Two days ago I attended the LDS church for the first time in 5 years.I will share my experience later in this post.
For now I want to start by explaining why I am choosing to start a blog. I created this blog at the suggestion of a fellow-blogger who I stumbled upon about a month ago and who I have had some wonderful exchanges with since. She, and blogs that she has introduced me to, have taught me that there is room in this church for ambiguity. I've come to admire the people whose voices I've heard and whose words I've read on those blogs who share their ambiguity and ways of reconciliation in the church and, therefore, continue to be active Latter-Day Saints. As I listened and read, I began to develop a little bit of courage to believe that maybe there is a place in the church for me.
I believe that I am approaching a new chapter in my life that involves the church once again. My thought is that with the support of the blogging community I will have an outlet to deal with the challenges of Mormonism in a way that does not cast such a huge and overwhelming shadow (as I've experienced in the past) over the good that is in the church. I intend to use this venue as an opportunity for me to author my way to reconciliation within the church and with its' members. I believe that God loves me for simply being me. I believe that as a devine creation, I am accepted and worthy in the spiritual and religious sense. My reconciliation is not with God. It is with a church that I once called home and diligently served as a missionary in. I hope to call it home again somday.
As I share my journey here I hope that the blogging community embraces me and feels free to respectfully, courageously, and sincerely share your thoughts, ideas, and hopes for the church and for yourself. I hope that this sharing clarifies issues that you deal with and encourages you as we relate to one another and to our struggles within the church. My hope is that this is a space where we can sometimes live, always love, and often laugh as we become virtual friends learning to live in the world of reconciliation, the ultimate act of love.
Here is my story about attending a church meeting two days ago as an inactive member. I'm relaying it as closely as to how I wrote it to a fellow-blogger, who I mentioned above, and who has been a great support:
"I went to the LDS church this morning. People were very friendly (and it seemed that they were sincerely so). They smiled and hugged and said it's been so long... After sacrament they practiced a song for a Branch Conference meeting next week and asked me if I'd like to join them. I declined, thinking that that might be jumping the gun. My questions and comments seemed to be accepted. I was invited to RS and I went. RS invited me to make pies with them before Father's Day. I wasn't sure and they asked me what kind of pie my husband and I would like for Father's Day in case I was going to be there that Sunday. It sounds pushy in writing, perhaps, but it felt friendly and inclusive.
It was nice to see everybody again. They are very sweet people, even the ones I need to reconcile with in my mind--and maybe in person too. It's surprising that they seem to want me back. I think I was more of a burden to them than anything back then. I had accepted a calling in RS to teach and within weeks I gave it back b/c I couldn't teach what I struggled so much with. So I did nothing. Plus I was a little bit temperamental. Maybe I hid it well. :)
Did I hear anything frustrating? Of course! LOL.
One talk this morning was given by a guy that I've discovered I need to take with a grain of salt. Ie/ One thing he said was that people who don't have the gospel or a belief in Jesus CHOOSE to use their free agency to perpetuate their unhappiness. Ouch. That makes me want to come to the rescue of the rest of the world when I hear statements like that. Who is anybody to judge someone's unhappiness and if they LIKE being there? What about issues like FASD, alcohol/drug addictions, and mental health, or simply being stuck in a rut? Most people in this position don't choose to stay in this place of misery. For some it's all they know and surviving is all they feel that they can aspire to at this point. I was able to reconcile his comment by thinking to myself that it was simply this guy's opinion and nothing more. Hmmm (Sigh of relief. I didn't feel like bolting!).
Another frustrating comment was a SS class on D&C 76, the 3 degrees of glory. "People who belong in the Terrestrial Kingdom are like those who live in the penitentiary!" What?? Anyway, the SS teacher stated that it will still be heaven for them in the Terrestrial Kingdom. Someone asked how it could be heaven when liers, fornicators, whoremongers, etc. would all living together in that kingdom. I made a comment that people's behaviours are often b/c of environmental factors that cause things like FASD, addictions, and some aspects of mental health, which often lead to behaviours like lying, stealing, pedophilia, etc. In the Terrestrial Kingdom, as it's taught, Satan would not have dominion and these "sins" would not be in existence, therefore the environment would be condusive to living a 'good' life even for those people who have, what I call, growing edges or places in which to grow. Everyone has a soul and when given the right environment and the right supports a person can live to their true capacity. Someone beside me said, "Live up to their capacity to lie and be whoremongers?" I said, "Lying and the like are behaviors that come out of living life and surviving in an environment that a person comes from or currently lives in that does not feed their spirit or soul. In an environment like the Terrestrial Kingdom it seems to me that there is potential for people to recognize the spirit within her or himself and then live to their true capacity as a child of God." I'm glad that I said what I said and got to ask a few questions as well. I felt a little emotionally charged but I was able to feel free to express my views and felt confident that my comments followed Jesus's teachings.
During sacrament the speaker's talk on obedience made me cringe b/c I have a love/hate relationship with authority. But I searched the scriptures for a similar word, which was self-discipline and I replaced obedience with self-discipline in my mind. The talk became easier to listen to. Another thing that made it easier was thinking about all the bloggers out there; knowing that there are hundreds of people attending church this day and at this time who probably heard something that they don't like or are struggling with. That was really helpful to me. It reminds me of when I was a missionary and there was peace in knowing that in temples, church gatherings, and homes all over the world there were people thinking about and praying for our health, safety, and well being. There is a lot of confidence that comes from knowing that as a missionary. I felt the same feeling of confidence when I went to church this morning knowing that all of you, (the bloggers) were attending too. So confident, in fact, that I chose to be comfortable and wear pants! Before I left I looked up clothing in the LDS scriptures to see if there is any doctrinal base on "Sunday best". The only thing I found was in Deut. 22:5 where it talks about women not wearing men's clothes and men not wearing women's clothes. Apparently, this statement is not literal and is more about not changing sex roles of men and of women (that does go against feminism, too, but I digress). It is about recognizing that each gender is designed by God as unique. So I felt confident and authored my own way to church this morning wearing pants. I really tried to keep reconciliation to God and to church members as my motivation for being there and I think it worked out for today. I'm not commiting myself to anything and no one is making me. I had a good visit with people as I left and they simply said they hope to see me again soon and asked me to keep in touch.
My husband was funny when I came home. He followed me when I got in and looked like he was expecting me to talk about the crappy day I had. I saw him relax, glad that I had a good day. I know that he would rather me not go to church b/c of his own views but as long as I'm happy he accepts it. He has in the past."
I don't really expect anyone to give me feedback on my experience. In fact, I don't even know who would know to find me. But if anyone wants to share, I love to read!