Many thanks to Ned for allowing me to post this entry on his blog. I don't have a Mormon blog, and Ned's is really good fit for my status with church stuff.
Church stuff hadn’t been going well since we returned from Katrina Exile. I had been having suicidal thoughts during Sunday meetings. I had a singularly awful experience during a terrible Relief Society lesson about the Proclamation on the Family. A minor kerfuffle in the Disaffected Mormon Underground caused me much more anguish than it warranted. Because both ends of my Mormon experience were equally miserable, I decided that the best solution was to abstain from all things Mormon.
I went on sabbatical from Mormon Stuff. I stopped posting on the DAMU discussion boards, scaled back my reading on the Bloggernacle, and left church immediately after the sacrament was passed. I did not take the sacrament. I went to church only to deliver my little boy, because my husband has morning meetings. I took a trip out of town that caused me to miss two Sundays entirely. I got a more realistic sense of my “place,” and it wasn’t nearly as central as I had imagined. It was a useful and pleasant experiment.
Palm Sunday was my first week “back” at church. I had not planned to stay, but when the bishop announced that a local ward had been dissolved, because the whole parish had been destroyed, it hit me hard. I cried for a few minutes and decided to stay. My husband was there. I wanted to be with my husband.
During the sacrament, while on sabbatical, I have allowed my mind and thoughts to wander where they will. On Palm Sunday, I do not know what I had been thinking, but while the sacrament was being passed, something happened. In my believing days, I would have experienced the “something” as the presence of the Holy Ghost. It was not my typical sitting-in-sacrament-meeting feeling. I felt connected.
I have experienced this feeling of connectedness before. It hasn’t come often. The last time it happened, I decided very consciously not to try and hold on to it, or analyze it. I did the same thing this time: I just experienced it. I noticed my thoughts and ideas without examination. I followed the thoughts where they led.
The thoughts and ideas that crossed my mind this time were unexpected. I watched the young men pass the sacrament. I observed the trays moving down the rows, the Saints taking the sacrament, and remembered what it means to them. Unlike other times I’ve observed this, I did not feel alienated or “other.” I felt like I was one of them.
I thought, “I used to be a part of this. I used to believe this.” And then the thought came to me: “You can believe again, if you want to.”
I didn’t turn away from the thought, or embrace it. I tried it. “Joseph Smith is a prophet.” Yes, that was fine. “The Book of Mormon is a Scripture.” That worked, too.
I didn’t pursue the matter any further. I just continued to notice the experience, to “be,” and waited for the feeling to slip away.
The rest of the meeting was pretty uneventful, (lame, even) except for the final speaker, who said some inspiring things.
I wanted to talk to my husband about this after the meeting, but he got waylaid by a quorum buddy. So, I left, just like I always do after sacrament meeting.
I did not relate this experience to anyone. I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to talk about something, but didn’t follow up.
The following Sunday was Easter. I didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary. I did have the nagging memory of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s comment in her essay Lusterware, about how the Bible speaks of bits of leaven. I enjoyed the congregational singing very much. Leaven.
I have written that losing my faith was like losing my arm. I’m starting to think this isn’t a good analogy. Apparently, some part of my brain or the Collective Unconscious or God thinks it’s possible for me to grow a new one.
I don’t know if I want to believe. I am a cynic now. It’s like being fat: I don’t like being fat, but it’s hard work to lose weight. So much is expected of believers. Do I want to work that hard? Will I suddenly desire to pay tithing; attend the temple; serve in callings; pay attention to the GAs? I don’t see any of that happening, so what difference will believing make?
On Easter, I talked to my husband about the Palm Sunday experience. I told him that I don’t know how I should proceed. Rather than admonishing me to desire to believe and to pursue faith, he has suggested I just see what happens.
I don’t have any expectations. But I’m interested to see what comes next.