My First Moments of Grief

One night, a little more than a year ago, I was home reading “In Sacred Loneliness,” a book about the lives of the women who were plurally married to Joseph Smith Jr. My husband was away on a campout with the Scouts, and I was left with my two small boys, and my pregnant belly. I had chosen to read about polygamy for various reasons, but was not expecting my own reaction to it.

I had read a book years ago that made me sympathetic to the idea of polygamy, to the point of believing I could live it, if I were called to. Orson Scott Card’s “Saints” depicted a world of polygamy that seemed beneficial to the people involved. The characters and their attitudes seemed believable, their motives plausible.

In my reading last year, I was faced with a much more real depiction of the hardships endured by the women who submitted to polygamy. I read several “histories” of polygamy and early Mormonism. I realize that they are written by humans who were not present during the events, could not read the minds of those who were, and generally had an agenda in writing these things, but nevertheless, I was troubled by much of the information. Especially insofar as the histories published by the Church are so scant, and dismissive of so many of the events and/or differing versions of the events in the mid- to late 1800s.

Needless to say, the wounds came, and the shadow of doubt was cast. In the hour that I realized that there was a doubt in my mind, and I don’t mean a question, I mean a real, live, snarling, head-rearing doubt, I was so suddenly heart-broken. I wept for hours at the possibility that my faith in God, Christ, and the heaven with my husband and family could be an imagining that was merely perpetuated through repetition and indoctrination. My doubt became terror. I could never want to lose that faith, that belief in something better. What is my purpose, if I can’t keep existing after my death, if I can’t be with my lover and best friend forever?

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~ by woundedhart on August 4, 2007.

8 Responses to “My First Moments of Grief”

  1. I think you’re off to a great start here, Woundedhart! I hope you keep writing because I’ve bookmarked you and will return frequently. You have a wonderful prose style!

  2. Hi, WoundedHart. I just wanted to chime in (since sometimes it’s hard to know if anyone is reading) and say that I’ve been there. And the experience hurts.

    I still struggle with the meaning of life, but I remain confident that there IS still meaning, whether or not God actually exists.

    We may not end up in the same place belief-wise, but at least we can commiserate along the way.

  3. Hi Paul, Hi NFlanders. Thank you both so much for your comments. Yes, this the expostition, but it is nice to know there are people who have been where I am, and who can at least ease the pain of feeling so broken.

  4. I am not sure what to respond with… but i feel that i should.

    I share the desire to believe.. when I don’t…

  5. I liked your post. I was visiting my folks in Idaho and picked up, “Keep Sweet, Children of Polygamy,” by Debbie Palmer.The author grew up about a half hour north of my folks in B.C. Not amazing writing, but amazing story. I think you can find it on Amazon. I had the same feeling when I read “Under the Banner of Heaven,” namely that the early LDS church and todays fundamentalists have far more in common than todays church.

  6. Great post. I have struggled with my Mormon indoctrination growing up, leaving the Church when I found it was not infallible and still believing much of The Gospel, yet not really having any faith in The Church itself. I have book marked you. Keep writing. You are wonderful.

  7. I can’t help thinking that life has more meaning without eternity. If this is the only shot we have . . . we’d better make the most of it. I think only a very unenlightened person (not you — I’m speaking in general terms) would think that if there’s no “afterlife consequences,” then there’s no point in trying to attain spiritual grace while living in the world. I know lots and lots of people who supposedly subscribe to afterlife-beliefs who feel that if they repent at the last minute, they’ll be saved anyway. So their belief in God and eternal life isn’t making any difference to the manner in which they live their lives.

    I guess the point is: Why do we struggle to attain grace? Is it because we anticipate an eternal reward, or is it because our efforts may show benefit here and now, not only to us, but to people around us? If we’re looking toward Eternity, it’s kind of like a kid being good before Christmas so that Santa Claus will come. I tend to feel that there’s more value in the soul’s innate hunger to rise above its circumstances, with no reward other than greater knowledge of the Divine in the self.

  8. Thanks for this entry… It is nice to feel like I am not alone.

    My first shadow of doubt was cast via the topic of polygamy as well. I was born and raised a Mormon, and never really questioned it. I suppose you can call that a “borrowed testimony”, but I really thought that I did believe and could never be swayed. (After all… I was now married with several children and was very active in church.) About 3 years ago I was preparing a talk for my enrichment night lesson… I was asked to pick a pioneer to speak about. I chose Patty Bartlett Sessions (a famous Mormon midwife), but what I didn’t know would happen was that I would uncover something new while searching for information on her on the internet… that is… “Polyandrous Unions”. In an instant I was struck with asking myself “what? – is that something that really happened or this a bunch of anti-Mormon propaganda crap?” In that instant all the previous reasoning’s I was given by parents and teachers for our past of polygamy seemed to fly out the window… it didn’t make sense anymore, and it seemed there was more than what it previously appeared.

    I then embarked on a quest for truth on the topic. I read many books (including In Sacred Loneliness) and came upon FeministMormonHousewives.org – through my searching these past 3 years I have come to the opinion that polygamy didn’t work, BUT other than that I have not been able to decide what to do with that conclusion. Can I still believe the rest and chalk this up as a learning experience for the church? Or does it mean it is all false? Or was it really part of the plan and I just cant see the reasoning with my mortal eyes? Or does it even really matter in the “grand scheme of things”?

    Do you know what makes all this even scarier???

    Having a husband so strong in the church that you are scared to lose him if you ever felt compelled to change your course. He has a strong vision of the eternities, and an inactive wife would not help propel him towards his vision of perfection. In the past 3 years I haven’t shared all my thoughts… all my ups and downs with him, because… just the few that I have… have worried him more than I wanted, it is much easier for all of us when I pretend “all is well in Zion”.

    I am still going to church every Sunday… pretending all is well. I have had my up’s and my down’s with church ever sense. I believe, then I dis-believe. I am happy, then I am depressed… really – I am just confused. One of my favorite songs by Sanctus Reel says it best… “What ever your doing inside of me… it feels like chaos, but somehow there is peace”.

    Anyways. Thanks for helping me see that I am not alone.

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