Editor’s Note: This post was written in response to a comment by Tim on the post The Book of Mormon Musical–A Mormon’s Review. The text of the comment is reprinted below:
I was raised in the church and have done my best to adhere to the teachings and beleifs. No matter how hard I try life just seams to shit on me. I have lost my wife, children, and every materialistic assett I have ever had. My faith is severely weakened at this point. Why should I even bother to try anymore? I was taught that if I wasnt sealed to my wife, i couldnt be sealed to my children, hence when I die I will never be reunited with my children in the afterlife. I dont even know why I am bothering to post any of this, I am resigned to dying alone and hopefuly slipping into nothingness, hope the aetheists know more than what i was taught.
It’s kind of a strange thing, the way that we communicate using the Internet. I don’t know who you are, where you live, or what you are going through beyond what you reveal in your cryptic remarks. Even so, I can see that you are in pain, and as a fellow human being I think of times in my life when I would have said some very similar things. I think I understand something of the injustice you feel, but even more of the frustration you may have with reference to things you’ve been taught.
I think that it can be particularly difficult to experience dark times in the Mormon community because the gospel tends to bring people a lot of happiness. When you’re really struggling in life, interactions with happy people can feel very alienating. Oftentimes if we let others know about what we are going through and feeling, they may try to offer us comfort by trying to teach us out of it. For Mormons, knowing the doctrine and being able to share it is really important, so we tend to be comfortable and skilled at it. However, when the dark night is truly upon you there is very little relief in being reminded to have an eternal perspective or being told that your trial is a blessing. Even though you may rationally believe in the principles, they feel like hollow platitudes, attempts to trivialize your experience or insinuate that you brought your suffering on yourself.
A central one of these principles that we rationally know but struggle to feel, is that God loves us. From your comments about your life, I suspect that you may feel betrayed by God. How is it that the all-loving, all-powerful God could do this to me, or allow this to happen? The logical inconsistencies between what you’ve been taught, what has actually happened, and how it has affected you come together in paradox. Someone has thrown a wrench into the engine of your faith and the whole thing has seized up.
I think we know, both intuitively and doctrinally, that prayer is somehow key to solving the problem, but the things we were taught before haunt us and may frustrate our attempts. We’ve been taught that we need to pray in humility and sincerity, but we feel anger and resentment. We’ve been taught that God is perfect and all-knowing, and yet we want to tell him about how big of a mistake he’s made. We’ve been taught that God answers the prayers of the righteous, but because of our struggles we’ve let some things slip in our efforts to obey the commandments. We are at an impasse.
If you will humor this writer, in spite of his anonymity, I’d like to share a couple of ideas that have helped me to get through some of this gridlock, restore my faith, and find healing. I honestly don’t know if they will be helpful for you, but they relate to truths that are seldom emphasized and I hope they’ll provide a perspective that can be useful and provide some hope.
The first idea is this: God’s plan is to work through the struggles and have a closer relationship with you. This means the real you, where and how you are right now. As with all relationships, if there are problems to work out, there has to be some open communication. Sometimes when we aren’t feeling righteous enough we’re tempted to fake it and just say our prayers as if we really are being humble, patient, respectful, etc. Doing this is not only dishonest, it makes it hard to connect to God because it presupposes that he will have no respect for you or your concerns. Sometimes we think of God in his perfection as a highly delicate, sensitive person who is offended and withholding at the slightest impropriety. The reality is that he is generous and strong. God fully knows the truth of your heart, loves you anyway, and will not leave you hanging. If we need to complain, accuse, whine, or whatever, his ego can take it. There is no reason to be afraid of being real with the Lord.
The second idea is this: God’s ways are mysterious. In the Mormon faith we teach about a systematic orderly plan that God has laid out for us. The clarity of this teaching provides comfort and faith for many people, but its simplicity can encourage overconfidence in our understanding of the Lord’s ways. We experience life in a fallen world, and if we are going to believe in God’s goodness, the plan must be richly complex, filled with grace, and account for each of us. As we go through life learning about the gospel, we are taught many different things and it can be challenging to discern what might be in error and what is most essential, particularly as they apply in our own lives. God wants to show to you the mysterious work he’s doing in your life. If you can abandon assumptions you carry, particularly about the way you’ve been taught things are supposed to be, you will be able to see more clearly the love embedded in the Father’s unique plan for you.
I’m sorry for your struggles and hope that I haven’t presumed too much in my comments here. If you don’t find any of this helpful, I hope you find a source of comfort that will work for you.