I wrote this in February, posted it, and took it down. It was infinitely too personal at the time. Somehow, it isn’t anymore. I can accept God’s will for me and the closeness with God to which I am being called.
Turmoil perhaps best describes the state of mind I am in. Some days I feel as though my head is screwed on upside down or oblique to my spine. I gratefully took refuge at home after a traumatic two and a half years that challenged some of my core beliefs (albeit quirky ones; I won’t regale you with details here) and opened me up to new avenues of thought and belief. After the first year of divinity school I felt completely deconstructed with no reliable tools with which to put myself back together again.
My existential angst has once again intensified with a strange twist. I have been considering going on an LDS mission. I have wanted to go on a mission since I was twelve. I considered it a bit when I was about to turn 21 and again when I finished my undergrad. But, it was never quite right. I finally settled on D&C 11:21 as my answer: “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” I had not yet obtained the word, or Word, and I decided scripture study was the course being required of me.
Lately I have been considering, seriously considering, a mission. On one hand, I can imagine nothing bringing me greater joy. I feel as though I have obtained a bit of a Christian testimony that I would like to share with people. On the other, I can imagine nothing bringing me greater pain. I feel as though I would have to deny the rest of my quirky theological/personality leanings in order to accomplish it. It is the perfect paradox of my faith.
My desire to convert is less universal than I imagine the missionary program to be. I think the gospel of Christ will one day fill the earth. That said, I don’t think Mormonism is for everyone (neither am I quite sure that Mormonism and the gospel of Christ are the same thing, although Mormons tend to elide them, with theological backing). I believe in universal truth, but I don’t think universal truth is always universally true for everyone all the time (does this make me a relativist?). At the same time, I hate the idea of turning other churches/faiths into mere vehicles leading individuals to Mormonism’s universal truth. Nevertheless, I believe in the temple and that the message contained therein is exactly what God wants for humanity. The archetypal ceremonies speak to me (although not unambiguously) deeply; the day I received my endowment was the happiest day of my life. The temple drama gave me a picture of the world for which I had ached and helped me to enact it.
Going on a mission would possibly involve months of contortion over the things I just outlined. And I frankly don’t know if I could handle it without going somewhat crazy. I already am trying to understand what in the world this means for my relationship with God. Because I have been showered with missionary imperatives, direct and implied, for the last month. And I have been cautiously considering them, all the while growing more slack-jawed at the sign upon sign that seemed to be urging me (I hope! I agonize!) to go.
The idea of going on a mission brings me great joy. When I made the initial decision and started the process, the feeling was bigger than anything I could describe. It felt as though I had been cut in half and was starting to be filled again, while the crack was getting wider. It was as though my heart had opened up to God. It was a feeling I could not comprehend or intellectualize at all. Nor was it something I could seem to talk about with anyone. It was too huge; it was too emotionally fraught; it was too confusing.
Then the weight of my personal history fell. Things that have to be reckoned with clamored for reckoning. Then the questions. Would I be willing to sacrifice my resistance to collectives of any kind, including, ironically, organized religion, to join what has been described as an army, a new generation of crusaders? Would I be willing to sacrifice my Isaacs (Heidi’s post has been on my mind a lot and she describes the spiritual and rational paradox superbly)? Is this missionary sacrifice even required of me? Could I be my own kind of bridge-building missionary, one who cares about what other religions have to teach me while I try to gently persuade them of the goodness of my message? Is this something I even have to do, or is being nudged toward a mission just one way of showing me that I have much to share, just not in the world’s white fields? And so on.
Before going to divinity school, a friend told me that once I left the Garden of Eden there would be no going back. I agree. But partaking of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil is the first step on the road to conversion, on the road to atonement. I hope we are all fallen Christians, not stuck in the Garden, trying to preserve an idyll that was created as both a condition and aftertaste of our fallen existence. Perhaps going on a mission would be my way of truly stepping out of the Garden, into the world, and learning to embrace Christ in unforeseen ways. What does God say? I am not sure. Yet.
My decision? I am going, my doubts have fled, unaccountably, and I am at peace.