Thursday, February 28, 2013

Call Me

Well kids, I’m both incredibly excited and somewhat scared to write this. I guess I'll just come out with it:
I’ve turned in my papers. I’m going on a mission!
Yup. How many people were expecting that? Can I get a show of hands?
Sometimes I suspect that everyone knew but me.

How I got here? It's a long story. One that I'm still working out. If you'd told me last summer that I'd be turning in mission papers, I would have slapped you silly and said that was as likely to happen as Mittens becoming president or the world ending on December 21. But here I am. And I feel so incredibly good about it.

I realize this must seem very out of the blue. I haven’t talked to many people about it, because at a certain point between going to church and deciding to go on a mission, I realized something pivotal: this is nobody’s journey but my own. I’ve always felt pushed and pulled in various directions by the Mormons, ex-Mormons, and non-Mormons in my life. Partially, that’s because I grew up in Utah where everyone has an opinion about the Mormon church, but it was mostly just my own illusions and sensitivity. At any rate, getting past that changed things for me. Once I understood that it really wasn’t anyone else’s decision (or business, really), I set about finding out where I stood when I was alone. And what I found is that I am a Mormon, through and through.

I know it’s a long way from where I’ve been to the statement I am a Mormon, through and through and to be honest, I'm not sure exactly when I got on this path. Looking back now, it seems that I was always on it, because I can’t imagine how I would have gotten here except the way I came. If I think about it, I suppose I really started heading toward a mission when I got to college (ironically enough).

I got here and I finally wasn’t pushing back against the church or the other things I’d grown up with, simply because they weren’t present. For a while, it was fun to not have to be a Mormon. And by a while, I mean less than a month. Then I started really missing it, which deep down, I think I always knew I would. But it was more than missing it, because I was also missing my home and my friends and my family, and that was different than how I felt about church. About church it felt deeper, and with some kind of inner tension and dissidence.

Around this time was general conference, when the policy was changed to allow women to go on missions at 19. The moment I heard about the new policy, I felt this powerful feeling that I needed to go. It was one of those moments of surety such as I have rarely experienced. But it also scared the hell out of me. I'd never thought of a mission as being something for me. I wasn't sure I was a Mormon.

So there I was. For a while, I really fought the feeling, because it wasn't what I thought I wanted. It certainly wasn't what I thought my path looked like. But I prayed hard about it, and allowed myself to contemplate and sincerely consider the church more seriously than I ever had before. And I got my answer and decided I would go. In that moment of decision I felt peace such as I've never felt before. I felt aligned. I felt like I'd stopped fighting myself, like all this conflict and anger inside me had melted away. I was so thrilled by the path ahead. There was such an enormity of purpose.

Since then, I've been forging my way. I think the best way I can describe what it's been like is what I wrote in my journal soon after I’d decided to go: I’m not always totally sure of what I’m doing, but I know that it feels so right, and I follow that.

As I was figuring this whole thing out, I of course I made it to church. I realized that whether or not a mission was on the table I wanted the church to be part of my life; it’s who I am, and I love that. Living with faith matters a lot to me. So I planted my feet, and worked hard to figure out how I would be part of the church. My second Sunday I went to introduce myself to the Bishop. We were talking, and at some point, I remember saying, “I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted. It’s taken me a while to get here. But I’m here now, and I’m here to stay.”

One of the things that has been most meaningful to me is finding that I do have a spot in this church. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like there isn’t room for me as I am. But I no longer believe that. I’m in the church because this is where my heart has led me and I, too, belong. I will never be fit that ultra-orthodox, vague, misconstrued notion of what a real Mormon is. That’s not who I am, but that’s just fine, because I absolutely believe what Joanna Brooks once wrote: “this world needs Mormon women like you – with brains, education, opportunity, guts, compassion, a pioneer work ethic, and the burning-in-your-heart conviction that this life is really about spiritual growth.”

Getting ready to go on a mission has of course been hard work. I’ve had to start figuring out some big things. But it’s also been difficult because I'm literally the only Mormon at Swat. Me. (Talk about diversity). It’s different than it was at home, because on the daily I'm very much going it on my own. Being Mormon has become an individual effort on a whole new level. But I think that's been really good, because I’ve learned how to make the church my own.

Clearly, I don’t know everything about the church. Though I have developed a testimony of many things, there are also still lots and lots of other things I struggle with. What I’ve found is that I’m happier being in the church and dealing with those things from that perspective than making them deal-breaker reasons to leave the church, because on my deepest level, I do believe. And I have faith that there is a way for me to deal with those things eventually.

In the meantime, I move forward with a deep belief that I’m happier and my life is easier when I follow my Heavenly Father’s template for my life. That thus far the Lord has not led me astray. That my Heavenly Father loves me. Not in a cliché, pamphlet-y, as-long-as-you-don’t-sin way, but in a way that is personal and soft and sincere and meaningful. In a way that involves knowing me, listening to me, and being part of in my life. In a way that is unconditional, even when unconditional love seems like an incredibly illogical concept.

I’m a different person compared to who I was last year. The past several months have brought me enormous joy and peace, have made me quieter and kinder. I have learned about obedience and living with faith, and I have seen miracles in my life and myself. I’m going on a mission because I have this testimony, and because I haven’t always had it. I’m going on a mission because I believe completely that God’s love and Atonement are infinitely extended to everyone. I’m going on a mission to share these things that I’ve come to believe and that have changed everything for me.

Though there are times when I’m still pretty terrified, I am absolutely sure this is the right thing for me. Obviously, I don’t know where I’ll get called to (can we just acknowledge the complete surrender of control in being willing to live for 18 months wherever a piece of paper tells you to go?) In many ways, I’m hoping to stay in the States. When I think about myself as a missionary I can’t help feeling that, for whatever reason, stateside is where I’ll be most effective. Maybe it’s because the English language is one of my best friends - we work pretty well together - and I’d like to keep it up. But I know that wherever I get sent will be the right place (though please, please, please don’t let the right place be a visitor’s center). I trust that it will be, partly because of this scripture that I’ve held firmly to and that has become my favorite as I’ve been getting ready for a mission: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever” (2 Nephi 4:34).

5 comments:

  1. I love the way you continue to surprise.

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  2. That you discovered you were Mormon "through and through" didn't surprise me. Nor was I surprised that you figured out there was a place for women like us in the Church. You have had plenty of us who have tried to model that for you. That you figured this out so quickly when you were on your own is the only surprise. Keep me posted.

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  3. Hannah Pugh, I love you. This is a tremendous decision and I know it's one you have not taken lightly. Trust me, there is room in the church for all kinds of women, and you are one woman that the church dearly needs. Badly. Very badly. One that will speak up and say what needs to be said in the moments when no one dares say it but when it absolutely is vital. That is you. Please stay the spunky, feisty, slightly irreverent and always ready to raise a little Hell woman that I grew to know and respect. As I read your post I was going to suggest you read some Joanna, then when you mentioned her somehow it was not a surprise. I am seeing her tomorrow at UVU. It will be a great thing for you to follow through on this decision. Let me know in anyway that I can help you. You have my gratitude and support forever.

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  4. I think grandpa Haag is gonna burst with happiness.

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  5. Respect Hannah. Respect. You are going to be fabulous. I mean that from the bottom of my heart- you are the kind of person I would want teaching me. You are completely unique so don't ever change. - Ale

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