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Looking for Advice(Long Post)
Mischa posted a topic in Advice BoardHello, everyone. I realize there are probably many posts addressing this subject, however, I was hoping I could get some "custom" advice from members here. :) A quick intro: I'm a senior at a university a state away from my own. I've been on somewhat of a subtle self-journey and am trying to get things together before I graduate, and here we are. Well, to start, I lived in SLC until I was ten. During that time, my involvement in the church wasn't regular. I lived with a single parent who wasn't necessarily dedicated to my religious upbringing. He wanted me to have a good moral foundation, though, and continue in the tradition of our large (extended) family, all of whom are members, if not active. The summer of the year I turned ten, both of my parents passed away and I (an only child) moved in with an aunt and uncle and their two children (I now refer to all as mom, dad, brother, and sister). They went to church regularly, so naturally I did too. I was always distracted during meetings, bored. I liked primary and sometimes class, but (and I'm sure a lot of you've felt this at some point) I couldn't wait for the three hours to be over. I wasn't a great listener. I had (have) liberal viewpoints. I questioned lessons. But it was fun and loving and supportive. I have many fond memories of being a part of that community, of being greeted by name at church and in town -- everyone knew who I was and who my family was, and they cared! But the foundation I'd never been able to build left me stranded on this island of...isolation. I always felt a deep rift between church doctrine and members and I. This went on until I was about 15. By then I had formulated a plan to get out of going to church: a job. I got hired at a store in town and made sure I was scheduled on Sundays. I figure at that point that my parents (aunt and uncle) had long since realized there was no talking me out of it. The next five years of my life were hell: depression and anxiety had weighted me down to the point of what I called "nonliving". I slept all day, had panic attacks, etc. Finally I got some help and through meds and therapy, have dealt with the after effects of the trauma I experienced at a young age. But, I moved out of state, to a place I knew had little church presence and very liberal, secular views. I've been completely cut off from my home community. My family and I are close, but that embrace of my church family is gone. I've watched some of my extended family members fall away from the LDS religion, which served to extend my inactivity. But, sporadically, after graduating high school I realized and re-realized I was missing something in my life. I thought about church -- did I really want to go back? Yes. And no. There are three major themes of discontent within me. The first is political and social. I believe in gay marriage (I have a lot of gay friends and believe that they are the same as you and I in every way -- except for one gene). I believe women are equal to men and should be treated as such (referring to priesthood positions). And, perhaps worst of all, I'm pro-choice. Of course, personally, I would never take part in that, but I don't feel like I have the authority to tell others what they can and can't do with their own bodies. The second is in regard to Joseph Smith. My image of him growing up and my knowledge now of who he really was are hard to reconcile. He performed witchcraft, basically, scrying with rocks and telling others he could find fortunes for them through the power of these stones. He was eventually indicted for fraud and all of that stopped. Then, there's polygamy, an act I don't really have a problem with -- the one thing that bothered me was Joseph's secrecy about it in Nauvoo. It just seems disingenuous. (There's more, much of which has to do with Brigham Young, but I digress...) The third is my own worthiness. Of course, we are all sinners, but I'm not even close to the less-sinful place that members inhabit. I drink (and like) coffee, tea, and alcohol. I've smoked weed and cigarettes. I lived with a long-term boyfriend and have had pre-marital sex. I swear, use the lord's name in vain, and pass judgement where I shouldn't. The only thing that keeps my opinion of myself above water is that other than that, I'm a good person. I genuinely love others and want to help them; I try to be nice and supportive to friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. All of this (and if you've read this far, God bless you) leads me to my ultimate dilemma: I want to come back, but I want to do it right and know I'm doing it for the right reasons, not just nostalgia or a pandering to my internal suspicions about purpose and death. What do I do? I feel like I'm in a bubble, cut off from everything (probably a lot to do with the meds). And I'm jaded, jaded and cynical. Much of it has to do with childhood trauma and having to be an adult at a young age, but perhaps it is also my surroundings and the friends I hang out with. I tried going to a Catholic church, but it felt empty. Praying feels empty -- like I'm talking to air. The members I knew and loved have either transferred wards or I feel like I can't talk to them. I also feel uncomfortable talking with my family about it (only my mom and my brother are really still active). On top of that, anytime anything that could even hint at the existence of God or the truth of the doctrine occurs I immediately assign it to something else: placebo effect, imagination, desperation, etc. I'm completely at a loss, guys, but I feel like a part of me is tugging me in the church's direction. Anything you think might be helpful, I'd welcome. Thank you in advance.