Notes on the Cycle of Faith: Losing

Friday, February 2, 2018

Part 2 of 6 of the "Cycle of Faith" series, which is an exploration of "faith crisis" by way of personal experience, insight, and opinion. 

Read Part 1, "Learning" here.

To download a PDF copy of the series (so you don't have to read post by post), click HERE.

After my discovery of patriarchy and my introduction to feminism, many questions followed. I started with what I felt was most important.
"Where is Heavenly Mother?" I asked my husband. 
"She's there, with God." he said.
"Why don't we know anything about her?" I said.
"I don't know, " he said, to his credit. I didn't either. 

"I don't understand." I said. "Children benefit from the influence of both parents - in fact, its vital. Missing one creates a huge void in development. Wouldn't that be true of souls as well? Don't we need a divine mother's influence just as we need a divine father?" I asked.
"That makes sense. What interests you about this?" he replied.
"I need hope." I said. "If being like God is what men aspire to, then women aspire to be like Heavenly Mother. I see that she is silent. I see that she is forgotten."

I began to cry. "That is not heaven for me. I need to know there is more. I need to know who she is, but I don't know where to start. I don't know if I'm even allowed to ask." I said.

"I think its okay for you to ask, Channing. I think its okay for you to know her. I don't have the answers, but I know you will find them."

I am incredibly lucky to have a husband who supports me along my wanderings. 

My other concerns were more difficult to satisfy.

After asking and searching for months and coming up with no satisfactory answers, I lost hope. I was ready to give up. I was ready to leave the church.

I cried for days. Church used to be a place of solace, a place where I felt heard and accepted. I used to have peace inside its walls and traditions. Where I used to be happy in my faith, I was now bitter. The foundational teachings still brought me joy. I loved the Savior of the LDS church. I loved the idea of continuing and personal revelation. I loved forever families. I loved the value placed on eternal marriage. I loved opportunities to serve others. But there was one thing I did not see in church, and that was equality. This single exception was acutely painful.

My heart could not bear the shame I felt in the temple. I hadn't been since my son was born. Reading the scriptures was traumatic for me because every story is about death and war and sacrifice and servitude. I could only read the New Testament, and only the scriptures of Christ's ministry. I did not trust conference talks. Sunday meetings required grit teeth through judgmental, sometimes prejudiced remarks. I felt I had lost everything that sustained me through past difficulties. In my eyes, everything was stained by patriarchy.

The feeling of loss and grief was tremendous. Part of my soul had died. There was a gaping hole in my heart where testimony used to be.

When I tried sharing my heartache with others I often heard admonitions to "have more faith". As if my struggle with faith was a question of character or grit instead of a reconciliation of pain. But I kept wondering, have more faith in what? The "only true church", one that subordinates women and is intolerant of LGBTQ friends? All I could see if I stayed was a future of denial and pain.

My husband asked, "Channing, what do you want to do?" 
"I am torn. Half my heart wants to stay and half wants to leave." I said. I continued.  
"I feel like church does not want me. Church does not want my feminism. Church does not want my radical love. Church does not want my love for Earth and animals. Church does not want my witchy, hippie yoga heart. But God wants all of me, and he put in my heart to be true to myself and share boldly. But I tried sharing it a few months ago and the message I received was clear: You are different. You are dangerous. You do not belong."
"If I leave, my problems with organized religion disappear. Then I am free to worship in a way that does not hurt me." I said.
 "Have you prayed about what to do?", he asked thoughtfully.
"No, because I know what the answer is and it hurts. I don't want to hear it." I said.
"What's the answer?"
"Then maybe its time to ask some new questions." my husband said.

So I did the only thing I know to do when I have a heart heavy with pain and questions.

I wrote a letter.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.