July is the only month so far where my Mentor(s) and members of their faith community actively solicit my conversion. It’s okay, I don’t mind, so please don’t bash my new friends and spiritual family. And although the first few meetings were pretty heavy in the proselytization department, things have chilled out for the most part.
They only share because they care.
I did make a deal with them though. Actually, it was more like a bet. The young Elders told me that the only way toward a full understanding of the LDS lifestyle is to sincerely practice the faith. That is, fully believe without any intentions of moving on.
As if giving up my morning cup of tea wasn’t enough.
So, they made this deal: Promise to follow the scripture in Moroni chapter 10: 3-5 which reads,
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Those fellas promised me that if I did this that I would understand by the leading of the spirit that the Book of Mormon is true and by implication, that there is no need for any other spiritual guidance in my life. The Elders asked me if I received this confirmation through the Holy Ghost, would I be prepared to give up Project Conversion.
You could cut the suspense with a knife. We stared one another down. The second, newer Elder looked back and forth between us. I think a tumbleweed even blew by, uh, inside the church.
I smiled and said, “And if I do these things whole-heartedly–and I promise I will–and nothing comes to pass, what does it mean for your faith?”
The more experienced Elder was stumped, but only for a moment. He said,
“Well, prayer is a two-way conversation. I know this book [Book of Mormon] to be true. If you don’t receive a confirmation, somehow the line was interrupted…and Heavenly Father’s line is always in order.”
What a trooper!
So I’ve taken his challenge very seriously; it helps me better understand the faith and its people. But something happened today–this evening as I write this, in fact, that just stopped me cold. I’ve felt overwhelmed for a while. The pressures of doing this day in and day out are exhausting not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. This was never intended as a personal search for spiritual meaning–and I can’t say that it is now–but, seven tiring months into Project Conversion and I am ready for closure. I am ready for peace. It’s nearly midnight now but my spirit is so shaken that I can’t sleep. Here is the prayer I just made:
Oh God, please let us not be alone. Let our voices not drift throughout that black and endless void. Even if you are but the echo of our own hopes, prayers, and dreams, that would be enough for my soul’s respite. Oh rest, sweet, sweet rest. I am ready for peace. What must I do? I surrender to the will and teachings of solitude.
I’ll bet those young missionaries would slap their grandmothers to hear those words come from my mouth. “What? He’d ready to stop? He’s tired of running around?”
Yes, I’m ready to collapse. So I asked permission to. And just when I did, just when I finally surrendered Project Conversion to the powers that be, I got something in my spiritual inbox. It was that still, small, gentle tug on the heart and it felt exactly as the Elders said it would. It said:
Good. Now keep going…only harder.
Are you kidding me!?
Apparently not. Now, I’m not sure if that was God or just the greater good compelling me forward, but in the course of religious history, the divine has a way of ticking off/frustrating/challenging/driving nuts those he/she/it has plans for. I’m losing my mind, so I guess as long as I’m ready to pull my hair out then I’m doing okay. Let this be a comfort to all balding men. It’s not a bald spot, it’s confirmation I’m doing God’s will (not sure how that would work with the ladies).
What does this mean for the long haul? Heck if I know. Maybe God doesn’t want rest for me. Maybe I’m designed/destined/picked on to live spiritually fast and die-hard. Maybe Project Conversion and the end of religious strife is part of my life because God knows I love a good fight. And now I can’t help but wonder: Is this moment what the divine waited for? For me to acknowledge something, to release myself from the situation? What’s on the horizon after Project Conversion?
Heck if I know. I’d ask, but nowadays I start flinching at the answers. One thing is for sure: I can’t wait to see the look on the Elders’ faces when I tell them my “confirmation” was to move along. Oh snap!