Sunday, May 13, 2007

I gave a talk today, oh boy...

I gave a talk today about motherhood. It went over very well--I don't think anyone noticed that I didn't do the typical "bear my testimony" bit at the end, nor did I actually use any scriptures. (I did use quite a few GA quotes though.) I got very emotional toward the end, which tends to happen every time I speak in church about something I care about.

Not long ago I would have attributed these feelings to "the Spirit." Now I have every reason to believe they come from me, like all of my other feelings. But for what purpose? I can give an "objective" purpose for love (procreation), fear (self-preservation), or hope (also self-preservation). But getting choked up in a talk? Less clear. But then, jealousy, excitement, pity, and frustration are also less clear. We obviously can assign whatever meanings we want to the things we feel, but I would expect that there should be some evolutionary advantage for any common feelings (although they could always be spandrels).

I told my wife that it was my "Good for Society" feeling. In other words, the feelings that choked me up were similar to those I feel when singing the national anthem with a group, or watching Extreme Home Makeover, where they renovate a home to help a suffering family. To that end, these feelings seem to serve a very useful purpose--preservation of the tribe, with preservation of the individual as a result. I don't think she thought that was nearly as inspirational as attributing them to the Creator of the Universe. I have to agree, my "Good for Society" feeling isn't the kind of thing you find in songs or poems.

Perhaps I would agree with the statement, "the Spirit testifies of the goodness of something," but not "of the truth of something." That's getting pretty metaphorical, since I don't literally believe in a disembodied supernatural being that plays with my emotions. In this case, though, a more correct way to put it would be, "the Spirit testifies the goodness of something, as I define good, and as I understand the something." When referring to this particular feeling, I can't count on the Spirit to correct me in either the definition of good or in my understanding of reality. But I can still seek out the feeling.

Believers will doubtless point out that, to them, the Spirit does send sudden thoughts into their minds to correct misunderstandings, etc. That I find much easier to explain, given the fact that so much of our brains work is done subconsciously, with the conscious mind seeming to more, perhaps, tell a story about what is happening (even though it thinks it's in control). For more on this, I refer you to the great essay, A Ghost in the Machine.

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21 Comments:

Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I blubbered through the entire talk the last time I gave one. It was a mixture of multiple factors that made me cry:

1. My family was the only scheduled speakers for all of sacrament meeting. That meant me, my 12 year old son, and my 7 year old daughter. I was scared to death that my 20 minute talk had to stretch into 40.

2. I LOATHE public speaking.

3. The organist played the wrong song in the first hymn, and stopped two lines into it and apologized and started over. I took it as an omen.

4. PMS. Need I say more?

5. My non-mo husband refused to come after he saw my written talk. The subject was Family. I thought, what kind of valid speaker am I that my family isn't even here in full, yet I have to talk about family??

6. My LDS family growing up was the most dysfunctional one I knew.

Later I found out there were tons of people who said no when asked to speak on families, knowing how difficult it is to talk on something that emotional. Silly me for never, ever saying no. Ugh.

May 14, 2007 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I do wonder, uj, why you did agree to speak. As SML points out, people say no all the time. I get told no by plenty of people when I'm looking for speakers. I mean, if you have such a problem with the church, why agree to speak? That's all I wondered.

May 14, 2007 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Maybe he has no problem with mothers, or women, Robert. He wasn't asked to speak on the church.

May 14, 2007 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

I shouldn't add anything to SML's brilliant response, but I will anyway.

After the talk, two people (one male and one female) pulled me aside (and later my wife) to say that it was the best Mother's Day talk that they had ever heard. Both individuals were over 50, so they've heard a few. Another woman thanked me for making the day a holiday, rather than another day to go home guilty. By the end of the day I was getting truly embarassed by the ward response. What made my talk so "spiritually" powerful? I was able to constructively criticize some of the teachings of the modern church, particularly as they place extreme burdens on mothers, then follow it with the more hopeful message. If I hadn't come to a greater understanding of the nature of the church I would never have given this talk. So my broader (although still incomplete) understanding has allowed me to help others.

And isn't that what this is all about?

May 14, 2007 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

:) I wish you could email me a copy of your talk, Uj. I'd like to be uplifted too.

May 14, 2007 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Sounds like a good talk. You sounded like you dreaded having to give it, and felt that it was a hard one to give. I just wondered why agreed to give it because, again, plenty of people decline to speak when I ask them. If you wanted to give the talk, then so be it, but if you didn't want to, I'm sure you could've asked off.

The first talk I ever gave in the church was on Mother's Day, with my non-member mother in attendance. The most common comment I got was "I've never heard someone talk about all the mothers in the scriptures." So the criticism of people not hearing enough about women may be entirely valid. I'm glad your talk was well received and appreciated. Kudos to you for preparing an uplifting talk.

May 15, 2007 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

I enjoyed your attempt to explain away the Spirit and reduce it down to mere physiological responses based on previous perceptions and experiences. Bravo.

Of course there is nothing anyone can say to argue your point. As you said, it's strictly a personal thing that you have to decide for yourself. Maybe you just have never had the right experience.

Maybe if you took some time away from building your temporal Ramiumpton (sp) an focusing so much on what is wrong with Church, and really engaged with the Lord on a heart felt spiritual quest to establish again a relationship with him you might change your mind....or should I say your heart.

I am sorry you took my posting on your last topic as hostile. Perhaps I was impatient as I typed my words. But, I find it strange of someone who feels and thinks as you do to carry on what I would call a farse with your continued involvement in a religion that you revile here on the net.

May 15, 2007 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Uj,

I realize two threads ago, I failed to answer your question about where a certain thread was. Unfortunately the man took his entire blog down when I decided not to be converted by his ideas. Honestly, that was a very bizarre result of a very long stream of back and forth comments, but so it goes. I take it you chose not to write on the topic, which is fine. I just realized I did not answer you about where it was. It was already gone when I had made the post here about that thread.

May 16, 2007 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Shadow Spawn may be somewhat blunt in how he asked, but he raised an excellent point. If you think the church is so terrible, how could you allow your children to be taught by it? I remember that being one of the questions my then-friend, now-wife asked me when I was investigating the church. She asked, "If we had kids together, would you have a problem with me teaching them what I believe?" I said I did not, and she asked why I had a problem with it. One might call that a logical trap, but she really wanted to understand how I could accept teaching my future children something I found to be utterly wrong. She was right, in the sense that I would not allow my children to be taught incorrect principles, even if it meant they got the right ones along the way. The problem that can arise, in my perspective, is that a child can associate the good principles with the wrong ones. If they build their belief in being moralistic on their belief in a false image of God, then that moral code might vanish right along with their belief should they ever be confronted with the falsehood of their God. Honestly, I see youth that were raised in churches (LDS or otherwise) follow this pattern all the time. A preacher does something terribly wrong, and the child becomes disillusioned with their faith in that church or what it teaches about God, and soon that child is involved in all manner of disreputable acts. Does it happen every time? Absolutely not, but it happens many times. Yes, one can make the argument that the child was never really a believer, or their faith wasn't strong enough, but that's not my point. I'm saying that when a child builds their belief system on something that is wrong, then it is not uncommon for them to fall into terrible habits when they realize what they based their beliefs on was a fallacy.

To be clear, I am not encouraging you to leave the church. I am simply following shadow spawns very logical questions up and suggesting you really consider what the implications of your choices are.

May 16, 2007 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I find it interesting when LDS people (or people of any religion) seem to assume that without the religion, morals automatically go down the drain.

If Uj or I or Robert have taught our children right from wrong, and to follow the golden rule, then leaving a church behind is not going to cause our children to suddenly become monsters with no ethics or morals. I remember thinking the same way. It's a myth that without the church your inner compass crumbles. Nonsensical myth.

If anything, mine is stronger than ever. I've never felt more goodwill toward everyone, LDS or not, as I have since leaving the religion behind. I've never been less judgemental. I've never felt more giving and forgiving than I do now.

Terrible habits don't suddenly befall a child or an adult when they quit going to church. My sister has issues with the church as well, and yet she goes and takes her three daughters with her because she said, "How will they learn right from wrong??"

Um, you will teach them, in words and example, just as you've been doing all along. Just as millions of non-LDS people do every day.

Easy. And maybe, just maybe, your girls will grow up without feeling like they must cater to the men in all things, because they preside always and God wants it that way.

May 16, 2007 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Sml,

I did not say it is a foregone conclusion that children will lose their morals when they quit going to church. It is a verifiable fact that many have. Famous stories from the two most religious kids I went to high school with: one's parents wondered why his grades were low so they showed up unannounced and found him in his dorm room with a naked girl and a haze of marijuana, the other guy loved to sport his nipple rings at parties and swore like a sailor. And no, they were not "nice boys" with a few bad habits at this point. They were wild party animals looking to sin every way they knew how. I know plenty more stories like that about kids who never bought into religion. I also know plenty who did just what I said in my previous post: they became disillusioned with their church because of something a pastor did (or, in another case, a father was falsely accused of) and made a definite effort to sin in every way they could imagine. My point is not that people cannot have a moral code without a church; I know too many friends who have strong morals but consider themselves agnostic or atheist. My point is that basing one's morals on something false, then it can have a catastrophic effect when he or she is confronted with the falsehood of the underlying concept (in this case, uj apparently does not believe in the church but lets his kids be taught by it). I know people who have left churches and been just fine from it, but I know plenty who have wandered the wayward path for years before finding a basic moral compass of their own again. I am not speaking as a lifetime member of the church who assumes the church is the only way to find God (otherwise, how would I have ever converted) nor do I think God is the only way to have good moral standards. I am speaking as a person who has watched friends destroy themselves when they lost faith in the church they based their morals on.

May 16, 2007 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Robert,
You are much more eloquent than I. Thanks for helping to make clear my points.

What I'm really driving at is if you don't believe in the Church anymore than have the moral conviction to stand up for what you truly believe walk away, get on with your life and leave the Church alone, instead of whining about nitpicking little things on the internet. Why go to a church you don't believ in? ESPECIALLY THE MORMON CHURCH! I can see being a Catholic and not really believing, but still going to Easter Mass for the sake of tradition. But to continue to attend a church like the LDS church with it's so-called bigotry, segregationism, and restrictivenss makes absolutely no sense to me. Heaven forbid your children actually gain testimonies of the Church from their attendance! Then What do you do?

How far does the the little act go? You mentioned that you maintain your priesthood, a calling, and give talks in Sacrament meeting. What else? Do you partake of the Sacrament? Attend the Temple? Will you baptize your children? Do you teach classes? Do you give father's blessings to your kids? Do you raise your hand in ward and stake conferences to sustain the leaders of the Church?

These are legitimate questions to ask someone who has come to the conclusions you claiim to have come to, but still attends church. If your Bishopric was aware of your blog would they have asked you to speak to the whole congregation under the guise that you were a "worthy member in good standing"?

May 16, 2007 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Robert, sorry to hear about the strange antics of your acquaintance. I haven't posted on this because purely theological discussions hold less appeal to me than they used to--it all seems like angels on the head of a pin.

SS, I'm curious why you feel like you know me and my situation so well from reading a few pages worth of blog postings. It's not like this is the ultimate repository of all of my thoughts and experiences.

And to both of you, isn't it obvious that my wife still believes the church is the best place to be? My wife is more important than my church--I will raise my children to approach morality independent of God and religion, so that they will make humanistically moral decisions regardless of their ultimate relationship with the church.

I could ask either of you, who undoubtedly see the "world" as a bad place, why you haven't moved to a bunker in northern Idaho. We move in societies that we don't ideologically agree with all the time. You probably send your kids to a school where teachers have very different beliefs than yours. You probably have neighbors with very different beliefs, but they're still in your neighborhood. That's just a reality of modern life.

In closing, SS, you still appear to be judging rather than trying to understand. As such, I see no need to answer your questions; however, I will tell you that I have given priesthood blessings to my wife, a believer, who knows that I do not believe. I have given parental blessings, not invoking the priesthood, to my son, who reacted in the way one would expect after a comforting blessing. My extremely devout in-laws have asked me to participate in ordinances, fully aware of my worldview. So maybe the church, with all it's 4 million or so active members, is not as homogenous in these views as you would like to imagine it.

I see no more need to share my complete worldview with local leaders than they feel a need to share the Church Handbook of Instructions with me. I learned secret-keeping from one of the best organizations on the planet!

May 16, 2007 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

The difference between sending my children to school and sending them to Sunday School is the first one is a choice of a public school, and I can make it clear to my children that they do not have to accept the world view of their teachers. Taking them to a church that teaches them it is the "true church" and letting them see me raise my hand when I am asked to show I will sustain something is quite different. By tithing to that church, I give it financial support. By giving of my time (and therefore sacrificing it away from my children) I am giving it more support. If my children watch me support that church, then they are more likely to follow that church than they might be to listen to a teacher who I may or may not openly support. I have sat in a Sunday School class and told my students to be wary of a particular teacher whose class they would be entering because she was incompetent in the subject. I told them this from my own observance and from quite a few others' experiences of that teacher. I was rebuked by her for questioning her, and I told my students "Thank you for telling her what I thought. Now tell her not to bother my mother again and to speak to me directly if she has a problem with what I tell her students." So you see, even when I am teaching other people's children, I do not automatically support their public school teachers. As my children progress, I plan to take a very active role in knowing their teachers and helping my children learn through them or despite them. I had wonderful teachers through most of my education, but I certainly had some who were quite terrible, and I was blessed to have other opportunities to learn or parents who helped me change my situation. Public education is entirely a separate issue. The church's door you choose to darken is entirely your choice, and I can see SS's point in asking why you would allow your children to become "indoctrinated" if you find the church so terrible.

I do not wish to be combative. As I may have said before but wish to state clearly now, I only write here to grow in understanding and to discuss matters I find important. If I appear contentious, I wish to apologize. I do not mean to be so.

May 16, 2007 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

SS, I'm curious why you feel like you know me and my situation so well from reading a few pages worth of blog postings. It's not like this is the ultimate repository of all of my thoughts and experiences.

I am merely commenting on what I've read from your own postings. You don't have many posts yet so I have to go by what I've read and try to go by what I do know about you from that.

And to both of you, isn't it obvious that my wife still believes the church is the best place to be? My wife is more important than my church

So, for her sake you carry on a charade that ultimately belittles her beliefs and that which she still holds dear. Wouldn't it be better for her if you made full disclosure once and for all so that she too is no longer persuaded to play along in your act?

I will raise my children to approach morality independent of God and religion, so that they will make humanistically moral decisions regardless of their ultimate relationship with the church.

That's a whole can of worms with questions like what does it mean to be humanistically moral? What is morality? By whose compass are you going to go by? To what will your children turn to when faced with a life altering deciscion? Also, that's great for you....but how about your wife as an equal partner in marriage who still believes in the Church? How does she plan to raise them? Does she go along with your humanistic approach to teaching right from wrong?

I could ask either of you, who undoubtedly see the "world" as a bad place, why you haven't moved to a bunker in northern Idaho. We move in societies that we don't ideologically agree with all the time.

I never said the world was a bad place, and I don't feel the need to move into a bunker, but there is evil in the world, and only a fool would choose to ignore that fact. Especially someone charged with protecting and raising a family.

You probably have neighbors with very different beliefs, but they're still in your neighborhood. That's just a reality of modern life

Right you are. The difference is you go beyond just being someone who believes differently, for example a Hindu neighbor. You put on a show for everyone of being this acitve fully believing member of a church that you then turn around and revile on the internet. Smacks of hypocrisy don't you think?

In closing, SS, you still appear to be judging rather than trying to understand. As such, I see no need to answer your questions;

Because you are afraid I will judge your answers you refuse to answer? You talk of the reality of life. Well, one of those realities is people do judge you by your words. So, you are right I am judging and weighing you by your words and the things you've written. I have drawn conclusions in my mind about you. But why should you fear my judgment? I can't hurt you. You make statements on the internet that have led me to question your motives and true feelings, so I asked some questions. Sorry if those questions make you uncomfortable.

I will tell you that I have given priesthood blessings to my wife, a believer, who knows that I do not believe. I have given parental blessings, not invoking the priesthood, to my son, who reacted in the way one would expect after a comforting blessing. My extremely devout in-laws have asked me to participate in ordinances, fully aware of my worldview. So maybe the church, with all it's 4 million or so active members, is not as homogenous in these views as you would like to imagine it.

WHY? What could she or your relatives possibly hope to have accomplished with that? Why not just ask you for some words of encouragement as a husband? What good is a blessing from someone who doesn't even believe in the power of the priesthood? Why would both of you sit there and participate in a farse like that? I'm sure it was a moving and emotional experience and all that, but could have been accomplished just the same without making a mockery of what to some people is a sacred thing. And I belive your son isn't even old enough for Kindergarten yet, so how should we expect him to react? Are you going to give him father's blessings when he's sixteen and fully aware that you don't even believe in it?

I see no more need to share my complete worldview with local leaders than they feel a need to share the Church Handbook of Instructions with me. I learned secret-keeping from one of the best organizations on the planet!

Nobody's asking you to share your complete world views. But, if you are participating in a religion that requires certain things of you that you are not willing to do, but you pretend to your leaders and neighbors that you are indeed the genuine article, then bottom line is hypocrisy.

I am sorry to be so blunt and coming across so judgementally to you. I really mean no malice. How could I when I don't even know you? I'm not really trying to get you to come back to believing either. I seriously just am baffled at the whole idea you have presented here. I don't think you're going to hell or anything like that. But, I hope you put some more thought into all this. If the Church in fact is true, you are risking much over some seed planted from reading a novel written by a thirteen year old.

PS: Robert sounds like a very intelligent and well-meaning guy. I think it would behoove you to take his words into your heart. I know it's hard to take the things I say to heart, but at least listen to Robert.

-Peace

May 16, 2007 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Robert, you don't come across as contentious. And commenting next to SS makes you look even better!

Sustaining leaders doesn't mean that you don't disagree with some of their beliefs. I sustain my boss, but we can get into a pretty heated debate if I think he's mistaken on something.

Tithing only seems fair--I use the facilities, right? My wife thinks it's a good charitable cause, and she and I share our property.

I am happy to give time to my fellow humans. I do not consider giving a talk to encourage mothers or assisting in a move to be "supporting the church," but "supporting the members." I love many members. I will always support them. I love many nonmembers. I will always support them. If my children learn to serve other people, that will bring them much happiness, regardless of their ultimate affiliation with the church.

SS, so much to respond to!

I'll get to humanistic morals eventually, but that's its own thread.

My wife obviously knows where I stand, as I explicitly stated in an earlier comment.

SS, you seem to think that I should be out burdening people with my opinions left and right. That's just not how I (or most civilized people) behave. If I see someone with an ugly hairstyle, I do not feel compelled to tell them that. I may tell my wife, or another trusted individual. I may even write it in a blog, where anonymity will protect the feelings of the individual. You suggest that I am living a farce because I act friendly to them, rather than deride their fashion sense. The ability to self-inhibit isn't called a charade--it's called maturity.

I share my thoughts with plenty of people in real life, I just do so with discretion. I have no desire to make people bitter, which believing Mormons can quickly become in the face of disagreement with core doctrines. But a blog is different, because people can choose not to read it. They do not have a choice if I suddenly start to decry the licentiousness of Joseph Smith in a Sunday School class. I assume that's not why they're there, and I respect that.

I am not afraid of your judgement. Nor do your questions make me uncomfortable. If SML (or Robert even) were to ask me, "Do you have a recommend, and if so, what is it's meaning to you?" I would probably answer. But with from tone I detect in your string of questions (mingled with derision), I don't see the point of it. Your judgement is incomplete and faulty, and, knowing your belief system very well, I don't want to give you even more opportunities to repent.

As for priesthood ritual participation, I strongly recommend you read Stages of Faith. Determine what stage you are at, then reflect on the fact that people at one stage usually consider people at the next stage to be stupid or threatening.

As for being moved by an experience recorded by an uneducated farm-girl, well, I don't suppose people in glass houses should be throwing stones, eh? (Of course, like Joseph, she was older when she actually wrote about it.)

May 17, 2007 at 5:03 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

I'll make this as short as possible.

I didn't question whether your wife knows where you stand. I wondered why she'd ask for a priesthood blessing from a man who doesn't believe in the power of the priesthood.

I never suggested you go to church and start lamblasting the doctrine outloud to the members and everyone you see. I am only suggesting that you are behaving like a hypocrite. Not because you are nice and polite at church to the members, but because you continue to particpate in the church and all it's functions while concealing from the leaders and membership that you don't believe in any of it. I don't suggest you start deriding the Gospel to people in the Church while you are teaching a class. My suggestion is that you should't be teaching the class in the first place. Or giving the talk.

My honest suggestion which I'm sure will go unheeded is for you to go to your bishop and openly share with him you current state of heart and mind concerning the Church. Not so that he can bring you around, but Let him take the appropriate actions so that you aren't put in a position anymore to carry on the charade. So, that you aren't asked to provide priesthood leadership for RS activities anymore, or give talks, or teach classes, etc.

You recommend I read Stages of Faith. Ok fine. I realize that all members / priesthood holders are at different stages of faith than others. But, just because someone's faith may not be up there with someone else's shouldn't exclude them from ordinances and such. The difference is you aren't at some "stage" You just flat out don't believe in the power of the priesthood, and probably therefore should not be participating. You have openly declared yourself an apostate here on this blog! what are you doing giving priesthood blessings to people and participating in ordinances? That's a simple question.

As for being moved by an experience recorded by an uneducated farm-girl, well, I don't suppose people in glass houses should be throwing stones, eh? (Of course, like Joseph, she was older when she actually wrote about it.)

Nice one. Very witty. But, someone with your background and education in the Church should know better. Of course Joseph's story at face value sounds ridiculous. Nobody suggests that anyone believe his story when first heard. In fact, I believe the standard step is to first find out the truth of the Book of Mormon, not Joseph Smith. If the BoM is true then you can start to guess about Joseph.

Finally. I really don't have a problem with you putting Chuch doctrine out on the web and sharing your thoughts, and opening the topic up for debate. That's fine with me. It's the whole participating in the Church functions as a worthy priesthood holder in good-standing while doing what you are doing that sticks in my craw.

I apologize for my hostile tone. I am passionate in my beliefs and I guess I have let that passion flow into what I've written and it's come across as blunt hostility. If I knew you personally and you were a friend of mine, I still would have asked you the same questions. Maybe if you could hear my voice you wouldn't detect so much hostility and judgement as you do reading my words.

May 17, 2007 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Not believing in the church is about as conceivable to me as stating that one is true while others aren't. Is a folding chair less true than a rocking chair? If I prefer recliners do I not believe in wing-backs?

But, just because someone's faith may not be up there with someone else's shouldn't exclude them from ordinances and such. The difference is you aren't at some "stage"

This statement doesn't actually make sense in the context of the book. I assume you haven't read it, which isn't surprising--it's not exactly on the NYT best-seller list! Again, I recommend it to you. After you read it, we can revisit many of your concerns.

I am not my wife, so her true motivations are not completely knowable to me; however, I would assume that she derives great meaning from communing spiritually with me. If our mechanism for doing so is offensive to you, pretend it doesn't happen. (That would mean a 33% hit to my blog readership, unfortunately.) I'm obviously not going to stop doing something personally meaningful to my wife because it upsets you. (But you know that.)

As for this "worthiness" concept you have mentioned a number of times, I guess the question you should ask yourself is, "Who am I to determine the worthiness of another human being?" If you believe in divine inspiration behind callings, particularly those with significant responsibility and keys, then clearly God disagrees with you, because I was extended such a calling after deciding that some of the faith-claims of the church were not accurate. And I accepted it, because I saw a good opportunity to help my fellow man--much easier than trying to start my own church!

Thanks for the apology. I know that the written word only gets a fraction of the emotional intent across (unless we're talking about poetry or great authors, I suppose), but your last post seemed much more measured than previous ones.

May 17, 2007 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

In all fairness, I understand that it's not a simple cut and dry thing to just walk away from a church that has been a major focal point throughout your life. It must be a pretty confusing time for you really.

I don't know what would motiviate your wife to ask for a priesthood blessing from someone who simultaneously denies any divine power from such. I asked my wife today, if she knew I didn't beleive in the priesthood power anymore if she'd still ask for priesthood blessings from me. She said that probably not, unless she was hoping for me to feel and recognize the Spirit during a blessing. Maybe you should ask her what her motives are.

Not believing in the church is about as conceivable to me as stating that one is true while others aren't. Is a folding chair less true than a rocking chair? If I prefer recliners do I not believe in wing-backs?

The LDS Church is in a fairly unique situation as it does declare itself to be the one and only true church of the living God. So, it's one of those things you either accept or you don't. You can pick and choose among the doctrines which ones you like and which ones you don't. You can attend the meetings and enjoy the neighborly fellowship, and benefit from most of the teachings for your family, but if you can't accept Joseph Smith as a true prophet, the BoM as the word of God and all that stuff, then you are not in exactly what the leadership would describe as being in good standing are you? I still have to wonder. Do you hold a temple rec? If so, how do you answer the questions in the recommend interview? It doesn't get any more straight forward than those questions. All they require is simple Yes / No answers.

Which brings me to the next point.

As for this "worthiness" concept you have mentioned a number of times, I guess the question you should ask yourself is, "Who am I to determine the worthiness of another human being?" If you believe in divine inspiration behind callings, particularly those with significant responsibility and keys, then clearly God disagrees with you, because I was extended such a calling after deciding that some of the faith-claims of the church were not accurate. And I accepted it, because I saw a good opportunity to help my fellow man--much easier than trying to start my own church!

You are right. It's not my place to judge worthiness. I am sorry. I don't know you. I am sure you are a decent human being with compassion for your fellow man and all that. But, in my defense it is just something I think most would assume considering the opinions you have posted here. That doesn't mean unworthiness in the same content as an adulterer or pedophile, its just that you don't have a belief in the Church anymore. Is it fair to those whom you serve to continue to assume that you do? That's great you see the benefits of a calling to help your fellow man, but there are other ways to serve humankind without having to compromise what you truly feel in your heart in the capacity of a "high calling." How do you not feel completely torn apart?

I do believe that there is inspiration behind callings. So what does that mean in your case? I don't have the answer. There is the old saying, "Many are called but few are chosen." Don't get me wrong. I am not saying your calling wasn't isnpired. But perhaps the Lord was reaching out to you with an opportunity. It is up to us individually to magnify our callings and to truly gain the experiences from that calling that The Lord desires us to gain. He extends the opportunity, but we have to grasp it in our hearts, and that goes beyond merely accepting the calling.

People vacillate with their faith and beliefs all the time in the Church. They question doctrine all the time. There are things that I wonder about too. Nobody is completely rock-solid on every point of doctrine. Many wander into other paths and find their way back. I still think you'd benefit from a one on one with your bishop or stake pres. Have you never in your life felt that confirming feeling in your heart? I have, and I'm sorry, it cannot be simply explained away with a bunch of psychoanalysis. I know what I felt. Have you never had that? Even as a missionary?

May 17, 2007 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I leave town for a day and look what I find when I return! I'll share my thoughts in a bit after I catch up with my pile on my desk...

:) sml

May 18, 2007 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

SML: And here I was thinking you left me high and dry!

SS: I honestly don't have time to address all of the thoughtful questions you pose. But I'll do what I can.

I don't see the LDS church as that unique in claiming Only True status. Many Christian sects do the same, as do major world religions in contrast to one another. And that's fine--people like to be certain, and they like to be right. A religion that's founded (in a soceity with freedom of religion) with the premise that all other religions are just as good doesn't have a compelling conversion element.

Most of our understanding of life is symbols. Even words are "symbols" of broader concepts. Metaphors are among the best ways to learn or teach concepts. So belief in something as metaphorical is still belief. What does "Jesus is my Savior" mean to an agnostic? That God (another symbol) loves me. What does that mean? That I matter. I have value, in spite of my tenuous hold on existence. That's a powerful and positive message, so I support its effects, even if Jesus may or may not have actually existed. Even though a just God can't be answering prayers. Even though some people take symbols and twist them in ways I do not agree with, such as God trusts men more than women. Or whites more than blacks. Or that Native Americans are darkened due to sin. Or that I'm elect, and people born in the jungles of Indonesia are less so.

I would talk to a Bishop or SP if I felt it would be a productive discussion with a mutual commitment to understanding. I don't see that as a likely outcome in the current leaders of my congregation, so I do not see the point. In that sense, I see no more desire to discuss things with a bishop than I do with a nursery leader--I judge the value of that conversation by the individual, not the title.

Temple recommend questions frequently deal with symbols as well. So insofar as I accept the symbol and its meaning to those around me, I have no problem with it. You probably would interpret this very differently than I do, which is why the answers are ultimately left to the conscience of the member--you do not have to provide witnesses or proof for any of your answers. I do not attend regularly, because I do not extract as much value from the symbols as I used to (and I'm not very close to one.)

I have had many, sometimes powerful, experiences with what you would call the Spirit. But once I stepped outside of the paradigm of Mormonism, it became clear that I brought the interpretation of those feelings into the experience a priori. Since moving to a new faith stage, I have continued to feel the same feelings, have witnessed remarkable coincidences (both meaningful and not), and have felt renewed commitment to overcoming personal weaknesses. All things that I would have said were impossible upon "rejecting" the concept of the Spirit.

May 18, 2007 at 11:25 AM  

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