Jennifer (2 of 3)

Sometime in June, I received an e-mail fron Jennifer inviting me to come to a dinner at her house. I was preparing for an exam and probably would have ignored the e-mail completely if Jennifer had not written, explaining the reason for the dinner: “I have some things to share with all of you.” Probably because we had been studying cancer in school that day, the idea of a dinner to “share some things” struck me as ominous and I immediately began to fret about what that Saturday would bring.

I spent the next couple of days holed up in the school lab rooms studying for our GI exam. Saturday came quickly, in a blaze of new-summer glory, and I rode my bike from campus into center city. I’ll sumarize the nights happenings by quoting from an e-mail I wrote to my parents early the next morning:

“She had asked us to her home night last for dinner and to ‘share some things with us.’ We ate dinner and laughed and carried on jovially–either unaware or obstinately forgetful of what was to come. Sensing what was [approaching], I braced myself for a lull in the laughter, especially after I saw her leave the room and return with her Bible. Pauses came and went and she said nothing. Finally, seemingly having gathered her courage, she began:

‘I’ve asked you all here because I’ve wanted to share with you the direction of my spiritual journey of late…’

She proceed to read a psalm, open with prayer, and then explain to us that, during the past weeks she had begun being troubled with aspects of the Church’s teachings. The air was so fileld with love and concern that I hoped against hope she might say–‘I’ve brought you all here to ask for help, to see if you can answer my questions.’ Alas, it was not so. Instead, she told us she had already spoken with many of us, with her home- and visiting-teachers, with the Bishop, and that she had gathered from those conversations that, while she believes in the saving power of Jesus alone, we believe that we must do something to gain salvation. Like a dagger to my heart, she even chose a scripture [possibly my favorite] to encapsulate the tenets of our faith with which she has been unable to come to grips: ‘Guys, you know that scipture that says, “by grace ye are saved after all ye can do?” I just don’t believe that.’

Then, in measured, tempered tones, she said, ‘I visited the Bishop on Wednesday and gave him my letter of resignation from the Church.’

It was like watching a friend die. She asked us to say or ask anything we wished; we all spoke in turn, cried, pleaded, and tried desperately to understand. She adored our friendship, she said. She wants to keep meeting, to keep having spiritual discussions. But, amazingly, she now claims ‘I actually have problems with essentially every teaching of the Church, in some way or another.’

So mature. So courageous. So kind. So respectful. So appropriate. No slinking away. No cowardice. No letting the news trickle through the grapevine. No unkind words. No calls to abandon our faith. Just this twisted testimony that months of thought and prayer seeking the Lord’s direction had lead her to leave the Church.”

That is the end of the e-mail.

A few hours after that discussion at her house, the Sabbath dawned and we attended church. That was one of the few times in my life I have felt a person’s absence at the chapel. The chasm left by the disappearance of Jennifer’s light gaped at us like a small black hole. A letter of resignation? It sounded like something you give to your boss, not your Bishop. How do you resign from the Church? Don’t misunderstand, I certainly subscirbe to the 11th article of faith: “let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Still, such a meteoric rise and fall: from investigator to powerful new convert to ex-mormon in less than six months left me startled and confused. More than anything, it left me sad. Sad that Jennifer would reject something so dear to me and sad that I, or we, or someone, had seemingly failed.

Published in: on August 1, 2006 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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