Playing Chicken with the Missionaries.

July is the only month so far where my Mentor(s) and members of their faith community actively solicit my conversion. It’s okay, I don’t mind, so please don’t bash my new friends and spiritual family. And although the first few meetings were pretty heavy in the proselytization department, things have chilled out for the most part.

They only share because they care.

I did make a deal with them though. Actually, it was more like a bet. The young Elders told me that the only way toward a full understanding of the LDS lifestyle is to sincerely practice the faith. That is, fully believe without any intentions of moving on.

As if giving up my morning cup of tea wasn’t enough.

Ouch!

So, they made this deal: Promise to follow the scripture in Moroni chapter 10: 3-5 which reads,

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Those fellas promised me that if I did this that I would understand by the leading of the spirit that the Book of Mormon is true and by implication, that there is no need for any other spiritual guidance in my life. The Elders asked me if I received this confirmation through the Holy Ghost, would I be prepared to give up Project Conversion.

You could cut the suspense with a knife. We stared one another down. The second, newer Elder looked back and forth between us. I think a tumbleweed even blew by, uh, inside the church.

I smiled and said, “And if I do these things whole-heartedly–and I promise I will–and nothing comes to pass, what does it mean for your faith?”

The more experienced Elder was stumped, but only for a moment. He said,

“Well, prayer is a two-way conversation. I know this book [Book of Mormon] to be true. If you don’t receive a confirmation, somehow the line was interrupted…and Heavenly Father’s line is always in order.”

What a trooper! 

So I’ve taken his challenge very seriously; it helps me better understand the faith and its people. But something happened today–this evening as I write this, in fact, that just stopped me cold. I’ve felt overwhelmed for a while. The pressures of doing this day in and day out are exhausting not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. This was never intended as a personal search for spiritual meaning–and I can’t say that it is now–but, seven tiring months into Project Conversion and I am ready for closure. I am ready for peace. It’s nearly midnight now but my spirit is so shaken that I can’t sleep. Here is the prayer I just made:

Oh God, please let us not be alone. Let our voices not drift throughout that black and endless void. Even if you are but the echo of our own hopes, prayers, and dreams, that would be enough for my soul’s respite. Oh rest, sweet, sweet rest. I am ready for peace. What must I do? I surrender to the will and teachings of solitude.

I’ll bet those young missionaries would slap their grandmothers to hear those words come from my mouth. “What? He’d ready to stop? He’s tired of running around?”

Yes, I’m ready to collapse. So I asked permission to. And just when I did, just when I finally surrendered Project Conversion to the powers that be, I got something in my spiritual inbox. It was that still, small, gentle tug on the heart and it felt exactly as the Elders said it would. It said:

Good. Now keep going…only harder.

Are you kidding me!?

Apparently not. Now, I’m not sure if that was God or just the greater good compelling me forward, but in the course of religious history, the divine has a way of ticking off/frustrating/challenging/driving nuts those he/she/it has plans for. I’m losing my mind, so I guess as long as I’m ready to pull my hair out then I’m doing okay. Let this be a comfort  to all balding men. It’s not a bald spot, it’s confirmation I’m doing God’s will (not sure how that would work with the ladies).

What does this mean for the long haul? Heck if I know. Maybe God doesn’t want rest for me. Maybe I’m designed/destined/picked on to live spiritually fast and die-hard. Maybe Project Conversion and the end of religious strife is part of my life because God knows I love a good fight. And now I can’t help but wonder: Is this moment what the divine waited for? For me to acknowledge something, to release myself from the situation? What’s on the horizon after Project Conversion?

Heck if I know. I’d ask, but nowadays I start flinching at the answers. One thing is for sure: I can’t wait to see the look on the Elders’ faces when I tell them my “confirmation” was to move along. Oh snap! 

 

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  • Nina

    Maybe some day, in your own private life of anonymity, you will make a choice, but if it happens before the end of the year, I will be greatly disappointed. I think the most important learning is yet to come, and this month is just the preamble.  I had to hold my breath until the end of the post.  Good thing I can start breathing again.

    • Anonymous

      I agree, Nina. This was a moment of fatigue and weakness, something all us mere mortals experience. I presented many questions asking why it happened here and now. I supposed I’m given audience for one at a time ; ) And I’m glad you are breathing!

  • Anonymous

    It becomes of a case of “be careful what you wish for.” I think the trick is that, when you pray, don’t expect anything. For only when we detatch ourselves from a percieved reality of our prayers do we see the answer. We often do not get the answer we expect.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Beth. I’ve come to believe that the defining feature of answered prayer isn’t simply comfort, but the peace that comes with a guided call to action.

  • Anonymous

    This certainly is about reforming ourselves, isn’t it? I am becoming a different person every month and in doing so, I not only understand the religion but the people. You are right, there really was no question about stopping, was there? I just needed a breather on this great race.

  • Anonymous

    Growth is part of our mission on earth according to the LDS vision (and many others). It isn’t a sin or shock to the divine that we grow weary and tired. The sin comes from not rising in the event that we fall. Thank you for confirming this.

  • Art Sherwood

    Andrew, congratulations!  You have made a hugely important step and that is recognizing the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.  And, frankly, I’m not surprised about your answer.  Although I believe that the LDS faith is true, I am open to the possibility that the Lord sometimes wants some people on other paths, at least for now.  The work you are doing here is an important one and it is opening a lot of minds and softening a lot of hearts.  The important thing to do now is to follow those instructions.  The Holy Ghost will only guide us so long as we listen and do.  Just tell the Missionaries that the Lord has told you that your mission is not done yet.  They should understand.  Keep on trecking!

  • EmiG

    Count me as another who is glad you got the answer you did!  The good you are doing with this yearlong exploration is obviously pleasing to God and where you’re supposed to be for now.  And that’s what personal revelation is all about.  *Personal* revelation for the direction your life should take.  If the elders struggle to understand why you received the answer you did, you can gently remind them that God moves in mysterious ways and has a much longer view than any of us and this is what you’ve been called to for the time being.  Honestly, depending on the missionaries, they may have a really hard time with it, or they may not. 

    I’m thrilled that you felt such a strong confirmation and clear message from God.  Learning to hear and recognize those promptings is big.  I think the key was the humility and submission with which you approached the conversation.  You were willing to accept the answer whatever it was.  And so you were called onward and upward.  Looking forward to the rest of this month…and beyond! :)

    • Anonymous

      Listening and humility goes a long way on multiple levels, doesn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    I did notice! As for one faith for me at the end…time will tell.

  • Anonymous

    Gardens, what a great analogy!

  • Anonymous

    You and me both, pal!

  • Anonymous

    I agree about the conversation aspect between those of differing faiths–especially in the realm of missionaries. Of course, it would negate their purpose if there was acceptance of truth in other faiths.

  • Anonymous

    Bingo.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for that wonderful insight, David. My impression from my experience last night and the experiences I’ve had over the course of these few months, is that I have walked along with the divine all along. Sure, some days are worse than others, but the divine is simply large enough to express in many ways, to many peoples, over any time. I am faithful that I will feel the presence of the divine for the rest of the year, regardless of how I worship or practice.

  • Tina

    My FAVORITE post of yours so far, Andrew. Beautifully communicated and heartfelt. I really believe what you are doing is stunningly difficult! Here is a great Robert Fulgum quote for you:

     ”To be human is to keep rattling the bars of the cage of existence, hollering, ‘What’s it for?’”

    Keep walking, brother. I offer you my encouragement and support for your journey.

    Peace, Tina

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for that, Sister Tina. Here is a Blake quote in return: “A robin red-breast in a cage puts all of heaven in a rage.”

      Some days I feel like that robin, and some days I understand that the cage is self made. Last night might have been the divine opening the door or pointing to the fact that it was always open.

      • Tina

        Now you are sounding like a Mormon with Buddhism tendencies. :)

        • Anonymous

          Wait and see what I sound like at the end of the year ; )

  • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

    I guess this is the first religion in the series which places a big emphasis on conversion. Ironic, given the name of the project.

  • jessi

    Now, the question is, Do you really want to know if the Book of Mormon has been given to us in a miraculous way, that it is here to guide us and bring knowledge and peace by living it’s teachings and will, if we follow it,  prepare us in a profoundly superior way to be ready to meet God, when our life here on Earth is done?  What is life for,  but to prepare us for that Great Day!

    • Anonymous

      That is one of the things I’ve prayed about (per the Elders’ request). My intuition tells me there is truth there. Is it the whole truth? I cannot be certain. Each month I look for a continuation of the “thread” I discovered in the month prior in order to create a sort of lifeline throughout the year. On July 10th, I think I discovered it for the month.

  • Catima

    I heard someone say the other day following your bliss should be called following your blisters. Keep up the good work you are helping more then you know.
     

    • Anonymous

      Haha it certainly feels that way at times!

  • Anonymous

    You got it ; )

  • http://profiles.google.com/wllinden Will Linden

    I noted in another forum (that was back in the days of “BBS echoes” before things became “blogs) that  I had indeed prayed over it, and not been answered. And that I believe that I DO have such testimony that Swedenborg’s writings are true. The response from the LDS poster was “If you tell me that God has revealed something to you, I have to accept that; and I can only speculate on why He has not also revealed other things.”
       They definitely believe that God has never stopped speaking.

    • Anonymous

      Well that’s good news indeed.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the crazy thing about this journey Chris. Few things about Project Conversion are what I intended. I wanted to be completely objective–like a journalist–for the whole gig. But I feel that with each passing month, my spiritual roots grow deeper and spread further. It is indeed an amazing and shocking side effect.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this, Colin. These will certainly make it into my collection of favorite scripture.