My faith had been decimated. Decimated because what others taught me turned out to be “faith-promoting or unsubstantiated rumors or outdated understandings and explanations of the doctrines and practices of the past”. These things were things I built my testimony on and so much of it is not true. I had to entirely take my faith apart, piece by piece by piece. Then with nothing left I rebuilt it. After letting go of all the false teachings that I had once held to, I rebuilt my faith with truth, at least a ten fold better grasp of it. I read every possible issue and every possible perspective. I pondered. I prayed. I sought God’s wisdom and light. What I had when I was done, was a much more solid foundation but it also looked much different than what I had to begin with. I had to let go of my simple faith. I had to let go of knowing. I had to stop perpetuating the easy but false answers we keep telling ourselves. I had to be honest and say this is messy. I had to come to grips with the real possibility that this might not be true and if not where do I go from here.
Now, …. having a much deeper faith. A faith that is more real. And certainly more solid. A foundation no longer built on the Church but on Christ himself, I make many uncomfortable. I recognize I am “in the face” of those who disagree with me. It is because those who feel I am in their face never have granted me space to hold my ground. It feels as though for many I love that we have no relationship unless I either remain silent or only say comfortable things and reinforce your faith even if your faith hurts me or your unwillingness to ever validate any part of my truth causes me pain. That it feels as though many perceive my faith is threatening to others. That many would rather remain comfortable rather than discuss the messiness and risk having to let go of false beliefs and be that vulnerable. Never once have those whom I love but whom are frustrated by my perspective said “I could be wrong”. Or “Bill these issues are messier than I thought” or “I am going to make an effort to better understand why you struggle with this”. When you don’t validate or empathize with any part of my struggle, I feel compelled to push back, to take my space whether you grant it or not. To claim it regardless of whether to acknowledge it or not. To prove my view is respectable and informed and held in high esteem by those who know church history.
My faith is informed. My faith is built on solid ground (I don’t need you to agree, It is my truth regardless of whether you grant it to me). I have never needed anyone to agree with me. What I do ask for, what I find respectful in others is when they acknowledge “I may not necessarily agree with you, but understanding the complexity and historical data of these issues I absolutely validate your conclusion as reasonable and one that deserves a real seat at the table of discussion”.
This faith journey has had really dark places. There have been bouts of depression, bouts of sleeplessness, and bouts of anger, and specifically moments of wanting to give up. The hardest part is I had to do much of it alone because my faith transition made most people too uncomfortable, and their own faith too vulnerable to get in the trenches with me and to validate my truth as just that…. valid.
This is where I am, and my faith and what that looks like is never going back to what it was. Regardless of what happens I don’t want to go back and I couldn’t even if I wanted to. My faith today is beautiful to me. It has helped me love those on the margins. It has helped me minister to those who feel less than and are ostracized by our society and specifically our faith. Please don’t mistake what I am saying. I am still deeply flawed, prone to anger, prone to reacting rather than responding, but how far I have yet to go has little to do with how far I have come.
Lastly, I do still have testimony
I KNOW the gospel is true. By gospel, I mean Christ’s teachings, his atonement, and its gifts of Mercy and Grace. I KNOW that while some of scripture I no longer believe as literal or even as being connected to God, that much of scripture specifically the New Testament and Book of Mormon still feels deeply connected to God and much of scripture still brings me spiritual joy and bears fruit in my life.
I KNOW with near certainty that God is real and that he loves all his children and is working to bring them all home equally
I BELIEVE in Christ. I Believe he is the son of God and has died for us…. atoning for us. I BELIEVE there is something to the restoration. I BELIEVE that while Joseph Smith is a flawed human and may have made some deep mistakes that he also gave us spiritual light from God
I HAVE FAITH that the Book of Mormon is from God and feel very comfortable calling it scripture. I HAVE FAITH that the Church is one of the vehicles with which God is working to save his children.
I HOPE the Church is led by prophets and that God still speaks to them. At the Same time I KNOW they are wrong at times. That Prophets teach false Doctrine and that all 15 top leaders being United on something doesn’t make it true.
I HOPE the Book of Mormon is historical though it I would have little impact or change my faith little if discovered not to be. I HOPE the Church is TRUE though even if not it may still be TRUE in other ways that are worth my being in it.
Your friend in Christ