Jun 24, 2009

An Unexpected Visitor

Sometimes I get e-mails from random strangers who have visited my blog and were touched by something that I wrote. I received such an e-mail recently, but it wasn't from a stranger.

A few days ago I checked my e-mail to find an e-mail from my grandmother. I think my heart started to race when I read the sentence:

"(FD), I have discovered your blog, The Faithful Dissident, and have been reading your thoughts..."

I got a bit scared at what I was going to read next. But I was pleasantly surprised when I read:

"You have expressed a lot of my feelings within the Church."

First, I should tell you all a bit about my Grandma. She reads her e-mail, surfs the net (she discovered my blog through a link that my sister-in-law had posted), and even opened a Facebook account recently. I'm sure she'll eventually read this post. She still sometimes takes trips to Toronto and drives in some of Canada's heaviest traffic. A big fan of tennis, she has a huge crush on Pete Sampras. Not bad for a woman in her 80's. :)

My grandma is a very private person and doesn't like to dwell on the painful aspects of life. In some ways, she has a very different outlook on things than me. Truthfully, this has been hard for me to understand at times and, unfortunately, it has caused some tension in our family. Born and raised in London, her private, "stiff upper-lip" English mentality has at times collided with my Dr. Phil-styled "lay out all the cards, say it as it is, and get to the root of the problem" mentality. There have been fireworks, but I think I was usually the one shooting them into the air.

My grandmother has had her share of pain in life. She lived through the horrors of the German bombings in London. She also lost someone she cared about deeply to the ravages of WWII. As a young woman, she emigrated to Canada, married, and built a good life for her and her family, but not without a lot of pain and hardship.

After my mom introduced my dad to the Church, my Grandma and Grandpa joined as well. Grandpa has been inactive for as long as I can remember, but has always maintained his testimony and respect for the Church. Grandma has been semi-active for much of the time, seemingly never wanting "to get too close," but enjoys singing in the choir and attending sacrament meeting. It seems she has always kept the Church at a certain distance, which perhaps I couldn't really understand until I went through my own crisis of faith. Now it seemed that she summed up my feelings beautifully when she wrote:

"I was not raised with any religious instruction, but within a good family atmosphere. Certainly, a good moral way to live. But I have learned to accept that all human beings are created in a different way. We must love the good. We all need love, in order to reach our full potential and help our loved ones along life's path. That's our earthly mission. What else could be more important? I think our journey in this life is to reason out for ourselves, to use our free will, and thank our maker for that ability. If men did not seek, seek in life, all the discoveries in science, medical breakthroughs, etc, would not be here for our benefit. When I first came to Canada, people were being stricken with polio, living in an iron lung. Now, we don't even think of that illness. Life is a journey, in enlightenment, of discovery, in our relationships with others. It is true, man is not meant to live alone."

I've mentioned before in my blog that my view of the Church being perfect has been shattered. What hasn't been entirely shattered for me is my belief in God. I would say that my view of the Godhead is pretty much what it's always been, as well as the Plan of Salvation, although I don't take it all as literally as I used to. It's very unlikely that I will ever have what Mormons are "supposed" to have (i.e. temple marriage, children), but I've stopped caring. Why? Because I have a good husband, a life that I'm pretty happy with, and I've set my goals not on unrealistic things that would only cause me pain if I were to dwell on them too much, but rather doing the best I can to make this life better for people and animals. I truly believe that everything boils down to the Golden Rule, compassion and charity. I've learned to see the good in virtually all things -- even things that I never used to think had any good in them.

So, while I don't believe the LDS Church is "the only true church," I believe it's "good." Its core principles have blessed my life and made me a better person and I think the same can be said for most people in this world. In the 13th Article of Faith, it says:

"If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

The positive aspects of the Church fall into that category for me, along with many other things in this world. I believe that God guides the LDS Church as much as any other church, religion, or group of people with a pure heart and sincere desire to do good. Probably no more and no less.

Although my Grandma and I will probably continue to approach certain things differently, I think that we probably have more in common than either of us realized -- at least where matters of faith and religion are concerned. If life truly is "a journey, in enlightenment, of discovery, in our relationships with others," then I was certainly "enlightened" by the connection to my grandmother that I didn't even realize I had. And I think she probably feels the same.

So perhaps I am not the first generation of faithful dissidents in my family.


derekstaff said...

My Grandma hadn't been particularly active for as long as I've known her, but has never questioned the fundamental principles. I fairly recently learned that she subscribed to Sunstone, and there are other indications that she was likewise a heterodox. I can relate to your feelings; it's kind of cool to discover that you're not alone in your questions and divergences.

Mormon Heretic said...

So, it sounds like you published her letter without permission. Is she cool with that?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Hehe, I guess I'll find out soon. :D

Urban Koda said...

Your grandmother sounds like a remarkable woman!

Sadly when my parents joined the Church it created a rift in my extended family, although over time I've come to suspect most of that was likely initiated by my parents.

My parents found my blog last year, and kept quiet about it for a month or more - well not exactly, I have it on good authority that my name has been pretty much trashed amongst my siblings. When out of the blue they started trying to come and visit for a chat, I called them on it, and they explained how they felt I needed to have the Gospel explained to me, since obviously I didn't 'get it'.

When I politely refused, what followed were some of the vilest and nastiest set of emails I have ever received. To make a long story short, I have pretty much been disowned by my parents for questioning my beliefs, and all efforts have now been turned to try and show 'love' to my kids, whom they really didn't give the time of day to before.

I'm not sure why I shared all of that - maybe you initial sentence or two brought back the memory when I discovered their visits in my logs, or that I feel that perhaps I need to reach out to extended members of my family, who are not members but are good and noble people.

Either way, thank you for sharing this experience, and like I said before, your grandmother sounds like a pretty awesome lady!

The Faithful Dissident said...

Urban, I'm sorry for what you've had to go through with your family. It's sad that any member of the Church would feel the need to disown or separate themselves from a family member over personal spiritual matters.

Truth be told, I was dangerously close to treading down such a path myself, after discovering that my brother had started to engage in drinking and partying and then lied to me about it. I did a post about it a while ago. I'll be honest, I wish that my brother would "come back" to the Church. But I've decided that my relationship with him should never depend on whether or not he ever does. And once I started to have difficulties of my own, I realized just how hard it must have been for him.

I don't want to say that I wish any hardship or struggle on people like your family in order for them to "wake up" and love you for who you are. People can change their views without necessarily going through any hardship or trauma. But it would be my wish that your family members who have treated you unfairly will somehow be given the opportunity to see things from your perspective and respect you for it.

I'm sure that my grandmother will be happy to hear that she's "awesome." Although right now since I think Wimbledon is going on, she's probably too glued to the TV to be surfing the net much. Anyone who knows her knows to never call during Wimbledon. :)

Urban Koda said...


Actually, I'm almost relieved it happened, but there's a whole lot more to the story, than what I shared.

I too wouldn't wish anything bad upon them. They've convinced themselves that I hate them, which I think helps them justify their actions, but the truth is I don't.

I think ultimately this path has to be begun on the time table for the individual. I had some experiences which started me questioning, tried to share it with my wife and it didn't go over well at all. Several years later though, she had some different experiences that landed her in the same spot, and now we're back on the same page, working on it together.

If I could go back and do it over again, there is little if any of it that I would change.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. But did she watch the Stanley Cup Finals like a true canadian would? The CofChrist even noted the mourning by one of the First Pres when the Red Wings went down.

Awesome granmmother. Awesome post.

Shannon said...

The other day my mom was talking about her faith in the church and how it helps her to know her meaning in life. Then she said "it helps me live, whether it's brain washing or not, it makes my life better." I'm sure she was joking but I felt relieved knowing that she would even mention it because I knew I wasn't alone.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I like what your grandmother said.

One thing I've realized is that life is not a "one-size-fits-all" prospect. We all have different needs and life experiences, and sometimes one's religion doesn't always satisfy each person's individual life journey.

I do think we're here to find joy and to help each other, and I think there are many paths to achieve that aim.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Fire Tag, as a matter of fact, yes, she did watch the Stanley Cup final! I guess she was pulling for Pittsburgh, while I mourned over the Wings. :)

Mormon Heretic said...

I'm sick of the Redwings, and I've always liked Lemieux/Crosby. Glad the Penguins won (though I'd have been happier to see the Bruins)!

The Faithful Dissident said...

The Wings were always my team, but the Pens were a close #2. I LOVED Mario Lemieux as a kid. I remember I had these books and videos of him and I would read/watch them over and over again. Mario was my pin-up boy until Sergei Fedorov came along to the Wings. :)

Anonymous said...

Last hockey digression. I promise. I grew up in Detroit when the only TV that carried hockey was the Ontario station that showed Hockey Night in Canada. I was esthatic when I moved to Washington and they got an expansion team that I followed through utter futility for more than 3 decades, never to see them win so much as a single game in the Finals.

In all that time, the dark forces of evil have continually placed the Penguins in the Capitals path to torment us with hope and then crush us with despair. They should be renamed the Pittsburg stumbling blocks! :D

Oh, and Federov is apparently going back to play in Russia.


The Faithful Dissident said...

Wow, I'm so impressed that you guys -- AMERICANS -- know so much about hockey. :) I remember reacting with dismay when my cousin in Utah -- a huge sports fanatic -- had never heard of Wayne Gretzky. Also, Fire Tag, I'm really impressed that you watched CBC. Hockey Night in Canada is probably the only reason why Canadians ever want to watch CBC. :D

So Fedorov is going back to Russia? I had no idea! I loved him... until he let Anna Kournikova corrupt him. :) Back home in Canada I still have his Red Army hockey jersey and loads of hockey cards of him and all my favourites.

It's funny, but I have to give credit to the Red Wings for getting me and my husband together. He and I met at a German language school in Munich back in the summer of '97. The Wings had just won the Cup and I was talking with a Russian guy, asking him whether he had heard of all these Russian hockey players that were so popular in Detroit. He hadn't, but my husband overheard us talking and became interested. Sort of a coincidence, since hockey isn't really popular in Norway like it is in Sweden. So, if it weren't for my hockey obsession back in the day, my husband and I probably never would have really started talking.

Mormon Heretic said...

It's so rare when I get to talk hockey. (Sorry for the threadjack, but nobody talks hockey in Utah.) FD, can you explain the Wings to me. Why would a Canadian like an American team? Isn't there a real rivalry thing going on? I can't remember what part of Canada you're from, but I would think you'd be a Montreal or Maple Leafs fan (though I can understand why one would choose not to follow the Leafs.)

I was at the Gold Medal match between the US-Canada during the Olympics here in SLC. I thought the Canadian fans were awesome, with all the Maple Leafs painted on their faces. I think they were much louder than the Americans.

I first fell in love with hockey when the US beat Russia in 1980 Olympics. I lived in NH and became a big Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione fan, and it was great when Craig signed with the hometown Bruins. (Miracle on Ice is one of the greatest sports movies ever!) The days of Gary Cheevers, Terry O'Reilly, were great. It's sad to me that Ray Borque had to go to Colorado to win a cup.... (If only we could bring back the days of Bobby Orr.)

I can't believe someone didn't know who Wayne Gretzky is. That's nuts! I think when he went to LA, it was like the Red Sox getting rid of Babe Ruth! Unbelievable!

Mormon Heretic said...

Oh, one other thing--I always blamed Federov for corrupting Kournikova! I thought he was the reason she wasn't as good as Sharapova.... (I'm big fans of both of those women, as well as Gabriela Sabatini!) I never really like Martina, but she was an amazing tennis player. Monica Seles was great too, until that psycho stabbed her and ruined her career.

Bishop Rick said...


I came across your blog while reading MH's blog that I rediscovered while searching for something else. He and I have had conversations in the past.

I was pulling for the Penguins, but then again, I am a Linux user...go figure.

Anyway, nice post. I will probably read more of your older posts without commenting.

You and I are somewhat alike. I am also perfectly active in the church, but no longer believe in its origin or validity. I do it for different reasons though. I don't want to lose my marriage. Anyway, take care.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Bishop Rick, thanks for the kind words and for stopping by my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

MH, my love for the Wings stems from a couple of things:

a) My home town is closer to Detroit than Toronto.

b) Just plain bias (my Dad was always a Wings fan growing up and he taught me from a young age that the Wings were good and the Leafs were bad. LOL).

Actually, I feel kind of bad for choosing an American team over a Canadian team, but it goes like this:

I also like Montreal Canadiens. They are "Canada's team" in my opinion. They have such a rich history. And if you like the Canadiens (or "Habs," as they are often called, though I don't know why), you CANNOT like the Leafs. They're huge rivals. And you can't really like the Wings and the Leafs either. When I was going to school, it was about half and half of Leafs and Wings supporters, although there were probably slightly more Leafs fans. I had a teacher in grade 8 who was a huge Leafs fan and we use to have bets whenever the Wings and Leafs played each other. One time the Wings let me down and I had to sit in class the whole day with Leaf gear from head to toe. And once when the Leafs eliminated the Wings in the playoffs I had to wear a Leafs jersey for a whole week! Embarrassing! So it's regretful that the Wings weren't as successful back then as they are now, otherwise I would have had a ball.

The funny thing about Leafs fans is that it doesn't matter how bad the team is, the fans will ALWAYS show up. Torontonians love their hockey. Back in the 80's the Leafs had this wacky owner named Harold Ballard who did some weird things and basically destroyed the team. The Leafs were absolutely horrible, people called them the "Maple Laughs," and the fans would go to the games with paper bags over their heads. But they still showed up. Leafs tickets are hard to get now, and you have to pay good money even for the junk seats.

The gold medal game between the US and Canada is one of those "where were you when..." moments for Canadians. It's cool to think that you were actually there. I remember the game well. We were nervous, with our national pride on the line. :) I remember thinking how it would have been cool to be in Toronto or Montreal because the atmosphere would have been amazing. That's probably the closest that Torontonians will come to knowing what it feels like to win something, LOL. :)

I still remember when Gretzky got traded from Edmonton to LA, even though I was just a young kid. His wife, being American, took a lot of heat. Canadians blamed her for convincing him to go south. But that really had nothing to do with it. If you ever get a chance, you should read Gretzky's autobiography. It came out in the early 90's, I think, and I remember enjoying it. He explains what it was like during those difficult days of leaving the Oilers.

I think Kournikova corrupted herself. :D Actually, maybe she and Fedorov belonged together because neither of them ever lived up to their full potential in their respective sports. Fedorov was amazing when he first came onto the scene in Detroit, but after he got too comfortable it was like he got lazy, and I don't think he was ever as good as I think he could have been. (Around the time of the Kournikova thing I remember hearing that he got busted for a DUI in Detroit.) I don't think he had the heart that Yzerman had, for example. While Gordie Howe will always be the best Red Wing for my Dad's generation, Yzerman will be for mine.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I agree with you about Seles. Her career was cut way too short thanks to that crazy guy. In the end he accomplished exactly what he wanted. She was never the same and Steffi Graf did well. I saw a show on Monica Seles just recently, actually. It was Oprah, I think, together with Martina and Chris Evert. She looks really great, has lost all the weight she put on after the attack and talked about how hard it was for her psychologically.

MH, is there no more hockey in SLC? I remember when I was there last in 1990, there was a Junior A team, I believe. Can't remember the name.

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Anonymous said...

HABS = Les HABitants. The inhabitants = the Canadians.

Mormon Heretic said...

Thanks FireTag--I always wondered where "Habs" came from. I guess it's French.

I used to go to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles hockey when I was a teen. Larry Miller bought them, but couldn't get the fans to attend either. Miller owned both the Jazz and Eagles. When they tore down the Salt Palace and built the Delta Center, it was HORRIBLE for hockey (but great for basketball.) The Eagles moved to Detroit soon after (I think they became the Vipers.)

About 10 years ago, we got a new team called the Utah Grizzlies. They're the minor league affiliate of the NY Islanders. The won the title the first 2 years here, but as you know, the Islanders haven't been very good, so neither are the Grizzlies. They built a new arena specifically for hockey (which is where the Gold Medal match for the Olympics was), but after winning titles, they're not doing so good. They're having attendance problems, and might be moving too.

One other thing--a person can't call themselves a sports fanatic if they don't know who Wayne Gretzky is.

The Faithful Dissident said...

How could they NOT have taught us that in French class about where the Habs name came from? :D

I do, however, have fond memories of one particular French book, a Canadian classic, Le chandail de hockey (The Hockey Sweater), about a young boy and his love for Maurice "The Rocket" Richard and the Montreal Canadiens. There was even a cool little cartoon that I remember watching in school. I always loved how he called the Maple Leaf sweater "an abomination." It's a comical little story. :)

And according to this, an excerpt from the story is on the newest $5 dollar bill. I didn't know that.

Anonymous said...

Too funny!

I'm an Angelino (resident of Los Angeles) who has NO interest in hockey who knew the derivation of Habs.

AND I read Le chandail de hockey in a French class. It was of interest to me because I've shopped at Etons myself and never go into The Bay without a chill of history going down my spine.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Haha! That's funny! :) I guess you can't learn French without Le chandail de hockey.