Recap: It’s November of 2010 and I am faithfully (ha, get it?) going to Plymouth UCC and meeting almost 4 times a week with the Sister Missionaries. Caught up? Okay, moving on.
Last year, I told a lot of people that I didn’t believe in God. That was a big lie. Maintaining this lie also prevented me from opening up new conversations about doctrine. It was hard to ask questions about the things I was reading if I kept telling people that I didn’t believe in God. If I didn’t believe we had a loving Heavenly Father, then what did it matter trying to understand the logistics of the Plan of Salvation? What use was there in trying to learn about the priesthood, if I didn’t believe that God restored that authority? Looking back, I know that He gave me every opportunity to learn and figure things out, but I kept building up that brick wall I mentioned way back when.
Like the three little pigs, I thought that no one would huff or puff or blow my brick wall down. Or go to the market, either, I suppose.
I tried to make myself as unteachable as possible. I think it became a little joke between the sisters and I when they would try to teach me something. I read the Book of Mormon (some parts multiple times), all of “Preach My Gospel” four times, “Gospel Principles” straight through the night they gave it to me, five years worth of conference talks, and every institute manual available on LDS.org. Seriously, they couldn’t touch me. I could give them text book answers to any question they had and scripture reference for any lesson they tried to teach me. I just couldn’t bring myself to say that I believed in God.
The sisters asked me to offer a prayer almost every time we met. I always said no. The Elders often asked if I ever tried praying and my responses ranged from “No. No. No. Stop asking” to a twisty and squirmy “Yeaaaaahhhh? I thiiiiinnnnnkkk so? I just don’t know.” One time after ice cream, Elder P asked (nope, told) me to pray. He was very animated and almost forceful about my need to pray. I told him to back off. If I remember correctly, I think I snapped at him that night and told him that either my prayer was broken or God doesn’t care enough to answer. “I’M NOT GETTING ANYTHING!!”
Let me let you in on a little secret, dear readers. I was praying. I was praying so hard and I assure you my intent was real. I prayed every night to know that what the missionaries were teaching me wasn’t true. I prayed to know that I was right, the missionaries were wrong, and most importantly, that I was right. At least I was sincere with Elder P when I told him I wasn’t getting anything.
The sisters were impressed with my rote knowledge of church history and doctrine. I kept so much from the Elders, however, I’m sure they thought I barely knew what a missionary actually did seeing as we pretty much just ate ice cream all the time. Elder P said he knew I was learning stuff, but I don’t know when he started to catch on.
One week, the sisters invited me to join them at church. I don’t remember the conversation that led to this, but when I asked Sister R about it, she told me that she simply asked, and I simply agreed. Easy peasy. I hardly imagine I was ever that agreeable. I was still going to the UCC and the times conflicted that I couldn’t stay for the full 3-hour block with the sisters and still go to the UCC. I agreed to go to sacrament meeting, but I was going to bail after the first hour to make it to “the real church” on time. The night before I went to the LDS church, I prayed that it would be a good experience. I asked Heavenly Father that if He could do me just one solid, all I wanted was to not hear anything about Elder Packer’s talk. ANYTHING BUT THAT TALK.
So, I went to church the next day. I met the sisters at the front door and they waited with me so that I’d have someone to sit with. Sister R asked over and over again how I was feeling. I told her, “let’s just see what happens.” When we sat down, my first thought was: Wow, there are a lot of Mormons in this room. At the same time, my heart was racing and a lot of my conflicting feelings were forcing their way into my heart and brain at the same time: Do I believe Heavenly Father loves me? Is all of this because of MoBoy? Will I ever get past the politics of this church? I have a church I love, why am I here?!?!
I tried to calm myself down and just go with the flow, whatever that actually means. I sat between the sisters, and the service started. Lots of songs I refused to sing, lots of prayers I refused to cross my arms or close my eyes for, lots of opportunities to reflect on my surroundings only to be filled with angst and fear. The first two speakers were dead boring and I have absolutely no recollection of what they discussed. The final speaker, thank goodness, seemed to liven the chapel up a bit. He was engaging and jovial and generally a good public speaker, and I gathered this only from his introduction.
“I’ve been asked to talk about Elder Packer’s talk from October’s General Conference.”
Uuuggggghhhhhhhhhh. Noooooooooo! C’MON, BIG G! I THOUGHT WE TALKED ABOUT THIS?! I THOUGHT I ASKED YOU TO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!?
I felt myself tighten up and this time, my arms did cross. I felt like he talked about Elder Packer’s talk as if it was the only thing there was to take away from General Conference, that gay people suck and deserve to be tormented. He said things like, “Satan tricks us into thinking that those families are okay. Satan rejoices when those people get married. Satan laughs when our marriages are destroyed because of those people.”
I was sobbing in the middle of church. I was dying inside as this man stood in front of the congregation and verbally and emotionally abused everything I believe in. Word by engaging word, he was tearing my family down as if they were the very reason Satan rejoices. I was devastated and found a renewed understanding that Heavenly Father actually did hate my family.
The sisters, in the most amazing act of compassion, put their hands on my shoulder and my knee. Without words they told me that they understood what I was feeling and understood the things I was afraid of. Without words they said, “I am so sorry.”
I left after that sacrament meeting and I told the sisters, “Thank you, but I can never come back here again. Ever. This is the reason I stopped going to church in the first place and the reason I will never go back again. I’m done.”
I was so angry. I was so angry at God. I felt like He really let me down on this one. I was pissed at the missionaries, especially MoBoy. Until this ugly experience, he told me over and over and over again that God didn’t hate my family and that He loved me and was aware of me and all of these wonderful hippy dippy big celestial feel good hug things. I felt betrayed and I felt broken and I felt that no cute missionary was worth the things I was feeling and I was foolish to believe that going to church that day might possibly be anything more than trying to get to know him better. I was both disappointed and embarrassed that it might even be possible that I did any of this for some guy.
For nearly 9 months, short of my time in Paris, I sent the Elders a text every morning to wish them a perfect day. For 6 months, I sent them a weekly review every p-day. After that sacrament meeting, I didn’t send a p-day e-mail or talk to them for a week. I hoped that in my scathing silent treatment, they would understand a screaming assault of “YOU LIED TO ME. YOU DID THIS AND THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.”
I know that I was angry at God. I had been angry and caustic for 8 years. My life seemed so much easier when I just ignored my Heavenly Parents, occasionally looking over my shoulder and sticking my tongue out at Them. An ugly scar had formed where I once had a relationship and, for the most part, I could keep it out of site and out of mind. I felt that scar rip open and bleeding and every vitriolic feeling come flooding out in a colossal temper tantrum. I couldn’t see or feel or know our Heavenly Father, so instead of lashing out at Him, I lashed out at the missionaries and blamed them for these awful feelings. It was so much easier to think it was their fault than to admit that I had some things to figure out.
Dear readers, I know that this post doesn’t have the happiest of endings. There were a lot of bad and confusing feelings at this time. I had headaches and knots in my stomach for a span of nearly 4 months. I was angry and I was hurting and I behaved badly. But you already know how this story ends, and, if not to convince you, but maybe to convince LadyMo of November, it gets better. LadyMo finds healing and strength and answers and love. She had to go through a few more really difficult and heartbreaking experiences, but I can’t wait to tell you about the night she found out how much her Heavenly Parents really do love her.
So much love,