Sunday, June 3, 2007

Let us go not far astray

As I am sometimes wont to do on Sundays, I've spent some time today thinking about some past, very painful events in my life and how I dealt with them, and how I could have dealt with them better, what I've learned. I belong to a church that places great emphasis on the idea of personal revelation. There are, of course, caveats to believing personal revelation--over at bcc there was recently a discussion of how much trust we should put in the ideas, opinions, and revelations from the GA's vs. our own feelings, ideas, and experiences. It's an interesting question, as always and, of course, has precipitated my current musings (if it's not clear why, I'll get to that in a moment).

I am a scientist, and I admit freely I place more trust in science, logic, and reasoning than I do on faith. I am much more likely to do something if I understand the why behind it than if someone simply says, "do it because God says to." Most of the time this works out pretty well for me--sometimes there are conflicts, but most resolve themselves in an adequate manner. I tried the other way--the listening to the spirit and leaving decisions up to the Lord way--and it really didn't work for me.

After college, when I went to grad school, I decided I wanted to go back to church. I realized I did have faith in Mormonism, and so I made many changes in my life and went back to church. Most of the changes were pretty easy--I've never dressed terribly immodestly, I was never into drinking much, and I never liked coffee or tea--but giving up boys was hard. I felt like I had to give up dating non-Mormon guys and find someone who shared my faith. So that's what I did. I broke up with Derrick, started dating this other guy, I prayed over him, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was in a relationship my Father in Heaven approved of and I felt that he would be pleased if I married this young man. It was a very powerfully good feeling, that certainty I was doing the right thing in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.

Then, the guy cheated on me.

Because of the confirmation I thought I'd felt, I gave him another chance. And another. And another. At some point I knew the confirmation was gone and that the relationship had turned sour, but it was so difficult to give up on that hope that I let him come back and tried to make things work. I felt like if the relationship failed, it would mean I'd failed and was unworthy of the promised blessing of a righteous husband. When the relationship finally ended, I felt like I must have been the bad person, and felt like I was being punished for my bad behavior in college.

I kept going to church, even though it was really hard to be there. I struggled for a long time, wondering if the feelings I'd felt were really true, or if I'd just imagined the confirmation of that relationship. When Derrick and I got back together I didn't ask the Lord if he approved the relationship--I wanted to be happy, I knew Derrick would provide that, and if the Lord wanted me stop, he was going to have to make me. (Really mature, huh?)

The latter approach worked. I'm glad I married Derrick. He is a wonderful husband, and he's a wonderful friend. I know why I wanted to marry someone who shares my beliefs, but I came to realize that religious beliefs aren't necessarily good indicators of shared beliefs.

I've also come to realize that all revelation, personal or not, is conditional. We can, through our actions, change the outcomes prophesied by the Lord's mouthpieces. We can give up promised blessings with bad behavior (Samson and Delilah, anyone?), and we can avoid promised punishments if we repent and turn back to the Lord. God may be all powerful and omniscient, but just because he said it doesn't always make it true.

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