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?

December 16, 2015

47 Comments

  1. Ramona Gordy

    December 16, 2015

    Thank you Lisa, I don’t know if I have ever had a “crisis” of faith. I converted to the LDS Church 8 years ago this New Years. But I know that I was kicked out of a church because I demanded the “Truth”, and I knew what the truth was, but unfortunately the Church I attended was imploding from spiritual apostasy on a Sunday by Sunday basis.
    “from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

    This verse is so telling, many of his disciples ( who could be you or I), went back or rather apostatized, or decided to jump the iron rod and swim over to the Great and Spacious building.
    And they walked no more with him. That part of the verse is like a deafening silence isn’t it? Our walk with Jesus is so much more than going to Church every Sunday, or callings, even home & visiting teaching.
    Basically we ask for a “divorce” from our “husband” Jesus when we choose to “turn back”. Think about Lot’s wife, she turned back rather than focusing on her husband and family. It is in that context that our relationship with Christ should be. Unity, oneness in Spirit with the Savior, taking on his name/attributes as a bride takes on the new name of her groom. Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, overwhelming burdened and I will give you rest.
    It sounds so “ancient” doesn’t it? But for me, I have come to realize that God IS, and Jesus IS .
    At some point, we must all exercise the proper use of our free moral agency, and choose either God or the world. And once we make that choice we can ask for help in sticking to it.
    These are my thoughts, thanks

    • P. Craig

      December 29, 2015

      Very well put. Your comment, like the original article, have bolstered me well. Thank you.

  2. Jules

    December 16, 2015

    Thank you. This isn’t the first post I’ve read with a similar sentiment, and each one reminds me there is space for me to stay.

  3. Bea

    December 16, 2015

    This resonates with me today. Thank you for articulating the feelings that so many share.

  4. KIm

    December 16, 2015

    Thank you for this post. I had a similar crisis 25 years ago and staying, even when I saw nothing but pain, was the best decision I ever made. I grew through the pain into a relationship with Christ that sustains me still. I can look back and still not understand why I couldn’t SEE then what i see now. But I am so grateful that I felt as Peter, “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)

    You have spoken my own truth and much more eloquently than I could!

  5. Kerri

    December 16, 2015

    I have clung to this scripture for the past little while. I love this post. Thank you.

  6. Michelle L.

    December 17, 2015

    Lisa, you never fail to inspire me with your beautiful writing.

  7. Anne Marie

    December 17, 2015

    This is really beautiful. Thank you.

  8. Jennifer

    December 17, 2015

    This

    “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.”

    Thank you for expressing my current needs so precisely.

  9. Karen

    December 18, 2015

    You are very generous to share your experience with us. All my best to you as you continue to anchor yourself to those directives.

  10. Chino Blanco

    December 18, 2015

    Accustomed to the regimen of prison life, an institutionalized mentality takes hold. What is the appropriate response to people trapped in prisons of belief? So much pain, but also so much appreciation for their jailers, that it becomes hard to feel pity without scorn.

    • Jeremy Jensen

      January 3, 2016

      Quit putting down people simply because they believe differently than you do. Live your life and let others live theirs.

  11. Barb

    December 19, 2015

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Mike

    December 30, 2015

    This comment is really for my own benefit but I hope it might also help someone else.

    I appreciated this article. I don’t understand everything there is to know about the Church but I have a strong testimony of its divine part in God’s plan. I sometimes find the Adversary planting seeds of doubt in my mind even though I have ample experience and knowledge that overwhelm any questions he might bring up. It’s sometimes easy to forget the spiritually confirming experiences, whether these are learning a fact that resolves a doubt or feelings of comfort or peace, but when I take a moment to step back and reflect I can remember these sacred experiences and move forward with faith.
    Please don’t allow the Adversary to obfuscate the witnesses that God has given. Don’t let go of these witnesses; they are real and they matter.

  13. Rosa Larson

    December 30, 2015

    This post and the responses , specially hours Mike, has been very helpful to me. Not because I have had any big issue or “crisis” with my testimony of The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church, but I have felt some of these same feelings at times. The good thing is that I have continue trusting the Lord and believing in Him. I reassured myself by praying, asking God to keep me strong and help me never to doubt or even think about leaving His Church, because, like Peter said, where would I go? No other church or organization in this world can or will offer me and reassured me what His church does. No one can. Sure there are some good ones out there, that have some truth or portions of it, but they do not have the absolute truth! They can take me up to certtain level and then drop me there; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will pick me up from where they left. me and, through my obedience to God’s commandments, and faithfulness to the Covenants and Ordinances that I have madre in His temple, take me to the exaltation, to live eternally in His prescence. I am a convert to the church for 34 years + now. I was raised Roman Catholic, by goodly parents, faithful and true to what they understood was right according to the teachings that they received. I’m grateful for their example and for what they taught me, and for the truth (nuggets ) that I got from the leaders of the Church, because that gave me a good foundation; those basic gospel principles instilled in me at a youngest age, helped me listen to the message of the Restored Gospel, by the good Missionaries who brought it to me in 1981. I recognized and accepted the truth. That is why I have and will stay in the church, I know it is true. I believe Joseph Smith the Prophet’s testimony. I have been out and now in the church. I try to help every one I come in contact with, my friends and family members see and recognize what I did. Currently I’m trying to help one good friend of mine who has been struggling with her testimony and has left the church for another, that according to her “makes her happier and feel better.” Another Friend that “won’t allow herself to fall into “religious manipulations” as she put it. So…I pray for the Holy Ghost guidance and inspiration to help me help them. One great challenge I have for this coming year is to help my on two adult children and brothers & sisters and other family members that are inactive. Any suggestions other than the basics: prayer, fasting, putting them in the temple prayer roll, set ring a good example, serving them?

  14. Rosa Larson

    December 30, 2015

    Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was the best decision I made in my life!

  15. Myron Richardson

    December 30, 2015

    When I take the hand of a good Latter-day Saint woman (or any saintly woman for that matter), I feel power flowing into me and it is good power that edifies me and makes me want to be a better person. What power is that if not priesthood power?
    It is just theory, not doctrine, but is it possible that women already have priesthood by birthright and that ordaining you to the Melchizedek Priesthood would be a step down and maybe even an insult? I don’t know, but I wonder.
    One thing I do know is that Abrahamic trials are necessary for all of us, and this appears to be one. For now.

  16. Lisa

    December 30, 2015

    I appreciate all your comments. This is a ”tricky” time to be a Latter-Day Saint, so it’s vital to determine where we stand personally. I welcome doubts and questions, because as I engage them — never forgetting the witnesses I’ve already received, as Mike indicates — my faith deepens, my view broadens.

    Myron, your comment intrigues. Though I am longtime, close friends with the Kelly family, and though I suspect that Kate is doing exactly what God intends, I also feel that the current Ordain Women movement is too short-sighted. I don’t believe ordaining our women, in the same way we ordain our men, will fix the deeply entrenched gender issues in the church. However, look what has been accomplished with the movement — a necessary focus on the problem, real dialogue amongst members, hopeful changes in some church policies and procedures, and perhaps most importantly, a deeper understanding of what Priesthood really is. We are hearing it in General Conference, and women and men both are more faithfully and humbly using power in the Priesthood to help move the cause of Zion forward. So though I am not an active supporter of Ordain Women, I do credit them for some of this progress, and I’m grateful.

  17. Casey

    December 30, 2015

    I wish God would let me know its true, its been a long year of absolute silence and I’m about to give up on staying. Feeling like the baby is drowning in the filthy bath water.

    • Lisa

      December 30, 2015

      Casey, I’m so sorry. Those dry spells are awful. For me, the thing that works best in those periods is to just decide — using my own best judgment — and then move forward and see how it feels. That is, instead of waiting for clear direction, I decide, then act, then listen like crazy, and adjust as (finally) directed.

      Love and light to you, my friend.

      • Mike

        December 31, 2015

        Not receiving answers can be really frustrating and all of us will go through those experiences. I was once told that these trials are part of the plan of salvation. If God was quick to answer all prayers we wouldn’t need to rely on faith. To echo Lisa’s comment, sometimes when God doesn’t readily answer a prayer it can be a test to see what we’ll do (agency). I’ve found that when I don’t get answers to a prayer yet I still move forward with faith I find peace, not often how I expect to find it (and not always how we’re told in the church that we’ll receive it) but it does come. The important part for me is to go out, serve, study, talk to people, share the testimony I do have, try to help others answer spiritual questions, and be humble. There are also some questions I’ve prayed about for years and answers still haven’t come. I trust in the experiences I’ve been given and that someday, in this life or the next, I’ll gain the knowledge I’m looking for.

        Good luck on your journey; know that there are many people praying on your behalf and that you are loved by God.

      • Casey

        December 31, 2015

        Thank you, the action I have been taking is just this, to follow my best judgement. This being that there is a lot that the Church does not acknowledge from our history, including what I feel is dishonesty and muddled omission of the facts. I am choosing to live a more honest and authentic acceptance of history. Which for me is leading me out of the institutional church, but not away from what I feel is following Christ, loving others and teaching my children to follow truth as well.

        • Joe

          December 31, 2015

          It is not possible to follow Christ but not follow his Church. You can pretend to follow Christ but you are really following your own direction without him and that can only result in sorrow.

          Without the church, you cannot have access to the ordinances of the gospel (including the sacrament) which were given by commandment.

          Without the church, you cannot keep the commandment to take the gospel to all the nations of the earth, teaching and baptizing in his name.

          Without the church, you cannot bring salvation for the dead which Joseph Smith said is the greatest work we have (King Follett discourse).

          Yes, you can choose to be honest and kind and practice other virtues. But you can do those as a participant of the Peace Corp or United Way or any other social organization whether Christ is involved or not. You can even do that on your own. But it is insufficient for your ultimate destiny of exaltation.

          That approach mocks Christ because it is counterfeit Christianity put forth by the adversary. Again, it will only lead to ultimate sorrow.

          • Casey

            December 31, 2015

            I’m sorry you feel this way Joe, this sounds extremely Pharisaical to me. I’ll pray that someday you can learn to be more accepting of others as Christ was. The God I believe in looks on a person’s heart and not on the earthly organization he has a membership record with and pays dues to in order to partake of ordinances.
            If ultimate sorrow is what I get for following what I feel in my heart is right, then I’m sure a loving Heavenly Father (who has not made his existence known to me and for which I continue to seek) will give me that grace at the judgement day.

            • Joe

              December 31, 2015

              Instead of creating God “in your image” and ascribing what you would do to him, consider that Isaiah said his thoughts are not our thoughts and his deeds are not our deeds. He reveals his thoughts and deeds in the scriptures but too many people only cherry pick the ones that make it through the filter of what is acceptable to them and then they toss out the rest. Wouldn’t a true follower of Christ absorb the full body of his ministry instead of just selected portions?

              You still haven’t explained how you can follow Christ’s direction to be baptized or to preach the gospel without a church. Do you intend to keep all of his commandments or only the convenient ones?

              The word “religion” has the same Greek root as the word “ligament.” Just as the purpose of a ligament is to tie muscle to bone, so the purpose of religion (Christ’s religion) is to tie man back to God. Trying to do it on your own will leave you wanting. A person who follows this path will ultimately lose faith altogether because it is unsatisfying.

              You appear to be at a crossroads in your life. When that happens, you can either turn toward Christ (and his church) or away from him. There is nothing anybody on here can do or say to force you one direction or another. This decision (and its consequences) are squarely on your shoulders. At the end of the day, you cannot point the finger at the first presidency or quorum of the twelve and suggest their policy statements caused you to leave activity. You cannot point the finger at the Holy Ghost and suggest he did not provide revelation on your time frame (Remember how Joseph Smith reacted in Liberty Jail when he cried to the Lord wondering how long he would withhold his hand from the enemies of the church. You are not the first one to have a period of “leaden skies.”) You cannot point the finger at me and say that hypocrites and Pharisees drove me from the faith. No, you will need to stand alone and proclaim, “I made this choice. I turned from the prophets and apostles. I rejected Christ and his church.”

              Why do I care? Because I hate seeing sorrow. The problems of the world could be addressed with the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in his church. The sorrow that I read in the papers every day are self-inflicted because people have chosen to reject him and his church. I see the difference every single day with my own children.

              • Casey

                December 31, 2015

                That’s a great scripture and could be taken out of context to justify any number of irrational and now unacceptable beliefs of the past. Not sure what you were going for with that. The way I interpret that scripture might be different from the way you see it. And again, I’ll pray that you can accept that others see things differently than you and we’ll all be ok in the end.

                I gotta say, personally I have never felt more Christlike love for others as I have since I accepted that I don’t have to believe everything that I have been told to believe. Not cherry picking, I would argue, leads down dangerous paths.

                • Joe

                  December 31, 2015

                  Good luck to you. I mean that sincerely.

                  • Casey

                    December 31, 2015

                    Thank you! We’re all on a journey!

            • Aaron

              January 1, 2016

              Casey, you wish to have God and religion on your own terms. Just because you can’t fathom the God described in the Old and New Testaments doesn’t make the Bible inaccurate. There is no amount of wishful thinking on your part that changes God and his plan for us. Tithing (not dues) is a commandment found in both the Old and New Testaments. Christ and his apostles of the New Testament clearly taught that you must be baptized into his Church. You appear to be waiting for a God that lives up to your expectations, when you should be changing your life to match God’s expectations.

              • Casey

                January 1, 2016

                Aaron, I’m glad to see that you know my heart, intentions, worthiness and personal experience with God.

                That said, it’s not that I can’t fathom the God of the old and new testaments, its what I have accepted as truth my entire life up to very painful faith transition.

                If you can empathize for a moment, put yourself into the shoes of someone who no longer believes in the tenets of the restoration. Where would you see yourself? How would you interpret the scriptures that once propped up your worldview?

    • Kari

      December 30, 2015

      Hi Casey. So sorry you are feeling the silence so profoundly. I’m sure you’ve heard the counsel to do all the usual things: Pray, study scriptures, fast, obey the commandments, attend church, take the sacrament worthily, etc. etc. While that all sounds easy, even many who do all the above have periods of “heavenly silence”. It’s hard to fine-tune the reception we are trying to receive, and answers come in so many ways. My heart goes out to you. As one who has gone thru these periods also off and on, my experience has taught ME that the silence is my own neglect of one or some of the usual “things” mentioned above. That open heart and Moroni-like faith are hard to achieve with true sincerity. But the answer will come. And it WILL be profound. My dad said you have to want it so desperately, like a drowning man wants air. That desire is pivotal. We cannot have the attitude of “Come on. just tell me already”. We must pay the price. And wait upon the Lord. If nothing else happens for a while, then we can say we have done our part and waited patiently. Answers come, sometimes in remarkable ways, but usually in little quiet ways a little at a time.

      • Casey

        December 31, 2015

        Thank you. Having a faith crisis is not something that you can understand unless you have gone through it. It’s almost as if you cannot go back to seeing things in the same way. When someone suggests that you go through the normal motions, what they might not understand is that those things, searching for deeper understanding, is what has nudged us in this direction.

  18. Joe

    December 30, 2015

    I have a testimony of Christ and of the gospel he taught. But, and this is not the same thing, I also have a testimony of the Church. I believe the head of the church is Christ so how can I wander from it?

    A couple of years ago, I had a friend who proudly stated that nobody in his family under the age of 40 was still in the Church. I spent some time inquiring about his family and learned that this younger generation demonstrated their unhappiness in all the ways of the world: divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, immorality of all types, gambling, body enhancement with tattoos or piercing or “nips and tucks” here and there, pornography addiction. None of these were evident in the older members of his family. Yet he could never connect the dots. To him, these were two different issues.

    To be completely honest, we have these problems among church members as well (although statistically at a much lower level than the rest of society). But that it not surprising. There are many in church who still wonder and who have not committed themselves to the gospel, to Christ, and to the church he leads. They make up excuses about the failings of men but the reality is that rebellion against the church is rebellion against its head – even Jesus Christ.

    I’ve never been inactive but I did have a period of deep rebellion against local church leaders. It was truly the darkest period of my adult life. If I had not had someone who provided the perspective and help I needed, I was on the verge of turning to these worldly attractions to deal with my general dissatisfaction with life. But it was a lesson well learned. Whenever my sentiments differ from the teachings of the gospel and the direction from church leaders, my first instinct is to question myself before I ever question the church. I’m 62 years old now and I’ve never, after careful consideration, found my ideas superior to what we are taught by our church leaders.

  19. Duncan

    January 2, 2016

    I feel pretty much exactly the same as the content you raised in this blog post. Yes we follow the prophet, but not by blind obedience. We consider the words of the prophets and seek for spiritual confirmation on how they apply to us.

    I also decide to stay. As you mentioned, the ordinances of the restored gospel contain the power and ultimately, that’s what it is all about.

    Thanks for the article!

  20. Joe

    January 2, 2016

    I’ve started re-reading the BoM in preparation for this year’s course of study in Gospel Doctrine and I’ve been struck with a couple of things pertaining to this conversation. If everybody left the church when: 1) they disagreed personally with direction from the church leaders; or 2) the heavens seemed silent for a season; or 3) they were faced with the seeming hypocrisy, lack of love, or orthodoxy of other members – there would be nobody left in the church. I personally have experienced all of those things multiple times.

    We seem to have lost the concept of faith. Today’s people seem to want infinity or zero. Unless they can have an iron-clad knowledge of all things, then they abandon their faith and strike out on their own.

    In 1 Nephi, one of the people I admire most is Sariah. We sometimes treat her pretty shabbily because she murmured when her sons were late returning from Jerusalem with the plates. But in 1 Nephi 5:8, Sariah says “NOW I know of a surety …”

    Until then, she had not received a spiritual witness of Lehi’s prophetic call or of his direction to flee into the wilderness. Even Nephi had received a witness (Chapter 2). I’m sure Sariah had prayed just as Nephi had. I’m sure she desired a spiritual witness just as Nephi had. Yet, for whatever reason, it did not come right away. Despite that, she was consistently obedient in all her actions. Her obedience did not require a sure knowledge or even a divine revelation. She obeyed because she had faith.

    That is what so many people lack in today’s church. They are hesitant to commit, even hesitant to obey, unless all has been revealed to them. That’s not the way it works. That’s not the way it was ever intended to work. The only path to a sure and perfect knowledge is through faith but we have many who want it to be the other way around. In essence, the say: “I will be faithful once I know it is true. Until then, I’ll take my own path.”

    Though we can learn much from Nephi, this year I am learning much from Sariah.

    • Casey

      January 3, 2016

      Joe would you ask the same of a doubting Hindu or a Jehovah’s Witness who no longer feels inspired by his faith? Would you ask a Muslim on the brink of leaving his faith to just wait a little longer until Allah speaks to him? Or forgive her leaders for past mistakes done in the name of God?

  21. Eric

    January 4, 2016

    Thanks for the post, Lisa. I am interested to know how you gained your testimony of the transformative power of ordinances. How do you know that it is the ordinances working through Priesthood power to “change us, make us more and more divine, more and more our real Selves”, as opposed to our faith in Christ and repentance working independent of the ordinances? I believe they are from God and have that power, too, and have been very grateful for them in my life. But I have a hard time explaining why and how someone else can come to that knowledge, and would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Lisa

      January 4, 2016

      Great question, Eric. I wish I knew how to explain it in words. As I wrote, “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. . . .I don’t claim to get it.” But my spirit knows. I would say it’s Priesthood power working through the ordinances, not the other way around. But of course, Priesthood power works in other modalities, as well. So why ordinances? All I can say is this: 1) Ever since I joined the church 43 years ago, I have felt a strong pull toward family history and temple work. I feel deeply the call and responsibility to bring as many of my family (dead and alive) to the temple as possible. It is clearly a big part of my mission here. That certainty fuels my faith in the ordinances themselves. 2) I have had a few sacred temple experiences that let me know the ordinances matter. I can often “feel” people in the spirit world, both inside and outside the temple. On a few occasions, certain of those people have shown up inside the temple, inside me, rejoicing because of the ordinances being done in their behalf. 3) As I lean into the process of transforming into a celestial being, I find that much of the power and support I need comes directly from my participation in gospel ordinances, particularly in the temple, but lately, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, as well. This divine assistance seems directly related to my intention, my desire. I can access it with deep prayer and open heart anywhere, but it seems to come more powerfully and easily when my reaching is in the context of ordinances. I don’t think there’s one formula for any transformation we seek. I do best when I use my own God-given gifts to feel my way forward. I think I am more insular than many, in that regard, more trusting of my Self than of any outside source. I don’t judge it, as I don’t judge anyone else’s process. The key, I believe, is clear intention. What do you really want? Then, use your own spiritual gifts to find your way to that end.

  22. LLH

    January 4, 2016

    I am trying to decide what to do. I have not been to church in close to 4 years, and yet I also cannot leave it. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ. I have witnessed priesthood power that I can never deny. I believe in the atonement. I am so tired of the sexism that it exhausts me to think of going back. I have a child who is gay, and I have a total abhorrence of the new policy the church issued regarding children of gay parents. I had a good conversation with someone (who is totally unbiased) who told me it is still ok for me to go and be a conscientious objector to these things. To be honest, I feel somewhat lost without the church and the community it creates. At the same time, the demands of church membership are overwhelming and it is very difficult for me to have to tell everyone my life story (anxiety, health issues) if I simply want to decline a calling or not go to every activity. Members are so invasive and it can be so offputting. I am debating going to sacrament meeting again. I don’t know.

    • Lisa

      January 4, 2016

      LLH, I understand your dilemma. A lot of us are struggling with those very issues. You wrote your own answer here: “I have witnessed priesthood power that I can never deny.” I sense that Spirit is calling you back to church participation. I do like your friend’s advice: “it is still ok for me to go and be a conscientious objector to these things.” A few tips: 1) Your personal devotions are the key to finding the strength to “endure” the cultural crap that sometimes poisons our church experience. Follow your faith, pray like crazy, listen, listen, read inspired words, and lean into Love always. 2) Go to church seeking to serve, not looking to be fed. You are not the only one struggling. Help someone else. 3) Find one or two solid ward members that you can talk to, someone not afraid of doubts or questions, someone a little more spiritually mature than you. We learn best from those just “ahead” of us on the Path. Hang out with these people. This is your tribe. You are not alone. The Church is true and necessary. Welcome home!

    • Mike

      January 5, 2016

      The Church’s policy was hard for me to understand and I don’t typically give gay-rights issues much thought. While I agree that the policy can be hard for the children of gay parents I actually think the policy is very supportive of gay parents. My sister works closely with a lesbian women who was raised in the Church, married, and had children before leaving her husband to be with a women. This women is grateful for the policy because she no longer feels pressure from her parents and extended family to have her children baptized.

      I find the story of President Hunter’s own baptism interesting and timely (part of this weeks Priesthood/RS lesson). His father was not a member of the Church and didn’t want his children baptized. According to the Church’s policy both parents are required to consent to a child’s baptism, so Pres Hunter attended church for four years before being baptized. While this story isn’t a perfect parallel to the situation children of gay parents are faced with today it may still offer some value to those families.

      My initial reaction towards the policy has greatly changed as I’ve thought more about it. I still don’t fully understand the policy, and wish the Church had communicated it better, but I do think the Church had only good intentions behind the change. Over the past few years I think the Church has tried very hard to work with the gay community to better support gay members and gay rights, within the confines of the Church’s doctrine. The Church will never condone gay marriage but from my perspective they are trying very hard to encourage love and support for gay members. I’m hoping that members of the Church will also find ways to show more love towards gay members and their families. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God so I try to leave judgment to God. That doesn’t mean I believe all sinners are entitled to all the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel but it also doesn’t mean I should look down at those ‘who sin differently than I do’ (Pres Uchtdorf).

      Good luck with your journey and I hope you decide to come back to Church (and please be patient when people say something offensive; most people don’t intend offense, they just don’t consider how their comments might be interpreted by others). Your perspective and opinions might not always be accepted by other members but they may still need to hear them.

      There are many people praying for you to find peace in the Gospel and comfort/acceptance within the Church.

  23. Matthew

    January 4, 2016

    Thank you for your article, I think it’s an act of Faith to describe our questions and doubts that we have. I think God doesn’t have a logical explanation for everything in his church for a reason, He leaves us in the dark a little bit, for that is the only way for us to escape from the prison of unbelief and exercise our faith. Sometimes I hear people talk about things in church history that from a certain standpoint without proper context and said in the right way makes me feel uncertain, but then I remember that I don’t have all the information, in reality no one does, even those who claim to have all the evidence they need to condemn Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, etc. The only person who does is God.

    Although I’m not a woman, I used to have similar questions about women in the church and the priesthood. It was hard for me to understand why Heavenly Father would seemingly separate the two genders if he is no respecter of persons. But I heard an analogy one of my missionary companions shared with me that helped me understand, and may be able to help you too with your questions.

    In the scriptures, there are two trees which are mentioned that are used as symbols, the Tree of life (as in Lehi’s dream, or the Garden of Eden) and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we learn from the scriptures, both trees (thus the things they symbolize) are necessary for our eternal progression (2 Nephi 2 for example). In order for one to be exalted we must be born to this earth, and thus become partakers of the tree of knowledge of Good and evil, and we must also make and keep sacred covenants by entering in through ordinances administered through the priesthood, thus becoming partakers of the tree of life. Yes, one could argue that the Tree of life appears on the outside to be more glamorous than the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but without the latter, we could never truly know joy, love, peace, and virtue.

    How do we enter this life, thus becoming partakers of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil? Through a woman, we are born. Women are the guardians of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. For me, my mother has always been there to help me know the good from the bitter, and help me choose the good.

    How do we enter eternal life, thus becoming partakers of the tree of life? We enter into sacred covenants which are administered by men who hold the priesthood authority of the man who’s sacrifice enables us to become like Him. Men are the guardians of the tree of life. For me, my father has helped me know what steps I must take, and has always strived to help me become better.

    We cannot become who our father in Heaven wants us to become without His son’s Atonement, and the priesthood ordinances that enable us to remember Him and live like Him. Likewise, we also cannot become who our father in Heaven wants us to become without being born, gaining a physical body, and learning what is good, and what we truly want in Eternity.

    A man cannot bear children, neither can he replace a mother. A woman cannot administer priesthood ordinances, neither can she replace a father. Both are dependent on each other. “Neither is the man without the woman or the woman without the man in the Lord”

    Women are not inferior because they do not hold the priesthood. Those who believe a woman can only be equal to a man if she holds the priesthood are actually degrading women’s value. Think about it. A woman is a daughter of God, born with divine gifts directly from Him, gifts that men don’t have. If a woman thinks she needs men’s gift to be equal, then she does not truly comprehend the worth she already has. If the church ordained women, what would that say? At the root, it would say: “We don’t think women have enough worth without the priesthood to be equal”, at its heart it would go against the very thing it was trying to accomplish. Women do not need the Priesthood to be spiritually equal with men, Men need the priesthood to be spiritually equal with Women. Some men think the Priesthood makes them more spiritually powerful than women, but they’re only fooling themselves. Women are and always have been more sensitive to the Spirit and more willing to follow the Savior. What a precious gift.

    I hope that answers some of your questions, please let me know. I know it wasn’t a perfect answer, and I could be wrong, or perhaps there’s another point of view I haven’t considered. I’m open to comments or questions.

    • Mike

      January 5, 2016

      I had never thought of this before and it’s an interesting thought; thanks for sharing.

    • Kari

      January 5, 2016

      Thank you Matthew for a well-worded, cohesive, and insightful post. I appreciated your input. Very good perspective.

  24. LLH

    January 5, 2016

    Maybe I should clarify just a bit on one point. For me, the sexism is so much more than whether or not women have the priesthood. It is the constant harping on “divinely inspired gender roles”, the constant diminishing and dismissal of women’s input and ideas, being talked down to by men in authority, the total disparity between the young men’s budget and possible activities and the Young women’s. I appreciate your “explanation”, but I really didn’t need to hear it explained another way. I have been a member since birth, and I have heard it explained in every metaphorical and anecdotal way possible. It doesn’t change the reality of what women experience in the church. Institutionalized sexism will remain as long as we continue to preach the whole idea of “separate but equal”. The reason (at least in my mind) that the women who are advocating for woman’s ordination to the priesthood is that it would at least begin to level the playing field, and if women had the priesthood there might actually be some men who begin to look at women with some level of respect or consideration. I am not trying to start a fight here. I am trying to explain my perspective on this. If you are a man, you have not experienced what a lot of women in the church experience. If you are a woman who has/does not felt this way, then I am happy for you to not have experienced the same kinds of sexism that I have experienced.

    • Lisa

      January 6, 2016

      Matthew, thank you for your input. The Two Trees theory is trending lately and does make a lot of sense. It originated with Valerie Hudson, a prominent Mormon feminist and world leader (and coincidentally, my college freshman roommate) and was first presented here: http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2010-fair-conference/2010-the-two-trees. I love speculative theology, but as we discuss all these issues, it’s important to stay humbly cognizant of all that we do not yet know. Our faithful questioning is crucial to growing knowledge. I enjoy “living the questions”, as Rilke puts it. There IS a way to stay in the Church and keep questioning deeply. For me, both are vital. In fact, I don’t believe that one without the other ever results in lasting good. Thank you for sharing your faith and insight.

  25. Lilian

    January 14, 2016

    We all have dry times and high times in our journey that’s normal. Often the dry times actually lead into the high times precisely because they are the driving force behind more searching of ourselves and a more urgent reaching out to the Father. Personal revelation is very often the end result. I think what we need to remember is that personal revelation is just that . Meant for us and us alone. On some issues we may well be ready for or need more understanding than is widely taught . We may be ready , we may need it but that doesn’t mean it should be taught to the general congregation. On other issues we may be among those who lag behind in understanding and being exposed to a deeper level would throw us off kilter, would be too much too soon. The calling our prophet and apostles have is to deliver what most of the congregation can handle with maybe a bit of effort in the faith dept. For now. There will come a time for ‘ready or not here it comes’ aka sorting the sheep from the goats but that time, mercifully, is not just yet. After almost half a century of sometimes being ahead of the curve and sometimes being behind it I would advise a good conversation with God at all times. Grow yourself spiritually no matter what and leave the timing of various aspects of the kingdom to God. Patience and faith are synonymous as Elder Maxwell always preached. As far as the whole issue of sexism is concerned, we live in a world where men still hold all the aces and as former President Jimmy Carter said last year in a TED talk the biggest single reason women’s rights and issues are not taken seriously is ‘men don’t care’. Are we naive enough to think that these societal attitudes we are surrounded by do not seep into the church membership? Of course they do and you may say well God should do something about that but it’s our learning curve not His. Why would he jump in heavy handed we need to learn this stuff for ourselves. Kids never do the dishes right or pick up their rooms if parents do it for them . One thing God could never be accused of is being a helicopter parent right ? I mean look how much rope we have in mortality . To pull ourselves to safety or hang ourselves with – our choice. No matter how messy or slow our progress He is determined it will be OUR progress with some grace when we ask for it and when enough of us are ready for it.

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