What Can You Know for Sure?

know

verb (used with object), knew, known, know·ing.

1.  to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty

2.to have established or fixed in the mind or memory

3.to be cognizant or aware of

4.be acquainted with, as by sight, experience, or report

5.to understand from experience or attainment

What do you know for sure?

My entire life has been driven by this question.   KNOW… the most powerful word that exists in mormon culture.  When I say or even think this word, I hear the definitive crack of a slamming of a gavel.   It is done.

I left my faith because of the misuse and abuse of this word.

As a mormon girl, I ached to know.   I wanted it so much, the need swirled, undefined and cloudy within me until unmet, it settled itself into my bones.  Infused itself into my muscles and fibers and tissues.

“I know the church is true.”

“I know the scriptures are true.”

“I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

 These declarations of truth are scratched into my psyche. Imprinted.  The desire to make those words my own drove me to the brink of despair.  I followed all of the mormon formulas, but the words were not mine to profess.  To be surrounded by people with such concrete proclamations burrowed a deep well of failure inside me.

Once a month, mormon worship includes  holding an open mic testimony meeting, where members of the congregation go up the pulpit and declare what they know is true.

tes·ti·mo·ny

 [tes-tuh-moh-nee, or, esp. British, -muh-nee]  Show IPA

noun, plural tes·ti·mo·nies.

1. Law. the statement or declaration of a witness under oath or affirmation, usually in court.

2. evidence in support of a fact or statement; proof.

3. open declaration or profession, as of faith.

4. Usually, testimonies. the precepts of God.

Although there is no script, the conditioning that begins in the preschool years leads to the inclusion of certain key phrases that most people use while “bearing their testimony.”  It almost always begins with

“I’d like to bear my testimony…I know the church is true.”

There is no age restriction, so usually the open mic hour will begin with children in the congregation.   Parents will lead their toddlers and preschoolers up to the mic, hoist them onto their hips, or let them stand invisible behind the thick wooden lectern.  They whisper the words to their tiny children.  The little ones must hold their breath with the strain of listening to their mom or dad’s sentences, which they repeat in a breathy burst.

I know this church is true…

I know the scriptures are the words of God…

I know Heavenly Father loves me.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Then the adults get up.  They will often tell a story to illustrate their “knowing.”  They often cry.  I remember my mother’s soft hands, twisting tissues around her fingers, dabbing her eyes.  She is moved to tears with ease.  My father, sitting straight and attentive, was less emotive.   Neither of my parents brought me to the pulpit.  I never felt their lips and their breath tickling my ear, feeding me their words to declare.  They did not pressure me as I got older to participate in this public ritual.  I felt weak with relief that they never required it of me.  But, the opportunity to “bear your testimony” was presented with great regularity throughout my upbringing.  Sunday school, scripture studies, youth activities, church camp, and family gatherings.  I have witnessed my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, mentors and friends all tearfully bear their testimony throughout my life.

My best friend through middle school and high school was not a mormon girl.  She was delightfully agnostic, and her life was not an internal storm of powerful statements and concepts  (God, testimony, truth, sacred, salvation, purity, modesty, worthiness).   She came with me to a youth overnight camp for teens ages 14 + when we were juniors in high school.   It was one of the few times I ever invited her to a church activity.  At the end of the overnight trip, there was a testimony meeting.  I sat next to her, feeling as if I might erupt with expectation, as one by one, my peers and friends got up and declared their testimony.  My friend began elbowing me, urging me to get up and do it.  “Go.  Go.”  She prodded after each teenager sniffled their way back their seat.  She wanted me to do it, she wanted to hear what it was that I knew.  I shook my head in refusal, and finally,  I turned in my seat and caught her eyes.  I let her see it, for just a brief flash…the devastation I felt in not knowing.

I decided to give the mormon church one last chance when I was a young student teacher, writing to a mormon missionary whom I felt I was falling in love with.  I wanted the door to be opened to me… the door that seemed to close me off from the knowing that my family and peers all spoke of so reverently… I had been knocking until my knuckles bled, and the mantle of shame, being shut out of this special place, was crushing.

I read the Book of Mormon.  It took a while, because every few verses I would be overcome by doubt.  I would read a passage and feel resistance.  I would drop to my knees every few minutes and plead with Heavenly Father to release me from the doubts, to open my heart.  To let me in.  A steady stream of tears dripped from the end of my nose onto the flimsy pages of text.  I finished the whole book this way, reading, weeping, pleading, praying.

I waited for the affirmation that what I read was “true.”  I waited for the burning in my heart, the warmth and knowledge that had been declared to me by everyone I loved.   It was a knowing I would not be granted.

It could not be formed out of my desire.

Over the weekend, Rick and I  watched the fifth Harry Potter movie with my girls.  In the story, Harry has to write “I must not tell lies”  on a sheet of paper with a magic quill.  As he does this, the words are painfully etched into his flesh.  When he asks how many times he must write the words, the professor responds, “Until it leaves a mark.”

There did not need to be a magic quill like Harry’s to wound me, only the continual and absolute declaration of truth and knowledge by everyone important to me…and their insistence that my inability to join them was my own retched failings.  The etched over words “I know this church is true” were not a delicious imprint, but a searing scar I carried.

They had left their mark.

I was never allowed to shape my own personal testimony.  There is only one answer to  arrive at… the church is true. How is a child supposed to explore and come to their own ideas about God, spirit, worthiness, sacrifice, scripture, and prayer, when the answers are whispered into their ears, etched into their souls since infancy, and kept there with the fear of losing their culture, their identity, the acceptance of their people?  The notion that what one knows to be personal truth should also be accepted or can be experienced as universal truth is limiting, damaging, and confining.  People need opportunity to explore who they are free of shame and fear.  Children must not be spoon fed what we feel is our truth.  It is our job to be witnesses to the unfolding of their own knowing. To present all the possibilities we can and watch with fascination as the differences and similarities emerge.

What do you know? What IS knowing?

I have known things.  That knowing came in a flash of recognition, the way a deep breath fills your lungs and then is carried into every organ, every tissue, every cell, through your beating heart.

When I comb through my life for the most significant moments, KNOWING are the shimmering stones on my pathway.  The moments I KNEW.   They vibrate with tension and energy….  The moment I knew I would marry Rick.  The moment I knew I was pregnant.  The moment I knew the force of a mother’s love.  The moment I knew that I must look for my own knowing.   The moment I knew I must reclaim myself.

The only thing that we can truly know is ourselves.  Knowing oneself is a work that spans a lifetime of inquiry and analysis and forgiveness and fortitude, and what I believe, is the purpose of our life.

To know oneself, is to know God.

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”  – Laozi

I Feel Like I Peed My Pants and God Made Me Do It

“Man’s chief delusion is his conviction that there are causes other than his own state of consciousness.”

                  -Neville Goddard, Barbadian Author and Mystic

 

I am sitting in my office… a Panera Bread booth.  And my jeans are wet, from the knees up.  My undies are wet.  Grateful for the long sweater I chose this morning, I tried to hide this unfortunate fact as I ordered and squeezed lemon in my tea.  When I stood up to retrieve my squash soup, I tried to act cool, despite my suspiciously wet butt.

 It’s all GOD’s doing.

 

Let’s explore.

 

I bought a book over the weekend.   I love to buy books…. they fill my shelves and boxes in my basement and weigh down my bag.  I do my best to read them, but the trouble is, I don’t have much time these days. I schlep them everywhere just in case an hour falls into my lap.

This book has  been calling to me since I first heard about it in May at a writer’s conference.  It’s called E-Squared by Pam Grout.  I went to another conference this weekend, and a speaker there mentioned the book again. There was a large stack of them being sold at the back of the room,  whispering to me.  I finally gave in and  bought one, and added it to the thick, teetering tower on my nightstand last night… wondering how I would find time to read it, along with the other VIP material on the list of must do’s.

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This morning, I had a doctor’s appointment.  And uncharacteristically, I was a half hour early.  What?  EARLY?  Yep.  Go ahead and send me a nice warm pat on the back.  And if you know me personally, you can dab at the tears in the corners of your eyes.  Before I left for the appointment, all the books in my nightstand stack  were transferred to the passenger seat of my car, as I am incapable of prioritizing before 11 am.   I have already begun to read three of the books, ones that have information I know will help me in my work.  So naturally, I plucked E2 out of the stack, a book I know almost nothing about, and took in into the doctor’s office with me.

 

The doctor was an hour late. I sat in his waiting room staring at the white printer paper sign he has taped to the door, kindly asking us out here in the waiting room to give 24 hours notice if we need to cancel, or pay a $30 charge and please don’t be late.  And instead of being annoyed, I realized with pleasure, that I had no other choice but to read my new book!

 

I cracked it open.  And it turns out, it’s one of those “your thoughts create your reality” books. In it, she talks about the science behind this fact.  And she talks about GOD…aka Heavenly Father as I was taught to call Him.  In the book, she gives assignments, or experiments that will prove the claim that we create our reality by our own thoughts, and Heavenly Father is actually a  scientific law, like gravity.  She calls this law, or God, the “FP,”  short for “Infinite Field of Possibility.”

 

This is not the first book I have bought on the subject.  And I am not a world-famous author, (yet) so maybe I have some more to learn about this practice.   Thus, the idea of doing specific things to prove that FP was out there, just waiting for me to plug-in with intention… intrigued me.

 

After I left the office, I decided to run into the Stop and Shop across the street and buy some hand soap…we were out at home, before heading to the “office” (Panera Bread).  These days, driving my car was like getting into a  giant garbage can with wheels, and it was at this moment that I exceeded my tolerance level for sitting on crumpled preschool worksheets and struggling to keep the luna bar wrappers from flying out the open door when I grab my purse.   So, while in the store, after buying my soap and an inappropriately large  bottle of lime seltzer, I grabbed a brown paper sack to use to collect the trash heap in my car.

 

I spent my shopping time contemplating whether I would follow through with reading the rest of E-Squared and doing Pam Grout’s assignments.  Have I bought in to the idea enough?  I have so much work to do!  Should I spend time on this?

 

Should I?

 

Should I?

 

When I got out to my car, I took a moment in the cold November air to gather up all the empty seltzer cans, gum wrappers, Halloween candy wrappers and old receipts floating around in my car and tossed them into the paper bag.  I picked up a very, very old white plastic ziplock bag full of wet wipes.  This bag has been stepped on a thousand times,  it did not close properly, it had been living on the floor of my car for well over a year, unused…because surely the wipes were a brick of filmy, dried out towels by now.

 

My mind said, “Do not throw this out.  You will need these wipes.  The minute you finally throw it out, inevitably, you will want them back….” (said every hoarder in the universe).

Not wanting to play into my inner hoarder any longer, I tossed it in my garbage sack.

 

I got in my seat, put my iPhone in my lap and then wedged my 1 liter bottle of lime seltzer between my legs.  And I thought, “it’s a mistake to put that beverage so close to your phone” but I rolled my eyes at that inner rule-follower… she annoyed the crap out of me…and I had had enough.

 

I began my drive to Panera.

 

You know what happened, right?

images-6 

I opened my seltzer and it exploded, as carbonated water is wont to do at the most inconvenient of times, while you are driving a car and it is in your lap and sitting on top of your key to the universe-your cell phone.  And the bag of dried out wet wipes that have been getting crusty on the floor of my car since Stella wore diapers in 2011 had been tossed out.  So I drove to my office as my ass soaked up the lake of seltzer I was sitting in.

 

After waddling into Panera, I decided to crack open this E2 business again.  Just a hunch.

 

In the first chapter, she redefines the word GOD as being the infinite field of possibility, and instead of being a He that judges and rules us, GOD is more like electricity… an energy to be used for our benefit.  Just as we use electricity to curl our hair, wash our dishes, toast our bagels. This energy responds to our thoughts and intentions just as our hair dryers turn on when we plug them in.

The fact that I feel and look like I just peed my pants has me nodding in agreement here, as my first lesson on manifesting things had obviously begun this morning.  I also had a strong urge to set down my soup spoon and applaud after each point she made about the myths we tell ourselves about God.  The one about God looking like ZZ Top is particularly accurate.

 

So I am going to do her first experiment, which she calls “The Dude Abides” principle  and I will let you know how it goes… I figure, you may not be convinced that GOD, or as Pam Grout calls it, the “FP” created the exploding seltzer and my wet pants, so I will accept her challenge to do this first experiment to prove it.

 

She has named each principle of the “FP”  (remember, the infinite Field of possibility).

She also includes a “lab report sheet” for each experiment, which I will fill out here so we can all see the results.

 

For clarification, the words in red come from Pam Grout’s book, E-Squared.  The words  in black, are mine.

LAB REPORT SHEET

 

The Principle:  The Dude Abides Principle

 

The Theory:  There is an invisible energy force or field of infinite possibilities.  And it’s yours for the asking.

 

The Question:  Does the FP exist?

 

The Hypothesis:  If there’s a 24/7 energy force equally available to everyone, I can access it at any time simply by paying attention.  Furthermore, if I ask the force for a blessing, giving it a specific time frame and clear instructions, it’ll send me a gift and say, “My Pleasure.”

 

Time Required:  48 hours

 

Today’s Date:  Monday, November 4, 2013          Time:  12:54 pm

 

Deadline for Receiving gift:  Wednesday, November 6th   12:54 pm

 

The Approach:  I hate to break it to ya, FP but folks are starting to talk.  The’re starting to wonder, “Is this guy for real?”  I mean, really, like it’d be so much skin off your chin to come down here and call off this crazy hide-and-seek thing you’ve been playing.  I’m giving you exactly 48 hours to make your presence known.

 

I want a gift – something unexpected.  I want a clear, unmistakable, obvious sign…something that cannot be written off as coincidence.

 

Research Notes:

 

(I will fill these in after the deadline!)

 

Three cheers to GOD, Heavenly Father, or the FP… I have ordered myself up a gift in the next two days.  Let’s see where this takes me!

 

Onward.

The Mormon Anthem

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I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.

I am a child of God.
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will,
I’ll live with him once more.

I am a child of God.
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure.

Chorus
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

The song I am a Child of God is one of the quintessential hymns in mormon childhood.  A solid mormon upbringing will include this song as a childhood anthem, and my home was no different.  I sang it for comfort in dark, scary places. I sang it to remind myself that I was extra special.  I hummed it, summoning courage in my bed at night.  I sang it with gusto with the rest of my young classmates in church, proud of the touched expressions on our mother’s faces.

But then, things changed for me. I sang it with tears dripping off the end of my nose and into my clasped hands as a teenager kneeling at my bedside, begging to be more faithful and desperate to believe.  In my search for comfort, my mother’s love, the thought of her soft hands squeezing mine would ease me back into bed and under the covers.  But the words tortured my young heart, as a glowing piece of my childhood suddenly felt  threatening.

 I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

My parents were kind and dear.  The first verse was a way of establishing the expectation that the rest of God’s plans must be accomplished because of their kindness.  And dearness.  It played on my fierce, child-loyalty.  It made me feel as if my struggle to believe in God was a rejection of my parents.  Maybe it was.

 I am a child of God,
And so my needs are great;
Help me to understand his words
Before it grows too late.

“Help me to understand his words, before it grows too late.” Too late for me, a girl who sensed innocent, blind, parent-lead faith dripping through my cupped hands like water I was trying to carry in my palms. I felt desperate to comply…to understand.  The pressure was real, unrelenting.

 I am a child of God.

His promises are sure;

Celestial glory shall be mine

If I can but endure.

“Celestial glory shall be mine, if I can but endure…”  This one.  Am I worthy of glory?  Do I want to endure my life? To endure…to suffer patiently, to tolerate with out wielding.  It made me feel bleak, and as a teenager, bored.  Life can be more than enduring.  The idea that I could fully enjoy my life and each moment and not fear what would happen when I was dead was a unfurling in my rebellion.

 Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

Teach me all that I must do…to live with him someday.  This one broke my heart.  I was the teacher’s pet, after all.  If there are things I must do, I wanted to be valedictorian.  And I wanted acceptance, praise.  A feeling that doing the things that I must do would make me special.  To live with him someday made me envision a thick, heavy door.  And would he open it for me?  The thought that Heavenly Father would possibly not let me in, if I did not perform the things I must do, filled me up with leaden fear, and a sense of failure.

And the song, which used to bring me peace, felt corrupted, dangerous.  I clamped down on it tightly, storing it away.

A few months ago, I was kneeling at the bedside of my youngest daughter.  She was three, and golden, and trouble.  I was stroking her soft platinum hair and kissing the tears from her round cheeks and wet eyelashes, a sore toe causing her newest despair.  I sang her “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and  then, quite unexpectedly, “I am a Child of God,” a song dug out of the tombs of my now locked up mormon vault.  I felt my love for her crack open my chest, and white, warm, mama love encased my little girl.

I switched to humming the tune after the first line, perhaps unconsciously avoiding the words that carry such weight, and let the song soothe my baby.   I found the place that long ago had soothed me before it hurt. The wounds are healing, the anger dissipating… slowly, ever so slowly.  In the year we have been here in Connecticut, as I write about my life, I am noticing, finally, my ability to accept the beauty under the damage, find the gold thread woven into the cocoon I felt caught in. The song fills me with hope and safety and warmth of childhood.  The feeling that I belong to something.  I am allowed to toss out the words that dish out dogma I don’t hold true…and just sing the song, allowing the spirit of connection be as simple as I need it to be.

The connection that makes me, and Stella, and God, one and the same.

And then she slept.