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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest Post: An Opportunity For Honesty: Unconditional Love

Have something to say? Anyone can submit a guest post to Modern Mormon Men. Just send us an email with your post, a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

Ben Prime is a BYU graduate in Audiology and Speech-language Pathology from 2009. He is also a Graduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders (Speech-language Pathology for those not up on their terms). He is single, modern, Mormon and incidentally, male. Read Ben's first guest post here as well as his first "An Opportunity for Honesty" post.

The One Who Does Not Judge Has Two Friends by h.koppdelaney.

I’ve gone through about a million versions of this follow-up post to "An Opportunity for Honesty." When I wrote the post I was feeling inspired and really, really good. I think those feelings came through in that short piece.

The problem is a follow-up piece I wrote was honest, but not positive. I've struggled to find a topic on which I can be as honest as that last piece while still being positive. Not that I'm afraid of my own negativity, it's just that it doesn't read as well. I decided I have to find a way to harness my passion without letting my frustration come through.

So I'm going to make the subject myself, something I've hesitated to do because I do use a thin pseudonym on this website and have tried to not give my identity away too much, although many people who know me would see right through it anyway.

I'm kind of less active. I'm not as less active as I was two months ago, but I don't go to church every week, and when I do go, it's often not to my assigned ward. Those that know me personally would be tempted to blame this on a recent ward boundary shift. I don't really care for my new ward, but that isn't why I became less active. I've been struggling for years, I just got really good at hiding it.

While I still agree with what I said in my first guest post, about being happy and single, I'm not going to lie and say it's easy being both at church. As a single man in his late 20's I feel like I've failed. I've failed the "mission, marriage, college, life plan." I can ignore that feeling most anywhere but church. My late 20's isn't even where my struggle started, though, it started on my mission.

Before my mission I was a positive, energetic, and confident young man. I was as involved in the church as I could be, and did everything I could to prepare myself to be a worthy missionary. So intense was my focus that I went on one date before college, primarily because it would have been the height of bad social graces to say no to the prom just so I wouldn't "accidentally" break the law of chastity. I suspect I may have been something of a Peter Priesthood.

But all of that is a story for another time. I have never stopped going to church until the last year or so, when I found the effort to get up and drive for 30-45 minutes more than I could bear most Sunday mornings. I was feeling very stressed out by school. I was REALLY, REALLY low. I sought counseling and it helped. My counselor was not LDS, but she saw my religion as a major source of strength for me and encouraged me to continue attending.

After a while I just lost the spare capacity to even make appointments with her, let alone get up on Sunday mornings. I was operating at my limit, and the last thing I felt I had the strength for was to go to church at either ward and feel like a failure while there.

To help, I have a few wonderful friends with whom I talk on Skype most every night. I also have a habit of listening to books. They had an awesome sale, and because I've always had a healthy interest in what other people believe, I picked up Buddhism for Busy People by David Michie. May I just say, I love Buddhism. Through this book I got a window into deep respect for others, a concern for balance in life, and an acknowledgement of the responsibility of each person to care for one another ... accompanied by the realization that we can only do so much.

This worldview fit in perfectly with what I believed. As President Hinckley often urged, I added this truth to the larger gospel truths in my heart. Because of this discovery, I was feeling like I might be able to muster up the energy to go to church again with the following Buddhist mantra running through my head: "I do this so that I, and through me, all beings may experience enlightenment." The phrase was just so powerful to me.

I told the phrase to one of my friends with whom I often Skype and he said something that strengthened my resolve. "Ben, if right now you just can't go to church, if with your insomnia and other problems you just can't make it, the Lord will understand. You still believe."

This friend did something fantastic ... he'd loved me, without condition. So I went to church a few times on my own. The glow of motivation faded though, until a few friends from my old ward told me they missed me. When my overactive lie detector didn't go off,  I believed them.  Now I've started to go to their ward fairly often. While I think this still makes me technically inactive, I am getting a message of unconditional love from these people and right now I REALLY need to hear that message. Unconditional love has a powerful healing attribute, one that most less active people need to hear.

A message of unconditional love is, I feel, at the core of the gospel. These friends are sending the message to me without pretense. They're just as happy to see me for a movie as they are for sacrament meeting. My concern is, am I sending that unconditional love back out into the world?

I've not been inactive long, just a few months, so I still remember the feeling of obligation to try and reactivate people. I also remember the prompting to use the phrase "We've missed you." Usually that message sets off my BS alarm. For the message to be sincere, I think the pronoun needs to be "I" more than "we."

So now I continue to ask myself: How can I in the future share unconditional love in order to spread the healing salve?

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