An Introduction...

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
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An Introduction...

Post by lotsofgray » 19 Oct 2017, 21:08

I’m not sure this is the norm, but seeing Nibbler’s Intro from a few years back I wondered if proper introductions were encouraged or suggested.

“lotsofgray” is in reference to both stage of life and the sense that the world is more than black and white most of the time. My avatar from Avatar suggests someone who feels a need to assume an artificial (inauthentic?) persona to exist in two worlds – church culture and real life.

I’ve been a StayLDS lurker now for many years – always appreciating the spectrum of ideas and ways of “staying LDS” that all of you have communicated.

I would have been an active participant much earlier but for some reason couldn’t find the technical way to create an account and post other than just viewing. Surprising coming from someone who spent an entire first career in the software sector. My skills are greatly diminished in the new online world.

The community has been of huge value to me during both family and faith challenges over the past decade or so. Over that time I find myself the only remaining active member of the Church apart from my wife. Both of our families on both sides have “not continued” with the church program as a result of mental illness, divorce, disaffection, and as a result (probably not the cause) have engaged in sin as we define it in the church (drinking, R-rated movies, non-Sabbath Day observance, etc.). And in some cases more extreme self-harming behavior with legal and illegal drugs/substance abuse. More on that one later.

My wife and I are the parents of several (more than two) boys who now range in age from early high school to college graduate age. All but the high-schooler to this point have fought us and won their independence from the Church before age 18. All indications at this point are that the youngest will follow his brothers away from activity in the Church, though he dutifully attends seminary, fights us every week to attend Sunday block and weekly mutual. We don’t have a Sam or Nephi yet to speak of. We tried our hardest to do all of the right things like FHE, Family Prayer, very regular church and auxiliary attendance and full calling involvement. We did our best to observe Sabbath Day, and if I had to acknowledge one major fault it would be allowing (on occasion) our boys to participate in sports on Sunday where the attendance was not optional to continue with the program (All Star Baseball, Club Lacrosse, Club Ice Hockey). My wife and I strongly disagreed with each other about allowing this, as I was not supportive of this activity feeling that if they were truly gifted and worked hard otherwise the blessings of being able to make the high school team or for that matter entry to BYU would happen as a result of their obedience and observance of the Sabbath Day. There you go – one major fault and the entire program falls apart.

Currently, my wife and I have a tolerable relationship trending to the negative as we struggle with the tension of either accepting our children’s personal decisions (free agency) with unconditional love and appropriate/conditional support, or continuing to channel church commercials to them on every occasion (“if you would go on a mission… marry in the temple…”). My wife is compelled to pursue the latter while I try hard to embrace the former. It feels at times like I have to choose between the Church and my family. I am distraught at times that given the church’s main focus on family development that I would even have to think twice about the priority. But nevertheless, with the encouragement of local leadership to “wear ourselves out in service”, we continue to feel that the more effort and sacrifice we give to the Church instead of emotional and other support for our children, that the blessings are there. I am less and less convinced of this. There are many things we have not done to develop better communication and relationship with our boys and each other to this point. We have tried couples counseling with two different counselors and my wife doesn’t feel a need to continue other than following the counsel of the Church (read scriptures, attend church and temple, pray…)

While I don’t have a high calling, I am very active in it and strive to accomplish good things for the people I serve. I focus on meaningful results, having a well planned program in advance, and not just “showing up” for roll call. I am a slacking Home Teacher due to the fact that my families have more testimony and gospel success than I do. I don’t like being a leader or teacher if I myself haven’t accomplished success with the topic. I feel hypocritical in the process. By the time I visit my families to deliver the monthly message, the families themselves have already read and discussed the topic on their own. And they know it better than I do. Not exactly adding much value to their testimonies or situation from my perspective, other than maybe just demonstrating to them that someone called a Home Teacher comes to their home and delivers the same message for the 2nd or 3rd time that they have already heard. My families are better than I. I try to find other ways to be of service to them if possible.

The implied shame from not having any of several young men in our home serve missions or be on a path leading to temple marriage is real and palpable. While not explicit in anything that has been said to us, the constant drumbeat of marching the youth to missions and temple marriage does nothing but accelerate the pain we feel. We live in an unusual stake (outside of Utah) where the youth success rate (Eagle Scout/Mission/Marriage) approaches something above 70% (or higher) as a direct result of a very charismatic and youth-focused stake president, presidency, and calling of bishops (mostly very young themselves). We are one of very few families that we are aware of whose young men have chosen to not continue. We are very much an exception and not the rule. We couldn’t be in a better place to give our sons the best chance at gospel success.

As this situation continues, my wife’s dedication to calling and service to everyone but her own family accelerates. If she can find a meeting involving anyone remotely connected to her calling, she will leave home to attend. She is home at most 1-2 nights a week to spend any time with her husband (me) and two of our boys living at home. Our spousal communication mainly focuses on regret, shame, and disappointment about our sons’ use of their agency. I try very hard to encourage her to think differently and more long term and that the scriptures are full of examples where hearts can change, and that real testimony having had real life experiences is far more powerful than a checklist testimony. The more I encourage this, the more pressure I feel from her to “make them change” or be a better priesthood leader in the home (“spiritual force?”) so they will do what’s right. No small task for me.

All of this in light of the knowledge we have of inherited mental illness in our family going back at least 3 generations. I discovered most of this in the process of doing geneology and true family history (interviewing family members for historical record). Not exactly the kind of proud family lineage you like to discover. Clinical depression, diagnosed bi-polar, and diagnosed schizophrenia (all on my family side) add to the blame and shame leveled on me by my wife. One of my family members had major schizophrenia onset during his mission 25+ years ago – finished out, got married, had two kids before being diagnosed, divorced, and disaffected shortly thereafter and since that time. Our family has been dealing with the effects of his disease including threats of bodily harm, armed violence, threats of violence against family, friends, and church leaders, etc. as a result of the illness. In the process we have become very educated on how to deal with this and other forms of mental illness in our family thanks to NAMI and other local resources. His oldest child recently became engaged to marry and my encouragement to disclose this family history was strongly opposed by the rest of the family as putting the marriage at risk of not happening. This disclosure eventually did happen pre-marriage with full acceptance and understanding by the new spouse and their family. Nevertheless, I am anathema to the family for suggesting the disclosure, as I had previously communicated this history to my own sons – I didn’t want them to be blamed if their cousin wasn’t the one who let it out.

The older I get, the more clear I become about what Truth means, and the difference between right and wrong. Acknowledging truth and error, right versus wrong directly is always preferred to ignorance and lack of acknowledgement of facts and reality.

Which leads me to the challenge of my faith. As many of you have communicated on many prior occasions, the church history issues, truth claims, etc. are a constant source of stress and distress that I have not nor may never be able to reconcile personally. I would never have cared about church history had it not been a specific mention to “become familiar with the history of the church…” in my otherwise unremarkable Patriarchal Blessing. I have chosen to continue for now based on feelings alone. I find it very difficult to know in advance if I will be in a meeting or other situation that will enhance or detract from my feelings of truth, error, right, and wrong. I don’t believe that a social testimony (believing because others do) is anything more than groupthink and crowd mentality. Many groups of people have been led to destruction when not working things out on their own (too many examples to cite here).

I have a hard time saying that I have ever had a spiritual manifestation that drives my involvement in the church, even being raised actively in the church, serving a mission, being married in the temple, honoring covenants, being obedient, and giving all I have to give to the building up of the kingdom. I’m just running out of gas to continue.

The strongest spiritual experiences I have had in my life have occurred outside of the church context. I don’t know what that says about me, but in the process of helping my family recover from a near-fatal drug overdose of one of my sons, I have felt the warmth and strong presence of the spirit. This has occurred on several occasions while doing family therapy with my wife and son at his inpatient rehab-recovery program, and in attending very real and painful Al-Anon family groups meetings with others sharing similar or worse situations. Our local Al-Anon family group meets at the local jewish synagogue. It is now one of my favorite places on earth to feel the presence of the spirit.

After a lifetime of thinking I needed to feel something I wasn’t (and not knowing what it would feel like), I finally know what it means to feel the love and presence of Heavenly Father through his spirit. Though confusingly, not related to any LDS Church meeting, program, or scripture.

So here I am – trying to make sense of everything and cut a path toward personal and family peace and happiness and trying to decide of the Church as adding or taking away from this process.

Always appreciate your experiences, input, and guidance, as you may like to share.

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by LookingHard » 20 Oct 2017, 05:03

Thanks for sharing. You and I have some parallels and some differences.

I would like to say more, but I have to head off to work.

Welcome and join in.

And for all you lurkers - JOIN IN! It can help to express some of your feelings.

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Oct 2017, 05:18

Welcome. Yes, we like introductions because it helps us understand where you're coming from and get to know each other.

I also see lots of gray, hence my own username. I'm not a Sith nor am I a Jedi - I'm in the gray area. But I am also not "inauthentic." Being authentic does not mean that I have to share everything I think or "know." If I were truly authentic I'd tell everybody I think is stupid and ugly that they're stupid and ugly.

I don't think there are any magic pills when it comes to the decisions our own children make regarding church or faith and religion in general. We have 4 children, one of which has all but formally left the church and another who doesn't believe all of it but does believe. The younger two remain to be seen. Here's what I will say about it - I'd be much less Pharisaical with the children if I were to do it over. Keeping the Sabbath by following a set of rules (like no TV or no friends over) is different from how I now keep the Sabbath. It's not about rules. I think what you (we) care about and what many leaders care about is not the same as what God cares about. Frankly I don't think God gives a hoot about Eagle Scouts.

My daughter recently asked me if she was a cat hoarder would I still love her. My answer was "of course." My relationship with my children now has nothing to do with the church (IOW the church doesn't get to control everything). They have made and continue to make their own choices and while I may not agree with all of their choices the choices are theirs and I still love them for who they are.

Your section about callings worries me quite honestly. They're not better than you and thinking so is dangerous (on both sides). Besides, I have discovered that visiting and giving that lesson, which you point out they have probably already read and given to others themselves, is not really home teaching. I don't know WWJD, but I don't think that's it.

Your part about feelings and spiritual experiences does resonate with me though. I think far more people than we realize have not had real spiritual experiences or real "confirmation" about the truth of the church/BOM/etc. Some of the parrots are very pretty though.

As an outsider looking in I would have suggested counseling. You've done it and if your wife doesn't want to continue it's not going to be of value. There may be some merit to you getting individual counseling though.

I do hope you find the peace you seek.
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."

My Introduction

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by Curt Sunshine » 21 Oct 2017, 21:15

I apologize for the shortness of this response, but I have been traveling for two days and am trying to catch up on lots of posts.

Sincerely, welcome! I am glad you found us and hope we all can help each other along this path we call life. It is good to have traveling companions, for whatever length of time is needed.
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

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by LDS_Scoutmaster » 31 Oct 2017, 08:11

Hello and welcome,
Your intro reminded me of Terryl Givens quote: "While some is given to know the core truth of Christ and his mission, to others is given the means to persevere in the absence of certainty" I think I'm paraphrasing there, but there are many in the church that don't feel or don't recognize the spirit. To me it is noble to keep going even if there are things that make you not want to go, for whatever reason; keeping spouse happy, finding good wherever you can, duty, being involved in a good service organization, etc.
I too have felt the spirit in some places that I wasn't expecting. Even places I assumed that I would not feel it; at a downtown bar, while listening to 'the devil's music" (I know that one's a bit of a cultural commandment 😀), and many other instances. 'Truth' can come from anywhere, and I'm glad you feel it wherever it comes from.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=6311&start=70#p121051 My last talk

We are all imperfect beings, dealing with other imperfect beings, and we're doing it imperfectly.

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by Roy » 31 Oct 2017, 09:08

DW and I have had different viewpoints on parenting. DW has viewed parenting more as forming a person from a raw material like clay. I think of it more as acting as a guide or mentor. We scout ahead. We establish guiderails and mark the pitfalls. We counsel on safety, wisdom, and best practices. Ultimately, it is the child who is in the drivers seat and our ultimate purpose is for them to fly without training wheels.

I also feel that it is important for me to feel respect and appreciation in my home. That puts me in a position to act with my higher/less reactive self. I try hard to give respect to everyone in my household and I request that in return.

May you find a measure of peace in your home life that is independent of your relationship with the church.
"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: An Introduction...

Post by Willhewonder » 04 Nov 2017, 05:02

Welcome. Sounds like we have lots in common, not the least of which is a history of mental illness in the family. Seems like schizophrenia has dogged my family for generations. Every family in the line has at least one victim. Scary. I'm glad you're here, and registered. I've appreciated your comments and look forward to seeing your read on things.

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by hawkgrrrl » 04 Nov 2017, 12:53

Welcome - glad you've come out of the shadows to engage. Sounds like we have lots in common.

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Re: An Introduction...

Post by Heber13 » 08 Nov 2017, 01:59

Welcome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I like how you recognize the spirit in your life outside the church. That's good to embrace truth wherever you find it.

It's good to see you making sense of it all and piecing it together for how it works for you.

Glad you're here.

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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