Where to begin?

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
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wjclerk
Posts: 61
Joined: 05 Aug 2011, 14:23
Location: Utah

Where to begin?

Post by wjclerk » 06 Aug 2011, 18:15

First, some background. I am a lifetime member of the Church. I go back to 1st generation Mormons, the Joseph Knight Sr. family who aided Joseph Smith and help to enable the translation of the Book of Mormon. I served a mission in Tokyo, Japan in the 1980's, shortly after the portable-baptismal-font era where thousands of "members" were baptized without adequate preparation or knowledge, leaving us - the missionaries - to spend at least 1/3rd of our proselyting time looking up and trying to make contact with all of the members of record, many of whom never knew they had "joined" a church by going swimming with their American friends (I am not exaggerating. I have a good book on it if you are interested in the facts). It was a very difficult time for the Church in Japan and I don't think we've recovered from it yet. I attended BYU where I met my wife, got married in the Salt Lake Temple, and got my degree. I pursued getting hired as a full-time CES instructor and, though I was greatly saddened at the time to flush out, can see now that it was better for me and the Church that I didn't get hired. It did give me invaluable training in learning how to be a good teacher (contrary to what you might think, it wasn't all about what to teach).

I spent most of a decade as a ward clerk and then stake clerk. I served two different stake presidencies and watched the process when Elder (at the time) Eyring came to release and call the new SP. I saw and served in Church administration and witnessed first hand how the process worked. For the most part, I was amazed and humbled at how Church leaders strove to manage their stewardships. I also worked for 7 years at Church Headquarters in SLC as a computer and network specialist. So I guess you could say that the Church has been a major part of my life all of my life.

Several years ago, pieces of a puzzle started being put together for me and I was diagnosed as bipolar and went into a severe depression. My world came crashing down. I wasn't able to work after I received over 40 ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) treatments that consequently left me with functional Alzheimer's, having most of my short, medium, and long term memory and recall ability wiped out that, to date, have not returned. I lost my memory of my kids births, my high school and college years, my early marriage, and especially anything over the past 3-4 years. It is beyond what you would think possible could happen to you from trying to manage a disease short of brain trauma, but I was advised of the possibility before I started. I just didn't know it would get as bad as it has.

I was known as in my ward as a gospel scholar before all this. I was humbled and grateful to receive great praise as a Sunday School and Primary teacher (though my self-esteem and bipolar issues would not let me believe it). I have well over 300 books in my library that I would gradually read on topics of every description. Scriptures, philosophy, biography, prophecy, world religions, political science, history, classics. All of it is gone and I am having to start all over again. I was mid-way through getting a Masters degree at the University of Utah when this all happened. Now, I don't know where I will go or what I will be able to do with myself. My disease is mostly stable, but I still go up and down.

As a result of all of this, I have been questioning my existence. Everything was all planned out - my career, my family, my membership in the Church. Now, I don't know what to think. I have been questioning the existence of God and gods, Christ as a reality or imagination, the place of the Church on the earth and next to all of the other churches and ways of thinking and how can anyone really come to know "the truth" rather than just their personal perception or beliefs. I have run afoul of the "just ask God and get an answer for yourself" model, for I recognize that I have an emotional mental illness that plays with my emotions and feelings and it is common for people on anti-depressants to relate that they have difficulty having "spiritual" experiences. Just praying, reading the scriptures, etc. doesn't give me any more feeling or inspiration or closeness to God than reading about the Koran or Buddhism or American folk history would do. I plan on starting some threads where I can ask some questions and get your varied perspectives to consider as I wrestle with these things myself.

I'm sorry this is so long. If you have read, thanks for reading. I have been looking for a support group where I can feel support for a long time. I am hopeful this will be a place that can help. I have looked at other sites like NOM and MADB (and RfM), but I just feel a lot of negativity from them and would like to find something positive to consider for a change. I know all is not perfect or rose-colored here or in the Church, but I'm wanting to give it a chance before I make any changes that could destroy a life-time.

More for later.
One of the Brethren said to J. Golden Kimball, “When you die there will never be another like you in the church.” Uncle Golden replied, “Yes and I am sure this is a great comfort to you.”

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mom3
Posts: 4077
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Where to begin?

Post by mom3 » 07 Aug 2011, 00:45

Welcome! My prayers to your health and healing. I hope you do find something here to support you. Thanks for sharing the long version of your story. I look forward to your comments.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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SilentDawning
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Joined: 09 May 2010, 19:55

Re: Where to begin?

Post by SilentDawning » 07 Aug 2011, 04:44

I hope you'll feel some belonging here. This is one of the least judgmental Mormon forums you'll find on earth in my view -- from both angles -- from a member standpoint, and from an organizational standpoing. Meaning -- easy on the members, and easier on the Church than NOM and other spots on the web.

I'm really sorry to hear about the memory loss. I wish the Venn Diagram of my life overlapped with the Venn Diagram of your life so I can comment and give meaningful advice on that one. However, I think we all understand the idea of losing one's commitment and even faith in Mormonism, for whatever reason, so we may overlap more than meets the eye at the outset.

Sounds like you're going through a period of major reconstruction right now. I've been there -- taking everthing I assumed or believed and taking it apart, and starting from the ground up, putting it back together again. I think many of us find ways of being involved and active in the Church for reasons other than the traditional "burning in the breast" testimony, even if some of us still have that testimony and remember it. Sometimes it's not enough to sustain commitment in the traditional sense. That has been my experience, anyway.

Looking forward to your specific questions on the site.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Heber13
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Location: In the Middle

Re: Where to begin?

Post by Heber13 » 07 Aug 2011, 06:58

Welcome to the forum. Your life experience is an interesting one and I really appreciate you sharing it with us.

I hope you now are able to find some peace and that you feel good about who you are, even while you are seeking answers and pursuing ways to cope with your situation. We all deserve some peace, regardless of situations that differ. I personally don't believe God creates these tests for us, nor does He rush in to save us from them, no matter how valiant we are to man-made rules. They are just a part of mortality for us to experience and learn from.

Welcome. I look forward to learning from your posts!
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Antares
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Joined: 01 Nov 2010, 20:34
Location: Oregon

Re: Where to begin?

Post by Antares » 07 Aug 2011, 10:12

I can't imagine the challenges you face with your health alone. And when one questions deep held beliefs about the Church and God in general - that is a completely unnerving and potentially devastating experience on its own. My heart goes out to you. With regard to questioning - I have, like many here, asked the same questions. Not feeling comfortable completely embracing the Church and religion in general and yet feeling empty when I turn my back to it. I read a conference talk by a GA (I don't remember who) and he told a story about a woman that joined as an adult, attended a few years then went inactive. On a visit to Temple Square the woman was touched and said something to the effect "My heart yearns for what my mind cannot accept". That is me. Though I have experienced it rarely, I have been a part of experiences which are neither intellectual nor emotional in nature - they were that elusive "spiritual" happening that keeps my faith alive. At any rate, all I really wanted to say was that you are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope that you can find peace in your life. I admire your courage in seeking support. Best wishes.

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mom3
Posts: 4077
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Where to begin?

Post by mom3 » 07 Aug 2011, 12:20

Antares-

Thank you for your response. I know it wasn't for me, but it describes so much of my heart. Today I needed the validation of being a person who has "spiritual" experiences that aren't emotional nor intellectual. As I head to church today I hope you won't mind if I tuck you imaginatively in my pocket as a friend for my day.

Thanks,
Mom3
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

Curt Sunshine
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Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Where to begin?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Aug 2011, 14:45

Welcome. I have little time, so I just want to thank you for joining and sharing your story.

May God bless you in whatever way you need, individually. May we bless you in whatever way we can, collectively. May you bless us as we get to know you personally.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Absentminded
Posts: 26
Joined: 18 Jul 2011, 14:30

Re: Where to begin?

Post by Absentminded » 08 Aug 2011, 00:57

Welcome!

I can't imagine what you have been through. Thanks for sharing. I whole-heartedly agree that the current model of asking and getting answers does not work well for those are emotionally "unique" (I hate the term mental illness). In my experience, antidepressants make me more likely to love things...especially if they hit a dopamine transmitter. I think it is near impossible to "feel the spirit" when depressed. I personally compare it to feeling like whale poo on the bottom of the deepest trench in the ocean the odds of light reaching you aren't good short of a miracle. I wish God would make an exception for the emotionally unique to help them feel things like other people could. However, not even people who are "normal" (normal is relative right?) can feel the Spirit at times or get answers to prayer. Don't beat yourself up about it.

I also view life from the angle that genetic variability is required to ensure the survival of the human species on a wild planet. The result of that variability is a certain percentage of people will have mental illness, congenital disorders, or maybe even be so screwed up they do not even live to be born. I look at this as not as a failure on the part of God, but a requirement to ensure humans can survive in a natural world. We have to have variability or a single disease could wipe us all out. For example, there are those who have developed unique antibodies that are being developed for vaccines etc. For those of us that are more mentally unique than others, the path can be more difficult but we can still find our place in society and live rewarding lives. (medication helps sometimes :D )

I have a friend who was jockeying to be a CES teacher as well and ended up atheist. It works for him to a degree, but I think he would have been happier if he had tried to stay. I really hope than you can stick around here and find ways to work things out.

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Brian Johnston
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Location: Washington DC

Re: Where to begin?

Post by Brian Johnston » 08 Aug 2011, 07:45

Welcome to the StayLDS community wjclerk,

I hope we can be a support, or at least a comfort, to you in your journey. Thanks for taking the time to share your story. It sounds like you are on a tough road. Hang in there.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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wjclerk
Posts: 61
Joined: 05 Aug 2011, 14:23
Location: Utah

Re: Where to begin?

Post by wjclerk » 10 Aug 2011, 19:31

Sorry I haven't been back to return the comments. I really appreciate your offers of support and friendship. I haven't been able to get that for a long time. I haven't been able to go to church more than once or twice this year. My family still goes, but my ward meets at 9 a.m. and I'm not able to get up on any day that early. I sometimes miss being with the ward members, sometimes I feel it is better to be alone while I am working things out. My family hasn't had home teachers for at least 3 years now, but my wife keeps the Relief Society President briefed as to how I/we are doing, so I know that the ward is aware to some extent.

I know others have things much worse off than I am. I don't feel I am being singled out or picked on. I am just tired. I would like to see that there will be some light at the end of the tunnel somewhere down the line. Until then, I am just doing the best I can to keep going forward. I'm wondering, does anyone here have experience with anti-depressants affecting the ability to have spiritual experiences?
One of the Brethren said to J. Golden Kimball, “When you die there will never be another like you in the church.” Uncle Golden replied, “Yes and I am sure this is a great comfort to you.”

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