Have you ever had someone cross your path who you know has been put into your life by God?
Sue is one of those people for me.
I’ve been a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a “Mormon“) all of my life. I have been surrounded by strong, diligent people who have shared their convictions of the reality of God as a loving Father, and of a Savior who has power to heal hearts and change lives. I have heard people talk about the power of prayer. I myself am no stranger to the power of prayer and the reality of God. I have felt God’s Spirit penetrate my heart on more occasions than I can recount. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the faith I have, and for people who have helped strengthen that faith in word, deed, and quiet example.
But Sue has helped bring truth to my life in ways unlike anyone else. I’ve never felt quite the way I do when she talks about talking with – and getting answers from – God, when she testifies of His character and His love.
Perhaps it is because of where she’s been, what’s she’s been through. I don’t even know all of the details, but I know she has experienced a lot of pain in her life. When she joined the Mormon Church as an adult, she came with a lot of questions — questions that women who identify themselves as feminists might ask as they learn about (or participate in) our Church. “Why are men the ones who hold the priesthood? Why do men hold many of the leadership positions in the LDS Church?” She wondered and worried. Did God not care about, or trust, women as much as He did men? Did He think women were second-class citizens?
Even with these questions that troubled her, she continued on, diligently holding to this faith she had embraced. She had a conviction that she needed to be a member of the Church. She had spent years searching for something to fill her deep needs for meaning and purpose in life, and this Church provided many answers for her.
Still, these questions raged like fire in her mind and heart.
But rather than let them fester, she turned to God in earnestness.
Sue has shared glimpses of some of the conversations she had with God in prayer. Her pleas were raw, full of the pain and emotion that seared her soul. She held nothing back.
And God answered.
The answers didn’t come all at once. They didn’t necessarily come as she expected them to (and they weren’t always what she was expecting!). But they came.
An image of Sue that is burned into my memory is of a time she spoke (as she often does) with passionate wonder and intense gratitude. She had just related one of these tender, powerful moments when Heavenly Father distilled truth into her mind and heart, piercing the darkness she had felt. As she shared with me, she threw herself against her chair, arms and head flung back, as though she had been blown over by a strong gust of wind. She exclaimed: “How can we not have faith in such a Being as this?”
The absolute confidence she has in God is remarkable. She will often describe God as a “phenomenal Man” — perfect in His character, perfect in His love, perfect in His knowledge of us and our lives. And oh-so-desirous to free us from misperceptions and misunderstandings – distortions that keep us from understanding Him and His truths.
A part of me wishes that I could package her answers somehow for women who also have questions about how to manage that mental, emotional, and spiritual space where Mormonism and feminism may seem to irreconcilably collide.
But in the end, I realize that no human answers will be sufficient for the deepest questions and struggles that come with this journey called mortality.
My struggles are different from Sue’s, but the power of her example and conviction has left an indelible mark on my soul. Her experiences with God have strengthened my confidence in the process of prayer, and have increased my desire to seek — and find — Him.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
You can read more First Person essays here.