Reflections on My Faith
by Kelly Ann
Perfectly still, I am still amazed at how the lake water reflected the trees, hills, and even the clouds (better said the fog remnants that had evaporated off the lake in the morning due to the season beginning to change). On vacation, with countless similar beautiful views, I relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors. As one who has been over-occupied with work, house projects, family, complicated relationships, etc. as well as a shifting faith, a real vacation last month was overdue. I was fortunate enough to enjoy myself for three weeks visiting family, tourist destinations, and even an area of my mission.
When I returned home from my mission seven and a half years ago, I wanted to visit the people, the culture, and the environment that I had fallen in love with in the near future. However, as life has marched on, it hasn’t been a priority. In a way, it is easier to leave it all as part of my memory, especially at a time when my perception and feelings toward the church are drastically different. However, given I was in the region, I felt impelled to visit a small town where I served for 6 months and had amazing experiences even if I did not have the time or the desire to visit all my areas. Although I had lost contact with most people and did not have current phone numbers, I knew there were some people who would remember me and would enjoy a surprise visit.
Having not regularly attended church since the Sunday before the November election, my goal was not to relive my missionary experience. Feeling assaulted by the role the church played in the Prop8 campaign, I snapped a few days after the election. Embroiled in a mess at work regarding politics and religion, I decided I could not cross the picket lines to go to the temple or church. I quite drastically and abruptly took off my garments, ripped my temple recommend in half, asked to be release, and switched units. Although I sometimes have a desire to believe, occasionally go to church, and am externally processing my doubts (which encompass more than Prop8 but were previously shelved), I have definitely distanced myself from my historic faith with my actions.
As a missionary, I never thought I would be less active or even inactive. I served with the traditional zeal and basic testimony. I enjoyed teaching the gospel, seeing people get baptized, reactivating members, teaching members church responsibilities, and serving the community. My faith was never perfect but my mantra was “why not.” I believed that God had the power to appear to a young boy searching for the truth, that it only seemed fair that Christ would go to America as well, that he would have an organized system for both the living and the dead, that families could be eternal, and frankly I had my share of emotional spiritual experiences.
But as I have aged, I have started asking “why.” My concerns include polygamy, polyandry, the role of women in the church, discrimination, imperfect members, various scandals, and complex early church history. My frustrations did not emerge when the Prop8 votes were counted, it just made me step back and realize that I was dis-satisfied. However, it is hard. The church has been my life. I have dedicated my time, my talents, and everything which the Lord has given me to live the gospel. I have served as a temple worker and missionary, and willingly said yes to every calling and assignment given. I have two degrees from BYU and most of my friends are LDS. I have lived the standards meticulously and really tried to believe in the basic teachings of the church.
Therefore, with my shift in faith, I was nervous to visit the small agricultural community where I served. With only a day or two to see people, I did not want to share my frustrations with them but rather just catch up. Although I did chicken out visiting the ward on a Sunday in order not to be asked to speak, teach, or pray and so no one would notice I did not take the Sacrament.
However, unfortunately, I did not find anyone I knew home the Tuesday afternoon I arrived. After walking about three miles around town, remembering many streets and houses but sweating in the hot sun extremely frustrated with a heavy backpack, I thought I maybe made a mistake in coming and maybe it would be easier if I didn’t have to answer questions about my church activity. But before departing, I decided to walk to the church from the plaza where I cooled off with the hope that someone might be there albeit very unlikely mid-week. And true missionary story miracle style – there was …
With a dropped jaw, the former mission leader greeted me with a hug. He updated me on the changes to the town (new supermarket, dairy farm, etc) and ongoings of the church. I found out that many families I knew have moved, some have divorced, and of course all the children have grown. He called the family I knew the best and got a kick telling them he had a surprise waiting … So I spent two days enjoying their company, successfully passing by others, and just taking it easy. It was great to see the people I knew even if it was weird to focus on the church connection and to remember myself as a super-ultra Mormon.
No one ever asked me about my activity (I guess it may have been assumed I was) but as the guest, the families I visited asked me to pray. And so I did. I don’t routinely bless my food (never have) but with them, I prayed like I would have as a missionary. Although a bit unnerving, I have to say that it was just good to pray with them, to feel the connection of faith, no matter what it is. That is the way I felt when I was a missionary and prayed with investigators who did not share my classic Mormon faith. It made me realize that the one thing I really believe in right now is prayer. And with time, if I maintain contact, I will share with them how I have changed. For now it is just interesting to see how the seasons have changed my faith and what “fog remnants” of my faith are still reflected on my soul.
So while this entry may best serve as an introduction to myself, a couple questions I have for discussion follow:
If your faith has shifted, how do you share that with those who have known you differently?
Do you think many people (active or inactive) go back and visit their mission and why or why not?