Well, a couple days ago I finally had lunch with my friend, the Primary President (PP) I worked with at the time I left the church last September. We've tried to schedule lunch many times since I left, and different things came up to cause us to have to cancel.
It was the most interesting conversation I've had in a long time...
We went to a sandwich shop, and after making small-talk and starting to eat, I asked her how things were going in Primary. She said fine, that the new people are great who got called in to replace me (2nd counselor) and W. (1st counselor they made RS Pres the SAME WEEK they announced my release, leaving her stranded with no presidency)... She described how she had had a breakdown a week later when she was feeling overwhelmed while conducting primary alone and how she had started bawling during sharing time and couldn't stop, so the bishopric invited her into the bishop's office for a blessing. PP's home teacher (whom she asked to perform the blessing) blessed her that Mr. PP (her deceased celestial companion) would give her strength that she needs right now. She went on to describe to me how 3 things happened that week that confirmed that Mr. PP was there for her....
1. She heard a Hawaiian song on BYU TV that she had only ever heard when with him. 2. She woke up in the middle of the night, turned on the radio, and heard a doctor saying she believed in God because of a transplant recipient saying he had talked with the dead donor while he was being operated on (Mr. PP was a transplant recipient too!).
3. She changed all her clocks except the pesky one in the bathroom at daylight savings time last fall, and when she went to change that one, IT WAS ALREADY CHANGED. Hence, Mr. PP did it. She said she even told him "thank you" out loud right then.
She testified to me that there have been too many evidences that there is a God who loves us and He shows it in the little ways. Like the time her lawnmower wouldn't start so she said a prayer, and a thought came to her mind to clean out the blades first, something that would have never occurred to her naturally, and the mower started right up!
I told her that I have a different view of the God we are taught about at church...that I may be humanizing a being that shouldn't be humanized, but that I just couldn't respect a god like ours. I said, "We are taught that we may become gods ourselves like the god we learn about, right? Imagine for a moment that I'm a God just like ours, right now. I have children, and I send them all away from my presence, with no knowledge of their other parent, (our Heavenly Mother). I tell my kids nothing about me, I just leave it up to them to find me. I send them away while giving only a select few, a VERY select few of them, the chance to even hear about my One True Church and Gospel that they will need to know of in order to live in my presence again. And if by some chance they don't learn of it, well, that's too bad."
I told her the Mormon God seems like the worst kind of absentee father there is, which is NOT something I would aspire to becoming. I could NEVER be a god like that, nor would I want to. What kind of parent does that??? Not a loving one, that's obvious. I told her I'm not even certain that there IS a God. She gave more examples of how she's sure there is. I told her I could respect her thoughts.
We touched on the fact that I always felt that I was an outsider at church, being married to a non-member. Always. She said she fully understood that, as she always felt like a third wheel ever since her husband died. I said the church is not a comfortable place for a lot of people who don't quite fit the mold of the "perfect family" they promote so hard. We touched on my dissatisfaction that women are treated as less than equal in the church. We touched on the fact that an LDS woman must get written permission from her non-member man in order to take out her endowment, and that it's not required of men with non-member wives. She said she actually knows some guy who DID have to get permission from his non-member wife, but I am fairly certain that is not in the official rules.
She tried to tell me that God is loving and will know me and my situation and that I'll be able to get to the Celestial Kingdom anyway. I said, "You don't get it. I wouldn't WANT to live there. The only way I can do that is to be some stranger's second or tenth or hundredth wife. No thanks." She said that wasn't true. I said, "No woman enters the Celestial Kingdom unless her man calls her forth, right?" She agreed. I said, "How is that a comforting thought to me, then? It isn't. I am dependent on some strange man to want me in the next life. That's gross. I think it's wrong that women are subject to men's whims in the next life like that. Plus, I get to look forward to my kids not being sealed to me so we won't be together in the Celestial Kingdom anyway." She tried to explain that since I was born in the covenant of my parents being sealed, that I'd be in automatically, as would my children. I said, "But not my stepdaughter, right?" She agreed. I had to remind her that I DON'T EVEN WANT IN, DON'T YOU SEE?? Besides, I don't even believe there IS a Celestial Kingdom, so it's a pointless discussion.
She actually mentioned Dart three times in statements like, "Don't you think he'll someday see the truth of the church and you'll be able to be sealed?" Um, NO. I repeated again that I don't even want to be an eternal goddess with Dart or anyone. I'd rather be an angel and play a harp and be a nobody than be subjected to eternal life as the church describes it.
She asked me if she could bring my daughter a CD of this year's primary songs. I said if we do lunch again, she could bring it to me. This is the way they scheduled visits to inactive primary kids last year...a CD gift with cookies and an invitation to attend primary.
Anyway, we talked on many things...she spoke of going to hypno-therapy to conquer pain from arthritis and medical conditions she suffers from, and how great it's working, and how she plans to lose weight from it as well.
THE KICKER HAPPENED AT THE END. I got up to refill my pop before leaving, and a girl in her 20's, who had been sitting alone at a table near us, got up and approached me.
"You may find this totally weird, but I overheard most of your conversation with your friend, and I think your conversation was fascinating, and I'd really love to maybe sit and talk with you guys that way too sometime."
I couldn't help laughing a bit and said, "You overheard our conversation? And you enjoyed it? Wow, that's interesting! Um, let me ask my friend and see if she's open to that. Do you have an e-mail address?" She gave me her e-mail and I introduced PP to her and we laughed about ourselves a little bit and we left.
We got in the car, and PP looked at me and said, "Lisa. LISA. How can you NOT think there is a God NOW?"
"Are you talking about that girl approaching me?"
"Oh, come on! She likely just thinks we're interesting people. Which we are. Maybe she has nobody else to talk deep thoughts with. God didn't SEND her to us. Sheesh."
"I know better. That's EXACTLY what He did."
Ugh ugh ugh. She of course sees that girl as a God-sent missionary opportunity designed to bring poor Lisa back into the fold, as well as an opportunity to save the girl at the same time. I can hear her at Fast & Testimony meeting now...
PP and I further discussed the church as she drove me back to work. She tried to tell me that the Adam-God theory is only made understood within the temple, that outside of it it seems wrong and strange. Whatever. She asked me what my TBM sister thinks of all this, and I told her Tony's not apostate like me, but she's got her doubts too and still chooses to go to church for now, but doesn't plan to attend the temple.
PP: "Oh, I wouldn't call you apostate."
Lisa: "Um...I don't believe the church is true and I choose to no longer support it. The bishop would call that apostate."
PP: "It's not like you speak against the church, do you? And how many times have you read the Book of Mormon cover to cover?"
Lisa: "I don't know." (Once. As a teen. WTF does that have to do with anything?!)
PP: "Well that should give you the answer on whether or not you're apostate. There is no other book on Earth as true as the Book of Mormon." **Blink**
Lisa: "But I don't think the Book of Mormon is a true book. There are too many discrepancies and out of place references in it. If it were true, there would be evidence of the great battle that happened at Hill Cumorah. In NY State. Just as Joseph Smith stated. In EXACTLY THE PLACE the prophet stated the battle happened. Nothing."
PP: "There is archealogical evidence of stuff in South America. Some yada yada lake with a city at the bottom...yada yada yada."
Lisa: "OK. Listen, I've got to get to work. I'll e-mail the girl's e-mail address to you, OK? We can continue this discussion with her. Thanks for lunch!"
It could be very interesting. I e-mailed the girl and asked her what she found interesting about our conversation, and warned her that I've recently left the LDS church and my friend is still in it, and that is what brought out most of our conversation.
She told me that she joined a Christian group at college called "Campus Crusade for Christ" that changed her life, and she spent two years in Venezuela, and also was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, so our conversation about the nature of God fascinated her. She said she overheard us talking about the Celestial Kingdom and men and women, another topic that fascinates her.
I also gave her a small warning:
"I should warn you that [PP] likely feels that your approaching me came about because God prompted the meeting because you're ready to learn about and join the LDS church, and/or because God wants to get me back into the LDS religion as well. I know that's how LDS people think, it's how they are taught to think. "Every member a missionary" is a motto that is taught to us from our youth up."
She is still open to going to lunch and asked if next Tuesday was good for us.
This could be fun.