Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sustaining Failure

"But as for me and my house...."

This is a refrain I've read often recently, mostly from people who support the Brethren of the Church to those who are struggling with recent policy changes and the claim that those policy changes are revelation from God.

While I resonate with that sentiment: to "claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege..." I can't help but feel that it is a way to shut down discussion, to draw a line in the sand, and to condemn those who are wrestling with this concept. In that I have no interest.

It is with this in the back of my mind that I read again the words of Brethren from over forty years ago, and prayerfully ponder what I should write. I am very grateful to be invited to participate in the General Conference Odyssey, but I admit to feeling a little out of water. I do not write the great analyses that others write. I don't tend to place things in historical, doctrinal, or philosophical context. My blog is very personal, just as the name suggests. It is about two things which are really one thing: publicly sharing parts of my struggles with God in the hopes that seeing me try to shore up my house against the storms of mortality will encourage others to do the same, to build their house on the rock of my Redeemer. My relationship with God is not all that I am, but it is the part of me that I most want to share. It is the best thing I have to offer the world...or the tiny part of it I can reach. I know that I am nothing, but I will write of the miracles of God in me as best I can.

I had a hard time finding just one or two talks to cover. Franklin D. Richards teaches of Zion's Camp, a story that has long fascinated me, more now that I have lived a bit more life. Zion's Camp was an attempt by the Mormons, after their lands had been seized, to reclaim their property. It was a difficult journey, fraught with internal and external danger. It was led by God and His chosen Prophet. It was directly ordered by God to Joseph Smith. And it was a failure.

I couldn't help but notice the parallels to my own life. When I met my ex-husband, I was freshly off my mission. My ability to hear and listen to the Spirit had been validated, though not at small cost. The one confidence I had remaining was that I could understand God's voice, that I had a relationship with Him. Of course, when a man I met expressed interest in the Church, I invited him to hear the discussions in my parents' house. Of course, when he later expressed interest in me, I went home and pondered and prayed about it. I felt good about the relationship. He was baptized not long after, and we waited to marry until we could marry in the temple. I did it all right, and I included the Lord in my decisions.

But my marriage was also fraught with danger both internal and external. Decisions were made in my marriage which I did not agree with. Piece by piece, my confidence in myself was dismantled. I felt I could not remember anything. I felt I could not understand my husband, nor meet his needs no matter how I tried. I suspected him of cheating on me, but I kept silent, hoping he would make good decisions. Money ran through our household, and I never knew where it went. My life became built on layers of lies, until I doubted my own sanity. Finally, I found the strength to stand up for myself, which led directly to the decision to end my marriage. The attempt to follow God's direct will to me: to support my husband and build an eternal family....was a failure.

The pain from that may never fully fade. The consequences of it certainly won't disappear. But as Henry D. Taylor taught, many men in Church history and in scripture were put through similar experiences of failure. It was reading stories of Abraham and of Joseph Smith that gave me the courage and strength to make the decision to use my pain as a stepping stone, rather than allow it to be a stumbling block. "It was not intended that the earthly road would be smooth, nor would the path be easy....man was to be allowed his free agency, the right to choose....He himself must make the decisions. This was all part of the gospel plan."

Because I have experienced my own failure at the direction of God, I am more patient with the leadership of men who are called by Him to receive revelation for the Church. It is not a question to me of whether or not they are right, and this is truly from God, because I have already satisfied myself with the answer to the question of whether or not they have been called by Him. I cannot see the end from the beginning, as He can. But I know enough of the journey to know that trusting Him is so incredibly worth it.

In sifting through the policies and words of the brethren, I know two things: first, they are led by God. They have the responsibility of leading the Church, of preserving the beacon of God's truth in this world. If they believe that it is necessary to forbid the children of same-sex-married parents to be baptized, even with parental permission, I trust them. If they change the policy later, that in no way diminishes the revelation they have received, any more than it undermined the validity of my revelation to marry when I was taught by the Spirit to divorce. I know enough to know that I cannot understand the place of the Church in the great tapestry of the Lord's plan.

Second, I also know my responsibilities. I have made a covenant to both "stand as a witness of God" and to "mourn with those who mourn." I have prayed, pondered, and humbled myself over years regarding the matter of love, sexual expression, and marriage. I have received revelation for myself that it is not God's will to adapt the principles of father and mother in a family. It is not an eternal principle. I am open to further revelation, of course, but that is what the Lord has given me now.

No less do I have a duty to hold the Kleenex (metaphorically AND literally) for those who are in pain. How could I do less, having suffered the same feelings? Having wracked my soul with the conviction that I am forever broken in the eyes of God, how could I NOT feel compassion and love for others who are wrestling with the same question? "As for me and my house," I will support the brethren. But "as for me and my house," I will also serve the Lord by ministering to His children, His broken and suffering children. No matter their political or sexual leaning. It is my job as a baptized member of the Church to display the compassion and inclusion that the Church cannot display in its policies. There is much that can be done to allay suffering without compromising doctrine.

I do not know all the secrets of consecrating my pain, failure, and sorrow (as well as my joy and success!) to God. But I know enough to know that this is the choice I must make.

"All the effort and struggle and sorrow will be well worth it, for we will earn the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal life." (Taylor)

Other Posts from This Conference:

Nathaniel Givens
It's Dangerous to Go Alone

Working Out Our Collective Salvation

J. Max Wilson
LDS Conference October 1971 - What is Failure? Zion's Camp and Liberty Jail

Daniel Ortner
Our Position of Strength

John Hancock
Choose Ye This Day: General Conference or Elvis, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones

Ralph Hancock
I Was So Much Older Then, I’m Younger Than That Now

Michelle Linford

Walker Wright
A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth

Chastity Wilson
Free Agency and God's Interference


  1. This is a really beautiful post. I love the idea that we can learn as much from our failures as our triumphs. God's path for us is rarely as simple or cut and dry as we initially imagine.

  2. You sell yourself short. These have been excellent entries thus far, and I hope life doesn't get in the way too much for you to be able to continue to show your unique perspective.

    I'd thought of joining this journey myself, but I think I'd have to do it in a random order, just to be me. ;)

  3. I'm several weeks behind the group in my studies but this was my favorite post for this session. I am a mother learning to show love to the 4 of my 5 children that have left the faith so your sentence "There is much that can be done to allay suffering without compromising doctrine" could be expanded to include There is much that can be done to show love, connection and support without compromising doctrine! That's my hobby at least for now!


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