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.
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