A Particle of Faith

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties…and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you… (Alma 32:27)

If you’re a regular reader, you know my life is a mess and that I’m in the middle of a religious crisis. Here’s where I am currently:

Right now the central feeling that I’m struggling with is a belief that God has betrayed me. From my perspective, He has made promises He won’t or can’t fulfill, and He has led me into an incredibly difficult emotional situation for no purpose. As Fideline so eloquently wrote in the comments on my last post:

…If I assume that God is omniscient, then it seems very unfair that He would encourage me to pursue a course of action that He knew would result in so much pain. I have a hard time reconciling the knowledge that I have that God loves me with a God who would dangle a carrot in front of my face just to see what lengths I would take to get it and when satisfied with my sincerity would snatch the carrot away.

Fideline was writing about her own experiences, but these words precisely capture the reasons I am currently feeling betrayed by God. I’ve believed for a long time in a God who was trustworthy, who kept His promises, and who may let His children suffer the pains of mortal life but would not intentionally cause pain, but my current experiences are calling all of that into question.


I want to believe in the God that I was taught about–the trustworthy, always reliable, keeps-his-promises God. My patriarchal blessing describes a future life that I want–one that I think will make me deeply happy–and I want God to keep the promises He’s made to me in this blessing. Also, despite the misgivings I have about this church, it is fundamental to who I am, and I want to believe and live my life according to its teachings and according to God’s will.

I don’t know yet how I’m going to reconcile these desires with my pain and my doubts. At the same time, there is no chance of me sorting things out with God if I turn away from Him now.

So, I’m going to “exercise a particle of faith” (and let me tell you–it’s no bigger than a particle). I’m going to keep the commandments, attend church, attend the temple, read my scriptures, etc. I’m going to accept a calling that I’m not sure how on earth I’m going to fulfill given my current emotional state. I’m going to take my sorrows and doubts and pain to God and Christ and see if They can help me make sense of them.

Eventually something will give, and I’m facing some hard decisions in the not too distant future. I know I need to redefine my relationship to God, and I’m not sure how radical that redefinition will be, but I want to give Him a chance to have input into that process. It’s difficult not to wonder if I’m only setting myself up for more of the same: doubts, questions, pain, betrayal. But I’m going to try and hold onto my belief in the wisdom of God and the power of Christ’s Atonement for at least a little while longer.


  1. Seraphine, I really know where you are coming from. I felt so abandoned by God for a couple of years that I actually quit praying for a while because I had lost the belief that God was listening to me. Temple attendance had ceased long before that (Maybe that was part of my problem, but I have very conflicted feelings about the temple. That’s another topic, though). I never quit going to church, though, and this is what kept my particle of faith from fading out completely.

    I had sincerely believed that God answers faithful prayers and I was praying and fasting for something that I really, really needed. The thing I needed was good and worthy and wouldn’t have cost anyone anything, but I never got it. Because my prayers weren’t answered I felt trapped and I decided to lie about something to get myself out of an impossible situation that was having very negative effects on me and my family. God could have helped me avoid needing to lie, but he put me in a situation where the only thing I could do was fail. Even in hindsight, hating myself for lying, I know I would do the same thing if I were placed in that situation again.

    What is the point of praying if things still turn out this ugly? I do not know yet what I was supposed to learn from this experience. And I’ve decided that my concept of what prayer is about was wrong. God does not always answer prayers, but he still tells us to pray, even over banal things like our “flocks and herds.” And even if He isn’t going to answer. I’m still working on what that means. But I’m glad I didn’t let that thin thread between me and God break, although it came so close to happening.

  2. Perhaps I can help increase your defenses and hence your particle of faith by ‘attacking’ (or what might look like an attack from someone’s viewpoint) your vulnerability:

    Review God’s actions with his children from the Old Testament. He drowned almost all of them. He ordered some of his children (his chosen people) to kill others (those that were currently living in the promised land). He gambled with Satan over the soul of a faithful child (Job). He allowed his priesthood to be used to order a bear to kill his children. He killed a man for ark steadying. And the list goes on. Do you want a relationship with such a being? Maybe you ought to feel lucky that He is just ignoring you rather than turning His wrath on you.

  3. As you know, Seraphine, I am going through a similarly painful experience. It is more pain than I ever imagined feeling. Then, when I contrast it to how much pain I know others have experienced, perhaps with more reason, I come close to despair. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how Christ could have felt it all.

    But one feeling that keeps coming to me is that yes, the Lord has led me into a path of pain, but that pain is for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is. I don’t know what I can gain from a situation that seems so utterly without a silver lining, but I have felt that it is for a reason. Despite my fear and my pain and my ignorance, I can only trust that all will be well and that He and many others are with me.

    I hope you can feel and trust that, too.

  4. I know it’s kind of sad, but my first thought after all of that was “A new calling? I wonder what calling she gets to do.” In my defense I have a 2yo dropping piles of paper on the bed next to me saying “I Diesel 10. I breaking timber.” Over and over again. I’m pretty much incapable of real thought. But I hope as you keep your particle of faith God will do things to nourish it and help it to grow.

  5. I found this post more faith promoting than a thousand testimonies beginning with “I know with every fiber of my being that . . .”

    Thank you.

    My two favorite lines:

    “I’m going to take my sorrows and doubts and pain to God and Christ and see if They can help me make sense of them.”

    “I know I need to redefine my relationship to God, and I’m not sure how radical that redefinition will be, but I want to give Him a chance to have input into that process.”

    I wonder if some of the purpose of what you are going through is to teach the rest of us how it is done. Because from what you have written here, you are doing it with a lot of grace.

  6. Seraphine, I went through 10 years of what you are going through. It took me that long to break the paradigms that were keeping me from seeing things as they are, and not how I wished that they were. First of all, the thing that you “really, really needed” ?? Really? Define need. Maybe things that seem absolutely elemental — jobs, health, even a “testimony” — are really just “wants.” There is nothing wrong with wants, just don’t ask God for them; go out and get what you want. God is not an order-filler. And you can’t bribe Him to give you want you want by promising to be good and attend church and the temple, etc. I can attest that He doesn’t care about that. Do it if it makes you feel good. Period. Avoid superstitions and magical thinking. Ask other people, who have what you want, how to get it. The laws for getting what you want have already been set. Pray for wisdom, pray for ideas, then figure it out and go get it. Don’t betray yourself into thinking that if God loved you, he would keep you from pain. Look around this world. It’s full of pain, and He loves all of his children. From His perspective, life is very short and He is not interested in keeping you from pain. You will experience pain until you learn what you need to do to avoid it. You will learn by experience. You can learn from friends, you can learn from therapy. It is only when you figure it out for yourself that the lesson will stick. Don’t be mad at God, nor at yourself, for that matter. (My therapist likes to say, “don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”) Just get up, brush yourself off, and try something different, without embarassement or self-judgment. Remember, He is not judging you for your little failures and setbacks either. It’s all part of the earth experience.

  7. Seraphine, only you can decide what is right for you. I admire your sheer particle of faith.

    Like An empathizer experienced, I also had a hard time where I didn’t feel it was profitable to reach out to heaven any more. Now I am finally at the point to let God back into my life. Even though I have a parent who is dying of cancer, and many other hardships, for some reason, I have some peace as a little resting spot on my journey.

    One thing that has helped me is focusing my energy on the parts or ideas of God that I can definitely say “yes” to. I didn’t try to swallow everything I’d been told about God all at once, and I didn’t try to put it together. I just thought things like, “The God I can say ‘yes’ to loves all of his children,” or “the God I can say ‘yes’ to doesn’t punish people for other people’s shortcomings” and things like that. That helped me focus my small faith on something worthwhile until my faith became stronger.

    I truly empathize, and wish you the best and that you’ll get a break soon.

  8. I know I’m not your favorite commenter, but I couldn’t ignore your plea for help. Not for my help, but God’s help.

    From what I know–by experience–crisis is where great faith is born. Many people testify to finding their faith in crisis.

    I respect your effort to exercise even a particle of faith. That may be all it takes.

    In my personal crisis I told Heavenly Father no matter how things turned out I would still have faith in Him. Things didn’t turn out as I had hoped; I was crushed. the pain exceeded anything I’d ever experienced, but then He revealed himself to me in the kind of experience that I would never have thought possible for me. I lost an early treasure, but was given a heavenly treasure in its place. I learned that God is my Savior and my friend.

    I hope your path leads to whatever your seeking, but more importantly I hope that a Heavenly treasure is bestow on you because of your faith.

  9. Maybe you ought to feel lucky that He is just ignoring you rather than turning His wrath on you.

    Uh… gee whiz.

    Seraphine, I was moved by your post. It seems that you are taking a very brave approach. I hope very much that it is successful.

  10. Thanks for this post, S. It articulates a lot of important things, I think.

    I was noticing the uncanny similarity between particle of faith and article of faith. The latter being simple, prepackaged faith statements which we teach to children these days. And the former being — well, discussions like this.

    This is painfully real. I know the feeling of feeling betrayed. It’s happened to friends of mine, and it’s happened to me. There’s not any easy way to resolve it. Well, you could always become a pagan like Kiskilili. 😛

    I like it that you know you’re in a redefinition stage, and that it’s going to be tough. There are potential resolutions, but they all involve something having to give. You’re asking the painful questions, sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope that your journey takes you to a place where you have peace and understanding.

    E-hugs to you, Seraphine. 🙂

    p.s. Vada, you’re incapable of real thought? I should seize the moment and challenge you to a game of Word Twist. (Alas, Vada with both hands tied behind her back, typing with her nose, would still beat me.)

  11. While I certainly feel compassion for your feelings, like Susan I’m a bit concerned for the transactional characterization of your relationship with Heavenly Father. When our faith is based largely on how we perceived our abundance or lack of current blessings, it seems to me that we make a crucial calvinist error (that we can detect our status with God on the basis of our worldly success and status) and miss the ultimate point of this human existence.

    It is rare indeed that people in our faith talk about how to productively respond to having doubts of our faith. Far too often, I think, the response that people take as valid is to accept them at face value and maintain them.

    In my experience, when I perceive a doubt it has been most productive to interrogate the source of the doubt and question how my own approach to God may have generated it–and the degree to which its existence may be the product of the wrong kinds of questions, seeking after the wrong kinds of things, or a cramped view of God’s plan.

  12. I’m a bit concerned for the transactional characterization of your relationship with Heavenly Father. When our faith is based largely on how we perceived our abundance or lack of current blessings, it seems to me that we make a crucial calvinist error (that we can detect our status with God on the basis of our worldly success and status) and miss the ultimate point of this human existence.

    TMD – I can see how you might read this post and draw the conclusion that Seraphine’s faith is challenged because she’s not receiving the blessings that she wants. But if you’ve read her previous posts on this topic, I think you’d find that’s not really the case. I think the problem is that she received personal revelation that seemed very clear and specific about this particular situation in her life. Now her revelation seems to have been proven false. So the issue isn’t just that she’s disappointed at not receiving a blessing; it’s that she’s struggling to understand God’s voice in her life. At least the way I read her posts, the questions are: Can we receive direct revelation? Can we understand/interpret it correctly? Can we put our faith in that revelation? These are big, important questions – not just for Seraphine’s current circumstances, but for every aspect of our lives. I struggle with similar questions sometimes, and I’m grateful for this post; it echoes my own attempts right now to simply hold on to the little particle of faith I can summon.

  13. An empathizer, I quit praying for about 2-3 weeks last fall (when I first started dealing with this experience), but I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere by avoiding God and not engaging Him with my pains and doubts. Not that engaging Him is easy…

    Also, as I think about redefining my relationship with God, one of the things that I’ll certainly consider is to what extent I want to rework how and when I pray about things, so thanks for your thoughts on this.

  14. ed42, I’m not sure whether your comment is supposed to be comforting. If it is, scaring people into feeling comforted doesn’t really seem like the best tactic. 🙂

    SilverRain, I’m glad that you are able to trust that your suffering is for a reason–I agree that feeling there’s a purpose to what is happening (even when it’s hard and painful) can help. I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but maybe I will.

  15. Vada, thanks for the funny nephew story!

    Julie M. Smith, thanks for your kind words. I don’t feel particularly graceful (maybe since I’m the person participating in the actual conversations with God about this situation), but I am glad that others are finding benefit from my words. I also appreciate discussions of faith that are honest and genuine, especially when others are willing to be honest with their issues and struggles.

  16. Susan and TMD, your comments are quite similar, so I’m going to respond to both of you simultaneously.

    As jane pointed out, it seems like you are misunderstanding what it is that I currently want from God. Both of you seem to think that because I’m getting specific demands met, I’m angry at God–that somehow I think I should be able to say “God, I want this,” and that God will oblige (like He’s a big candy dispenser in the sky who will give me lots of yummy treats if I put in a quarter). I don’t believe this at all.

    I’ll admit that I do want something from God, but it has more to do with my relationship with Him than it has to do with the specifics of my life. I want to be able to feel like I can trust God–that when He says something, that is what will happen. And when He deliberately leads me down a particular path in my life (especially one that is filled with pain), I want there to be a purpose for this. Right now I’m struggling to understand why God has made specific promises and not fulfilled them (I’m more upset about Him promising things than I am about the specific promises not coming to pass). And I’m struggling to find some higher purpose in my difficulties. As jane put it, I’m currently “struggling to understand God’s voice in [my] life,” and I’m asking the big questions that she outlines in her comment.

    In the end, I may have to rethink my approach to God. But for me (and I suspect for many others), it’s quite difficult to have faith in a God that I’m not sure if I can rely on in very fundamental, basic ways.

  17. BrianJ, thanks–I don’t have much hope, but I do have strength of will (my own variation of my mother’s stubborness), and I will persist until I figure something out. 🙂

    Alisa, I really like your idea of breaking things down in order to figure out the pieces that do still make sense to me and see what I can build from those. I’m not sure what those fundamentals/basics are for me right now, but it’s a great place for me to start when I hit the point of trying to rebuild (I’m still breaking things down).

    Stephen, thanks. I also wish you well.

  18. Jared, even though we have our differences, I appreciate your kind words. I don’t have any expectation or hope of any “Heavenly treasures,” but they certainly wouldn’t be unwelcome. 🙂

    Latter-Day Guy, thanks. I hope it’s successful too.

  19. It is rare indeed that people in our faith talk about how to productively respond to having doubts of our faith. Far too often, I think, the response that people take as valid is to accept them at face value and maintain them.

    TMD, my impression is exactly the opposite. It appears to me that when Mormons have or express doubt, the most common reaction of other Mormons is to minimize them, rationalize them away, belittle people for doubting, and so forth. I agree with you that we don’t have a productive way of responding to doubt, though. The only really acceptable way to talk about doubt in the Church is as part of a larger story in which the doubt is eventually resolved.

    Am I misunderstanding what you were saying here?

  20. I think it’s a worthwhile struggle to wrestle with God. It can be contentious and angry. You can tell God exactly what you think, so long as you keep grappling with God, holding tightly, continually facing God. It’s only when you give up, let go, and turn away that you find yourself small and unspeakably alone. Sometimes fighting the good fight means fighting with God. Just savor the quiet moments of peace and reconciliation that come along the way.

  21. I feel I should say something. Seems with these kind of posts you’ll get one or two “leave” messages and then the rest will be “it’s hard but stay! Persevere until the end!”. Let me offer another point of view.

    I went through the same thing. Believe me I know your pain. It’s like a prolonged divorce. And my suggestion is to not go through the motions. Motions are just that motions and going through motions only leave you tired and in the same place you were before. Let me explain.

    I was in an awful state until I came to a realization. Perhaps I wasn’t happy because I was always waiting, always persevering and never exploring or forging ahead. I was doing the motions waiting for an answer or for something. Finally I decided enough of that.

    I realized that I could keep the commandments and still be a good person without hitching my happiness trailer to God or his church. In fact I found many times the church got/gets in the way of God, as Kirby rightly said, “Jesus gave us the gospel, Satan gave us the church.” I’d honestly suggest reading “Small Gods” to shed on light on this thinking.

    I keep all the commandments and go to church (but it’s far from compulsory) and all that. But I don’t let the church get in the way of God or my own happiness.

    It’s very difficult to explain. One way to look at it is like a difficult musical piece you were told you need to learn so you can be musical. To learn it you gotta slow it down and keep practicing and metronome it and all that. In doing all that you gain a belief in exercises and practice but you lose the belief in the music. Perhaps you’d be better served finding your own way to your music.

    I know certainly that was my own experience. It’s funny, we all wear different clothes, have different styles, like different kinds of movies, music, books, lovers, everything. Yet when it comes to religion we’re all supposed to fall into the same mold of if you x you will be y (in this case if you do what God tell you, you’ll be happy). If you believe that God is a personal God, then why would your relationship to him be anything other than personal to yourself? What worked for someone else might/might not work for you and that person might even be Prophet.

    I found I was better served in going my own way and seeing you in the same place I was my advice is to spare yourself months of going through the motions waiting for something to give. Faith can move mountains that’s true, but I’ve seen shovels move far more mountains than faith.

    When I sat down with God and said, “Look, I’m going to keep the commandments, but I’m going to go my way and do what makes me happy. No more of these motions, no more rituals, no more keeping up appearances, no more of these x=y equations. No more waiting for you. I’m going to start on my own journey. If you want to come I’d love that. If not, that’s too bad, but I’m not waiting anymore” I was admittedly worried, I was taught from youth that you can’t just do that. But now my relationship with God is so much more meaningful and personal and stronger than I’ve ever felt it. I am a happier, more moral, and frankly better person for it. Yes it’s hard, it’s hard to explain, it’s hard to live because you’ve only yourself to blame, but it’s the only way I found peace. Reading what you’ve got reminds me so much of me before I started on this journey, and I’m not going to say that what worked for me will work for you (heaven knows some people need the ritual and the motions and all that). All I’m saying is don’t be waiting for Godot. Build your life on your terms.

    Whatever you decide I hope the best for you and hope you pick the journey that will serve you best. Here’s a tip though, bring a shovel.

  22. Ziff,

    As I see it there are two ways of publicly addressing doubt in the mormon community. One is as you say–doubt resolved (often by having ignored it or by ‘trying the principle’, and is most common in those who think of themselves as ‘fully faithful.’ There is another, however, common among those who would describe themselves as less than fully faithful–the former member, the in some sense disaffected, the ‘new order mormon.’ In this discourse of doubt, the doubt (growing out of their understanding of scientific standards of proof, secular normative political philosophies, etc.) is not, perhaps cannot be, resolved without rejecting a form of truth they view as equal to scriptural or spiritual truth. There is a collision, and the church does not win. At best, the outcome is ‘I now live with my doubts.’

    In each case I think the discussion of the nature of doubt, and a faithful response to doubt, are discussed and addressed in unsophisticated ways, rather than in ones that require a rethinking of ourselves, our understandings, and our perceptions of the source of our doubts.

  23. Seraphine,

    Having now looked over some of the earlier posts, I think I have a somewhat better sense of what you are thinking about. Your situation is not foreign to me: I am 30, and have been through a couple of 15+ month relationships that really ‘knocked on the door’ of engagement. (In the latter, I was caught for some time between ring shopping and hanging it up.) In each, the girl I was dating was pretty sure I was ‘the one,’ but I was just less sure. i’m pretty sure at least one of them is still looking for the chance I might change my mind. In all this I had often complicated sets of personal revelations. The thing most striking to me was that those I was most sure about were not quite answers to the questions I was asking, but required more of me.

    With respect to your broader questions of personal revelation, I guess I feel like your depiction of the kind of relationship with HF you want is not one that he promises us. By giving us agency, HF has limited his powers in this world. Thus there are promises that he cannot make to us in full seriousness. So, I think the sense of betrayal you have is not rightly directed at Him, nor indeed at anyone. This can be hard, but I think that any set of ideas that lead us to believe that God can or would fundamentally betray us has a theological error in it somewhere.

    He may be telling you to stay near this person for a reason that is not yet apparent, but I think that he does not promise us people. We may feel like he does–and a revelation that has at its root ‘he would be a good husband for you’ can for a variety of reasons be taken to be ‘he is the husband for you,’ because we are wrapped up in all sorts of desires (social, physical, infatuation with another person) when in relationships. These relationships can influence our perception of the promise. I have in retrospect seen that revelations that I thought were very specific about things did not actually mean what I thought they did at the time. Perceiving revelation, making proper sense of it, and integrating it into our relationship with HF are much harder than I think some would describe it.

  24. I guess all of my thinking in this comes from a place of fundamental intellectual humility in the face of God. We are imperfect in our beliefs, our understandings of ourselves, and our perceptions of others and of the divine. When there is a problem in our relationship with God we must first interrogate ourselves and our understandings, even our recognition of problems, and we must always expect first to change ourselves rather than having God change for us, throwing off the natural man and earthly definitions of time, good, bad, pleasant and unpleasant. That, to me, is the process of conversion and perfection.

  25. But then TMD,
    it seems that your answer is a positive feedback loop.

    Then the problem is with you. Natural man and all that.
    Rinse repeat.

    I’ll give you that humans are imperfect, but then what if our understanding about God itself is flawed? Seems under your logic you’d never break out of that loop.

  26. Balthasar,

    Happiness is as we make it, and it is not the only end in life. Joy, save that provided by external thrill, is as we take it. (Consider me influenced by Marcus Aurelius…) These are things that we can learn, and we can learn them wrong.

    Our understanding of God is definitionally flawed. But our understanding of ourselves is even moreso, since we are the first to encounter ourselves while others have encountered God as well. But I believe that as we perfect ourselves, we come to better understand God. But the change must start with us, for our own instincts are so dominated by self interest, desires for self-esteem, and self-serving tendencies that in charting our own journey we will never come closer to Him.

  27. To all the commenters: if we accept God and love Him in spite of how complicated life can be, there is one over riding principle we must accept–He is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes.

    The purpose of prayer is not to counsel Him, to change His mind, but rather, to learn His mind and will for us.

    When we come to grips with this principle we will find ourselves better able to obtain answers to our prayers.

  28. Stephen, thanks. I also wish you well.

    Thank you.

    My biggest fear these days is dealing with things going well.

    The transitions are frightening in some ways. I’m 53 and suddenly having to deal with life “going as it should” if you know what I mean. I’m not sure I’m ready for that now.

    But I do wish I had more for you than that God finally resolved himself we me, and I with God.

  29. The purpose of prayer is not to counsel Him, to change His mind, but rather, to learn His mind and will for us.

    I think that this is exactly the point, exactly what makes Seraphine’s experience so difficult. She sought revelation, received an answer, acted on it, and it did not turn out as she had been led (by revelation!) to believe. If I understand her correctly, the experience is one of being betrayed or misled by God. Painful and highly problematic, no matter how you slice it.

  30. Latter-day Guy–

    Painful without doubt, but how can God be blamed when He is without fault and always acts in our best interest with perfect love?

  31. I see the problem as knowing for a certainty that an idea or impulse we have is actually a revelation from God versus a deeply unconscious desire or thought. In my experience, we misidentify these feelings often. We have no fool-proof way of discerning what is from God; certainly the “stupor of thought” method is unreliable. Even when the idea is worthy and lofty, that doesn’t mean it was specific instruction to us from God. And then when things go wrong, we blame God for our misunderstanding. God doesn’t make mistakes, so we need to be very careful about identifying strong impressions as being revelation. Certainly we can act cautiously on them; if they work out, fine. If not, perhaps we should consider first of all that the impression was not from God, not that God misled us.

    I go back to what I said originally: if you want something in your life, go get it. You already know how to tell if something is evil, and to avoid it. Everything else is wide open. Do what will make you happy. That’s what He put you here for. Go for it.. As Balthasar said, grab a shovel. Don’t wait for God to tell you to do it. Just do it.

    You are responsible for your own happiness. You may make mistakes as you look for it, but that is also OK. We are here to learn and that’s one way we learn. I, like Balthasar, found peace and a more mature relationship with God by moving forward on my own. Revelation? I believe it can/does happen. But I also believe God is responsible for assuring that we know for sure it is revelation. If it is, the promises will be fulfilled. Outside of that, all of life is a revelation of the workings of God. Revelation will cause peace, not stress.Life is from God; whatever is life is from God. Accepting life is accepting God, and brings peace. I hope you can find that. And without beating yourself up for possibly being mistaken. We all are, all the time. 🙂

  32. Kaimi, I hadn’t really thought about the p/article of faith comparison, but I like your comparison. And thanks for the kind words.

    jane, exactly.

  33. denebug, despite the difficulty of the process, there have been moments of peace, and I’m trying to savor them when they do come.

    balthasar, while I decided that going through certain motions is the right thing for me at the moment, I don’t see what I’m doing as just going through the motions. As I said in my post, I’m simultaneously going to try and redefine my relationship with God (which may lead to abandoning certain motions), but for me, I think that process of redefinition is going to work better by slowly shedding the things that don’t work (and rethinking the ones that do) rather than abandoning everything (ritual, motions, etc.) all at once.

    Still, I definitely appreciate your comment about how going through the motions is not going to suffice–you’re definitely right that in order to figure things out, I’m going to have to rethink things, make changes, etc.

  34. TMD (#25) and Susan, I agree that revelation can be messy and that sometimes we can think we hear one thing when we’re really hearing something else (that might be closely related but not exactly what we were hearing). And that we can project our own desires and beliefs onto what we think is inspiration. This has definitely happened to me before.

    I’ve thought about all of this in this particular situation, but my revelation in this instance was so powerful and so direct that I’m having difficulties dismissing it in the way you describe. There have been few times in my life when God’s direction to me seemed so clear. I generally agree that to assume that God would not betray us and that our understanding is imperfect is the way to go, but in this instance, while my understanding may be imperfect, I’m having a really hard time understanding how.

    Still, in my process of reevaluation, I am thinking about myself, how I perceive and understand inspiration, and all of that. And I’m open to being shown (by God) how my understanding is imperfect.

  35. Jared (#33), the problem is that right now believing God is perfect and does what he does through love is what I’m having a difficult time understanding given what I’ve experienced. While believing in this type of God has been a given for me for much of my life, it’s currently not a given. It’s what I *want* to believe, but I’m having a hard time believing it. Latter-Day Guy hits it on the head in #32–this experience has led me to question the things that you see as givens.

  36. #38 Seraphine–

    Then I’ve traveled the same path you’re currently on. It was the most difficult time of my life–the pain was unbearable. I have some understanding of what you’re dealing with.

    On my blog I go into detail about my experience with my girl friend–I almost married– and how the Lord used this crisis to bring about miracles in my life. I hope what I’ve written will be of some use to you.

  37. What if God isn’t perfect?

    I had this unsettling thought a few days ago. If we are to someday become like God, and forever increase in our “perfection”…. what if he is learning about his creations as he goes?

    Another way to put it…… is God perfect because he creates all the laws, or because he obeys them?

    If it’s the latter, than there is some power higher than God. If the former, than I don’t know if perfection is the right word.

    Either way, I’ve lately been feeling more alone in this world.

  38. There have been a few times when I’ve wished for a belief in a higher power – wanted a little relief from unremitting sorrow. With those exceptions, I feel deep peace and satisfaction with my atheism. I say that not to sway you my direction, just to add diversity of perspective. I know you are smart and experienced enough to know this, Seraphine, but there are many of us who experience the falling away of our religious beliefs as a relief and dare I say it? A blessing.

    I don’t recognize myself when I hear about the faithful’s characterization of the “void” or unhappiness of unbelief. I feel engaged in ethical, philosophical and even spiritual matters in a very personal and daily way. I think I may be too sleepy to make sense but wanted to add my two cents. Good luck. I’ll add my crazy atheist prayers to the pile 🙂

  39. Just Someone, I think you’re right to question what we mean when we say God is “perfect”–I think what we’re asking if whether or not their are limits on God’s power (whether imposed by Him or the universe). I think most Mormons think that God is limited in some way (he will never choose to act unrighteously/in an evil manner, for example, or He would cease to be God), but what exactly this means, we don’t really know.

    crazywomancreek, thanks for your perspective. I have plenty of atheist friends from college/grad school who live ethical, moral lives, and in many ways, don’t seem as angst-ridden as I tend to be. And I can definitely see the appeal of that.

    I think belief is too central to who I am for me to go the atheism route, but I certainly am thinking through what exactly it is that I believe in and what that means, etc.

  40. So I know this is nothing like what you are going through, and I am a Christian of the Reformed persuasion, so my faith looks very different from yours and has a different perspective on the agency (free will) that seems so central to you.

    However. Four years ago I was a senior in college. My best friend in the world came to visit for the weekend and died from a heart attack/stroke while sleeping next to me, when I woke up, she was cold. That was the year that both of my grandmothers were dying of cancer, my pastor’s wife (I was living with them after my friend’s death) lost her dad, and my very dearest friends lost their two-year-old daughter who I was very close to in a tragic accident. Everyone else around me seemed unscathed, but I was crushed by circumstances. I came to the conclusion that the Almighty loving Father of my soul had decided He hated me. Then, the next minute, I would be frantically convinced that He was punishing me for something, leaving me sorting through my sins looking for something big enough to repent of to get my loved ones back. Then, I would suddenly realize that He was just teaching me a lesson, and I would try to understand why He would teach me what appeared to be the same lesson (loss, loss, loss, loss) so many times in a row.

    I stopped believing in a loving God for a while. I continued to be faithful, to do all the outward acts of faith, but I was angry, hurt and felt betrayed over and over again. Wasn’t I doing a good enough job?

    And I will admit. It is not the pondering of the atonement, of His own sacrifice of His nearest and dearest that brought me back to His side. What did it for me was partly habit (continual reading of His word and fellowship/worship with His people) and partly His grace in surrounding me with people. My friends who had lost their daughter had three other children and were grateful for my constant availability and time and love. A particular friend from college stood by me through ugly situations and listened and never judged. My mom sent me new books to read and notes in the mail. And even while I was convinced that He found me unlovable, His people loved me.

    And one day, I woke up on the other side, realizing that I had been walking all along in the shadow of His grace.

    Maybe this won’t encourage you, but know that I mean it to be. Hold on. Take the little blessings, even if it’s just your favorite cereal this morning or a cup of tea in the sun. God’s reasons are not always clear, but He never lacks them.

  41. Coral Rose, thanks for your thoughts on how we can find grace/peace in the small things of life. Sometimes I’m better at remembering this than others, and it’s probably something good for me to keep in mind under my current circumstances.

  42. Well, I know this posting is a little outdated now, but I just couldn’t help putting my 2 cents in. Why? Because I am your sister 🙂

    (BTW, Vada, even after reading through all 45 comments on this post, I am still laughing about “I Diesel 10. I breaking timber.” I totally understand the dead brain thing.)

    First off, you inspire me. I don’t understand the whys and why nots, but the fact that you are still exercising a small particle of whatever faith you’ve got…that inspires me. I know some may think I have my whole life figured out and that I have never struggled with my faith in the same way that maybe you have, but trust me, there have been times.

    There is one particular thing that kept coming to mind as I was reading through your post. I went through a particularly challenging period of time a few years ago where I was quite depressed and could not seem to get out of it. It was actually serving a mission…the period of time in my life where I was most dedicated, keeping the commandments more than I ever had (or have really), and THOUGHT should be the happiest time of my life thus far. Wrong. For me, it was not the case. Other missionaries would say…”that was the best 2 years of my life!” or “please, let me stay 2 1/2 years!” and I…well, I just didn’t say anything, usually, because my thoughts were “can I get out of here any faster?” You don’t know how many days I thought about just giving up and going home.

    I remember reading one day the scripture in Alma 31:38 which takes place during the missionary days of Alma and Aaron and their brethren. After separating from each other at this point, the scripture reads “…yea, and [the Lord] also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.” I thought that meant no matter what I was going through, that while I was in the middle of it, I should be able to have my suffering “swallowed up in the joy of Christ”-that somehow that suffering should be able to be taken away as I did x, y, z.

    But that didn’t happen. At least not in the way I thought it would/should.

    I actually started studying “sorrow” in my personal scripture study at that point. I started realizing very quickly that “sorrow” or “grief” or related words were hardly ever mentioned without a close reference to “joy”. That led me to a number of talks, mostly by Elder Maxwell, where he talks about that very connection. Here’s a small piece of one of them:

    “In any case, brothers and sisters, how could there be refining fires without enduring some heat? Or greater patience without enduring some instructive waiting? Or more empathy without bearing one another’s burdens—not only that others’ burdens may be lightened, but that we may be enlightened through greater empathy? How can there be later magnification without enduring some present deprivation?

    The enlarging of the soul requires not only some remodeling, but some excavating. Hypocrisy, guile, and other imbedded traits do not go gladly or easily, but if we “endure it well” (D&C 121:8), we will not grow testy while being tested.

    Moreover, we find that sorrow can actually enlarge the mind and heart in order to “give place,” expanded space for later joy.”

    It’s the last line that is the point of my whole post. I wasn’t having much luck with the ‘swallowing of my sorrows’, but maybe my ‘well of sorrow’ was just expanding and expanding so that later it could be filled with joy.

    I don’t think we really can experience the same joy the Lord experiences-now or in the future-unless our depth of sorrow has made room for that amount of joy.

    Does that make any sense? I have done a whole lot of study/thought on this subject and I have decided that even if at times my pain/sorrow is not taken away, maybe it is making it so I have the room to be filled with joy later.

    On a side note, regarding the scripture in Alma 31:38-I had a little mini-revelation much later. One of the times I struggled the most on the mission was with a particular companion who was going through a lot of depression/self-doubt problems herself. I thought I could not get out of that companionship FAST enough! Much later, when I was reflecting on some challenging times that I had with her, I re-read the scripture in Alma and realized that this particular companion is now one of my best friends, and the people that we taught together are some of the people who I still talk to frequently and who are faithful, active members of the Church.

    I realized that I HAD received the “swallowing of sorrow” that I had been waiting for-it just came years later. My sorrow had indeed been taken by Christ, and replaced with joy, but not while I was in the middle of it.

    (sorry for the long post-it was actually more for myself than anyone, but you love me, right? 🙂 )

  43. I do love you, and thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your comments on the purposes of sorrow. I don’t know that I’ve made all the connections that you have, but when I went through my severe depressive episode in college, I had to struggle with the whole purpose of sorrow, why is there pain in life, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever conceptualized it as a deepening well of sorrow that will make place for a deeper well of joy (I really like this image), but I have come to terms with the necessity of pain and sorrow in this life.

    What’s been so difficult with the experiences I’ve been dealing with recently is not that I’m struggling with sorrow, per se. It’s that *God’s direct involvement* in my life has been the source of quite a lot of the pain and sorrow. I’m hoping that at some point God will explain to me why He has put me through so much intense pain and despair, especially in the past year, and why His actions/guidance have seemed so inconsistent, but right now my ability to have faith and trust in God’s purposes, etc., is almost non-existent. But like I said in my post, I’m not giving up quite yet because I do want to believe that somehow it will all make sense.

  44. Seraphine,

    I was born and raised hard core LDS, working hard to do all the right things and get all the right blessings. It never worked all that well for me, but well enough that I could keep going that way. Until 11 years ago.

    Three separate times on a drive to my office, I thought about stopping and felt very strongly that I should not stop, I needed to keep going. I was never one of those people who heard a Still Small Voice, so this had a huge impact on me. I ended up being hit by a double dumpster that ran a red light. If I had stopped anywhere along the way, I would not have been in that intersection when the guy ran that red light.

    I was 6 months pregnant and had a 2 year old at home and that accident has caused more pain and suffering for all three of us than I could ever have imagined. My husband took our temple marriage so seriously that he bailed out on me when I did not respond appropriately to his demands that I snap out of it and get back to taking care of everything I used to. The decision to marry him despite some misgivings was also a rare moment where I felt I was being led by the Spirit. I ended up in a brain injury program where everyone had spouses who were their rocks and their salvations, except for me and the other LDS woman in the program, whose husband has also divorced her and used her condition to try to get custody of the kids he hadn’t seemed that interested in having primary responsibility for before it factored into child support calculations. Major crisis of faith anyone?

    The good Mormon girl in me didn’t know how to handle it. I tried devoting myself even more to the Church and to faith. It didn’t work. What did work for me was actually the opposite. I let myself be mad and I cried and screamed at Heavenly Father in many a long and emotional prayer. I really let him have a piece of my mind and I asked him straight out why he would do this to me. Why set me up with the car accident and with the marriage that would be hard enough before I was a wreck but nearly kill me when I needed a positive, not more negative. What kind of loving father would do that? Omniscient beings have no excuse! My therapist made the mistake of quoting Buddha saying something about picking up a hot rock to throw in anger and burning oneself and I told him the Buddha could shove his hot rocks up his ass. No religious icon was safe.

    That anger didn’t cut me off from God in the end, it brought me closer. I was willing to listen after daring him to tell me what the hell he was thinking and, no still small voice, but I felt love and peace and a sense that things would be okay that I couldn’t reconcile with how hopeless things looked. I had no idea how this was going to happen, but couldn’t deny that feeling, either. It took years to learn how to free fall, but I finally had to either do it or die, literally.

    If I were in testimony meeting, I’d use the word faith, but it really wasn’t the Mormon version of faith that I had understood. It was more just free-falling and trusting that whether I fell on something soft or something hard, it would be okay. Even as I type that, it makes no sense. It can’t be okay to dash against the rocks, but it just was because it had to be. I had to let go, which is not something I could ever do before. Mormonism taught me to keep working, but what I really needed was to give up.

    I came away from that more spiritual than ever and less religious. I see the Church much like I see my ex-husband (still husband according to the Church because my stake president wanted to save me from being without the blessings of the sealing by keeping me sealed to the asshole who kicked me when I was up and even harder when I was down). They both have a really good heart, but it is just covered with so much crap from developmental nightmares that you have to look real hard to see it. You live day in and day out with the crap and only get glimpses of the beauty within.

    I am absolutely convinced now that there is a God and he or she or it loves me and knows what is going on in my life. I still tend to see God through LDS eyes, but I see God as that good heart underneath all the crap that past leaders have heaped on the church as it has developed. My ex MIL thought she was raising her son right, too, but it didn’t stop her abuse from messing him up in serious ways. I go to Church when it helps me. I don’t when it doesn’t. I pray for direction and am convinced that when it has mattered, I’ve been led to where I need to be.

    It is still really hard much of the time. I will never be the same as I was and I really miss the old me and everything she could do, including make herself happy in the Church. But the worst thing that ever happened to me has also been one of the best. A big part of that is how my relationship to God and church has changed. It is more complicated, but more real and more comfortable to who I really am. I don’t have much faith that the Church will ever be the perfected church that it claims to be, but I don’t need it to be as long as I can still see God in there. If I ever get to the point that I can’t, it’s not such a big deal because I can still find him on my own.

    I think that every church is going to have major flaws. God has to speak through humans, the way I see it, in order to organize in ways that do help many to find Him and grow spiritually. But humans always filter through their own weaknesses and experience. We can’t even wrap our brains around God and we are supposed to wrap our brains around and explain to each other the entire spiritual realm? It’s like a bunch of ancients having a vision of two moderns talking on cell phones trying to explain to their neighbors not only what happened but how. They won’t even agree on what happened and how to explain it, never mind any of them having a chance of getting the engineering right. The only real understanding comes from spirit to spirit communication in my view, so the same personal revelation concept that keeps me drawn to a Mormon view drives me away from being anything the Church as an institution would approve of. I don’t accept their authority or ability to explain anything God says or is to me. Not that they are always wrong, just that they can’t, by definition the way I see it, ever be 100% right.

    I don’t know if any of this makes much sense to anyone other than me. I certainly wouldn’t say that my experience should dictate what you should do about your crisis of faith.I just want you to know that you aren’t alone and that there can be a light at the end of that dark tunnel even if you can’t see it from where you are. Also, if you are hanging on to the faith of your fathers because you really feel that is right for you, that’s great. But if it is out of fear that if you let go, you will fall away and not know where you might land, that might not be as dangerous as trying desperately to hang on. And, last of all, if you need living proof that if you let go and let God have it one day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be struck by lightning or even that God will turn his back on such an ungrateful servant. Even Jesus had a hard time keeping it all together when he was feeling forsaken, but God doesn’t seem to take being questioned that hard. That makes a lot of sense, actually, when I think about the fact that I don’t mind explaining my decisions to my children and I’m not even close to being perfect. Even when I couldn’t explain, like when they gave me the “how could you let them do this to me?” looks and screams when I held them down so they couldn’t fight their way out of painful shots, I felt much worse for them than I did for myself and I certainly understood where they were coming from. I’m sure an omniscient being understands it isn’t our fault that we can’t always understand and need to cry and shoot dirty looks when we feel like those we see as our protectors are selling us out.


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