I had an amazing conversation with one of the women in my ward this evening, KR. I wish you could all meet her because there is something so special and real about her. We were talking about our experiences with the Book of Mormon, our families, our decisions to join the church, and I went into my whole “story.” I’m tempted to skip to the end of the story and tell you about the night that I got on my knees for the first time in 8 years and prayed and gained a testimony that our Heavenly Father is real, that He is aware of us, and loves us beyond anything we could possibly imagine. I want to tell you about that night, about how every question and every doubt was erased and replaced with such an overwhelming confirmation of His love for me.
But I’ll wait 🙂
Last I left off, I agreed to go to the missionaries’ ASL class, conveniently located at the church building. I asked them if I was going to be struck by lightning if I walked through the door, or if things would crumble if I touched them. They just looked at me with face that said “stop being a freaking weirdo.” This was over a year ago, so the details are a little fuzzy, but I remember very clearly sitting in the parking lot doing some mental gymnastics about just going INTO the building. I had to remind myself that going INTO the building did not make me a Mormon and just going INTO the building did not make me a traitor to my family. So I went into the building. As it would turn out, things didn’t crumble to dust and I was not struck by lightning! AWESOME.
I wish I could tell you anything about the ASL class. I can tell you that I was not there for the ASL as much I was there for the one who was teaching it. Winka winka. At least I was being honest with myself, okay?
As far as the class was concerned, I can only distinctly remember being very uncomfortable during the opening and closing prayer. I refused to close my eyes, I refused to hold or fold my hands, and I enthusiastically refused to say “Amen.” I wasn’t going to have any of it and even going through the motions might make people think that I am soft or even a little bit willing to have a conversation about religion. So I pretty much sat there and had a silent temper tantrum. Classy.
After the class, the elders and I stuck around for a quick conversation. Elder Z asked if I would even consider reading the Book of Mormon at which point the conversation came to a quick end. He pulled out a copy of that blue book I’d come to loathe (having never read it) and he wrote my name in the front cover. When he handed it to me, or tried to hand it to me, I just looked at him and told him I had no intention of reading it, so why waste one on me? He put in my hand and I nearly threw it at his head.
Elder C laughed and I’m sure was a little bit shocked at the fact that I was holding a copy of the Book of Mormon and probably more surprised that it didn’t go up in flames. At least I was. He told me that every question he’s ever had, any problem or concern or struggle he’s had, he found answers in this book. He told me very strongly that this book saved his life. I looked at him, and to this person who I would come to care about so very very much, I said with one awful attitude, “What problems could you possibly have had?” And I walked away.
I freely admit that I thought I had all the answers. I thought that this pretty Mo-boy from California couldn’t possibly know what it meant to struggle or to have hardship or pain. I thought that I knew that this world was unjust and sustained by religion. I thought that the answers could only be found in social activism and that social activism was exactly opposite of religion. I thought that people who found answers in and were satisfied by religious texts were lazy, privileged, and entitled. I thought that religion was a mask over the eyes of people who failed to see injustices and inequality or something behind which people could hide from the realities of the world.
I was glad for their friendship, but I told the missionaries that night, “You don’t have any problems and you know nothing about the things I’m struggling with. I can’t just leave it up to God or find the answers to these problems in this stupid book. It’s not enough for me.”
I was horrible to them. I know this. I was intentionally horrible to them. I somehow believed that if I could just make them understand the way religion had hurt me, even if I had to make them feel that way, they would let it go and be … not Mormon. Like I said, I thought I had all the answers I needed or wanted.
That night, I went home with the Book of Mormon in hand and just tossed it on my coffee table. I resolved that I was never going to read it so there was no use in keeping it. But I also knew that this was someone’s holy text and I’m at least not that evil to throw it away. So on the bookcase it went…
And there is the story of my first copy of the Book of Mormon.
With so much love,
The Lady Mo