These are the memories that really get to me. My eyes fill up with tears as I recall the little voices in Primary singing these lines:
Where love is
There God is also
Where love is
I want to be
I dreaded conducting on the days when the music leader would choose Where Love Is as the reverent song. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep the crack of a sob out of my voice.
When I am feeling particularly nostalgic, I log onto the music player on LDS.org and listen to the song again from the Children’s Songbook.
The words hold special meaning to me, though meaning has changed since my days serving in a Primary presidency.
I take them quite literally. Where love is, there God is. Where love is, I want to be.
Finding where love is, searching for God in my life has become something of a personal quest since losing my belief in the Church. Along with my membership, I lost my bearings. When I would stand in the middle of the Primary room, or sit in the chapel I always, always knew what I was supposed to think about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I could close my eyes in the middle of the Sacrament prayers and repeat the words fluently, bringing into my mind a painting of Christ beseeching his father in the Garden of Gethsemane.
When I lost my grounding in the LDS gospel, my anchor to God was rendered loose and adrift. My thoughts towards God have run the gamut between clinging to the concept of Heavenly parents to edging close to the borders of atheism.
It has been a tough ride.
In those days that seem so far from me now…standing there listening to the voices of the little ones sing about the loving arms of God surrounding them, I did not simply listen enjoying the sweet innocence of their voices. I was a believer, stalwart and immoveable. Every word etched into my heart, providing me with comfort and peace and meaning.
Feeling that assurance slip from my grasp left me wondering around blind. But when you begin to see the holes in a doctrine, teachings about God lose their meaning as well. If Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God, what does that mean about what I have learned about God since my birth?
Suddenly, there is nothing sure left worth clinging to; it all becomes very clear that no one really knows anything. Religion is made up of the philosophies of some very well-meaning men.
Losing that reassuring belief in God makes for some very lonely and dark nights. Staring into the heavens I wondered, is there really anything there? Is it all just random?
Am I alone?
The ache in my heart has been almost too much to bear.
Time is, however, a faithful healer. As it moves forward, I find more peace and meaning in the world around me.
Simple things began to teach me a little more about the God I walk with now. There is so much love in this world, and in my heart and mind I cannot accept that it is merely an accident.
Where love is, there God is also.
Love teaches me that God loves all of his children, and whoever it is or whatever that means, is quite unlike the picture humanity has painted.
I do not accept that God is a man who sits in the heavens keeping track of the missteps of his children below. I do not think that God is fulfilling eternal laws that require him to punish the wayward among his offspring.
I think it matters little to God who we find to love. I doubt withholding civil rights from a corner of humanity in God’s name is really an accurate practice. Mankind has put a lot of unkind words in God’s mouth over the subject of gender roles and differences.
So, where does that leave God?
It leaves God wherever love is.
The gospel message I get these days goes a little like this:
Treat one another well. Let go of destructive things like jealousy, hate, envy, and vengeance. Practice kindness, live in fairness, embrace love.
Ethics and morality are not the sole property of religious folk; atheists and unbelievers love and serve their fellow man without hope for reward or fear of punishment.
Are we alone? Absolutely not. God, that spark of divine love within each of us, finds its way to uplift and bless those of us here below. It happens around the world every minute of the day. Someone lends another a helping hand, smiles erase the pain of those who feel used up and left alone, miracles occur all of the time. Love radiates outward from the amazing hearts of humanity.
And where love is, there God is.