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.