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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.