I went to my meetings this morning. I wore black, with a gray, black and white striped tie. When I dressed, I did so slowly, in a fog. I brushed my hair --- which I never do --- for no reason, at least none I can articulate. Driving down the hill, looking out towards the city, the ocean, the cloudy sky, I felt numb, passive, as if my body were a contraption, set at some default function that allows it to go through the motions of obligatory living when its cognitive functions go haywire. Maybe I felt that if I didn’t really decide to go, I wouldn’t be held morally responsible if I did go.
I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. Would they wink and nod? Would they wrinkle their brows and talk knowingly of “threats” and “institutions”? Would they make jokes?
Maybe it was divine intervention (if there is such a thing). May was my month to conduct the services, so I may have been asked to read it, had the letter arrived in time. But G never opened his e-mail that weekend, and didn’t forward it on until Tuesday. A scattering of e-mails followed: “bombard them.” “We need to teach the politicians a lesson.” “No time to wait. We need to act now!” “Left-wing activist federal judges.” Et cetera. I didn’t respond.
When I arrived, I couldn’t manage to speak. I hung my coat on the hanger and sat down. We sang “How Firm a Foundation.” Someone prayed. I didn’t say “amen.” Twenty minutes in, (I spent those minutes idly flipping through the handbook, another for-no-reason occupation) G reached for the letter. “You all received this letter by e-mail last week, and --- " he paused and looked up at me --- "B, I’d be really interested in what you have to say about this --- I’ll read it in sacrament meeting.” He then read it to the four of us. H, our High Council representative, who for some reason feels the need to attend all our bishopric meetings, went into a rambling explanation --- if one could call it that --- of the reasons for the letter, the need for it. The usual catchphrases. G, not necessarily settled on the moral implications, but in predictable deference to the Brethren, said something mildly diplomatic about benefits and unions.
“B, how do you feel about this?” he asked.
“I think the Church is wrong. Both morally and as a matter of policy. I see good no reason for the Church to be engaging in this debate at all, let alone at this time, in this way.”
More blather from H. G noted that members are asked to express their feelings, not necessarily in one direction or the other. I told him I had many friends who have taken advantage of that ambiguity, and that part of me wanted to do so. But, I said, the message as to what those feelings are supposed to be is clear. The only reason it isn’t more clear is that the Church is trying to carefully protect its tax-exempt status. M agreed. “They do make a point to state their position. That’s hard to get around.”
We moved on. I sat through PEC, welfare. After we finished I pulled G aside and told him I wouldn’t be staying for Church. That I just couldn’t. That it was too hard. We talked about theology, about sealing, about the nature/nurture debate. His interest appeared at least partially genuine. He told me he enjoys my presence, that I play an important role, that I offer a unique perspective. I thanked him as I left.
In the parking lot, T and C watched with puzzled looks as I drove away. Their four-year-old asked where I was going. T said he didn’t know.
So I went home. Called J and told her I was coming. Saw her for a moment before she left. Kissed her goodbye.
It has been windy all afternoon. The poplars and pines weave back and forth, their branches confused and disharmonious. The wind shimmies down the chimney and makes banging noises with the metal lining. I believe for a moment that it’s the Spirit.
This experiment has been hard enough. This playing along, this attempting to translate my faith into the language of this community, this constant questioning of the decision, this doubt. The absurdity of it all --- me, here, like this . . . .
Patience, I try to think. In the end, love will hold sway. The day will come. Light will always overcome darkness.
At least I hope it will.
Tonight, on our way to the airport, we talked about the day. She told me she didn't know what she was going to do, but that I probably wouldn't want to hear her position. I told her I did, and promised not to say anything in response if she told me.
After she explained her thinking, I asked her if her if her position might be different but for her faith in the Church leadership, whether her thinking inherently starts with (or even assumes) acceptance of their stance as a default position. "Of course," she said. "Of course."
I think of this:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.And then this:
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.