i know that's probably an awful way to begin a post. but it got your attention, didn't it?
i cannot say that i had never thought about religion until my dad's death. i was born and raised LDS. i attended church with my family each sunday. i knew the scripture stories. i started reading the Book of Mormon on my own when i was seven. i prayed with my family before meals and each night before bed, in addition to saying my own "prayers" as part of a bedtime routine, supervised by my father. my prayers went something like this:
"dear father in heaven. thank thee for this day. please bless mom to be nicer. please bless daddy to find a job. please bless the neighbors' dogs to not jump on me. i'm sorry i snuck some of the cookie dough from the mixing bowl when mom was making cookies. please don't send me to hell. or outer darkness. bless that satan won't be in my room while i sleep. bless that i'll dream good dreams and think good thoughts. bless the missionaries and the prophet. and the president. and other people's presidents. in the name of jesus christ, amen."
my mother swears that prayer is the only thing that has kept her moving over the years. that she can get up each day, knowing that she is a daughter of a loving god who knows her individually and has a plan for her. i respect that, though i have never been able to understand that myself. praying always felt like i was talking to myself. i knew who god was according to the doctrines of the church to which i belonged, but i had no personal relationship with him. after my dad died, my prayers stopped being directed toward god, and instead were pleas to my father:
"hey dad. i don't know if you can hear me. but if you can, i miss you. mom won't look at me. the boys just fight with me all the time. people at school hate me. i miss you. is there any way you can come back to us? we really need you. people tell me you're in a better place. is that why you left? because you wanted to be in a better place? i hope that wherever you are is better than here. but i don't know why you'd want to leave us here. anyway. if you are allowed to, watch out for us. i love you. amen, i guess."
as the years passed, i tried harder to blend in with my family and my community. i knew all the answers to the questions in sunday school and seminary. i still went to church and attended youth activities. but i knew that there was a difference between acting as if you believed and actually being a believer.
i have been incredibly "religious" at many points in time, when it has served my purpose. when i've needed a community to belong to. when i've needed there to be peace between my mother and me. but i don't know that i've ever been a true believer. what matters to me is the here-and-now. mortality. serving others -- not because there is some eternal reward, but because everyone is happier when they can step outside themselves. i still hold values that reflect my LDS upbringing. my family is the most important aspect of my life, even though we have our dysfunctional idiosyncrasies. i believe in love. i believe in the power of service to uplift people, and that the greatest reward is in giving of yourself to others. i believe in the power of music to inspire and uplift, and even heal. i believe in something bigger than myself, though i do not pretend to know what it is. for now, i call it humanity.
and as for the great metaphysical questions, i do not have answers. but i think these questions distract from what is important in life. that is, what am i going to do with the time i have? how am i going to make the world a better place for my having lived in it?
bye for now.
p.s. though my journey has been different, i connected with this piece. if you're interested:
and everything: A Faith Journey