Friday, October 27, 2017

Scarcity and Abundance in Mormonism

“…thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” 2 Nephi 2:2

Seek and ye shall find has several applications. What we “find” in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is often just a reflection of our outlook on life. In other words, we project onto the gospel how we view the world and ourselves.

When I came back to the church at 16, I viewed the world as a place where there were limited resources. Life as I knew it as a young girl had been slowly ripped away from me. My parents divorced. My mom had a mental breakdown. We moved from the only place I’d ever known. I was no longer a little girl; I’d experienced too much. In my eyes, the world was a place of scarcity where people and places you love are not permanent.

While I did have a glimmer of hope in coming back to church, fear mostly guided my outlook. I worked to gain my worth back in Heavenly Father’s eyes because I had no idea that my worth had already been bought with the Savior’s atonement. So, I mistakenly measured my worth in fervent prayer and scripture study, and in conforming the best I could to what seemed to constitute the life of a Mormon woman.

However, my pursuits were futile because I was never going to be like the girls who were raised in homes with attentive moms who make crafts for every season, teach church classes with object lessons and printouts, and who bring casseroles to neighbors in need. Instead, my sister and I were pretty much on our own. Mom was gone and severely mentally ill. Dad was busy figuring out life after divorce and working to support us. I was left feeling fundamentally flawed, because I didn’t fit the Mormon mold.

Going to Brigham Young University only magnified my seeming deficit. I imagined that everyone there had come from intact proclamation families who loved them unconditionally and nurtured their talents and academic abilities. I put the church and its people on a pedestal.

For many years I deeply resented the hand I’d been dealt. I remember thinking, I could have been more accomplished if only I’d been supported academically, and pushed to develop my talents. If only I hadn’t had those emotional and situational setbacks. If only I’d had parents like the Hansen’s or the Christiansen’s.

Over time, I realized that what I saw as “set backs” or a lack of resources were perfectly crafted opportunities that helped me develop the ability to withhold judgement, develop empathy for those who feel marginalized, and foster a deep relationship with Heavenly Father. Could I have developed the deep foundational relationship I have with God, a relationship that at times has been the sole thread holding together my testimony, had I not so desperately needed and relied on him as I tried to figure out if my faith was enough to qualify me for the kingdom?

Our desire to demonstrate faith and do what’s right by God sometimes gets conflated with our very human need to be accepted by the group. This tendency manifests itself in church culture when our attention becomes disproportionately focused on proscriptive limits that can be outwardly observed rather than soul enhancing pursuits which happen in private. We miss the mark when our focus is on things like hemlines rather than a humble heart or when we focus on not drinking and smoking rather than meditating about the connection between body and spirit. Burdens lighten when we make choices from a place of sincerity (seeking approval from God) rather than from a place of scarcity (seeking approval from peers).

What I understand now is that the expectation to fit any sort of “Mormon mold” is self-imposed. I can decide if I want to play the game of trying to live up to some invented social expectation or not. Yes, there might be throngs of people around me with white, subway-tiled back splashes, growing at-home businesses, and taking family pics each week. And I can be happy for their pursuits. But the only thing that I am required to offer is my faith and obedience to God. I was never meant to be like any particular Mormon woman. Each has her mission to fulfill and I have mine. We all make up the body of Christ.

During college and since, I’ve known Mormons who come from diverse backgrounds with all different types of families. All of us seemed to be imagining the same thing about the other: that everyone else had it all figured out and life has been easy for them. But none of it was true. Nobody’s had a perfect life. The one thing that we do have in common is our hope in the Savior’s atonement to heal what is beyond our own ability to repair.

Now I’m trying to view the gospel of Jesus Christ as a gospel of abundance. I try not to pray and read the scriptures to earn my worth, but instead to tap into the bounteous love of God. I don’t attempt to access the power of Jesus Christ to help me be more like the ‘perfect Mormon’, but to soften my heart and help me love more fully. I try not to let fear and scarcity guide my thoughts, but rather pray for the scales to fall from my eyes and to know my true purpose. By seeking abundance in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m finding my unique role in the kingdom and better understanding my true worth.

How has your view of gospel doctrine changed as you’ve grown? What “wicked traditions” or false premises have you had to shed to truly embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ? What do you seek from the gospel? Are you finding what you are seeking?



 

2 comments:

  1. I love this Fashion! I am trying to view the gospel of Jesus Christ as the gospel of abundance as well. As I use my energy to truly connect with God in the way I study and pray I feel his love for me so differently than when I do those things just to check it off my "To Do" list. I find as my role as a mother continues to change, I need to understand more clearly what my relationship is with God and His Son. My worth isn't in my motherhood. My worth isn't actually tied to my effort at all. As I come to Him in humility I feel a greater portion of his love and a greater abundance in my love for others. There is room for all of us even in our imperfection. I am grateful that we all got to meet you this summer. Kaitlyn told me yesterday that the tacos we had at your house were the best she's ever eaten!

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