Monday, January 26, 2015
If you can’t question your religion, Why Are You In It?
I don’t know if I had met Kelly prior to the being called to serve on the activities committee. The first activity I remember being involved with was a “food storage/budgeting made-fun activity” Kelly played Betty Barker and I became the emcee who drew the names of contestants and invited them to “come on down”.
Even then she was struggling with the Church and her family life – desiring to connect the two but feeling torn with her beliefs. Her husband showed no sign of ever wanting to be involved with the Church or even anybody who belonged to it. Perhaps Kelly wasn’t even active when they met but gradually came around with a desire for having God and direction in her life – perhaps not necessarily the “Mormon Church”
That was five years ago. And she continues to battle with herself and her maintaining a comfortable relationship and self worth which she is not finding in the Church. I understand. Perhaps not completely. But I do understand why she would leave – although she hasn’t withdrawn completely.
Her husband still gives her no support as far as showing any interest in church or church members. I didn’t even know what he looked like until the other night when I glanced at him through the window. He had heard we were coming and made his “get-away” before we were even out of the car.
Kelly’s last calling had been a counselor in the primary. Not where she wanted to be, but accepted the calling believing it would keep her on the path to and at that the Church is where she needed to be – until she was asked to create the program for the 2014 “Families are Forever” theme. That became the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t in her heart to create a program that she herself felt discriminated against.
Actually, I had wondered how the majority felt as many of the primary children are from broken homes, inactive or part member families, many with barriers that seem to prevent the traditional “families are forever” theme.
Elenore sat on the stand near the pulpit, to help the children with the lines they might have forgotten. I wondered if the program had been difficult for her as she and her husband had divorced long before I had even met her. She’d gone back to her maiden name rather than identifying herself with her married name. She has custody of their two children, but he has visitation rights.
I hadn’t even paid attention to Kelly’s absence as I watched various children get up and recite lines that just didn’t seem to fit in their current living environment. How many of them believed in the words that they said? How many struggled through that program? I did.
Kelly’s youngest son and Jenna have often played together. Kelly had told me about sending her son to a water park all summer. I had been dragging Jenna to Kearns with me last summer. Perhaps “drag” is not the correct word as she really did enjoy being with her cousins. But I know she would have loved spending summer at a water park if given the opportunity.
I had asked Kelly if Spencer would be returning to the water park this summer and thought I would look into a pass for Jenna. I thought we had talked just last month, but then she disappeared.
I was substitute teaching the last three weeks of December. I think there were five or six names on the role in Jenna’s class, but it was usually just Elenore’s son and Jenna. Spencer wasn’t there during the three weeks I had taught. I sent Kelly a message to inquire if she and her family had been out of town for the holidays. Turns out she is actually attending another church – one that doesn’t push the “Families are Forever” theme. One that doesn’t make her feel discriminated against.
I had the same struggles when I was single for so long – not as long as several sisters in the current ward I belong to. I was married at 39. There are several sisters in my ward who are much older that have not had opportunity to marry – or perhaps they have and it just didn’t feel right with choice of partner. I don’t know. I know that there are several who feel discriminated against when lessons are given on eternal marriage or husband/wives relationships. It’s hurtful to hear when that very thing doesn’t seem to exist in the earthly future.
I recently read that divorce is 50/50 but that a marriage needs to be 100/100. And there are some couples that each give 100% and then there are other couples in which one does all the giving while the other does all the taking. I can only control what I give, but I cannot control what another might contribute. Roland contributes 100% - perhaps more. But not everybody has that. Not everybody has the support from family members. Not everybody gives 100%.
Hannah moved into the ward about a year after we did. For the longest time I believed that she was a single parent as I never saw her with a spouse. She was diligent about coming to meetings and activities though it was challenging at times. It wasn’t known to all that there were struggles, for Hannah wore a smile on her face and pressed on. One day she announced that there were struggles and coming to church wasn’t easy. Her husband didn’t wish to attend church with her.
When Asher (her son) got closer to turning eight, he begged his dad to please come back to Church so that he could baptize him. Thus after eight or nine years of attending Church on her own, Hannah’s husband finally came around. He is the one who baptized Asher. Endurance.
So where is Kelly’s reward when she has seemingly had to endure even longer? Why are there some whose trials seem to outlast their faith while others seem to be rewarded in just a matter of minutes? How many of us feel that we have been or are being dealt with unfairly? For how long must we endure?
One of my biggest hang-ups in this “pushing family” church is the discrimination that seemingly takes place at the temple. The sealing ceremony in which only the worthy temple recommends holders can participate. All loved ones who are not temple recommend holders are allowed to wait in the lobby but cannot witness the special event because they don’t have recommends. They have been labeled “unworthy” How do you explain that?
I was married civilly over three years before I was sealed. The civil marriage was a lot more personable. I enjoyed having guests at my wedding that otherwise couldn’t come to see Roland and I exchange vows. I don’t like to feel excluded because I don’t have a recommend (or didn’t; not when Patrick married. Not when my cousin married her first husband) and I don’t wish for others to feel that way.
What does a “Forever Family” mean in my case? That the boys will go with Roland and their mom? That Jenna will go with Roland and me? And what’s to become of Roland’s oldest two girls? They were born under the covenant? But do they sense that now? Do they even know what that means?
The boys are adults with spouses (soon families) of their own. How does that work? Are they always going to reside with us in the hereafter or will they go with their wives’ families? I don’t think our concept of “Families are forever” will be the same as what we may build up in our minds. We are required to have faith that it will all work out. God’s kind and men’s kind are very often not the same.
Denise shared her testimony after her forty plus years of struggles – though not with the Church. She had been baptized when she was 19. The ward bishop had called her into his office to call her as a primary teacher. But there was a condition that came with accepting the call. She would have to stop dating her boyfriend. It wasn’t because even because he wasn’t a member, but apparently the bishop objected to his race. I don’t know if she saw that as discrimination coming from the Church or just that particular leader. It wasn’t right that he had told her that. She left the Church and did not return until over forty years later.
The elder missionaries showed up on her doorstep shortly after she lost her dad. She was in a state of depression. She had answered the door in her pajamas and commented that one elder in particular was dead set about helping her. She said she needed her dishes done but didn’t have any soap. The elders dismissed themselves but said they would return.
When the elders returned, they brought back some dish soap along with a missionary couple. While the elders did dishes, Denise sat in the other room with the elderly couple and asked about her father. It was a very good visit and an indication for her to return to the Church in which she had been baptized a member over four decades earlier.
We all have our trials. We all have our disappointments. Endurance is not an easy thing. For many, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For many there is no life. They have given up home. Some hang on by a thread searching for a glimmer of hope. May each of us find the strength needed to endure than we may find peace? That is my hope.