Sunday, August 14, 2016

So Ross and I are in an amazing ward. There is a whole spectrum of people that attend, and guess what, some of them aren’t even sure if the church is true. I think it is awesome there are members of the church who may not have faith, but still feel welcome and choose to still attend. Right now the ward is doing this thing where members give short “faith talks”. A member of the bishopric who knew I no longer believed told me that, if I felt comfortable, I could give a faith talk.

I thought about it, and slowly some ideas started to formulate. I decided I might be willing to talk, but I wanted to include a musical number – on the guitar. Most Mormons have never heard the guitar played in sacrament meeting and some of them have even been told it is not allowed. But they gave me the green light and so guess what? I gave a talk and played the guitar in sacrament meeting today!

I had to write it out because I tend to get nervous and screw things up. I’m really happy to be sharing this and feel like it’s a big deal that there are wards out there who are welcoming to people like me and who would like to hear what I have to say.

Here is my talk:

Today I’d like to talk to those who no longer have faith. I cannot speak for others, but I can share a little bit from my own journey. For those of you whose faith is alive and well, consider this an opportunity to see into the heart and mind of someone you perhaps care about, but who no longer shares your convictions.

Ever since I was mature enough to comprehend the gospel I have had unanswered questions and doubts that were sometimes upsetting to my testimony. But in general I had a positive experience living the gospel. Most times it left me feeling happy and fulfilled and there were many times when I felt like my prayers were heard and answered. I will never discount that time in my life, because it was real. A couple of years ago I had an experience which led me to question my beliefs, and my faith crisis began.

A faith crisis can be harrowing. It can leave someone feeling lost and anchorless. It can be frightening to have such a paradigm shift that it changes your entire outlook on life. Once when I was sitting in church I remember feeling like my life was falling apart. The depression that I sometimes struggle with was beginning to reemerge, I had just found out about my unplanned pregnancy, but at the time, what felt most devastating, was that the church might not be true. An attentive sister in relief society asked me if I was doing alright. I shook my head that I wasn’t and did my best to hold back the tears. She lovingly told me that she prays for me and would continue to do so.

One night I was talking with Ross about scripture reading. I rarely felt uplifted or enlightened during scripture study, despite all my sincerity and best efforts. I had tried studying my topic, keeping a journal, prayer before, prayer after, at different times and at different places. I wanted to know why I wasn’t like the rest of my family. The question pressed upon my heart, “what would they think of me?” I was afraid of being rejected.

When you are immersed in a culture that constantly encourages you to strengthen your testimony, you can be left feeling isolated and wondering where you went wrong. To those who feel this way I would like to say, you haven’t done anything wrong. Your faith experience might just be different, and your journey, just different from those around you.

I have heard many say, that people who leave the church may feel like they are happy, but it is not TRUE happiness. Please understand that this is disrespectful. How would you feel if someone from another religion told you your happiness wasn’t as good as their happiness?

Last year I read an article in the ensign which talked about the difference between having sincere questions and having doubt. It described the doubter as one who was inclined to set aside their beliefs for sin. This is false and unhelpful. There is such thing as sincere doubt, and when we experience it, one of the best things we can encounter is a friend who listens without judgement and verbally tells us that their love is not conditional upon whether or not we share their beliefs.

My faith crisis eventually came to an end and the peace that I felt before it began, returned. I decided to continue to attend church with my family and do my best to support them. When we moved into this ward I was relieved to find that my differences in belief in no way left me feeling isolated. I feel very accepted here.

Unfortunately, there are many people who feel they must keep their unbelief a secret. I personally know many people who stopped believing years before telling their parents or spouses.  

For those of you who no longer believe I would like to share a few things that may help you stay positive. When I’m feeling grumpy Ross sometimes jokingly sings to me, “you’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . .”. One of the things I like about the church is that it teaches we have a Heavenly Mother. So the other day I was talking to the kids and I told them that Mormon’s believe that we have a Heavenly Mother too, and just like Heavenly Father, they could pray to her any time they wanted and to not be afraid to ask her for help.

I have found that I miss having conviction. I know of one person who no longer has faith but decided to replace it with something just as good. They came up with some core values that they knew they wanted to live by. You might say they made a family mission statement. Just like a family home evening lesson, they review these core values with their children regularly.

Try to respect your loved ones who still believe, the way you would want to be respected. Be forgiving of the church’s flaws. Set a good example by living an honorable life. Remember the way you felt when you were a sincere believer, so that you can have empathy for others, even when you disagree.

For me, I enjoy taking the hymns I grew up with, and trying to continue to live their message. I love the words to Lord, I would follow thee. There are children’s primary songs that I still sing to my children at night. There is a very simple one that goes, Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too. When your heart is filled with love, others will love you. To end I would like to sing one of my favorites, Love one Another: (Then I sing the song with my friend Brynn)
Here is a home recording of me singing the song:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Immortality. Me thinks . . .

I was reading the prologue of a book written by a ninety-year-old woman. Without apology she declared that she believes in ghosts. She went on to explain why, and there was beauty in her reasoning. It was the equivalent of an LDS testimony witnessing that there is indeed an afterlife – immortality.

Is there life after death? I don’t know. Lately I have been inclined to think there isn’t. But I can’t just disregard the convictions of others – they are too compelling. There are people who have had experiences and felt the substance of things we cannot see or prove. And I can’t just throw my old beliefs aside, they still have a place in my life, even if it is just in my memory.

I was talking with Ross the other night about these things and I learned something frightening. If Ross learned that this life is all we have, he would no longer have hope. He wouldn’t see the point in trying to improve himself or make the world a better place. The picture he painted was bleak. And depressing. And it caught me off guard. The loss of my faith hasn’t caused me to abandon hope, I am just as happy as I ever have been – maybe a little lost – but believe me, I’m happy.

This conversation had a very positive effect on me in that it helped me realize that some people need to keep believing. This is something I had always told myself, but now I really believe it. If everyone in the world believed the same thing, some of us would be happy, and some of us would be miserable. What wonderful insight! We can rejoice in our differences!

There is beauty in Atheism, beauty in Spirituality, and beauty in Religion.      

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A new approach, and my new friend.

I am turning this blog into a sort of journal. It may or may not be regular, we shall see. I won't be announcing updates on Facebook so if you are interested in the things you see here, follow me.

The ladies in my church, who are aware that I no longer believe but am still willing to serve, asked me if I could help a certain sister in the ward. I won't go into detail about her personal life or even give her real name. But I got to visit her this week.

I was still in my exercise clothes while I stood in her bedroom doorway talking to her. "Girl, if I had your body . . ." she said. I felt embarrassed at my size. She probably weighs 500 or so pounds. Her body is sick, and her life, well, it's hard. I am excited to start working with her. For now we are just exercising once a week. But on top of that we are going to replace one unhealthy snack each day with a healthy snack and a glass of water.

Driving away I felt ashamed. I want a different body too. I want to weigh less and look leaner. I don't want to look chubby. What if she knew this? What would she say?

The world has done a great job on us women. It has succeeded in its effort to never let us be satisfied with our bodies. My friend needs help, she is dying. But she has a beautiful soul and I think there is a lot she can teach me.

Uncle Kevin.

As I was organizing my blog I found this old draft and thought I would share it. 2012 I think

Two weeks ago while I was driving in the car Joseph or Moroni (I can't remember which) asked me, "Why did your uncle Kevin die?" I said, "Because his body was sick." Then I had a quiet moment and somberly said, "I'm sad that he died." To which Joseph replied, "It's okay, because now he watches over us." So sweet. So truthful.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A thank you letter

Dear Marla,

As I write this, my youngest child, who is a one-year-old, is eating lumpy oatmeal, and I have a two-year-old on my lap who is competing for my attention, along with three other children that continue to come in and out of my room.  

I am not a children’s book “connoisseur”, or familiar with all your work; but a few years ago my mother gave me a book, “The Seven Silly Eaters”. Time and time again I have thumbed through it’s pages, taking long pauses while reading it to my children, and absorbing each of the illustrations. I have fallen in love with the Peters family and all of it’s children. I have said to myself, “This is my family. This is Me!” Somebody has managed to capture a feeling in my heart. A feeling that – despite the high demands, the stress and the chaos – tells me my family is special.

It was my intention to have a large family when I first married, and my husband and I didn’t waste any time. Before our first anniversary we had two baby boys, twins. Less than two years later came our little Mary. It was at that time that I experienced an onset of mental illness. The dream of having a big, happy family slipped away from me. But despite that, I chose to have another child, Peter. My illness became more severe and my parents had to leave what they were doing and come live with us. My husband even stopped working for a while. It was a hard time, but I changed for the better and learned I could still have a happy fulfilling life.

We knew that it would be irresponsible to have more children while struggling to take care of the four we already had, and so we were in the process of getting permanent birth control when I found out I was pregnant. Peter was only a year old, but life is full of surprises.

And so in the wake of all these kids, I am able to pick up your book and read about a family whose fridge is littered with artwork, who makes food from scratch, who gives their mother insects and flowers for her birthday, and has kids who poop with the bathroom door wide open. There is a happy ending, and Mrs. Peter’s is even able to find time to play her Cello. Although I have yet to find the energy to sit down and play my instruments again, I feel like I have a beautiful thing going for me. Thank you so much!
With a happy heart,

Sara Wagstaff

Monday, February 23, 2015

little climbers

This video is pretty uneventful but it shows what we've been up to. We are taking full advantage of our membership at the YMCA. Except for exercising. I don't do that. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


 All ready for church

 Beautiful blue eyed boy
 First backpacking trip with daddy. All ready to go

 The next weekend we went camping all together as a family. Ross took the kids on several nature walks and during one of them he met a man foraging for mushrooms. The man brought us some of the mushrooms he found and gave us some batter mix and we made fungus patties the next morning and fed them to the whole family. Yum!

 Peter fell head first into the bathtub. But he is such a water baby that he didn't mind.

 We love riding bikes together. Moroni wanted to make sure we took a video of him riding his bike without training wheels to show grandma.

 Can you see Peter's shadow?