11/8/15

What if I'm horribly wrong?

What if I’m horribly wrong?

Sometimes I think about what will happen to me after I die.  Unlike my Mormon friends, I don’t claim to know. I believe things, I hope things, but I don’t know. Not the way I was taught to know things.

For the record, I don’t share my beliefs and hopes- about death or life or God very often. It’s easy to explain what I don’t believe. But for now, I stay away from public declarations about my faith or my lack of faith, or whatever this feeling is calming my troubled heart at night. Because I don’t know. Instead of terrifying me, not knowing comforts me. Not knowing opens up a world of opportunities and potential that stretches far beyond the tiny regimented universe I was raised in.

Not knowing anything means I can believe everything. I like that.

I don’t worry about what will happen to me after I die. But I think about it sometimes, and occasionally I imagine a world where Mormon God turns out to be in charge of it all. I die, and Mormon God appears. I wonder what this strange God thinks of me. Maybe he says:

“Stephanie, you didn’t wear the right underwear. You didn’t pray the right prayers, or pay the right tithes. You liked gay people more than the prophet. You demanded to be treated as an equal, despite being a woman. You didn’t hearken unto your husband. You don’t get to be a priestess, and I’m not supposed to let you into my highest kingdom.”

What if this is my afterlife?

What if I’m horribly wrong?

I don’t know, but I’m still not scared. Because if Mormon God is right, and I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m any less proud of the life I’m living. I still honor the values and the choices and the beliefs and non-beliefs I’m dedicating my life to. I’m not afraid of Mormon God.

Last weekend when the announcement was made regarding LGBT families and their children’s membership in the LDS church, I felt sad. I’m sad for families who will be hurt, I’m sad for children who will deal with adult situations they don’t understand. I’m always sad when children are the casualties of policy, and there will be casualties. I’m sad for members who want to be Mormon, but want to support their LGBT friends and families as well. It is hard to be stuck.

I feel sad for the members who are busily chiding and condemning the people they disagree with, because anger is a mask for sadness and fear, and it is hard to feel sad or afraid in church. I’m sad and I’m angry sometimes too.

I felt sad and angry about the announcement, and none of my usual coping mechanisms helped. All I wanted to do was read the words of my two favorite hymns over and over. At first, I resisted. I was mad at my old church, I didn’t want their hymns.

Then I decided to simply let my heart want what it wanted, and feel what it needed to feel. 

Not knowing anything means I can believe everything.

So I let myself follow the pattern of grief outlined in my favorite hymn:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

If I’m horribly wrong, and I face Mormon God after I die, (or the LDS Newsroom, or the PR department, or whoever the hell is in charge of Kolob,) I will tell God what I know:

“God, your other sources ceased to make me whole. I drew myself apart, and it shattered my soul. I spent years searching for the pieces, looking for the quiet hand, looking to calm my anguish. I tried my very best, but you were right, there was only one who understood me.”

In Christian tradition, the “He, only One” is the Messiah, but I’ve seen him take a million different forms over the course of my life, and in the end, the only One for me is the One promised in the final verse:

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

I don’t care what form “he” comes in. I don’t know if he is the Jesus I learned about in church, because I didn’t get the answers I needed in church. My answers came privately, and I learned that the only God I need to serve is kindness and love. Not only sometimes, not according to policy- constant he is and kind, love without end. Whatever this is- God, the Universe, humanity, or the broken bits of dead stars pulling us toward something bigger than ourselves, I know peace when I love without end.

If I’m horribly wrong, this is my answer to Mormon God. He’s right. I don’t wear the right underwear, and I love people more than the prophet. It’s true. But if I’m horribly wrong, I still believe I got the most important part right. I hope when I die my children can truthfully say I spent my life as a friend in the Gethsemane of others, that I followed the footsteps of a Savior, and not those who would sleep when others feel the sharp ache of a wounded heart.

If I manage to do this even a small part of my life, I don’t think it matters much what happens when I die.

Lord I would follow thee.

This is my other favorite hymn. My God and my Lord is kindness and love, this is who I follow.
But what if I’m horribly wrong, and Mormon God tells me:

“Stephanie, obedience is the first law of heaven. I told you not to trust in your own understanding. I am a harsh God who sends plagues and destroys the cities of the disobedient, cities inevitably inhabited with little children, who died because their parents were sinful and wrong. Why didn’t you defend the family? Why didn’t you condemn the sinner? What makes you so special?”

“Oh Mormon God, you are right. I didn’t do those things.  And yet…”

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.
Who am I to judge another?

 I would be my brother's keeper;
I would learn the healer's art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother's keeper.

“God, I was busy. Walking imperfectly. Learning the healer’s art.  Mormon God, clearly I am not a warrior. But I am my brother’s keeper. I do not defend, I am not obedient. I question things, and if we are talking, I hope it is because I am very old and in a medically-induced hallucination. I am not special, but my heart is quiet now, and gentle.”

I am not well acquainted with the God of Mormonism these days. But I’m not afraid. I am not worried about what will happen if I am horribly wrong, because it won’t negate the life I am living now, or the life I hope to create. The imperfect life that will be enough.

Someday I will die. But I believe in love without end, and strength beyond my own, even if I’m horribly wrong.













46 comments:

Jonathan Gracey said...

Amen

Leah said...

Thank you.

Savannah said...

Beautiful.

Savannah said...

Beautiful.

Abbey said...

This is amazing. I am also not afraid of Mormon God. And I love the idea of the Kolob newsroom and PR department.

Natalie said...

Absolutely beautiful!

Kat Hardy said...

I don't think God will act that way at all. You are projecting what you _think_ God will say to you, but you don't _know_ that he will. Your whole post is talking about how you are comforted in the fact that you don't know all these things, and can therefore believe anything, yet you script words of God as if you do know what he will say to you and how he will react, and as if all the things attributed to God through out the ages are actual known facts, and they are not. You are choosing to believe that God is going to act this way, instead of giving him as much benefit of the doubt as you want for yourself. It strikes me as very ironic that for all the protestations that 'you don't know', you seem very certain that God is going to tell you very specific things.

It is entirely possible for God to say, "I know and understand all the things you struggled with. The fact that you picked yourself up over and over and continued to love others despite your trials is enough. Come, enter into my Kingdom."

You don't know, you admitted as much. And because you don't know, you stated you are free to believe any number of things. Why would you choose to believe that God is going to treat you unkindly and unfairly and base your worth on arbitrary things?

You don't know.

Aimee said...

This really resonated with me. Thank you.

One of my favorite things Joseph Smith ever said was "let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society.” People working for greater equality are my saints. A world with true equality is my heaven.

Bryan and Sarah said...

Love this! You are so good at putting into words all of my experiences and feelings as a Mormon woman.

Llndylue said...

I am not a Mormon, however, the beauty of those words speak to everyone who is questioning what they believe and why they believe it. Is my God a loving kindness God, or is He/She/It/They a vengeful God? How do I choose to live my life honestly with what resonates with me?

Stephanie said...

Kat, I think you misunderstood my post. This isn't what I believe will happen, and I was pretty clear that I'm not sharing my own personal beliefs or hopes here. (Second paragraph.)

I also said "what if" this is what God says, or "maybe" this is what God will say.I also clarified that this is just one version of God.

This is what I've been told will happen to me if I don't believe in a God that many Mormons believe in. (But not all Mormons, of course.) So I decided to hypothesize how I would feel if their God turns out to be in charge. It isn't the God I believe in, but I thought it was an interesting thought experiment- what if this version of Mormon God-the version I've seen portrayed all over social media in response to the policy change regarding LGBT families, is the real deal? Am I still okay with how I'm living? I thought about it and decided I am.

Because I don't actually think this is how a loving God would greet a child. But if it is, if you and I are both wrong, I'm still okay.

That's all I was trying to say. Whatever happens next, I'm okay with how I'm living now. If God is there, and is loving and kind, I'm okay. If God is the angry "Mormon God" I've been hearing about, I'm okay. If we are all just stars and we become dust after we die, I'm okay. I'm okay with all of it. I'm okay not knowing.

Brammer Family said...

The Heavenly Father & Mother I know are going to welcome you back with open arms and unconditional love, because you are THEIR daughter and you mean more to them than you will ever know. Love ya Steph.

Emily Warren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Warren said...

It is obvious from your post that you know deep inside what is true and right. Having the courage to act on it is another story. I'm sorry you are fearful about what lies ahead in the next life. Maybe that's the best indication that you are not truly happy with how you're living now. The announcement is a mute point...how many gay couples want their children baptized? The leaders of the church are simply trying to create happier home environments for the children in an already confusing situation. Quit coming up with excuses to be offended. Spend your time serving others and serving God and will come to know what is true!

Stephanie said...

@Emily Warren, sorry, did you read the post? I said a couple of times that I'm not afraid. I also never said I was offended either. :) In fact, the whole post was about how I'm not worried about what will happen in the next life, because I am happy for how I am living now.

We all feel sad and angry sometimes, but my post was about feeling comforted and happy that I'm living my life the best way I know how. What are you doing to spend your time serving others and serving God?

Stephanie said...

@Alison -Thanks friend, I love you too!

Nicole Holloway said...

Really beautiful. Thank you.

Liffey Banks said...

This is beautiful, and I feel like I could have written in myself. Also, for the commenters who either willfully or unknowingly misinterpreted the whole point of this post, thanks for the lulz.

Unknown said...

Love this, Stephanie. Love you.

Jena

Kathy said...

My thoughts exactly. Thank you.

Linda said...

Your daughter is lucky to have you as a mom. Girls should grow up with powerful, righteous, women role models and be taught they can do anything--the sky and heavens, are limitless.

The Dominos said...

I love this. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Wow. That was beautiful. Such a loving, healthy perspective. As a member of a bishopric, I wish I could impart to those whom I counsel the wisdom of unconditional love and service that you espouse in your post and help others spend their lives as friends in the Gethsemane of others. I believe the real Mormon God is pleased with you.

Lauren said...

Gorgeous. I love your words. And I laughed out loud envisioning Kolob and the PR department. Genius.

blueroserider said...

I'm so glad you responded to Kat. There are lots of us that did not misunderstand you. And we weep. Such a generous reply.

blueroserider said...

I'm so glad you responded to Kat. There are lots of us that did not misunderstand you. And we weep. Such a generous reply.

sallgood said...

I agree, a generous and kind response. (And a great post too. Love wins!)

KD said...

You are

Unknown said...

Except that she is not saying that she knows that this is how god will talk to her, she is saying that if she is wrong and the mormons are right, that this is how she would imagine god talking to her.

Kimberly Wilson said...

@Emily Warren, In this case, people are not just coming up with excuses to be offended (unlike the Starbucks silliness). There are many, many families that are CURRENTLY affected drastically by these policy changes, many of them in mixed families where a mom & dad had children and then later separated, and the children are now living between two homes, where one of their parents has come out as gay and is living with a same-sex partner. This creates problems that further stigmatize the gay parent and pit them as the obstacle keeping their child from a desired baptism, even when the gay parent is openly willing to allow their children to get baptized (as is the case in more than situation of people I know personally). These policy changes can actually make an already confusing situation much worse, even if the opposite was intended.

Stephanie probably already feels that she is serving others and God through sharing this post. She has also explained what she has come to know to be true for her.

Kimberly Wilson said...

@Emily Warren, I apologize for saying one more thing. Blame my ADD, which meant to start off by explaining that a great many people within the church, including a lot of conservative "TBM"s (True Believing Mormons), were just as upset about the policy changes as people who are no longer members and people who are not currently members. My point is, it's not just gay people who are upset.

And I do understand your point about a gay couple who, independently of the church at all, would not want their child proselyted to due to major conflicts in church doctrine and how they live. For that couple, I can at least better understand why they might not be so offended, IF the policy only affected their situation. It would be easier for them to say, "Well, who wanted that LDS church, anyway?"

But this simply isn't the case in mixed marriages where children are attending church regularly with one active parent, and possibly living with the other parent who is living with a same sex partner. This puts the child into much more confusion, not less. If they're living with gay daddy, but know that they can't get baptized (which they learn about at church and want to do) while living at daddy's house, they may side with moving to mommy's house. And before you say that's what should happen anyway, we just don't know. We can't claim the knowledge of where a child is truly better raised, depending on individual circumstances on either side of the family. And this policy further stigmatizes a child away from their gay parent, which is the opposite of what we learn in church, which is to fellowship the vulnerable, not ostracize them.

Stephanie said...

@KD Hahahaha, ballsy, ballsy move my friend. Do you feel better now? I bet that felt so awesome and so witty. Have a good night!

*Erin* said...

Thank you, Stephanie! Beautiful post.

Maggie said...

Thank you for this. I've been a silent observer of your posts for some time, always really enjoying what you have to say. This post really spoke to me, especially your use of those lyrics/hymns. Thank you for being so brave and honest about your journey and your path!

Steve said...

I remember being at that stage of contemplating the possibility that the church might not be all that it claimed to be. I contemplated the possibility that I was throwing away my chance for exaltation and removing myself from the family picture in the eternities. I eventually resolved this concern by coming to the realization that if I die and it turns out that Mormonism was right all along, I plan to look Heavenly Father in the eye and tell him that I did the best I could with the knowledge I had. I believe a loving Heavenly Father would know my heart and intentions, even if I didn't always execute well on them. And if He would still send me to a lower kingdom and separate me from my family forever, then as far as I'm concerned, he's a jerk and I wouldn't want to be around him anyway.

Krystina said...

"I'd rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned" -Richard Feynman

So much this. Also, the policies you mentioned have led me to remove my name from church record. And I feel nothing but peace.

Ryan said...

Thank you.

coach-daddy said...

Ridiculously meaningful, these words. Abe Lincoln once said "When I do wrong, I feel bad. When I do right, I feel good. *That* is my religion." Love ought to translate to every faith. If it doesn't? I'm with you. I'd rather fail miserably with love than succeed without it.

tiffany said...

First of all you are wrong, but Utehole's usually are lol. Second of all, I call BS. You have to tell yourself you are okay with the way you are living, otherwise you would have to deal with guilt and repentance. You have chosen to take the easy way out. "I'm a good person and that is my religion." How easy. What a cop out. Let me tell you what I see. I see a liar and a hypocrite in the ten minutes I spent on your blog. You are for equality, right? Yet you proudly support the killing of innocent FEMALE and male babies. What about their rights? However I'm sure your God is good with that. Is this some sort of post Mormon fad? We left the church let's advocate for abortion now? Oh congrats on your(yes your) fetus by the way, I hope it makes it to a baby at some point! And if it doesn't oh well, it was just a fetus right? ......You claim to be helping women/gays, (whatever group) but those words hurt people. Those words lead people away from the gospel, away from God. Your words cause anger and hurt among family members. Telling gays they need a suicide prevention hotline because their church doesn't care about them is a lie. But your words aren't really about gays or women's rights, whatever whiny thing you feel the need to complain about, they are about you. Grandstanding. You want the priesthood, you want doctrine changed to fit your own understanding and desires. Lastly, you blog for Validation, because deep down YOU are wrong. Deeply wrong.

K said...

I haven't read it all. Couldn't. Too much snow to move off my neighbor's walk this morning. Too many horses to feed. Especially, I didn't read the comments. But if I get what you are saying right, then I have something to say: I think, if the God I believe in as an LDS person were to show up for you, he'd say, "I love you so much." He might feel sad that you didn't avail yourself of some of the sweet things he'd set up for you, but that wouldn't qualify the statement at all. I don't know anything either, and that doesn't worry me at all. I believe what I believe, and I bet on it with my whole life - but since it makes my life radiant (even when I'm in a dark place, which is much of the time) - whether I am right or wrong seems immaterial. At the basis of all the truth I feel - there is this relentless, warm, amazing love. Don't misunderstand me - it's not like I am putting it out, or that I feel it hitting myself very often. I'm just aware of it being there. When I bear testimony, I always say I believe, and frankly, I don't doubt that I've got something marvelous by the tail. I don't understand everything, obviously, and I have a child whose life is deeply affected by the SS situation. I think that life is not about not going to hell, but about exaltation and being support for people who are trying to climb into light. Like I am always trying to do. I don't want to throw away the lovely gifts because I don't understand how everything works. I just want to collect them, and then try to use them to bring light and health and joy where I can - as insignificant a little person as I am. So I'd probably say to you here - don't turn away from the gifts - or let pain drive you into dark corners. Follow the light and the joy, the real stuff, and use it the best you can - always growing - always reaching - always hoping and asking for understanding, even when you haven't got it. Which, in mortality, is pretty much all the time (I say this with a certain wry and tired smile).

Stefanie Andersen said...

I worked with your cousin, Jess, 6 years ago. She told me about your blog. I would go and read it every 6 months or so and be a weepy mess. I hated how I was treated as a woman in the church. Hated it. Reading your blog was the most I ever did to acknowledge that feeling. My husband felt terrible about it but there wasn't really anything either of us could do. Last year (in 2 weeks) I came up against a wall. I realized that in my temple wedding ceremony I had given myself to my husband but he hadn't done the same. That coupled with a lot of new information about Joseph Smith being a polygamist, let alone the kind of polygamist he was, overwhelmed me. I told my husband that I would have to wait for the church to catch up because I couldn't keep living what my spirit screamed out against. C.S.Lewis wrote that the strongest evidence of God is our innate morality. It wasn't huge, but I want to thank you for the part you played in helping me out of that dark time and standing up for what my mind/spirit needs.

Cilla said...

Stephanie,
I have been reading your blog periodically since we were in Rho together. It's been a while since I read your fantastic posts, and I'm happy I decided to pop back here after Facebook so kindly suggested you in my list of "People You May Know." This post hit home for me. I have always had a wavering faith, and these recent events in the Church have been the tipping point for me. I now find myself no longer active, yet still married in the temple to a husband (who I love and adore with all my heart) who is still active. I live in Davis county surrounded by women who never question their inferiority, nor care to change their status. I feel like a pubescent teenager again, trying to decide who I am and what I want to become. I also feel like I'm having to detox myself from decades of heavy guilt for never thinking or behaving as Mormon God wants me to. I'm starting to come to a place a peace like you've talked about in this post, where I'm okay with whatever awaits me after death. I think that's what matters in this life. Finding happiness in ourselves and those we love, and being okay with whatever comes in the future. Thanks for the pick me up today. Keep on doing what you do.

-Priscilla

Sherry macnab said...

This was a beautiful piece. I'm a believer in the Mormon God as you call Him, but I do not think He will ask these questions. I think He can see your heart and that it is good. I think He has heard your sorrow and your prayers and loves that you love your fellow man. I think that He will want you to choose to be with Him. And I do believe it will be your choice. I don't think He cares one fig about the media, and whether or not you wore pants to church. I think He sees that you questioned your faith and chose a different way, but did not sink into chaos and total disbelief. I believe He will see you as His daughter.

Sherry macnab said...

I have a good friend in this position, though her ex doesn't have a live in right now he could at any moment. I am one of those TBM's that had a hard time, and I know many others.

daphne said...

Great poem! Each Priesthood holder's Line of Authority is very special. It is his link back to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, your personalized Line of Authority is beautifully laminated featuring the classic portrait of Jesus Christ by the renowned artist Greg Olsen. Line of Authority

Taylor Anne said...

This is so incredibly comforting.