A Personal Allegory

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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A Personal Allegory

Post by jhp33 » 12 Mar 2014, 11:57

One of the things that has kept me in the church is my seeming inability to reject the church wholesale and simply walk away from it.

I was contemplating why this might be the other day when a personal story from my life helped shed what I feel like is new light into my faith journey. It is extremely painful and private, but I feel the intense desire to share it with someone. This semi-anonymous forum seems like a safe place to do so.

I hope you will both indulge and be soft with the story I am about to share. Thank you.


There are things that cross your mind that, when you are a child, don't cause you to ask "why" until later in life. When I was 8 or 9, my family was sealed in the DC temple. As a child, I didn't bother to ask why that was happening. While the temple experience certainly is grandiose for a young child, it did not enter yet into my mind that it was out of the ordinary to be going through this ordinance as an active Latter-day Saint family. I had not yet grasped the differences between born-in-the-covenant and sealed later as a family with already living members.

In fact, I would venture to say it was not until my mid-teens that I really understood the concept of being "born in the covenant," and that not all children necessarily go through that ordinance with their families in the temple, as if your parents are sealed within the temple, that means you are already sealed to them.

As my mind finally caught a hold of that concept, and I began to have natural curiosity about the genesis of my parents' relationship, I began to ask questions of my parents. These questions always seemed to revolve around their anniversary. But they were brushed off rather hastily. Perhaps it was due to my nature as a child and adolescent not to question my parents -- not out of some fear or duty, just out of the way things operated -- but I never really pushed the questions far with them. "Where were you married?" I would ask. "California" would be the answer, then the subject would usually change, if I can even properly recollect those types of interactions. I honestly didn't think much of it at first.

When I returned from my mission and later met my wife, I began to express a desire to get my line of authority in order. I had seen several of my companions who kept theirs folded into their scriptures, a powerful teaching tool on the divinity of priesthood authority being passed down all the way from Christ. That I didn't have such a line of authority seemed off-putting to me. It must have been around the time I was going to be married or was newly married that my wife asked if I would get my line of authority from my father so we could have it for our children.

I asked my mother about it in passing during conversation on the phone one day and I got another benign, didn't-seem-too-unusual-at-the-time brush off. These kinds of interactions were common but never struck me as being out of place. I don't know if that makes me soft-hearted or naive, or both.

In November of 2006 my parents anniversary rolled around again. For one reason or another, these issues of the temple and my parents and my line of authority had been swimming in my head in the not-too-distant past.

On a whim, I texted my sister and mentioned my parents anniversary. "I've never really understood why we had to be sealed in the temple. I thought mom and dad were married in the temple."

I didn't receive a response from her for a few hours. Finally, she answered. "I don't really know what to say other than I'm not sure if you really want the answer to that."

My heart literally stopped. Again, blame my naivete perhaps, but I was wholly unprepared for such a response. What followed was a series of emails, text messages and phone calls where my sister explained to me, for the first time, the nature of my parents' marriage.

I had always known that my parents met while my father was an area supervisor of a food chain. My mother was one of the store managers he supervised. I had also known that my father had been married and divorced before, and that my mother was his second wife. My father's oldest son, my half brother, was in the sealing room at my wedding.

My sister began to fill in the holes. She once had been at this half brother's house on an extended vacation, away from my parents or our siblings. Our two other half siblings were there as well. During the course of the night, the conversation somehow shifted to talking about my father. I don't know the context, but at one point, one of the younger siblings blurted out to my sister something to the effect of "Well, you do realize Dad cheated on our mom with your mom, right?"

Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I was not prepared for this. In the matter of just one afternoon, the paradigm I viewed my family in was completely shattered.

My father was married to his first wife when he met my mother. They began an affair that led to my sister, and to a divorce from his first wife. My father and mother eloped immediately after the divorce was finalized. My sister was born not long after. My sister revealed to me that when she was a teenager, my father had confessed to her that he was not the one who blessed her when she was born. He never told her why. Just that he felt like it was important for her to know that she was blessed by someone else in their ward at the time.

I do not know the details behind my father's church discipline. Whether he was excommunicated or merely disfellowshipped, I don't know, nor am I sure I want to. But I do know he and my mother could not be sealed in the temple until 12 years after their marriage.

I have had eight years to process this information. It is still hard for me. To this day, my parents do not know that I know. I am both grateful and frustrated that I know what I now know. Some days, I wish I didn't know.

I suffered through a fog of anger, sadness, frustration, bewilderment, confusion and other similar emotions for a solid 6 months. I withdrew from my family and blamed it on work. None of it made sense to me, that my mother -- always the model for righteousness, piousness and morality in our family was now "The Other Woman." The fact that, to my half siblings who lost their father and had to watch him build another life with new children who he devoted his new life to -- it made me physically nauseated at times.

But at no time did I consider abandoning my family. I was very angry for a while. I didn't want to speak to them for a while. I still sometimes have trouble talking about certain subjects. Things get uncomfortable if the conversation turns a certain direction.

But I know that I love them, and that we are bound by love that is real, and that can't be denied just because I have learned a new history about them.

I'm sure you already see the parallels here.

I feel bound to this church, for whatever reason. I have had every reason to call my parents liars and frauds and hate them until the day they die. I have every reason to do the same with the church. But I can't. Because I love them both.

And so, I stay. For better or worse, I stay and I endure the pain and the uncomfortable, awkward moments and I work through the pain and the guilt and the sorrow and I cling to a hope that God will make it all right again and endow us all with a better understanding of his will and his eternal perspective.

At least for now, that's why I stay.

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Re: A Personal Allegory

Post by Old-Timer » 12 Mar 2014, 12:21

Thank you for sharing this, especially since it is so personal and painful.

Truly, there are profound lessons in it - and not just the ones that are obvious.
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: A Personal Allegory

Post by convert1992 » 12 Mar 2014, 15:08

Thank you for sharing this story of your family. It took courage to write this rather than saying "I was born of goodly parents." I have noticed the younger generation in the Church is more accepting of dysfunctional families. There is a guy in my ward who is very open about the fact that his parents are divorced, yet he remains a near-fanatical TBM. I guess that's progress.

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Re: A Personal Allegory

Post by Roadrunner » 12 Mar 2014, 16:59

Dear jhp33,
Thank you for sharing. It's a touching story with lessons for many of us.

Difficult life experiences shape the way we view the world, and the church has the potential to powerfully shape the way we view life experiences. I was adopted into a TBM family with good parents - but with their own challenges. I later found my birth parents and discovered that my origins were different than I supposed. I'll just say that I'm glad we're better as a church at understanding family differences than we used to be.

I hope you find peace in your journey.

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Re: A Personal Allegory

Post by Daeruin » 12 Mar 2014, 20:47

Thanks so much for putting yourself out there and sharing this. I really appreciate the message of your story. I related to it in a small way—my parents were married in the temple but my dad never served a mission, and I have never found out why. I've asked but gotten vague answers. I know he was drafted into the Vietnam war around that time, but I don't think that was the reason. It makes one wonder and really stirs up the curiosity—but in the end it's my dad's life, not mine. So I haven't pried.

I wish you the best in your faith journey. Thanks again.
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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Re: A Personal Allegory

Post by Ann » 12 Mar 2014, 23:46

Thanks so much for reminding me that life is beautiful and messy. Only if you're comfortable - do you see a scenario where you could have a conversation with your parents? I ask because of a situation in my family.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

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Re: A Personal Allegory

Post by Roy » 13 Mar 2014, 07:44

Thank you!
"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: A Personal Allegory

Post by jhp33 » 13 Mar 2014, 10:18

Ann wrote:Thanks so much for reminding me that life is beautiful and messy. Only if you're comfortable - do you see a scenario where you could have a conversation with your parents? I ask because of a situation in my family.
Thanks, Ann. Good question.

I think perhaps at this point, the time has passed on that. Mainly because my parents are getting up there in age, and I feel like a conversation along those lines could and would only cause them pain. I have no doubt they are different people than they were back when they made the decisions they made, especially my mother. They have repented. They have moved on. It is not my place to retry them for their sins.

In fact, learning what I have learned almost helps me understand her better, as she was always a strict disciplinarian who drilled into our heads that bad decisions can have very harsh consequences. She was not a "live and let live" type of person, and I think that was probably borne out of her personal experiences.

So unless something drastic changes, I think I'm content knowing what I know, letting some of the rest of it still be vague and unanswered, and saving those types of conversations for the hereafter where there will be a much smaller measure of embarrassment, judgment and shame.

And thank all of you for your kind words.

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