Thanksgiving with Family

I write in my weblog instead of seeing a therapist or speaking with a friend, for I have neither. I hope that this activity is therapeutic in a positive way. I’m not at all certain of that, though. My brother said a lot of hurtful things last night, but one thing hurt me the most. And, I know he didn’t intend it so. When I asked him if there is a happy pill, I was asking because I have tried numerous anti-depressants as prescribed from physicians with no good results. He said that there is most definitely a happy pill, that I must just find it with the help of a doctor. I didn’t tell him then, but I have serious doubts that this is true, given my unsuccessful history. Also, I know that there are a lot of depressed people who go throughout life without ever having left the bottomless pit of despair.

I yearn to do a lot, but I fall short of being able to do so. In a small way, it is like wishing to walk but being paralyzed. I don’t make light here of disabled individuals for their challenges are undoubtedly worlds more difficult than mine. I merely tried to come up with an analogy, and that is all I could think of, albeit it is a poor one. I have heard that depression is caused because the neurotransmitters in the brain don’t connect parts that have desire with the parts that take action upon that desire. That notion is something that sits well with me for I have a lot I want to accomplish but find myself unable to do so.

Yesterday was not a banner day for me, what with my brother taking offense to my attempt at speaking about religion. I still am unable to understand why he feels that he should have the freedom to do so, while I must remain quiet. My mother said that we are equally to blame for what transpired, but I cannot agree with that. He knew that I am an atheist, yet he chose to talk about God three times, in a manner that suggested everyone in the room agreed with him. It wasn’t until the fourth time he brought up the subject that I felt compelled to give my opinion.

David didn’t want to hear about my position, but I feel strongly about my deconversion. You see, for fifty years of my life, I was a Mormon. I wasn’t always a perfect member of the church, but I had my periods of solid devotion. I earnestly bore my testimony on many occasions, stating that I knew that the church was the only true church on the face of the earth, so much so that I knew it more strongly than I knew I was alive. I felt that the Spirit had spoken to my soul in a way that I could not deny its veracity. As a missionary, I remember doing things that I KNEW weren’t from myself, but were directed by Heavenly Father.

I spent numerous days in the mission office using the typewriter to put manuals together for a Missionary Ward program that I felt driven by the Spirit to do. What it entailed was taking the conversion process and dividing it into twelve steps. Then, taking each of those steps and dividing the entire ward into groups that would oversee them. Each group had a coordinator and two counselors. The groups met every Sunday, after the three-hour block of meetings, for about 15 – 20 minutes and discussed what their current and future activities were.

Throughout the development of the program, my companion and I constantly prayed for guidance. Through what we felt were promptings from the Spirit, we selected ward members according to their strengths in each conversion step. For example, we had a fellowshipping group that was in charge of visiting church prospects with supplemental messages to the ones we were teaching them (i.e., church discussions). There was also a group that helped us find prospects, a group that befriended those prospects, a group that accompanied those prospects to church, and a group that oversaw the baptism of those prospects should they choose to do that. Simply put, by the time someone was baptized in that ward, they were already a part of the inner church community there. (This was in Brazlândia, Brazil.)

This was far different than what other missionaries in the mission did, and it had great success. The bishop of the ward was an extremely spiritual man. So much so that my father, who came to Brazil at the end of my mission, said he was the most spiritual man he’d ever met. The bishop of the ward was wholeheartedly onboard with the Missionary Ward program that I felt the Spirit directed me to develop.

Shortly after that program began, my companion Elder DeLuca and I felt compelled to do another extraordinary thing. There was a missionary I kept in contact who was my companion in the missionary training center Elder Zabriskie who told me then that our job wasn’t to find prospects but to “dunk them” which meant to baptize them. He stated that the Lord could do a much better job at preparing people for conversion than we could. Even though I felt we should do everything possible to ensure that converts stayed active in the church, as in my Missionary Ward efforts, I agreed with him in part. To that end, my companion and I started challenging people at their front doors (this time, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil) to be baptized in the church. We said, “We are missionaries from the only true church of Jesus Christ and are here to challenge you and your family to be baptized in the church. We have six messages to prepare you for that baptism. Do you accept our invitation?”

My companion and I prayed exhaustively for direction of where we should go tracting (i.e., knocking on people’s doors to proselytize). We prayed before we left our apartment to ask which bus stop we should head to. We prayed at that bus stop to know which area we should visit. We prayed once arriving in that area as to which neighborhood we should direct our efforts on. And we prayed for guidance as to which street would be best to begin on. Once in homes, we took turns saying silent prayers in our heads, asking for guidance from the Holy Ghost, while the other one spoke.

Strangely, we had great success in doing this. About one in three houses let us in. We didn’t meet any people that said, “Wow! I’ve been waiting for something like this!” However, we came close to that sort of thing with several families.

It was at that time I felt closer to the Spirit than I had ever felt. We ended up setting a mission record for consecutive weeks of baptisms. If memory serves me it was either 32 or 35 weeks, a great feat according to the mission president who brought it up at the next mission conference. He had my companion, and I stand as he mentioned so that other missionaries could give us a round of applause. That experience didn’t sit well with me, because I felt it was because I was living a life according to what Our Heavenly Father wanted and was acting as a tool in His hands. I didn’t feel that our success was from anything I had done. We had someone lined up to be baptized the following week, and I purposely delayed it to the week after. I felt that “the record” was a distraction from what I was there for. I felt Elder Zabriskie was right, in a sense, that we were there for a specific duty. So, while he continued to stockpile his baptisms throughout a month, having great baptism meetings in actual rivers, my companion and I did our best to ensure those we baptized remained active in the church.

There were other experiences I’ve had in the church which strengthened my testimony beyond a “shadow of a doubt,” and I had a difficult time realizing it was all a façade. I will relate my deconversion story in a future weblog post. For now, suffice it to say that it took a while to unravel all that I had held near and dear for the better part of fifty years.

I intended to get away with a short weblog post today, as a follow up to the experiences of yesterday. I guess I got sidetracked, but I felt it necessary to show that my testimony of the church and God wasn’t a shallow thing. What I intended to say in this post is that I had an enjoyable Thanksgiving today, as delightful as could be expected given my circumstances. My mother and sister joined us for a traditional meal at a restaurant. There was some minor bickering but nothing over-the-top. I was happy that my brother wasn’t there. I’m certain he was happy I wasn’t at his, too.

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