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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest Post: Not Your Average Fast and Testimony Meeting

This guest post is from an anonymous reader in Sacramento, California.

Photograph by Roberto Trm.

As a separated dad in the process of navigating divorce, my life is full of all the things that have become urgent - providing for my children under (now) two separate roofs, filling out reams of paperwork, getting my children to church and activities (as the role of the only parent who participates in church now), and ensuring that I don't collapse from it all.

Sitting in Fast and Testimony meeting two months ago, all of my current (and more to the point, my children’s current) situation came to bear in one moment.

We had a string of women get up and bear their testimony, or more appropriately, their I-just-know-i-mony. We all know these stories, and in general, we love their sentiments - about how happy they are to have their husbands, how spiritual they are, how they honor their priesthood and how they know how they will be living together forever, sealed to each other and their children. Along with their words came all the normal weeping at the podium, and while it was mostly tearing up on the part of the bearer, there are sometimes a few people in the audience who feel things and start crying as well.

While generally not a testimony-crier, I don't want to take that away from anyone who was or ever has become emotionally overcome and cried. At around speaker I-just-know-i-mony number five, I looked over at my 11-year-old son and saw that he was on the verge of bawling. I quickly put my arm around him, leaned over, and asked him if he wanted to go outside. He nodded yes and we quickly left the chapel.

First in a side hallway of the church and then outside, I held him while he cried and asked me, essentially, how things would work out with me, his mom, and his sister. There were tears and sadness, a lot of holding him close, and an overall questioning of how, what, and why.

As the words and tears tumbled from my son, I heard and felt an overwhelming wave from him of multiple fears. The logical step he took from all of the testimonies from women who knew that they would live forever as a happy family was, 'if what they say is true, than what happens to me?'. That coupled with the fact that his mom hasn't been to church regularly in about five years and hasn't stepped inside the church in three years and it seems to be just too much for him. (Statement of clarification – great mom, great and very moral person, just does not ‘believe’ anymore).

It didn't help that the breaking point was the fifth speaker, a young mom who added to her 'everything is perfect-i-mony' with the story of her inactive brother who she knew would find happiness if he just came to church and would find someone and be sealed, be happy forever, etc.

As I held him there on the concrete steps outside the church, I didn’t have a lot to work from. I refused to put it in the black and white phrasing of ‘either he is doomed by his parents’ decisions or the big picture is something a bit different than what we preach.' This was the same conversation his mom and I used to have about her, her brothers and sisters by multiple (unsuccessful) different marriages.

As I searched for anything I could say to him in comfort, I stalled by asking him if we could pray. He nodded and I prayed, then he prayed. The only thing I could think of was the weak answer I have always abhorred, that everything would work out. I summoned my internal strength and got down so that we could look at each other eye to eye and told him that his mother and I both loved him, and that Heavenly Father has a huge plan, which we can only grasp part of. I asked him to think about his grandparents, his uncles and aunts, and cousins. How one day he would have children and they would have children. That we could all live in Heaven and see each other, but that we could be in separate houses and not be all in one big house (we have had discussions on what heaven looks like, and we agree it’s a continuation of here, with clothes, and houses, and work and school and food – seriously, eating is a joy!). More words were spoken, the questioning tapered off, and he decided he wanted to go back into church. Since then, he hasn’t brought it up again, and we have talked about other things related to how our lives our changing. I know that over time, things will stabilize, and I also know that he, like me, will question and investigate simple answers, both spiritual and secular. My goal is to be the source for him to go to along his journey, for he is verbalizing the things that I lock away deep inside.

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