I spent a lot of my weekend working on my book, in between mowing the lawn and doing some work around the house. I feel pretty good about the book. I wanted to tell my mission story without too much commentary because I hoped the story would speak for itself. I really just wanted to write down what happened, and I think I’ve succeeded. The book tells the good and the bad, the spiritual and the mundane, without any editorializing. Now, whether it’s any good is another story. But we’ll see.
Sunday morning my wife asked me to go to church with her, so I got dressed and we managed to slip into the church in time for Gospel Doctrine class. The class is reading in Alma, which is probably the best-written narrative in the Book of Mormon, though that’s not really saying much. Anyway, I was less interested in the lesson content than I was in the class members.
During the lesson, my wife watched a couple with a newborn baby, who was resisting their attempts to get her to take a pacifier. Once the baby spit it out with such force that it rolled about ten feet to my feet. I remembered those days (none of my kids would ever accept a pacifier) fondly, when it felt like your adult life was just beginning, and you were destined for good things.
A couple of rows ahead of us sat an older couple, the husband a retired BYU professors (you know, the kind of guy who wears a bow tie). The wife had long, detailed answers to every question the teacher asked, and my wife remarked afterward that every Gospel Doctrine class has that kind of monopolizer. At one point, the instructor read George Albert Smith’s little parable about how the more righteous you are, the more “devils” you have surrounding you to tempt you. This sister raised her hand and said, “That’s not a parable. It’s literal. We really do have little demons following us around and whispering in our ears.” I really can’t relate to that approach to life, as I’m not much of a mystical person. I’m with my mission president’s wife on this one: We don’t do wrong because someone tempted us into doing so; we do it because we like it.
At one point, a young woman raised her hand and said that the scriptures’ teaching that we should never be the aggressors in a war is something we should take to heart today. My wife leaned over and said, “Watch out.” Sure enough, the class was soon having a spirited debate about Iraq and whether the Bush Administration lied to get us to support a war. The man in the bow tie, who said he was “a little to the right of Attila the Hun,” said he looked forward to “educating” the young woman who had started the fracas.
After church (I skipped priesthood) we drove up Hobble Creek Canyon for a picnic. The leaves are turning, and that canyon is spectacular. My son said that it looked like the trees had been dipped in blood, and he wasn’t that far off. We stopped at a park where the canyon forks and had some tuna sandwiches and chips and some plums from our tree. We all got on the swings, and my wife told me how amazing it was to lean your head back and look at the world upside down while you’re swinging. I leaned back, and she shouted, “No! Lean back until you can see the grass!” I thought it might be a little scary to see the world swinging back and forth over my head, but it was just a new and strange perspective on the familiar.
When I began slowing down, my wife said I must have been scared, so I just said, “I have to pee.” She laughed and said she had just seen in vision me at five or six years old getting off the swings to go pee. “Yeah, but I might not have made it,” I laughed.
The clouds were darkening and some large drops of rain coming down when we left. The wind blew our bag of chips off the table (I’m sure some squirrels ate well last night), and we packed into the van. On the way home, we drove past our old house in Elk Ridge. The people who bought it from us have not kept it up at all. The backyard is overgrown with weeds, and the paint I put on the trim ten years ago has not been redone, so everything is faded, the exposed wood graying and warped.
My wife became pretty emotional as we stood there looking at the house, and I’m pretty sure I know why. Ten years ago when we lived in that house, everything was going well for us. My job was going well, our finances were solid, I had just been ordained a high priest, and we were expecting our sixth child. Since that time, we’ve moved to Texas, and I’ve left the LDS church. Our marriage has had its ups and downs, I’ve been laid off twice, and our kids haven’t always done what we hoped they would.
But I wouldn’t change it. The struggles we have had have only strengthened our marriage, and leaving the church has helped me gain a perspective on life that I never would have imagined from within the confines of Mormonism. In short, I’m doing OK. No regrets. I don’t think I could ask for more.