Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Year of Absence: Part 3 - Mormon?

*This post is part of a series entitled "A Year of Absence." Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.*

I found hope, and I began to unearth faith. This faith was not and is not certain, but rather is a faith based on hopes and questions. I believe that I will never arrive, but can find “joy in the journey.” I ned not fret about tomorrow, because Love will take care of me. “Give us this day our daily bread,” one day at a time, God. We will trust in You.

Today, I believe that the divine is found in community. I believe that the stories of the Bible teach us about God’s creating power, from the creation story in Genesis to the creation of a people in Israel, the creation of a way out of slavery in Egypt, the creation of a new heart in David and Saul and each of us. God is always creating. I also believe in a God of resurrection - a god who brings life from death, salvation from sin, relationship from separation, and light from dark. This god is resourceful, a god who uses pain and hurt to create something glorious. I believe that “religion must speak in metaphors. Because the Beyond is beyond, there is no language in our world that is capable of fully comprehending it. Here we are either left speechless or we speak in tongues or we use symbols” (Christiano et al, Sociology of Religion, 12-13). I believe in “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” - I believe that heaven is not “far away, in the sky” but here and now among us, if we can only open our eyes to the wonders of love hidden in this existence. I believe “there will be a day with no more tears, no more hurts, no more fears” - and that day will come because of the active efforts of the people of God on the side of justice. Emmanuel, God with us, will work in us to bring about the Millennium, a time when all people live with hope and love in their hearts. “This world is what we decide this world is” (Glennon Doyle Melton).

“Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.” 
Hoff, Tao of Pooh, 137

In February, I read Al Carraway’s More Than the Tattooed Mormon and Joanna Brooks’ Book of Mormon Girl. I do not believe everything the same as these women believe. But as I read their stories of Mormon missionaries and Mormon baptisms and Mormon temples, of Mormon mothers and Mormon genealogy and Mormon pioneers - something feels like home. I realize I need to go home. I realize something is missing.

I am not like Al Carraway, a convert who has a vibrant, full, radiant faith in the Church and its doctrines about Jesus Christ and the rest. I am not like Joanna Brooks, who remains tied to the LDS Church because it is her family, her history, her home. I am a convert with unorthodox theology, who nonetheless came to life because of this church. I admire the stories told in this church for the lessons they teach. I admire the examples of faith and courage found in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and saints of the latter days. I admire the emphasis on family and on the gracious support of sisterhood. I love the songs of faith and perseverance and hope. The saints, the people who birthed and delivered and raised this church up from nothing, these people are the people I want to be like. These people and their stories are the stories I identify with. Stories of a people who were outcasts, who were persecuted, who traveled to a “strange land,” and who relied on each other to make it from one day to the next. Press forward, Saints. Put your shoulder to the wheel. We have work to do. And they did it. I want to do my work of love just as the saints worked for love in building temples and establishing Zion. Just as the saints still continue to work for love and build Zion. The day dawn is breaking.

I return to this blog, "Mormon Sprinkles" because I want or need a place to write and work out these thoughts. I feel I want to be a part of the LDS community. I also feel that I am very unlike most Mormons. My theology is not exactly in line with the official teachings of the Church.

But I come back, because this Church feels like home, and always has. I feel a connection to this place, these books, these people, these songs, this history. I love the story of Joseph Smith. I love stories of the pioneers. I love to hear stories about the early days of the Relief Society. I love the belief that God has reached out to humanity over the centuries by opening new dispensations and teaching God's people again and again about God's message when we forget. I love the belief that God has never given up on us. I love the belief that God still speaks. I believe that we can and will hear God speak. I love the responsibility that everyone in this Church takes for the well-being of the institution and its members - callings are a serious business, and Church members take their responsibilities seriously, and because of that, this Church is strong.

I come back, because becoming part of this family and of this people was one of the bravest and most influential things I have ever done in my life. I was reborn a new person because of this church and its people. I learned to love and I learned to stand up for myself and what I believed was right. I met people who changed my life and taught me and are still teaching me how to be a fuller, more authentic human being. This church changed me in such a profound way that it will always be a vital part of my story.

This church is my coming-of-age story. This church is my Exodus and my Promised land. This church is my journey to Zion. This church is my home.

I don't know how to reconcile the immense place this church has in my heart with all the doctrines that I don't quite believe. I want to feel the joy and wholeness that I felt when I was a part of this, journeying with the saints toward Zion.

"There by the waters we sat and wept as we remembered Zion." Psalm 137:1.

In short, I don't know for sure what I believe or where I belong.

But Joseph Smith taught me that these kinds of big questions are okay - and that God will answer.