This weekend was my Stake Conference. For any non-Mormon readers, each congregation is called a ward :)–and several wards, maybe 5-10 of them I would guess make up a stake (ward and stake–could Mormons have picked weirder names for their congregations), and twice a year the stake meets for meetings.
I really enjoyed stake conference, and generally, the trend seems to be that I am enjoying church more and more. Much of my anger has dissipated and I find, in its place, many of the old familiar feelings I used to have while attending church. In fact, often feelings these old, familiar feelings prompts memories of former church experiences that I had a life time ago.
Yesterday evening at the conference I was looking up at the Stake and Mission Presidents and their wives as they were talking and I started remembering how I always thought my life trajectory was preparing me for something like being the wife of a church leader of some sort. “Wow, that would be challenging–sitting alone with kids, having your husband gone all the time, or living in a foreign country,” I often thought, wondering if someday I would be doing just that. I just never anticipated, not for a single moment, that I would be where I am today–married to an ex-Mormon and a very different Mormon myself than I was a few years ago.
It honestly does feel like a lifetime ago that I was sitting there daydreaming about which type of a church leader it was that I was going to find myself married to one day. Life is just so very different in that arena than I thought it was going to be, and that’s not entirely something I’m comfortable with or proud of yet, though I am getting used to it. There are moments though when I want to feel like that girl I used to be–more believing, more faithful.
Today at Stake Conference the youth were singing the oh-so-familiar-and-beautiful medley of “As Sisters in Zion” and “To Bring the World His Truth.” A tiny tear started in the corner of my eye as I remembered being a young woman singing that very music. I could remember the tingle that rushed over my spine as I heard the young men sing, “And we will be the Lord’s missionaries, to bring the world his truth.” I remembered how much I wanted my husband to have that zeal for missionary work and that level of commitment to Christ’s church. I remembered the joyful burden I gladly hoisted on my shoulders to raise righteous children with one of those young men who would someday “return with honor.” There wasn’t a thing in the world I looked forward to more.
I guess that memory is a bit bitter-sweet. On one hand, I feel like I have learned a lot and grown in some wonderful ways. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like a failure of a Mormon–especially considering my expectations of myself that I once had. I suppose life’s journey has just brought me different experiences than I thought it would. I have grown, but in different directions. Rather than growing in my commitment to the gospel, as I assumed I would and I very much wanted to, I have grown to love people more who are not Mormon, to think and question more, and to make hard choices. Many good things have come from my very different-than-expected life path.
Still though, I sometimes miss what it felt like to stand on a stage full of youth, all of us envisioning our bright and beautiful futures ahead of us, futures that would revolve around bringing the world the truth which we uniquely possessed and which we were privileged to share, as we sang, “We’ll all work together…to bring the world His truth.”