Really new to this.

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Really new to this.

Post by West » 27 Aug 2014, 06:43

Hi all.

Um. Wow. Even as recent as just this past weekend, I never thought I would be in such a forum as this. The past few days have been the hardest of my life, no doubt made worse by my father requiring a lengthy, pre-planned hospital stay for a high-risk procedure (which appears to have gone well).

Where do I begin? Not that it matters, I suppose, because wherever I begin, it’s going to be a novel -- sorry to anyone trying to read this, but know that I appreciate it. I suppose for many years I’ve always found certain parts of my church experience eliciting an exasperated eye roll, much like an older sibling watching a young one show off. Those instances are almost inherently during great moments of passionate testimony by fellow Mormons. Even now, my main objective when attending church has been sacrament meeting for the sacrament and to pay my tithing -- I don’t usually feel very comfortable in gospel doctrine class or Relief Society, although there are the exceptions, which seem to occur often now since I go rarely. Usually, though, I'm glued to my phone and ignoring the teacher.

Perhaps it is because I have always been something of an outcast in my local Mormon community. I was born and raised in Utah in a middle-class, predominantly LDS area where the only non-white people were me and my Asian convert mother. (We are an interracial and intercultural family, something I know certain church leaders strongly suggest against. My father is as white and pioneer-heritage Mormon as you can get, though. Heck, we even recently found out we’re related to several other long-time Mormon families in our neighborhood. Polygamy, am I right?) In addition, the other young men and young women in my ward were predominantly not my social clique. I never really fit in, so I never really participated in weekly activities, and I was too shy from years of bullying that I attribute to my racial differences that I never really made many friends in my home ward.

Maybe that’s all I need to say about that now.

So what led me here? For the past two years, I have been considering going on a mission, preferably a humanitarian one. I wanted primarily to use my registered nursing license to help people while also giving back to a church that, even now, has given a lot to my family. I also viewed (and still view) an LDS mission, for me at least, as an intense and interesting life experience to add to the experiences I already have. And there are other reasons that involve my (continued) belief of coincidences and a higher power.

The mission plan came to a head a week or so ago when I met with my bishop for a temple recommend. He knew about my considerations for a mission, and asked me if I had given it any more thought. I had, and I said I planned to put in my availability soon. We set a followup meeting that has yet to happen.

And that was what led me to my crisis of faith, as I’m sure these things do. I have always had a curiosity of what made people so vehemently against the LDS Church. I had looked sometimes into the reasons, but I’d never gotten very far. Well, earlier this week, I did. I think it was partly to keep my mind off my father’s procedure. But I think a big part of it was because I wanted to know what the arguments were so I could be better prepared on my mission. How can I adequately defend something if I do not know all the sides? And at any rate, my patriarchal blessing said that I needed to obtain as much education as possible to bring me closer to righteous principles (that’s the general jist of it, anyway). So I figured it wouldn't hurt to look things up on the Internet.

What I found quite frankly was like running into a brick wall at top speed. For the better part of this week, I’ve sat at work, neglecting my actual work, to read page after page of church history as I had never seen or heard it. By the end of the day on Monday, I was in this weird place between denial and shock -- I think it was shock, anyway. I had, that very afternoon, attended a temple open house with a mixture of non-Mormon and less active Mormon friends, and I had nothing in my heart but confusion and, I think, contempt. Not because I felt I personally had been fooled, but because I felt like the the people I loved, my family, had been betrayed, and that hurt more than anything that could have been done to me, because you do not mess with my family. By the end of the day Tuesday, I had broken down in tears several times, each for widely different reasons. I came across these forums while I was looking desperately for a safe haven, for somewhere where I could find people who wouldn’t judge me or tell my bishop or my parents.

The things I read almost nonstop for two days were dozens of pages with list after list of reasoning and uncanny coincidences suggesting that neither the Book of Mormon nor the early prophets were not as divine as the church claimed. If there is one thing in my life I have come to believe, the universe works in such ways that there are no such thing as coincidences. I am also a strong believer of logic and using your intellect. Because of those beliefs, I had to choose what beliefs I was going to accept -- my belief in the validity of the founding of the LDS Church as the church currently preaches it, or my belief in what I know is in front of me: my intelligence, my logic and my experiences that told me coincidences are part of a larger plan.

I don’t know how other people feel about coincidences and chance. But, even after this crisis of faith of mine, I still strongly believe that everything, no matter how small it might seem, happens for reasons we can’t comprehend. Because of that belief, I had to accept that there was a very strong possibility I’d been had -- the Book of Mormon was a fantasy, and Joseph Smith was the type of man I find fascinating in the same way I find cult leaders fascinating (because I do). But I also had to believe that all the coincidences in my life, all the experiences that have been in my life and the life of my family that were things we can even now never explain, were all from some sort of higher powers out there that could work for both help, harm and the occasional mischief. In my mind, that power we don’t understand that helps us and causes things like coincidences and even miracles is what I define as God. A God who cares enough about each person’s life to try to poke and prod them in the right direction for them personally, whatever that direction might be.

And there is where I sort of am now. I know my crisis of faith is relatively newer than others. I am working through it slowly, taking it in and keeping it close to my heart with the exception of this forum. I have been a member of the LDS Church and community all of my life, and I know it’s going to take some time to sort through my mind and my feelings. I am open to the change I know will come in the next few years and in the rest of my life. Although frankly, I'm kind of scared. After being so set in my religious beliefs for my entire life, I'm not sure what I can believe. The thought this week, especially, of losing my dad and not knowing if there was an afterlife just completely ate me up and broke me down into tears. And I don't know where to turn.

I do believe that I will stay LDS, thanks in no small part to this forum, this website, and the gracious people who are here. I debated telling my parents about my crisis, though, but they love the church with all their hearts; I don't know if I could bring it in me to either argue with them or make them doubt it. I also do still want to go on the mission. But I wanted to ask advice on that, if it's a good idea, even if I can't for sure say that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon is a historical work of God (right now typing that takes a lot of discomfort). As a result of my church history shock, I’ve had to think a lot in what I believed in. And honestly, it was good for me, because I realized there was a lot about Mormonism that bothered me, and now it was laid bare for me to address. I came to realize that I believe there is, indeed, one “true” church -- but that true church varies from person to person. And sometimes that church isn't even a church but just strong beliefs.

For me, I feel the LDS Church is the true church for my personal needs. It's not only part of my culture, but it’s part of my family and my heritage, and that is something that I find I am comfortable with. After all, I’m (usually) comfortable being an American, and the United States is surely not a shining beacon on the hill of perfection. I know that’s not the case for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. If God does indeed know the true intents of our hearts, and if He will indeed judge us in the afterlife based on our hearts, then He will know I did my best with what He gave me. And I think I am satisfied with that.

I know going on a mission as an unorthodox Mormon would be a challenge, to say the least. But I feel like I need to, not so much for myself or my family, but for the chance, the coincidence even, that there might be someone else out there who needs the LDS Church as their true church. I don't know if that's just a sense of indoctrination all my life or denial from this crisis or a strong sense of duty to my parents, though. Do you think that's a dumb choice?

I guess, though, in the end of it all, I believe we need the Chieko Okazaki’s in this world and in the LDS Church. It’s not a perfect answer. But it is an answer that, for the moment at least, brings me some sort of personal peace.

(And to whoever has the Chieko Okazaki quote in their signature, thank you so, so much -- I don’t think it was a coincidence that that was the first thing I saw when I returned to this forum after pleading with higher powers to give me guidance. It was what I wanted, what I needed, and what helped me sleep that night and keep the discomfort at bay well into the morning.)
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Terwilliger » 27 Aug 2014, 09:18

Welcome, West! This has been a very safe, very good place for me as I have been working through my own faith crisis, I hope you find it to be helpful as well. I served a mission nine years ago, and while my level of doubt was nowhere near where it is now, I did not have a strong, burning testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I found a lot of happiness and success on my mission by dedicating myself to serving others and perhaps helping them find something that would make their lives better, even if that something isn't necessarily The One True Church™. If I could go back and serve a mission again, I would. Good luck!

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Re: Really new to this.

Post by West » 27 Aug 2014, 10:32

Thank you so much, Terwillger. :) So far, I have found this forum and the website to be exactly what I was looking for. Reading the "How to stay in the church" article was especially what I needed, and I feel very comfortable at the present with my choice to both accept the historical truth of church history while remaining a member on my own terms. I still feel put-off, maybe a little anxious, especially for church meetings on Sunday, but at the same time I keep getting little moments of what feels like freedom and peace when I look at the beliefs I am choosing to keep and the ones that I am allowing myself to let go. I think, on the whole, my faith crisis is putting me on a path to be a better and more spiritual person.

I am glad that you found such joy on your mission. I have had some inactive and less active RMs tell me that it will be one of the hardest experiences of my life, but they feel like I won't regret doing it and that they don't regret doing it, either, even though they have changed. I am glad to find that you feel the same on that respect. It gives me a lot of hope and courage, and it definitely makes me feel better about my choice. I know that during the mission I will not try to challenge any devout orthodox member's faith. Everyone has the right and the opportunity to choose to believe whatever they want (thanks to the person in another thread who suggested reading/listening to Uchtdorf's October 2013 Saturday morning talk...yeah, I've been stalking a lot of the threads). But like you, I do feel the desire to serve others both temporally and by seeing if I can help them see if there is anything in my beliefs or the beliefs of the church that might help them. The LDS faith might be the "true" church for someone out there. And at the very least, I hope I get placed into a mission that focuses on building the community and participating in daily service rather than tracting, as it seems many now are.

Thank you so much again! I noticed in your other thread that you're also a fellow Northern Utahn, so hello! I am so grateful that I found this place and that it exists for those of us who need it. :)
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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Re: Really new to this.

Post by nibbler » 27 Aug 2014, 10:50

West wrote:I know going on a mission as an unorthodox Mormon would be a challenge, to say the least. But I feel like I need to, not so much for myself or my family, but for the chance, the coincidence even, that there might be someone else out there who needs the LDS Church as their true church. I don't know if that's just a sense of indoctrination all my life or denial from this crisis or a strong sense of duty to my parents, though. Do you think that's a dumb choice?
If you feel like you need that experience that's your choice. If it's your choice how could it be dumb?

You touched on the conclusion that I struggled to arrive at, that there are people out there that do need the LDS church as their true church. It took a while for me to see that.

As a convert that served a mission I felt that "the church isn't for everyone... right now." In my more orthodox days as a missionary that translated to an utmost respect of people's decisions. No meant no and I was okay with that, people would find the church on the lord's timetable. Post faith crisis that became "the church isn't for everyone," which translated to an utmost respect of people's decisions. No meant no and I was okay with that, people would find god on their own terms. Subtle variation I guess. What took time was the realization that there were people out there that truly need the church. That's something I can get behind.

The thing about a mission, and I'm going to shoot straight, your peers and leaders likely aren't going to agree with an unorthodox worldview. Your peers and leaders will be of the mindset that every person on earth must accept the gospel. Clashing with a one size fits all approach will at times cause strife. Rather than bring up specific examples I'll leave it at this...

Before you leave on a mission determine your own definition of what a successful mission means to you and don't let anyone else redefine success for you (or better yet don't worry about whether you are having a successful or unsuccessful mission at all). You'll drive yourself nuts trying to live up to someone else's expectations. If you feel like you are falling short of attaining success, however you end up defining it, do not allow guilt to take over. Look past the guilt to find the success that was hidden from your original perspective.

I imagine a mission would be all the more difficult for someone post faith crisis. Remember that the church isn't the only way to serve people, the peace corps for instance. Don't take this as an attempt to talk you out of serving a mission, the decision is yours.

You mention coincidence. You probably already have but if not, don't forget to extend that to your faith crisis. It's no coincidence that you had a faith crisis, it was meant for your spiritual progression. It sounds like you've already found a way to use your faith crisis to move forward. :thumbup:

This makes no sense, but find a way to enjoy the uncertainties in life. I'm not as tied down to one dogma as I once was; I find that each day I believe something a bit differently than I did the day before. Life becomes an adventure.

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
― Jesus

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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Heber13 » 27 Aug 2014, 10:54

West...thanks so much for telling your story. Very well written.

My first advice is for you to take a deep breath and realize you're on a journey, and pace yourself, go slow, and avoid rash all or nothing thoughts or choices.

Truth is... you can have all your feelings, and all your feelings are valid...and you can still choose to be LDS and serve a mission if you want to. In fact, you may be a great missionary with a great perspective others may need to hear. Or if not a mission, an active member who reaches out to others with similar doubts and fears.

When you grow wiser, you start to see truth from many perspectives, and all may be right and good. You just have to be open to it. Like the prism that has one source of light or truth, but we might see the light at different times or different angles that show different one is the right one...they are just what they are. And God wants us to all learn the beauty of all the colors...not a black and white world.

Welcome to the forum. I look forward to reading more of 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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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Roy » 27 Aug 2014, 11:02

Speaking of Cheiko Okazaki - I wanted to make sure that you found her dedicated quotes thread.


Slow down, think things through, don't dump all at once, always trade up, keep your options open.

Slow down - Right now things are moving really fast. Try to slow it down. There is much in life to be enjoyed that has nothing to do with church.

Think things through - Sounds like you have already been doing this. You have your entire life ahead of you and you have the power to chart a course and really think about where you want to go (rather than simply following a prescibed outline).

Don't dump all at once - Do not unload on your bishop, family, or others. It is never helpful and will only tend to create barriers.

Always trade up - If you decide to cut some church participation out of your schedule, don't just sleep in more - fill the void with something that speaks to you and helps to make you the person you want to be.

Keep your options open - Be carefull in not burning bridges. You are still young and figuring things out. People will give you some allowance for that. I avoid definitive language like "the church is not true" rather I remain in a state of change, exploration, and hope for things that I cannot see. You do not want to be labeled as adversarial.

This advice is not specific to you but I have found it helpful in my experience.

Welcome to the group.
"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: Really new to this.

Post by nibbler » 27 Aug 2014, 11:19

Roy wrote:Don't dump all at once - Do not unload on your bishop, family, or others. It is never helpful and will only tend to create barriers.
I just wanted to second this one. The barrier doesn't even have to be the type that typically results from a knock-down-drag-out fight. They can be smaller barriers. They can be things you said to family, the bishop, etc. that remain in their thoughts long after they've left yours. I read that a long time ago on this site and it was stated much more eloquently so I'll have to clarify with an example. Example: someone tells their bishop that they believe that Joseph Smith was a con man. Time changes that person's perspective and they begin to see things in a different light. Unfortunately the bishop now frames any unorthodox comment or behavior that person displays as coming from someone that believes that JS was a con man. It doesn't matter that the person has now moved on to a different perspective. A part of the bishop's perspective of that person is still locked in on the things that person originally dumped on them.
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
― Jesus

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Re: Really new to this.

Post by SilentDawning » 27 Aug 2014, 12:54

One of the coolest things about your opening post is your idea of serving a humanitarian mission rather than a proselyting mission. Great thought! I will consider this for when my son is of mission age. He could go on a humanitarian mission somewhere, and when he comes home, and people say "Did you serve a mission", he can reply "Yes, I went to Costa Rica" or some other place. It can come out later it was a non-church mission, and that he made the conscious choice to serve THAT kind of mission rather than be proselyter.
"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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Re: Really new to this.

Post by DarkJedi » 27 Aug 2014, 17:46

I don't have a ton of time right now, but I wanted to say welcome and offer my fairly standard advice, some of which has already been covered:

Take it slow, don't dump all at once (which really has two meanings - don't just dump your beliefs wholesale and don't dump it all on your friends/family/leaders), and focus on what you do believe.

I'll comment more tomorrow.
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: Really new to this.

Post by West » 27 Aug 2014, 18:09

Thank you, everyone, so very much for your supportive and kind replies. I intend to reply to everything, and in fact already did, but my browser did some stuff and lost my reply, so I will type it up again shortly. And then everyone shall see that I am, by nature, a very long-winded individual. :)

But first...I just need a moment, I guess, to give a voice to the feelings I’ve been going through over the past 24 hours. An outlet, if you will. I have broken down in tears now both before and after work and nearly several times during the day. After work, I sat alone in the empty top lot of a public parking garage overlooking the open house parking for the local temple. These areas around the temple have been filled daily with cars and with people. I didn’t come to the lot, though, with the intent of watching them or viewing the temple, which is a daily landmark I pass on my way to work. I instead simply wanted to sit and read from the forums alone for several minutes before returning home to my wonderful, loving, devoutly Mormon family.

But then I looked up and saw the many people in dresses and white shirts and ties walking along the sidewalks towards and from the open house. They were families. Singles. Friends. All, it seems on the surface, so certain and so sure in their beliefs. In the background was the temple, rising higher than any other building around it. It reminded me of when I had attended the open house for the first time. I’d felt something there in the Celestial Room that I thought to be the Spirit. Or something related to the higher power that I still want to continue believing in. But overall, I’d felt almost empty, I suppose. Like I didn’t “get it” as well as other people. I had gone along to escort my parents, mostly. I have since gone twice after that. The second time, I’m not sure I felt anything. The third time was the time I mentioned previously, where I was just beginning my crisis of faith and so had the grief response of anger in my heart.

Watching all those happy people this evening reminded me of what seemed like a downward spiral of my feelings and spirituality. And I couldn’t help it. I cried. I doubted everything I thought I believed in. How could the kind and loving God I believe in allow so many people in this world, not just in the Mormon religion but everywhere, to be led down paths that don’t seem to make sense? That seemed to be based on half-truths and hidden truths and yet claim to be the only truths? How could he do so and only have one “true” church? How could I ever find the faith to believe in anything when I’ve had the faith I’ve lived with my entire life so shaken?

And then there was the fact that temples to me represented the eternities with the people I love. I kept thinking of the church teaching that families will be together forever after our earthly trials here are completed. And because I love my family almost more, it seems sometimes, than I love myself, I don’t know how to handle the thought that if other church doctrine was misguided or opinion only, what if that doctrine was untrue as well? What if all I had with my family was what I have here in this life? It doesn’t feel like that time alone could ever be enough.

Coincedentally, though, last night on a non-religious related call to a cousin I rarely talk to who called me, my cousin began talking about being together with our families in the afterlife. I wasn’t sure what to say besides, “That’s something so nice to believe in.”

She said, “It’s not something I believe in. It’s something I know.”

But how? How can anyone know? And at the very least, how can I find the strength again to believe that? I suppose, in the end, I am afraid of what lies beyond death. I’m afraid it’s nothing, and that the people who have gone on before me and who have yet to go on were only here for such a short perspective, only to cease existing as they were. I’m afraid, even, that there is after all something in the afterlife, but I will have made it after choosing the “wrong” path, and I will still be unable to be with the people I love.

How do you reconcile those feelings? How did you find something that can help you sleep at night, that can help you face each day without such a feeling of despair and feeling lost?

I know I’m trying to look for an easy answer when I know there isn’t one. I know this process is not going to be an easy one. I wish, so, so very much that it was. I want to have hope that the pain will be worth in the end. That as a result of his journey, I will end up a better person than I was before. The type of person I want and need to be.

But for now, it seems that point is so hopelessly far away. I wouldn’t say that sitting up there on that parking garage I felt alone. But I did feel empty. And lost. I didn’t feel like there was anywhere to turn for the comfort I so desperately wanted. I didn’t feel like I had any faith to pray to a God or at the very least a higher power I didn’t understand. I understand now, at least, why so many people leave the church with such anger.

I do not believe it was a coincidence that I felt like the parking garage overlooking the temple was the place I needed to sit tonight. I don’t feel it’s a coincidence that the temple is something I see every day before and after work. But I can’t comprehend or see what it is meant to lead me to.

I guess what I’m asking for is for help. I feel so lost. And if not for this forum, I would feel so very, very alone. What can I do?

I'm sorry for such a lengthy and depressing post. I have thought all day about the advice and the encouragement given here, and it has helped and continues to help. I just don't know what to do with my thoughts right now. I tried writing them down into a private journal, but I just felt more confused. Do you have any reflections that might help from your initial post-crisis experiences?
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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