Monday, August 14, 2006

public speaking, and a rant about church

i don't know about any of you, but i find myself in minor faith crises often. i have come to know myself better and better through the years, and i am pretty convinced of my visual preference in learning, thinking, etc. this has manifest itself in my choice of major (dance, art) and interests (also dance and art, but also movies (good ones)) even though some aren't typically thought of as visual (reading, writing in this here blog). so, that's where i'm coming from.

the way i have my faith crises is when i think that i haven't SEEN God, or Christ, or the gospel, or heaven, or death, or the Tree of Life, etc. so how can i believe them? my personal answer lies in defining "to know". in English, we say that we "know" the color or something or just general facts, things we can see and are tangible. but we also say that we "know" people. we know who they are, how we feel about them. i know that i love R and M, and i've never seen Love. so why can't i know God without needing to see Him to prove it to myself? okay, so i could go on and on about faith and all it's intricacies, but that type of thing is more suited for talking and arguing and such. now i want to get to the "i have a bone to pick" portion of my thoughts:

to address "Faith Crisis" i think most Mormons might say that they have a testimony, they feel the Spirit, they pray and read their scriptures and so on. well, so do i. but i have moments of doubting. true, doing those things builds faith. am i abnormal because i'm doing them and then still wonder? do other people just not have these problems? or do other people just not admit it? i'm going to say, quite emphatically since i think i'm right, that most people do have these questions arise, but either (1) ignore them or (2) notice them and think about them and THEN ignore them.

i have to admit that i was a little irritated yesterday when i had to talk in church for this very reason. i wanted to talk about my doubts and how i found some answers. but how often do we hear people raise their hands in Sunday school and talk about fears and doubts, honestly and straightforwardly? i admit that it has happened, and i have seen it. but they are few and far between in my experience. most people i know, even my own age, are still in the habit of saying that everything's fine: Other People are the ones with faith crises, and if you're doubting then you aren't as good a member of the Church as Me.

i find it frustrating that we, as Mormons belonging to the same church and reading the same scriptures and listening to the same prophets, can't be honest with one another. we mostly end up pretending we're fine, that we don't need help, that we don't have problems (and if we do, we don't need help and/or we think they aren't a big deal). is anyone else bothered by this? sometimes i really think that i don't belong in this church. and when i say "don't belong" i'm referring to the irritating "Mormon culture" aspect of it all, the part that has nothing to do with whether or not i believe the Church is true (which i do), and more to do with being/acting happy all the time, dressing preppy, and generally being more concerned with appearances and strange competitions about who's suffered the most while also maintaining a stiff upper lip, having food storage, sewing all 10 children's clothing, and things like that. if this sounds extreme, i'm speaking from actual sightings of said strange competitions.

now, this mostly refers to my experiences in Relief Society and with women of the church in general. (when i talk to ryan, he says the men's dynamic is different. and i'm not a man, so i'm not going to speculate) i know they (the women of the church) mean well, don't get me wrong. but even so, i find myself getting labeled for things that have nothing to do with the church (example: i don't smile for no reason) and then treated as though i'm less active or one of the Doubting Ones because i'm not as smiley as the other women in the ward. are you kidding me?

can i please be different, and yet still faithful? do they exclude each other? can i value my children and God and reading scriptures just as much as the next Molly Mormon, but still like to dye my hair bright red? and most of all, can i find someone else who feels somewhat like this?

okay, here's the thing that's really getting to me, and then i'll stop typing incoherently. last year my parents split up, certain truths came to light after years of hiding, the family is divided and hurting and some aren't speaking to each other, and some might never heal. it's a BIG mess.

without giving many details, i told my visiting teachers what was going on and said there wasn't much to do really, but that was what i was going through. i remember, distinctly, being treated differently after that. partly, it's expected. but to be treated as if i'm now one of Those, one of Those Members with a Sketchy Family! to be treated as though i'm now contaminating to talk to, as if my honesty is really just pessimism. that telling about an awful thing that's real is just a downer for someone to have to listen to, who would rather think about sunshine and flowers. i have nothing against sunshine and flowers! i like them, i like to feel good. but what if i'm not? should i pretend otherwise? isn't there opposition in all things? i'm not frightened of those with problems, i WANT to talk to to them, see how they're figuring things out.

but i think some of us are too afraid. we want to have perfect families that never fight, where every child never does drugs, drinks, says the F-word, sleeps around, or better yet, never even WANTS to. (that's the kicker huh? we can't admit that it even sounds fun. i admit it! i think being drunk WOULD be fun. but i'm not going to. see? two separate things.) but most of us don't have families like that, and Heavenly Father still loves us and understands us. and last i checked, i'm not responsible for anyone else beside myself (and my children). so why am i treated as if i did something wrong, when i didn't? and didn't Heavenly Father make us different on purpose? i'm pretty happy with myself, even though i'm still learning and growing. i just want to have someone honest and unafraid to talk to about it. (besides r, of course!)


Melissa said...

Um, I just typed the most amazing and well-thought-out response ever and then IT GOT ERASED. (Okay, so it wasn't well thought out at all and so it's probably a good thing that you don't have to read my random ramblings.)

First, I'm sorry your VTs were so incredibly lame. On the one hand, I have to cut people some slack because I myself am socially retarded so when others fall flat on their faces, I have to be gentle. Maybe they just didn't know what to say or do. But on the other hand, I have absolutely no patience for people who would respond in such an inappropriate way. So your family isn't ideal. Can they really look at their own and say it is? Really? If the answer is yes, I don't think they're looking hard enough.

Another problem with treating you poorly because you mentioned something negative is that, um, this is why we have visiting teaching--to take care of each other individually. Church on Sundays seems like it's to build us up as a body--bear testimony, explain (boring) things, talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, etc. It's a lot easier to do all those positive things in such a public forum.

The negative things, though, are much harder. Well, for me they are. Supposing I have two issues that are equally intimate but one is positive and one is negative, I'm much more likely to share the positive one publicly. This may be because I'm hideously vain.

However. The issues that I have with my faith usually result in rather intense anger wherein I feel like the biggest hypocrite (and liar) alive as I prepare lessons about the divinity and nobility of motherhood (for example) for the YW. It gets worse as I think about all the leaders and adult church members I knew as a teenager (and know now) who, in all appearances, have lied to me.

I really think that we NEED to discuss our issues and problems because pretending like they're not there or that they somehow decrease a person's worth is very, very isolating (not to mention, well, wrong). And I don't know about you, but feeling isolated just makes me want to run away to Taiwan or something, not build the kingdom of God.

Anyway. Novella is now over. I hope it was at least somewhat relevant.

p.s. WHY aren't you coming to UT with Ryan? Why???

kendahl said...

i think all of that was pretty relevant! and i definitely agree with our need to discuss the hard things, be honest about them, etc. especially to keep ourselves from feeling isolated.

usually, after i feel/say one of these rants, i then recommit myself to bravery. i think the only thing i can do are things that I CAN DO. you know? like being honest, even if other people aren't. like being brave in the face of possible alienation in church social circles. and my experience has been that what i fear usually doesn't happen as badly as i imagine. i think that when i talk about my family for example, i get weird responses like from my VT's, but there is sometimes a silver lining. sometimes you just feel better for doing the honest thing. sometimes someone else can then also admit a fear or a problem, because the subject has been breached.

i try to do this as much as i can, so i can feel like i'm being true to what i feel strongly about. looking at it from a better perspective (standing for the truth) instead of it's hopelessness (i guess i just have to keep feeling this way; there's nothing i can do) seems to help me to feel better.

and i DO feel better. i'm glad that i wrote the post in the first place. i was nervous to actually publish it!

p.s. i can't tell you how i wish i was in UT visiting you and Paul in a week or so, and NOT on a 4hr+ plane ride during naptime to Ann Arbor. and the time change. and the moving of "stuff". blech.

Ryan said...

I'm with you sweetie, fight the power!