I was participating in one of my church meetings Sunday morning when a gentleman stood up and spoke about a personal question: Could I stand on my own if I needed to?
Whether in or out of a religious context, this question fascinates me. I love mysteries. I love finding new things out about myself. I love bringing to the surface new strengths and weaknesses and then exploring them to find and develop my opinions on them. I love seeing how they impact my life, both actively and passively, and then how I choose to incorporate them, either consciously or subconsciously.
To approach the religious side of this question first, I feel it necessary to share personal revelations with you for you to better get a grasp of what I’m exploring.
I have a profound and lasting love for God. I am rooted in my religion, and I carry with me a personal testimony of truths, both righteous and evil, that have surfaced along the rigors of what life I’ve allowed in thus far. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and proud to say so. I eagerly attend my meetings, and I enjoy fulfilling those responsibilities that have been asked of me.
I believe in Jesus Christ, as the Son of the Living God. I believe in the Father, who along with our Mother, gave purpose and life to our spirits before creating for us this earth and its physical bearing. I know that Father is our Eternal and Heavenly Father and the author of our souls. I know that He gave everything to Christ, who in turn took it upon Himself to see our Father’s will and mission achieved; that is, Christ bore the world’s sins, atoned for every creature, overcame death to stand forever as the first-fruits of the resurrection, and provided us an astonishing complete perfection so that we could return home. I believe in the Holy Ghost, a man of spirit who accepted the call to act as a testimony of the Father, and the Son, and spends all his time confirming truth and sharing the love and will of Father to every person who would desire it.
I believe in the love of God.
So when I heard this man on Sunday—one of the general authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—give this question, I paused and reflected.
I have come to acknowledge that while living on this earth we need people. Being alone is not something we are predisposed to be able to sustain. I know, for me, I love solitude and have often contemplated disappearing and moving into the mountains where no one could find me. Lacking that action, and conceding to reality, I still stick around, but I have learned to disappear from the space around me. Often my closest friends will go months without seeing or hearing from me.
But throughout my efforts in remaining aloof, God repeats to me the importance of others. I need people, no matter how much I might wish to the contrary. And they need me. So take the question of, “Could I stand alone?” and approach it from this context. In a world of people, where it’s impossible to go throughout life without creating at least one relationship and imagine how a person could, in fact, be alone. Then, perhaps, ask yourself if you’d want to, given the specific set of circumstances.
Religiously, standing alone seems pretty clear-cut to me. I recognize my beliefs aren’t universally accepted or appreciated, and I have no desire to force them or swindle myself onto another individual. I do, however, find it relevant for others to know what it is I stand for, and how I choose to embrace and forge my way into life. To be a disciple of Christ, almost regrettably, requires one to stand alone. When I faced this opposing view in my mind and heart, I realized, “I’m ok with that.”
To explain why I feel so firm in this, let me bring to bear aspects of my testimony that I have experienced and know to be true. I know them for many reasons, but primarily because of my seeing the difference between the experience and myself; or, instead, knowing that what I’m about to share was not a creature of my own creation at the time it happened, but a separate moment that came about and developed around me, influencing me and not necessarily the other way around.
With the dark, God has allowed evil to play a prominent role in my life, but not through other people; He has allowed evil itself to harass and attack me. I have seen, heard, felt, dreamt, and faced the dark side of the veil. Paralyzing fear has been brought against me, while shadows danced in my waking vision along the deep recesses and corners of my room in the forecasted hours of the morning. In dreams, I have met distinct and impressionable spirits, men and women, tormented by their lot which was brought about by their own damnation, who have sought for the destruction of my soul.
Indeed, I have even met Lucifer himself on many occasion, as he sought me out in critical moments, hoping to sway my loved ones and me from the light. I carry immense sadness with some of these moments, knowing that he has succeeded at times in his endeavors.
But every time darkness has weighed its fear upon me, I have sought out the light and found protection and power. Satan and his angels fear and hate us for what we represent, but they only have mastery over us if we give it to them. However, they have been given authority to torment and nightmare humanity. But even they obey Father and Christ, whose authority and glory supersede that of any kind of darkness. Only through relying on the arm of Christ are these malignant forces conquered, and only through the Priesthood of God and humility in recognizing the role of the Savior can they be commanded. This I know.
But I praise God in His wisdom for me in this thing, as Lucifer handed me proof of my testimony on a silver platter. By knowing the darkness, I know the light. One cannot exist without the other, and for all that evil attempts to fill our vision with doubt, fear, anxiety, and hatred should we but turn around to the dawn their vast illusion becomes trivial. They sought to overpower me by creating the illusion that they were the end-all-be-all, and that their shadow only held dominion on this earth.
Oh, how wrong they are.
For I tell you that I have felt the immense presence of God’s Holy Spirit fill my chest with such magnificence as to make all the years of Satan’s efforts seem as a weak flame, blown out at a distant sneeze. It is a feeling that exists beyond me, yet resides always and forever if I seek after Him and commit to the light and righteousness.
In my later teenage years, and while I was in my twenties, I spent time acting and caravanning on movie sets, and I had the idea that since actors are puppeteers of emotion, I should attempt to recreate and force the emotion of the Spirit, just to see if I can. Ladies and gentlemen, not only did I fail, but I was reminded at how pure, and necessary God’s Spirit is to life. Every time I tried to “create the spirit,” I was left hollow; He actually retreated more from me, and I was left to myself. Efforts at feeling the peace and love He always brought were so insignificant that I realized just how powerless I was, but also how giving and plentiful God is with His gifts.
In summary, the presence of God is not a fancy of man’s invention, nor is He a brainchild of the brainwashed or destitute. I testify with boldness and clarity that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and the Holy Ghost is given to men to bear truthful witness of things heavenly and eternal. All those who mock and scorn the followers of Christ for being blind, ignorant, bogus, or any other plethora of insults, are those who merely have not allowed themselves to feel the tremendous joy that is the love of God.
This is why, when I heard the question, I found confidence in myself and believed that yes, I could if I needed to. Because what I have isn’t reliant on the masses, but on the still, small voice that speaks to me that which I long to hear.
So now we come to the non-religious aspect of this question, and I find this side much easier to understand. I simply have to be myself. For me, this is easy, because I’ve taken the time to uncover who Bryce Hess is, and I’m leaving room for all the discoveries I’ve yet to make and clarity I’ve still to obtain. I can stand on my own because I’ve accepted what I am and what I am not. I can stand on my own because I know that I need people, and people need me. I don’t need to be what people want me to be, or even need me to be. And I don’t need people to be something they’re not, or what I hope them to be.
There is joy in what I pursue, and there are smiles and laughter in those I call family and friends. I am a life no more important than any others, but I am so very important because I want to be. I am important because my life matters.
At the end of all this “ponderation” and “critical thinkingness,” I’ve undertaken this week, I am left with a simple answer to this question.
Could I stand alone?
Yes. Because all I have to do is be me. And I really enjoy being me.