Twenty years ago, in an effort to evade an impending nervous breakdown, I left my four children in the care of their dad, and went to Florida for a month to simply be still and know God. It was perhaps the bravest and best thing I’ve ever done.
I referred to it here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/solitude/#more-18197 in a blogpost I wrote last year. But I didn’t (yet) tell you what God said to me that month.
I arrived at my aunt and uncle’s small second home, which they had kindly loaned me for a month, in a blue rented Geo Metro, with one carry-on flight bag overstuffed with far too much emotional baggage. I was ragged and raw, depressed and desperate. But I had just enough wisdom—and organizational skill—to get myself across the country for this solitary respite. I wasn’t sure what my goal was. But I knew I needed to be quiet. Still. Alone. I knew I needed to unbury my Self from the life-piles that were smothering me. I needed to regain the sense that my life was my own, recover my power to create. I felt perhaps like Siddhartha Gautama, determined to sit beneath the fig tree until he became the Enlightened One. I needed enlightenment. So I determined to sit.
My daily schedule was precise and strict. So was my diet. I learned to meditate, sitting in puddles of sun for hours at a time, gazing out at the Alafia River while wandering through mental mist, seeking God. I heard His voice in fragments of enlightenment over the course of the month. On the last day, I captured the revelations in words:
1) Take care of your family, living and dead.
2) Do the work. (I know what He means.)
3) Stay in the Church.
These were clear directives, meant for me personally. The first two are daunting tasks and I expect to use my lifetime trying to fulfill them. The third one has been something of a puzzler over the years. Sometimes, it feels like a freebie: “Of course I’ll stay in the Church — where else would I go?” But sometimes, it is the most daunting task of all. It’s during these times that I am most grateful for this simple, clear, personal instruction from the One who sees all and most wants me to succeed. When I can’t trust my own judgment, I trust this.
Twenty years ago was about the time of my first serious Mormon feminist upset. For me, gender issues in the church are my biggest challenge and it’s a continual dance of head-and-heart learning to keep my faith true and honest. Lately, my head and heart are on full alert as I witness and experience what I judge to be some impactful mistakes on the part of Church leadership, as well as some promising progress. Other issues have arisen recently in the Church that disturb and frustrate me. Sometimes, frankly, I am tempted to bail. But I don’t. I stay.
I stay because God told me to. And when voices conflict and I can’t see or know enough to figure out the truth for sure, I believe what God tells me. I cannot simply “follow the prophet”, which is generally interpreted as “agree with whatever the Church leaders say”. Perhaps this is a flaw of faith on my part. But though I keep my eyes and ears wide open to what our prophets have to teach, I have learned that I can best keep my faith strong by trusting the gifts I have to hear the voice of the Lord directly. And God told me to stay in the Church.
I stay because I know that the doctrines, the principles, the ordinances, and the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are true. I can debate theology all day — and enjoy it. But at the end of the day, this is what I know: Priesthood power is real. I don’t mean the administrative priesthood that our brothers are ordained to. I mean Priesthood with a capital P — the power and authority of God that is operative in each of our lives to the extent that we choose to use it.
The ordinances of the gospel have some kind of transformative power that I am at a loss to explain. I don’t even understand why we need ordinances. But I know that imbued deep within each ordinance of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a real power — real Priesthood power — to literally change us, make us more and more divine, more and more our real Selves. I don’t claim to get it. But I do claim to know it’s real.
The doctrines and principles of this restored gospel are a treasure to me. As a convert to the Church, I understand perhaps a little more deeply how precious our doctrines are. They are indeed a pearl of great price to me personally; I paid a price to learn them, to prove them, and to know them. The more I learn, the more I know, the more I value what God has given us. And while the Church has no monopoly on truth, I challenge you to name another place where you can find so much truth and light gathered into one great whole.
Once, Jesus introduced some “hard doctrine” to his people and . . .
. . .from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (John 6: 66-69)
I stand with Peter. I’m staying. Where else would I go? So no matter how dirty the bath water gets, I can’t believe it’s a good idea to throw the baby out, too. I’m staying. Because the real stuff is Real. I know it is. I’m not hoping or believing. I know. So I’m staying.
How about you?