Things have gotten a little easier though, I think. My son only woke me up twice between the time I went to sleep and 7:00am last night, which is getting towards being typical now that he's eating solid food. Getting multiple 3 hour stretches at night and a total of 8+ hours makes a huge difference in what you can handle. Not only that, my son is crawling and playing with toys with supervision but without needing direct interaction on a regular basis now, so I don't have to worry about him as much when there's people over.
The last set had been under the impression that I was merely inactive; they knew I'd grown up in the church and stopped attending, and now attended a Christian church, but they'd never asked why I left or checked for my records. This set did check before coming over, so one of their first questions was about my relationship with the church.
"I grew up in it, and most of my family are members, but I left when I was 19," I explained simply and bluntly. "I'm not hostile to the church or anything, I just don't believe in it. I had my records removed about a year after I left, and my husband attend a Christian church now."
They handled that pretty well. They didn't run screaming, at any rate.
I made a point to make sure they knew that they were welcome, and to be as non-confrontational as possible even when I disagreed in order to not scare them off.
Anyways, the big point of their little lesson was on building faith, so they went to Alma 32. I have generally forgotten how inane the BoM is since I haven't read it through since leaving, but I really had a hard time with what they read because of the quality, more than anything.
Here's the verses we went through.
21 And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and withpatience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.
Okay, I have no problem with the first verse. It echoes Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
But then it gets kind of weird to me. Why would I desire to believe his words if I had no reason to think they were true, to hope in them? (vs 27)
And then apparently there's a seed swelling under my breasts. (vs 28) That is just a weird way to say it. Why in this world is it breasts, plural? Merriam-Webster shows the difference clearly. Breast, singular, can mean,
": the front part of a person's body between the neck and the stomach
: the chest thought of as the place where emotions are felt"
: the chest thought of as the place where emotions are felt"
But plural, well, we don't have more than one chest or more than one front part of our body between the neck and stomach. Breasts, plural, is talking about...well...duh.
I know, I know, it's a little nit-picky, but it's just weird.
Anyways...why is the seed going to start enlarging and making me feel it under my *snort* *clears throat* breasts? Why am I going to think it's good? What does that even mean? I mean, what are these swelling motions? Why are they good? Why does it tell me that the word--whatever word Alma's talking about (his? the BoM? scriptures in general?)--is good?
My best guess is that what is trying to be said is that, if we live what's being taught, we'll see the good of it on our lives. That's what the sisters seemed to be thinking it was saying. There were a lot of vague pronouns thrown around ("it" was said quite a lot), so sometimes it was hard to know what "it" was. The word? What word? What am I doing with the word?
And then we have this whole bit about a seed being good just because is grows. (vs 30-32) Well, why? Why can't bad seeds sprout and grow? I mean, aren't there such things as thorns, poisonous plants, etc? Wouldn't the most deceptive seed the devil could plant be one that does sprout and that seems to produce good fruit, but actually isn't good and the fruit, while it may appear pleasing the way it did to Eve, actually produces a path that leads towards damnation? The reasoning behind bad seeds not growing just seems so...well, non-existent.
What struck me with vs 42 is that it seems to be making the fruit of living according to the word (which I'm just going to assume is now talking about scripture) as something that comes from your own work. That is so different from Galatians 5, which talks about the fruit as being of the Spirit.
And in all this, I still don't know why in the world I'm supposed to do this vague experiment! I don't know for sure what is going to happen to show me that this "word" is true (other than something having to do with my breasts?), or that it's good, or that I should have faith in it!
We moved on from there to, of course, Moroni 10:4-5. As usual, that brought up the whole pray-and-get-answers-through-feelings thing, which they then both testified to.
This is where I brought up my objection to all of this (since making fun of the text for using the word "breasts" in that particular context didn't seem very constructive). I explained to them that, while I 100% agreed with the power of prayer and the ability to learn truth and for God to reveal it to us, I am not in agreement that the knowledge of truth comes through feelings alone. I shared 1 John 4:1 and Jeremiah 17:9, and explained that I believe feelings can far too easily be deceptive by either coming from our own possibly sinful or incorrect feelings from our heart, or by a false spirit creating those feelings in us to deceive us. I explained that I believe that God gives us a number of other means of discerning truth, and emphasized the Bible as one of those standards of truth and that if something contradicts the Bible then I'm going to trust the Bible on it.
Thankfully, they understood where I was coming from. I didn't push them to agree with it, and didn't push their theology on it. The important thing for me was to lay that groundwork so that they know that I'm not just going to pray and, if and when I feel good about things, come back to the church. But, they also know that I'm willing to seek and find truth, particularly through one thing that they also believe in (to some extent).
The lesson more or less ended there. One of the sisters asked me what I expected out of meeting with them since I no longer believe, and when I hesitated, she said, "Are you just wanting to have discussions with us?"
"Yes," I affirmed. "You guys are totally welcome, and I'm interested in talking with you. And even if you're just in the neighborhood and need water or something, feel free to stop by." They're on a bike route, and seemed to appreciate that.
Because I'm not really an investigator, they said they'd probably come every other week or so when they have extra time, but didn't schedule anything. I got the impression that I'm essentially second-class, as far as their priorities with meetings go. Investigators get first dibs on their schedule, and I get to be a fill-in for empty slots. That's okay. The last set of missionaries pushed for every week, which was extra overwhelming on top of everything else, so once every 2-3 weeks feels much more doable.
I just hope it wasn't code for "we're actually not coming back."