Recently there’s been a lot of prayer-talk on my mind. Partly because of my constant companion of a podcast, Cognitive Dissonance (almost through their back catalog!), and partly because of something going on with my sister.
Prayer is a huge thing in the Mormon Church, and in Christianity as a whole, if I may be so bold. Every meeting is opened and closed with a prayer. Meals are started with a prayer spoken over the food. Even activities for the youth, such as basketball, they start the match with a prayer. Every time there’s a big life decision to be made, the answer from my parents (or any Church leader) will be, “Well, have you prayed about it?”
There’s also a catchy little saying that I remember from my youth. “If you want to talk to God, pray. If you want God to talk to you, read your scriptures.”
I always thought I was broken somehow. There were always these tales in Fast and Testimony Meeting about someone that had “heard the still, small voice” of the Holy Ghost and it had some profound affect on their life that day. I never had that. There are two instances that my mother brings up any time I voiced doubts though.
The first was when I was in 4th grade. A friend had given me this cute little pin that had a gray Scottie dog on it, and the first day I wore it, it got broken in half out on the playground. Half of this little dog was lost in the gray gravel of the playground. I was so upset. That night, my mother told me to pray and the Lord would answer. The next day when I went out on recess I found the missing half of my pin.
The second instance, we were trying to decide on something as a family. I don’t even remember what it was, except that it was to go somewhere I think. The family was split down the middle and my father told us all to go pray about it and we would speak of it again in a designated amount of time. When we got back together, I hadn’t felt anything one way or the other, but felt that I must have been wrong, so I changed my answer. And I wasn’t the only one. We had all changed sides on whatever issue this was, and my parents took this to mean that the Lord was trying to get us to humble ourselves and work together and listen to Him.
I find it odd to think about, because I long since gave up on seeking answers through prayer because nothing ever happened. I did sometimes think that I felt the spirit, but it was never in answer to prayer, and looking back on it now, it happened in difficult times of my life when I was already highly emotional and stressed out (like, for instance, Basic Training). But I never once felt like I received a message from God.
This journey has been interesting with my relationships with my sisters, as they’ve remained religious even as they move away from the church themselves. One has moved toward the roots of the Church, feeling that it has strayed from what it was when it was formed by Joseph Smith. The other has started looking into the Messianic Jewish tradition.
The former called me the other day to announce that God told her to change her hair style. “He showed me how it should look.” I was (and still am) at a complete loss of words at this, and she remarked that she found it interesting that God told her to cut her hair while my other sister was told to start covering hers.
I have had to bite my tongue, because I have become more and more disillusioned with religion in general, not just the Mormon Church. I mean, even if God was a thing and listened to us, why would he care about a hairstyle?
My husband and mother-in-law both thought that it was…interesting….that she felt God was talking to her specifically. Their questions raised were about with all the misogyny in the Church, how would she think that she would be allowed to hear from God? I explained that in the Church, you’re allowed, even as a woman, to “receive personal revelation” from the Lord. It’s built in to the religion. When talking to people, the missionaries always tell people to pray to God and ask if the Book of Mormon is true.
I’m starting to think that I’m not crazy or broken for not hearing any answers or messages from God after all. Maybe I was always a bit too literal and rational for that.