I started this post about a month ago, after an amusing Facebook conversation that could have been construed by some as blasphemous (just drawing comparisons between Church figures and Star Wars characters, nothing that terrible). At some point in the conversation, one of my friends noted that we were all going to Hell. I frequently say something similar to my friends (with my tongue mostly in cheek). But there is at some level a legitimate concern that I have. Perhaps because I am introverted and overly analytical by nature, I am often introspective, pondering the state of my soul and place in the after life.
It’s not that I’m a bad person (at least, I don’t think so. I mean, I can be judgmental, a tad pretentious and somewhat snarky, but that shouldn’t damn my eternal progression should it?). However, I do often find myself outside the mainstream, pushing against the current. Some of this is of my own choosing and some of it is me trying to be true to myself (which you could argue is also of my choosing).
I believe what I believe because of my relationship with God. I try to act in a way that brings me closer to Him/Her/Them and base my decisions on what I can best discern is right and good and lovely and true. Yet, following that still places me outside and sometimes against the norm. Why? Why does following the Spirit as best I can place me in a position diametrically opposed to so many of my fellow Saints? The sheer numbers against me are enough to cause me to doubt the accuracy of my interpretation and understanding.
Yet, I can’t. I go over things again and again in my head and heart, trying to understand what caused me to feel the way I do, half-hoping that I can rationalize my liberal/progressive/feminist/intellectual/unorthodox beliefs away and embrace the mainstream. It would be so easy to float along with everyone else. But, I can’t. I feel what I feel and the same feelings that draw me to God and Mormonism and the Book of Mormon and flood my soul when I serve others with the priesthood push me towards that very unorthodoxy that causes me such intellectually angst.
So, I push on. Occupying an in between space—fully Mormon, but also something else. I am Mormon, but that’s not all. My Mormonism informs, probably, all aspects of my life (even if it’s just making snarky comments about praying over what was used to make that delicious dessert). And that’s why the thought of being utterly and totally wrong about it causes me pain.
I joke about it partially as a coping mechanism. If I say it enough then it will just sound so ridiculous that I’ll stop freaking out about it. Or (as I commented to a friend the other day) it’s some kind of humility, suggesting that I don’t think I’m worthy enough for heaven, thereby ensuring my place there (although, if I recognize that, then it probably negates any benefit from the humility, putting me right back where I started…hmmm).
I mean, I don’t really think I’m going to Hell. I don’t really know what Hell is or how much I believe in a traditional Hell. But sometimes I wonder. I don’t always agree with what I hear over the pulpit, but I still believe in living prophets. I think people can and have been wrong. I believe that God does the best He can with us poor, fallible humans. I believe that what we do matters, as well as why we do it. I’ve heard it matters more where you’re headed than how far along you are. Sometimes that feels right and other times, it just doesn’t quite jive for me.
Perhaps the biggest cause of concern comes from adjusting the beliefs that I had growing up and holding a different set of interpretations about certain things than my parents. There’s a sense that I’m betraying something, that nags at me, but I can’t deny where my feelings take me. Can two, seemingly diametrically opposed, interpretations both lead back to God? How?
It seems to fly in the face of ‘absolute truth,’ but feels closer to the truth. There needs to be some level of disagreement to progress. Without conflicting ideas working together there would be no movement forward (that’s probably not totally true, but generally, I think it holds up). Obviously, if people are more committed to their individual ideology than the shared goal, then the project will fail regardless.
However, maybe my difference is necessary to help us really become of one heart and one mind. Simultaneously, maybe I need the difference that others bring to unify my heart and mind with Christ and with my fellow Saints. I want that sense of unity and community. I crave it (in my own sort of introverted, not super social, sort of way). I hope to be a part of it. And that makes my otherness and Hellbound worries all the more bitter.
I hope for more. I hope to bring people together as I straddle the line of orthodoxy. I hope to create that sense of community, so we can be a more unified, loving, inclusive place. I need to integrate myself and recognize the value in my difference (although, I always think some amount of introspection is healthy. Keeps me from being too complacent).
Let’s hope I’m not on the Highway to Hell, but if I am…I may as well laugh with the sinners.