Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
Joni
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Joined: 22 Nov 2013, 08:36

Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Joni » 22 Nov 2013, 09:52

Hello all. I found this link via the post on BCC (which has been deleted?) and it's incredibly timely, as I just had a lengthy talk with my husband last night about the way I am feeling and how I don't know what to do with it. I truly don't want to leave the Church, as I think it would be shooting myself in the foot, and because I believe in eternal families - the last thing I want to see is another wife given to my husband, another mother given to my children. :cry: But all the same, I have some strongly conflicting emotions that no Conference talk or interview with the bishop can address.

Here's the three biggies.

1. Coming up in the YW program, I was always told that my Heavenly Father loved me so, so much. I had many experiences, both inside the temple and out, which confirmed this to me. Several years ago, my husband and I were dealing with some pretty bad stuff (Remember when the economy crashed? It hit us hard) and we decided to go to the temple. And I knew I could deal with our struggles if I could only feel the love of the Lord in my life again. So in the celestial room of the temple, I prayerfully asked my Father in Heaven if he loved me.

The answer I got? No.

No, my Heavenly Father did not love me. I received personal revelation stating this, and I suppose I could try and argue that it was my imagination, but I really don't feel comfortable trying to rationalize away personal revelation that I received in the temple. It was devastating. This was five years ago, and it's only within the last year or so that I've even been able to speak about this experience openly. And yet, this experience did not entice me to reject the Church or its teachings. It would actually be so much less painful for me if I could just tell myself that God does not exist - yet I know He does, and I refuse to be dishonest with myself. My beef isn't with the Church or its teachings or its leadership - this is an issue that goes straight to the top, so to speak. I've spent the last five years racking my brains trying to think of what sin I have committed to lose His love. I've come up with nothing.

2. Despite receiving personal revelation that my Heavenly Father does not love me, I continued to pray. There was a specific blessing that I was specifically asking for, because I have always been taught that it is our right to pray for specific things that we need or even just really want (this comes from the Book of Alma). After praying for X for a period of probably six months, I was put in a position of believing that my prayer would be answered with a Yes, only to be followed quickly thereafter with a No delivered in the most humiliating way possible. I feel that the Lord could have simply answered my prayer No, without the false hope and the humiliation. And the takeaway message I got from that experience is that the Lord is personally offended by my prayers. That the answer wasn't just No, but No, and how dare you even trifle Me with such a thing. For all that, I haven't stopped praying, but I keep my prayers very vague and nonspecific - a lot of "strengthening and nourishing." Needless to say, this experience fits in well with my knowledge (revealed in the temple) that my Heavenly Father doesn't love me. But it doesn't really make me feel good about myself.

3. After the bad experience I had in the temple that I related above, it was another 4 1/2 years before my husband and I returned to the temple to perform an endowment session. And although I've been through the endowment many times before, I hadn't noticed how extremely biased the Lord seems to be against women. I don't want to go into specifics here - I don't know which board section would be an appropriate place to bring it up and I really don't know what we are allowed to talk about outside the temple. But the language at several points implied that my husband will be superior to me for all of eternity, and that women - even the women who have passed through all the things necessary to (symbolically) stand in the Lord's presence, He does not want to look at our faces. Somehow I had never noticed that before, and sitting in the temple, an absolutely sickening feeling slammed me in the gut. I have never, ever felt bad about being a woman before, and yet I was learning that the God who created me to be female will never stop punishing me for the sin of my femaleness. And the thought came into my mind completely unbidden, "I have to leave the Church." And I am doing everything within my power to tamp it down, to stop having these feelings, but they keep bubbling over.

I think the catalyst for this boiling point is the fact that DH and I are due for our TRIs this month. And it's really hard for me to know that I can truthfully answer all of the TRI questions, yet I am not being honest. I can honestly answer the question about being worthy to enter the temple, because it's not a worthiness problem at all. And yet, I have no desire to perform another endowment session as long as I live. I never want to feel that bad about myself again. My husband has offered to take me back to the temple so I can talk with the temple pres, but our temple is 4 hours away and we have 3 little kids who have sports and activities every day of the week but Sunday. And to be honest, I really don't trust that a (male) temple president can begin to understand what I am feeling. My husband has emphasized many times that while he feels for me, he knows he can't really understand. And I fear that a temple president will hear my concerns and think, "Here's another female member agitating to hold the priesthood," when I have ZERO desire to hold the priesthood, I just want to feel like I am equal and in any way loved by my Heavenly Father.

I think it's really not helping that I have been struggling with untreated depression for many, many years. And I really wanted to believe that Elder Holland's talk was meant for me. (I love Elder Holland. I love the leadership of the Church. I truly don't want to leave an organization that is led on the earth by a man who can wiggle his ears and accidentally-on-purpose started a brush fire when he was 8. ;) ) But he lost me with the line, "Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend." I'm sorry, Elder Holland, but I know for a fact that He doesn't. I know that an apostle can receive revelation for the entire church, but there are 15 million members and he doesn't know my circumstances personally.

SO why stay with the Church? As I said before, I don't think leaving the Church would help me in any way. I don't think the God who doesn't love me would somehow love me more if I violated all of my temple covenants. But the other reason is that I can't live without the doctrine of eternal families. My parents were converts, and my mother always said she was attracted to the Church because she loved her family so much she couldn't imagine spending eternity without us. And she left the church when I was 15. I'm sure you can imagine what a slap in the face that was to me - I never want my children to know that kind of pain. I understand that my choice is between having an eternal family in the Celestial Kingdom, but being the inferior of my husband, versus being my own man (so to speak) in a lesser kingdom but being alone forever. I truly don't know which is the better choice but I do know that right now, I want to keep my options open.

So, what do I do when my temple recommend interview comes up? Do I tell the truth, which is that I pay my tithing/keep the word of wisdom/have a testimony, or do I be honest? My husband thinks I should answer the questions that are asked and not bring up my massive, gaping concerns and I am inclined to agree. After all, the bishopric members have day jobs. :smile:

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Heber13
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Heber13 » 22 Nov 2013, 15:58

Welcome to the site. Thanks so much for sharing your feelings so clearly and sincerely.

It definitely sounds like you are trying hard to work on things, which is what I love about what Elder Uchtdorf said in his talk, that people who struggle aren't struggling because they don't try or they don't care. You definitely sound like you have tried and are trying, and that you have cared and do care. I admire your willpower.

The first thing I would suggest to you is to try to start separating out issues so you can work on them. Separate God and His love (or lack thereof) from the church. Separate revelation from temples. Separate bishops from worthiness. When we conflate it all and want it all to work perfectly as we hear it taught at church, then when one things is problematic, we can sometimes lump all our issues together and run risks of thinking all things are problematic, when really, they usually aren't. I try to recognize the good I see and feel AND also accept I have problems to wrestle with.

I find many things sometimes are paradoxical, two things may both be true when we think they are opposites. Things just aren't simple and easy.
Joni wrote:So, what do I do when my temple recommend interview comes up?
You and your husband should discuss that. The temple isn't going anywhere, so you can allow your recommend to lapse and it isn't the end of the world. Or you may realize there are no worthiness issues, so you can keep your recommend current in case you have a change of heart and want to go some day, or you may never go again. You don't need to turn your recommend interview into a workout session to address all doubts and issues. That really isn't what it is intended for, and I don't know that it works well to be used that way.

But I always suggest you be honest. Always. But not more honest than you need to be. Like I tell my daughter who wanted to talk to a bishop, I don't tell people details of when I need to use the bathroom. That's not dishonest, it is discretion. Use discretion. Once you say things...its out there, you can't take it back.

I suggest you take a deep breath, and try to go slow, and try to realize you are on a journey to grow as a person. One thing at a time.

I'm glad you are here. I hope you use this forum to be open in ways you can't in other areas of your life. We support you. I don't know you, but I love you.

I also feel the God I worship loves you. There are just issues right now on how you can feel that. I hope you find that peace.
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."

arik
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by arik » 22 Nov 2013, 18:58

Hi, Joni!

While I won't be LDS until tomorrow night, I've picked up a few things in the past few months, and have some thoughts.

There seems to be a bias against women in most religions and cultures around the world. But I do believe I've read in LDS writings that husband and wife are supposed to be equal partners. My dad used to yell a lot about how the man was supposed to be Head of the Household, because someone has to have the Final Say. And there is basis in Scripture for that. If we look at the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we see three separate entities working as a cohesive whole, with unity of purpose and belief. I think that maybe we are supposed to try to emulate that within our families. In this life, it may be very difficult to work this way, but I'm hoping in the next, with the veil lifted, it will be easier to achieve.

I also had a prayer that was answered with a resounding "NO," when I was expecting a "yes," or even a "maybe," and that has echoed and wounded me every since. I feel like I am in tatters a lot of the time, and even my anti-depressants can't lift the weight from my shoulders. But I have to have faith that the answer is what's best for me at this time. Maybe in the future the reason will become apparent to me as to why I couldn't have what I asked for.

I know what it feels like to feel unloved and unwanted. There are many times when even I don't want to be around me. But over the last few months, I have looked back over my life for the last 20 years and found that at some of my lowest points, the times that I felt the most alone and least loved, that God was there, watching me and helping me, even when I knew, KNEW, that He had turned His back on me. And all the times I thought He had abandoned me, He was actually pulling me closer and preparing me to find this church and join.

Also, I just said a prayer for you. I hope it helps.

arik

Thankful
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Thankful » 23 Nov 2013, 12:58

Dear Joni,

Welcome. My heart hurts to feel the pain in your words. I'm sorry for your experiences.

I'd like to share something from my life that may relate to your experiences. Please don't be offended by what I am about to share. If parallels exist, great. If not, feel free to disregard what I share.

Growing up I had some experiences that led me to feel God could not possibly love me. I got very confused and sad and overwhelmed. I was terrified to go to the temple. I was terrified to get priesthood blessings. I sure the person would discern my utter worthlessness, and pronounce some sort of divine curse instead of blessing. The funny thing is, I was "worthy," not out sinning left and right.

It took me many years to work through this and be able to feel God's love. What it came down to for me was trauma. I'd had some life experiences that hurt me, and they occurred at an age when I didn't have the wisdom (or life experience or cognitive ability) to make proper sense of them. So they shaped my perception of myself. Then these beliefs affected me in totally unrelated areas, without my even realizing it. I carried the sense of worthlessness with me wherever I went. I didn't know why.

It took years of therapy to get to the bottom of this. And it took medications as well.

You mention untreated depression. Is there a reason you are not treating your depression? I know for me I didn't treat my depression because I didn't recognize it as an illness, separate from myself. I thought I was just uniquely worthless and exempt from God's love and I SHOULD suffer. That didn't feel like an illness. It felt like a normal reaction to being worthless. It felt sane. Obviously I felt sad, but I figured I deserved it. Am I even making sense?

The thing about depression is that it makes it very hard to hear God's voice or feel God's love. Not because he isn't using that voice to call us, or because we are unloved. But because we are not in a position to be able to feel it. Our minds and hearts are too mixed up to discern.

It's like when people refer to the Holy Ghost as being like a radio station, and we have to be "in tune" to the station to hear it? People always use that analogy to talk about avoiding sin and distraction to be "in tune." And I had. (And you have too.)

The thing about that analogy is that sometimes the radio needs more than proper "tuning." Sometimes it's just broken! And then even if you listen carefully and are on the right station, even if the DJ is broadcasting loud and clear: you won't hear the broadcast. And everyone around you may talk about the broadcast. And you'll feel worthless for not tuning correctly to hear what they hear. Or maybe you'll think the DJ only talks to your friends. But it's not true! The radio is just too broken to hear it!

Our brains are physical entities, capable of getting broken. If our brains are out of whack, no amount of perfect behavior will necessarily fix the problem. It took both meds and therapy for me.

I know you mention getting personal revelation you are not loved. The thing is, when I was depressed my own critical mind didn't "turn off." Even in the temple. And my false beliefs about myself (from the trauma) were engrained into my identity. That followed me into the temple too. I couldn't always tell what was me, and what was God.

Anyway, I did find healing eventually.

I don't know I you are like me or not. Either way, I pray you find peace. Love, Thankful.

Thankful
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Joined: 11 Mar 2012, 20:54

Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Thankful » 23 Nov 2013, 18:03

P.S. The temple ceremony as currently presented is a problem for women. It just is.

Too many women I know (including myself) struggle with it and are hurt by the endowment. The God I worship loves men and women both. The current endowment can make it very hard for many women to feel loved and valued by God. No amount of talks about women being of "great worth" will counteract the fact that in our supposedly most holy place, women are treated as less valued.

I chalk it up to generations of having no female voice in counsel or in decision making capacity (related to the male-only priesthood). I see most of the covenants as from God, perhaps with the exception being that the "hearken" covenant is not equally applied to both sexes. I see the format as coming from fallible men.

There is no need to repent for being female. :o( Do what you feel will help you find peace, whether in the temple or out, in the church or out.

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mackay11
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Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by mackay11 » 24 Nov 2013, 03:47

Hi Joni, sorry for the pain you're experiencing.

My mother is a long-term faithful member but she has always struggled with the temple endowment. As a man I can still empathise with why it might be hard to hear.

The endowment is a "living" ordinance. It has not always been the same. I hope that, in time, there will be a more equal structure. It's a symbolic metaphor to teach principles. If the metaphor no longer works, we need to change the metaphor.

Remember that the leaders ask the TR questions, but they don't define them. We are asked "do you have a testimony of the restoration." I probably don't have the same definition of "testimony" and "restoration" as the interviewer, but that's ok by me.

Finally, I'm really sorry that you feel God does not love you. That must be really, really painful. I'm not sure I can give you any reassurance on that. I would point out that sometimes we think we have an answer to our prayers when we don't. We "see through a glass darkly" and we "know in part."

Prophets and apostles have later admitted to speaking with a "limited light" about something they thought was revealed certainty. If they can see with a limited light, is it possible you could too?

My wife has had depression on and off for years. I've had mental illness from time to time. It's debilitating. It's crushing. Please seek medical advice.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by DarkJedi » 24 Nov 2013, 07:42

Welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing. Even with some anonymity I know it's hard to share inner secrets.

I'll answer your question first and say that you answer the questions truthfully, that is giving the appropriate yes or no. The questions require no further explanation if answered appropriately. And just because you have a TR doesn't mean you have to go to the temple. It will not be to your benefit, and may turn out bad for you, if you share your doubts/questions/unbeliefs. Generally speaking, except in the relative anonymity here, it's best to keep them to yourself and perhaps understanding very close loved ones (spouse, parent, sibling).

I don't believe God loves me, either. I have not received a revelation as such (I have issues with revelation as well), but it's pretty clear to me. GAs, and others inside and outside the church, often repeat that phrase "God loves you" and it bugs me because like you I'm pretty sure he doesn't. It's possible that I have jumped to a conclusion that God doesn't really love anyone individually because of my own situation and wanting to keep my own sanity, but I do believe it's true that God does not know or love us individually. I do believe God loves us generally, in the way of "God loves us so he sent his son." I do not believe God generally hears and answers prayers and I don't believe God is in any way involved in our individual lives - and I don't think he wants to be. My prayers, if offered at all, are like yours - vague, nonspecific, and not asking for anything.

As a side note, I would encourage you to get treatment for your depression. My daughter suffers from depression and I know how it changes her. I'm not a huge believer in medication, but there's more to it than that.
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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Roy
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Roy » 24 Nov 2013, 17:19

Joni wrote:The answer I got? No.

No, my Heavenly Father did not love me.
Hi Joni, I'm sure that must be miserable. I really loved what "Thankful" said. I believe that she has some good insights. It reminded me of something else that I had heard. Recently I heard a woman say that even when she feels unloved and unwanted by God - she can trust in His Word (Bible) that He will always love and want her. I found this particularly interesting because she explicitly said that she was trusting God when her wavering feelings were sending her a different message.

It sounds like these feelings of divine rejection may not not as rare as it may seem at first.

I hope that that at least is helpful to you, knowing that you are not alone in your feelings.
"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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Haven
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Haven » 24 Nov 2013, 17:51

I'm so glad you've found this site. I want to tell you that I understand where you are and I'm still there in many ways. I did not grow up in the church but I grew up with depression, anxiety and shame. I knew deep in my heart that God didn't love me or even like me. I knew he wanted to hurt me and after I joined the church I would sometimes get images in my mind of him beating me. I joined the church because I thought it would save me and I learned that if I rejected the church God would reject me. As a member I have had many good experiences but never the deep peace and joy I should feel from God and Jesus. I served a mission and wore the happy mask for the last 20 years. The shame worsened and I stopped eating. I found myself repenting for being a woman. I still have incredible guilt and shame whenever I do something wrong, even when it's just a small thing. The reason I'm telling you this is because depression and what it does to our beliefs about ourselves affects how and what we hear from God. I hope you won’t take this wrong and I don’t want to offend or hurt. I understand why you believe that the NO answer came from God but I feel strongly that it didn't. It came from depression in my opinion. There are so many "voices" that get in the way when you have depression and although they seem right, they are not. I started taking anti-depressants quite awhile ago. It doesn't take away free agency like some LDS and Christians believe. It gives you your agency back. God heals but He most often uses medicine and people to do the healing. I also talk with a counselor who helps me to see how distorted my perception has been of myself. It's very, very hard because a lifetime of shame is hard to shake. I've known with all my heart that God is displeased with me but now that I'm working though it I'm challenging these beliefs. I'm taking a journey that I feel God wants me to take. I also am challenging many of the beliefs the church has taught me over the years. I hope that when I’m healed I can return to church and feel peace and joy and God’s love. I read the bible every day and pray every day and this does help. I'm beginning to believe that God does care about me and might even love me. Depression is actually a chemical imbalance in the brain. I encourage you to first, take care of yourself and the depression because as long as the depression continues you won’t be able to clearly feel God’s love. At least that’s been my experience. My temple recommend expired and I haven’t renewed it yet because I’m not ready. If you feel that the temple will help than definitely go back. I honestly believe it’s ok though to go slow and do what is best for you emotionally and spiritually. This was a long answer and I hope it didn’t make it worse for you. I want you to know it does get better, but sometimes it takes time.

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Heber13
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Re: Why I'm here. (Really long, sorry!)

Post by Heber13 » 25 Nov 2013, 08:21

Haven wrote: I honestly believe it’s ok though to go slow and do what is best for you emotionally and spiritually.
Very good post, Haven. And very compassionate from someone who has experienced some things. And i agree with you that some medications are very helpful for a person to feel some inner peace.
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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