Personal Revelation and My Future Self
One of the things I love about the church is its emphasis on personal revelation. The theology of having the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, as a constant companion is beautiful to me. The frustrating paradox is that culturally I have learned to trust personal guidance unless it goes against the prophet – in which case external authority trumps internal wisdom. In a hierarchical church that does not ordain women, this leaves too many vulnerable to abuse. This can range from women being counseled to conform to gender roles rather than pursuing a career, to more pernicious cases from our history, such as pressure to marry the prophet.
In my personal journey to cling to the truths I love and let go of beliefs that do not draw me closer to God, I have reexamined many aspects of the gospel, often seeing things with new eyes thanks to more life experience and wisdom gleaned from other faith traditions. One of my favorite meditation teachers, Tara Brach, often talks about accessing the future self or awakened heart. I love the idea of reaching out to myself 20, 30, or 50 years from now and imagining the wisdom, care, and kindness I would offer myself on my journey.
It has been taught by Joseph Smith that time exists only to man and that God dwells in the eternal now. It has also been taught that we are children of Heavenly Parents and will one day be Gods ourselves. If one day I am a Goddess and therefore also dwell in the eternal now, then theoretically my current, temporary, limited self could reach out to that future, perfect, whole, awakened self. I imagine my future self has a perfect love for me and is quite invested in my progression. I might even call my future self a constant companion, for I do not believe I could ever abandon myself. I do hope however, that my future self will nudge me to examine my false beliefs, my prejudices and biases that I am blind to. This will take slowing down and learning to listen to my voice within.
Listening is something I have practiced in the church. I sang as a child, “Listen, listen, the still small voice will whisper.” But I was also taught that I had to be worthy to receive that guidance. I was taught if I wasn’t standing in holy places the Holy Ghost would leave me. The emphasis on worthiness in the church can lead to a harmful cycle of perfectionism and self-doubt – if we aren’t warned of danger or if we strive for a testimony that just doesn’t come, it must be our fault for not trying hard enough or failing to keep some commandment.
I recently was talking to a friend who has long been out of the church. Pregnant at 15, she was spared excommunication only because her father, a former bishop, advocated on her behalf. She asked me and another friend what she had to do to be worthy to receive a patriarchal blessing. We told her we were unsure what the church would declare, but we were confident she was worthy to receive guidance and wisdom in her life and would love to give her a matriarchal blessing – calling on the wisdom of Mother Earth, the Goddesses, and her own soul. It was beautiful to watch her preparation throughout the day as she took the time to reflect, connecting deep within herself as she searched for guidance. That night, under a brilliant, starry sky, the three of us held hands and took turns offering a blessing of love and wisdom. It was a powerful moment where I truly sensed the beauty and wholeness of my friend’s soul.
In last week’s General Conference, Michelle D. Craig, spoke on having eyes to see. She talked of the importance of seeing others and ourselves deeply. “Perhaps the most important things for us to see clearly are who God is and who we really are—sons and daughters of heavenly parents, with a ‘divine nature and eternal destiny.’” I am grateful for Christ’s example of seeing people for who they truly are. I believe his knowledge of each individual’s worth helped him treat each person with patience and love.
I hope one day to see myself and others with a lens of perfect love as Christ did. For me it has been helpful to call on the wisdom of my future self. This is an excerpt from Tara Brach’s meditation, Calling on Your Future Self.
Imagine your future self can communicate by filling you with their awareness, allowing you to look with their eyes. See with their heart. Feel with their heart. And with the presence of your future self, witness now how your small self is stuck. Through those eyes of wisdom see the ways your beliefs or attitudes might be limiting you. And with kindness, see the suffering that goes with self judgment… Sense your future self offering their love and care to the vulnerable small self inside. Let the care of your future self in, the forgiveness, the acceptance. And listen and sense whatever message, whatever reminder your future self is offering to you right now. What is it that your future self wants you to trust and to know? Sense how the love and the wisdom of your most evolved being lives in you now and always. This loving awareness is here to guide you and support you.
Whatever language or images we use, I hope we each can better come to trust what we know deep within ourselves, even and especially when it goes against external church authority. As Tara said, let us “sense how the love and the wisdom of your most evolved being lives in you now and always.”