How I Almost Left the Mormon Church; the Second Time

The following guest post is from SilverRain, a frequent M* commenter.  SilverRain blogs at rainscamedown.blogspot.com.

We like to think of the Spirit as a feeling that leads us to find lost car keys, bless the lives of the people around us, and lead us down a spiritual path of happiness. But the Spirit is not always so comfortable. Abraham was guided by the Spirit to sacrifice his son. While he was provided an escape in the form of a ram, the Spirit does not always provide a comfortable alternative. Christ himself was not delivered from His calling to the Atonement.

When my ex-husband left me, I was still determined that Satan would not succeed in having my marriage. I had made covenants and I intended to keep them. Slowly, as I went through counseling alone and with him, the Spirit began to teach me that it was time to divorce.

This was shocking to me. I was deeply embarrassed and ashamed. I should have been able to identify what was happening to me, I should be able to stop it. And I carried part of the responsibility for the dynamic.

The beauty that had been the temple ceremony for me became ashes. I remember several sessions where I could not stop crying. The doctrines of eternal marriage, of obedience, of the sacrifice of clean hands and pure heart, seemed impossible. I perceived an eternity alone, without the prospect of exaltation that was once the focus of my life.

Once again, I found myself contemplating leaving the Church. It was not enough for me to work so hard only to gain less than everything the Father had to give. I could not face myself in the mirror, let alone my Savior at the last day, having tried and failed. I peered into the depths of exaltation, saw what could be asked of me, and did not think I could do it.

This time, instead of leaving because of what the Church lacked, I wanted to leave because of what I lacked. I begged the Lord to deliver me, to give me Spiritual guidance. I pleaded with Him to comfort me. And while I felt faint impressions now and then, I felt no encouragement, none of the warmth from Him that I once felt so deeply.

I cannot explain when exactly a change happened. After months and months of struggling with resentment and even hatred at times, I woke up one morning with a feeling of complete peace. There was nothing particular that I did, no specific event happened. If anything, my external life was particularly difficult at the time. But I had somehow accepted in my heart that all my imperfections were not my problem to solve. The scripture I had been reading, comprehending, and resenting had coalesced into something deeper. It was the Savior’s job to bring my life to the promises He had given me. It was my job to do what I could to love those around me.

I learned not only to forgive the Church for its weaknesses, I learned to forgive myself for mine, to gather up all my fears and problems, look at them with candor and acceptance, and hand them over to Him.

It hasn’t been long since that happened. While certain problems in my life have begun to fade away, the real change has happened within me. I know now that the bonds between my Savior and me cannot be broken. I have looked into the depths of my own hell, and come out with a love not only for my God, but also for my brothers and sisters in this life. And that has given me stronger incentive to engage in His Church, in His service.

I think that every one of us who have dedicated ourselves to the Savior will be presented with at least one opportunity to give up. It is an illusion that certain people are tested while others coast through life without challenge. Discipleship is not an easy path. It requires complete sacrifice, complete trust in the Lord even over our own hearts and minds, at times. Not all will choose to continue.

It is not our place to judge those who give up or choose another path. I have come too close to making that decision myself to condemn another. It is true that there are those who actively seek to destroy the Church and fight against God, all the while knowing what they are doing. But most of those who leave have less nefarious motivations. They are our brothers and sisters. I don’t believe it is God’s will for us to argue with them, or treat them with less than charity. It is our calling as disciples to serve them and love them.

19 thoughts on “How I Almost Left the Mormon Church; the Second Time

  1. Thank you! I too went through a divorce and could have EASILY left the Church during and right after everything hit the fan. I was living outside my ward boundaries and when the Bishop kindly asked me to attend the proper ward it would have almost natural to just say you know what….i’m done with this whole scene and stop going because I really didn’t know anyone in my new ward. I went to see my sister’s Temple wedding experience and that was the first time I had been back to the temple since I had gotten married 3.5 years before and now when I came back I was seperated and I had a panic attack and got a blessing, it was all that was keeping me from running out screaming. Now I can relate on a whole other level to people who struggle, really hard, with Gospel and Church issues and probably in way I couldn’t have before. Once again, thank you for your message!

  2. Your posts really resonate with me. I have a brother who has left the church because the church was not good enough for him, and I have another brother who has left the church because he was not good enough. I feel the tug in both directions as well. Forgiveness is key, as you say, of ourselves, of the church, trust in God.

  3. SilverRain-Now that everything has happened how do you interpret your Patriarchal Blessing? In all honesty, I don’t even read mine much anymore, it’s too painful. Some parts I can see and others I have given up figuring out what they mean. I have asked 3 bishops and have gotten no answers and by that I mean like shrugs of the shoulders are some similar! I don’t even know what is valid in it or not. Plus too Elder Richard G. Scott told us to write down comfort blessings we get and so I did and I don’t know what too put stock in those as well, I don’t know if divorce invalidates everything or some stuff or what. I don’t want to be believing things that because of the divorce are not going to happen anymore. Any clues?

  4. To SilverRain – glad you have stuck with it, it’s painful but worth it
    To Whizzbang – everything probably seems very bleak right now but if you do your part and hold to the rod, all will be well in the end. I know those words can sound pretty empty but I have personally been in some dark places emotionally and spiritually. Within the space of 24 months or so two of my children went less active and my spouse had an affair. It seemed for a while like the world had come to an end, that everything we had believed in and worked for had just vanished. But if we act in faith and stay true, then all of the blessings that have been given to us will come to pass in one way or another

  5. SR, all excellent points. It seems to me the key is to persevere through the difficult times, which we all have. Your is a great example of that.

  6. “It is not our place to judge those who give up or choose another path.”

    Yes. But very difficult for many to live up to.

    Thanks for sharing your journey, SR.

  7. To Whizzbang – I too can relate to the things you’ve described, three years ago my spouse had an affair which ultimately led to divorce when she wasn’t interested in changing. I remember not wanting to read my blessing much at all, not because I didn’t believe it anymore, but because it all seemed too far off. When was I going to find this righteous woman that I would marry and with whom I would create a family, and why didn’t it just happen the first time around? Were my previous efforts not good enough to merit the fulfillment of these blessings I’ve always desired?

    The biggest turning point for me was the realization that God doesn’t always deliver us temporally (parting the red sea, calling down fire from heaven, freeing us from bondage/captivity…saving a failing marriage, a wayward child, or finding a new/faithful partner), but he will always deliver us spiritually (peace, love, happiness, joy….even in the midst of our worst trials). Said another way, though he may not deliver us FROM our trial, he will deliver us IN our trial (See Mosiah 24 where he does both…but the spiritual was first)

    I got past the need for God to change the circumstances of my life. Seeing beyond circumstance brought a greater closeness with God, I began to love others more, even the spouse who betrayed me. I had forgiveness for her, myself, and anyone else who intentionally or unintentionally did me harm. I sought the *spiritual* blessings of my Patriarchal Blessing, and remained confident that in God’s time the rest would work itself out and the temporal blessings would be fulfilled (now or later). I devoted my new-found free time (no spouse at home) to serving others. I found Happiness and Joy IN my trials and darkest moments. I think that’s what SilverRain’s post is about.

    Spiritual deliverance came first. With that deliverance came acceptance, submission to anything thing that God had in store for me, and peace to know that I’d be fine no matter what, and the knowledge that though I couldn’t control my circumstances, I could control my reaction to them…refining my reactions until they were consistent with the virtues of faith/hope/love was my greatest spiritual blessing.

    Temporal deliverance in my case did finally come, though I know that’s not always true for others. I now have a wonderful wife who went through similar trials, and who learned to respond to them all in patience, in faith, hope and love. I am grateful for this, beyond ability to express. But it doesn’t change the great lesson I learned before meeting her…that happiness was never conditional on meeting her or anyone like her, but on cultivating a heart and mind that reacts as God would have me, and consequently having access to *His* peace, joy, and love for myself and all those around me.

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I hope it can serve as an example for others who find themselves in a similiar situation. Perseverance or enduring to the end is a part of the Gospel but it is one of the hardest parts to do.

    I second Stepahn’s invitation!

  9. Thank you, everyone, for your comments and encouragment.

    Whizzbang—My patriarchal blessing was a particular difficulty for me. It is very detailed as to what my husband would be like, as well as many other things regarding my role as a wife and mother. When I was engaged and married, I kept feeling that if I had enough faith, and gave my husband enough room to grow and make the right choices, that he would become the man my blessing describes, and all would eventually fit into place. I still believe that he could have, even though he did not.

    In the aftermath, I felt as if my mistakes had made it impossible for the Lord to bless me the way He originally intended. Like you describe, all was void. A very wise friend of mine pointed out to me that patriarchal blessings are guides, not fortunes. The blessings we are given are to guide us in how we should think and act. If the specific blessings aren’t realized in this life, that does not negate the benefits we have had by being guided towards them.

    It is our opportunity to take our blessings and do what we can to become what is in them. Obviously, some blessings such as a loving and supportive husband are not completely within my power. The blessing I receive cannot compromise another’s agency. However, I trust that as long as I continue to live as if I have or will obtain these blessings that the actualization of the blessings is up to the Lord, and I am meanwhile blessed by the changes I make and the way I change my thinking.

    It is the key found in the three Israelites’ statement, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods . . . .” or in Esther’s response to Mordecai, “if I perish, I perish.”

    I know that the Lord is able to deliver all the blessings He has promised. But if He does not, I still trust Him and His wisdom with a whole heart. Read your blessing again, recognize and accept the pain, but then look beyond it to what He would have you do. That is my advice.

    Stephen—I’ll write a guest post at some point, I promise. :D

  10. Danny—an especial thanks to you. You describe the process beautifully. And I feel that my future marriage will be blessed by what I have learned by my past one.

    Not that I’d suggest that path to ANYONE!

  11. SR-

    Thanks for sharing your trial of faith. It is like scripture to me.

    I don’t think it is possible to draw near to God without a crisis of faith. For those, like yourself, who faithfully endure, the blessing is evident.

    I hope you don’t mind if I make a suggest. Each of us are ascending the ladder of exaltation. You might ask Heavenly Father what the next rung on the ladder is for you. Once He reveals that to you, you’ll have greater purpose in your life. Each time we move up the ladder we need to exercise faith, hope, and charity (endure challenges).

  12. SR-
    I’d not recommend the path to anyone either, having also been through it. My dear wife often reminds me that she is glad of who I became after having gone through what I did. I am certainly not the same person I was before.

    Your stories continue to be inspirational, and I continue to look forward to them here and elsewhere.

  13. Silver Rain, great posts. They show me that grace must extend all ways: God to us, Us to God, Us to ourselves.

    My divorce, where she woke up one morning after 6 months and decided she “only loved me as a friend” tore me apart. I also thought about leaving the Church over it. Thankfully, I stuck it out and have been blessed for that decision.

    That each of us needs to learn to understand Grace better than we do, is so very important. Yet, we often must stew in our own juices for a time, before we are tender enough to accept that grace.

  14. SilverRain, thank you for sharing your heart with us. I continue to be astounded about how hard life can be, how much our heartstrings really can and will be stretched.

    Whizzbang, if I may, I wanted to add one more thought about patriarchal blessings. I used to see them as just that — a list of blessings, sort of like the kind that are just there as gifts. I have lived long enough to see that a lot of times, the blessings have actually been more like warnings, or at least indicators of God’s foreknowledge of the hard things life might bring. There have been times when what I thought were sort of ‘pat’ blessings, or blessings I thought would just come, were actually anchors through very difficult times — times when the very blessings I sought were not there.

    Of course, that may not be applicable to your experience, but I thought I’d share that in case it resonates.

    Each of us has to engage our blessings with the Spirit — no one can interpret them for us, so don’t be too hard on your bishops for not being able to figure them out for you. :) I think part of what they and the scriptures and words of the prophets and other things that sometimes can feel distant and unattainable in dark times is guideposts to mark the trail when we can’t see. We can lean on those things in faith, trusting in promises that seem impossible at the time, enduring through the darkness. They can be your iron rod.

    I liked this:

    An unseen power will hold your hand as you hold to the iron rod.

    Will this solve all your problems? Of course not! That would be contrary to the purpose of your coming into mortality. It will, however, give you a solid foundation on which to build your life. (See Helaman 5:12.)

    The mist of darkness will cover you at times so much that you will not be able to see your way even a short distance ahead. You will not be able to see clearly. But you can feel your way. With the gift of the Holy Ghost, you can feel your way ahead through life. Grasp the iron rod, and do not let go. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, you can feel your way through life. (See 3 Nephi 18:25; D&C 9:8. (from this talk by Boyd K. Packer)

  15. Hm. I’m not sure if I explained my thoughts very well. I guess my point is that perhaps the wonderful blessings and promises you have about marriage in your blessing could be the very anchors to help you get through this hard time, rather than to be seen as somehow an indicator of some failure on your part to receive blessings. I don’t think God is a one-strike-and-you’re-out kind of God, and I also think His blessings sometimes take a lot of time, faith, and patience to unfold. He is merciful and just and will not withhold blessings from those who cleave to their covenants. And maybe what is in your blessing could actually be a reflection of his knowledge that you would need the comfort of knowing such blessings can be yours during this difficult time.

    And maybe that won’t resonate with you…again, only the Spirit will be able to help you discern.

    I’m so sorry for what you and SilverRain and others have gone through. I’ve watched enough people go through divorce that I know how it can sort of leave you feeling desolate, foundationless, and more. But I’ve also seen how the grace of God can and does come in and heal and help restore perspective and peace, just as SilverRain described here.

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