Saturday, January 4, 2014
My testimony moments
I experienced the testimony-making moments of Mormonism. I felt the burning, I felt the tingles, I felt the rush, I cried the tears, I found the relief, I found my answers, I was overcome with love, I was truly converted to the Jesus and his One True Church. At least I was pretty sure.
The fact is it was always a little hard to tell what was going on in those moments. Was I sweating profusely because I feeling the Spirit or because I was standing in front of a large crowd of judgmental peers? Was my heart racing because I was in tune with the Spirit or because I was embarrassed that the only thing I could think to say were those same pronouncements everyone else has said when they've stood to bear their testimony? Was the relief I felt after prayer due to the Spirit offering me celestial support or was it due to not hearing God tell me 'no'? (Hearing nothing is better than hearing 'no'!) When I prayed to feel God's love, did I feel it finally descend upon me or was I overwhelmed from asking?
I really really wanted to have these moments. I wanted to have my conversion story. I needed one to be an effective missionary. More importantly, I wanted to be a true convert. My point here is that my interpretive approach involved a whole lot of DESIRE.
Conditioning EXPECTATIONS also played heavily into my interpretations of testimony moments. I was taught that the Spirit communicates differently for everyone and that essentially anything could count. Once someone told me that they had experienced a sensation similar to an orgasm while praying and wanted to know if that was the Holy Ghost telling him the Book of Mormon was true. My companion wasn't so sure but I said it absolutely was an answer. The thing is that essentially any emotional response should be considered an answer in the affirmative by most Mormons' standard.
I however started to consider my answers a little more carefully. Were the emotions I felt coming from psychological stress? Were they generated within myself or did they feel like they had come from outside my body? Was what I had felt more than mere emotion? Was another personage, spirit, or presence involved, or was it all just me? Why was it the answers always felt so vague? Does God want me to be sure but not too sure? Were they really answers or did I make them answers? How would I have viewed those experiences had I not felt any cultural pressure?
Then again, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I needed more faith. Maybe God was answering my prayers and I wasn't recognizing them. Of all the doubts I had, the strongest were about myself.