Zelophehad’s Daughters

Struggling with Sacrifice

Posted by Seraphine

So, I’ve been having a hard time with all things church-related for about six months now. Not in an angst-driven way (the anger/hurt of last year has subsided), but in a I-just-don’t-want-to-be-religious-for-no-explicable-reason kind of way. I did know that I wanted a bit of distance from God after what happened last year, but this past week, as I thought through why I was skipping church yet again, and as I thought about where I am with my dating life, it all finally clicked for me.

I’m struggling with the law of sacrifice. But let me back up just a bit.

I’ve always believed that my dedication to the church and my pursuit of relationships and marriage should go hand in hand. Even when dating was a struggle (i.e. there was no one for me to date), I believed that if I was patient, the right man would come along, we’d get married in the temple, etc., etc. The path of commitment to the church and the path to a relationship with a man were one and the same.

When I met my ex, everything seemed to be falling into place. Not only did I feel right about pursuing a relationship with him, I had other meaningful spiritual experiences, unconnected with him, that led me to believe he was the man I was supposed to marry. Everything felt orchestrated by God. I took that as a sign, and I stayed in the relationship even after things got way more difficult than they should have been because I firmly believed that I was being guided by God. While I still believe God played a role in what happened, I ended up in a very different place than I expected.

Because of everything that’s happened, I now feel a bit differently about my life path. And what I realized this past Sunday was that right now it feels like my commitment to the church and my desire for a relationship/marriage/family are currently different paths.

One of the things I want most in my life is marriage and family, and I honestly don’t think I’m going to find someone by doing what I’ve always done–wait around and hope that at some point I find an LDS guy I’m compatible with; maybe sign up for an LDS dating site but not make too much progress because I’m just not compatible with most of the men on the site. Doing this for the last decade of my life has led to one relationship, and while it was an extremely meaningful one, I’ve pretty much experienced a dearth of dating otherwise.

And here’s the thing. I don’t want to be single for the next decade of my life. If that’s how things play out, then that’s how they play out, but if I am not able to find a long-term relationship, it’s not going to be from lack of effort on my part. And as I’ve written elsewhere, I think right now what makes the most sense to me is to expand my dating horizons and date non-LDS men. I feel really good about this decision, but it’s also raised some tricky questions.

Many non-LDS men are going to have a hard time with my LDS-ness. I refuse to date anyone who doesn’t respect my religious tradition and my personal spiritual journey, but even if I find someone who respects these things, I know there are going to be tensions that pull me away from my commitment to the church. As I pursue dating non-LDS men, things are likely to get complicated quickly.

Which brings me to the topic with which I started the post: sacrifice. Right now I strongly believe that to maintain my previous attitude towards the church means sacrificing my chance for relationships, marriage, etc. Perhaps this is not true, but I feel like it would be unhealthy for me to follow the path I’ve already followed–tie up my expectations for marriage so closely with my relationship with God and the church that I end up with enormous hurt when those expectations aren’t met. And maybe I’m not being faithful enough, but I am not willing to sacrifice my chance at a relationship in this life for a total commitment to the church and for a hope in promised blessings at some point in the eternities (I don’t mean to denigrate this as a choice, it’s just one that will not currently work for me).

This means I will be pursuing a path that could potentially lead me away from my commitment to the church to a certain extent. And right now I’d rather risk that path than put my hope in blessings that may never materialize (and I’d like to think I have some evidence this is a possibility). Right now I’m not willing to sacrifice what I want in the here and now for blessings down the road. Also, while I truly believe there are some desires that are bad for us (and should be sacrificed in our attempts to perfect ourselves), in this situation, what I want in the here and now is a good thing, and I’m not ready to sacrifice that to God. Hence, my struggle with this law.

On a final note, I think I’ve been skipping church because if I distance myself, then it won’t be quite so painful if I get pulled in different directions. But my other realization of this past week was that I need to stop making decisions out of a fear of being hurt. So, I’m going to attempt to reconnect with God, knowing that at some point in the near or distant future, I could end up torn. While I don’t relish this prospect, I think being grounded in my religious beliefs and my relationship with God is the best way for me to figure out the messiness with dating and relationships that I see coming on the horizon.

62 Responses to “Struggling with Sacrifice”

  1. 1.

    I think it is good you’re recognizing the potential feelings you might have — versus end up in a relationship and *then* realize it isn’t what you wanted — so many people start that snowball… and it is hard to break.

  2. 2.

    “And maybe I’m not being faithful enough”

    I spent a lot of my life trying to be “faithful enough”–but I realized that no matter how perfectly I lived the Mormon checklist, no matter how many callings I faithfully fulfilled, no matter how many very sincere prayers I prayed–things just weren’t going to happen the way I had been told.

    I finally realized that I was done with all the projection of our protestant values onto what we supposed was God’s will. I dumped it. I’m still a member of the church, but I no longer put down a list of “if I do these, that means I’m faithful–even though I can never be faithful enough, because that would be pride, etc.”

    Now, instead of trying to “be faithful”, I focus on developing my relationship with God, which isn’t necessarily a Mormon relationship, if you know what I mean.

    I realize this isn’t quite on your topic, but your phrase really struck a nerve with me.

  3. 3.

    “Right now I’m not willing to sacrifice what I want in the here and now for blessings down the road.”

    The ultimate blessing, the one that is both now and in the future, the one that touches and influences all the others is our relationship with God.

    The thing to unlearn is the notion that we make our sacrifices now in hopes of blessings in the future.
    W.W. Phelps’ misguided hymn notwithstanding, they are not done to facilitate the bringing forth of the blessings of heaven.

    Sacrifices, ideally, are expressions of our own heartfelt priorities; coming to a place where we find we are going without one thing because we love and cherish another thing openheartedly. We don’t rack up sacrifices hoping to be granted blessings for our suffering down the road. The blessings and grace constantly flow now as we reach out to him. It’s just hard to see them, particularly if we have a scripted list of blessings we expect and, as mortals are wont, see their absence more than the presence of a myriad of others. We feel robbed at the same moment in which we are being offered extravagant gifts. But I think God understands that about us. And he sends grace and friends to navigate the sense of loss that inevitably brings to our misunderstanding hearts.

    As children we learn the practice of sacrifice. As adults, hopefully, we learn the honest expression it is meant to be.

    “But my other realization of this past week was that I need to stop making decisions out of a fear of being hurt.”

    AMEN, sister. All of us. In every aspect of this choice and others.

  4. 4.

    Well said. I just got home from an excruciating date. The first time I met this LDS woman she unknowingly insulted my politics within 30 seconds of meeting me. But I could tell she wanted to go out with me, so I called her up. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again. I am starting to lose hope of finding compatible LDS women. I have been trying a variety of dating web sites over the last few weeks. I feel like I’m at the point where I am ready to start dating non-members again. I’m already talking to a few online, and we’ll probably meet in person soon. I love the church, but there is no way I am content to remain single if I can’t find the right Mormon woman for me.

  5. 5.

    That makes sense to me. I didn’t know from your last post that that’s where you were. I understand now!

  6. 6.

    I’ve become kind of a big advocate for dating outside the Church if necessary. I never would have considered such a thing when I was younger, but I’ve become much more open to it as I’ve gotten older. Were I in that position of having to date again, I’d probably start by dating LDS women, but if I couldn’t find one who was able to tolerate my heresies, dating outside the church would I think be a viable option.

    I wish you all the best, Seraphine, in the journey!

  7. 7.

    This post really speaks to me, Seraphine, even though the particulars of my life circumstances are quite different. (I apologize if what’s to follow is too far off topic.)

    Time was when I gave my all to the church, when I really strove to live the law of consecration. After a series of events several years ago that I won’t go into again, I just don’t have it in me anymore. I simply can’t give what God demands. So I’ve settled for a terrestrial life–one to which, for many reasons, I’m better suited anyway. While I’m still striving to live the gospel as I understand it, and while I definitely maintain–and find meaning in–my private religious life, I just can no longer give to the church in the way I once did. I set limits. I turn down callings. I set my own conditions on callings. I ask to be released.

    I don’t think I could ever go back to living, or trying to live, the law of consecration. I’m so much happier and more at peace when I carefully limit what I’m willing to give to the church. But my current position leaves me at odds with my temple covenants, among other things.

  8. 8.

    In short, I’m with stashed (#2).

  9. 9.

    This post seems to go with:

    http://celibateinthecity.blogspot.com/2010/05/single-complications.html

  10. 10.

    I like your thoughts Seraphine.

    It sounds to me like you’re making a move that will take you forwards in your relationship with god. Maybe I just think that because I want to believe that where I am now is better than where I was when I was focused on giving everything I could to the church, idk. The interesting thing is that I’ve found undeniable peace harmonizing my actions with my feelings. I have a hard time believing that god wants me to live in a state of internal dissonance so that I can receive his blessings in the next life. It doesn’t make sense to me that exaltation in the next life is a product of unhappiness in this one.

    I think I was lost in following god in the way that was defined for me by my parents and the church. I’m still pretty lost, but now I believe there’s more flexibility in the expectations he has of me. It’s a peaceful, hopeful feeling.

    Anyway, enjoy your dates if you decide to go that route. There are lots of great men out there. Also, have you heard this podcast: http://mormonstories.org/?p=738 ? I like the way Joanna Brooks talks about her decision to marry outside of the church. This is the first time I’ve commented here, so sorry if this is old news. Good luck!

  11. 11.

    I know exactly what you mean about thinking God is behind it because it all seems to be working out. Two relationships ago, everything went so crazy at the end that it’s amazing I survived hearing the truth. I went home and thought and thought. I knew without a doubt that the Lord had been with me so that I could bear hearing the truth. But what I couldn’t understand is why He hadn’t warned me against this relationship. I’d done a lot of praying and pondering about it, after all. But what came to my mind was, “If I had warned you, who would have given him his chance to accept my Gospel?”

    Stay strong. I know that’s easier said than done. Today I cried because I just felt so lonely. But I don’t think any relationship is worth giving up my activity in the Church.

  12. 12.

    And maybe I’m not being faithful enough, but I am not willing to sacrifice my chance at a relationship in this life for a total commitment to the church and for a hope in promised blessings at some point in the eternities

    Seraphine, thank you for this – my sentiments exactly. I appreciate you articulating it so well.

  13. 13.

    To everything there is a time and a season. This will pass and work out.

    Frankly I don’t think quantity spells quality, necessarily. It’s important to serve, but many of us serve far beyond our capacity. You’ve had a rough year. Go easy on you.

  14. 14.

    Seraphine, Thank you for this post. I ache reading it. (In a good way-I feel your pain) I think of these lyrics to “How can I keep from singing” Sometimes it helps – other times not so much.

    Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
    How can I keep from singing?
    I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
    I see the blue above it;
    And day by day this pathway smooths,
    Since first I learned to love it.
    .

    And there is no shared sanction for loving the path without a companion in favor of church loyalty because we can’t publicly celebrate that or honor strength in it (might be a bad example to our profession of “family foremost”, YM/YW or other adults) so we are pushed into unknown territory, alone.

    So the path almost never smooths.
    “Meant to swim in deep waters” comes to mind often.

    The ache is like what others feel in intense situations but I’ve failed to connect it into a conversation of same’s or even likely similars – in a way that others, in mass, can commiserate in and understand enough to respond in a meaningful way.

    I do see it happen sometimes so I’m not waiving off all attempts. Nor do I excuse myself when I don’t respond to other’s painful situations in not-the-best way. That aside, it’s lonely to have to be making decisions like this, when so many others seemed not to have to face the intricacies of these choices.

    It’s wayyy different and crazy painful.

  15. 15.

    I recommend LDSLinkUp.com

    It’s free, it’s like Mormon facebook, but most people use it for dating. I’ve had the best luck finding dates on that site than any other. Plus, you have a better idea of what the person is like based on who their friends are. And, a lot of times you’ll know people in common and you can check up on them with your friends.

  16. 16.

    Meetup.com is also good for meeting men, and free. I got a lot of dates from that too. You can join a group with common interests, go to their events and meet new people. Most people who join are single and looking. (well, I guess that depends on the group.)

  17. 17.

    from the podcast rosebud linked to, from an essay by joanna brooks:

    “to my family, my choosing to marry david meant i was choosing not to be with them in heaven. for me, choosing david meant placing my trust in a god bigger than doctrine. it meant choosing my joy, my best friend, my chance to create a family, choosing all of these as indivisible elements of my own spiritual well-being.

    “for years i believed that if i were a better mormon, if i waited more patiently, had milder thoughts, a tamer spirit, if i were just better, god would reward me with a good mormon husband. then, one sunday, when i was 25, i found myself in a chapel full of unmarried mormon women who also believed that if they were better mormons, waiting more patiently, with milder thoughts and tamer spirits, god would reward them with good mormon husbands too. most of the women, they were nearing 40.

    “one night my mormon bishop said something very wise to me. he said, “we often ask god over and over and over again what it is we should do. but sometimes we just have to do, and seek god in the process.” and so, i did. i chose not to bet on waiting, i chose my complicated self, i chose my true love, i chose to say yes.

    “i know the importance of sacrifice. all the great religions teach that going without, giving something up, or saying no can make us more holy. but so can saying yes. yes, yes, to love, yes to marriage, yes to babies, yes to outrageous sweetness, and yes, even to heartbreak. yes, i love you mom and dad, yes i love you ancestors, yes i love you baby girls. yes, yes, yes, yes, like a glass breaking under my bridegroom’s heel, i gave way and said to god, yes, do with me what you will.”

  18. 18.

    I fell in love once. He is amazing – brilliant, patient, loving – and we became best friends. A kind of best friendship and intimacy I didn’t even know existed. But he wasn’t and isn’t LDS.

    I chose to have that relationship anyway and I am so glad that I did. It was important. And God was in it with me when I let Him be. Sometimes I didn’t and I felt torn and I neglected to do things I know to be right. That was the bad part of the relationship and that’s what I regret.

    Eventually we broke up, despite wanting desperately to be with one another. We broke up because God made it known to me that if I couldn’t marry this man in the temple, then I shouldn’t marry him. I shouldn’t still be with him. And he didn’t feel like conversion was something he could consider. It was the most painful experience of my life. I have never hurt so badly for so long or cried so hard. It was devastating in the full sense of the word.

    I’m sharing this with you, not because I think that this will be your situation or because you will be guided by God in the same way. But because if there was one thing I could go back and tell myself it wouldn’t be not to do it. It would be to maintain and grow my relationship with my Heavenly Father, even when it would be easier not to. You will want Him there to guide you and you will need His direction. And you will need His comfort if/when what He asks you to do is hard. Whether what He asks you to do is to wait for temple marriage at all costs or to build a marriage and a partnership with a non-member.

  19. 19.

    Knowing what I know of you, it seems unlikely that the person you’ll find to be right for you will also be the same person who would draw you away from the Church. But… I think that’s only true insofar as you demonstrate your own commitment.

    Distancing yourself from the Church as a subliminal defense against the risk of getting pulled away by a man nonsupporting of your Church activity is, in my estimation, much more likely to result in your finding that type of person. The reverse is true as well, I believe, even if it doesn’t net you someone inside Church or a temple marriage.

    My wife, who wasn’t particularly sure she’d find someone to meet her standards, had assumed she’d stay single rather than marry outside the temple, though she had dated outside the Church less seriously. (Clearly I proved a pleasant surprise, and vice versa.)

    However, our experience notwithstanding, I recognize that the right guy won’t always come along in the Church, and I think I would have reacted differently, preferring to cast a wider net. I look at my wife’s oldest sister who married a non-member who I think is absolutely extraordinary. She remains very committed to the Church and he respects that fully, and though they married young she still had to sacrifice that temple marriage ideal in return for a marriage and family that by all accounts is wonderful and fulfilling.

    I don’t remotely see that as failure, though there are things she’s given up. While on vacation with them recently, I gave a blessing to their youngest son after he burned his hand. Other family members have performed baby blessings and baptisms. They don’t get to attend the temple together. But you know what, I still absolutely believe that they’ll be together eternally.

    Looking around your ward (and the Church at large), you’ll see a number of people who have decided that commitments to the Church and a non-member husband need not be mutually exclusive, and are better than forsaking either one or the other. There’s still sacrifice, but any way you look at your current situation there’s likely to be some sacrifice. So why sacrifice more important things at the feet of lesser ones?

  20. 20.

    I married outside the church… he’s quite wonderful, is superior in morals and determination than any of the LDS guys I found, is a hard worker, and loves me and our family completely. He is just as stubborn as I am, and encourages me in deepening my own faith–he also challenges my comfortable assumptions, and makes me clarify the reasons for my belief. I have to watch carefully to make sure my daily life is in harmony with my inner belief, because I have a husband who sees it in person every day, and my actions help form his opinion of the gospel, and of God.

    I’d love to go to the temple with him… I have hope, and I’m trying to be patient. I can definitely say that it’s possible to be fully active in the church, be close to God, *and* be married to a “non-member” (which term I despise.) As my Dad explained: “I’d rather you marry a good man with huge potential to find joy in the gospel, than a weak Mormon. You may be the “missionary” that introduces the gospel to a complete family line–don’t overlook that as a significant mission in this life!”

  21. 21.

    Seraphine, you write so vividly and beautifully that I’m sure I am one of the many that have the illusion that I know you. But I don’t. You come across as so charming that I’m surprised you don’t have to carry a bat to beat off the men headed your way; but whatever.

    My only contribution to the conversation is a snippet of Shakespeare: “To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    But that the dread of something after death,
    that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns..” Live your life for this life–death is the undiscovered country, no matter what your parents told you when you were but a wee Seraphine.

    (I recommmend the whole soliliqouy, the famous Hamlet one, which I ‘m sure you recognize.)

  22. 22.

    btw, and apropos of nothing, I’ve always thought these few lines were Shapespeare’s actual voice; which makes me astounded the few times I’ve run into people who think Kit Marlowe actually wrote Shakespeare. FTL (For the Lose.)

  23. 23.

    Lis C., I find your comment disturbing due to my own life history. After it was clear that I wasn’t entering Mormon buildings voluntarily anymore, my dear mother (with only the best of intentions) pulled something on me like you describe with your husband.

    It didn’t work–rather, it just drove us farther and farther apart as every one of her actions seemed fake–she wasn’t “mom” anymore, she was “perfect mormon woman to get djinn back into church without bursting into tears.” I . A single short blog post, of course, doesn’t give me any feeling for your life together, but I found that I didn’t have a mother anymore, rather, I had a missionary with a very clear plan for my future masquerading as someone I knew. Why talk to someone if ?

    Again, I have only a few words on a blog post so the chances of me misreading have a probability rating close to 100%, but how can your poor husband stand this? You sound like everything you do has this painfully obvious agenda which says that he is clearly inferior. Painful.

  24. 24.

    (I should clearly shut up, but that’s not how I roll, uh type.

    these are tthe sentences, Lis C, that I find damning.

    As my Dad explained: “I’d rather you marry a good man with huge potential to find joy in the gospel, than a weak Mormon. You may be the “missionary” that introduces the gospel to a complete family line–don’t overlook that as a significant mission in this life!”

  25. 25.

    So, this imaginary Seraphine whose words I read on the internet, I suppose those last two harsh comments to Lis C were directed to you, in my fashion–perhaps I should be more explicit: don’t marry someone expecting to change him into someone else. (This advise worth exactly as much as you paid for it., or perhaps slightly less.)

    A Bit more Ernest Dowson:

    They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
    Love and desire and hate:
    I think they have no portion in us after
    We pass the gate.

    They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
    Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.

  26. 26.

    Of course, the “wine” is a problem. What fine single syllable beverage can replace it? Milk just doesn’t do it.

  27. 27.

    advice

  28. 28.

    Shall I save time and assume that I am now banned?

  29. 29.

    djinn, you are not banned. I do think you were a bit too harsh in your response to Liz C, however. While I *totally* agree with the sentiment that you shouldn’t marry someone expecting them to change into someone else, I didn’t get the sense this is what Liz has done–from her description, it strikes me that her relationship is filled with love and acceptance. (That being said, I’m sorry that you are struggling with this issue in your own family.)

  30. 30.

    Natalie, thanks. Part of my current journey with dating is trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want. I have a clearer idea than I used to, but I’m still trying to figure it out.

    stashed, I appreciate your thoughts. Your approach definitely sounds similar to my own (my “maybe I’m not being faithful enough” was more of a remark aimed at this cultural belief, and I used the phrase to say “this is not where I am anymore”).

  31. 31.

    You are a much kinder person than me Seraphine, Obviously, but I quoted the wrong line from some random poster’s post. Here goes:

    “I have to watch carefully to make sure my daily life is in harmony with my inner belief, because I have a husband who sees it in person every day, and my actions help form his opinion of the gospel, and of God.”

    Being around someone that treats you like that sucks. Sucks hard.

    She’s not her husband’s wife, she’s his missionary. Maybe they make it work, good for them. However, point one is that she does not accept him for who he is, and so in turn (point two, if anyone is taking notes) does not accept who she is either. She’s admitting to playing some role, rather than being whomever she is. It’s not my marriage, if they get it to work, congrats for them. But ugh.

    Oh, I enjoyed reading the Dowson last night, so thanks for that; I loved him as a teen; such a bad brit, such a voice, such a poet. Love him still.

  32. 32.

    To be fair, my family and I are getting along better than we ever have. I’ve started just being myself around them (in tiny amounts) rather than censoring every action for fear of abandonment or the sort of harshness I’ve experienced in the past.

    It works. I think. This may be why I feel so strongly about someone proclaiming loudly that pretending to be someone you”re not is the way to happiness and sucess.

  33. 33.

    Her dad’s point is that she can convert him, her point is that she can convert him if she acts in some super-special way; havling lived a large part of my life around such people. DONT DO THIS TO ANYONE! Ahem.

  34. 34.

    djinn, while I understand both the overall point you’re trying to make and why you have strong feelings about this topic, your specific responses to Liz are a violation of our comment policy, so I’m going to need to ask you to stop.

  35. 35.

    OK, Seraphine, drawing from my own experience; this seems to be your problem. You do not act sweet and passive on dates with Mormons (I’m guessing you have your own opinion on the occasional subject which you do not keep to yourself) so in spite of your beauty they reject you for the girls that have figured out that if they act all passive during the dating scene they can pull out the agressive bit later.

    So, keep on dating mormon boys but be all ‘Oh, you’re so right” until the marriage. But then, you’re married.

    Yeah, this totally sucks. But maybe you can get it to work. You can get your husband slowly used to the idea that you have your own ideas.

  36. 36.

    From your comment policy:
    2. You’re welcome to explain why you completely disagree with someone’s ideas, but personal attacks are not acceptable. This includes such behaviors as name-calling, insults, or questioning other people’s personal righteousness.

    I didn’t intend to do any of that; I just intended to say that, well, what I said; pretending to be someone you are not is just generally not a good idea.

    I am myself guilty of this. for most of my life with my family. It didn’t work out very well. I am the guilty parrty here; Me.

  37. 37.

    mb, thanks for your thoughts on sacrifice. I’m still having difficulties with the law of sacrifice under your formulation, though. :)

    No worries, Olive!

    Thanks, Kevin.

    Eve, no apologies necessary. The specifics may be different, but your dilemma sounds very similar. I’m glad that you’ve found peace by setting limits.

  38. 38.

    I understand what you mean. I’ve thought recently how some are born into such poverty or other hardships. For me I haven’t had a date in over 7 years..it is a sacrifce to live these laws even though we love God, for as you say, we don’t know for sure when the blessings will come. And it hurts beyond belief to be lonely and isolated and to desire to love/be loved and yet to not have this occur (ie to not be loved)

    Awhile ago I think Segullah had a series about types of consecreation of the body, and those who live chaste (and thus don’t have kids) was one of the types of special sacrifice, as I recall.

  39. 39.

    For what it’s worth, my heart goes out to you ‘thoughts on this topic.” I hope you can find some joy in your current life. I was alone for awhile, I helped to teach kids read at a school. It gave me such joy. But I had the ability to do this during my lunch hour; I was very lucky.

    I really hope you can find a way to find a way to experience the sacredness in our daily lives within your current life.

  40. 40.

    Oh, for the love of pete! Anyone who thinks that giving up her lunch hour “for awhile” to teach kids to read is equivalent to the sacrifice of a single woman living chastely for a lifetime because that’s the only gospel-centered choice open to her does more harm than good in speaking up. Really.

    I recently had to ask to be released from teaching Teachings for Our Times in Relief Society because our stake president, thinking he was doing a magnanimous thing, I suppose, by picking out all the talks addressed to women in the last Conference, made teaching impossible for me by selecting six months worth of lessons on “women have value because they are mothers.” I love teaching and am good at it and feel that I make a real contribution to my ward through that service, but I’ve run out of ways to lead discussions that define women’s value in a way that leaves me out in the cold.

    Don’t tell me that my sacrifice, or Seraphine’s, is equivalent to giving up lunch hours “for awhile.”

  41. 41.

    Giving up lunch hours is all I had. I’m plain. Most mormon women are georgous (a word I can barely spell.,it’s so far from my experience.) As I was trying to say when I quoted Shakspeare and Dowson, don’t live this life with such misery. Death, in spite of what your parents told you, is the unknown country. I’m guessing, just based on bare statistics that you are a catch. Find someone. A woman, a nonmember, a casual partner, someone. Be happy. For this life.

  42. 42.

    Rosebud, I’d like to think that I’m taking a step forward as well, but I’m not naive enough to believe that where I’m at now is the end point of my journey. And I agree–I think that God respects my feelings and inclinations, but I also think that our feelings aren’t the end-all and be-all of our existence–our feelings and desires can be unhealthy for us, and trying to live an “authentic” life that ignores this is problematic (I’m not responding to you, per se, just a larger cultural trend where people don’t really seem to understand the value of sacrifice).

    At the same time, I think I’ve spent too much time trying to follow the rules and not enough time paying attention to myself and my feelings, so I think I need to adjust my approach a bit–of course, I may decide I need to make further adjustments at some point in the future. :)

    Also, thanks for the link. I’m familiar with Joanna Brooks, but I haven’t listened to that particular podcast.

  43. 43.

    Michelle, thanks for the understanding. I’m glad that you’ve gained some perspective on your own difficult experiences.

    Martine, thanks.

    annegb, thanks. I actually am feeling okay in a lot of ways about the space I’ve given myself. While I think the doing things out fear and avoidance hasn’t been good, I actually do think that giving myself a little time to breathe has been nice. And God has been respecting that. While I do think He wants less distance between us, He hasn’t really been pushing hard.

  44. 44.

    lj, your comment fits nicely with the post that Stephen linked to–as JL pointed out on her blog, being single can be just as complicated and heartbreaking as other life paths. And as with most complications, it’s difficult to understand unless you’ve been through it.

    JL, I am a member of a few groups on meetup.com, though I haven’t been to too many meetups lately because of the craziness of school (I have a couple lined up for the end of the month, though). Also, thanks for the heads up about LDSLinkup.com. I hadn’t heard of that site before–I’ll definitely check it out.

  45. 45.

    Seraphine understood the gist of my post; I’m sorry, Djinn, but you’re very far from the mark regarding my comments. Perhaps I should explain?

    I don’t anticipate changing my husband. I didn’t marry him with that intent, and don’t consider myself his “missionary”–my dad and I (both converts, as is my mother) have a real aversion to proselytizing, so his verbal “missionary” was in huge metaphorical quotes… meaning, that I’m in close contact with my husband every day, and I’d better be certain I’m living daily in the manner I profess to believe.

    How horrible would it be for a person to live with a hypocrite, who was one way on Sunday, and another way the rest of the week? That’s not a living faith–it’s a sham.

    I profess to believe in something more than the Natural Man–I’d be a huge hypocrite if I were walking around wallowing in the baser things of life. If I profess to be a follower of Christ, then I’d darn sure better be trying to live like it. That’s what I meant about making sure my daily life and inner belief are in harmony. Not that I’m putting on a show, or trying to be someone else… quite the opposite! I have an obligation to myself, my God, and my husband to be as authentic as I possibly can be, blunt in my faith, consistent in my actions, firm in my resolve to repent… just like Every Other Christian On The Planet Does, married or single.

    I’ve encountered those who are very sanctimonious about their faith, and I find them generally off-putting and immature, as if God is some sort of tyrant who will hear *their* prayers and “get” someone to do what *they* want. That’s definitely not me, and it’s not my husband.

    Oddly enough, my “non-member” husband is the one who convinced me to go back to church. We met during a time when I was not attending. We went to visit my family, and he saw me attend services. On the six-hour drive home, he told me he thought I should go back to church each week, because there was “something” about me that was better, and happier, with that worship time. I protested for a good five hours of that drive… I was fine, everything was fine, nothing was different, etc… And when we got home, he called my Dad to find out which church I was “zoned” for, and call my Bishop, and told him there was a new person in the congregation, and they should come find me, because I’d be happier going to church.

    Each time we’ve moved, his first two self-chosen tasks are to find my new church building/call the Bishop, and find the nearest municipal library for me.

    He decided, after visiting at my family’s house, that family prayer seemed eminently civilized, and that he wanted our family to have that tradition.

    He decided, thinking back on his un-churched childhood, that meal prayers, and Sunday services, and reading the Bible as a family, were civilized habits, and necessary for our children in order to be firmly rooted, spiritually.

    He’s the one who shushes the children, and insists they respect my Conference Weekends (when I turn all the radios in the house to Conference, and sew the entire time… he handles the meals, and poots around on the computer, and then later we have fun discussions about the sermons.)

    He’s the one who decided our family needed to tithe (having absorbed some cool things from Conference sessions), without me saying a word about it, pro or con. He describes himself as a “Non-Member in Good Standing.” He even had a T-shirt made years ago, when “inviting investigators” to dinner was all the rage, that carried that slogan, and on the back said, “With me, all meals are possible.”

    He’s the one who encourages me to keep my temple recommend up to date. He’s the one who calls our friends around the corner if he thinks I or the kids would be better off with a blessing.

    Yep. Me, the “missionary” in the relationship? Not so much. :)

    PHEW! All that just to say: while it would be cool to find a neat guy inside the church, there are a lot of neat ones outside it, and marrying one is definitely NOT a reason to compromise your own walk with God. The two can mesh.

  46. 46.

    I just want to say, Liz, that both you and your husband sound delightful. I’m happy that you found your match, in or out of the church (or really, some combination of the two).

  47. 47.

    #39- thanks for the support, I appreciate your care. I forgot I’d commented here and came back to look. I do appreciate your hope I have joy in life, I do. I like helping others and have lots of opportunity to serve both at work and in my personal life (ie church and other service at times). It is just the loneliness of not having that one constant comp for life at times makes me lonely.

    #40 Thanks for your support too, I understand what you mean that lunch time is not the same as a lifetime of this sacrifce. But I really think #39 meant well.

    I think the hard thing is even as I typed this very comment, I got a phone call to help sub in primary tomorrow, as someone is ill. It will be fun to serve and to help.

    But the hard part is that at the end of the day, credit goes to Moms. Those of us without kids don’t have the same “resevoir” of family/spouse/kids that many others do.

    Hopefully we can all figure out how to help and support each other no matter what are situation.

    When I was in college, I had hope that if I didn’t marry, that my lfe would be of no less service. However depression has sometimes impacted that ability. Still I’ve tried.
    THe hard thing is realizing this might go one for a long time, for life when I so do not want that for my life.

  48. 48.

    isobel, thanks for those passages. While my circumstances are slightly different (I’m generally dating rather than facing a relationship with a specific man), I definitely feel like I’m in a similar kind of place to the one Joanna describes. I really like what she says about saying yes.

    Gogo, thanks for sharing your own experiences. I’m a bit wary about God’s guidance these days, but I do think that it’s important for me to work at repairing the ways our relationship has broken down.

    SW Clark, thank-you for your thoughts. I don’t think I could ever be with someone who was deliberately disrespectful of my religious beliefs. However, I tend to ask lots of hard questions, and I tend to be attracted to/compatible with people who have similar inclinations. So while I know I won’t end up with someone who challenges my commitment because he thinks commitment and/or religion is bad, I could end up with someone who challenges my commitment because he’s asking some of the same questions I ask myself. And he’d be asking them from a place of non-commitment.

  49. 49.

    Liz C., thanks for sharing your story and the follow-up clarification. It sounds like your husband challenges you to be a better person, but from a place of love and wanting what is best for you. And I do appreciate your final comment: All that just to say: while it would be cool to find a neat guy inside the church, there are a lot of neat ones outside it, and marrying one is definitely NOT a reason to compromise your own walk with God. The two can mesh. I’m worried that in my life these things will not be as compatible as I would like them to be, but I will keep your story in mind. :)

    thoughts on this topic, I’m sorry to hear of your struggles, though I’m glad to hear you are finding ways to serve where you can.

    anon again, that sucks. I love to teach, but I’m sure I would have had a similarly difficult time if I would have had to teach lesson after lesson on womanhood as motherhood.

  50. 50.

    Dear #37 and #40, please forgive me and my tin ear; I did not intend to cause any extra pain or set myself up as some sort of expemplar; but i don’t write well, and I realize that’s what it sounded like. Thank you for your kindness.

  51. 51.

    I think about your comment about not making decisions out of fear.

    You directly mention the notion of fearing the pain of being pulled in different directions should you decide to embrace a relationship with a man who is not of your faith, and therefore reducing your church attendance to avoid that pain. Am I right in reading that?

    I also read in your writing a fear of being single in the coming decades. Is that there too?

    Neither fear should be reasons for decision making. Facing and naming both fears is important in this process. Deciding whom you both know and love, both divine and human beings, is essential. The former relationship, based not on conditions of blessings or book knowledge, but rather on knowledge of being, will be what empowers you to make decisions about the latter without fear.

    Stashed refers to that very thing, though she says it isn’t a “Mormon relationship”. Actually I think it is. It’s just that not all Mormons, both well known and obscure, pay enough careful attention to the word to recognize it.

    In my first comment I said ” going without one thing because we love and cherish another thing openheartedly”. A more accurate phrase might have been “going without one thing because we love and cherish what we continue to understand intimately and personally through our relationship with God”. The former sentence sounds too much like waiting for the promised prize. The latter is about enlightenment and a relationship that is going on now.

    If you learn and receive that relationship with trust and a heart open to his love (that means beating down the self-doubts and taking time to listen), then you don’t have to second guess whichever dating decision you make or fear that you are displeasing a God whose opinion you are surmising second-hand.

    And that relationship also has the power to lift and assuage the fear of loneliness.

    It liberates on both fronts.

  52. 52.

    Stashed refers to that very thing, though she says it isn’t a “Mormon relationship”. Actually I think it is. It’s just that not all Mormons, both well known and obscure, pay enough careful attention to the word to recognize it.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by this, mb. Could you explain it further? In other words, it seems that you’re saying that even if I see my relationship with God as not being part of or connected to an institutional religion, that it really is. I’m not following you.

  53. 53.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that Mormon theology embraces the notion of developing a loving relationship with God; a relationship that is not dependent upon a checklist or “being faithful enough” or doing certain things in order for it to be real, enlightening, joyful and truth filled.

    There are certainly Mormons who do not understand that and continue to see their relationship as deed based. And they, or you, might argue that I’m wrong. But the theology, as I read it, though it encourages good works and celebrates blessings, does not point to an exclusively deed-based, reward-based, jump through the hoops, be good enough/sacrifice enough to get the blessings relationship with God. In my opinion that is a gross and dangerous oversimplification of what the theology teaches.

    Whether or not you personally connect your good relationship with God to an institutional religion is dependent upon your own decision to do so or not. You will find people with the personal relationship that I suspect you are enjoying both within and without not only the Mormon faith but also within and without other faiths as well. I am not claiming that the institution has any exclusive rights to the truth you have found, nor that you must ally yourself with it in order to enjoy it.

    And, for that matter, neither can you claim that in order to enjoy it you must leave the institution behind.

    Thanks for asking me to clarify.

  54. 54.

    I mean “neither can one claim”….
    I don’t mean you, personally.

  55. 55.

    Mormon theology embraces the notion of developing a loving relationship with God; a relationship that is not dependent upon a checklist or “being faithful enough” or doing certain things in order for it to be real, enlightening, joyful and truth filled.

    Yes, I agree. And I also agree that this is not something particular to the Mormon theology or religion.

    Thanks for clarifying, mb.

    So, to clarify my original comment: For me, my concept of God and my relationship with the divine is beyond religion or theology. It isn’t bound by current doctrine or past speculations or … anything else that could be brought into the mixture. It is something that is unique to me, because I am engaging in this relationship personally and without trying to please or acknowledge anyone else in the process.

    In other words, my relationship with God exists independent of Joseph Smith, the theology of the Mormon church, and my careful upbringing.

    And, to be complete, I think that at the heart of most religions is the hope that people will seek a truly personal relationship with the divine.

  56. 56.

    mb, I actually don’t think of my life (and religious practice in general) in terms of deeds/rewards. I find a lot of problems with this model. At the same time, the relationship model isn’t quite working for me either right now because I don’t really trust my relationship with God because of what happened last year.

    You also asked: I also read in your writing a fear of being single in the coming decades. Is that there too? I would actually answer “no” to this question. In a lot of ways I’m happy with my life of singledom. While I want marriage/family, I’m not necessarily scared of being single.

  57. 57.

    Seraphine,
    I remember that crisis and how articulately you expressed it, though I was never completely clear on whether you were feeling betrayed by your own understanding of God’s previous messages to you (ie. dismay at self at what may have been an inaccurate reading on your part) or that you felt that you had understood them correctly and that he had reneged on you, or both. Or maybe a variation of both.

    Either which way, such things usually require a thoughtful and meditative restructuring of the relationship with different assumptions about communication and certainty based on what you’ve learned and are learning, which takes time. I can understand your hesitancy. Rebuilding takes sweet time.

  58. 58.

    Good for you!

  59. 59.

    This is my first time Seraphine in persuing your very insightful posts; most wouldn’t be as bold and wanting to understand and even obey in spite of your struggles. I will not likely ever wed due to being bedridden and on a respirator though Ive been proposed to several times. I,too, have wanted to date non-members since there are no guarantees whether they are members or not! However Ive come to better see my life as eternal, and the temporary side of life somewhat bores me if I can’t have the gospel as part of my daily walk with whomever it may be. It’s just not worth jeapardizing temporary peace for the core of who I love most–which is definitely nothing mortal, for He Whom gave me the unprecedented gift &opportunity to receive what eye hath not seen! This is nothing against non members or others, this is simply my deepening and burgeoning testimony and relationship with God who wants only my happiness.
    Sincerely
    Deborah

  60. 60.

    Not to derail or anything but where are the guys? Why are there more girls then guys active in the Church? Obviously a guy myself but where do they go and why aren’t they staying active?

  61. 61.

    I like what Liz said in #20:

    “As my Dad explained: ‘I’d rather you marry a good man with huge potential to find joy in the gospel, than a weak Mormon. You may be the “missionary” that introduces the gospel to a complete family line–don’t overlook that as a significant mission in this life!’”

    Find the best person you can, wherever you can, but be as careful, prayerful, and thoughtful about it as you seem to be.

    If you find someone like this outside the church, obviously give it some time to get past infatuation. And I’d say just be sure to get lots of advice on issues that may come up later. As you know, there are a lot of good reasons for tradition too.

  62. 62.

    Your honesty is refreshing. My challenges are different, but I’ve thought a lot about “the law of sacrifice” lately, too. It’s a wonderful law when you are receiving blessings and A leads to B. It’s much harder when the blessings don’t materialize and you wonder why so-and-so is being blessed after doing the same things you are doing, and you seem to be being dumped by God. Anyways, I appreciate your honest reflection.

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