My Part of the Atonement

One of the things I love best about the gospel is that I can never plumb the depths—there is always more to learn, to understand, and to feel. This week I had what Oprah would call an “AHA moment,” but I prefer to think of it as a NO DUH moment, only because she owns AHA.

Without going into too much personal and irrelevant detail, I came out of hiding this week. Finally after almost fifty-two years of living, I am no longer worried about anyone finding out everything about anything I ever did. Two miraculous results happened: 1) I caught myself thinking, “So this is what it feels like to be Mormon,” meaning I felt the absolute lightness and peace that complete openness to the spirit can bring; 2) I realized the Atonement, by itself, isn’t enough. I’ve had the Atonement all along, I even dare to think I’ve understood it, but I realized this week that unless I do my part, it’s only partially effective.

And I don’t mean repent. That’s the easy part. I mean forgive. Myself. That’s the tricky part. Maybe the adversary is especially cunning when it comes to the things we hide about ourselves. Until this week, I didn’t realize that hiding is essentially the same thing as not forgiving yourself. Don’t misunderstand that I’m suggesting we all go on a TMI roadshow and expose every last detail of our lives to every last human. I’m only suggesting that as long as we feel anxiety that someone might find out something about us, we are essentially holding ourselves prisoner to unforgiveness.

In fourteen years of being a Mormon, I’ve never had the true and complete experience of feeling light and clean, not because I was unclean in any way, not because I hadn’t repented mightily, but because I was hiding the things I was afraid to acknowledge. Hiding is tightness and worry, toeholds the Adversary exploits with all his skills.

So this is what it feels like to be free.


So You’re Saying, “Christ Owes Us.”

My wickedly funny, sometimes irreverent friend summarized our conversation thusly. Blasphemy aside, I think she’s right.

I was thinking about how virtually anyone who suffers wants to find a way to make the suffering meaningful. As hard as death in battle is, if loved ones know their soldier didn’t die in vain, the blow is somehow softened. Many foster children grow up to be foster parents, wanting to protect a child from what they went through. The first thing most of us want to do with lessons learned is spare others the same degree of pain.

We rightly express deep gratitude to Christ for redeeming us. It occurred to me the other day that redeeming us is also how he makes his suffering meaningful, which, as anyone who suffers can tell you, means tolerable.

It in no way diminishes the debt we owe Christ, but the bond between us is sweeter when we realize that he needs us, too.


The Meaning of Isaiah–who knew?

My very first gospel doctrine teacher fourteen years ago loved Isaiah, and because I loved her, I wanted to love Isaiah, too. I’ve read and re-read, diligently marked passages that appear in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, and pondered why Isaiah is the most quoted prophet by Christ, the most quoted prophet in the Book of Mormon, and the most avoided prophet by members of the Church today.

I can answer the last part most easily—his language is really difficult to understand. It would probably be easier if we could read the original Hebrew, but even then, I don’t think his words would be too accessible. I’ve noticed that when I read “easier” versions of the bible, editions where language is more contemporary, I understand a certain meaning more readily, but it feels flat. Isaiah is probably just as cryptic in Hebrew because it is the depth and texture of his words that make them so rich and nourishing.

As I was reading this week, something hit me—Isaiah is poetry—no wonder I hate it. Recognizing it as poetry allowed me to stop trying to understand every word and let the feeling of it wash over me. As Isaiah 40:8 washed over me: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever,” I felt a tremendous relief from the strain of being Mormon in today’s world.

We’re told that the Book of Mormon was written for our day, so Isaiah—who figures prominently therein—was written for our day. It must be a pretty long day since we’ve had the Book of Mormon available in English for almost two hundred years. And maybe each generation has had need of Isaiah, but I have to believe that there is something uniquely and bitterly difficult about our day.

I love the Church, I’m behind it 1000 percent, but being called fanatics and bigots for our stance on traditional marriage is hard to take. I’m holding on as tight as I can while the storm rages around me. The upheaval within families, the persecution on Facebook, the roiling waves of pain on all sides are enough to make anyone turn away from the doctrine. When I read the words of Isaiah 40:8, I felt he was talking directly to me, and I came suddenly to the eye of the hurricane, calm, peaceful, strong.

No matter what the world decides to do—and Elder Oaks this morning seemed to be preparing us for the inevitable—social policy, customs, even laws and rights are grass and flowers that wither and fade. The word of God stands forever. We will ultimately be rescued from this hurricane. As rough as the going gets, and I think we all know it’s going to get a lot worse, the words of Isaiah are meant, I think, to be a life preserver.