Dear readers, I apologize again for the time it’s taking me to update! I will do better, I promise 🙂
I also owe you another apology: I am telling part of the story out of order. Before “The Night at the Catholic Church,” something else very important happened. I met Natalie H (hey Natalie!!)
One night in December, the missionaries invited me to their ward activity: ice skating at Crown Plaza. Now, aside from the fact that he was (still is) a missionary, and there would be a whole bunch of Mormons there, and I couldn’t (can’t) ice skate for my life, it sounded romantic-ish enough. So I agreed to go. It was the perfect night for ice skating outside in December in Kansas City.
The night was wonderful, but that’s not the point of this post. The most memorable part of this night was meeting Natalie H. I didn’t know what it was that night that drew me to her (there were so many people there that night), but after I met her and 3 of her 4 daughters, I knew I needed to talk to her again. We didn’t talk about anything remotely religious that night, and our conversations extended as deep as “LadyMo, you look just like Jordan Sparks!!” And still, what that, all I wanted was to talk to her more.
The next day, I texted the missionaries. “Who was that woman I was talking to yesterday and what’s her number?”
I think they were pleased as punch to let me talk to anyone if I had questions, because I was clearly not asking them. In fewer than 30 seconds, they sent me her information. It was a little weird, actually. I had this woman’s number who I had met for just an hour, and I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t know what to ask or what I was expecting to get from our conversation. WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS NUMBER?
So, I called her. “Hi Natalie, I don’t know if you remember me from ice skating, but I was wondering if I could come over sometime and ask you some Mormony questions?” I know this was exactly the question I asked her, because she teases me about my use of the word “Mormony” almost daily. She said yes, but she wanted me to know that she wasn’t a typical Mormon. Somehow, I knew that, and that’s why I needed to talk to her. I didn’t exactly have an idea of what a typical Mormon was, mostly because all of the Mormons I knew were missionaries (they are barely typical human beings, let’s be honest), but I knew that I wasn’t looking for typical answers to typical questions. We made plans to get together for lunch that week. The only thing I could remember about how I was feeling was how much I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know why I wanted to talk to her, I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about, I didn’t know what I hoped to get out of it. I just waaay didn’t know. Angst! Angst!
That Friday, I went to Natalie’s house for lunch. We made meatballs (which I burned), and got down to business. I wanted to know why she was Mormon. “How do you “do” Mormon, you non-typical Mormon.” We talked for nearly six hours. We talked about God, we talked about religion, we talked about boys (MoBoy, specifically), we talked about families (the ones we came from, the ones we have/will have). We talked a lot. She told me about her relationship with Heavenly Father. She told me that I reminded her of herself; she fought with God a lot and tried to get Him to agree to her conditions. She asked me if I believed in God, and while I did, I just squirmed, squinched my face and said, “I don’t knnnnooooowwww.”
And then she said something that struck hard. “I think you really do believe in God. I also think that it’s more important for you to be more right than the missionaries than for you to admit that.” Ugghh, every word she said was true. I feel like I’d lose face if I had to admit to the missionaries that I believed in God the whole time. I’d have to come clean on every lie I told or every truth I kept from them. I’d have to admit I was wrong and that was way not going to happen. So I pouted.
We talked for so long that day, and I remember trying so hard to grasp at a creed I could feel comfortable with and at the same time maintain my absolute rightness. It was so frustrating. I just kept wanting them all to be wrong!
I had plans to meet the missionaries later that night for ice cream (shocker), but they had to go to a baptism first. Natalie told me she was singing at that baptism and invited me to go. Sneaky, sneaky. I figured, everyone was going to be there, so why not go? It would have been the first baptism I’d attended in so long, so I decided to put my sociology cap on and learn something, academically of course.
The baptism was mostly wonderful. I felt happy and peaceful, but also pissed off and resentful. I don’t know how I managed that, but it seemed to work for me. On the one hand, the little girl who was being baptized looked so happy. She had impossibly huge eyelashes and every inch of her glowed. Her mother was crying and everyone just looked so peaceful and happy. For that little girl, in that moment, in that room, nothing could be wrong. After her baptism, while she was changing, we watched a short film about baptisms. I can’t remember exactly what the guy said, but I remember feeling that no matter what, my family would never be good enough for this church. Not everyone can be baptized in these waters, not everyone can enter the temple, not everyone can go to heaven. God, you hate my family and you suck! And then I stuck my tongue out.
While I was being all pissy and weird, the little girl came out and sat on a chair in front of the room. She was about to be confirmed a member of the church. For nearly a year, I had never actually seen any priesthood holder offer a blessing, so I never really knew what it meant. That night, the missionaries confirmed her and I had an overwhelming and crushing feeling that what they were doing was real. I was shaking and found it difficult to catch my breath. I recognize now that it was the Spirit testifying so strongly to the power of the priesthood, but if you told me that at the time I would have probably punched you in the face.
That feeling that I got that night has never left me. When I think about or study the priesthood, I am reminded over and over and over again how I felt that night and the impressions the baptism and confirmation left. I saw these four geeky missionaries that I had come to love like my best friends magically transform into something so much more powerful than I thought I knew them. I felt so much love and so much peace and it helped me understand that what I was learning was true.
I felt like I got punched in the face, and I knew I couldn’t tell anyone. This time, I actually didn’t tell anyone (unlike The Night at the Catholic Church). I was in panic mode and couldn’t figure out how to be okay with this and still be pissed off at God.
Then, we all went and got ice cream. I had rocky road.
A lot has changed for me since this night and over the course of the last year. I have learned that the Spirit can only take you so far. I had to decide for myself that the power of the priesthood was real and that no degree of feminism can make it less real. I also had to acknowledge for myself that we are blessed with so many gifts and so many talents. We are all here to serve our Heavenly Father and, priesthood or not, when we serve each other, we are all acting in His name. Just because I don’t hold the priesthood, it doesn’t make me less capable or less worthy of serving or blessing other lives.
This isn’t part of the story of that night, but this is part of my story now: I have a testimony of the priesthood. I can’t explain it logically or in words that make any sense to me. I have no empirical evidence of its truthiness, I just know it’s real. It’s annoying, too, that I can’t explain this. I’d love to be able to because that’s what I know how to do.
Anyway, I am going to ask Natalie to post here about what she thought about our first conversation together. A lot changed for me that night and, while I wasn’t ready to admit it even a little bit, I know that our conversation and the baptism prepared me for what I would experience when I finally just gave in and prayed.
I just hope I get to her before she finds out here 🙂
So much love,