I’m temperamentally a neurotic person, anxiety-prone and a worrier. Thinking back to some of the things I remember best about growing up in the Church, it occurred to me that many of them evidence an interaction of my neuroticism with my Mormonism. I thought it might be interesting to share some of these experiences.
- At the ages of six and seven, I really internalized the teaching that children who died before the age of accountability would be guaranteed exaltation. I also didn’t learn too much (i.e., anything) about grace, and it was pretty clear to me that that was likely my only shot, since as soon as I was baptized and became responsible for my sins, I was sure to sin up such a storm that I would never be able to keep track of and repent of them all. Considering these facts, I mused a fair amount about suicide. I wasn’t particularly depressed; I was just thinking through things logically. I never made anything like a concrete plan, but I often turned the idea over in my mind, and wished that I could come up with a way to make it happen. It seemed perfectly in line with what I was learning at church: better to suffer a small pain now and have happiness later than avoid pain now and have sadness later. When I turned eight and went ahead and got baptized, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t been able to work up the courage to go through with killing myself. I was resigned to the reality that I now had my feet firmly planted on the path to damnation.
It’s gray outside. That’s not unusual here; it’s been gray for days, and I know this is only the beginning of some long months. I remember that from living in the Midwest before, years ago. But twelve years of living in California got me used to seeing the sun on a regular basis. I knew this part of the move would be challenging.
This past summer I was starting to crash yet again. Life was increasingly appearing both bleak and terrifying, and I was barely treading water. I hadn’t been hospitalized for an entire year—an accomplishment, that—and I saw myself headed to the ER once again. Except that I wasn’t sure I could stand yet another trip to the regulation and boredom of a psych ward, and I wondered whether this time around I could keep myself safe.
In my latest post I shared my words from my ward’s latest fast and testimony meeting. It was intensely personal to me; I sniffled through some of it, something I almost never do despite my good Mormon upbringing. Even so, I posted my testimony because I wanted to give encouragement to those members who, for various reasons, love the Church in spite of the sometimes painfully large, angry-red, pus-filled warts that they see. I wanted to provide support to Mormons who desire to be themselves at church, in a church where being yourself can make you undesirable if your beliefs are not mainstream.
In the past I have avoided sharing some of my concerns about the Church with my TBM friends. If the Church is working well for them I do not want to give them difficulty. If they are deriving strength and hope from our community and its teachings, if they are comforted by the certainty of belonging to the One True Church and are learning to know God and love their neighbors by participating in it, I do not want to rain on their parade. Continue reading
On Sunday I decided to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting and talk about my involvement with Ordain Women. I’ve transcribed below approximately what I said. In case you were wondering, in my opinion it was only the third strangest testimony of the meeting. Yay for Mormon weirdness!
Next post I’ll share the response so far from my local leaders and fellow ward members. I think you’ll find it to be generally good news.
This past year I taught Book of Mormon in seminary and I absolutely loved it. I loved the kids, even when they were half-asleep or all-the-way asleep, or even when my son was making smart remarks. What I especially loved, though, was the opportunity to help the kids develop a personal relationship with God.
I love the Book of Mormon and am deeply moved by many of its teachings. One of my favorites is when Nephi teaches us that all are alike unto God. Over the years this scripture and other Church teachings have led me along a path of life that may be different from yours, and that is what I’d like to talk about even though it is hard for me. I feel very vulnerable baring my soul like this so I hope you’ll bear with me. Continue reading
One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss
In the name of love!
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love!
What more? In the name of love!
For seven years I home taught a gay man. Despite numerous invitations during that time, he only came to church twice–once to wish me a happy birthday and once when I gave a talk in sacrament meeting. He regularly prayed for my family, spoiled my kids with Key lime pie and toy frogs, and treated me to his favorite Mexican restaurant–El Toro. I helped him repair his leaky roof and foolishly pushed his 1991 Toyota pickup to the mechanic at 2am (with my car!) because neither of us could afford a tow. Two days before he died of a heart attack at the age of 59, he confessed to me that he had finally met the love of his life, a kind, affirming man from Germany. At that last visit together my friend theatrically lifted up his shirt while sticking out his chest and sucking in his gut to show my daughter and I how much weight he had lost with his latest diet. We laughed, not knowing he would soon be gone.
If I were playing the lottery, I know what numbers I would choose. They would have some variation of 0803 in them (but no, would-be scammers, that is not my debit card PIN number). If I were starting a land war in Asia, I would invade on August 3rd. If I were having elective surgery, I would do it on this day. Today is my lucky day.
You see, August 3rd is the day that my organizing, funny-story-telling, contagiously-laughing wife and my creative, ear-to-ear-grinning, anime-loving only daughter were born. What an awesome day!
The big toe on my left foot is purple and the nail, like the hair on my head, is starting to fall out. I wish I could say this was an unusual state of affairs, but ever since I took up soccer again, I find my body perpetually suffering from minor traumas.
While limping around the house last week I thought about why I do this to myself. It seemed easier years ago. As Paul Simon sheepishly laments, “And all my friends stand up and cheer and say, ‘Man, you’re old.’ Getting old.” But stubbornly in my middle age (can 42 really be middle age?!), I still do it to myself, cursing as I play, that the 22 year-old I know I am inside has mistakenly woken up, through a tragic, Freaky Fridayesque accident, in an over-the-hill body. Now, the easy solution to this discouraging reality would be to stop playing. A less drastic measure might be to not play so hard—less recklessness, lower risk of injury. More brain, less pain.
In high school, I was often frustrated with the standard gender narrative for women (get married in the temple, have babies, become a noble mother in Zion, ad nauseum). I was passionate about education, and even in high school, I imagined myself going to graduate school. I resented being told over and over in YW that my only purpose in life was to be a mother. I wasn’t anti-motherhood, but I had other goals and dreams that I wanted everyone (including God) to recognize. Continue reading
Last week I began to ponder how the Atonement might apply currently to the struggles I’m facing. We’re taught that the Atonement is not only there for sinners, but for everyone who needs healing and reconciliation. I began to wonder how it might be possible to use the Atonement to reconcile myself to a God from whom I am distant and with whom I am very upset.
This was in the back of my mind as I went to church on Sunday. Continue reading
An oft-quoted scripture in the Book of Mormon is 2 Nephi 2:25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” When I typed “joy” into the lds.org search and looked at General Conference talks, I found talk after talk that expressed the joy that comes into our lives from living the gospel, being righteous, repenting, etc. Continue reading
Recently, as I’ve sat pondering the mess that’s been my life for the past year, I noticed a common thread. For awhile now, I’ve been allowing other people to invade my boundaries, to dictate how I will act, to affect my life in negative ways without directly standing up for myself and my needs. Instead, I’ve been withdrawing further and further into myself, hoping the barrage from the world around me would stop. Continue reading
I’m still exercising my particle of faith, but recently I’ve been thinking through the implications of what happens if the exercising of my faith doesn’t provide me with the answers and reassurance from God that I need. Continue reading
It’s not true that life is one damn thing after another; it’s one damn thing over and over.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
Late this afternoon I sat down to feed my seven-month-old daughter dinner. She quickly tires of solid food; she’ll accept a few spoonfuls, but then she wants to bang her fists on her tray and throw Cheerios on the floor, so I keep my laptop on the table to entertain myself in between offering bites of cereal or strained peas. In my browsing I came across a presentation on Mormonism and feminism I gave sixteen years ago, the summer I was twenty-one. I clicked on the file with trepidation, sure I’d be dismayed at how young and naïve and foolish I sounded. But what I found was far worse: I was dismayed at how familiar I sounded. Sixteen years ago I was dealing with almost exactly the same issues in Mormonism that I am now. Continue reading
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: Continue reading
So, I’m not able to post much about anything that doesn’t relate to the reasons my life is currently falling apart. This post is connected to the post I made on “Trusting God,” but my questions and thoughts are slightly different.
What do you do when God makes promises to you (and you know it’s God), but those promises aren’t fulfilled? Continue reading
I’m pretty gloomy when it comes to questions of human nature. I very much believe in original sin. I don’t buy the optimistic notion that humans aren’t really all that bad, and just need a bit of education to be persuaded to do the right thing. No, I resonate much more with Alma on this one: we’re carnal, sensual, and devilish. It’s not just that without grace, we can’t quite make it to the finish line on our own; we’re wandering off in the wrong direction altogether. It’s why I like Augustine, who would have no patience with the positive self-talk of 20th and 21st century pop psychology. We’re pretty messed up, we human beings. We hurt each other, both inadvertently and intentionally. We hurt ourselves. We set out to do good, but our motives are mixed, and our efforts prone to self-sabotage. We plan to repent–but not yet. Continue reading
My alarm goes off. I’m in a deep sleep, dreaming about my sister Melyngoch coming back from her mission and wanting to go on a crazy hike involving a lot of waterfall crossings. I get up, and pack my last few things. I have a large suitcase, a small one, a backpack and a small bag. Also, two other train necessities: a pillow and blanket. Since I’ll be flying later, I’ve been careful not to bring too much—one of the advantages of train travel is that the luggage limits are rather more generous (not to mention that they don’t come with extra fees), and it’s tempting to over-pack.
So a couple of years ago, I made a post at Times and Seasons about trusting God. In the meantime, things have changed, and the whole trusting God thing is a challenge for me at the moment. But let me back up a bit. Continue reading
When your life is tightly entwined with the lives of others, you adjust who you are to meet their needs and expectations. For example, spouses make small, daily adjustments so that they don’t push their partners’ buttons. Parents postpone their desires in order to tend to those of their children. When not taken to an extreme, this is a good thing.
The past couple years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about to what extent we should bend who we are to make our relationships with others work. While I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the outer limits of sacrifice, I’ve learned to embrace the ways that relationships can refine us and transform us into better versions of ourselves. But now my life circumstances have changed, and because I want to continue a process of transformation, now I’m wondering: how do I change who I am for myself? Continue reading
Like all of my family, and most people I know, I get easily addicted to computer games (currently it’s various word games on facebook, but it changes). I can also get very into TV shows, a few video games, and all sorts of books. All of this combines, at times, to make me incredibly unproductive. And then I have to think of creative ways to get myself to do something other than play stupid computer games. I’m kind of like a little kid that way. Here are some of the things I do (or have done): Continue reading