Inoculation, a success story? by Heidi

guest Mormon 61 Comments

I’d like to introduce a good friend of our family —  Heidi. She has written the following thoughtful post.

I spent most of my first three decades in the church by subscribing to the mantra that “the gospel is true, but the people aren’t.” What I really meant by “the gospel” is anybody’s guess. In the beginning, I’m sure I identified it closely with the prophet and the church itself. Yet, even in my believing days, the gospel was always something beyond the leaders and beyond the bricks and mortar of daily Mormon life. The gospel was transcendent, it was the thing that Joseph found in the grove — it was bigger than me and it was bigger than any of the church programs or individuals in my life.

I’ve mentioned many times that my parents were liberal, but there were other influential and open-minded adults in my life as well. The Mormon bohemia of my youth was small and possibly the tamest bohemia on record, but it still gave my mantra longer legs and gave me a lot of breathing room. It was a badge of honor in my mother’s largely true believing family to ignore lesson manuals and make the lessons more interesting and personal. My dad’s parents were McKay Mormons who went to McDonalds during Sunday School and formed close friendships with Mormon intellectuals. My best friend’s parents were both college professors whom I idealized. She was a staunch feminist, he was a medieval scholar. He cooked and stayed home while she finished her dissertation. In high school, when we came home from a punk rock show, he would be waiting up for us, lying in the middle of the living room floor listening to jazz and reading Bede.

None of the adults in my life told me about peep stones or polyandry, they never came close to saying that Joseph made it all up. However, my mother answered my questions about polygamy or the priesthood ban with the assertion that church leaders, even prophets, were people and people make mistakes. I heard time and time again how important personal revelation was and that I should always listen to myself. Consequently, a lot of things I heard at church were put through the filter of my mantra. When Sister A or Brother B said things that were bigoted, sexist or simply unkind, I believed it was the people, not the gospel. This even worked when I went to BYU. Although, it was my first real contact with orthodoxy, it was pretty easy to believe that it was just BYU, not the gospel (I still think there is some truth to that).

I’ve written before about the impact of motherhood upon my faith, but lately I’ve become conscious of another, more subtle, layer of my disaffection. It was not until I was a 25-year-old Young Women’s president in a large family ward and I was reading and teaching the lessons myself that I realized Sister A hadn’t been taking liberties while she was teaching me, she was just quoting the manual. After repeating that experience many, many times, I slowly came to realize that it was my family that was off the reservation; we were the oddballs, not Sister A and Brother B. Still, as I came to have a more realistic and nuanced picture of the church and its history, I found it fairly easy to accept the more unflattering aspects and I experienced no anger and little disappointment. After all, church leaders, even prophets, were just people and people make mistakes.

What I found more difficult to reconcile was the realization that the thing I believed in – the gospel – was not the same thing as the church and often bore little resemblance to the gospel my fellow saints seemed to believe in. I could and still do find it at church, but I find it far more often while reading or listening to music, during long walks, on my yoga mat and especially in the spaces between myself and others. I don’t think my faith has really changed as much as my understanding has evolved. I still believe in the gospel, but my context for understanding it has expanded and I realize that the gospel has many names and many guises. The gospel is the Golden Rule, the Tao, dharma, enlightenment — it is my bliss. Although my parents hoped I would find it in the church, as they have, I am still grateful that they taught me to seek it and taught me to listen to myself because as I’ve allowed myself to be open to it, I’ve found the gospel everywhere.

Comments

comments

Comments 61

  1. Wonderful post. I absolutely agree that truth and the gospel is found far and wide. There are perhaps things found in the institution of the Church that aren’t in any other places, but there are many, many things found other places that aren’t in the Church. My life has been expanded greatly through my study of the Gita, the dharma, the Qu’ran, etc., as well as mostly just being and observing.

    Perhaps my biggest frustration in the Church is how much the core truth is buried in a morass of programs, quibbling rules, judgmental “only-true-Church-ness”, etc. I’m not frustrated enough to leave as I still find good in the Church as well, but I am frustrated because it could be so much better. Perhaps it’s like any institution – let it go long enough and people think they need to keep adding junk to the pure core.

  2. Thanks for this post, Heidi. It really is wonderful.

    I really like the fact that Pres. Uchtdorf, epecially, has been pounding the idea lately that we have built hedges about the law so much that the law can get lost from our view.

  3. I don’t want to rain on Mike S and Ray’s parade but…

    I respectively would like to offer an alternative point of view about this post, and make a few observations, as well.

    First, if Heidi is happy where she is, then more power to her. However, there is much, much more to the church than what she has experienced–so far.

    Second, I enjoy reading philosophy, more in years past than currently. Heidi and Mike S’s comments about the peace they feel reading Indian and East Asian religion is what I feel in philosophy–enlightenment.

    Third, the theme of criticizing the church (gently or otherwise) and speaking highly of finding satisfaction in other religious traditions has become fashionable in the ‘nacle. I have no problem with it. Honestly is refreshing; and revealing.

    Fourth, it seems like the first principles and ordinances; the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, are required to sit at the back of the bus while those that stir cognitive dissonance sit at the front.

    Fifth, I’d like to invite Heidi to prayerfully dig into the Book of Mormon, the keystone of Mormonism, and see if she can find what others have discovered there, myself included.

    Last, in my experience, I’ve generally (95%) found that those who seriously take the challenge to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, come away with a witness of the Spirit. The power of the witness varies, but it is still a witness of the Spirit. Some come away with hope, some with belief, and some with knowledge.

    Some of those that come away with hope that it is true, often don’t value their experience as they should. They compare what they have been given to what others have received (belief/knowledge) and fail to understand the value of the witness of hope. It seems as though their saying, “If I can’t have a BMW, then I’ll take the bus.”

  4. Jared:

    It’s good to see that you’re still willing to pound the assertion that somehow you are a qualified to judge a complete strangers commitment to “get a testimony”. Naturally, anybody with exposure to Mormonism who doesn’t share your beliefs is either lazy, or spiritually incompetent – at least 95% of the time, right?

    My mission wasn’t so long ago that I can’t recall the fact that the overwhelmingly majority of individuals who studied the Book of Mormon and progressed in the discussions, failed to see the importance. Much less than 95% anyways.

  5. Heidi,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I’m sorry that your journey with the church was not fulfilling. I can’t argue with your experience, because it is your. Mine has been different. But Paul (and others) teach there are a variety of spiritual gifts. Appreciate your sharing some of yours with us.

  6. Jared, I would like to hear from you, or others who express themselves similarly on matters of faith, an explanation of the basis for your confidence that what you have experienced spiritually is different from what Heidi has experienced, and your basis for deducing from what you have experienced that certain sectarian doctrines are literally true, to the exclusion of the things that evidently trigger Heidi’s and others’ spiritual bliss.

    Also, do you have any idea why 5% of the people who follow the pattern you prescribe don’t come away with the result you observe in the other 95%?

  7. Cowboy,

    Don’t misunderstand my comment. You and a few others have taught me an important part of Mormonism. The intent of my comment is not to pound an assertion as a judge, but more as friend trying to help others recognize the gift they’ve been given. There certainly are those who are lazy, and possibly spiritually incompetent, but my comment was not to them. I wouldn’t even know how to recognize that quality in another person.

    I think there are many people, and I suspect you are one, that has a witness–a testimony–of hope, a gift from God.

    Hope precedes–belief, and belief precedes knowledge. In my mind I see it as a ladder. Everyone who has been given a witnesses is on the ladder, just at different places. From your comments, and from the comments of others in this forum, I believe there are many who possess hope, a gift of the Spirit, but not fully recognize it.

    The purpose of my comments is not to judge, but rather, to encourage others to recognize what they have and build on it.

    Spiritual gifts need to be fed in order to flourish. The Spiritual gift of hope can be starved if not properly fed. My comments are meant to be encouraging.

  8. #6 Thomas–

    You asked me what I’ve experienced Spiritually that provides me with confidence (faith). The easiest way to answer that question is to have you click my name and read: “Jared-My Experience with the Savior”.

    The second part of your question, if I understand it correctly, can be answered in part as follows:

    Mormon theology teaches about a variety of influences that come from Heavenly Father to mankind. The light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, and gift of the Holy Ghost. Depending on what influence we are experiencing we can have a different perspective of the world we live in. This gives some explanation to what we see in the world; many religions.

    Then add to that the doctrine of a pre-mortal life with agency and that provides a degree of explanation to the question you asked.

    Regarding 95% vs 5%. Based on my experience with teaching others the gospel I’ve found that the vast majority of those who seriously studied the Book of Mormon have come away with a testimony of either hope, belief, or knowledge. Most of the people I taught as a missionary didn’t seriously study, of those that did–they came away a witness of hope, belief, or knowledge.

    My father was one of those who wouldn’t even listen, when I asked him why, his answer was very interesting. He said, “there is something to Mormonism, but I’m not willing to change, if I don’t hear it, then I won’t be held to the same accountability as those who hear it, and then aren’t willing to follow it.”

  9. Jared:

    We’ve talked a bit about this before, and I respect your testimony and the experiences you have had. Given them, I can certainly see where you are coming from.

    In my case, I must be in the 5% for some unknown reason. I have been a member for over 4 decades since I was born. I followed the “path”. Priesthood advancement, mission with leadership callings, BYU, married in temple, multiple callings, always having a TR (except for a few inadvertent lapses due to not noticing date), full tithe payer entire life, etc. I’m about as “true blue” as they come. I have read the BofM at least 10-15 times although I don’t keep an exact number. I have literally prayed about it 100’s of times. I have done literally everything I have been taught in the LDS Church to “get a testimony”.

    My entire life, I have felt stilted. I have felt like I was trying to force it. In the past few years, I have obviously expanded much beyond the LDS sources I stuck to for decades. I have read the Qu’ran. I have read dozens of books on Buddhism and meditate regularly. I have studied the Bhagavad Gita. And for whatever reason, I am 100% more peaceful now. By not clinging so tightly to the LDS faith, I feel in my heart I am on a better path to God, at least for me. I don’t think this is the right path for others, as it’s truly a hybrid of my LDS background as well as Buddhism and Hinduism. There are obviously incompatible areas. But I don’t care. I can hold both in my mind. I am at peace.

    I don’t know where my life will lead. Might I someday have a profound experience like you and jettison everything outside the LDS Church? Maybe, insha’Allah. Might I someday find that my path back to God leads out of the LDS Church – maybe. Might I maintain my hybrid state for the rest of my life. Maybe. I just have to accept things as they are. I will say that I have a tremendously increased amount of tolerance, of compassion, of concern for my fellowman, of concern for the earth and life, of everything. I see the world with different eyes. I see God in everything – the mountains around me, the patients I see at work, the clerk at the gas station, the birds I feed eat morning, the act of chopping an onion for my dinner, in literally everything. It is profound and peaceful and magical.

    I don’t know that I could go back.

  10. #10 Ken S

    10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

    I am interested in how you interpret this. What do you define as the “church of the Lamb of God”? How black and white do you see the world? Are the 99.8% of the world who are not LDS therefore members of the “church of the devil”?

  11. Personally, I hope this thread doesn’t spiral into anything outside of the points Heidi made in the post. Her final point is my favorite – and why, in particular, I think this post is wonderful:

    “I am still grateful that they taught me to seek it and taught me to listen to myself because as I’ve allowed myself to be open to it, I’ve found the gospel everywhere.”

    I could say the exact same thing about my own parents – and it’s one of the main reasons I love “pure Mormonism” so much and am so happy and at peace inside the LDS Church. We have so many statements saying that we should embrace truth wherever we find it, and I personally can do that while remaining actively involved in the Church.

    Heidi and I might or might not be different in significant ways (perhaps, since I don’t know her well enough to say for sure), but I really appreciate the insight she has gained that “the Gospel” is bigger than “the Church”. I think every apostle would agree wholeheartedly with that – and I only wish every member realized it consciously, as well.

  12. Mike,

    Nephi answers your question in the versus that follow:

    11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
    12 And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.

  13. Mike S–

    I appreciate, very much, and thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. From what you’ve said, how could Heavenly Father be anything other than pleased with you. I feel many church members have a witness of hope, and from your words I certainly feel you have a witness–a testimony of hope. It’s a great gift, and I hope you recognize it.

  14. #13 Ken S

    You talked around the answer. In my opinion, the “church of the Lamb of God” includes everyone who is honest in heart, is seeking God, is kind to their fellowman, who loves Christ. This is not exclusively members of the LDS Church.

    Do you agree with this or disagree?

  15. #15 Mike S,

    Ditto. For “more are the children of the desolate then the married wife.” They will come from north, south, east, west. For me personally the common denominator are those who are found with the pure love of Christ===charity. That is why as CS Lewis and many “honest in heart” have observed that a Buddhist (or God forbid a Muslim) may have incorporated charity and the love of God and fellowman (real christianity)and are thus, closer to true Christianity unknowingly, then, let’s say, the Bible thumping “chosen ones” who use their christianity and savedness to justify all kind of evil, judgement of others (poor are lazy, towelheads deserve our aerial bombings, and throwing stones verbally and otherwise at the “others” who are sinners).

  16. Mike,

    I subscribe to the sentiment of Ray and don’t want this to spiral out of control. Additionally, I agree with Ray’s sentiment to follow the counsel of the Apostles. The scripture quoted is from one of the greatest prophets of all time – Nephi. I will allow his words to speak for themselves.

    I would add the missionary program of the Church is pointless if: 1) the honest in heart are exclusive to the LDS faith, and 2) All faiths, or nearly all faiths, lead to heaven. I don’t believe the missionary program is pointless, but the heart of our faith. The intent of the program is to seek out the honest in heart, which are in all faiths the world over. The other main objective of the missionary program is to communicate the events surrounding the First Vision – the visitation of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and the restoration of his gospel. I encourage you to read the events of the first vision and pay particular attention to the Gods’ response to Joesph’s question on which church he should join.
    If YOU are honest in heart you will read his response with the intent it was intended. If you are seeking to make a point and balkanize our faith, you will cast our pearls before swine.

  17. Ken S

    I’m not “seeking to make a point”. Even though you approached it obliquely through more quotes as to what other people have said instead of just stating your point directly, I can see where you are coming from.

    I suppose we will just have to agree to disagree. I think God is a successful God. I think he is going to save MANY, MANY more people than the 99.8% who happen to be LDS in this life. I do agree with you that this somewhat does affect the focus of the missionary program. If you don’t have to be LDS in mortality to reach the Celestial kingdom, what is it’s point? I think it does help young people get a foundation for life, however. And I think there are some people who it helps, where the LDS path is beneficial on their way to God.

    But back to the main point of the post – I wholeheartedly agree that the gospel is much bigger than the LDS Church.

  18. Mike,

    What I think doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. I would point you, and everyone else to the words of Christ. What he thinks is relevant. I believe in the events of the First Vision and in the corresponding restoration. I accept Christ’s response to Joesph’s question. Do you?

  19. Heidi – thanks so much for sharing your personal experiences. It can be difficult to share your authentic self when it’s not the “party line.” As I read through and you mentioned your realization that Sister A and Brother B weren’t just taking liberties with the doctrine, I had to chuckle and think to myself that even members of the correlation committee are prone to inserting their own subjective interpretations. At the end of the day, I think the basic story of Mormonism is each of us seeking for truth individually, like JS as a boy, seeking the divine.

  20. ##6, 8:

    “I would like to hear from you, or others who express themselves similarly on matters of faith, an explanation of the basis for your confidence that what you have experienced spiritually is different from what Heidi has experienced, and your basis for deducing from what you have experienced that certain sectarian doctrines are literally true, to the exclusion of the things that evidently trigger Heidi’s and others’ spiritual bliss.”

    Anything from someone who hasn’t had the unusual experience of a direct personal vision of the Savior?

  21. #21 – Thomas, that type of belittling sarcasm isn’t necessary. Discussion is one thing; explicit mocking is quite another.

  22. Perhaps I missed the point of what this conversation is about. Isn’t what she is talking about already what we believe? Look at Article of Faith 13:

    “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

    I always thought that meant that all people have some portion of the light of Christ and we are to look for the good and if it is good incorporate it into our lives.

  23. Jon:

    Good is the enemy of great. We should not seek good if it takes us away from what is great. The restored gospel is great and should be the focus of our attention. The Prophets and Apostles should be the final word, not leaders of other faiths in spite of how much good they offer.

  24. Ken, sincere question:

    How does your comment apply at all to what Jon actually said? I really do want to understand.

    Are you saying seriously that we need to ignore the 13th Article of Faith? Are you saying we should not “seek ye out of the best books”? Are you saying we should totally immerse ourselves in things published by the LDS Church and not look anywhere else for inspiration?

    If so, you are setting up a standard that is not being taught or followed by the apostles and prophets you say should be the final word. Actually, you are setting up a standard that is in direct opposition to what they have said and are saying on a regular basis.

  25. I appreciate all the comments so far. I had a busy weekend and didn’t have a chance to respond, but I’d like to say a few things.

    Ken s — I believe that you are sincere and you might have a great deal to teach me or a powerful testimony of the church to share, but, unfortunately, you seem intent on talking past us rather than with us.

    Jared — regarding #7, #8, One of the points of this post, which might not have come across as I hoped it would, is that I wanted to acknowledge that the hope you write about and my desire to seek God absolutely came from my life in the LDS church, as did the seeds of my universalism, belief in Christ’s teachings and the love of Christ, as described by President Uchtdorf in our most recent conference. I absolutely believe you when you say that your hope has led to the experience you had with Christ. I hope that you can believe me when I say that I did make a serious and faithful study of the Book of Mormon, but — and much to my surprise — my hope has led me in another direction. I have been sincere and tried to be humble and honest in my seeking. It would be disingenious to pretend that my life was not blessed by the LDS church in numerous ways. However, it would be just as false if I refused to acknowledge where I am now or that my hope has blossomed in my life in unexpected, but beautiful ways.

  26. #27 Heidi–

    Thanks to you for sharing your perspective with us. It has been interesting. I wish you only the best. And from what I know about Heavenly Father, He wouldn’t have it any other way because of the principle of agency that underlies the plan of salvation.

    However, remember, the door to His kingdom is open to those, like myself, who decide to return to His order of life after traveling alternative paths for a season.

  27. #28 Jared — thank you for your thoughts. I do feel open to the idea that I might return to full belief one day and I appreciate the reminder.

  28. Ray,

    By his own admission, Mike has marginalized the LDS faith as if it were just another way to God: “Might I someday find that my path back to God leads out of the LDS Church – maybe”. Likewise, Heidi by her own admission shares a similar sentiment“ I still believe in the gospel, but my context for understanding it has expanded and I realize that the gospel has many names and many guises. The gospel is the Golden Rule, the Tao, dharma, enlightenment — it is my bliss.”

    All of these faiths and ideas have a degree of goodness. They teach mutual respect, kindness and various other forms of good – they have a form of Godliness, but deny the power thereof. This is what God meant when we responded to Joseph’s question in the grove. We should seek after good wherever it is found. However, if it takes us away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ, then it is no longer great. As a modern day Prophet said, partial belief will bring partial salvation. Other faiths besides the LDS faith can only offer partial salvation. This is good, but is the enemy of great. Put another way, it is Terrestrial or Telestial, but not Celestial. The only way to the highest kingdom is through the LDS faith as it is the only one with the authority from God.

  29. @Ken S. 32:

    That’s what I would have said, before I realized the Tao Te Ching came closer to the message of the Sermon on the Mount than anything I’d heard from church leaders in recent memory.

    When you’re personally “Good-aligned,” the church starts to look more and more “Lawful with ambiguous good tendencies.” And it seems to elevate “purity,” obedience, faith-promoting rumor and mystic experience over actually following Jesus’ teachings.

  30. #32 Ken S–

    I understand, better than you might think, your point of view. I’m with Brigham Young when he said: The Kingdom of God or nothing.

    However, agency is part of God’s plan. I don’t know if you have children, but I learned long ago that gentle persuasion is required (D&C 121) when dealing with the children of God–never control or force.

  31. Jared,

    I fully agree.

    TF:

    Is not the sermon on the mount in the KJV of the Bible? Is not the KJV of the Bible fully cannonized and taught by the Church?

  32. Ray, “fools mock.” I don’t. Check your definition of “explicit,” and then ask yourself if you’re not primed to see something implicit that isn’t there.

    Jared’s experience is singular. Most people — even most Church leaders — do not report such dramatic experiences, and in fact Church leaders caution members not to expect them. In most cases, what is trusted for a witness of the Spirit confirming the truth of the gospel is something quieter. I asked how people who have had that kind of experience, distinguish it from what Heidi reports experiencing, but which leads her to different conclusions from theirs.

    I admit I am primed to be suspicious of dramatic religious enthusiasm, whether St. Teresa’s ecstasy, the Kirtland visionaries’, or some modern-day Mormon version. Read D&C 50:10-24. There is a limit to the subjective religious experience we are justified in taking as coming from God, or as supporting propositions of universal truth. What is of God, edifies; singular, dramatic mystical experience often does not. I am also careful in approaching claimed “special witnesses” outside the line of authority of those with that specific job description. The vast majority of people who claim to have had powerful mystical visions in support of exclusive sectarian doctrines, are wrong. They must be — their visions conflict. I don’t know what it is those people experience, but it is not something that I have experienced. I have experienced things that I take, on faith, to be expressions of divine guidance, but I have no reason to believe they are dramatically dissimilar to what other people experience who honestly and diligently seek God.

    It is possible that what Jared experienced was a genuine divine communication, of a kind far and away greater than the light I have received and trust to be from God, or what Heidi reports experiencing (and which Jared dismissed somewhat as the mere enlightening “consolations of philosophy”). What would that imply? It might just say that Jared and others experience the Spirit differently, and each type of witness is equal in worth and utility. Or it might tell me that there is a possibility for something more dramatic that I ought to keep grasping for. After indeed grasping for years for the kind of experience that others report, and seeing the fruits of that unrequited pursuit (overall, they weren’t good), I am inclined to believe that the peace, understanding, clarity of thought, sweetness and assurance that I have felt are sufficient, and are very likely all that a person of my temperament will ever experience in connection with religion.

    An experience like Jared’s might change that. I could come to see things I had never before imagined, and those new premises could lead to entirely different conclusions. That is up to the Lord at this point. As it now stands, though, I have to conclude that Jared and others’ implicit diminishing of my faith — by comparing it to mere philosophical enlightenment, and declaring it inferior to their own mystical vision — is in error.

  33. Ken S: “Other faiths besides the LDS faith can only offer partial salvation. This is good, but is the enemy of great. Put another way, it is Terrestrial or Telestial, but not Celestial. The only way to the highest kingdom is through the LDS faith”

    There are 13 million members of the LDS faith. At least half are inactive and therefore “doomed” from your point of view. So there are probably only 6 million people at most on the entire earth out of 6+ billion who are candidates for the Celestial kingdom in your point-of-view, or less than 0.1%. I would hope that God is more successful than that.

    You may pull out the standard line that they will have the chance to become “LDS” in the next life and have vicarious work done for them, but that still supports my argument that you DON’T have to be LDS in this life to make it back to the Celestial kingdom. And, assuming that even 10% of the world becomes LDS in the next life that way, it means that for every 100 people in the Celestial kingdom, only 1 was actually a member in mortality and 99 weren’t.

  34. @35 Ken S:

    You wouldn’t know it to listen to Conference talks.

    Uchtdorf gave an amazing talk about unconditional love the morning of the last Sunday session. Everyone else downplayed Jesus’ kindness in favor of how he “did the will of the Father in all things” or “instituted the ordinance of the Sacrament.” The Primary President went on about how we need to teach our kids to “have the Spirit” and be obedient without even mentioning teaching them kindness. Someone on Saturday mocked the idea of a Jesus who cared about “social justice” instead of worthiness / obedience.

    I think I’ve come to the point where I no longer care if I’m saved / exalted or not. There are people and animals suffering in this world, and I want to help them.

  35. “Someone on Saturday mocked the idea of a Jesus who cared about “social justice” instead of worthiness / obedience.”

    Wouldn’t say “mocked” as much as “criticized,” but Elder Christofferson was absolutely right in what he said.

    I will now take a brief hiatus from my no-mockery rule to declare I plan to spend my lunch hour aiding a suffering clam.

  36. To all:

    I think I will heed the counsel given by my Stake President at the last conference, “It is better to be kind, than right” With that said, I hope you all understand how sacred these truths are to me and I am calling quits before it spirals out of control.

  37. “Someone on Saturday mocked the idea of a Jesus who cared about “social justice” instead of worthiness / obedience.”

    What he criticized was the tendency some might have to proof-text the words of Jesus to illustrate that Jesus was only concerned about “social justice” and had no real interest in commandments/worthiness/obedience. The fact is, we only get half the picture of Jesus if we approach him strictly as a social reformer, and dismiss the fact that he taught commandments and what we call worthiness, in addition to mercy and kindness in the Sermon on the Mount. Elder Christofferson was merely making that point, and while we can debate about whether he was “right”, he certainly was not mocking.

    It is worth addressing Elder Christoffersons comments because his talk, beyong the one sentence referenced above, deals directly with how testimonies and truth are to be obtained via the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the scriptures. He outlines the standard method (search,ponder,pray – about the scriptures), that we are all too familiar with, and reiterates the claim that we can know all of the classics – Joseph Smith a Prophet, Church is true, Jesus is the Christ, God loves us, etc. Yet present in this discussion are a number of participants from all different persuassions claiming personal experiences either in support, or in conflict with the Mormon truth model. In manner, thouh not explicitly stated, Elder Christofferson is claiming that certain absolute truths can be known. He also implies, though doesn’t state directly, by appealing to the story of Korihor in The Book of Mormon, that many are rejecting truth’s which he claims were (nearly) universally accepted a century ago, because of scriptural illiteracy. This sort of smacks of the common argument that those who fail to gain a testimony never really tried. So we are all left to make assumptions about each other on the basis of our own personal experiences. Because of this, I like Thomas’s comments in #37. It would be difficult to say that opinions and beliefs could not change, however, we are generally limited in our particular world-views to those things we can explain on the basis of our own experience. That is not to say that we must experience all things to believe something, but in those area’s where there is little consensus, for those like me, personal experience about how the world works is generally the deciding factor.

  38. For my whole life, I relied on the “outside” model as quoted by Cowboy talking about Elder Christofferson. This was me trying to have some sort of experience to receive a testimony of the “classics” – ie. BofM is true, JS, etc. following the pattern I learn my whole life and taught on my mission. It sounds so simple – read, ponder, pray, receive confirmation if pure intent. My problem is that it never happened after 4 decades in my case.

    I grew increasingly frustrated, with one of 2 options: either it was God’s fault/plan, or due some deeply flawed part of my character. I don’t believe in a flawed God, so it rested on me. Then it finally dawned on me several years ago that maybe that process is different for different people. Based on comments on here, people have had amazing diversity in the experiences they have had connecting with divinity. And no one can necessarily make someone else’s experience work for them.

    I’ve outlined it above, but my viewpoint towards access to divinity has greatly expanded from the LDS-centric model I grew up with to a much more encompassing viewpoint. My world isn’t as black and white as it used to be – an “us vs them” mentality. I see good many, many places. And after this many years, I am finally finding peace and comfort with God. I feel acceptance. I read the Dhammapada alongside the D&C. I read the Bhagavad Gita alongside my BofM. I read the NRSV Bible alongside my LDS edition. And it works for me.

    Some people on here may judge me, may have condescending comments that someday I may find my way back to the “true” path, may suggest that I’m giving up the highest level of the Celestial kingdom as only the TBM LDS version of the path is valid, etc. But after 40+ years, it doesn’t matter what any particular member of the church thinks about me, it matters what God thinks about me. And my relationship with God has never been better, including when I was on my mission.

    Just like we teach about the Holy Ghost and confirmation of truth – I feel peace, I feel love, I feel divinity.

  39. #37 Thomas–

    Your comment touched on a lot of bases. In essence, it appears you’re skeptical of Spiritual experiences that don’t fit into your frame of reference. I don’t have a problem with that. However, I would say that you don’t have the power to read minds, nor do I. So, I suggest that you avoid trying too.

    It never entered into my mind to dismiss a gift of the Spirit another person relates–as you suggested. All of them are profound, and I have the deepest respect for them.

    Lastly, it is impossible to know what others, including the GA are experiencing with the Spirit, unless they choose to relate them. You might be interested in reading Elder Dallin Oaks talk, entitled Miracles. This way you can be up to speed on the topics you comment on.

  40. “It never entered into my mind to dismiss a gift of the Spirit another person relates–as you suggested.”

    Is that really true? In every case?

    I think of Burr Riggs in Kirtland, jumping up and banging his head on the ceiling of a cabin, then passing out and “prophesying” about what he had seen. I think of a Rastafarian seeing visions while using ganja, or a Pentecostal speaking in tongues. Or someone in a trance at a Benny Hinn concert or revival or whatever that shyster calls them. Yes, I am skeptical of purported spiritual experiences that do not edify, or by which people set themselves up as possessing gnostic knowledge they don’t have to defend by the ordinary demands of reason. (See D&C 50:12: “Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand.”)

    “This way you can be up to speed on the topics you comment on.”

    Thanks, Jared. I vaguely recall that address, but I will review it.

  41. Cowboy & Mike S–

    Both of your comments say about the same thing–we can only act on what we experience, because what we experience Spiritually is what we know, and knowing is like the wind in a sail–it moves us. If the sail has no wind to move it, then what does one do. Or, if the wind that fills a sail comes from a different direction then one must act accordingly. Correct me if I have it wrong (forgive me for beating my chosen metaphor to death).

    I’m starting to gather examples from the scripture about this kind of thing.

    The bottom line for me is that God isn’t unfair. This will all be taken into account. I still believe the fact that your here discussing these things, and still involved with the Lord’s church, speaks of some kind of testimony that has the potential to see you through. I see it as hope, a very powerful force in the lives of those who have it.

  42. Jared:

    I like your metaphor using the sail. Perhaps that only thing I would add is that there may be a number of different routes to the same island. One person may think their way is the fastest or only way, but I think that each person has to use the wind that was given them to chart their own course. We may not all end up sailing the same way. We may all be on different boats. But we can all end up at the same island.

  43. Jared:

    I like your sincerity, I always have. Out of respect, I have refrained from commenting on your testimony contained on your website. I could just as easily rationalize that inspite of being very long, and very personal, the core experiences are still spiritually vague – at least in how they are related on your blog. I am willing to accept that I only know from your experience the things you have related, and I can reasonably accept that regardless of the independent truth’s we each are trying to understand, and therefore continue to discuss here, you have your reasons for believing the way you do. to Just a moment ago you admonished Thomas against reading minds, and yet here you are politely insinuating that deep within me somewhere is an ambiguous testimony of the Mormon Church, call it hope, faith, whatever. Let me carefully explain my hope and faith, so that there is no question. First and foremost, I abandoned certainty in my beliefs the moment I lost confidence in the Mormon Church. I don’t know what the truth is so far as we are speaking of religion or God at large. I hope that God exists, because implicit in that assumption for me is the hope of life after death, purpose, etc. In addition, I have generally positive sentiments towards Jesus and Christianity. This is simply because I believe that the general notion of love your neighbor, forgiveness, etc, are all great ideals that hold no dependence on historocity. I’ll admit right now that I don’t understand some of the more theological elements of Christianity which relate to the crucifixion and fallen nature of mankind. Regarding Mormonism, I have absolutely no belief or expectation that Joseph Smith was a Prophet. I don’t have one particular pet alternative theory about him, but ultimately I believe him to have been a fraud. I have no hope whatsoever that the Mormon Church is a vehicle for salvation, or that through some rather disturbing temple rituals I am enabled with the key’s to return to God. I see the modern Church as being little more than a religious corporation slightly in the vein of the Vatican, and modern leaders as an interesting hybrid between Catholic Cardinals and modern executives – with the trend becoming progressively more executive. I have very little moral objection to the modern Church as many of the ideals are good (families, etc). Still wit seems to becoming less of a Church and more of an entity (I think Mormonism has been undergoing an identity crisis for a long time). I have serious objections to the Church according to early history, or more appropriately, the Church’s former leaders. Because it is a package deal (no modern Church without the early Church) I have no hope that the Mormon Church is true. I’m repulsed by it in many respects. I participate here because, socially and psychologically I am Mormon. Not because I believe it, but because I live in it, always have and always will. My friends are Mormon, my family is Mormon, and I really don’t have a problem with that – but because of it, Mormon issues interest me. I particularly enjoy participating here because I can express myself without having to experience the social stigma’s associated with “coming out”. I personally see no need for that, so here I am.

  44. #46 Thomas–

    It is really true, regarding Heidi and a few others that frequent this blog, but not in every case, as you’ve pointed out.

    In fact, I’ve encountered a few church members who have claimed special Spiritual experiences, only to later be proven as deceivers. In each case, I was closely associated with, the main purpose of their deceit was to seduce women.

    Relating Spiritual experience is most useful to those who receive it by the power of the Holy Ghost.

  45. #49 Cowboy–

    I read with interest your thoughts about hope. My thoughts about you, Mike S,and others, regarding the gift of hope has been something I arrived at based on my life experience with family members. I haven’t put what I felt into words, until recently.

    I see the gift of hope, as I refer to it, in people who are associated with Mormons, but don’t know what to make of it. One doesn’t need to believe in something in order to have the kind of “hope” I’m referring to. I think we’re all better men having had the influence of the church. But that isn’t the point of my idea about “hope”. I think the main quality I see is the honesty, and sincerely in another person that draws me to them regardless of how they think about God. If I were in a life and death situation on the field of combat, I would rather have men who exhibit honesty than those who talk a lot about honesty.

    I respect your and Mike S’s honesty in your experience with the church. I respect how both of you have come to grips with the paradox of dealing with your lack of testimony in a church that expects testimony of its members–at least as I observe it in the bloggernacle. I’m sure this has created a lot of difficulty for you on many levels over the years.

    Well, the point is–honesty is a quality of the Spirit I respect, and in my personal opinion both of you have it, and I think more of it comes from the Lord in response to your natural goodness and the prayers of those who love you than you realize.

    The Lord’s finger prints are all over both of you.

    By the way, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about what I’ve written on my blog.

  46. “In each case, I was closely associated with, the main purpose of their deceit was to seduce women.”

    Interesting. I’ve managed to miss such spectacles. Though it doesn’t surprise me — the main purpose of darn near everything a good many men do, is to seduce women.

    In my own experience with many people who claim special spiritual experience (and [please do not take this as directed anywhere towards you!) is that there is an inverse proportion between the spectacularity of their claimed spiritual experience, and their mental and emotional stability. It’s not that they are “deceivers” — it’s that they’re just not quite right in the head.

    Yes, I know I’m not supposed to take a claim of revelation as “the effect of a frenzied mind.” But sometimes it just is.

  47. Thomas (#53):

    Unfortunately, in the extreme cases my experience has been about the same. I also want to mention to Jared, I don’t lump you into that group. I am specifically thinking of two people, one in the ward I grew up in, and another in a previous ward. The common thread for these folks was that everything was “spectacular”, and generally bogus or very loosely tied to some inconsequential reality. It was not uncommon on fast Sundays for these individuals to get up and tell fantastic stories about angels, visions, etc. It also was not uncommon for them to also get up and tell stories of how they were at the center of government intrigue, conspiracy, etc. I found out later from family members of the gentleman in my home ward growing up, that he had at times recieved treatment for mental issues. This of course only served to confirm what we already knew.

  48. As I’ve read some of the comments on Heidi’s post, great post by the way, I’ve been asking myself a series of questions I’ve asked myself several times the past few years.

    Can a single church be the one path to God for all people?
    In trying to be the ‘one’ path, do the teachings start to focus on the lowest common denominator? In other words, we’re all at different levels so how do you simultaneously teach to all different levels?
    Are there some people the churches way or path just doesn’t touch as much as others?

    I, personally was having difficulty going to church. I felt like I was hearing the same lessons and they were all supposed to be interpreted the same way and no one was supposed to ask the wrong types of questions. So I started reading An Autobiography of a Yogi and the Bhagavad Ghita and Paths to God by Ram Dass. Suddenly all these things I had been learning about at church came alive for me. Some things did not, but the majority of what I have ‘believed’ my whole life began to mean something.

    I don’t think any less of the church, on the contrary I feel much better and have a much stronger testimony of the church. I feel like I’ve found where I fit in a lot of ways. So I feel happy when I read something like what Heidi wrote because they seem to have had some shared experiences and have come out the better person because of it.

    Now I just need to find a nice young woman that has had a similar experience or is at least open to discussing the crazy ideas I have about spirituality.

  49. In this fallen world the genuine and the counterfeit exist side by side. There are tares among the wheat, and wheat among the tares. It is only after a process of maturing that the tares can be removed from the wheat, bundled and burned. Until then the wheat and tares exist together.

    When this phenomenon in nature is related to men, as the Savior did in His famous parable, it helps the student of the scriptures understand some important lessons they will encounter among those they associate with in this life.

    When it comes to judgment of others the Lord has cautioned His followers to be careful. We are required to make judgments of others, for short term purposes only, but we are not capable of making final, conclusive judgments. That capacity resides only in a God.

    With that said, I would like to try and make sense of a mystery that I have been grappling with for many years. I call it the Paul phenomenon. The oddity of the Apostle Paul, an enemy of the church, even having consented to the stoning of Stephen; the first martyr, who then suddenly becomes one of the greatest advocates for the cause of Christ in all scripture, provides hope that like possibility resides in all men.

    The Paul phenomenon is seen in the Book of Mormon in the form of the two Alma’s, father and son, the four sons of Mosiah, Zeezrom, Lamoni, and his father—the king, Aminadab, and a host of Lamanites bent on killing Lehi and Nephi.

    Having said that I would like to direct the following to Cowboy’s #49 and Mike S’s #9 on this thread, and indirectly to others who are honestly disaffected from the church for reason of honest and sincere disagreement, or who honestly say they have never felt the things of the Spirit to the extent they can lay claim to a “testimony”. I feel towards them as follows:

    As Paul once was, they are now, and as Paul is today, they may become.

  50. #57 Jared: Regarding your last line, perhaps I might quote President Hinckley:

    “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”

  51. Heidi – You state that no adult in your life has mentioned peep stones or polyandry. Let me be the first. In both these issues, you need a little understanding.

    The term “Urim and Thummim,” which you nick-name “peep stone,” is mentioned in the Bible, something used by a prophet (seer). It is definitely scriptural.

    As for polyandry (having more than one husband), it is interesting that no one has been genetically identified as a descendant of Joseph Smith, other than through Emma. Several of his claimed descendants recently were crossed off the “possible” list. Paste this in your address bar, or study Ugo Perego’s research into Joseph’s genes. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695226318,00.html If Joseph were a womanizer, as critics claim, where are all his descendants? With 33+ wives, they can’t have all been sterile! If his critics’ claims are correct, his posterity by other women should be in the hundreds or thousands by now, but so far, it’s zero. Is it possible that Joseph was just obeying God in restoring the principle of polygamy?

    In English, we do not have a word for a woman choosing to be sealed to a man for the next life who is married to another man in this life. The closest term I know is “free agency.” Polyandry is a very inaccurate term, and it really irritates me when it is applied to Joseph Smith.

  52. Teryl Gardner:

    Two-points – The Urimm and Thummim references as contained in the bible are generally associated with the Ephod worn by the high priest. This was a ritual apparattus that was worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (I think) as he entered the Holy of Holies, symbolizing the reconcilliation between God and Israel. In no place is is mentioned as a divination device. As far as I am aware, there rests a great deal of uncertainty in the scholarly community as it’s actual role, if any, beyond that. The only biblical instance where Urimm and Thummim are employed for the purposes of divination is when the wicked Saul approached the witch of Endor to have her conjur the deceased Samuel the Prophet. This story is generally not regarded as a spiritual or righteous act, but rather a form of witchcraft. This is partly interesting because it is alleged that Joseph Smith was doing more or less the same thing, ie, conjuring the dead for information/personal gain.

    These descendancy studies for Joseph Smith are interesting, but fail to acknowledge the fact that conjugal relationships between Joseph Smith and many of his wives is a well documented fact. Many of the wives were interviewed regarding this matter when the RLDS began challenging Joseph Smiths participation in polygamy. Journal records of many of the brethren will also list occasions where they were aware that Joseph spent the night rooming with such and such wife. This is a generally acknowledged fact, even by most Church scholars.

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