Thursday, October 1

Nothing in Return

“A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.” - Bhagavad Gita

Living a life daily at Moriah's altar is a heart-wrenching experience. Ironically, for such a sacred venue it doesn't feel sanctified at all. I stand without hope, at a lonely, painful and exposed place that couldn't feel further away from God. He gives me the choice, to know that at any moment I can walk down from the mount: forget the pain, leave behind the loneliness and find someone who loves me and gives me reason to smile every day for the rest of my life. He's taken away the hope of both finding some ram in the thicket and also, more painfully, of seeing some sign that all this sacrifice is accepted by Him. And the longer I stay the more damage I do--the less I become a happy person, the more pain I inflict upon my psyche, the less I am able to look beyond myself to see the needs of others, loving less the God who asks me to stand there like a fool.

A couple weeks ago I visited the Sacred Grove. I can say honestly that I know much of how Joseph must have felt as he walked onto that hallowed ground--unsure of which path to take, confused by different voices calling in every direction. And to a small extent, to have hope and faith that like Joseph, God would answer the prayer of a young man so confused, and so earnest, and so humbled. Despite my righteous desire to know God's will, despite my faith that He would answer, despite the fact that He should have answered, I left feeling empty, unsure of everything.

Instead of some great victory or triumph, I am forced to live a life of daily failure. Of constantly believing that no matter how much I am asked to give--how much I try to give--it is not enough, nor will it ever be. One step forward, and two steps back. Even with my best efforts I'm still further away then I have ever been.

I fully expect that at some point in my life my Church membership will be taken from me. Despite sacrificing more than I think I ever could as I walk in the darkness toward Him, I know that eventually I'll make a mistake (how could I not when at every moment of my life I desire to?) and an unsympathetic bishop will convene a council of unsympathetic men that will tell me--in the name of God--that my all wasn't nearly good enough.

God says He wants my heart, but when I try to offer it to Him, He won't take it. I plead with Him almost daily to just rip it out, take it from me. It doesn't work right. Instead of one final blow though, He insists on pulling, pressing and pounding it so I can feel poignantly the bruised organ beating in my body. He leaves me a broken heart, seemingly to remind me of the hurt caused by mistaken promises, to let me have a taste of what it might be like to feel love, and then to ache for it, knowing it will never be fulfilled.

And the 'eternal reward'? There is no reward for constant failure. Scripture makes it clear that God will not except a blemished sacrifice--but I have nothing else to offer. And so I stand at the altar, placing on it everything I want and think I need. Binding there my desires for love and romance and family. Giving Him my happiness and my hope.

There is no "ram caught in a thicket" (Genesis 22:13) here, nor is there the God who asks all this of me.


  1. Once again you have succeeded at painting the picture inside my heart, better than I could even do so myself. I'm so grateful to you and all that you give when you pen something like this. Thank you.

  2. Mark in some ways what you wrote reminds me of the things that the Prophet Joseph penned while locked in Liberty Jail.

    The thing that bothers me is that while you write about doing things out of faith, I also sort of sense that you are acting with out hope.

    Choice is a wonderful thing. If we ponder it. We are in charge. I feel sometimes we would rather surrender it and accept the fact that we don't have control. But God may not explain everything to us, but he gives us a choice.

    I would be willing to bet that if I were to ask anyone who really knows you that they would say you have blessed their lives with love and compassion. I only wish you would allow yourself the same love.

    In my life I've found that I've sometime wasted my time and God's time asking him things that I already know. I know I know these things because I wouldn't be motivated to ask them if I didn't already know that I believed.

    I know that for myself this is a journey. If God was to give me all the answers then what would be the point of trying. I need to learn, fall, get back up, try again, refine, learn and relearn and not give up.

    And sometimes ironically while the Lord may not accept blemished sacrifices. He will accept those things that would blemish us. Those things are often the things that only the atonement can fix. Those are the things he is asking for us to place on the alter.

    There is a God. You know that in your heart, if you didn't know that you wouldn't fear failing. But remember he also loves you probably as much as you doubt yourself now, and yes probably even more.

  3. We are blessed to have free agency in this life whether we pick great things, good things, or not so good things. But we have a choice!

    I was reading the A Crow's view comment and I have to say I am one of those blessed people to have had you in my life. Seriously; I totally mean it. Your willingness to serve and give has been a great example to me. And your creative ways of thinking have brightened my life many many times. Thank you for being a great example and friend!

  4. Hey Mark,

    Really man, I read this and just wanted to give you a strong and loving hug. I do wish that we had actually met by now; however, from the things that you write about and the way that you write about them, I'm more than positive that you've impressed God time and again with the efforts and achievements you've brought to your altar. Your guess is as good as mine as to why He's not made this absolutely clear to you. I've got no doubt that you're constantly aware of the reasons that you are not perfect, but, you also need to be aware that the rest of everyone is just as far from perfect as you are.

    Some would call me an apostate for saying this, but, I don't think that God expects us to all reach the same level of achievement in this life. Love God, love your fellow man (hehe, pun intended), and love yourself. A few comments have mentioned choice - well, it's only some of our life that we choose. A good part of it is not up to us. So, where you face options, choose in a way that you feel is consistent with your heart and soul and then don't be ashamed of it. If you make a mistake, don't forsake yourself. You don't forsake others if they make mistakes, as a matter of fact, you expect that they will! So, no double standards here! PLEASE HEAR ME: you're not alone, you're not a failure, and you've given God and people many reasons to be proud of you. If in anyway you belonged to me, I'd be damn proud of you. And I'd not rest till I had made you see why and made you come to the point that you could be proud of yourself.

    As far as feeling alone/estranged from God and forsaken by Him. Your guess is as good as mine. I can't find Him. And, as I'm sure you do, I blame me - because our perfect God couldn't be at fault and it's only assumable that our relationship with Him should always be close. I don't know, maybe try to fill the void in your heart by being close to the things He's given you. Feel the wind and ponder the messages that are carried on it, let the closeness with dear friends and family members reach deeper into your heart, or whatever else might work to fill your heart with something of sustaining substance. I'm finding much the same as you are when I look at my altar. I've left my knees and think about my altar often - I check it occasionally to see if maybe there is some change to the way I left it, some hint that there is anybody but me even aware of it's existence.

    But, what I can do is work to be good, keep in mind that I can't accept others' mistakes and refuse my own, and try to believe others when they say that I'm an ok person.

    Do something like that for yourself, or something else that will work for you. Mark, you are a good person and your heart and soul are visible in the things that you write about. Try to take my word and the words of other comments on your blog, we appreciate and love you because there is so much about you that is more than worthy of appreciating and loving.

    Sorry for going on and on, but I love you man, because you've done a lot for me. Love you Mark.

  5. I don't think God has rejected your heart. Your cultural bias of what Mormism is versus what it should be has created this huge conflict in your mind and perhaps even your heart. We cannot cross this bridge at this time. We can however go to God with our heart. He is bigger than the institutional church. He awaits for the time when their hearts will soften.

  6. I have just stumbled upon your blog and I was reading your other posts, and I want you to know that no amount of change will make God love you more, because he loves you so much now, and he will continue to love you for all of eternity. I am not mormon, just a non denominational christian, and I believe that God loves us, flaws and all. We all have fallen short of the glory of God, it doesn't matter what our "crime" is. But I do want to leave you with this verse, it has just helped me through time of heartache and I hope it does the same for you:
    The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit - psalm 34:18

  7. Dude. I love you. I know how hard this time has been for you. All I can say is remember the time when you were on the msh. None of us were perfect Elders... do what you can and let the Lord handle the rest. Let the Atonement into your life and have faith in it. So many people love you and think you are wonderful.... focus on the now and don't stress things to far ahead.

  8. good talk in conference last week about how God doesn't expect you to do more than you can do, because that is not just. He also doesn't expect that you do less than your best because that is not just either. don't hate yourself mark for your failures. if we are trying to do the best that we can then we can be pefect in Christ. you are very hard on yourself. anyone who knows you or has known you must tell you all the time how great you are and how you have blessed their lives. you are often in my thought and prayers mark and even if you haven't felt it, God has not left you alone. continue to have hope and faith. i luv ya lots and remember you can always call me when you need a friend!