Monday, October 08, 2007

Walking by Faith

When I first began calling myself a Christian, at age 17, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was convinced (and still am) that it was the only true church upon the face of the earth, that the Lord guided it, that the Book of Mormon was true, and that we had prophets living today, leading and guiding us (as they did the weekend at the Church's General Conference).

When I first joined the church, all was not right in my life. I made great steps in correcting impure and unrighteous behavior. I was rewarded with outpourings of the Spirit, and when I returned, like a dog to his vomit, to my old behaviors, I felt, distinctly, the absence of the Spirit in my life. As time has gone by, and I've evened-out my behavior, I moderated my words, thoughts, and deeds, I find that I feel the Spirit less and less. In fact, the only time I can claim to feel the Spirit is when I've done something wrong, and I feel its absence. So, I'm wondering, does anyone else out there have this same experience? The more obedient to the Gospel and Commandments, the less I feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

I am reminded of Paul's 2nd epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 5:

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Verse seven especially rams home the idea that we walk by faith. If I have constant feelings and spiritual outpourings, these might make my faith wane. It's a total spiritual Catch-22. I'm also reminded of Nephi's psalm. Here we have one of the most righteous men around, and he still calls himself "oh wretched man that I am." If the prophet is worried about his sins, how much more do I, Mac Williams, sinner extraordinaire, need to repent.

I'd love to know how others feel; of any denomination (or lack thereof).


Ryan S. said...

Mac- I've been thinking about your post since I saw it yesterday. It's one of those posts that I would love to take the time to compose an elloquent and thoughtful response, (and I intend to do just that), but I never find the time to "do it justice." So, if you'll forgive the quick response, I'll give you my initial thoughts.

To start, I'll share a little about my experiences feeling the spirit. Most of my conversion process occurred pre-mission, and was accompianed by a general repentance process. The repentance of committing myself to the gospel, and the appropriate confessions, etc. This "turning away" and committing was an exhilerating spiritual experience. I dare say I haven't had the degree of poserful spiritual experience since. Even on my mission. Even after my mission, with very few exceptions. Specifically, when I married Carrie-Anne, and when our children were born, and their subsequent baby blessings. That's about it.

I don't think my, or your, experience is unusual. I think when we are single, 19 yrs old., the focus of our lives is rightfully ourselves. We focus on developing ourselves spiritually. Then we serve a mission inviting others to do so. Our focus, even on the mission, is mostly on ourselves as missionaries. We learn to grow by focusing on others. Losing ourselves in the work. Then we come home. The focus then eventually becomes on others. Especially once we marry, we now have someone else to worry about. Then we have kids, and well, that changes everything. Our focus is no longer developing ourselves spiritually, but helping a child (children) learn life. Learn everything there is to teach them, and in the process, learn to teach them the gospel.

I think what you are experiencing is normal. The spirit burns us with conversion and repentance, then we go about living the gospel, often times without that burning. But I also know what you mean re: the withdrawal of the spirit. Then I notice. So I think you're experience is similar to mine. The shift of focus from ourslef to others (wife and kids) is normal. Not only normal, but that is part of the gospel plan. I think we will have other powerful spiritual experiences along the way. I cherish when these experiences happen, but I also don't expect them the way I did on a daily basis when I was gaining my gospel legs.

Now, my concern is maybe I've grown complacent. Maybe I should be expecting those daily spiritual experiences. I'll be honest- if at the end of the day my family is safe and happy, I figure I've done my job. I wish I had more time to focus on me. But I don't. Right now I don't have enough time to focus as much on my wife and children as I would like. So, I do my darndest to be worthy of the spirit, I pray, learn, and listen as much as possible, and hope that this is enough. And I look forward to those tender touching moments of pure spirit that the good Lord will bestow upon me from time to time.

Susanna Williams said...


I've been reading a lot of Freud and postcolonial theory lately. I've also been reading T.S. Eliot during the period where he seriously considered converting to Buddhism. And maybe I'm trying to figure out hermenutics, which might be why I'm giving you the context that informs my comment, but I just wonder if:

As you spend years situating yourself in a role, and as you establish yourself and your identity and habits in relation to that role, and you come to define yourself as how "you" relate to that role, be it as a husband, father, citizen, professor, or human being in a spiritual relationship with God, then eventually doesn't the experience of fulfilling that role become completely entwined with your identity which is that same thing as yourself?

Isn't this the same idea as continually having a prayer in your heart? Are you just streamlined?

You'll probably think that if you agree with me, you're proud.

I'm probably just be talking out my ass anyway.

I'm so proud of you.

p.s. Bitchin' post on Che. Why do you call him "the Che?" Are you translating?

p.p.s. My word verification is "he hawcy." It reminds me of Papa.