This post has been in the works for a while, and I just can't quite get it the way I want it. That's unusual for me, since I normally wax poetic (and/or long-winded) pretty easily. So, I'm not sure how much sense this is all going to make, but I have got to get this off my chest. (And yes, it is long-winded.)
A few weeks ago, I was reading a post on Stephanie Nielson's blog. I love reading Nie's blog, but there was something in this particular post that bothered me. It's a minor thing, really, but it feeds into a lot of things I've been thinking about the past month or two.
"She has never questioned her religion...ever."
One phrase. One innocuous phrase. But it bugged me. And then it bugged me because I couldn't figure out why on earth I was SO BOTHERED by that one little sentence.
Then I realized...it bugged me because I HAVE. And it bugged me because, thanks to my own struggles, I felt like that little statement made her better than me. Like, she (and any other LDS person) must be so much better/more incredible/more faithful than me if they haven't questioned their religion.
I feel like our religion ENCOURAGES us to question. To study things out. To read the scriptures. To ponder. To pray. And to do this constantly, especially in a world that is constantly shifting. And yet we're taught to always "follow the prophet".
While I am a faithful member now, and have been for several years, I wasn't always. I DID question, although the path I chose was based more on my anger and stubbornness than on any real problem with the church itself.
A lot of bad things have happened to my family, and to me. I'm not throwing a pity party, I'm simply stating a fact. My abuse. My younger sister's abuse. Years of surgery. For me, years of bullying and torment at the hands of my peers. My dad passing away from pancreatic cancer. Really, horrible things. And at the moment when I started feeling like our lives were finally coming back together, Heather was in the accident. For no reason (that I could see at the moment), her life was changed dramatically and irrevocably.
And like the selfish, prideful person that I was, I got angry. I got angry. I'd been taught for years that God gives us trials because that's how we learn, blah blah blah. That He has a plan for us. That He LOVES us. And I was just enraged. I lost it. I ranted at Him. I had several (one-sided) screaming matches with Him, off in the woods by myself. How could He DO this to my family? AGAIN? How could He take all of that away from my sister? From my mom? And yes, from me, too. How could He claim to love us when He kept letting such horrific things happen to us? We were faithful members of the church! We did everything that was asked of us! And THIS was how He repaid us?
Finally, I'd had it. He wasn't responding to me, so I was done. And I told Him so. I told Him that, until and unless He changed His behavior toward me and my family, that I was finished with Him. That unless He actually started acting like He loved us, that I was just done. That I refused to worship a God that would treat the people I love so poorly. (I'm really not sure how I wasn't struck down. I was pretty..um...blasphemous? Mean? Yeah.)
And so while I had to continue going to church while I lived at home, I was just going through the motions. I went to church. I prayed when I had to, but I didn't mean it. I stopped reading the scriptures. I stopped praying by myself. I had a running inner monologue that just wouldn't stop being angry. Once I was at college, there wasn't anyone to keep me from doing anything I wanted. I stopped pretending, and told myself I was so much happier without all those stupid rules and restrictions on what I could wear, drink, etc. And for a while I had myself fooled.
Thanks to several members of my family, I eventually came back. I realized the only person I was fooling was myself. I wasn't happy. In fact, I was more miserable than I could ever remember being. I broke things off with my then-fiance and moved home, determined to get my life back on track. And I did! And I am so much happier now.
Even now, though, things happen that force me to take a closer look. That make me examine my relationship with the church, and my personal relationship with my Savior. With all the attention that gay marriage is getting right now, I've been doing a lot of thinking and praying. The church doesn't support gay marriage. I have a problem with that. And I have a problem with my having a problem with it. There's a lot of cognitive dissonance going on in my head lately.
I've come to realize that I have to stick with what feels right to me. I love the church. I love the gospel. (No, this is not an announcement that I'm leaving the church. Far from it.) I have such a strong testimony of it. And I also know that my Heavenly Father (who DOES love me) will help guide me. That I have to rely on Him when it comes to these hard-to-figure-out issues. That I'm not a bad Mormon for questioning my religion once in a while. And that, yes, it is okay for me to be Mormon and to support gay rights. All of them.