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Roles, Worry & Fear
We started off the new year as busy as ever. The kids took classes at a local homeschool community, Aster was in Girl Scouts, and we started going to a new ward. Josh was working full time while taking classes for his graduate degree, and I was serving in the Girls Camp Directorship.
Josh was trying to get through his painful faith crisis and was agitated with the church. I was trying to be supportive and keep up with everyday life.
In March 2015, I wrote in my journal,
“Things I am worried about or concerned about:
How to deal with health problems & fatigue.
My struggle with believing in myself.
What Aster and Gabe need from me.
Homeschool - how are we doing? Is this still what our kids need?
Josh’s testimony and doubts about the church.
What does the Lord want me to do for Josh during his faith struggle? What is my role?
Worried that Josh doesn’t want to pay tithing anymore.”
There was just so much to process and I really needed the Lord’s guidance. I needed to go to the temple. For Mormons, the temple is a sacred place for prayer, meditation, learning about the gospel plan and completing ordinances for our ancestors. It is quiet and peaceful and a refuge away from the stresses of life.
But Josh didn’t want anything to do with the temple anymore. And that broke my heart. It was just painful. The temple used to be a special place for us. That’s where we got married. We served as temple ordinance workers for a while when we were newlyweds. We went to the temple together occasionally for date night.
I would have to get used to going by myself.
A few days after that journal entry, I went to the temple to meditate on my concerns. In regard to what my role was in supporting Josh during his faith crisis, I felt strongly that I needed to love, support and respect his unique spiritual path. I also felt a nudge to tell him that Heavenly Father loved him, even if he was unsure of his connection to heaven at that time.
I wrote these words from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 33:3:
For I pray continually for [him] by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of [him]; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
Aster (they, them) turned twelve in June 2015. I was so excited for them to go into the Young Women program. When I was a teenager, the Young Women program and summer Girls Camp were everything to me, so I hoped it would also be the same for Aster. The leaders and youth in our ward were welcoming and kind. That summer Aster went on their first temple trip and also went to their first year at Girls Camp.
Shortly after turning twelve, it is customary for youth in the church to start having regular interviews with the bishop, the leader of the ward. He takes that time to check in with how they are doing, if there are any questions, to talk about their worthiness and testimony.
I was a little taken back when Josh said he did not want Aster to go into a bishop’s interview alone. I didn’t quite get it. Due to his own personal experiences, he did not like the idea of Aster being alone with a grown man behind closed doors.
It had never occurred to me that was a scenario I needed to worry about. I have always had wonderful bishops who were loving, kind and like fathers to me. My interviews with them were always appropriate. I was devastated to hear of Josh’s experience. We agreed that one of us would always go into the bishop's interviews with our kids.
What was my role here? First and foremost, my role was and is to protect my kids.
A few years earlier, I prayed to God and said, “Heavenly Father, please please please don’t let my kids be autistic. I don’t think I could handle that. And please, please please don’t let them get narcolepsy like me. It would be too hard.”
I can picture God and my guardian angels sitting at a big, round table, saying “So, should we tell her?” “Nah. She’ll figure it out.”
That August, Gabe was diagnosed with autism, ADHD and Tourette’s. In November, Aster was diagnosed with narcolepsy.
Gabe’s diagnosis wasn’t so much devastating as it just made sense. He had remarkable pattern recognition, a sharp engineering brain, and loved to talk about his special interests. He also had difficulty with social interactions, sensory sensitivities, executive functions and vocal and motor tics.
On the other hand, Aster’s diagnosis of narcolepsy type 1 was devastating for me. I developed narcolepsy at age 12 and let’s just say it can be a living hell and I still haven’t made friends with it. I was mad at God. I did not want my child to have to deal with this complicated, chronic health condition, along with all the associated health issues like depression and weight gain.
Again I asked myself, what is my role? Josh I decided that we would do everything we could to advocate for our kids, be positive about their neurodiversity, and encourage them to be their own advocates. It was a lot to take in, but I was grateful that there were many resources available to us - quicker diagnosis, medications, accurate information and support groups.
I also needed a quicker diagnosis, medications, accurate information and support groups for being in a mixed-faith marriage. =)
I needed support, but shame set in first, as it likes to do.
I felt ashamed that my marriage wasn’t the Mormon ideal anymore. I should have been more believing and had more faith, then Josh wouldn’t be going through this. It was my fault. I wasn’t a perfect wife. I was being punished. These types of feelings have reared their ugly heads throughout my life, and this was no exception.
In Mormon doctrine, eternal relationships are dependent on whether family members qualify for the celestial kingdom. If they or you don’t qualify anymore, then you won’t be together forever. If you don’t have family prayer every single night, daily scripture study, attend the temple regularly, pay exact tithing, be the best visiting teacher, sing Primary songs in the car, and bring a Jell-O dessert to ward dinners, then you are in danger. And I wanted to be with Josh and my kids forever.
Of course, I am kidding about some of that list, but the gist is that we must qualify, and if we don’t, there will be empty chairs in heaven. I started to have nightmares that we were violently separated at the Lord’s second coming. That I couldn’t find Josh. He couldn’t find me. I couldn’t find my kids. That everyone was moving ahead to glory without me. It was terrible.
Now I know that my church leaders and members don’t want me to have nightmares about being separated from my family, but I have to wonder if the repetitive teachings about qualifying for the celestial kingdom cause other people to fear like this.
Readers, I’m interested to know your experience. Have you felt fearful about your family’s eternal salvation? Answer the poll below and leave a comment.
When I prayed about my situation and my family, I felt that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ wanted me to chill the heck out and have faith that everything would work out fine. But my heart and my brain would go back and forth on this for many years. Qualify. But trust Jesus. But also, be perfect. But also, have faith.
I found support in my ward, my family and friends. They were concerned, but loving, and listened to what I was going through. They knew that I loved Josh with all my heart and was committed to my marriage.
At least my kids were still in the church.