Reflections on a bad tooth

Tooth pain this past month has prompted reflections on why those disaffected with the Church can’t perceive good or appreciate positive changes.

This month one of my molars started hurting. Badly. The dentist referred me to an endodontist for a root canal. But it turned out only one of the three roots could be “canaled.” So my dentist referred me to an oral surgeon for tooth extraction.

By the time I sat in the oral surgeon’s chair, the infection had been causing pain for over two weeks. He numbed me up, but the local anaesthetic wasn’t able to reach the infected tooth. Several more attempts were made to stop the pain locally before they put me under nitrous oxide, an anaesthetic that affects the entire body.

As I sat there feeling pain the surgeon was trying so hard to take away, I thought of people who have felt pain because of Church. And I understood in a new way how their pain blocks their ability to appreciate attempts to make things better.

Sometimes there is a unique wrinkle that makes the situation more fraught. In the case of my tooth, the infected root had a hooked end, which prevented simple extraction. In the case of someone disaffected with the Church, there can be connections with believers or conflicts over policy that make the pain more intense.

After the problem tooth was gone, its neighbors took a while to return to their former state of painless function. The ordeal had pushed them slightly off kilter so that every bite was painful and somehow wrong. In similar fashion, those who are close to someone who has been disaffected can experience pain and dislocation, even though they themselves are strong.

Any time one who had been in the Church leaves, it is painful. The one leaving knows their pain, but may not realize the pain felt by those who remain.

People are not bad teeth. They don’t need to be cracked apart and thrown away. Unlike bad teeth, people who were once disaffected can heal and return.

The Church teaches that we all, before this life, desired to be part of God’s covenant people, what Paul called the body of Christ. Before experiencing the pain and joy of this life, our intent therefore had been to be united to God’s word or at least ultimately reunited with God.

The Church also teaches that our bodies will be restored in the resurrection. In like manner, I suggest that all willing to be united to the covenant (or body of Christ) will be restored to the hope that was theirs from before the foundation of the world.

While God will force no individual to heaven, those willing may return, all pains and hurts healed for those willing to throw themselves on the sacrifice of Christ.

My faith is in a loving God and Jesus Christ, who stands ready to save us. My hope is that God has prepared a way for all willing to be healed and return. And my love is for all who I believe I knew in that time before this life, every man, woman, and child who will ever have been born.

As Thomas Moore wrote:

“Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish;
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts; here tell your anguish.
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.”

Hymn 115
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on a bad tooth

  1. Thank you so much for your words Meg.

    They were very helpful to me.

    I also believe that those willing will be saved. Mortality throws a lot at us. I don’t believe we will not be tempted above what we can bare. I believe God knows our thoughts and intents and wishes to save all that are willing.

    The reminder of those words of Thomas Moore is also appreciated. One dark night in the recent past reading those words is what got me calm enough to sleep.
    Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed this post, Meg. I think one of the things that helps me is being able to recognize when things are going wrong before they get out of hand. I know that being part of the church is a big part of my life and although there may be disappointments and disagreements, I trust that God has a plan for all of us.

    I think it’s easy when we’re younger to want to be the star or the important person, but I think there comes a point where we are grateful to be part of something important even if we are not the focus of attention.

    The hymns form an important part of the teaching of the church, and I’m glad you included Come ye disconsolate, because that is one hymn I really like.

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