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An Unexpected Peace

I had a business meeting with a member from my ward today. The conversation turned into something quite unexpected.

I sat listening intently as she recalled the night 30 years ago she received the news her son had been killed in an auto accident. She recalled how in the weeks previous to his death he seemed to “know without knowing” that he would be leaving soon. In the days previous to the accident he had made contact with all of his family members telling them that he loved them. He had purchased life insurance a year earlier, and offered words of advice to his mother that would set her life on a new course, all without knowing that a semi would soon be crossing a center divider, hitting him head on. He would be dead at age 24.

Since leaving the church both emotionally and spiritually I have felt so much anger and not known what to do with it. How do I process it all, who do I share the burden with, who do I blame after I’ve become exhausted blaming myself? Unfortunately I have found myself growing increasingly angry with the average ward member. I see them in church and I want to yell at them to wake up!!! Listen to what is actually being said and going on around you! I want to point out doctrine that has been washed clean or swept under a carpet. I want to ask the members how much pabulum can you honestly stomach before you crave meat. I have become angry and judgmental. But this isn’t who I am. Today, I found help and chastisement in the most unexpected place.

It wasn’t the story she told about her son’s death that struck a chord today. It was the events that followed in her life after receiving the news. When she began telling of her spiritual experiences of comfort in the days to follow I admit I felt a certain hardness in my attitude. I thought “oh here we go, here comes the magic moments that prove to her the church is true…” But I listened. I listened as she told me about how he came to her the night he was killed and asked her over and over if she would be ok. I watched as tears filled her eyes as she recounted telling him “I will be, not right now, but I know I will be” He repeated the advise he had given her before his death and she promised to do as he had asked. She told me about other family members who he had gone to asking them to please look out for his mother. She told me about how she fully understands now the need of a son to take care of his mother even in death, and how Christ reflects this so clearly in the days before his crucifixion asking the apostles to take care of his mother and keep her away from the events to come. In the months to come the final message he would leave with his mother was that he didn’t want anyone to worry, he was happy.

In the course of the next hour she would go one to relate the strength she had garnished from the support of family, prayer, priesthood blessings and three more visits from her son. My view of the church was unmoved. My testimony that it was no truer than any other organized religion had not even sustained a nick its armor. But my perception of God and how he deals with his children had begun to shift. And my perception of my role in dealing with believing members became more compassionate and understanding than I could have hoped for.

This afternoon I realized the church with all its flaws works for them. Even as flawed as it is, they need it because they believe it connects them to God. I saw that God doesn’t care one ounce about organized religion. The thought that came to my mind while listening to her today was that if God can continue to answer the prayers of his children who believe in this church or any other church who am I to cast judgment on them. Let them be. Let them worship how where and what they may because whether in this church or no church they will still find him and he will still find them.

Even if we have no church, or believe there is no God, let those who believe, find their God peacefully.

For me this journey is one of big steps with small progress. The progress I found today was a simple shift in attitude with a greater since of compassion. The next big step is how to deal with the average church members’ lack of compassion towards those of us who no longer believe as they do.

~ St. Jude


diogenes said...

Thank you for sharing this. For me personally I do not conflate my personal spiritual experiences with "the church" or any church. They stand independent and in fact a church should not use them in vain, ie, use such sacred sentiment to make any claim to exclusivity or "truth" claim. And for me spirituality is about personal relationships that transcend any church or any "truth" claim. I could identify with your post and appreciate very much your sentiments.

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If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

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