The Hardest Part, part I

For those of you who are new to pilgrimgirl, this is an installment in my ongoing effort to explain why I left the Mormon church about a year ago. You can find related posts here.

This will be the hardest part of the story to tell. But I think I’m ready now. Why is it so hard, you ask? Maybe because it matters so much. Maybe because it took that long to find the words to tell of the experience.

So I was sitting in church on a very typical Sunday. We were having a fairly unordinary meeting where the men’s and women’s groups were meeting together for an hour after Sunday School (usually the adults meet separately during this part of church). John wasn’t attending church with me on this particular Sabbath. So I sat by myself in the back of the room, empty chairs on each side of me. I didn’t mind being alone, really. If I sat with friends I was generally too distracted to pay much attention to the meeting. And for whatever reason, this particular Sunday I actually wanted to listen, perhaps because many weighty issues were on my mind. Specifically, I was concerned about John’s apathetic attitude towards church, I was thinking about my son’s upcoming ordination to the priesthood (it would occur on his 12th birthday), and I was musing about my own difficulties with some particular church doctrines.

The Bishop announced a line-up of 4 or 5 male speakers who would discuss various fundamental gospel topics. A few of them got up to the podium to give their spiels. Near the end of the meeting an older man addressed the issue of the Restoration of the Gospel. He began by discussing Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Father and Jesus Christ and then launched into an extended discussion about the Restoration of the Priesthood. He gave specifics of how this occurred through angelic visitor’s conferring 'priesthood keys' on Joseph Smith. Following that, the speaker delineated each of the LDS ordinances that are administered by priesthood holders and emphasized their necessity for salvation.

During much of this man’s talk I found myself impatient. I felt I’d heard this so many times. There was no fresh insight in his words, no illuminating inspiration. I grew weary of the meeting and was looking frequently at my watch, hoping that the talk would be over soon.

As he began discussing the necessity of priesthood ordinances, however, my feelings began to turn. I focused intently on what he was saying and as I did so, I felt a heavy black fog settle in around me. It was prickly and cold. And then I felt pressure squeezing against my entire body. I looked around at the other people sitting around me in the meeting. Their faces were impassive.

I tried to understand this feeling that was now so uncomfortable that I felt nauseous. I fought an almost overwhelming urge to stand up and get up out of the meeting. Not wanting to make a scene by leaving, I turned inward, asking myself What is going on? As I did so, distinct words formed in my mind: I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS.

To be continued in part II


JohnR said...

Jana, how would you respond to someone saying that Satan was putting these feelings into you to make you doubt the divinity of the Priesthood (which is how I'm sure many LDS would interpret the experience)?

jana said...

That's a great question, but I'm not going to answer it just yet. It'll come in Part II or III.

I purposefully broke the story into parts because I want the narrative to unfold in a specific way that, I think, will address questions like yours as I answered them myself along the way.

Anonymous said...

Jana, I'm new to your blog, having seen a link from a post you made at the cultural hall. You're now on my 'bloglines' feed- I like your stories, your photos, and you feel like a kindred spirit.

Good luck with your quals.

jana said...

Welcome to the pilgrimgirl community! One of the main reasons that I blog is to connect with kindred spirits. So I'm thrilled to have found one in you, too. :)

Anonymous said...

I've had a similar experience, and I'm anxious to hear the rest of your story. As JohnR predicted, LDS members (the 2 in whom I have confided) just think I'm being deceived or hard-hearted. It's ironic that Joseph Smith taught about stupors of thought, and I've had stupors of thought and darkness whenever I seriously pray about his vision or the restoration of the priesthood. In fact, I had to stop praying and studying about those 2 things because I would fall into darkness whenever I would press the matter. I still believe a lot of the things I did before (such as that we are literal children of God and can become like Him), but I cannot deny my experience.