Help. Hope. Healing.

The Easy Way

By Rex Goode

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It feels like I’ve always known, at some level, that the gospel of Jesus Christ and all of its requirements are true. Even during times when my life was not in the Church and far away from behavior a believer should practice, I felt deep in my heart that I was doing what was contrary to the will of God.

That makes much of what I might say about disbelief more a matter of speculation than of experience. Yet, I still know that I have a great capacity for not believing. Even more than that, I think sometimes what an inconvenience testimony is.

This constant effort to choose the right is stressful. I wonder a lot of the time if it wouldn’t just be less of a stress to cease to believe.  It seems the easier way.

It seems that way because I know that before I deliberately do something I think is probably wrong, I spend some time telling myself that it isn’t. The drive in me to try to be moral makes it so that I have to rationalize something before I do it. I find myself wondering if losing my faith would mean I didn’t have to put myself through the mental exercise to rationalize before I sin.

For minor sins, my rationalization is fairly quick and closer in time to the commission. For other sins, I developed my rationalization over time, carefully planning out in my mind why the thing I wanted to do was not really wrong. I told myself that it was only wrong in the minds of those who didn’t understand, which included leaders of the Church.

What scares me is that there are several points where I still keep working at not believing, which is really the same as saying that I am still working at believing  them. These are not minor things to me. To cease to believe they are wrong would bring about major changes in my life and my relationships, especially with my family.

Please realize that by spelling some of them out here, I am not advocating that doubt of the teachings of the Church in the areas I will discuss. I’m saying that they are areas where I struggle to be faithful.

I won’t enumerate the reasons I tell myself beyond what exists in me as a desire to do contrary to those teachings. In other words, I will spare you the reasoning I go through and stick only to the feelings that lead me to question.

Probably the most prominent has to do with the Law of Chastity as it relates to men like me who struggle with same-sex attraction. There were times in my life when I disobeyed the teachings about morality. I did it having rationalized that because the feelings were so strong in me to be with someone of the same sex, I was exempt from the usual teachings about sexual purity.

If my desires for the same sex were a minimal thing, an occasional annoyance, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to rationalize. I’d just brush the thought away like it was just a fly buzzing around my head. After decades now of abstinence from my worst behaviors, the emptiness and loneliness for closeness with a man remains a strong and persistent thing.

As with everything else, it ebs and flows. It flows more than it ebs. It is never completely gone.

How easy it seems it would be to stop believing that it would be wrong for me to get met what seems to be a powerful need. It is my deepest sense that it is wrong that keeps me from it. It is at the times my struggle is the strongest that I find my basic sense of morality to be the greatest inconvenience.

This is only one point on which I struggle with how bothersome it is to have a testimony. All of the others follow the same dilemma.

That is why I find it quite understandable when people decide that either the Church is wrong about its teachings or the teachings are just too hard to bear.  I feel for that person, knowing in myself that it would be so easy for a testimony to slowly erode when faced with powerful desires to do things the Church teaches are wrong.

Despite all of this, I know in my heart that ceasing to believe is not an easy way at all. To cease to believe, I would have to radically change the other parts of my heart that seem impossible to change. For instance, in order for me to cease to believe that sexual relationships outside of my heterosexual marriage are wrong, I would have to change drastically in my deepest belief in marital fidelity, not to mention my complete commitment to and love for my wife.

I would also have to cease to care what impact leaving my wife and taking up with a man would have on my children and grandchildren. Right now, my grandchildren are all to young to be that aware of me. I am sure my children would eventually come to accept me in my new life, but that’s not good enough for me.

It’s ridiculous to think that our choices don’t affect others,that we’re the only ones who must live with the consequences of our actions. I can’t fathom putting my family through the upheaval that my wrong choices would cause.

Yet, in all of this, one thing would have to change that is the overriding factor in all of it. I would have to alter my relationship with the Savior. I would have to tell him that I no longer believed in his gift of the atonement, that the friendship I’ve had with him meant nothing to me, and that my commitment to him to refrain no longer held any sway in my heart.

In that relationship, I realize that regardless of all other hardships, knowing him and believing in him is truly the easier way. He said it and I believe it. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:30).”

I cannot imagine life without the sweetest thing I’ve ever known. It makes all of the rest seem more like the hard way.

And so I go on, believing despite the powerful feelings of staying with it. Perhaps it’s my penchant for wanting to take the easy way that keeps my testimony alive, because I’ve come to understand just how much easier it is to believe than to not believe.

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