The sister missionaries came again yesterday. We watched “Finding Faith in Christ.” I can’t remember if we had that video growing up or if I just saw it frequently in Seminary, Primary, and Young Women’s. It’s a good one though–at least, I enjoyed it. It brought back a lot of memories, both of watching the video before and of other related experiences. One scene of Jesus walking around the outskirts of Judea reminded me of a painting I looked at when I used to go do baptisms for the dead (all these rituals are performed vicariously and believed to allow the dead to be saved upon their acceptance of these “Ordinances,” Christ, and the Gospel in the next life (and repentance, etc.). The scene of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead almost made me cry. I think the video is pretty well done, and the music and such adds to the emotion of the film. Plus, the idea of Jesus healing a lot of sick (even dead) people is very touching.
After the video was over they asked me what I thought. I didn’t really know what to say. Eventually I told them all the stuff I just said in the previous paragraph. Then they asked me how I felt about faith. They have gotten used to me having long pauses and not talking a lot during our discussions because I am usually processing way too much information in my head as they are asking me these questions. The truth is, I have mixed ideas and feelings about the concept of faith (shocking, I know). I explain to them that I don’t really know how I feel about faith, that like everything else, it’s a little convoluted for me right now.
Towards the end of our visit I decided to read to them a spiritual experience from my journal, that I had written in 2007. Wow! That took me back to a different time and place in life for me! BYU, my Sophomore year. It was almost like listening to different person talk. Some things I wrote made the current me feel a little guilty–I was very committed to the church and God, and my current lack of committed belief in God would be pretty shameful to the 2007 model of me. Mostly though, I just remembered. I remembered very real experience that I was having at that time, real and powerful, and very real experiences that I had before. And it was good to remember. I don’t want to forget that part of my life either, and as much as I am doing a lot research currently in developing my beliefs, I also want to consider my experiences, and the experiences of others, during this process. I was blissfully happy in my belief then, and it was getting me through some tough times.
The missionaries continued asking me questions about my beliefs of days past and how I felt (lots of questions about past feelings). Eventually I told them, “I’m really sorry, this has got to be really frustrating for you, but the truth is that there is pretty much nothing that I could feel that would make me put my doubts aside at this point. I mean, it is good for me to have these positive feelings and experiences. So I am glad you come. It’s good for me when you come because it makes me think more about things that I haven’t thought about for a while. It gives me balance in my quest for finding my truth now (I didn’t actually tell them that last part, but I thought it this morning so I threw it in there). But there are just too many questions I have, and right now, I feel like, in order to stop being confused and make progress, I have to keep sorting out my doubts and figuring out how I feel about things after fully considering all the evidence.”
Then I told them about how, already I have come to peace about a couple issues that used to bother me (i.e. translation of the Book of Mormon using a seer stone/peep stone and the persecution of the Saints in Missouri). Admittedly, these are two small issues amongst a massive pile of questions I have, but it’s a start. And I still do not presume to know what my belief system will look like when this process is done.
So, after explaining this all, one of the sister missionaries actually agreed that maybe it would be good for me to continue doing my research then, and also continue meeting with the missionaries. They also encouraged me to think about, and read, my past experiences and to continue meeting with them (which I will do again in a couple weeks). The other sister missionary encouraged me to look at the “I’m a Mormon” stories that people post about themselves…maybe that’s to make me feel like I am more normal even if I feel weird (maybe it will help, who knows? I’ll give it a shot too).
Overall, it was a really nice visit with the missionaries. I enjoyed it. Did it cause more cognitive dissonance? Yes, if that is even possible. But it was good for me. I got a glimpse of that happiness I used to feel, and a reminder of another way of thinking about all these issues.
In the end, I’ll continue my quest the same way I have been. This blog seems to be working for me. For the first time I am beginning to work through the confusion inside of me. For the first time in a long time, I feel hope that the world is going to sort of make sense to me again relatively soon. I’m really happy about that 🙂 And I believe that once I know what I believe again, after considering experiences and lots of facts, then I can start to trust my experiences again, because I will have a belief system through which I can interpret those experiences. That last thought is a little underdeveloped…but I need to think about it more I guess, so I’ll just leave it at that. The hope that I feel today is a hope that the future is brighter and less confusing than it is today 🙂