I am at school right now and really need to be studying, but I have so much on my mind that I wouldn't be able to study even if I tried. All I could think was "I really need to blog about this," knowing that it would help me at least arrange my thoughts in some sort of order.
This term I am taking two history classes, 19th century Europe and the history of women in the US from 1800 to the present. I didn't really expect them to be so difficult for me emotionally, but I have found some of the material very..... difficult to keep inside.
I used to relate everything to the church, as many of you did as well, but I do so now with a different eye. When reading about this happening in the US or Europe in 1820 or 1830, I wonder who might have influenced JS at this time and how that affected the shaping of the church. Anyway, I started to have an anxiety attack when I was reading "A History of Private Life" for my European class and it mentioned Evangelicalism. These are some of the quotes I read which pain me now as I think of the grief, fear, and inadequacy I lived with but didn't even realize where there or why they were there.
"The Evangelical message focused on sin, guilt, and the possibilities of redemption" (pg 51)
"They could struggle for a truly religious way of life that would involve breaking all old habits, examining critically every individual and social act, and reflecting on the Christian meaning of every thought and practice." (pg 51)
"It aimed at the transformation of the individual self, the becoming of a new person in Christ. This required powerful supports - an internal system of checks... and also external supports from the clergy and others among the faithful who could assist in the ceaseless struggle to live as a new soul. Such a struggle involved the endless minutiae of daily life: relations with family, friends... servants, giving and taking of orders, eating of meals.... leisure pursuits.... whether at work or at home... God was watching and listening, and those all-seeing and all-hearing eyes and ears had to become the internal conscience." (pg 51)
"It was necessary to scrutinize every aspect of human behavior. A real Christian had to live a spiritual life every minute, every hour, every day, and every year; every action every thought had to be judged within the eternal scheme." (pg 51)
"The renunciation of self was vital... the heart must be surrendered to holy obedience, the will trained to submission." (pg 52)
I kept thinking while reading this "in losing myself in Christ, I find myself," "repentance is something done daily as we never know when we will be kneeling in front of God's (or Christ's, or Joseph Smith's or President Hinckley's or whoever will be judging us - never was clear on that one) judgment seat," "every action is preceded by a thought, so every thought must be celestial so that I may be celestial," etc.
So then I go to my US women's history class where we watch a film called Where the Spirit Lives. It is a story about the life of Native American children who were sent to schools to learn to live like "real human beings, not the savages they are." It was so sad to see the main character taken from her home, as so many young children were, sent to a school where they looked down on them, told them their heritage was savage and sinful, and were taught what was really important in life.
For anyone who may want to watch this movie and they don't want to know the end, stop reading now.
Ok, so there were lots of sad parts, but in the end the main character was able to escape the Anglican school and return home with her brother. Not many of the children were able to do this. Most children had to endure or die. And I know many of them did, whether by suicide or maltreatment at the school. Amelia was able to retain who she was and realize what she believed and what was important to her. It was so disheartening, saddening, and maddening to see how many good people could do so much harm and damage, all the while believing, truly believing they were doing what was right. Life is so complicated.
I have spent so much of my life trying to deny who I was and trying to fulfill a role that I am just now beginning to discover, or recover, who I am. In denying people the opportunity to be themselves we create so much misery, especially when we tell them it is horribly sinful and wrong and they'll go to hell for it. I know there has to be a line, someone who wants to kill people must not be allowed to, I won't deny that. Just that not being free to explore who we are and be ok with who we are is wrong.