I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) since April 3, 1981. I decided to join the church in part because my mother, sister, and brother had joined the previous summer. My other reason for joining was because as I sat there one night reading through a family home evening manual, I was really impressed with the families depicted therein. My family was nothing like that, and I figured anything that taught people how to create strong healthy families had to be good. I can’t say I had a testimony then, because I didn’t. Which means, as I’m sure you can guess, that I went inactive almost immediately.
It wasn’t long, though, before I was back, and trying to figure things out. It took a while, but by the time I was 19 or so, I was there, babe! I was the most active Mormony Mormon you could imagine. Of course, I was very peculiar, and didn’t have a lot of friends, but that didn’t matter too much, at least not most of the time. Yeah, it bugged that I never got a date. Sitting in sacrament meeting in the singles ward every week, one tends to hear a lot about how one should be dating and getting married and producing lots of baby Mormons. And I still struggled with the issues that had pressed on me all my life, since well before I knew anything about the church.
Still, I persevered, and ended up in Utah in my early 20s. There I worked hard as a secretary at the University of Utah, attended a singles ward, made some friends, and met my husband. And life was good. We lived in Utah for 2 more years after we were married before we moved to Texas. Life in Texas had its good sides–we lived in a great ward, had some awesome friends, got decent jobs. I even went back to college and finished my bachelor’s degree.
The babies never came, though. Month after month after month after month left me depressed and morose, and the IVF I had such faith in ended up with two dead embryos a week after the embryo transfer. Meanwhile, my friends had started and, in many cases, finished having their families while we were still struggling to get ours going. A year after that, I had to have a hysterectomy. My endometriosis was so severe that I could hardly function. I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and spent most of every day in so much pain that I sacked out on the couch when I got home from class. And if you’re wondering why we didn’t adopt, well, I’ll just say that’s not what was right for our family, and leave it at that.
But we continued working on having faith through everything. It was rough, but we hadn’t given up. My youngest sister, fairly newly divorced, came to live with us for a while. She was pregnant, and went through several stages of decisions (I’ll let y’all adopt the baby; I’m going to keep the baby; I don’t know what I’m going to do) before she ended up moving back to Utah. On Father’s Day we learned to our shock that she had given birth several days before and placed the child for adoption with a family within our ward.
I think that was the most severe blow. She shut us out of her life, never bothered to let us know that she’d had the baby, and didn’t give us any warning that the child was adopted by a family in our ward. Our home teacher’s family, to be precise. Now I’m not disputing my sister’s rights and responsibilities to do whatever she felt was best for her child. And I’m not saying anything negative about the baby’s adoptive parents. They’re good people. What hurt so incredibly badly was just that no one told us what was going on. And that child looks so much like my sister’s daughter that you have to trust me when I tell you I definitely would have figured it out.
So mine and my husband’s relationship with the church has been, at best, strained since then. Not that we didn’t believe, because we did. But we’d been pretty badly hurt. We thought of going elsewhere, but couldn’t just pack up and sell our house and move solely so we could attend another ward. So we just didn’t go.
I made my peace with my sister’s child’s family; I gave them a baby blanket my mother crocheted for me when I first got married. I told them that I wasn’t going to have any children, and that I thought it would comfort my mother to know that their son was wrapped in that blanket.
From time to time, I would decide that I wanted to get active again, so I’d go for a few weeks, a few months. But it never really took.
When you’re starving spiritually, two things happen. First, you get very weak. Your soul is crying out to be fed. But as you continue to starve yourself, you get so famished that you can mistake rubbish for food. And then, gradually, the testimony you had built up little by little and that you swore you would never lose is all but gone.
Someone once asked, “If you raise my bath water by one degree every ten minutes, how will I know when to scream?” I found out. You scream when you realize you’re sitting in boiling water. I started screaming a week and a half ago.
Fortunately, I still had enough wisdom to finally turn to the Lord in prayer and ask for counsel. “Turn to the scriptures, and talk to your husband.” I did. We talked for several hours that evening and he said just the right things, shared just the right scriptures. I started feeling a little better. Over the next few days, instead of glutting on garbage, I started slowly feeding my spirit what it needed. And I started to get a little stronger.
On Monday I asked for an appointment with the bishop. I met with this good man last night. And as I poured my heart out to him, he was kind and loving and compassionate. He was also firm and clear. The reason all those things happened to take away my testimony is because I wasn’t where I knew I needed to be and wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to be doing. I turned to the world for answers. I turned to mysticism for answers. I turned to my friends for answers. And answers I found, but truth I found not. I walked out onto the very edge of the precipice, and it is only by the grace of God that I did not fall off.
I asked the Bishop to put me to work–I haven’t had a calling in years, and I need to feel like I can make a contribution. And I promised to go to all my meetings. Haven’t done that regularly in years either. I’m leaving behind the things that were harming me. I’m reading from the Book of Mormon every day, and praying. And I will regain my testimony, and I will lay my burdens at the Savior’s feet. I am not giving up, but have every desire and intention of winning this war against the forces of evil.
I know that I’ve been vague and non-specific about the things that have happened in the past year that have led me to where I am now. I am vague about them for a reason. I don’t want to hurt any of my friends, people who genuinely love me and want what’s best for me, whatever that may be. I don’t want to try to shove off any of the responsibility for my actions onto anyone else. I did what I did. I feel like I did enough damage to others by my well-intentioned good acts over the past year, and I don’t want to harm anyone else by going into details here and now.
So what’s the purpose of this blog? It’s my journal. I’m walking back out into the light, and I want to remember it this time. And maybe someone else will want to read this because they’re trying to get back into the light as well.