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.
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.