The wrong sort of testimony!

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Orson
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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by Orson » 22 Feb 2017, 08:55

Welcome squarepeg!
squarepeg wrote:. . . During that illness, which began seven years ago, I felt for the first time in my life complete abandonment by Heavenly Father. I cried out in desperate prayer countless times. I was doing everything I could, trying my best to follow the commandments, and my heart was humble and contrite. I could not (and still cannot) figure out why He would just not be there at all, and for such an extended period of time. I also had asked to be shown the solution to my illness or just to be shown something that would help. When that failed too many times I asked to please just feel His presence. That also failed. I know for a fact that I had enough faith to be healed. I had all the faith that it was possible for a person to have, with no doubt at all. But the healing did not come. And I felt a shocking absence of any heavenly care or love or concern of any type whatsoever.
I relate to your experience, at an important moment in my life I also felt a gaping absence of God. While it felt crushing at the time today it fits into my life story and plays an important role.

squarepeg wrote: Sometimes now I can feel the Spirit again. But I still feel like it isn't true when the scriptures say, "Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you."
You remind me of feelings I used to have. I don't know if my story will be useful to you but I'll throw it out. Ironically my faith crisis opened a personal path of spirituality for me that had been blocked before. My problem as I see it now is I was looking for the same experiences that other people told me about. I had an image of what I thought they experienced, and I assumed I would have that same type of experience. When nothing came that matched my expectations my entire "house of cards" eventually came down.

One day I simply decided to be open to whatever the universe might share with me, without any expectations going in. At the time I was even uncomfortable with the term "God", it held too much baggage with me. I simply opened myself up to any connection that runs through humanity. It is very important to stress that I had completely shed all expectations and even hope, and that my curiosity was genuine. I was in a very real way walking a tightrope without a net. What followed I can only describe as the most powerful spiritual experience of my life. It didn't even confirm to me that God exists in a way that I would have accepted before, but it was the planting of a fertile seed in that moment. The experience defies description, but the closest word is love. I opened myself up, and it came.

Obviously just as I could not relate to the experience of anyone else, I don't expect you will duplicate mine. I only hope you can release all the expectations that may be holding you back, and take whatever comes to you.

Best wishes!
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by squarepeg » 22 Feb 2017, 13:04

This forum is the best EVER! What amazing people! Thank you, all of you who took the time to reply. I appreciate it a lot.

It sounds hard to be fully active knowing that I can't fully express where I'm at in terms of belief. But I think you guys are right that to be completely open would generally be unwise. I get a panicky feeling when I think about returning to full activity - it's really wigging me out. But it also saddens me deeply to entertain the alternatives. I really miss it.

Oddly, supporting my family in their activity won't be necessary. My husband and I met at BYU. My husband had served a full mission in Taiwan. I'd been active my whole life. I never thought we'd one day become "inactive." We moved into our current ward a few years ago and just decided we wouldn't attend anymore. It was pretty abrupt. My husband has completely lost his testimony, and my 12- and 10-year-old kids are pretty indifferent. My in-laws are active, and my father is active, but my mom and both of my brothers have gone inactive over the past decade. So going back will probably be uncomfortable in some ways, because I'll likely be there not as part of a TBM family, but just as plain old me, not fitting into the mould or even appearing to do so. My husband doesn't have the same sense of loss that I do since we "went inactive." He is totally fine cutting himself off from everything church-related. He is also totally fine whether or not I choose to go to church. But he has no desire to go.

SilentDawning, I appreciate the reminder to make happiness the goal, and to accept who I am.
SilentDawning wrote:The rules that invoke miracles are so murky, it causes me as much turmoil as it does peace to try to use prayer as a means of bettering my life in significant ways.
This! I sometimes find it necessary to go for periods of time without making any requests, but focus solely on what I'm grateful for, simply because I felt like continually exercising the faith involved in praying for blessings that never seemed to come was really messing me up big time.
LookingHard wrote:...there is only you and God you need to be concerned with.
LookingHard,
I believe this is true, and sometimes wish that bishopric and stake presidency interviews for temple recommends, etc., were not done, because it puts an intermediary between the individual and God. Eastern Orthodoxy seems to put a lot of focus on the individual's relationship with God being a personal one, and not anyone else's business; I like that.
Heber13 wrote: Focus on orthopraxy, and stay engaged to do good things.
Heber13, thank you. I had to google "orthopraxy"!
DarkJedi wrote:When I do pray I express my love for my family, my admiration for the beauty of the earth, and other such very vague things that I could really say to pretty much any man on the street. I don't ask for anything.
DarkJedi, thanks, I very much relate to that. Sometimes that is the only way I stay sane, with regards to prayer. I sense something valuable in the simple ritual of performing the act itself, but I feel less...manipulated...if I can do it while maintaining somewhat of a distance.

That Elder Uchtdorf talk is beautiful. I don't quite understand the advice to "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." But the rest of it is so encouraging. Makes me want to keep trying. My kids are 12, 10, and 14-months. (Yes, we have a giant age gap between kids 2 and 3. Yes, #3 was conceived purposefully. Everyone asks.) Thanks, too, for the link to the threat about sheep and llamas. The Bednar Napoleon Dynamite gif alone made my day.

Roy, yes, that discrepancy between the expectation that the Church's teachings gave me and what ACTUALLY happened...that is the problem!

Orson, thank you for sharing your experience. I would love to have a profound experience like that. I guess I've had a hard time letting go of one thing: the expectation that an individual's faith should be able to influence actual events. That's a notion of which I can't quite let go, because I still think it might be true; I only know it doesn't operate according to the rule book that I was told was applicable.

I sure am glad to have found all of you on this forum. Thank you for being here and letting me know things are okay.

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by DarkJedi » 22 Feb 2017, 14:51

squarepeg wrote:That Elder Uchtdorf talk is beautiful. I don't quite understand the advice to "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." But the rest of it is so encouraging. Makes me want to keep trying.
I actually had a part in my talk last Sunday about how I was a little disappointed that all some people got out of that talk that had made such a difference to me was "doubt your doubts." I cut that part because it just didn't feel right at the time. But I still think most people don't get it. Here is something I wrote about that part shortly after it was given:
Pres. Uchtdorf:
Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is some context to "doubt your doubts." The first paragraph talks about how natural it is to have questions, how there are few members who have not had questions, and how one purpose of the church is to nurture faith. It concludes with the statement about faith being hope for things that are true but not seen. The word faith has several related definitions which I believe can be summed up as a "firm belief" especially related to a religious belief. The word hope does not indicate a knowledge, it indicates a desire or perhaps a desire with an expectation. I think that last sentence in the first paragraph can be modified to "Firm belief is a desire for things which are not seen but which are true" without changing its meaning.

The second paragraph starts with the word "Therefore." Therefore is a word used to indicate a conclusion is following. It means "for that reason" or "because of this." The second paragraph, then, really starts with "because of this"...first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. I think that sentence was crafted very carefully and purposely. Pres. Uchtdorf could have simply said "therefore, doubt your doubts." But he didn't leave it at that, he included "before your doubt your faith." Doubt means to feel uncertain about. So now we have a sentence that says "Because questions are natural, there are few members who have not had questions, and the church is here to nurture firm belief; and because firm belief is a desire for things which are not seen but are true, feel uncertain about your feelings of uncertainty before you feel uncertain about your firm beliefs." I think before is a key word in that sentence, both the original and the revised. Going back to the first paragraph, Pres. Uchtdorf mentioned how the "acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding." At no time has Pres. Uchtdorf indicated it is wrong to question or doubt, and in fact honest questions often lead to very strong (indicated by the oak) understanding. I think Pres. Uchtdorf did mean for us to question our doubts, to feel uncertain about our uncertainties, but after we have done that, after we have honestly inquired about our uncertainties, then we are in a position to feel uncertain about and honestly question our firm beliefs.

I think Pres. Uchtdorf's hope is that after questioning our doubts then questioning our faith we will develop that "mighty oak of understanding" which can include both doubt and faith because (yes, there's more) we shouldn't let feelings of uncertainty keep us from "the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." When the scriptures speak of faith, they generally mean specific faith in Jesus Christ as referenced here by Pres. Uchtdorf. Many of us - almost every member according to Pres. Uchtdorf - have or have had questions or feelings of uncertainty about some aspects of the church. Usually those things are some question or doubt about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or wrongs committed by church leaders past or present among other things. We can't let our feelings of uncertainty keep us (hold us prisoner) from the love, peace and blessings that come from a firm belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The link to that thread is here: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4788&p=65257#p65257
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by Roy » 22 Feb 2017, 15:30

squarepeg wrote:That Elder Uchtdorf talk is beautiful. I don't quite understand the advice to "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."
Taken in context it could have said something like "Go slow and don't rush to permanent judgments" or "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by squarepeg » 23 Feb 2017, 21:04

DarkJedi, thank you. That's a great analysis of the "doubt your doubts" bit. I agree - like most quotations, it's best interpreted in context. I also agree with peteolcott in that thread that that counsel encourages bias, and with Roy that bias isn't necessarily always best avoided, or even always possible to avoid. It's really exciting to find other members of the church who overtly acknowledge the presence of bias, but in a positive light.
Roy wrote: Taken in context it could have said something like "Go slow and don't rush to permanent judgments" or "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Yes. I'm fully on board with that interpretation. I wish Elder Uchtdorf could've said that, instead of "first doubt your doubts"!

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by nibbler » 02 Mar 2017, 08:12

squarepeg wrote:...I felt for the first time in my life complete abandonment by Heavenly Father. I cried out in desperate prayer countless times. I was doing everything I could, trying my best to follow the commandments, and my heart was humble and contrite. I could not (and still cannot) figure out why He would just not be there at all, and for such an extended period of time. I also had asked to be shown the solution to my illness or just to be shown something that would help. When that failed too many times I asked to please just feel His presence. That also failed. I know for a fact that I had enough faith to be healed. I had all the faith that it was possible for a person to have, with no doubt at all. But the healing did not come. And I felt a shocking absence of any heavenly care or love or concern of any type whatsoever.
The stories I could tell.

I'd tell myself that even Jesus experienced a "why hast thou forsaken me?" moment. It's kind of a bummer when that moment gets stretched out over years or a lifetime. Maybe we're all supposed to feel that way at some point when we're attempting to wean ourselves off of god during the process of becoming an agent unto ourselves (independent).

I'll echo the sentiment that there's nothing wrong with your testimony. It's you. If other people can't handle it, that's their problem.
I hereby place an order for one cheese pizza. -nibbler

squarepeg
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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by squarepeg » 02 Mar 2017, 13:01

Thanks, nibbler. It really helps me so much to know I'm not alone in this.
nibbler wrote: I'd tell myself that even Jesus experienced a "why hast thou forsaken me?" moment. It's kind of a bummer when that moment gets stretched out over years or a lifetime. Maybe we're all supposed to feel that way at some point when we're attempting to wean ourselves off of god during the process of becoming an agent unto ourselves (independent).
Yes, I like that explanation: that we might need to suffer alone, as Christ did, in order to learn to become agents unto ourselves. That makes total sense. But then what are we to make of D&C 19:16, "I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent"? Maybe that verse is just...wrong? Or maybe it was in reference to suffering only in the eternities? But I feel like that isn't how it usually gets interpreted. Maybe Christ's Atonement was to save us in the END, and not in this life? Is it too much of a downer to bring up this possibility? I don't want to drag people down with my sincere but sometimes pessimistic-sounding perspectives. (That's one of the reasons I've stayed away from church for the past while.)

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by nibbler » 02 Mar 2017, 13:23

I don't think you can out pessimistic-sounding me, so don't worry about that. :P
squarepeg wrote:That's one of the reasons I've stayed away from church for the past while.
It's one of the reasons I'm very tight lipped these days. I know the feeling. Intimately.
squarepeg wrote:But then what are we to make of D&C 19:16, "I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent"? Maybe that verse is just...wrong?
Maybe the role of god and the role of the regular folk aren't as static as we'd like them to be. Maybe they're more fluid, where regular folk transition in and out of the role of god and gods transition in and out of the role of regular folk. Just thoughts. I'm short on time, I guess I could pad out those thoughts later.
I hereby place an order for one cheese pizza. -nibbler

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by squarepeg » 02 Mar 2017, 13:25

Two more examples come to mind of scriptures that promise us we'll always have the Spirit.

The Sacrament Prayer says that we will always have His spirit to be with us if we take His name upon us, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. Maybe that's an easy one to write off as impossible since I definitely don't remember Him always. Sometimes I'm just thinking about something else and not of Him, because if I thought of Him all the time, I couldn't focus to help my kids with their math, couldn't get through the grocery checkout, couldn't make phone calls to the health insurance company about confusing bills, etc. And I break commandments all the time, every day, in spite of my best efforts to keep them. I also developed an allergy to wheat and can't take the Sacrament bread at all anymore. But I actually don't know of anyone who can keep the promises we make when we take the Sacrament, so maybe none of us is entitled to the attached blessings, either?

There is also John 14:18, "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." Jesus was talking to his disciples shortly before he was killed. So maybe that applies to them, and He was talking about when he would be resurrected three days after being crucified; and we only like to think it applies to us?

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Re: The wrong sort of testimony!

Post by squarepeg » 02 Mar 2017, 13:31

nibbler wrote:
Maybe the role of god and the role of the regular folk aren't as static as we'd like them to be. Maybe they're more fluid, where regular folk transition in and out of the role of god and gods transition in and out of the role of regular folk. Just thoughts. I'm short on time, I guess I could pad out those thoughts later.
You just blew my MIND. :o

I've been reading Terryl Givens's books (thanks to recommendations on this forum), and it seems like that's the kind of speculative theory that could've been proposed by someone in Joseph Smith's day and entertained as a real possibility. Maybe it still could. Wish I had the guts to throw this out there during a lesson.

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