Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith: A Loss or a Gain?

As I sat through the Primary program yesterday, I realized that I really don't belong in Primary. The ways that these children are taught to believe in eternal families, in the power of the scriptures, listening to the prophet, are not so simple for me. I believe in celestial marriage, in the power of listening to scripture. But it's not a fairy tale with a happily ever after.

We teach that families can be together forever but not how personal agency can affect that family. We teach reading scriptures by excising scripture bites that highlight what we want to say, but we don't teach our children how to delve into the scriptures, how to rely on scripture for answers they need. We teach following the prophet, but we forget to teach spiritual discernment of the prophet's words for personal application.

I don't feel like I am qualified to teach the kinds of lessons that are in Primary. I feel like I am lying by teaching such a fluffy, empty version of my testimony. And yet, it is those very things such as the temple, scripture study, and listening to the prophet which have been my lifeline.

One of the first paragraphs of "Lectures on Faith" asks the class to reflect on their lives, and ask themselves the question, "Would you have ever sown if you had not believed that you would reap?"

I don't really believe that I will reap the blessings of my efforts. I no longer have hope in things not seen.

For example, I no longer really believe that eternal marriage and exaltation are within my reach. I made a grave, permanent mistake in marrying my ex-husband. Also, I am too outspoken, too opinionated, and too "harsh" to attract a righteous, honest, priesthood-wielding man.

I do not really have faith to meet someone who can be my partner both in questioning and in dedication to the Lord. Yet, I still try to leave myself open to the possibility.

And this is just one example. There are parallels in my membership in the Church, teaching my children, and any number of other things to which I have dedicated myself. But I continue to do the best I can because, while I have no faith in results, I have faith in my God.

Through the complete destruction of my hopes and expectations for life, I have come to understand my Savior better than ever before. I have come to know His love, His generosity, His complete dedication to humankind, his patient guidance of me.

I don't sow because I expect to reap. I sow because He asks me to. The harvest belongs to Him, not to me. I hope that some of the efforts I make pay off for Him, but I have little expectation of personal reward.

When they teach the children that keeping their bodies clean will lead to celestial glory, and that reading their scriptures will give them the power they need to "win," I am conflicted. I believe it on one level, yet I have not seen those results personally. Keeping my body clean didn't save my marriage. Reading my scriptures didn't give me the power to "win" anything.

So I am left asking myself whether or not I even have faith any more. I sought, and I did not find. I tried, and I failed. I sowed, and reaped only ashes. Yet I still seek, I still try, I still sow, only because I believe in Him more than I believe in my own experience. After all, I might be wrong!

Is this faith?


  1. Hallo Silver,

    mein Englisch ist wahrscheinlich nicht tief genug, um mich darin ausdrücken. Du scheinst Deutsch zu verstehen (laut Profil). Feel free to translate my comment :-)

    Ich bin vorletzten Sonntag getauft worden. 48 Jahren persönliche und religiöse Erfahrung bleiben. Sie stellen gerade in Bezug auf unseren Glauben einen erschütternden Reichtum dar.

    Nehmen wir z.B. eines der Themen, die Dir in der PV Probleme bereiten: Rein bleiben.

    In meiner Generation war "rein bleiben" schlichtweg unvorstellbar. Ich sprang, wie alle anderen, durch die Betten, was das Zeug hielt. Durchschnittlich alle drei Monate wechselte ich die Männer (Partner waren das nicht, und Lover eigentlich auch nicht).

    Glaube mir: Es hat mir absolut NICHTS gebracht !!

    Im Gegenteil: Ich habe Sex als Deal kennen und be-nutzen gelernt - dirty deal. Er gehörte dazu, war selbstverständlich und machte nicht einmal wirklich Spaß. Der Deal hat mich hart und innerlich kalt gemacht, gefühllos in mehr als einer Hinsicht. Selbst heute trage ich die inneren Narben mit mir.

    Technisch war ich so besehen also ein Profi.
    Meine Ehe hat das auch nicht gerettet. Obwohl ich von der Hochzeit an keusch und treu war.

    Dies ist die Geschichte der anderen Seite der Medaille.

    Dies ist eine Geschichte anderen Seite, die, wie es aussieht ALLE Dinge, Menschen, Situation haben: Es gibt einen anderen Blickwinkel. Den einzunehmen erklärt soooo Vieles.

    Welches ist die andere Seite Deines Mannes?

    Welches ist die andere Seite der Dinge an denen Du zweifelst?

  2. SR: I think I understand the conflicted feelings you have about teaching children about things that may contradict your experience.

    Even though your marriage did not end as you had always dreamed that it would, perhaps it also ended better than it might have. Maybe some good can come from the experience? It might not be the harvest that you thought of while sowing seeds, but it might also be better than ashes.

    What you know and what you have experienced cannot be taught to a child. They have to begin as we all did with the very basics of the gospel. The Church teaches the ideals with the hope that we will strive for and obtain them. While the gospel undoubtedly brings numerous blessings in this life, I think the greatest blessings will be after this life.

    And yes, I would say that you have tremendous faith to continue doing what you do in spite of obstacles and challenges. I think if you did not have faith you would not try as you are trying....

  3. I think you won the ultimate blessing, faith in Jesus Christ! It certainly has cost you a lot and in my life that confidence (gained in much the same way) is my most valuable possession (if you can call it that)
    Yesterday I went to a Primary program too. The same messages were given (my grandson (5) was singing.
    Then I was invited to be the guest speaker in YW where we talked about how all the easy answers to the questions I had for the girls about choice and consequences were given in the Primary program. Then we talked how we all know that we can make all the right choices and still not receive all the blessings we want. Yet with our faith that Christ can do His own work that we will receive all promised blessings. They will probably be a long time coming. I know!

  4. So interesting the timing on this post, SR. I just read a book where the main character is told by another one to trust her, even though it would look like she was betraying him.

    Long story short, it got me thinking about what faith really means. It is easy to believe when the blessings come, and things work out the way they "should". It is much harder to believe when nothing works out the way it "should".

    I love what you said here: "while I have no faith in results, I have faith in my God." This, to me, is real faith, deep rooted and powerful. To believe despite, rather than because.

    And this: "I have little expectation of personal reward." This is the what becoming like Christ is about. We do, not because it will benefit us, but because we prefer His will over our own.

    Thank you for sharing this - it really resonated with me today.

  5. There is a difference between the gospel, the correlated gospel and practices of the church. While we believe in ongoing revelation to ultimately resolve this how long has it been since we have received revelation as Joseph did?

    Follow The Prophet? Shouldn't the song teach follow the Spirit?

  6. SR, from my view, as an interested outsider, you have a great amount of faith and strength. I'd be glad to have you teaching my children in primary.

    There comes a point for everyone where life is not what rewards you will get from doing the right thing, but in doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.

  7. Firstly, although we know that the ideal does not always happen, Primary children need to be taught the ideal. Time enough later to learn that life if filled with trials.

    Secondly, it sounds like what you have lost is faith in yourself. This is perfectly reasonable. Only God can truly have faith in Himself, for the rest of us, there is always something or someone which can thwart the desires of our heart.

    However, for the sake of mental and emotional well-being, we must FEEL we are in control of our lives, even though intellectually, we know it is untrue. It is a difficult line to walk.

    Finally, do not suppose that the promised blessings will never come. Eternity is a long time, and although life is short, it, too, is long enough.

  8. I want to say something. Every single one of you has blessed me by commenting here. Thank you. All of you. Vielen Dank! (Ich lese Deutsch eigentlich auch gern! :D Ich brauche aber mehr Übung. Ihren Geschichte ist unerstaublich. Danke.)

    I am blessed to have people like you reading my little blog. Truly. You have each given me a great deal to think about, and helped me repent. I am teaching in Primary because it has been asked of me, but as I am still struggling with some things because of the events of my life, I worry about corrupting them. I also worry about being unable to invite the Spirit because of my lack of conviction about certain things.

    One thing that has grown from my experiences is a burning desire to serve, more than I ever had before. But I think you're spot-on, staceyvalderama. I have lost faith in myself and my ability to serve in a way that is beneficial. That, too, has to come from trust that if I would do harm, the Lord would not have had me called to Primary. I am finding that "walking by faith" is more nuanced and deeper than I ever suspected when I sang the YW song.

  9. What is winning? The goal is to endure to the end, not to necessarily achieve some great ideal in this life. Winning is sticking with the Gospel even though others may fail us through their use of agency.
    We can use our perceived failures to persecute ourselves, but that is denying the atonement and its power.
    To accuse all men of rejecting us because we are too opinionated or too outspoken is closing a door on self reflection. The word "too" implies a fault. Could it be a misanalysis on your part? If the opinions and outspokeness would push away an honest righteous priesthood holder, then perhaps it is the content of the opinions and not the being opinionated that is the problem?
    As one who was told by my hometeacher that I wasn't good dating material because I sounded "too intelligent," I can assure you that you do not need to use an abusive relationship to build a wall that pushes ALL men away.

  10. SilverRain, I don't know what to say. You are absolutely one of my favorite bloggers. You try so hard and are so honest about your struggles. I can't decide if you're a masochist or one of the most deeply religious spiritual persons I know of. Perhaps both, perhaps neither I love your writing. Thanks.

  11. One of the reasons I left the church was because I didn't want my (non-existent) children to go to primary. I thought of all the things I learned there that really messed me up. If there were more people like you, primary might not be too bad.

    You have so much to offer those children. You may not be able to teach them the things in the lesson, but that is not what is most valuable to a child sitting in primary. You can show them that God loves them, and God will hold them and be with them no matter what. You can teach them how to have a personal relationship with God. You can do those things in a way that most people cannot and will not ever understand.

  12. I believe you’re over thinking this. When you’re teaching little children, it’s an abstraction of select aspects of life, not an exacting simulation. I know you’ve had bad experiences. Granted, things in life seem to go wrong more often than they go right. Life does get it right a fair amount of the time though. I purchased a Tinkerbell kitchen set for my 3 and 5 year old girls this Christmas. Before they use it, I’m not going to teach them about 3rd degree burns, grease fires, trans fats and how most people won’t appreciate your efforts etc. If I did so, I believe I would do more harm than good.


  13. "I sought, and I did not find. I tried, and I failed. I sowed, and reaped only ashes. Yet I still seek, I still try, I still sow, only because I believe in Him more than I believe in my own experience. After all, I might be wrong!

    Is this faith?"

    Yes! Most emphatically, yes!

    BTDT - Twice (marriage). Not sure which man was worse. Have absolutely no faith in marriage, and have a lot of fear in regards to it. For years, I felt like I had committed an unpardonable sin for marrying the first man, and another for divorcing him.

    As I have grown and struggled, I have come to realize that life is not like we are taught. Jesus hung out with the outcasts. He hung out with people who had really screwed up their lives. He hung out with people who recognized that their lives were unmanageable. He did *not* hang out with those who had seemingly perfect lives and so forth. When I realized that He hung out with people like me, I was stunned - And I stopped believing I had committed an unpardonable sin in regards to marriage.

    I don't have a whole lot of answers, but I can tell you from my own experiences that you qualify as one who has faith.

  14. Hmm, I'm not so sure that we need to teach the ideal. So many children and their families don't fit the ideal already. Some of these situations, of course, are harmful, such as abuse. Some of them are less than what we think we're supposed to strive for. So what's the child whose family doesn't fit the mold do?

    I don't know the answer, but I don't think it should be to teach them that they aren't as good as someone else with a better situation. Maybe you have some perspective on what you'd tell that child who wonders why she's different and why that's not okay, the one who isn't so glad when daddy comes home. I don't know how old your class is, but I bet they have moments, too, when it seems like the world is crashing in around them and they don't know what to hold on to. You had your lifelines when you suffered, and maybe now you can extend a lifeline to them.

    Also, you called yourself "too outspoken", but I disagree. I think you're honest, and that's what I admire about you. I often struggle with dissent, and during the many times when someone says something stupid in church or one of my non-LDS friends says something stereotypical about Mormons, I have a really hard time speaking up (I could explain why, but that's another story). I'm working on it, but in the meantime, it helps to think about my friends like you who are true to themselves and handle disagreement gracefully.

  15. SR:

    If it helps your perspective about the primary lessons, something I always try to remember when I struggle with my own kids is a quote from Elder Maxwell...

    "We worship a Lord who teaches us precept by precept, brethren, so even when we are teaching our children the gospel, let’s not dump the whole load of hay."

    Sometimes I get frustrated with my kids for not understanding. Just the other day I asked my son to go get something for me that was on the floor by his bureau. He went upstairs a couple times and kept bringing me the wrong thing. I was getting frustrated until I finally realized that he didn't know what a bureau was. Perhaps the primary lessons are so simple so that the kids can develop an understanding of the basics first. Then they can learn how to use and develop them.


Unfortunately, I've found it necessary to screen comments. Unless your comment violates the commenting policy, it will show up as soon as I can approve it.

Popular Posts