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Journal Entries from 2006

[I recently came across some journal entries from 2006, shortly after the lightning struck and I had acknowledged to myself that I didn't believe in God. They open a window on my efforts to pick up the pieces and survey the new landscape. I'll post some of these entries as they are germane to this blog and may be of interest. More to come another day.]

April 1, 2006

I find that my new honesty to self has engendered a few consequences. My time here in life has become more dear. My heart has become more open. My passions more intense.

April 5, 2006

I have recently been experiencing a calm but profound change in perspective. The virtue of self-honesty has become increasingly apparent to me. I am now admitting to myself that I have never had a firm belief in God, the divinity of Jesus, the prophetic call of Joseph Smith, and so on. I have never experienced the power of the Holy Ghost as others seem to have done. I have always doubted.

Something held me back. Admitting that I was wrong or [deceived] threatened my tender ego. I was afraid of what it might mean if there were no God watching over us protectively. I held out the hope that I might someday feel that rebirth of spirit held out for the faithful.

That day of renewal never came. I remained the same person with all of the fears, shames, and troubles as I ever was. That changed sometime around when I took a yoga class at [the university]. I don’t remember now which came first, the class or the change, but a radical change began at about that time. I became more self-aware. My mind quieted. I shed some of my fears and began to see light for the first time in my life. That process has proceeded in fits and starts since that day.

Shame has begun to fall away, too. I allowed other men to dictate the workings of my conscience for too long. I have no other testimony for divine displeasure aside from the deranged, fearful state of my own mind. I see no evidence for a Fiendish tempter who delights in the destruction of men. The most I can say with any certainty is that evil arises in the hearts of men. Perhaps there is an evil influence out there, but it pales in my view when compared to the strength of the will of man. My worries about Satan [have] kept me in constant crisis since my childhood. Giving up belief in what appears to be a late creation of the Christian community has freed me from unnecessary guilt which weighs me down. I can go no further while looking back to Sodom.

I no longer take for granted that God exists. Some part of me still hopes that I am wrong, that this change is merely my divestiture of unworthy beliefs in order to be reborn, naked and infantile before God. I begin to feel some of my childlike newness return to me. I see with new eyes. I decide for myself what I hold to be true.

Some things other than hope are holding me back. The first nobler cause is that I have made vows and promises to my beloved Lacey. I fear that her heart would be broken if I revealed these innermost thoughts to her. Relatedly, I believe the Mormon faith to be excellent in teaching a man to find happiness and think critically. I want my children to be guided well, and don’t think they would find good guidance in the aimless secular world.

The other fear holding me back from a public avowal of my change of heart is my fear of how others would judge me. I politically hope to change my public positions slowly.

May God, if He exists and is favorably disposed toward me, guide me in this uncertain territory. If He doesn’t exist, may I find the faith and strength to follow the truth wherever it leads.

[It's interesting that I still felt like Mormonism encouraged critical thinking and happiness. If I'm fair, I believe that some aspects (e.g. clean living, frugality) may help some of us lead a happier life. I no longer believe that everyone will be happier on that path.]

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Lately, I have had for a constant companion an emotion for which I have no name. It defies easy description. I can’t even describe it well to myself, distilling my feelings into words and concepts. It’s easier to describe its effects than the emotion itself. Unlike other emotions which wane when examined too closely, it persists dancing seductively out of reach of my analytical mind. Even as I write this, I feel it.

I look at a coworker’s shirt, and the deep shades of blue conjure this emotion. I feel tempted to daydream in shades of blue and lose myself in the womb of my mind.

I lie sleeplessly in my bed next to my wife. I feel my stomach rising and falling in the slow rhythm of my breathing, the air flowing in and out of my lungs. I feel a knowing connection with my childhood self. I remember dreams and fantasies that occupied my mind when I was young.

I am ailing with a persistent cough and congestion, but I am content. A subtle, soft joy fills my lungs as I breathe.

My heart melts at the slightest provocation: the dimples in my daughter’s cheeks, my wife’s skin under my hand, a child’s song, the taste of my morning tea, the sun on my face.

The halls of my mind feel cleansed of the cobwebs and cruft of years of willful neglect. I feel pleasantly empty, like the scent of a kitchen floor that has just been mopped after months of procrastination or the clear view of newly washed windows. It feels like the lack of something that obscured my view.

I feel poised on the verge of… some unnameable, visionary place full of imagination, love, and joy. I feel like I am rediscovering something I forgot when I left childhood and got lost in my fears and my own notions of reality.

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[The following is something of a journal entry which I postponed publishing until after I was done telling the story of my awakening.]

11 Jan 2007

It is a little odd getting used to the feeling of new underwear. Things felt… different… as I walked from my car to the office this morning. Adding to this sense of newness was the new lavender-scented fabric softener that we used to launder our clothes last night.

I’ve been wearing Garments (more properly The Garment of the Holy Priesthood) ever since the day twelve years ago when I received my Endowment in the Las Vegas Nevada Temple. In a ritual that marks a kind of coming of age in the Mormon community, I was given this special form of clothing to wear out of sight underneath other clothing. I was admonished that it would be a constant reminder to me of the covenants that I had entered into during that ritual. I promised to always wear the Garment. Luckily there are exceptions for bathing, sports, and sex which you learn about by word-of-mouth outside of the ritual.

If I remained faithful to this promise and all the others, I was promised divine protection. When Sunday School lessons veered off the planned topic, sometimes I heard stories about Garment wearers who received burns to their body everywhere except where the Garment was covering. These stories emphasized that the protection was literal. The protection also extends to temptations to break covenants and commit all manner of sin.

I took the Garment off last night for what I presume to be the last time. I grieved this sign of my former Mormonism as I took them off. I quickly put on the new underwear. It felt strangely like Christmas. I didn’t know what to say as my wife saw me for the first time in Gentile underwear.

Perhaps it shows how fundamentalist I had become, but I was a little scared driving to work this morning while wearing my mundane underwear. In the back of my mind was the thought that God might teach me one final lesson in the guise of a fatal car accident. Thankfully I did not turn out to be the butt of a future cautionary Mormon legend told in off-topic Sunday School tangents, eliciting in the mind of the audience the satisfaction of poetic justice and a renewed determination to remain faithful. At least not today.

In fact today has been spectacularly ordinary aside from the new sensations of… freedom. I still feel like the same me. Removing the Garment hasn’t made me any more likely to sin.

In all fairness, the Garment is probably best understood as an outward sign of something internal. I haven’t felt that certain internal something for many moons, so the ouster of the outward sign is probably just a belated rectification of the situation. The change that removing the Garment represents had happened long ago.

My fear of divine retribution reminds me of so many other fears that I have let go. The fear that everyone in the room is staring at that volcano of a zit on my nose. The fear that no one in their right mind would want to be with me. The fear that demons would tempt me against my will to do bad things. The vague fear that I was not a worthy human being. The fear that leaving the Church would make me unhappy. So many of my fears have turned out to be illusions.

I was the illusionist. As long as I believed in them, these sources of fear were real. Once I stopped giving credence to these ideas, they vanished. In other words, it was all in my head! I was my tormentor and chief adversary all those years.

[I'm still around, living large in my Gentile underwear.]

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