My Lonely Search for God

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bdavis3
Posts: 4
Joined: 13 Aug 2018, 11:49

My Lonely Search for God

Post by bdavis3 » 13 Aug 2018, 19:06

I suppose I will start off my introduction by telling some of my story, if I can find the right words. I grew up LDS, was born and raised in Utah, attended BYU, served a mission, and married in the temple. I thought I had known God, and had understood the doctrine, and that it would always give me solid ground to stand on. However, that ground was ripped out from underneath me when I hit my first real crisis of faith. I had to rip my testimony out by the roots and start all over.

Last summer I entered the field of social work and became a therapist in the prison setting. I loved the population, and at the same time, they pushed me to a place I had never been before. I had never felt so broken. As I listened to what had happened to these people, what these people had done to others, and what suffering of the innocent had taken place, especially innocent children, I broke spiritually. Everything that had once made sense made no sense at all. Why would a loving God let the innocent suffer? What justice is there behind God letting innocent children be born into such terrible circumstances? Isn’t that setting His children up for failure? I recognized my own privilege and shrunk underneath it, wondering why me, why not them, and what justice could possibly exist behind such an incomprehensible algorithm? The cognitive dissonance became unbearable, and the easiest way at the time for me to put an end to it was to stop believing in God altogether.

It is by the grace of God that while I was going through this I was reading Life of Pi. Poetically enough, I finished Life of Pi in the prison, on a lunch break. I sat in the bathroom alone and just cried. The story had filled my emptiness like no written scripture ever had, and saved my faith in God.

To avoid spoilers, I will forego details of the story itself (please go read it if you haven't read it though!!) and jump straight to what I learned. The book helped me realize that I stood at the crossroads of weaving two different stories for myself: one with God, and one without. In the story without God, humans could be cruel and barbaric, could be completely enslaved by addiction to drugs, could grow up with a wretched past and inflict the same pain on the innocent, and everybody suffers without purpose. In the story with God, the events remain the same. People still suffer. Life is still hard. But there is meaning to it. It is the story of a God who truly loves His children, who will help them turn suffering into growth. It is the story of the redemption of mankind, the story that allows us as fallen man to overcome weaknesses, to work past guilt, to overcome shame, and to become someone greater. The story of a God who sent His Son to suffer beyond the darkest depths of human experience in order to offer perfect empathy and succor, to weep with those, the offenders and the offended, who feel trapped in those seemingly endless life cycles.

The facts of life change color depending on how we choose to paint them. When I lost my faith in God and saw facts and events only for what they were, it was a miserable existence. When I chose to view them through the lens of faith, with the hope that God will make it right and that all suffering, no matter how horrific, has meaning, order, and purpose, life became more beautiful than I had ever pictured before. So the simple answer for me is this: I believe in God because I want to. Because God is “the better story.”

Before that moment I tried building my testimony on the foundation of miracles that no science could explain, or believing the words of those who said they’ve seen God, or thinking about how difficult it would be to objectively prove the Book of Mormon false, or going through the checklist-like motions of Mormonism thinking that behavioral compliance would connect me with God and give me a testimony that He lives. But that made my testimony so vulnerable and so fragile that it completely crumbled under my first true crisis of faith. When I realized faith was my choice, and that I have the agency to choose how I perceive reality, I felt true freedom to believe in God, and that belief is now stronger than ever. As written in Alma 30, all faith begins with desire.

And that is why it has been lonely. Because I found God, in my own way, and connected with Him in a way that I never have before. I finally internalized the truth that He lives. I find Him in the pure, beautiful doctrines of the LDS Church. Doctrines that never seem to be shared over the pulpit, or in Sunday School, or Relief Society. I come home from Church on a weekly basis feeling lonely and exhausted because the messages shared don't feel right. It seems that the Savior and His atonement are rarely mentioned. It feels like we don't truly show unconditional love, or empathy, or refrain from judgment to those who don't seem to fit the mold. We seem to pound the pulpit on behavioral compliance but don't leave room for repentance and forgiveness, learning, and growth. I've really been struggling with the culture, specifically how we treat others, what is spoken over the pulpit, and what we call doctrines of the gospel that very well just may be the philosophies of man. It has been frightening to me that I it has been getting harder to tell the difference.

And that is where I am. I believe in God, I truly do. I think I believe in the LDS God. But the cognitive dissonance is just so intense. I feel so disconnected from my fellow churchgoers. The things we teach don't always fit my values. The traits we ascribe to God aren't always the ones I feel like God truly has. I am so thrilled to have found this website. I have been looking for people in my same position, both to lend a helping hand, and to ask for help. It is a pleasure to meet you all, and I am so excited to learn from you.

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DarkJedi
Posts: 5920
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by DarkJedi » 14 Aug 2018, 05:04

I don't have a lot of time at the moment but I wanted to say welcome. I relate to much of what you said, as will others here. I agree with you, the pure doctrine is in the CoJCoLDS but it is sometimes so buried under the other "stuff" that it's hard to find. This community has been a great help to me and I hope we can help you as well.
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

Minyan Man
Posts: 1466
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by Minyan Man » 14 Aug 2018, 06:08

bdavis3, welcome & thank you for your post. Many of us have gone through what you have seen, heard & experienced. As a result we ask ourselves why. This is a good place to discuss issues & share ideas & experiences. My only conclusion is,
it is better to talk with a friend than to sit in the dark and wonder why.
Keep coming back. You are not alone.

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mom3
Posts: 3571
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by mom3 » 14 Aug 2018, 09:05

Very glad you found us. Please share and discuss. I encourage you to search through our vast archives. So many people have/or are experiencing the same thing. Feel free to bump up a thread that intrigues you. It's good for all of us to review things.

We are glad you are here.
"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: My Lonely Search for God

Post by Curt Sunshine » 14 Aug 2018, 11:26

Being a therapist can be wonderful - and it certainly is a challenge to assumptions and convictions created in a relative bubble. I am one year away from licensure, but I am old enough to have experienced already much of what slaps younger clinicians in the face. I know I will face moments that resemble yours in some way, but I am grateful for the decades that have prepared me somewhat for those moments.

Welcome. I am glad you chose to join us. We are a support group, not a therapy group, but I am looking forward to sharing insights and perspectives with you.
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

Roy
Posts: 4956
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by Roy » 14 Aug 2018, 13:20

Wow, Yes! I see my own journey in much of what you have written. I am passionate about these same things.
The story of a God who sent His Son to suffer beyond the darkest depths of human experience in order to offer perfect empathy and succor, to weep with those, the offenders and the offended, who feel trapped in those seemingly endless life cycles.
Beautifully written. I personally like the idea of the trinity because it allows me to imagine the love of God the Father being so great that He came Himself in some form "to suffer beyond the darkest depths of human experience in order to offer perfect empathy and succor, to weep with those, the offenders and the offended, who feel trapped in those seemingly endless life cycles." I know the trinity is not well supported in the bible and is likely not true - but as long as I am telling a "better story" I may as well take some creative license to tell the most compelling version that resonates with my heart and soul. If the trinity weirds you out - do not worry. AFAIK I am the only person around here with that particular quirk. ;) I read "The Shack" during the depth of my own faith crisis and it had an impact on me much like "Life of Pi" did for you. "The Shack" is from a mainstream Christian perspective and had some cool concepts related to the trinity. That might help explain my fondness for the idea.
bdavis3 wrote:
13 Aug 2018, 19:06
I believe in God, I truly do. I think I believe in the LDS God. But the cognitive dissonance is just so intense. I feel so disconnected from my fellow churchgoers. The things we teach don't always fit my values. The traits we ascribe to God aren't always the ones I feel like God truly has.
You are definitely not alone in this. I believe in the beauty and expansive potential of Mormonism. Unfortunately, I also sometimes wonder how the Mormonism I believe in could possibly be compatible with the Mormonism that I hear in Sunday School.

Your story reminded me of a description of the dark night of the soul and faith development that I found helpful.
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=5975&p=81919&hilit= ... ent#p81919
Up to this point, I have been cataloguing a series of stages in the spiritual life. We have observed people growing spiritually from an initial romance with God through periods of discipleship to success in spiritual leadership. That time of success brings in numbers and finances, all the marks of spiritual success, or so it would appear in human expectation. But at some point in this success comes a dark night of the soul that reveals hidden selfishness, mixed motives and a greater commitment to the human trappings of success than to the call of God. The dark night can begin to strip that self-centeredness away and connect a person with God at a deeper level than before. Instead of being motivated by an inner selfishness or the agendas of others or a religious institution, he or she hears the call to a deeper and more selfless walk with God. In stage four, a person discovers the unique purpose God has for their lives. They add to a head knowledge of God and others a heart knowledge driven more by compassion than the facts. While in stage four they sought solitude and the attention of high-level mentors, in stage five they go back out into the world, doing many of the things they did before, but now with different motives and a different purpose. Their lives are driven by their connection with God more than by the consensus of committees or the direction of others. They put into practice what it means to “walk with God.”


One would think that the closer you come to God, the more you are in tune with His will and His ways, the more you would be appreciated by others who are also on the spiritual journey, and the more you would be appreciated by religious institutions. But the opposite is often the case. The second dark night of the soul is the discovery that the closer you walk with God the more out of step you seem to be with religious communities and institutions. The less you are understood by others, even though they are also on the spiritual path. As the approval of God becomes deeper, the disapproval of others becomes a burden that you have to carry. It has been said of Jesus that He was neither elated by applause nor downcast by censure. But at stage five the pain of rejection is still felt and often precipitates a second dark night of the soul. The second dark night can arise for other reasons than rejection, but that is the major one. What is its purpose in the plan of God? Another opportunity to heal. Another opportunity to grow. Human beings are like onions, with layers upon layers of selfishness and hiding from God that need to be peeled away one at a time. In a real sense the dark night may manifest itself multiple times as God engages a human heart in a journey that leads ever-closer to Him.
Welcome. I look forward to hearing more from you. Dive in! Comment on whatever topics interest you or create a new topic to discuss the types of thoughts, feelings, and challenges that you are experiencing.
"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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SilentDawning
Posts: 6760
Joined: 09 May 2010, 19:55

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by SilentDawning » 15 Aug 2018, 04:51

For me, it was partly how Church members can treat each other -- crossing into the dark side of selfishness, injury, pleasure in seeing others suffer, etcetera -- that pushed me to question what I hear at church. I came at this conclusion not from prison, but from observing certain leaders and members, and experiencing their own deficits - deficits I find hard to accept given the gospel. Surely people will make mistakes, but when supposedly good, exemplary Mormons behave in ways that are clearly indifferent to basic values of kindness and belief in God's power, their behavior becomes impossible to reconcile with the grandiose stories we hear at church and read about in our scriptures.

So my story is similar, but it led me to a similar place as you are. And like you, I still believe in God. Many things seem to testify there is a God.

1. How the different organs in your body work together to maintain a range of blood sugar that keeps you alive when starving, overfed, sleeping, etcetera. And we don't have to do anything to make that work (if healthy).

2. How different organs work together to make a person grow.

3. The miracle of birth. How can you NOT believe in God when complex human creates are born through such an on-the-surface simple process? How so many millions and billions of these miracles have occurred in the past, and continue to occur in the future.

All these things convince me there is a God, along with spiritual experiences I've had along with the way.

The church? Well, not so miraculous. I have found happiness in Mormon agnosticism.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- 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."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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dande48
Posts: 963
Joined: 24 Jan 2016, 16:35
Location: Wherever there is danger

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by dande48 » 15 Aug 2018, 07:34

SilentDawning wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 04:51
Surely people will make mistakes, but when supposedly good, exemplary Mormons behave in ways that are clearly indifferent to basic values of kindness and belief in God's power, their behavior becomes impossible to reconcile with the grandiose stories we hear at church and read about in our scriptures.
When my faith crisis hit, it changed the way I looked at gospel principles. Whether or not they were "true" didn't matter so much as if they were useful in making us into better people; more kind, more empathetic, more forgiving, more grateful, more at peace... and I'm surprised at how much certain teachings don't lead to that end.

I do think it's mostly "humans being human". You can twist any good thing, and it's human nature to justify what we've already been doing. And there is a definite dichotomy with most doctrines. God tells us not to judge, so we call it "charity" and judge anyways. God tells us to pray about everything our leaders tell us and to follow the Spirit... but we must follow our leaders with strict obedience. We believe all sin can be made clean through the atonement, as if it never happened... but if you've committed certain sins, you must wait a certain period before you can partake of the sacrament/serve a mission/attend the temple/serve in callings/pray in Church. Oh, and if you've been excommunicated or had your name removed, and then rejoined... that sticks on your record for all time and eternity, barring you from certain assignments and callings.

This is why I don't think "because it's true" is a good reason for believing in a specific doctrine. Different doctrines and perspectives can be either useful or harmful to different people, depending on the situation. Some people need more generosity, while others need to focus on "cultivating their own garden". Some need to be more merciful and forgiving, while others need to distance themselves from toxic individuals and set clear boundaries. Some need more humility, while others need more self confidence. In the Church, we focus FAR too much on black and white thinking, on "truth" and perfection, that it makes it almost impossible to arrive at "the middle way".
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

Minyan Man
Posts: 1466
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: My Lonely Search for God

Post by Minyan Man » 15 Aug 2018, 19:55

bdavis3 wrote:
13 Aug 2018, 19:06
Last summer I entered the field of social work and became a therapist in the prison setting. I loved the population, and at the same time, they pushed me to a place I had never been before. I had never felt so broken. As I listened to what had happened to these people, what these people had done to others, and what suffering of the innocent had taken place, especially innocent children, I broke spiritually. Everything that had once made sense made no sense at all. Why would a loving God let the innocent suffer? What justice is there behind God letting innocent children be born into such terrible circumstances? Isn’t that setting His children up for failure? I recognized my own privilege and shrunk underneath it, wondering why me, why not them, and what justice could possibly exist behind such an incomprehensible algorithm? The cognitive dissonance became unbearable, and the easiest way at the time for me to put an end to it was to stop believing in God altogether. ...
I am reluctant to tell this story because it is very painful & difficult to talk about even with the passage of time. This is the abbreviated version: My daughter was sexually abused 30+ years ago when she was 13. She was living in California with my ex wife. When I found out what was going on, I got my daughter to live with us here in Wisconsin. She stayed with us from the time she was 13 to 18 & graduated from High School. We got her therapy & she adjusted well. She went to the UofU & became a teacher, married & her son just graduated High School. She continues to get therapy in Utah on a regular basis & life is good. I had a difficult time with church. I went to sacrament meeting & everything felt "Black & dark". I wanted answers & nothing came. So, we stopped going to church. I talked to church leaders trying to get answers & nothing came. They really didn't want to hear me either. As a result, I was angry all the time.

My point is: we don't always see the final conclusion. We only see the problem & the immediate effect. The people you are counselling need your compassion and understanding. You may not see the conclusion but your work is needed just the same. There are things we can do to insulate ourselves from the effects of issues like this.
1. Find ways to leave your problems at work. Just like the Doctors who work with small children in a cancer ward. I'm not sure how you do that.
2. Find ways to talk with friends & co-workers.
3. If things get worse, see a Counsellor of your own.
4. Try to get physical exercise to relieve stress & tension.
5. This you seem to be doing: find God on your own terms.

From my own experience, I didn't do any of this until many years later.
I know this is trite & simple. (This is my opinion only. Use what you can & leave the rest.)
I hope in a small way this helps. Keep coming back.

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