30 October 2010

My Struggle

I'm surprised it took so long, but I finally got the serious letter. I would suppose every missionary reaches a point of spirituality that they begin to desire everyone close to them become the same. Now this post I'm sure will demonstrate an utter lack of faith on my part, but that can't be remedied at the current time.

Here's and excerpt from this week's letter:

"...have you been going to church? I don't want to be a nag, but here's my train of thought: if we get married, there is no reason it wouldn't be in the temple. So it would be best if you were thinking about preparing for that. Even if it's another couple of years down the road, it would good to be thinking about it, so that it means something to you. I don't want you going to the temple just for me..."

I've never been directly confronted with this issue, I think it's just one of those things that everyone just assumes all members are on the same page about. However, temple marriage is one of the things I've never had a testimony about. While I wasn't on a mission I began to plan a life that involved marrying a non-member, mostly because at the time a majority of girls who still accepted me as an upright young man fit in that pool. To be honest, all that time, the idea of not getting married in the temple was not disturbing to me, in fact I didn't think twice about it. Maybe it's lack of faith, maybe it's ignorance, maybe it's the number of temple marriages(including that of my parents) I have observed fail for the same reasons temporal marriages fail. I have always assumed I'd just go along with whatever my wife wanted, it is HER day after all.

Now, Hannah has placed it in front of me. I guess temple marriage has never seemed of all that importance to me because it occurs to me that the #1 priority in marriage should be to have a happy, successful, and loving marriage, and everything else can follow that. I've felt that, just like being an RM doesn't guarantee a perfect boyfriend/girlfriend, a temple marriage doesn't guarantee a perfect, or even a good, marriage.

I consider myself a very analytical person, while I am very creative, I crave facts and figures to make educated decisions, I've never been able to "feel" an answer, answers just eventually make sense though logic and rational thought. It's hard for me to say I desire a temple marriage when I don't even know what a temple marriage truly is. I feel like all of my information is the same as they feed you in primary, you promise to live worthily and in return you get to be with your spouse for eternity. If it's so simple, why all the mystery around what goes on in the temple? I struggle with the idea I'll be inundated with a vast amount of information at the last minute, and that I'll be making a very important life decision without all of the information. It's the same issue I have with endowments, when Hannah got hers I had so many questions, unfortunately she was unable to answer any of them, and simply replied, "You'll find out when you go for your own." In my way of thinking, this seems to make no sense, how can I commit to something so important when I can't know what I'm committing to until I've already committed to it?

In retrospect, I even wonder about my baptism. Do I regret getting baptized at eight? No, but I sometimes wish I had waited until I fully understood what it was that I decided to do. Looking back I feel like I decided to get baptized because it was expected of me, and that's what all of the other kids my age were doing, so it must be right. Sometimes I feel like the same concept applies for 19 year-olds deciding to go on a mission, or other young people going to the temple together. Do I go because I KNOW it's right? Or because it's what I'm supposed to do, or expected to do.

To this, most people simply say, "Have faith, and you'll know what to do." When I hear this I always think of when Obi-Wan tells Luke to put on the Blinder and to reach out with his feelings:

Crappy quality I know, nevertheless, I wonder after watching this clip, am I Luke or am I Han? Do I want to have, but lack the courage to "let go"? Or do I depend too much on myself alone for my own good?


Fei said...

I married a man who didn't serve a mission either. His testimony isn't built on "feelings" like most. While he loves the gospel, church is difficult for him because to him, it is primarily a social organization, and he gets little out of the social interaction.

Yet, a temple marriage was important to him and I'll continue to say an eternal and celestial marriage is important to him, because one thing he *does* have a testimony in is eternity.

The reason we were married wasn't just so we could be happy in this life, but so that we could help each other grow together in this life, and through the eternities. The reason we were sealed in the temple is because we're serious about this whole god and goddess deal.

To me, a temple marriage is all about the eternal perspective on marriage, not about a magical happily ever after as so many people like to think it is. Too many get sealed only because it's a guarantee that they will "be together forever". Simply being together for the eternities is not the goal.

So I guess the question is: what is marriage to you? What do you expect it to be? And what is eternity to you? A temple marriage won't change the kind of marriage you have, but if you do it right, it will give you the opportunity to continue on with that good thing past this life.

Tripp Hazard said...

I have been through the exact same thing that you are going through. When I was 19 and received my endowments, the entire thing confused me. I wasn't prepared for it. And to be honest, the light in my testimony dimmed that day (and has never been as bright since).

I think you ought to be able to sit down with someone (a priesthood leader) and really talk about the temple before you attend. Cause for some people it is the most wonderful experience ever but for others, it borders on the weird. Good luck.

Kristen said...

hi, i stumbled on your blog and wanted to share a couple thoughts. my husband and i got married recently, in the temple (we're both 20 - he obviously didn't serve a mission). we went because of pressure from our families, and i would say that you only should go if you are absolutely sure it's what you want for you-not just because it's HER day (even though it is! haha). we were both of your mindset, that it didn't matter where we were married because we just wanted to be married, but it was a huge shock once we got there. bishops, stake presidents, etc. try to prepare you and kind of "hint" at what goes on, but it's still going to surprise you. if you're not entirely convinced that you want to wait and see, and by that time already be committed to wear the garments etc., i'd think twice about temple marriage.

singlemormonchick said...

i pretty much agree with everything that fei, tripp, and kristen said and will add my own 2 cents:
compared to most, i was a geezer when i went through the temple the first time. the reasons for this included being married for over 10 years to a non member who NEVER would have gone for his wife wearing garments and me just being freaked out. i always considered my testimony strong, but wanted to go to the temple with my husband. i think i romanticized it somewhat and put it off, hoping that peter priesthood would show up on the scene. he didnt, so i started thinking about it more, asking a few questions from people i trust, and praying about it. i grew up wit parents who went to the temple regularly, but they would not talk about it at all. i have one good friend who explained a lot to me, but she still wasnt all together forthcoming. i was still stuck on some rumors that i had heard that absolutely terrified me and it wasnt until some information from an unlikely source "freed" me. i called my bishop that day, got my rec and a short while later went through. someone also gave me the booklet "come to the temple"-i think its by elder holland-that was a help too. i think hannah could have been a little more open with you w/o sacrificing the sanctity of the ordinances. there is some "weirdness"(we are a peculiar people after all), but its pretty basic gospel stuff(with a few flairs). its nothing surprising or shocking. that being said(i did ramble a bit, didnt i?), i think a testimony is important. i think its worth the time and effort to pray about it. you love hannah and its important to her,so for that reason alone, its worth investigating. i think separating your personal endowment from the whole aspect of getting married is important. i always tied the two(thats how it was done in my day)together, but they are two totally separate things. i know you know that, but with your parents divorce, you have a lot of negative emotions tied up in it. temple marriage will not secure you a celestial marriage-that is up to you(all of us). i kind of regret waiting as long as i did, but it probably happened just as it should have. i love going to the temple. is it a party? no. it can be boring as heck, but you do learn and you will be open to some pretty terrific inspiration. i dont think you would, but dont do it for hannah. she makes some valid points, but forcing it or rushing it is a mistake. i dont think guys stress about garments like girls do, but seriously, its no big deal. not that i was an immodest dresser in the first place, but i just thought it would be so uncomfortable and restrictive and just weird. it wasnt. no biggie at all.
the temple doesnt have to be that big of a secret. i hope you can find someone to give you a little more info. heck, ask me. i will tell you. maybe tripp will.

singlemormonchick said...

i typed up a huge comment full of great wisdom and advice, then google gave me a big fat error message and said it was too long and didnt give me a chance to edit!
so far, all the comments are right on the money.
dont go because you feel forced to in any way, but it is worthy of thinking and praying about it.
i think people in general could tell more about the temple experience without sacrificing the sanctity than they do. you can ask me if you want. :)

Waiting On A Sister Missionary said...

Thanks for all of the comments. I feel like, for me, having a true testimony of temple marriage is a bit of a paradox. I know I wouldn't be able to commit or have a true testimony of it without all of the information I need, but I won't be able to get all of the information unless I commit. Unfortunately I feel like I'm left with a, "I guess I might as well" opinion about Temple marriage.

I've been talking to a lot of people about it, and unfortunately it hasn't helped. Everyone says that if I'm temple worthy and that I believe I can, and want to, spend eternity with my spouse, then I already have a testimony of temple marriage. "Sure! That sounds great!" But for me it sounds too simple, and if it's as simple as it sounds why can't I have all of the information now?

singlemormonchick said...

its understandable as a self proclaimed "infophile"(did i get that right?)that you want ALL the information so you can make an educated decision. this is one of the areas that wont work. some of it(not a lot)is a leap of faith. right now you dont seem to be that interested in the church and i cant remember if you have clearly stated whether or not you have a testimony, so i think its pretty easy to say that now is not the time for you.
as far as what you were told about having a testimony of temple marriage-sounds like some utah mormon sunshine being thrown up your skirt. i wouldnt buy that line either.
do you feel at all motivated to pray about this and figure it out in that manner?
what are you going to tell hannah when you write her back?

Waiting On A Sister Missionary said...

I plan to tell her the truth. I'm sure, as she's in missionary-mode, she'll likely freak out. But better now than 2 years down the road when she wants to get married, right?

I've always believed that people feel the spirit in different ways, I feel like I experience it a lot differently than most. Here in Utah taking a leap of faith tends to go a little too far. Here I know married couples who never use protection because the figure when they've had all of the kids God intends them to have they'll stop getting pregnant. And that's only about the middle of the crazy pack, not to mention all the people I know personally who prayed if "they" were the one after date two, "feel" an affirmative answer and get married the next time the temple has an opening.

For me, when it comes to my relationship with God, I'm like a toddler, "I can do it!" I rarely ask for anything. I'm always reminded of the story of the Drowning eskimo:

An man fell into a lake, as he's treading water like his life depends on it, he prays for God to save him. After a few minutes a kayaker paddles by and offers to help him get back to shore, the man replies, "No thank you, God will save me." The man continues praying and a few minutes later a small fishing boat motors by and the crew offer to pick the man up, he replies, "No thank you, God will save me."
The man continues praying, even more fiercely, and after a minute a helicopter flies over his head and starts lowering a rope, the man yells, "No thank you, God will save me!"
A while later the man drowns, and when he gets to heaven he finds God and says, "I prayed and prayed, why didn't you save me?"
God replies, "What do you mean? I sent two boats and a helicopter!"

Man that story always makes me laugh! Anyway, I've never prayed and gotten an answer, for me, my answer has always come after much studying and gathering of information. It's like I have to do the leg-work to find my answer. So in this situation I've reached an impasse, there is no more information available, and nothing specific to study. If there was a leap of faith involved it would be simply just going to do it. Although I wouldn't really know until I'm doing it.

Even my testimony is more based on feelings I've received after significant study and consideration, than on faith alone.

singlemormonchick said...

you are absolutely right about different people get their inspiration and answers in many different ways-sounds like Heavenly Father is simply speaking your language and delivering what you need to know in a way that makes sense to you. not many people would have the patience to do the legwork that you do.
have you ever read "believing Christ"? the whole book is excellent, but it recounts this story of a man who was praying for something and he kept having this dream about Jesus sitting on a horse and asking the man to lower him and the horse over this cliff. i am missing some details(obviously),but what it boiled down to is the man was a rancher and a man of few words(even in prayer)and the Lord was giving him the answer to his prayer in a language he could understand.
maybe you feel that hannah is expecting you to have some big "burning in the bosom" moment and you will sweep her off to the temple to be sealed. missionaries live for those big spiritual moments-they make for great homecoming talks-but more often than not, those confirmations come quietly after a lot of hard work. dont cut off your nose to spite your face-you have time to think and pray AND be open if the answer is "yes, go to the temple".
ps-i love that eskimo story too!