Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nothing Wavering

The March issue of the Ensign contains Pres. Monson's message, "Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith." As Pres. Monson typically tends to be, it is anecdotal in its stories and message. In the midsection of the article, 'Accepting His Invitation,' Pres. Monson refers to James 1:5-6 and Joseph Smith's prayer and First Vision. He then points to many other scriptural examples of people qualifying for blessings as a result of the fervant prayer of faith. His repeated use of the phrase 'nothing wavering' has caused me to reflect on the role of my faith, or lack of it, in my own personal experience. Sadly, I confess that much of me questions, bobbs up and down, and struggles to get it right, nothing wavering.

When I was a fresh convert to the Mormon faith, 15 months to be exact, I entered the mission field to serve the Lord. That was the scariest leap of faith I have ever taken. I left the weeping embrace of my divorced mother, who didn't want me to go. But I felt this was what the Lord wanted me to do, and in retrospect, I'm thankful to have served and loved the people of California as a missionary. It was a marvelous time of spiritual awakening and maturing for me. But, unlike the glowing example capstoning Pres. Monson's article, my most fervant prayer of faith was never realized. Like Pres. Monson, my Mission President promised me that if I worked hard, prayed hard and was worthy, then my family too would come into the church. Oh, if this were possible! To see my parents reunite our family in faith and for us all to be sealed in the Temple! This was the stuff of my naive dreams, my fondest heartfelt hope, my most earnest and oft repeated prayer. So, what went wrong? Did that one time I masturbated on my mission spoil it all?

What does Faith mean to me? How is faith the same or different from hope? Having just read the First Presidency Message, these were the questions I pondered last Sunday during the quiet time of the sacrament. To me, I need other words to help me convey the concept of faith: words such as 'trust' or 'confidence' relate to me the feelings I have for Heavenly Father and the Savior and their love for me. Joseph taught that faith is the product of experience--I believe that, and it jives with my observations in life. I can completely have faith or trust in God, because of the repeated feelings of the heart and ideas of the mind they have revealed unto me. I do not doubt them. I believe in the inspiration of the eternal nature of the soul, that we lived before earth, and will continue to progress in the lives to come.

Trust is something that must be constant; you cannot partially trust someone. I trust Jesus, nothing wavering. I trust in the power of goodness, faith and love, nothing wavering.

I struggle to say this, but I no longer trust in the church, that it has or will make inspired policies that directly impact my life or others. I trust the scriptures and the doctrine, but I don't always trust the interpretation thereof. . . I don't always trust the culture and the leaders who support it. When someone breaks a trust, then faith is a hard thing to restore, because faith is a product of our experience. I believed the church when they said that I could 'overcome' my SSA, and that it would go away when I got married; my personal experience has proved otherwise. And I have come to realize my spiritual experiences in living and loving Gospel virtues doesn't always align with the historical and current actions of church leaders. The poor treatment of intellectuals and feminists and the recent events of the church's attack on gay marital rights is front and center for me in my skepticism of the claim that "it's ALL inspired of God."

On the otherhand, Hope is something I'm more flexible with. Hope is in the best wishes department for me. I hope for joy and peace in this life, and then for a glorious resurrection--I'm not sure what such will entail, because that has yet to be determined by my kind Redeemer. But I trust him, believe him, that it will be the right reward for me, whatever it is. Hope doesn't have to measure up to my expectations or timetable. I can be disappointed and still have hope that things will work out in the end. Hope is a great motivator for me, it plays to my desires, my willingness to sacrifice for something better. And I hope in a more positive future for the church, that it will learn from its mistakes, grow to be more inclusive and diverse, and overcome the prejudices and stigma of my generation. So I am willing to stick with the church and do my part to establish Zion, the pure in heart, in preparation of the Lord's Second Coming. I do have faith that He is coming, and I hope He won't be too upset with me and the rest of us sinners in His church.

This last week my LDS faithful aunt passed away. She has lived a long life of devotion to the church and her family. She had great influence on me joining the church and going on a mission. I have loved her dearly my entire life. As I matured as an adult, I became more aware of my aunt's imperfections, but I adored her just the same. I have witnessed her trials of faith, much of which were due to her sometimes rigid views of what was best. And I also saw how those trials humbled and schooled her sensitivities and blind spots, just like my own weaknesses do for me. My aunt was a grand lady who loved the Lord; she showed me by her example how to employ faith, hope and testimony. She exemplified that 'Nothing Wavering' kind of faith, for good and ill, that we cling to in our religous and spiritual lives.

My family has asked me to read some of my poems at the graveside service. I"ll read Face Towards Zion, Prairie Wind, and Outstretched Hand, because these were all poems my aunt loved. And just for the occassion, I wrote this poem for you, my dear Aunt Beth: may you rest now, in peace.


Nothing Wavering

She looks into the mirrors of her eternity, nothing wavering,
Firm in her vast hope of bright reflections that do not end.
Yet, the image of her desire curves away into deep green
Cosmos, where Life is bent into refractions that do not go

Straight, do not always conform to her will. Yet, she follows
Those bending beams of light, nothing wavering, through a
Veil of confidence that leads her onward path, and warps her
Chosen reality into the vision she dreams of when we are near.

She laughs in the day and weeps in the night. Unaware,
We ran to her arms to be enfolded in her soft bosom, endless
As the night in its comfort, then hung on for just one more hug.
Her squeeze was always there, tight and nothing wavering.

Yet, laced in loss, she hangs on fiercely as we mature into our
Own gospel dreams, the practice of our lives, where the agency
She treasures for us turns us at times away from her dreams,
And once again she is alone with her babies, nursing tears.

She sings to us the songs of Zion, her beloved. So let us dance,
Let us paint, let us teach stories of faith and persistence, for we
Are the family of her choosing. We're the ones she fried tacos for,
We are the few she took out her teeth for on our birthdays!

She still winks and chuckles at her jokes. But wait, there's just
One more story she must tell you before you leave: it's always
Roughly the same--it is her story of Joseph, her story of Jesus,
The story of her life and her love for you, nothing wavering.

9 comments:

Abelard Enigma said...

I struggle to say this, but I no longer trust in the church, that it has or will make inspired policies that directly impact my life or others. I trust the scriptures and the doctrine, but I don't always trust the interpretation thereof.

This is exactly how I've been feeling lately - although, I hadn't thought of it in terms of lost trust. I think you hit the nail on the head.

Alan said...

With the exception of the bits about converting to the Church, praying for the rest of the family to do so, and your aunt who passed away, I could have written every single word of this. My faith in God the Father, the Savior, the Atonement, and the gospel are stronger than ever since I came out. My trust in the Church as an institution has been permanently eroded as I've learned of its behavior in precisely the areas you mentioned, and particularly with Prop 8. I said exactly that to my sister when I came out to her last weekend. And you know what? She not only understood, but agreed I was justified. So I can't help wondering how many other straight members even might feel that way too.

Great post.

Abelard Enigma said...

I can't help wondering how many other straight members even might feel that way too.

I think more than we may realize. I've heard that a significant number of people have left the church because of its involvement with prop 8. That suggests that there is probably an even larger number of people who are sympathetic towards gay marriage but continue to stay involved in church, at least for now.

I think it will be very interesting to see what the overall tone will be at the upcoming general conference. I expect to see a focus on compassion, faith, supporting leaders - with no direct reference to prop 8 or homosexuality.

Scott said...

I think more than we may realize. I've heard that a significant number of people have left the church because of its involvement with prop 8. That suggests that there is probably an even larger number of people who are sympathetic towards gay marriage but continue to stay involved in church, at least for now.

From a mailing list I subscribe to:

I used to think the church was comprised of mostly good people, but to be blunt, I no longer feel that is the case. The majority of the "good" ones themselves are uncomfortable about the church position, and yet they wander around spiritually castrated and incapable of standing up for anything they feel is "right" as opposed to what is "approved."

It's sad how accurate this assessment seems to be.

Beck said...

You've hit on a common chord. I, too, see this as lost trust, but not lost faith or lost hope. There is a trust that has been broken and the healing process of this relationship is still on-going and whether it will be able to be healed and restored remains to be seen.

Abelard Enigma said...

whether it will be able to be healed and restored remains to be seen.

The healing process can't begin until all parties agree that healing is necessary.

Unfortunately, Mormon's have a knack for absolving the church of any wrongdoing - no matter what the topic is. They will simply proclaim that those of us who feel we've lost trust are "choosing to be offended" - and, if we're really lucky, they'll give us a copy of Elder Bednar's talk "And Nothing Shall Offend Them" to read. A classic case of blaming the victim.

GeckoMan said...

Thanks, brothers, for your comments. I've just returned home from the funeral, and it has been a consuming weekend.

Abe, I too look forward with mixed feelings towards General Conference. I can hope for an offering of reconciliation and clear Christ-centered leadership from the Brethren, but it's also clear there is little 'common ground.' Perhaps the message has been clear from exiting and offended members, as well as the PR agencies, that the church's political influence for Prop 8 has touched a red-flag nerve of sympathy for the familial rights of gay persons. However, I don't expect any backtracking, and I'm sure the media will be looking for a continuing story. 'Healing' seems a long way away, even if we do 'come unto Him in prayer and faith.'

Alan, erosion is a fact of life in nature. At least it cuts through the crap and reveals that which is most solid and unyielding. I hope our faith in Christ and trust in the Spirit acts as our unrelenting core and moves us forward in our service in the Lord's kingdom.

Scott, I believe the church is full of good and caring people, whether or not we agree with them or they agree with us. Misunderstanding and contention are tools of the adversary. I hope we can promote openness and humility, letting the Lord do the convincing of who/what is right.

Beck, even though I have lost trust in the church, also know that I am quick to forgive where merited. I hope that the Brethren would emphasize the importance of living Godly virtues, even in gay relationships, and that pride and promiscuity are the true enemy to the Lord's Kingdom on earth. Families, even if they are gay, are the best solution to the world's ills.

Crisco said...

Great post. I'm not so disillusioned with the Church over Prop 8 (I'm not surprised by the Church's position) but with the overall focus on policy at Church. The Church has grown so much, become so standardized, and so business-like that I wonder if Joseph would recognize it.
I wish for more individuality of expression in Church worship. I wish for more focus on the basics--faith and doing good works.
I don't think we are at the point of where the church as at during the time of Jesus where the Law of Moses had been so distorted by additional rules and procedures by the religious leading men who wanted to be in power. I do believe that the Bretheren are good men, striving to do what's right in the sight of God. But somedays, the Church feels more like a business entity than a religious group.
I still have faith. I still sustain the Bretheren. I still attend Church. It just doesn't engage my soul as it used to.

GeckoMan said...

Crisco, thanks for commenting.

I can certainly relate to and agree with all your sentiments. I've often thought on your words... "I wonder if Joseph would recognize it."

Regardless of the answer to that query, I too can check off every detail of your parting paragraph. Like you, I wish I could reclaim the zeal I felt in earlier years about modern day revelation directing this church. We seem to be going in slow motion, and not always hitting the mark.