The Prayer of a Doubting Missionary

Doubting MissionaryI have talked much about my youthful experience, encountering disturbing possibilities about Joseph Smith and polygamy. I have since continued my journey and have found explanations for that history (see my Faithful Joseph series).

But in 1984, I was a missionary in training who wasn’t entirely sure about the Church. However I knew God existed and knew He had told me to remain a Mormon. Though I retained a portion of doubt (a portion of doubt that would remain for decades), this is how I conducted myself. For what it’s worth, this is the only prayer I have ever written down.

il 10 aprile 1984 martedi.

What a marvelous day! It started off slowly, and there were short ups and downs, but classe w/ Sorella Moss was incredible and then ambassadorship – on having a more Christ-like attitude. It was wonderful: No Greater Love, a slide show to “As I have Love You,” and a film about a handicapped man. Then:

To Change:

1) Obedience
a) Repent
2) Sacrifice

[lead to] Consecration.

Scan_20150227 (2)_cropped

Then choir and an absolutely incredible devotionale delivered by Elder Hartman Rector, Jr. We laughed so hard, and I know I was totally psyched to go to Italy after the two hours(!) were over. Then there was classe di pronuncia w/ Presidente Magistro. “Lasciatemi cantare…. I jazzed to that one and then there was “I vecchi.”

I prayed well and long this morning.

Morning Prayer

I crawl out of bed–
Mists still clutching
at my mind.
I kneel on the floor
to pray.

The words come automatically.

With one squinted spiritual eye I look up
to see if heaven’s there.

The doors stand firm and dusty to the sky.

I press on.

“I love thee, Lord.
Help thou my weakness.
Show me my strength.”

I close my prayer
and begin to get up,
but an urging from within forces me again to my knees.
With determination I let the Lord know that I don’t plan to get up ’til we’ve chatted and the doors to the sky are no longer thick with undisturbed gray.

Much later I sigh and say my final goodbyes to the Lord before my day begins.

My dearest friend, I wouldst not that He go, but I know He is always there, if I am willing to truly take the time to knock.
_____________________________________

Lord God, bless those that I love, especially those that I love too much. Bless me with peace of mind that I may not concern myself to harmful ends.

Guide me, instruct me in thy ways. By thou my protection and go before my face that I may proclaim thy word to prepared hearts. Let Italia blossom as the rose while I am there to labor–and guide me that my example may be one to inspire others and not turn them to jealousy and fear.

Lord, bless my mind that it may be clear as I teach thy everlasting gospel. Bless my lips that they may speak with the power of thy spirit. Bless my heart that it may brim over-flowing with the love for the Italian people – that mine eyes may shine forth that love to the softening of their hearts. Bless my feet that they may carry me in uprightness and in the paths of the spirit. Bless my ears to hear only the beautiful and worthy that unworthy thoughts might not defile my mind.

Bless my hands that they may work and write righteousness up to thee.

Help thou my disbelief that I may never plant the seeds of doubt to pull down another. Let my performance in all things be consecrated to thee.

Help thou mu emotions, Oh Lord God of Hosts! Lock up my soft heart and bury it far from me ’til the day come when he who has the key should come. Help thou my thoughts that they be pure and undefiled, that I be occupied only with righteous desires.

Oh, Lord, thou knowest better than I the desires of my heart – much better than I. Protect my spirit from idle speculation – show me the way to keep my eye single to thy glory. May I pour out my concerns in mighty prayer unto thee that thou wouldst guide my paths.

Make me a new creature in thee, Lord God, and in thy son, the Savior of all the world, Jesus Christ. May my poor offering find favor in thy sight – may my greatest joy be in thee, may I live and breathe only to bring about thy holy ways.

Guard thou my mouth and stand sentinel that I may speak only righteousness–that through me all may see thy pure love and power to salvation. Purge pride from my heart and fill in it’s place the pure love for my brothers and sisters. Let me not give thought to myself, but let me go forth as thy true emissary, to bring souls unto thee.

Guard my soiled past, my vain past, my idle past, that I may not look back as Lot’s wife. Shape me into such as were Enoch, Ammon and Moroni. Prepare me for the adversity that I would submit to for thy Holy sake, yea holy is thy name, Lord God of Hosts, and there is no other God beside thee, nor ever shall there be.

Bless me to take forth the message of thine only begotten that in Him and through Him and by Him and belief on His holy name many may come to salvation. Bless me as I go among thy lost sheep that my call may be true to thine own, that they might hearken to that voice.

Lord God, curse my timidity and the weakness of my flesh that in all things I may be a fit vessel for thy word.

Lord God, my father and Father of all in the spirit, I love thee and honor thy name. Thy ways are beautiful before my sight and I glory in the graciousness of the Father that bore me and sustains me alway.

I praise thee, Lord God, for the faith thou hast bestowed on me to enable me to pursue thy ways. I bless thee for the surety I have in thy word and the kinship I hold with those voices from the dust. Bless them and tell them of my love and gratitude for them and their mortal lives.

I praise thy name and thank thee for life and breath, raiment and food, lodging and safety, but mostly for the sure knowledge that thou art.

Holy thou art, Lord God of Hosts. Guide me unto thee, in the name of thine only begotten in the flesh, even Jesus Christ, Amen.
__________________________________________

One day I knelt,
seeking peace.
My Father came
clothed in pure light
To speak with me,
He said.

My heart soared and
my mind danced as
our conversation went on.

He comforted me as I cried,
and lifted the heavy burden from my back.

I asked for His holy help
and he blessed me beyond my petitions.

I laughed,
and His laughter echoed mine to the depths of my soul.

“Daughter, your faith is enough,” He said as the pure light formed into mental words.
“One day, if you come to me, we shall talk again,
and after we will talk for all eternity.”

My mind could thing of no more business to keep my dear Kin near,
so my heart provided praises of love
until even such light and delightsome worship
began to show its strain.

“Oh, Father, I love Thee!” shouted the emotion-filled heart–
then closing in the name of the Holy Lamb of God,
I opened my tear-stained eyes
and climbed to my feet
and began again
the process of
life.
__________________________________________

Does doubt threaten to tear you from the God you have loved? Fight to retain that love, to know that you are acceptable to Him. Do not bury your testimony in the dirt and claim God is a harsh master. Embrace God and come to know Him. Seek Him as you would a precious treasure or the life of one you love dearly.

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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.

15 thoughts on “The Prayer of a Doubting Missionary

  1. There have been times when the answer to my prayer has been nothing but an amused chuckle.

  2. No doubt when I am decades older, I will look back at the me of today and think I was cute.

    Now that I am old, I look at the young and think that they are like gods and goddesses, trailing glory. When I was young, I would look at “old people” and wonder how in heck they ever ended up together. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    As for my beloved, he is wonderful. But I would have to say that God is still my dearest friend.

  3. I spent many years dignifying irrational answers to doubts. Yet the authenticity of the church to me was more important than loyalty to my family. Over the years I noted many discussions in high priest group meetings, on Sunday, how courageous it was for a Jew or a Catholic to become a Mormon, but the converse was considered a “sinners easy way out”. This attitude was common in the church. I am impressed with those who frequent this sight. You all seem to be above such accusations. I applaud those that contribute to the millennial star. Kudos
    I have spent enough time interviewing those of other faiths to conclude that nearly all faiths have hundreds of stories of miracles and Thousands of testimonies of direct inspiration from on high. Some so frequent that it truly makes the LDS church look wanting.
    The Jehovahs witnesses, Seventh day Adventist, Fundamental Baptist. And others Truly believe their faith is the only true and living church. Mainstream Christianity, though less adamant about their specific religion, KNOW the Lord wants them right where they are, and they tell amazing stories that cement their testimonies.
    I noticed that like other religions, LDS church members seldom ever asked a question of god that has a proven right or wrong answer. Therefore the answers that comes to their heart are always right.
    Examples:
    -Should I call John to be my counselor?
    -Should I accept that job?
    -Is the church true?
    -Should I ask Jane to marry me?
    Church members almost never include testable questions, or ask God for a miracle that, through their personal inspiration, they know will come to pass. It is just to risky.
    I have not heard a real prophecy from a prophet of the church in my lifetime. Instead we receive Wise counsel and admonitions and prophecies of the dangers of a bleak afterlife for sinners. If the admonition of Moroni is true, that “by the power of the holy ghost Ye may know the truth of all things”, In a church full of the Holy Ghost, administered through the priesthood of God, Such things would be commonplace.
    Testable inspiration is scary and I believe we unconsciously avoid it. When church members inspiration is testable, and fails them, they write it out of there history. I have observed this dozens of times as a member of the church. So church members simply avoid it.
    I once housed five candidates for a high paying professional government job in my area. One was LDS and confided in me that he already knew he was going to get the job. “The Lord had revealed it to him as assuredly as the church was true”. He and his wife had already looked at several houses and were narrowing it down to where they were going to live. He wanted to know about the ward and such, as they would be living here soon. The man who was offered the job came back for a final interview a few weeks later. It wasn’t the LDS man. The retuning interviewee had a change of heart and turned the offer down. I know this because I asked him. I thought “well how about that, The LDS fellow may get the job after all”. So they called in the number 2 choice and he took the job. But again it wasn’t the LDS man. I never saw him again. I probably doesn’t even remember any of the things he told me. Most people have selective memory when their testimony is at stake.
    My Mission was two of the best years of my life. I wouldn’t trade my years is the church for any other life. I do believe it was the right place for me to be. I learned much. That being said It now makes more sense to me that God really doesn’t care what we believe, but what we become. So people choose the belief system that works best for them, and then they may leave it when they out grow it and move on to something more suitable. God wants all to be trustworthy, courageous, full of love, empathetic, honest, understanding, compassionate, learning to love those that disagree with them and a hundred other virtues. These are universal postulates of truth. They are self evident and accepted by all because we can hardly argue against their value.
    Every else is a man made illusion. Provable to the objective mind.

  4. Hi Farren,

    You appear to no longer align yourself with Mormonism. I am wondering what caused you to leave, though it appears you had questions and were unsatisfied with those around you who could not answer these questions. At least that has been a consistent theme in the comments you have left on posts I have put up.

    Have you honestly inquired of God and gotten an answer you feel confident He will approve in the final judgement? Other than what you’ve posted here, I am unfamiliar with your walk with God. Therefore I do not judge you.

    I will note that the cited examples that cast doubt on the truth of Mormonism are based on the foibles, ignorance, and hubris of individuals, as you understood these individuals. I would submit that, ultimately, it is an individual’s walk with God that will be the subject of a conversation in eternity determining one’s post-mortal fate.

    That conversation will not be with me or the individuals in your local congregation or people who stayed at your house and confided confidence. It will be a conversation between you and God.

    As long as you are at peace with the outcome of that conversation, then I am happy for you. For you will, in the eternity that I believe in, find yourself in a heaven that suits your essential being.

  5. Thanks Meg,
    Though I am no more a Mormon, most of my friends are. A few are willing to discuss the church and its policies, and doctrines openly with me, and we are closer friends for it. The rest are good friends. I truly believe they are no better or worse of than I. They are simply where they are at. Some Love better than I. Some forgive easier than I. I am convinced those attributes are more important than priesthood ordinances of any church.

    I do enjoy a good debate and I don’t take offence at disagreements.

    I can tell you truly love what the church brings to you. For me, I have never been happier or felt more inner peace. I don’t believe in a one size fits all point of view or religion. But I do believe all roads lead to Rome. Some are just longer. I wish you the best on your journey.

  6. I only clicked through a couple of them so far –

    At least the exmo folks will be fully aware that the most conclusive of the “proofs” that Joseph was a practicing polygamist has an alternate meaning.

  7. Regarding the carnal intercourse meme, my husband is content to think that Emily was just lying, since anything other than “Yes sir” to the question about carnal intercourse would have completely destroyed the case they were trying to make, that Joseph taught polygamy.

    I’m not sure if he’s inclined to think that women don’t know big words like carnal and intercourse. I would find that offensive. I know there are those who are utterly offended that I would suggest Emily was lying.

    Thanks to Victorian prudery, no one actually asked any of the ladies to describe, in detail, what they did in bed, or what carnal intercourse meant. I rather like Lucy Walker’s saucy diatribe, proclaiming that she wouldn’t answer any of their questions. But Emily didn’t play her hand that way.

  8. Meg. Thanks for sharing. Personal, beautiful, and inspiring.

    Farren, I thought it was interesting how you said that LDS don’t ask questions that would give them “testable inspiration”. And then you gave an example of someone who felt he did and was proven wrong.
    My personal thought on this is that God does things in His own way and in His own time. If we were able to ask everything or even a good number of questions in a “testable” way, where would that leave faith?
    I also believe there are many who may receive “testable inspiration” who feel it is too personal to share.
    The saying, “The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know” really rings true for me. I search for more knowledge and it makes me realize how much I truly need faith.
    You mention the good in many churches. Without a doubt! And do I expect to see members of other churches closer to God in the next life than some of our own LDS? Absolutely. But, I can’t deny that being obedient to the laws in the LDS church and receiving those ordinances has brought me closer to my Savior. I truly believe that almost all churches bring us closer to God. I believe that the LDS church will bring me the closest-if I am willing to put in the work- to get to my Heavenly Father.
    Thank you, Meg, for so beautifully reminding us that if our knowledge, understanding, and faith aren’t complete, desire and thirsting after the Spirit can be enough until we have patiently worked for more.

  9. “No doubt when I am decades older, I will look back at the me of today and think I was cute.”

    Perhaps. But I can’t look back at me at 20 and think I was much cuter then. In fact, I cringe at old photos of myself.

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