Today I did not wake up in time to attend my Ward at 9am (said as if this is the exception rather than the rule, which, of course, it isn’t). So, I went to my parents’ Ward at 1pm, not feeling anything other than pleased with myself for going to church. About 10 minutes into the testimony portion of the meeting, and hearing several people touch on things I had been thinking about, my heart started pounding – as is often described by testimony bearers – and it was pounding so hard it was physically uncomfortable.
I really wouldn’t have wanted to get up with my parents sitting there, they don’t really know my situation and I don’t like talking about it around them, but I got up anyway. And here is a completely ridiculous, unnecessarily long play-by-play:
I started by apologizing for taking up time since I’m not technically a member of that Ward, and saying that no one could be as surprised as I was, except maybe my parents. After the conversation the night before at the cabin with my aunt and uncle, and lots of mulling previously, I talked about three major impediments to faith that seem to affect people my age, and maybe others, but especially me.
- First is the instant access to information, which makes faith really hard as we are so used to getting answers immediately.
- Second is the focus on authenticity – not faking it till you feel it, but living in a completely authentic way based solely on how you feel. But of course faith requires stepping outside what might feel “authentic”.
- Third is a resistance to authority and being told what is right. Along with authenticity, not being receptive to hearing what we should feel or think from others and never being obedient for obedience’ sake.
Then I mentioned three things that I’ve found have formed my foundation of faith, such as it is at this point.
- Hymns – I’ve always been able to feel the spirit with church music and that has been a faith builder for me. So I believe in the spirit and the power of music to bring it and confirm the truth of the words being sung.
- Funerals – One man who bore his testimony before me talked about how people in the church have a sense of peace at funerals because they know it’s only a temporary separation. (A woman in the Ward died yesterday and I feel a little bit bad about not saying anything about it, especially since a lot of the meeting had people talking about her.) I said how after going to funerals I realized that I absolutely believe I will see people who have passed away again, and that I believe in the plan of salvation.
- The thing that kept me connected through rough years, and the most motivating of the three, is the fact that all the people I love and respect most in the world believe in the gospel and participate in the church. So, I realized I can’t help but believe because of how much I respect them.
I wrapped up by talking about how my faith is building, very slowly, line upon line from those basic things, and that I’m grateful for the way that works. I’m also grateful that it CAN work that way, and that I don’t have to jump in to everything at once.
At one point I looked back at my dad, and I’m not sure when this was – if it was when I half turned while I made the remark about my parents being surprised, or if it was when I looked back while referring to a funeral comment the second counselor had made, but my dad was definitely very teary. And when I sat back down I could tell that he had been crying, or maybe he still was. I would like to take credit and say that I was just really bringing the spiritual heat, but I’m guessing it was mostly a result of his relief that I am not an atheist or agnostic after all.
Lots of people made nice comments – my mom said, “That was very nice – very intellectual.” She definitely meant it as a compliment, but I think I’m generally thought of as being too intellectual. It is a source of frustration for me that I go into brain mode and get cutoff from my feelings. My dad said it was really great and said,”I learned.” I responded by saying that was the whole reason I did it – because I was trying to teach him something and it was the only way I could get him to listen, which made him laugh.
A coworker/important friend/previous YW leader with me said she was very proud of me, and hugged me, and was looking at me in this different way, which made me uncomfortable. I sort of edged away and told her to stop looking at me like that – handling compliments with grace as usual. One of my more endearing qualities. Another woman also said she had never “thought through things that in-depth” before – another intellectual type comment, but very nice. It seems I always get that when I speak. I remember in my first talk in that Ward, maybe age 15, I said that the very first verse of the Book of Mormon contained a “plethora of principles,” trying to make the point that there is no shortage of learning to be had from the scriptures. (I thought it was a good idea to use the thesaurus to amp up my talks). Boy did I get comments about that – people talking about needing a dictionary, etc. I think I used the term “cornucopia” in a talk once too, with similar reactions for years after. My former YW President also made a comment about how surprised she was, “Where did that come from?!” Not in a very negative way, she just knows my history, sort of, and I’m not generally thought of as the testimony bearing type.
Afterwards my friend asked me if I was coming to Sunday School and I of course said no, that I hadn’t even been in a church building for a month and that I had way exceeded my spiritual quota for the day. So after the meeting I went back to my parents’ house to start my laundry where they were all getting ready to leave for Lake Powell. I hung out with them until they left but when I didn’t have anything to do I ended up going BACK to church for Relief Society. A seriously strange day.
It’s kind of a relief and I’m mostly pleased with it – but seriously, where did that come from?