doubt that they were acting to the best of their knowledge and abilities. I don’t believe that Christ gave them all of the information about the restoration up front- so wouldn’t it actually make more sense that they often acted on their own in ways that were not intended by our Heavenly Father? I admire their willingness to keep it going. After all, when many of the women of the church were being targeted and raped in Missouri, it might have been enough for me to just brush off my hands and say, “Okay, you win. No more Mormons.” But instead they acted on the only information they were given. They deserve my respect and admiration for that. Sure, I always knew that they weren’t perfect, but I only imagined them sinning in ways that only I was okay with. But will I pretend like they were perfect? No way. I might not even justify any of their questionable decisions. If I did, I would be flirting with another dangerous act: crediting and praising the work of the Plan to mere men instead of the only true head of our church, Jesus Christ. Their lack of perfection, their sins, actually empower me and my faith in Jesus Christ. Acknowledging it increases my faith in Jesus and gives me the motivation to repent and forgive so many others that I was so often withholding forgiveness from.
Although these experiences shake me, I feel so grateful for them. They solidify my belief in the Plan of Salvation and deepen my understanding. They strengthen my foundation and provide me with clarity. My only hope in writing this is that perhaps it will resonate with some other women out there who are wrestling with similar experiences.
I used to be free-spirited idealist until I became a wife and mother of two children and learned that my mom was right all along. I have been told on several occasions by my well-meaning husband that I need to stop fighting with our friends, with which I usually reply, “I thought we were just having a stimulating, passionate conversation.” Good thing I married someone more emotionally aware than me.