Sunday, August 1, 2010

Defining the principles that I live by

I went to a the web site Truth Out you will see on my blog list and read quite a few articles which caused me to think I needed to write an entry more clearly defining the principles I live by. I chose this header because it was Sunday and I wanted to explain how I came by my belief in God. As a child I lived in the middle of conflict and chaos brought on by my dad's drinking. He was a severe alcoholic and I was his oldest child. During childhood two of his 3 brothers met alcohol related deaths, one brother in his early twenties. In my teens the other brother died who had also had a drinking problem when he was out of the hospital where he spent his last days diagnosed with incurable mental illness. My father had many severe crises with his drinking which he miraculously survived. During all these crises and deaths I thought our family could not survive without divine intervention, so you might say I woke up every morning with a prayer in mind. I did not find comfort in the church, because the Mormon Church did not deal well in my opinion with alcoholism. The faithful were instructed to live by the word of wisdom so those who violated its precepts, especially drinking, simply stayed away and I thought were basically ignored by the faithful, even if closely related.
I became accustomed to my father living a very isolated life with only his drinking buddies talking to him. My mother was always angry at him, so they basically did not talk. They just quarreled.
As I saw it the only sober people my father talked to were his daughters. He did not have any sons, so he often took one of his daughters with him to work with cattle or help him on the ranches in other ways. I loved horses so I would eagerly volunteer to do any work riding horses. I also saw these long working days as an opportunity to try to influence my father if possible, or at least assure him that some of his relatives cared if he survived. I felt I had to format my own connection to God to get help. He surely knew about all the children born into the homes of alcoholics, so he better than anybody had to know what our trials and tribulations were. You might say I thought if God does not exist I will have to invent him as I need somebody to talk to about this.
So I got in the habit of having a talk with God every morning to start my day. When I went away to school I started keeping a journal which started off each day as a dialogue with God. I studied the bible in Mormon Seminary when I was away to school, so it helped me to visualize a God who would continue to help our troubled family so that not only I but my younger sisters would not have to suffer too badly until they could reach adulthood and take more control of their own lives.
I let common sense be my guide. If anything did not seem to make sense I would tend to put it aside as not necessary for a working belief in God. This included quite a few of the more quaint Mormon beliefs like baptism for the dead or that every person on earth needed to become a Mormon to be saved. This rather seemed to be egotistical wishful thinking on the part of the Prophet who conceived this idea, but it seemed to make practicing Mormons happy, some of them. This claim could not be proved wrong in their opinion until the hereafter, so it seemed to get quite a lot of support. I did not support it, since my father surely would be banished from that kind of heaven, since he was not a church goer, and banishment was not my goal in all my efforts and prayers on his behalf.
His mother, my grandmother King, was very religious as were his sisters, so if this philosophy was so, they would be separated in the hereafter from the alcoholic members of the family. In fact, his sisters had separated themselves from their brothers in this life, anticipating what would happen in advance I suppose.
My father was raising me, and all the work he did when he was sober went toward supporting his family. When the time came he even paid for my college education because by then he had survived his worst drinking years by cutting back finally, maybe only going on two or three binges a year which was a vast improvement over what he had been doing.
Despite my mother's efforts to separate him from as much of his money as she could, he was still able to leave the bulk of his assets to his five daughters when he died. I thought he knew he had been a great trial to us and caused us extreme stress, so in a sense he made up for it with the hard work he was able to do when he was mostly sober. Investing effort in his recovery turned out to be a smart thing to do as he was a smart, capable man in many ways.
I had become partially disabled, I thought due to the tremendous stress I had experienced as a child in that home, and his money I inherited helped carry me through to my fifties before I was forced to apply for disability because I could not work any more.
I thought well, the God who spoke to me on a daily basis counseling continued love and support of my father to help him survive rewarded me and my sisters in the end. My father still remained a very difficult character, but we sisters persisted in taking care of him after my long suffering mother had left him, until he died of a heart attack at home at the age of 64. He had had so many crises, he seemed like an old man. We were so thankful to get him to that age without him killing someone on one of his binges, which he almost did in the last year of his life when upset over an ill advised second marriage breaking up caused him to get drunk. He wrecked his car on the highway, but the young men he hit in his big car only suffered one broken leg among them.
I just really could not have survived those years without my daily communion with God, the creator. Only he would know why alcoholics had their free will to become parents. In one of our communions he said that sometimes the only person who could reach such hardened men were their children! Voila! I understood. It was true. If one of us really got angry and lit into my father, if our logic was sound, you could just see him wilt. My mother would say during those early years I was the only one he listened to. Well, I thought the reason he didn't listen to her was because she no longer loved him. In every way possible, she registered something very close to hate for him. He thought she was only sticking around to get as much money from him as she could. I had to laugh, as sometimes, it was true, she would say plaintively that the doctor said he would die of his drinking and he had not died yet. Clearly we daughters and she were at cross purposes. She would often fantasize what she would do with his property if he did die! I recall him saying to her, "I am just not dying soon enough to suit you!"
My mother was kind of a child like person. Her thoughts were easy to read, but you know what I loved her, too, just the same as I loved him, no matter how difficult she was to love, too. I knew how tried she was by his behavior, and it was even worse than she thought.
I had long ago concluded that my dad was a bisexual because one of his partners molested me. There was a lot more to this that I won't go into today, but this was my conclusion at a very early age. Oh my word he was such a difficult man, only God could have helped me to try to love and understand him. He hated himself I had come to understand. Nobody in that country hardly even acknowledged there was such a thing as bisexual married men. The men kept their secrets, but because we daughters were asked to do boys work I had stumbled upon them, I thought. I became privy to some of their secrets and I did not dare tell. It would have been too dangerous for a child to be talking about such things, so I kept silent as all the young boys did I am sure who also found out one way or another.
Actually this is difficult knowledge to impart anywhere, has always been, down through history.
So I had to figure out how to handle these suspicions in order to help my suicidal father not to go ahead and kill himself as he seemed bent on doing. I had to try to convey to him that I understood why he was trying to kill himself, but it was not altogether his fault, what he had fallen into, I thought. First he had been innocent I was sure. Then he had been forever changed so that he would have to lie to my mother and conceal some of his nature in order to try to have a 'normal' life. This would not be the first time such men had wanted to live a normal life nor would it be the last. We children had come along but since he had been unable to change, he would leave home every weekend to spend time with his drinking buddies, enraging my mother and eventually alienating her forever, even though she did not seem to know quite what all he might be doing. So I did not really blame her.
I just thought that they needed to take care of their children. I thought Mother just did not want the responsibility of all of us children, and she could hardly run off and leave them with a drunk and call herself a responsible mother, so they tried to get along until we were grown, with mixed results. The fact is, they quarreled until it was almost unbearable.
So I would think anyone could see that I did have to call on God to help me with these family problems, invent him if necessary, all over again, as I believe men have always invented God when they desperately needed him. Perhaps that is how we come to knowledge of God. We see that he has got to exist to help man survive.
A strong belief in an all seeing God is very powerful. I don't presume to understand whether God created me or I created him, but he is a very powerful friend. I gave him attributes I desperately needed. He was there in the darkest hours. Even when I was close to dying, he shone his light and said, "I am here."
I will talk more in future entries on how my beliefs expanded as I encountered more problems in adulthood.


Amrita said...

Your early experiences have pretty much shaped your life Gerry.

I am glad you believe in God.

God is not someone we can conjure up according to our beliefs. We can see Him in the face of Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate.

I want to encourage you to read the 4 gospels.

Gerry said...

Amrita, I also studied the New Testament a full year in Mormon Seminary and Jesus was a big part of my belief system too, as I always thought of him as suffering little children to come unto him. But once you have come to doubt the doctrine of the church you were born into you are just not going to be able to accept all religious beliefs, or at least I couldn't. The Mormon Church is a Christian church accepting Jesus as God I believe with the prophet adding polygamy for example to his revelations which later had to be abandoned in order for Utah to be accepted as a state. I see belief as quite flexible although I know that for some people who accept Jesus as God incarnate belief is not flexible. Utah is a very big territory and to tell the truth I think the intense beliefs about Jesus somewhat got lost among the other beliefs Mormons promoted as unique to the Mormon faith. We just did not talk a lot about Jesus in Church which I attended as a child. In fact, I was quite shocked at how Christians thought and acted in regard to Jesus when I left the state and investigated other Christian churches. I thought some of them terribly extreme. I had devised beliefs of my own in regard to Jesus as well, which I retained after I left the church. I more or less thought of him as a great man but not necessarily God. He has certainly been a God figure for many people but I am not sure what I think I he really is. Mormon belief accepts him as God, but I left that church for not understanding the problems I was dealing with. I did think he would help by virtue of having been a powerful leader on earth and being obviously a man of great power.

Missie said...

I think all of our early years surely shapes what kind of life we'll have. Faith plays a big part also.

Have a good week.


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