Part 1The other day on a post I mentioned how I “hate” the word worthy. In the LDS church it might be the most crippling “doctrine” that it produces.
I truly relate to your pain, Markk, and that of which you project on to women of the church. In the spirit of "honest" discussion, I'm going to share what I consider some sacred pearls to possibly help anyone that can also relate. I hope any Christian tempted to turn around and rend me, will hearken to their "better angels" to receive in the spirit of love, and not contention.
I remember in my youth watching the movie "Godly Sorrow" and walking away guilty. It really does a crap job of explaining repentance.
I suffered severe depression growing up. I seriously pondered suicide a year or two after I got married. I only stopped from taking the leap because I believe a ministering angel said "consider your life over, and give your life to God now." That was a turning point for me.
Then, about five years after that, later I made a transgression that seriously threatened my marriage, it wasn't in quite the threshold of adultery, but pretty darn close. At the time, I couldn't understand the meaning of existence. I was living in poverty trying to finish my college degree while supporting my wife and two babies, and working two jobs. Life just felt like work, work, work. And when I pondered existence, even if I did everything "right", all that would mean is an assurance of more work. So, I was like "What's the point?", if I see a good time and escape, I may as well take it. Hell looked more desirable than what I understood "Celestial Glory". I wanted out. Yet, because of the love for my kids. I couldn't quite make the jump.
When my wife and I explained the situation to the bishop, he told me I had a lot of knowledge, and I had a testimony, but I was never "converted". I felt like I HAD to do things, but I never WANTED to do things. I was living in "duty" not "love".
In my youth, even though I had a a deeply moving spiritual experience while in High School that letting me know Jesus was my Savior, I had gotten through Seminary living off sensational quotes of conference talks, and always preferred watching the videos instead of having a discussion centered around the scriptures. I went to church seeking to get motivated by the teachers, not really seeking to help lift others. All the while, I thought I knew the scriptures, but I never really immersed myself in them. I was "performing" to please others, not seeking to please God. Or, rather, I looked at others (my parents, church leaders, etc.) as a lens to view God. If others we're happy, then God was pleased. In other words, my religion consciously or sub-consciously, my worship was always self-serving, seeking the acceptance of others and not God.
It took me years after that meeting with the bishop to understand the meaning of conversion. When the light came on, for a while, I could recognize the cultural ills of the church. Like you, I despised how the word "worthy", and people would make statements about their lack of worthiness. For example, a friend's mom died, and she said "I hope one day I'll be worthy enough to be able to live with her again." Statements like that give me strong mixed emotions of sorrow, anger, and embarrassment of the group I claim to belong to. The line between culture and true religion get extremely blurred.
As a youth, though I listened to Church leaders, I never did it for myself. I was always doing it for others. I always had fairly good church attendance, but I rarely showed up for personal scripture study, and when I did scripture study, I felt just so proud of myself. I was "Charlie Brown"-ing my spiritual journey. "This is it! This is my experience! This is where I turn the page." Only to fumble the ball again, and again. On a personal basis, I was confusing true worship with religiosity.
When it comes down to it, what compelled me to get past my screwed up mindset and the harmful cultural influences is the power of covenants. I made a promise to God that meant something to me, that I was never going to break. I had received a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and I knew that God knew that I knew it. I received a testimony of Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I knew that God knew that I knew it. And despite whatever social influence, or logical reasoning, or personal behavior that confounded the conviction of my spiritual witnesses, I have always felt I had to honor my covenants, and yeah, the relationships of family and friends also had an impact. Eventually, I saw the light. I never gave up. I thirsted and hungered for truth, while also enduring in faith. If I wanted to "make it work" I had to study the scriptures, not for anyone's benefit but only for my own, and, in due time, that's when the light of understanding helped me truly unlock the power of the gospel and personal transformation, where my personal mountains were no longer impossible to overcome. "Perfection" is not un-attainable - as 1 Nephi 3:7 teaches - God provides the way if you're seeking His will.