6 poems about faith crisis

I just found out yesterday that this month is #OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month), a play on #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which occurs every November.

Coincidentally, I’ve written 6 new poems over the last few weeks. I had planned to write only one poem, but it started to go in a different direction. I knew that I had to write another. Then another. And another.

Then Gina Colvin interviewed Lindsay Hansen Park on A Thoughtful Faith in an episode called “Critiquing Progressive Mormonism”, and all of a sudden, I had loads of ideas for future poems.

What started out as a single poem about my recent faith crisis has morphed into a series. So far, I have just 6, but I plan to write a few more exploring various aspects of faith crisis, especially in a Mormon context.

Anyhow, I wanted to share what I’ve written so far, so here they are (with a brief summary of each). Keep in mind that I typically like to use a lot of symbolism, some of it subtle and some of it obvious. See if you can find all the symbols I’ve used. Continue reading 6 poems about faith crisis

My friends are leaving the church, and it makes me sad

I just listened to a podcast of a friend of mine discussing some of her life in the LDS church. Towards the end, she mentioned that she stopped attending church. This on the heels of several other friends of mine cutting ties this year with the church.

And it makes me sad.

Continue reading My friends are leaving the church, and it makes me sad

Why are there no safe spaces to question our faith?

I’ve had two faith crises.

One thing that having two faith crises has done for me is allowing me to compare them. In most ways, they were different. Different triggers, different durations, different reactions, and different emotions.

One specific way the two faith crises differed was the level of openness I took with each. Continue reading Why are there no safe spaces to question our faith?

Fine. I’ll stay. But I’m really pissed off.

I broke two of my rules with that headline: I used the word “really” and I swore. But there it is.

Despite the implied message in that charged, clickbait headline, I’m not staying because I feel pressured to.

I’ve been busy over the last week or so. I’ve been reading dozens of blog posts, listening to dozens of podcasts, watching dozens of videos, responding to dozens of private messages, and reviewing hundreds of Facebook comments. I’ve been ruminating on it all.

So why am I staying?

For years, I’ve been exercising autonomy in my religious beliefs, believing what I wanted regardless of whether it was conventional or traditional. I’ve refused letting anyone else dictate what I could believe.

A few days ago, Mary said something that reminded me of this. She determined that she’s staying because she won’t let some men decide whether she stays or goes. I’m staying because I’m exercising my autonomy.

I’m not staying because I was told to, because I was told I was needed, or because I was told that I couldn’t be Mormon while not attending. I’m staying because I chose to.

As someone else said this week, if I leave, my voice diminishes. If I stay, my voice remains. Although, I haven’t been in a leadership position for nearly 7 years, I’ve still had opportunities to speak my mind. I’ve been a teacher for over 4 years now, which allows me to control the rhetoric. Even though I often feel alone, I still have hope that I can change dialogue, and new dialogue leads to new values, priorities, and paradigms. And when I’m no longer teaching, I can still share my thoughts and opinions. If I leave, all I have left for a voice is online (here, social media, etc), and the only ones who’ll listen are those who already agree.

I’m not just any Mormon. Despite not being born in the church, I consider myself Mormon culturally, not just spiritually. The Mormon sacraments are an important part of my life. The ability I have to participate in them as not just a recipient but a bestower allows me to participate in the sacraments of my children not as a bystander, but as a conduit. Something my Catholic ancestors couldn’t do.

If I left, I miss out on baptizing half of my children. I miss out on remaining my son’s hometeaching companion. I miss out on escorting my sons through the temple and seeing my daughters go through. I miss out on serving a mission with Mary. These are all milestones I find value in as a cultural Mormon.

I’m also staying because what became apparent to me this week is that there exists in the church many people who understand and fulfill their baptismal covenants to mourn with and comfort those who grieve, free of judgement and bias. I want to be one with them. While it’s a challenge to be unified in building true Zion in a church that’s so pharisaical, knowing that there are loving, compassionate people in the church makes me want to be part of it. Certainly, I can do that outside of the church, but I believe opportunities exist within the church for me. And the church certainly needs more communists.

Another reason I’m staying is because the esoteric aspects of Mormonism appeal to my heart. Deeply. And while I lament that much of the esoteric that was common in the early church of nearly 200 years ago has disappeared or been minimized, I recognize that the temple still contains it. While some might find it odd, I find it satisfying, and it serves as my connection to a time when angels visited the earth, people saw visions with stones, and spiritual fire engulfed entire buildings. By staying, I still have access to the temple.

It’s an odd circumstance. The Mormon church is one of the few Christian churches that puts restrictions on who can enter religious facilities, which forces me to follow their rules if I want to use those facilities. I stay, completely aware of this.

So why am I upset?

I’m upset because the new policy is abhorrent.

Let’s just set aside the fact that the policy was written by the church’s law firm and not the prophets, seers, and revelators. (That’s a blog topic on its own.) It’s ridiculous that the church now says that anyone in a same-sex marriage is apostate. It makes no sense. Gay Mormons can be supportive of the church in every other way (paying tithing, keeping the commandments, serving in a calling, home teaching, living the Word of Wisdom, and so forth), yet if they marry someone of the same sex, somehow that’s considered a turning away. If you’re going to list marriage as a sign of apostasy, why not list living common law as a sign of apostasy?

In addition, it’s hypocritical to mandate church discipline for marriage when there are far worse things (rape and child abuse for example) for which church discipline is optional.

Finally, limiting the children of gay parents from fully participating in the church’s sacraments is wholly unfair. The church is not actually concerned with protecting children; it’s using that as an excuse to punish its gay members who are parents. If the welfare of children was truly important, then things that actually damage children would be addressed. For example, making church discipline mandatory for those who abuse children or labelling child abuse as a sign of apostasy would be a start. By not taking action on things that actually harm children, the church shows us that its stance on protecting children is empty and meaningless.

The so-called clarification letter issued by the church certainly improves the lives of children in straight families with gay parents or children in gay families who have already received ordinances. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this policy still targets a group of children in the church: those of gay parents.

And the policy clarification changes nothing for our situation. Our bisexual daughter, should she choose to marry a woman and have children raised in the church, would still be a target of the policy. I would still never be able to to bless or baptize those grandchildren.

And that hurts. My church has hurt me.

Last Thursday, it felt like my church sucker punched me in the gut. Today, those bruises are not gone. I don’t feel less angry. My decision to stay is not an admission that the policy was right. No, I categorically reject the policy. It is entirely wrong. I’m staying despite the policy.

Speaking of my daughter, some have suggested that I need to take steps to protect my daughter. That just stinks of patriarchal sexism. My 17-year-old daughter is an independent, strong young adult getting ready to go out into the world on her own. She needs no protection from her father. She can take care of herself, and she has done so.

So where does this leave me?

Well, I’m staying in the church with some conditions. I will not be silent. I’ve been a supporter of LGBT rights in the church for at least 12 years, but it has mostly been silent support. This summer, when our daughter publicly came out, I used it as an opportunity to publicly declare my support for marriage equality, that people should have the right to be in a monogamous, loving relationship raising children in a stable, nurturing home regardless of the sex of their spouse.

I will remain a strong supporter of LGBT rights in the church. LGBT Mormons need safe places to practise their religion. LGBT youth need support and encouragement, not rejection and being told by their leaders and parents that they disgust them and there’s no place for them in heaven. It’s bad enough that our society rejects LGBT people. Followers of Jesus shouldn’t reject them, too.

I’m not sure how sticking up for LGBT members will work in practice with my social anxiety, but I’ll try my best.

For the last six months, since my grandmother died, I have not been sharing anything on Facebook other than status updates. That’s changing as of today. I will return to sharing articles on my feed, especially ones that are critical of the church, that challenge conventional Mormon views. People need to regularly take inventory of how they view the world around them; they need to check the tint of their glasses. I no longer care how that affects the way people view me. I’ve made Mormonism work for me and I’m at peace with my relationship with God. What others think of me changes neither of those two things.

I worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience.

My faith crisis story (Sally)

This is the third post in a series how several of us have dealt with a crisis in faith.

No one can make us do anything we seriously don’t want to do. I can’t even say when I started to slide backwards it was such a gradual change. In all hindsight, I can honestly say it was because I took my membership and my temple recommend for granted. I believed that members sealed in the temple were sealed for all time and eternity; therefore, there is no divorce. You work things out.

Continue reading My faith crisis story (Sally)

My faith crisis story (JM)

This is the second post in a series how several of us have dealt with a crisis in faith.

I have had a few experiences in my life that have shaped my understanding of the gospel and the church. These key experiences have shaped the small testimony that I have and I feel like there isn’t anything that could ever change my understanding of those experiences, or what they taught me afterwards.

Continue reading My faith crisis story (JM)

My faith crisis story (Kim)

This is the first post in a series how several of us have dealt with a crisis in faith.

My parents joined the church when I was five years old. Actually, it was just before the Saskatoon Saskatchewan District became a stake, so for the first couple of months of my Mormon experience, I attended a branch.

I grew up in the church. I was a pretty average member for most of that time. While I had siblings who blatantly rejected the church, the closest I came was a bout of apathy.

I met and dated a recent convert whose enthusiasm for the gospel rubbed off on me and changed my outlook toward the church. In fact, I believe she was directly responsible for my serving a mission.

About a year before I left on my mission, I requested that the bishop call me as a Primary teacher. He was more than willing, and I was assigned to teach the children turning eight. It was a good experience; it solidified basic gospel ideas in my mind, supplemented my own scripture study, and gave me many opportunities to attend baptisms.

The temple endowment was an interesting experience. In fact, I wrote in my journal that night that the Lord likes keeping me on my toes. It was foreshadowing in a way.

I was with my first companion for two weeks before he was transferred to be a zone leader somewhere. My next companion was an amateur scholar. He had a subscription to Sunstone and told me stories about him correcting his seminary teacher in class. Going to discussions was a treat with him.

I learned many things from him that I had never heard previously. Things like Jesus speaking as if He were God. This companion whetted my appetite for the unknown; he set me on the road for a new stage of gospel understanding.

Throughout my mission, I speculated with other missionaries on concepts and principles, using scriptures and publications to support my ideas. It was a good experience and I learned a lot.

I never served in leadership positions on my mission, but I felt it was still a successful accomplishment. It was a faith-strengthening experience and helped me develop patience.

Things were great following my mission as well. I was able to go to the temple regularly (including being able to perform ordinance on behalf of my maternal grandfather), I was married within six months, and I was called to the elders quorum presidency within the year.

Serving in the elders quorum presidency (two years as president) was an amazing spiritual experience. Many of the brethren came to me — despite my being the youngest in the quorum — for advice and blessings. I grew spiritually in that time.

About two years after my mission, I was introduced to the Internet and subsequently the LDS world of cyberspace. I found mailing lists like Scripture-L, JOSEPH, LDS-Phil, Eyring-L and others. A whole new world opened up to me, and I found many paradigms shifting.

Then I had an unusual and foreign experience. Several years ago, I found myself in a difficult situation. As a result, I was praying frequently and fervently for the Lord’s intervention. I prayed several times every day and was fasting every Sunday. Some weeks I fasted Sunday and Monday. I was extremely desperate for the Lord to intervene in this situation because I could find no way to take care of the situation myself.

After several weeks of not seeing any change in the situation, I began questioning why I was not receiving an answer to my prayer. I took inventory of my life thinking that perhaps I was living unworthily and that my sins were holding back the mercy of God. I could not find anything in my life that would have been significant for the Lord to withhold blessings.

As I kept searching for answers, a question came to my mind that I honestly never thought ever would. I started to wonder if perhaps the reason I wasn’t receiving an answer from God was because God did not exist.

My entire life was filled with teachings that told me if I ever needed anything from God, I simply had to ask. Here I was, having asked every day for several weeks, even unusually fasting frequently, and those promised answers had not come.

It was ironic in a way. I had been exposed to all sorts of odd practices, teachings and historical happenings in the early church and none of them had every prompted me to question the Church. In fact, even at this point, it was not the church I was questioning.

As my questioning of God’s existence continued, I started questioning the futility of attending church, or reading scriptures, or even praying.

One of the hardest things I ever had to do was tell Mary of what was going on in my mind. She was supportive and never critical. She encouraged me to keep going.

At the time, we were attending an Institute class. We had a good instructor, and we were discussing church history. Actually, we were specifically studying Liberty Jail. In the course of the class, we discussed D&C 121:1–2.

O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

My ears perked up. Joseph Smith — the first prophet of the restoration, one who had seen God, one who had been ministered by angels — was asking the same question I had: where was God.

Immediately to my mind came Matt 27:46:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

And now even Jesus, the saviour of the world, was asking the same question that had entered my mind several times. The progenitor of our faith and the source of our faith both put forth the same question to God. Both felt alone. And both came through triumphant.

At that point, the Spirit entered into me with such a force that I knew I had never felt such a thing in my entire life. My heart was touched and enlightenment came to my mind. I knew that if Joseph Smith, who underwent many trials and tribulations, and Jesus, who descended below all men, could feel alone and abandoned then I was in good company. And if they could come out triumphant, then so could I.

The situation didn’t improve for a long time, but I managed to find resources to help me manage through it. It was a very hard time and a very difficult experience. Sometimes it seemed as if I barely made it through.

It was turning point in my life. My faith was restored and actually strengthened to the point where it was likely stronger than at any other point in my life.

If I had to do it again, I would. It was a tough experience, but I came out of it with a better understanding where one’s faith must lie. The gospel seems so fundamental now.