I must admit... it seems that I have listened to General Conference more since I left the Church than I did while I was an active member. As an active member, it was all I could do to fit it in. Back then, I viewed General Conference as a much welcomed respite from the constant "do do DO" of the religion and I would begrudgingly set aside the entire weekend, twice a year, to somehow find myself planted in front of the television to partake of the wisdom and Word of God. Once or twice, I got very lucky - usually when visited by members from out of town - to be able to attend Conference at the Tabernacle (back when the Church still held Conference there.) I would dutifully take notes - moreso to stay awake - and would hope to absorb the "thing" that I was searching for to fill the space within me that always seemed empty.
After 32 years - one year after going through the Temple on my own - I realized that that "thing" was never going to show up and I, finally, stopped trying.
Now, being an ex-member and it no longer being a commandment to listen, I am able to listen freely. Now that I choose for myself to watch/listen - instead of being told I must - I am able to hear the messages. Granted, I take it in very small, controlled doses, but every now and then throughout the weekend, I turn it on and listen.
Today, being Sunday of General Conference weekend, the sounds of Conference are filling the living room. My father and his wife seem to be soaking it in and loving it. I feel happy for them because they seem to know that their life is this religion. I have never really been able to understand having a religion - any religion, not just Mormonism - as one person's whole life. However, my father has always lived, breathed, ate and walked Mormonism. It is his passion. He loves it and you can see it in him when he talks about it. As I child, I always wanted that for myself. That seemingly undying love, passion and devotion that he displayed for his religion, I wanted to feel that for the Church, too. So I relied on him to give it to me for a long time, then I strived to find it for myself for a long time. I just never landed in it and realized that something that should have been innate, just wasn't for me. It wasn't a fit. Later on in life, I realized that, even more importantly than wanting that love he displayed for the Church to be something I could feel for the Church, I wanted that love he displayed for the Church to be something he displayed for me. Long ago, I made the decision that my father loves his Church far beyond the depths of his love for me. Be that true or false, I do not know, I only know that is a long-ago formed notion that still runs in my veins.
At any rate, today is Sunday and Conference is on. The morning session began just as I got in my car to go to an appointment. I had a half-hour drive to listen to the ultra-masculine voices of the newly-appointed General Authorities and found myself musing about the possiblity that they choose the Authorities by the sound of their voices. They all sound the same to me. They always have. I wondered as I neared the home of my friends if they would be listening to Conference too, being as they are both also officially disassociated with the Church. Indeed, loud and clear on their fairly large television, there it was. General Conference.
He and I had an interesting discussion about the Conference talks and we watched a few minutes together. I noticed the common hand gestures he had mentioned, although I had never taken note of them before. I listened to the perculiar pauses and intonation of the speakers languaging, picking up on the subtle nuances I had never noticed before. I felt myself being lulled, since I was no longer having to be alert enough to drive. I realized in that moment that there was a lot happening that was purposeful - all geared toward getting me to hear exactly what they wanted me to hear.
I felt uncomfortable with the feeling of being pressed upon.
Then we ventured downstairs, closing the basement door behind us. He and I commented about shutting out the truth and walking down the steps to hell. We laughed and I was aware that my old programming was kicking into high gear - it was bad to joke about something such as that, that I definitely was going to hell and my mere presence there (and with what we had planned for today's activities) was truly enough to get me permanently kicked out of heaven.
The sounds of the Tabernacle Choir wafted beneath the door and down the stairs to where I sat, shuffling the Tarot cards he was about to read for me. I spread them on the table, feeling my Reiki energy kick on high - higher than the programs, bright and clear and protective as I looked at the brilliant blue backs of the Voyager deck before me. I slowly scanned the deck with my left hand, searching for the cards that he and I would work with. I became intensely conscious of the dichotomy of the situation. I felt naughty for playing with "cards" - these specific cards, Tarot cards, witchcraft.
"This is hard," I muttered. "With that music behind me, filling my ears and my body here, choosing cards. I feel really torn between what was and what is."
I could hear him thinking, "It is exactly as it is supposed to be." All he did was grin at me. He knew that I knew.
And there, in the basement, we uncovered the missing piece of me that I have been searching for my whole life. The part that I hoped would come from the one place that I had been taught everything came from - The Church - yet, it never did. In our own way, using the Divine Gifts he and I have been blessed with - the very gifts we had both been damned and excluded for within the religion - we found Me and brought me back together again. He helped me bring to light that part of me that was lost, yet still within me, and screaming to be found for most of my life. We unearthed my "what do I do next" and I left feeling more peaceful, more complete, more heard and more understood than I have ever felt.
I decided on the way home that I will take my hedonistic, heathen ways over the conformity any day now.