I generally hate long rides in the car, but that is usually the only time I can have a long talk with my wife without distractions. So on occasion I tolerate long drives, just because I love talking to my wife and getting her input. She has so many great things to tell me. Too bad I have to trap her in a moving piece of tin foil to keep her focused on one topic long enough to get it all out of her. I was asking her about a thought that has been rolling around in my head lately: How far will you go if everything you have ever used for support suddenly fails you?
Let me back up and give you some history. Lately I have been seeing posts about women who say they are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but have convinced themselves that the leaders of the church are somehow trapped in old and provincial behavior patterns that are preventing them from allowing women to reach their full potential as equal holders of the priesthood. They seem to feel that it is their responsibility to kindly, and gently, educate those they claim are the Lord’s anointed servants about what is right and just, and get them to change the doctrine or policies of the church to be more politically and ethically correct.
This lead me to post a question on a Facebook group that went like this:
“I am curious about something. Those women who are demanding full equality in the priesthood of the [Lord’s restored] Church say that they support the Brethren who lead the Church. How far are you willing to follow them? If they tell you no, you may not hold the priesthood at this time, will you stop your petitions or will you ignore their answer and continue pursuing your own agenda, even if it is at your own peril? I have always wondered how people can say they believe the Church is true, but in the same breath claim the leaders of the Church to be wrong in their beliefs. I ask for your enlightenment.”
This article is not to debate this issue. My point is that this question got me thinking about those times when we find ourselves without the proverbial leg to stand on. As an example, and this is something my wife and I discussed in the car, there was a time when the local leaders of the Church cast me off like I was a leper who was polluting their drinking water by bathing in it. It was one of the hardest times of my life.
I had just experienced a painful divorce (I guess all divorces are painful). I had custody of all our children. Some unknown persons were reporting that I was doing unspeakable things with my daughters. I had moved to a small Utah town where I knew no one, and no one knew what I had gone through to get there. It took everything I had to keep body and soul together. I couldn’t find a job that would pay the bills, I was relying on the Church for assistance, and was trying to get into school to finish my degree so I could properly take care of my family.
Because I was a single man, the Relief Society sisters would have nothing to do with me. Because I was a single man the Primary sisters would have nothing to do with me or my children. Because I was a man the priesthood brethren expected me to fulfill all my priesthood callings as though I had a stay-at-home wife. I lived in a single-wide trailer that was literally packed almost floor to ceiling, front to back with all of our earthly possessions. I had three girls and a boy, one of the girls having just entered puberty. I didn’t know how to do their hair or any of those things young girls need a mother for, I had people making horrific accusations against me, anonymously, so I looked at everyone as a spy who was ready to turn me in as a pervert for even touching one of my children. My children had been abused by their mother and we had moved from place to place. They were in desperate need of love and comfort, which I was terrified to give for fear of having the state take my precious ones away from me because of some unfounded accusation.
In case you are not aware of it, I am a man, which adds a special sting to this next part. It was at this time in my life, when the Church members turned their backs on me and my children, and society turned its back on me in general, that my Church leaders called me into their office and told me that I was to leave town. My Stake President looked me in the eye, with his counselors on either side of him and told me, “No self-respecting woman would try to improve herself when she had a family to care for.” I was told that I was to drop out of school and go find work. If one job was not enough to pay the bills then I was to find three jobs to pay the bills, but I was not to go back to school until all my children were raised and gone from the home. How dare I try to improve myself when I had responsibilities to my children to deal with.
All my worst nightmares were coming true. I had no work, and I was told to stop going to school, which meant I would have to move away from that little town, as there were no jobs there, except as a cocktail waitress. All that I had been raised to count on in time of need – the Church and all its teachings – had just abandoned me as something untouchable. Where was I to turn? I was lost, angry, and felt betrayed to the core of my being. To put it mildly, I was beside myself with grief. I remember going into my room and locking the children out and telling them I needed to be alone. I paced the room, wringing my hands and sobbing. I had no place to go and no recourse. The world was a very dark place.
As I paced back and forth I began to remember the words of the latest General Conference talks. For some reason that particular conference was laden with talks about following your leaders. Promises were made that even if you didn’t agree with your Church leaders, if you followed their advice and counsel the Lord would turn your obedience into a blessing on your head. Visually, in my head, I was standing at the edge of a great gulf. (I am deathly afraid of heights.) I was being told to step into this void. The likelihood was that I would fall to my death, at least that is what every sensation in my body screamed would happen. But the Lord was saying to me, “Trust me.” I continued to wring my hands and weep.
What was I left with? Should I abandon all that I had been taught from my youth? These people were awful to me. Should I live my life hating the Church for how it was treating me? I hurt every moment of every day from the treatment I was receiving. But what choice did I have? I had witnesses (yes, they seemed very dim at the moment) of times when I knew the Lord had been aware of me and had blessed me with His love and peace. How could I give that up? How could I look Him in the eye and tell him that I jumped ship because things weren’t smooth sailing? I paced and wrung my hands some more.
Finally, I prayed and plead, prayed and cried, prayed and railed, and apologized and plead some more. In the end I decided that the only choice that would preserve my knowledge of what God had done for me in the past, despite what was happening in the present, was to take that step into the void. With complete faith that I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do, and that I was committing suicide at the same time, I dropped out of school. I moved out of town, because there was no employment in the town that would allow me to support my family. We were homeless for four months. We moved in with one friend, until my troubled children got us driven out onto the streets again, then we stayed with someone else, moving from place to place until we ran out of places to move to.
I was finally faced with the very real thought of having to live with my children in my car. I had reached the end of my rope. I could take no more. In tears and sobbing I plead with the Lord to not make me do this one thing. My shame would kill me. For hours I plead with Him, for in the morning I was being kicked out onto the streets once again. To make an excruciatingly long story short, within 24 hours I not only found a job that would support my family, but I found a house we could move into that was more than enough space for our needs. I received a personal witness that God was not only aware of me and my needs, but that He had been working on finding ways to supply me with my needs that were ready only at the moment when I had reached the end of my rope, and had turned to Him to supply what I could not. He definitely didn’t make it easy on me. But he was certainly there in my moment of need.
All of us, if it hasn’t already happened, will come to a day when all of our earthly supports will fall away, leaving us feeling like we have no recourse. We will feel like what the Church asks of us is more than we can bear, more than is needed or that what it asks is completely unreasonable. Sooner or later we will be placed in a position where we will be forced to rely on our faith, because the only thing that will be left to us is our faith. We will either abandon that faith and live with the bitterness of apparent betrayal or we will choose to live by our faith, even though everything in our life tells us we are a fool for continuing to believe. It is only when we choose to live by faith that we discover that it doesn’t matter what happens on the outside of us. It is what happens on the inside of us that counts. It is the trust we choose to place in our Father in Heaven that will carry us through when all else fails us. That faith will sustain us through any storm, whether external or internal.
Those who question the leaders of the Church, and challenge their stance on any point of doctrine, do so at the risk of their own faith. For if they challenge the leaders and find that the leaders don’t fall into line with what they think should happen, then what is left for them to put their faith in? They will wander off down forbidden paths, for they who challenge the Lord’s servants will find that the Lord sustains his own, and not their pursuers.
Please watch the following talk given at General Conference in 1994.
The Keys That Never Rust
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