I am an active member of the church, and a believer.
I am well aware of most of the controversial issues (Book of Abraham, DNA, Book of Mormon historicity, polyandry, etc.). Some of them occasionally bother me. Others do not. Although according to statistics I am very educated, I probably could not win an argument defending the church on any of those points. I could not support the church on Prop. 8, (if you want to specifically comment on that, please go here). I will probably never understand in this life why we are discouraged from praying to our Heavenly Mother, or why women are no longer allowed bless the sick. I am sure I could go on, and so could many of you.
I occasionally get asked or read questions like, “If Joseph Smith made claims that were false, how can you believe any of his claims?” “When you line everything up, how can you still logically believe it to be true?” For anyone questioning the faith, or those who have left the church who may be reading this, feel free to mentally insert other questions here. They are all good and valid in my opinion. I do not fault anyone for asking them, nor for being disturbed enough by them to leave the faith. Although my path is different, I wish you the best.
How do I explain my belief and activity in the church? Have I put “feelings” above reason?
I was raised by a saint of a mother and an intellectual yet very spiritual father. Church books lined the shelves: Quinn, Compton, and even Bagley’s Blood of The Prophets and Southerton’s Lost Tribe made appearances. On hunting trips my father would sometimes shoot his buffalo in the name of Allah (in Turkish) so our good Muslim friends could enjoy it with us. As bishop, he helped countless families regardless of legal status, blessed a neighbor’s sick cat, and was a safe haven for gay members to turn to. My parents left their ward a few years ago to attend a Hispanic branch, where they can do a lot more than debate in Sunday School over gospel minutiae. They taught me by word and example that serving and loving others always trumps theology.
As a priest I loved blessing the sacrament. It was probably the first time I felt a significant sense of the sacred–it was intoxicating. I loved seminary and institute, even when I was taught that Darwin was Satan’s answer to Joseph Smith (that one still makes me smile). I often felt a sense of awe watching the RMs come home. I wanted what they had. My father called it “spiritual muscle.” My mission in Japan was the right place at the right time for me, for many reasons. It was the best investment of time I had ever made (up to that point, of course!).
The Book of Mormon has a special place in my life. One experience reading King Benjamin started what became a small series of nearly indescribable subjective positive spiritual experiences, (I once tried to describe what it was like to an inquiring non-member/acquaintance and was mocked for it, so I hold close what is most sacred–let’s just say that a few of them were more than just a “tingling down the spine” or “warm feelings”). I have also felt what I interpret to be the infinite love and patience of God, for me and for all of his children. These “feelings” are as important and special to me as my “feelings” for my wife and son.
I love having a community wherever I go. I generally enjoy responsibilities at church, (currently the strengthening marriage instructor) and I have found that if I’m prepared and attentive, the meetings are usually more than worthwhile. I love General Conference, and agree with the teachings almost all of the time. Some people (both in and out of the church) seem to think that a prophet is either always right or not a prophet at all. I was not brought up that way, and have a difficult time understanding it now. Like Henry Eyring (Sr.) said, I think that prophets are wonderful because sometimes they speak for God. It is for those special moments of elevation and insight that I respect and listen to them.
Certain aspects of Mormon theology also fit me better than any religion or philosophy I know. This will have to be a later post, but marriage and personal growth are two of the most important things in life to me, and Mormonism fits those quite well, (I am definitely open to other views or ideas on this, if you have some).
I love symbolism, and enjoy the temple ordinances–I expect that they will continue to evolve, and look forward to it. I see Christ and relationships in everything in the temple. It can be different, even awkward at first, but looking deeper provides inspiration and insight that is a moving and a stabilizing force in my life. I believe in Christ. He inspires goodness. He is the answer to the question of evil and tragedy and suffering. He unconditionally loves everyone. That is a God I believe in. His revelations are in the Church, in books, in the rocks, and hopefully in my dissertation in a few years. None of those conduits are free from error.
This is not an argument for Mormonism. I am not telling others how they should approach faith, or activity in the church. This is simply how I am doing it. I could not be more logical: Some stuff bothers me, some of it really inspires me, gives meaning to my life and family, and has been the source of experiences (not always just feelings) and growth that I cannot reject. I do not have my head in the sand. I am not plugging my ears and yelling “faith! faith! faith!” at valid and logical arguments against the church’s claims.
Some people may think that if I have concerns or disagreements I should drop the church. Others may think I should try harder to procure some answers for my questions and concerns. I have pondered the first option and tried out the second for a while. In one of the clearest insights in my life, I found that neither option is even remotely satisfying. I believe in the gospel, and I am not an apologist. So here I am, in the church, good and bad, best and worst, inspiring and awkward.
What is your story?
- How do you handle issues that are difficult or perhaps impossible to reconcile?
- What are the best parts of your experiences in the church?
- Why have you ultimately decided to stay or leave? (Please keep these in a spirit of sharing and mutual understanding.)
Do you know of any good related posts (by those who have stayed OR left–again, written with some humility, please). Next week there will be a guest post by a friend of mine who left the church a while back. Here are a few others, from various perspectives:
The same test works for a church as for a relationship. Ask the question “Am I a better person for this?” That could mean smarter, stronger, braver, happier, kinder, more capable, more forgiving, more loving, harder working, more optimistic, etc. If a religion (or a relationship) has that effect on you, then you should stay with it and work through any problems that arise. If it has the opposite effect, makes you feel less competent, less capable, weaker, more afraid, more timid, etc. then you really ought to leave it.
Mormonism and the LDS church have made me a better person, someone more than I was before. And I feel that God wants me to be here, for whatever reason. I know that he’s got my best interests at heart. So I stay, though some things bother me as well. I think you can’t hope to find a better group of people than Mormons. I’m proud to count myself as one.
I appreciate your thoughts on this matter. You are very articulate and present your case well. You have made a good case for why you are still active in the church.
But, (you knew there was a “but” coming) I don’t think you have made a good case for why you believe. Unless of course you equate activity with belief, but they are not, otherwise unbelieving active Mormons would be believing Mormons, which is clearly a contradiction. To put it bluntly, from your post, it doesn’t look like you could articulate a reason for a Catholic, a Jew, an Evangelical, or whatever to convert to Mormonism and be baptized. That seems to be a pretty good indicator of belief in the specifics of the LDS church.
You obviously believe in being a good moral person, but being a good moral person is possible inside or pretty much any other belief system. That is a good thing, but it does not equate with belief in anything specifically Mormon.
Now, this of course sounds like a criticism of you, but it isn’t. I approach things differently, but I also level this criticism at myself since at this point in my life it also applies to me. For me this is the crux of my own personal crisis of faith, I still believe in being a good and moral person, but I have difficulty articulating belief in anything specifically Mormon. I am active, but do I believe?
Haha! I tried to anticipate all the ‘buts’! 😉
I don’t think you have made a good case for why you believe.
Maybe the case is not good enough for everyone, but it was clear to me, not the least of which was the spiritual experiences I mentioned, as well as some of my thoughts on Christ and etc. Perhaps you read those parts but didn’t think those have a bearing on belief? I am not sure what you are getting at.
I appreciate the feedback though, I wouldn’t have posted this if I wasn’t interested in what others thought about it all.
“from your post, it doesn’t look like you could articulate a reason for a Catholic, a Jew, an Evangelical, or whatever to convert to Mormonism and be baptized”
Interesting. Although, I specifically stated that my intent in the post was not converting or convincing others. Fwiw, however, I don’t believe that articulating reasons why my religion is better is the way to go about missionary work.
Great post and a model for the rest of us. I think questions and issues just exist. If we didn’t have questions, we’d be nothing but a bunch of blind faith followers. (wait until the MM critics get a hold of that.) In fact, we are commanded to “study it out in our mind…..” Not every answer is satisfactory for us at any given time. In time, we can find a way to reconcile issues that we have and, as you say, still believe. As you know, some cannot.
But, it is possible. Thanks for your post
Fwiw, however, I don’t believe that articulating reasons why my religion is better is the way to go about missionary work.
You may be right on that, but it’s not what I asked. I asked if you could articulate a reason for someone outside the Mormon faith to join the Mormon faith. You don’t have to phrase it in terms of better or worse.
Perhaps you read those parts but didn’t think those have a bearing on belief?
They do have a bearing on belief, but I don’t see them as having a bearing on a belief in any specifically Mormon doctrine. You come close in articulating appreciation for experiences one has in a specifically Mormon context (mission, blessing the sacrament as a youth etc.) You also come close in saying the Book of Mormon has a special place in your life. But again I suspect you couched it in those terms because the issues you see with the BofM prevent you from declaring its veracity unequivocally.
“I asked if you could articulate a reason for someone outside the Mormon faith to join the Mormon faith.”
That is a great question (actually, you still haven’t “asked” the question 🙂 , so I didn’t know if it was just a statement or not–I do now, thanks), and one that I don’t think I could answer with any kind of satisfaction on a forum like this, or anywhere online, really. How would you answer it? Anyone else can take a stab at that if they want, but again, that was not the intent of the post. I would like to try to answer your question though, if it is important. To help me with that, may I ask what the intent of your asking the question is?
“I don’t see them as having a bearing on a belief in any specifically Mormon doctrine”
My belief in Christ is VERY Mormon, as is my belief in marriage (which as I said will be coming up in a later post). Also, my belief in infinite pre-mortal life, and eternal growth and progression. I have also found that Mormonism allows me the freedom to incorporate other things (science being one, obviously, as well as some teachings of Buddhism).
“I suspect you couched it in those terms because the issues you see with the BofM prevent you from declaring its veracity unequivocally”
I know for myself. If by “veracity unequivocally” you mean everyone must accept BECAUSE I know, you’re right, I can’t and won’t say that.
I thank you for your replies. I’ll let you have the last word on those issues. The conversation has made me think about some issues which are probably too lengthy and off topic to post here, perhaps I will have a blog post of my own on them.
Hahaha I didn’t mean for it to be a debate on the last word. I am glad it is making you think about some of your own thoughts. If any of it is related to your wanting an answer for your question re: above, I am especially interested.
Tatiana/Jeff – Thank you! I love this blog because there is such a great mix. I know that often whatever I put up will bring in a variety of perspectives, including those of fellow believers.
I think you have to pull apart several things from Adam’s post. Yes, you’ve got the basic moral-actions-that-could-be-from-anywhere, but integrated within this post as well is that Adam also has continued spiritual experiences within the Mormon context of things that keep him going. It is these personal, subjective, and as he described “indescribable” experiences that make the difference.
If you don’t have this, or you don’t have this from Mormonism specifically, then things are different. I didn’t have that. So, as active as I was, I knew acutely there was a difference between activity and belief. Protip: activity alone doesn’t do it.
Thanks for the inspiring words, Adam. Because of my limited vocabulary it is heaven when others articulate some of my very same feelings so well.
I’d like to comment on one of David’s points/questions. Personally, if someone is happy being a Catholic, Jew or Muslim I wouldn’t desire them to convert to Mormonism. I know that this view isn’t in harmony with LDS missionary work but I have found peace in it.
One of the greatest benefits of the LDS church for me is the reliance on personal and continued revelation. It is a living church that grows and changes. While my political and social views are not the LDS norm, the strong focus on personal revelation and growth have been the very core principles that have helped me formulate those views. I would be a completely different person if I was raised Catholic or Protestant.
I’m not sure if this is making any sense, but I have always felt the church inspires its members to be educated and receive personal revelation to guide their lives. I’m not saying other Churches don’t teach this, but the way it is presented in the LDS church resonates with me.
Apologies for the bad grammar.
I have the type of personality that I want answers to the deep burning questions so I ask and ask and ask. I have been able to get some answers to questions that have bothered me, but typically they only create more questions so it can be a vicious cycle to get oneself into. I know that Heavenly Father exists and loves each of us very much, but I wonder what in the world He is thinking sometimes (ok, a lot of times!). For me, the decision to trust Him in spite of all the struggles I may have is a big part of the purpose of this life and the most difficult as well. Knowing His will for me is the most important thing in my life, and I have discovered that He is more than willing to let me know what it is, even when I am not necessarily that excited about it and tend to let Him know on occasion. Many things that bother people enough to leave the church don’t bother me (at least not anymore) because I feel like it is impossible to know what really went on or the specifics of any situation when you are working with bits and pieces of information. If someone was to write about me or my life right now, I can say with confidence they wouldn’t be correct because no one really knows what I am going through. I just have to trust the Lord that when I ask Him something and He tells me in a way that is discernable as truth to me, that is enough. If I get to the other side and find out I was completely lost, I will just let the Lord know that I did the best I could (somehow I think he will know that already) 🙂 I have great peace in knowing my heart is sincere and that I am doing the best I possibly can.
Excellent post, Adam, and I suspect that every single honest person alive would answer the questions David has posed in essentially the same way – with minor clarifying variances. It all comes down to beliefs, feelings and experiences, imo.
I believe for a number of reasons, and I have written extensively about them. Perhaps the top few are:
1) The overarching / underpinning theology rings true to me. The God described in Mormonism; our relationship to God, the Father, and God, the Son, and God, the Holy Ghost; the universal power of Christ in our theology that, frankly, most other Christian churches reject (generally with no clue about what I mean when I say that); our ultimate objective and goal; our understanding of the Bible; our belief in non-Biblical scripture; the ability to gather in the good from all sources and claim it as our own; the temple cosmology; the priesthood of believers; the concept of non-accountability for the young; the belief that we are not punished for Adam’s transgression (and the expansive meaning of that concept I envision); the belief in a literal, physical resurrection; our celebration of sexual union and repudiation of the belief that Adam’s fall had ANYTHING to do with sexual activity – I could go on and on and on and on. I’ve studied other theologies extensively, and there is nothing else (outside of Buddhism) that comes close to exciting me like Mormonism does – and, since I am Christian to the core, I study Buddhism as a supplement rather than a competitor.
2) The willingness to jettison former speculation and alter doctrine as we gain insight and “light and knowledge” is a huge plus for me. I know it drives lots of people nuts, since many want infallible prophets, but I like being led by modern prophets who are just as likely to speak from their own limited understanding as Biblical prophets (and Book of Mormon prophets) were. I really like that we are not tied to what someone said centuries or decades or even years ago. With the exception of Jesus of Nazareth, there is nobody to whom I will grant doctrinal infallibility, and even his words has been transmitted through time and might not be his own. The organization is quite conservative, with liberal elements, but the theology is incredibly liberal – even though it is not presented as such by many members and leaders.
3) The wonderful community the Church tends to create – even with all its flaws due to its lay structure.
4) Foundationally and fundamentally, however, I am anchored by my experiences with the Spirit. Some of them could be seen as generic and applicable to someone of any religion or denomination, but some of them are unmistakably (to me) rooted in my membership in this Church and belief in the Gospel we teach. I have had some moments when God literally has spoken through me in undeniable ways (ways that simply don’t make sense outside the context of revelation), and I value those experiences highly. They also have not been one-hit wonders – and that is important, as well.
There are plenty of things that “bother me” about the Church – but I believe strongly in the pruning process described in Jacob 5, so they don’t derail me. I see the Restoration as a process of weeding out the effects of the Apostasy (from the world, but also from within the Church) that will continue until the end, not an event that slammed full truth and perfection into the Earth in one brilliant flash. I think that view is the only one that is consistent with our actual canon, but that’s my view.
Finally, I also believe strongly in the 11th Article of Faith that says:
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
Therefore, I don’t try to force others to believe what I believe – and, in many personal conversations, I actually try to help them clarify what they personally believe (if necessary) and help them identify a worship community that will fit those beliefs. I believe we are that we might have joy, and I would never dream of trying to shatter the joy of another simply because I don’t agree with them as to points of belief and doctrine. I will share what brings me joy (which is what I believe the heart of missionary work to be – “sharing the Gospel [good news]”), but I also respect what brings them joy in the moment. I would rather someone be a genuinely joyful (insert religion or denomination) than a genuinely miserable Mormon.
In the end, I believe Mormonism is “true” in two fundamental ways:
1) It is right for me;
2) It points me in the right direction – like a compass pointing true north.
I still have to navigate all the obstacles that keep me from traveling in a straight, level path as I walk toward that true north, and some of those obstacles are within the Church itself still, but my own personal compass is with the LDS Church.
I tried for a long time to reconcile some things that were very disturbing to me. I prayed and fasted and on and on… Finally one day sitting in sacrament meeting, listening to the words of the hymn, it hit me, that it doesn’t matter.
Not that my concerns don’t matter, but it doesn’t matter if I have all the answers. I know what I know, and I will trust Heavenly Father that the things I don’t understand will be worked out eventually.
I remembered something my mother said to me about things we didn’t understand- and I think her grandmother said it to her- that she has a shelf where she puts all the questions that she can’t find answers for, and trust that Heavenly Father will answer them whether in this life or the next.
The best parts of my experience in the church have all been the spiritual experiences which pop up randomly as I go about being active in the church. Sometimes associated with the temple, sometimes a baby blessing, often a family home evening where my 7-year-old teaches us that Jesus loves us. I also love the relationships formed with other church members as we serve together in various callings.
Ultimately I choose to stay, because as far back as I can remember, I’ve always known this is where I belong. I love the plan of salvation, and I have learned that Heavenly Father allows his children to stumble and learn, so it would be silly for me to throw out the good just because others aren’t perfect yet.
“a shelf where she puts all the questions that she can’t find answers for”
I understand a lot of people use this analogy. I have also heard of those who felt that the shelf got too heavy and fell. I suppose what “keeps my shelf up” so to speak, is the extensive list of positives.
Adam, fwiw, if someone keeps piling things on the shelf and never removes any of them it’s no wonder it falls. There is a HUGE difference between putting something on a shelf (putting the worry and angst on hold, so to speak, but keeping that concern inside) and accepting a lack of understanding (letting go of the angst about it entirely) – between holding onto the issue as needing to be reconciled and accepting it even while not understanding it – between demanding certainty at some point and accepting uncertainty as a legitimate, viable condition.
Personally, I don’t use the shelf analogy. I use the “cast they burdens upon the Lord” analogy. I can’t tell you how many things that I couldn’t understand initially I simply let go of – and found an answer that worked **for me** (almost every single time) in a moment of insight for which I wasn’t searching at the time. Sometimes that answer was “orthodox”; sometimes it was “heterodox”; sometimes it was that it simply didn’t matter – that it was a triviality when viewed in light of the big picture; sometimes it was through a simple application of charity and non-judgmentalism; sometimes it was nothing more than a feeling of intense peace and stillness; etc. I figure there will be a time when I understand it all completely, and I really don’t care that I’m not there yet. I think I’m MUCH closer than I was at your age, and I figure I’ll be MUCH closer when I get to my father’s age than I am now – but, looking at it from an eternal perspective, I’m not sure how much closer it really is. I’m OK with that.
I’ve come to accept ambiguity and uncertainty as an unavoidable part of my life, and I’ve reached a point in my middle-aged life where I really don’t need a shelf. Anything I still don’t understand like I want to is sitting in a pile on the ground at His feet or in His arms, and the ground isn’t going to collapse from the weight of that pile – nor are His arms going to drop my pile.
I struggle with staying in the church. I really hope I don’t offend anyone here, and I really do not want to argue my point. I come with a sincere desire to remain in the church. I have thought of the reasons you stated above for WHY I should stay, but I find myself wondering if that is enough.
For example, two issues that really bother me are, the ban on the priesthood for blacks and prop 8. To me those issues show a lot of hatred and bigotry. I have tried looking past those issues and justifying why I should stay, but I can’t. I keep asking why I am a part of an organization that has a history of racism and sexism.
My family members use the example of being an American. There is a lot of racism and sexism in the history, but do I chose to leave because of that? However I don’t think these situations correlate because being American is my nationality and the church is my source for spiritual guidance. How do you look past these issues?
The spirituality concept has always been very difficult for me. I have had spiritual moments, and as Ray said some are more poignant that others. I have never however had a spiritual experience which is both spiritual and enlightening. I refer to Hugh Nibley’s paper, “Zeal Without Knowledge”. He states, quoting Joseph Smith, that Holy Ghost has none other effect than pure intelligence flowing to the mind of man from God. I have had had experiences where I have felt passionately about things, and from that I have formed opinions. I have not had any experiences where I can with confidence claim that I was “recieving” pure intelligence from heavenly sources. More pointedly I cannot say that I have ever had such an experience that vindicates the Mormon Church in any of it’s particulars. If I had (do), I can accept the logic of leaving questions on a shelf. When you are not certain about your faith, it is unwise and nearly impossible if religion matters to you, to not spend time in the gallery of things you might otherwise shelf for later.
lost – Agreed, being an American and being a member of the church are not the same thing to me.
You don’t come across as argumentative. Fwiw, I can relate to your issues quite well I think. I am not saying to stop thinking about them, but the more you think about just your anger, or how much they bother you, the more they will make you angry and the more they will bother you. It’s really an issue of emotion, I think (again, not taking away from the original concerns). My route in this is to remember to focus (re: my post) on all the good as well, WITHOUT ignoring the bad.
Cowboy – I have probably only had 2 experiences like you describe, e.g. receiving something specific. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Everyone else–I will address the other comments a little later when my son takes his nap. Thanks for all the input and comments!
Thank you very much for your post. I enjoyed it immensely. You have articulated why I stay as well. Like others have said, I separate belief in the church from my membership and activity. I suspect we would disagree over many “beliefs” in the church, but as you pointed out, that’s not really the point of your post. I accept, and agree with you post in a very fundamental way. Thank you for articulating it so well.
I also agree with what Ray was saying. I would tweak it for me just a little by saying
1) It is right for me
2) It points me in a good direction. Like a compass pointing to my true north.
Try not to be too discouraged. Many here feel, or have felt as you do. Keep plugging along and things will get better.
Well said, Cowboy – and that is why I don’t begrudge people’s choices to join, stay or leave. It’s the whole 11th Article of Faith thing for me. Many members, I’m afraid, don’t really understand the full implications of that belief.
I’ve said this elsewhere, but when Laman and Lemuel said, “The Lord maketh no such thing known unto us,” I think they might have been totally honest. I wonder if they just didn’t experience visions like Lehi and Nephi did – that perhaps they had tried and simply didn’t have that gift – that perhaps their answer has an assumed and unwritten “you know” at the beginning – that perhaps their **fundamental** issue wasn’t inherent unrighteousness but rather disbelief based on not being able to feel and know and see what their father and brother claimed to feel and know and see. I wonder how much of their attitude and action was based initially on ignorance (lack of understanding) and frustration as much as wickedness. Remember, both Sam and Sariah also lacked the experiences Lehi and Nephi claimed (and Sariah, at least, complained at least once about Lehi’s original vision and subsequent decision, so even she wasn’t fully “converted” to the idea) – but they were willing to accept and follow.
I’m not saying my wondering is correct – not at all. I understand Nephi’s perspective, but I wonder about the family and inter-personal dynamics – and the possibly unrealistic expectations with which Laman and Lemuel appear to have been living. They were “obedient” enough to leave with Lehi originally (before Laban’s death), so it’s hard for me to classify them as totally wicked and rebellious and unrighteous.
I bring that up to draw the distinction between people who were in the same family but ended up with radically different reactions and beliefs when all was said and done – and I just wonder why that was and still is. I don’t know, so I only can speak for myself – and allow others to speak for themselves.
Ray- I like your “cast thy burdens upon the Lord”. It’s all semantics, but that’s a better way of describing what I feel when I use the shelf analogy.
Allie—-“Ultimately I choose to stay, because as far back as I can remember, I’ve always known this is where I belong.”
Thanks for sharing that. It was meaningful to me.
AdamF—thanks for this personal look at your situation. I always wished wards could issue a book containing everyone’s testimony and feelings about why they attend church. Obviously, not possible. In the MM branch, I guess it is possible.
Allie: Finally one day sitting in sacrament meeting, listening to the words of the hymn, it hit me, that it doesn’t matter.
Not that my concerns don’t matter, but it doesn’t matter if I have all the answers.
That’s pretty much the point I arrived at, as well. There are certain, doctrinally non-essential things I believe that may or may not be true. If I’m wrong about them, well, then: big whooptie-doo, and God will eventually straighten me out on these things. If I’m right, then goodie for me, but for the present, it doesn’t really matter.
The priesthood ban and teachings on homosexuality (past and present) are my two biggest struggles. I have been able to work through most of my doctrinal questions/concerns accepting that is it “okay” that I struggle. I try to remain open and humble to the possibility that I am wrong in some of my conclusions that aren’t in agreement with church teachings.
I think it is because it offends my Spirit so much I am having a hard time letting these two topics go. A lot of my doctrinal questions/concerns don’t have much bearing in my life. They are easy to let go. But these two have become very important to me because of my relationships with others. Maybe it will just take more time for me to find peace.
But you are not alone. I have met many members of the Church that feel the same way.
There have been those who have witnessed the most spiritual manifestations ever recorded in human history and still have fallen away as well as the strong but simple faith of new converts which carry them through the difficult stages of conversion and acclimation to the Church. It proves it is all individual. What is prove to one, is not to another what is easy to have faith in to one, is impossible to another.
A burden that is bearable to one with the help of the Lord is unbearable to another, regardless.
#9 Andrew S – If you don’t have this, or you don’t have this from Mormonism specifically, then things are different.
I agree, and have talked with a few people recently who have left the faith, and said they never had “the answer” either, e.g. a discernable spiritual experience. The next question I have is (from a believer’s perspective) why do some get them, and some don’t? Some people seem to pray for years for them, and it doesn’t happen.
# 10 DrewE
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I feel somewhat similar (regarding the desire that others convert) in the sense that I believe Heavenly Father will lead his children via the paths they need to take. I like to share my beliefs, of course, and generally have no problem with missionary work, but I don’t think there needs to be underlying motives regarding loving and serving others, in addition to sharing my beliefs. If I devote my life to those three areas, if someone in my life is meant to join the church, they will be led to do that. I hope that makes sense.
# 12 Jen
I have the type of personality that I want answers to the deep burning questions so I ask and ask and ask. I have been able to get some answers to questions that have bothered me, but typically they only create more questions so it can be a vicious cycle to get oneself into.
I have experienced something similar, but rather than questions, it’s usually thought. I have learned that I am profoundly emotionally and cognitively influenced by what I read, so I try to be very careful about what I take in, as well as try to get a balance of things from various sides, e.g. if I’m reading Al Gore, I force myself to read some Bill O’Reilly along with it.
“I have great peace in knowing my heart is sincere and that I am doing the best I possibly can.”
This is great. I think many people have this peace, and there are certainly some who still need to experience it.
Great post. I just want to say that my personal favourite part was reading that your dad blessed a sick cat. I wish I knew someone like that, in case one of my “kids” ever needs to be blessed. 🙂
As for why I stay, the reasons are sometimes illogical and some would argue even irrational. And I can agree. But what it all boils down to for me is that I’ve been witness to some amazing, spritual experiences among family members and close friends that would make it impossible for me to simply cast my faith aside and walk away from it completely. I don’t think I would feel any more comfortable with that than I do with polygamy, the priesthood ban, or all of the other weirdness throughout Mormon past and present.
Suffice it to say that I often feel very torn, but it’s those experiences from beyond the veil, which can’t be explained away by logic alone, that compel me to stay.
26) – Jeff, I don’t want to try and steer the discussion another direction, but your conclusion rests on the assumption that the “spiritual manifestations” actually occured, ( I guess I’m assuming that you are referring to the classics, Laman/lemuel, the Three Witnesses, etc). Your point is not a new one, I have heard many people refer to this anomally many times in gospel classes etc, and to be honest it makes me wonder. Why would someone who has been in the presence of an Angel, an Angel no less who bore record of Joseph Smiths propheticness, or that Nephi was to be a leader and teacher over them, continue to persist in open rebellion against God and his servants with the assurance and expectation that their conduct is going to cause them to come out on the recieving end of some level of Divine retribution? It doesn’t make sense to me. Such a person would have to be possessed of a desire to want to destroy God, ie Son of Perdition. Perhaps we could make a case on this for Laman & Lemuel, but I think it would be harder to argue this position towards any of the three witnesses.
I think a safer position is to understand that our spiritual orientation is going to be largely based on our personal experiences and understanding of things.
# 13 Ray – Thanks for sharing some of your points. They really add a lot to the post and the discussion. This is some of what I was hoping for! I really like your #1, and I have many similar thoughts. Buddhism for me is also a supplement. Regarding #2, many people do seem to struggle with this idea, and some leave over it. I love it though.
I see the Restoration as a process of weeding out the effects of the Apostasy (from the world, but also from within the Church) that will continue until the end, not an event that slammed full truth and perfection into the Earth in one brilliant flash.
This is an intriguing way to look at it, thanks. I agree.
# 14 Allie
one day sitting in sacrament meeting, listening to the words of the hymn, it hit me, that it doesn’t matter
I have been hit with this before as well… and know of others who have experienced this. Often I have found it comes when I am really bothered by something, but at the same time trying to stay humble and open to learning. While I still have issues with it, polygamy doesn’t bother me like it used to.
# 16 Ray
if someone keeps piling things on the shelf and never removes any of them it’s no wonder it falls
I agree, it is practically inevitable. This is true for forming any opinion really. We tend to seek out what we already know, or what confirms it, and discard or explain away the rest. I have found that many in the church—and some who have left—do this.
Tolerance for ambiguity is a key part of emotional intelligence, something that is not easy to acquire.
# 20 jmb275 – Thank you. I also love how in the church we can disagree and still both be good believing members.
# 21 Ray
I have thought quite a bit about Laman and Lemuel as well, and really think they have been given a bad rap that they didn’t deserve (at least not in the beginning).
I always wished wards could issue a book containing everyone’s testimony and feelings about why they attend church.
Me too! It would be great (and friendships would be formed even faster) if I knew where everyone stood in the ward. As it is, I carefully try to get to know people’s views without shocking them with any of mine. I am thinking of giving a condensed version of this post in a testimony meeting, however. I wonder if there are any members who appear to be conservative believers but are actually struggling beneath the façade.
# 25 DrewE/lost
I am glad you are both here, and that we can share these things, as Alfred says to Bruce Wayne, without fear of “reprisals.” Sometimes I don’t know if these things can be “let go” but I do think that finding some amount of peace is possible.
If anyone has experiences with sharing the Gospel with others – or a personal “conversion” story – they are willing to share, I would love to have your experiences on the following site:
“Sharing the Gospel: Personal Stories”
#29 FD – I am glad there is a rather large group that I fit into of acknowledging the concerns ALONG with the good stuff. I know for some it’s an either/or proposition, but like you, I can’t drop the good just so I feel more aggressively and objectively rational about the areas that bother me.
Cowboy – I do think that spiritual experiences occur in context of the individual. At the same time, I do believe in objective truth. Perhaps the way the experience is interpreted OR valued is where the subjective comes in. Just wondering…
How do you handle issues that are difficult or perhaps impossible to reconcile?
When I was an intern in my medical residency, I bonded closely with the young doctors in the same stage of training. We spend the day together, spend the nights together (working), slept in the same call rooms, ate together, grieved together, celebrated together. I was the only LDS resident in a great mixture of Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Non-Denominational Christians, and and one of Jewish background.
Early in our training, the directors of the residency announced that they had fired one of our group, which came completely out of the blue to me. He was a great friend and a nice person. He tended to be quiet. None of us could accept this. We tried to protest it, but were advised that he was experiencing problems on every rotation with feedback to the residency directors suggesting this. I was on a surgical rotation, and the surgeon I was working with told me that he had never seen any problems with the resident. This seemed evidence to me that the directors of the residency were not being truthful.
I thought about quitting in support of him. That would have left me in a financially vulnerable position and as somewhat of a pariah in trying to get into another residency. My friend didn’t want me to do this, but I no longer trusted the residency directors. When talking to him about his issues, he couldn’t explain them very well.
I ultimately decided to finish the year and take it one year at a time. I recognized that I was never fully going to understand why those events had to happen. I wasn’t at liberty to know all the details, and I wasn’t looking at it from the perspective of the leadership. I decided it wasn’t worth trying to discuss it anymore and decided to move on. I decided that I would never share extremely personal things with the residency directors. I would only accept them as friendly to a point. My friend got a position in a different residency and was much happier because of it. I started to see some of the differences between residency programs and gained a glimmer of understanding as to why our residency didn’t work for him.
Now the residency is well into my past and I send Christmas cards once a year to a couple of those friends who were so close. The residency director has moved on. I look back on that time as one of fatigue, exhaustion, being pushed to the edge yet learning a tremendously great amount regarding medicine, relationships, and about myself.
Is it any more difficult to reconcile issues within my history in the church than compared to life in general? There are still human factors such as differences of perspectives between leaders and followers, only being given partial disclosure of details about the issues, emotions pertaining to the circumstances of the time, and about the individual skill sets that people possess.
I look when attempting to reconcile difficulties with church issues, again, at the balance of what I learn/gain/take strength from compared to the difficulty of the particular issue at hand. I also refrain from sharing my life story and deeply personal thoughts with every Bishop. After all, they change every so often. Each Bishop, on the other hand, always demonstrates some admirable trait or talent that I try to model in my day to day life.
I am a believer. I accept the accounts of those who said they saw things. I have had my own experiences which have convinced me of the truthfulness of those accounts. It is my individual choice. I have no expectation that anyone else accept that which I accept as fact.
“Why would someone who has been in the presence of an Angel, an Angel no less who bore record of Joseph Smiths propheticness, or that Nephi was to be a leader and teacher over them, continue to persist in open rebellion against God and his servants with the assurance and expectation that their conduct is going to cause them to come out on the recieving end of some level of Divine retribution? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Nor to me, but they did. I know many who beleived at one time, but now don’t. MM is full of poster in that situation.
Thanks for sharing that Rigel. I feel it is important to hold the cards close to my chest as well. In fact, in many cases it is quite appropriate. If I can answer the temple recommend questions without being dishonest, I feel okay about participating there, even if my views don’t fit everything that every bishop may feel. I also agree with the same idea at work, and with friends or acquaintances.
You really have to be careful and selective with who you share things with, as I mentioned in the post. What happened was, a friend was really grilling me about WHY I was a member (this was back before I knew much about church history or J.S.) and finally it came down to one of my most sacred spiritual experiences. She was respectful, but her teenage daughter (whom I previously trusted, actually) the next day really roasted it, and not in my presence. I will probably never trust her (the teenager) with stuff like that again, unless there was some kind of repair. Some people just CAN’T seem to tolerate the idea of a subjective spiritual experience. Granted, if was using them as a weapon, or as the basis for a debate to objectively support the church’s claims, by all means shoot it down. But I know enough for myself.
That would be my question for a believer. Because what I take from it…and I guess everyone doesn’t take the same conclusion…but what this suggests to me that these experiences are only indicative of personal and subjective truths, but not objective or external truths…this, I feel, is a problem for most religions, because most religions want to say something like, “We offer an understand of some external Truth of the world/universe.” If truth becomes personal, subjective, and not necessarily indicative of some external truth of the universe, then that suggests a revamping of religion is in order. And at the end of the day, many people have contradictory spiritual experiences (that is, experiences that lead them to believe in external truths that are incompatible with conclusions someone else might get from their experience) or might not have spiritual experiences at all, so it doesn’t even follow to say something like, “Well, even if there are so many different religions, the spiritual experiences are in common, so they must point to something external that is supernatural.”
My answer, as I’ve said before, is that this seems to suggest to me that spiritual experiences really only tell us about the personality of the individual, rather than telling us anything about the universe. It’s easy to comprehend that some people get spiritual experiences and some people have faith because they are built that way while others are built in a different way, in the same way that people can be straight, gay, bisexual, asexual or whatever else, or someone might be an introvert and another person might be an extrovert (and then you have a sliding scale in between), etc., None of these kinds of things suggests a “right” or “wrong” (even if one of the options is more commonly seen — e.g., that more people are straight or extroverted doesn’t suggest that those are objective and external “right” options.)
Good points Andrew S. While I don’t think the subjective nature of spiritual experiences makes truth unknown, I can understand what you’re saying here. My only conclusion is that I have had experiences, and I believe in external truth, but everyone needs to follow their own conscience and etc. If someone gets a different answer or experience than I do, that’s okay. At the same time though (as I think I said above) I don’t use my experiences to prove anything to anyone else.
There are many roads to finding God and all of them have obstacles that try our faith as we seek to know the Him. The vision of the tree of life (there are two accounts in the 1st book of Nephi)tells this story.
AdamF post does and excellent job describing his experience of staying on the path in spite of the mist of darkness he’s encountered (Book of Abraham, DNA, Book of Mormon historicity, polyandry, etc.).
The Book of Mormon teaches us what the next steps are, and that is to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and then endure to the end. (the fruit of the tree of life is to experience the love of God by receiving a remission of our sins).
Many in the blogernacle are telling their story of getting caught up in the mists of darkness and struggling or falling away. It is refreshing to read about AdamF’s experience. He is keeping himself on the path by clinging to the iron rod and moving forward. I appreciate Adam’s willingness to share in detail his experience of staying on the path in spite of the challenges he’s encountered. His answer is to say– it is faith, a gift of God that keeps him on the path, not an intellectual construct. This is precisely what the Book of Mormon teaches.
What is your story?
* How do you handle issues that are difficult or perhaps impossible to reconcile?
* What are the best parts of your experiences in the church?
* Why have you ultimately decided to stay or leave? (Please keep these in a spirit of sharing and mutual understanding.)
My answer to these questions are found on my blog. A short answer is: I’ve become friends with the Savior.
Thanks AdamF for a great post describing faith.
#26 Jeff said: There have been those who have witnessed the most spiritual manifestations ever recorded in human history and still have fallen away…
I agree with this Jeff, but I don’t think you will find many of them had received a conversion experience. By this I mean receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31-32).
It is one thing to see and angel, hear the voice of God, and observe miracles like Nephi’s brothers, and fall away, but they never had a “conversion experience”. I don’t know of anyone who has been converted and then turned against the Lord. I’m sure there are some out there, but very rare.
Thanks for such a great personal post, AdamF.
Jeff #26 – I think this is a great point. One’s spiritual experiences are very subjective. Some people hear about others’ experiences and can believe based on their feelings as they hear it, others can see angels (for lack of a better example) and question it and not believe. I don’t think it’s for me to judge how people perceive their spiritual experiences (or even their lack of them). I can only base my own beliefs on my own experiences and perceptions.
Does that mean they are external truths? I’m not sure either way, but I mostly just care that they are true for me and useful to me. We all have to make our own way in the world.
Without sharing my whole story, here are some answers to your posted questions:
“How do you handle issues that are difficult or perhaps impossible to reconcile?”
I view the church and the scriptures as very human. All inspiration is through a human filter, and some is more inspired than others. Some things I just figure I don’t know and usually don’t care. Other things I ascribe to human frailty. Depends on the issue.
“What are the best parts of your experiences in the church?”
I love how people are so willing to reach out and help each other. I also often find real inspiration in some of the GC talks (others leave me a bit flat, tho).
“Why have you ultimately decided to stay or leave?”
This is where I belong, and I am my best self in the church.
For me it was not so much that I lost my belief, but rather lost my need to believe. Men need to be believed, I don’t think any meaningful concept of God needs belief. The model I look to is nature. If there is a creator, nature is its one and only unquestionable creation. It is pure and rational. It does not require belief; in fact belief often impedes a deeper understanding that is open to any who are willing to look. It places no man above another–Pope, Prophet, criminal, are all subject to the same law.
I love Mormons. They are smart, honest, hard working and love their families. Once I left Utah Valley I learned that all people, when you get to know them, can be described the same way. In other words, the good in the church is its people. It is not surprising that men, even when well intentioned, use such organizations to collect power to themselves. Ultimately I could not raise my kids in an organization with a leadership that has no accountability to those they lead. For all the good (people) in it, it is an organization of men and I cannot support it without major reform.
I applaud those of you who keep asking questions and looking for answers. I am surrounded by family and friends in the church who believe even entertaining such questions to be an offense to God. And that, I believe, is the true offense.
I don’t know how much my experience can add to the discussion, but I’d like to share.
For much of my life as a youth and adult, I had a series of similar experiences that I interpreted as spiritual events. Sometimes these events would occur regularly, sometimes there were very long stretches in between. Most of the time it was terrifying in the extreme, and occasionally it was followed by a transcendent feeling of love and peace. I had over the years told a few people, including church leaders. I was looking for help and an explanation. I got a lot of different explanations but very little help. Though I had no idea why it was happening, in my mind there was no doubt at all about what was happening and the two opposing forces that were involved.
Then I read a scientific article that THOROUGHLY AND COMPLETELY described these experiences. It was a relatively common, well studied and documented phenomenon associated with a sleep disorder. As soon as I had this information, my interpretation of this experience changed dramatically, and SO DID THE EXPERIENCE ITSELF. Once I knew what it was that was actually going on, the fear and confusion was also gone. What had previously been something very significant (and often traumatic) in my life was now just a thing that happened to me. I didn’t think about it or worry about it or adjust any of my behavior in relation to it.
I have since, however, spent a great deal of time wondering how many other significant spiritual milestones in my life might also have other explanations, and this has greatly eroded my tendency to view life with an eye of faith.
“I agree with this Jeff, but I don’t think you will find many of them had received a conversion experience. By this I mean receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31-32).”
Boy, I’d be real careful with this. It is not my place to judge that. And how would I really know? Any more than it is for me to judge whether a testimony is real or not. When folks say “they know” I am not the one to say they don’t. You might be right, but I am not the judge. Laman and Leumuel stayed in rebellion in spite of what they were witness to. The others entered into a state of rebellion after their manifestations.
I think the mists of darkness analogy is presents a difficult case. Particularly since the examples listed are not the philosophies of men, (Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon Historicity, Polyandry), but are rather mists that, for the sake of analogy, are emanating from the Rod with respect to Mormonism.
#40 Jared – I am glad you are here. It is a much-needed perspective for this blog. I had not thought of it in terms of the mists of darkness, but I am intrigued, to say the least. As Cowboy (#45) said, I while I don’t think the “mists” themselves are the particular issues, I am open to the idea that they could be viewed as how those issues affect people at the expense of other good things.
Imperfection #42 – Thanks for the comment. This was particularly interesting: ”I don’t think any meaningful concept of God needs belief.” – I am not sure exactly what I think about this, but I do strongly believe that God does not damn people based on belief. That makes no sense to me. I also agree that looking at questions as being offensive is quite offensive (meta-offensive?).
jjackson #43 – That really would cause someone (myself included) to reinterpret assumptions or explanations. This reminds me of a guy who thought he was being led by the Spirit in all kinds of things, yet the spirit was always telling him to change majors, or move, or etc. He later learned he suffered from an anxiety disorder. For me, I have realized that some of my “spiritual experiences” not only may have “other explanations” but that they may have myriad other explanations. Of course, entering the field that I am (psychology) it is pretty much a standard that you look for as many possible explanations as you can.
jjackson – are you talking about sleep paralysis or something else? I too occasionally experience that, although I’ve never had what I thought was a spiritual experience associated with it. I do think that it’s probably a good explanation for some spiritual experiences we hear about, though, and has also been linked to both alien abduction stories and stories of incubi and sucubi (demons that visited humans) from the middle ages.
*How do you handle issues that are difficult or perhaps impossible to reconcile?
It’s a daily struggle, to be honest. Some things I can’t reconcile and I don’t think they are OK. So I have finally determined that I am a Cafeteria Mormon. I can’t accept all things as “truth” so I just have to trust my own judgement to discard the things that I think are ridiculous.
*What are the best parts of your experiences in the church?
Not much, to be honest. I find the meetings unbelievably long and usually not very inspired. That said, the church teaches a great way to live, encourages a personal relationship with God and Jesus, and a strong work ethic. It’s not a bad way to raise kids, although I want my daughters to aspire to more than being a Vice President to their husband.
*Why have you ultimately decided to stay or leave? (Please keep these in a spirit of sharing and mutual understanding.) Because it would destroy my family if I left. …
Lulubelle, that sounds rough. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have this as a “daily struggle.” I agree the meetings can be long (not when I’m teaching though! Then they are really fast! 😉 ) I would like to see the whole block down to 2 hours, i.e. sacrament mtg. at 50 minutes, SS at 40, and RS/Priesthood meetings at 20 or so. Not to steady the ark, but I think it would ramp up the focus quite a bit rather than dragging it out. Anyway, ultimately staying because you don’t want to destroy your family sounds incredibly difficult.
Fwiw I can’t reconcile some things either (as I pointed out), but I think MOST members are Cafeteria Mormons in version or another.
Excellent posts. I have a firm testimony that God answers the prayers of all of his children. My answers have come in miraculous ways very specific to Mormonism and the eclesiastical responsibilities I have had.
Also, seeing the ‘goodness’ argument played out in the lives of 100’s of remarkable people makes it compelling.
I’m in a similar situation. For me it seems the most productive thing is to not destroy family relationships when I would not be leaving as a result of having found “THE” true Church, but rather having determined that I just belong to another religion. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to pioneer my way out when I really have nowhere to go, and no other truths to replace Mormonism with. To me it just makes sense to be part of my culture and heritage, take the good things from it, and try to live a happy and productive life. The nice thing about this approach is that I am not conscience burdened to tell a Bishop – “No, I don’t want to be Ward Clerk” – or to not be fully invested in Mormonism. I can actually appreciate what I feel are the Church’s strong points without having to try and reconcile the inconsistencies. Of course this is my new philosphy and it seems to work okay, but even still I can’t help but take an interest in Church history and issues nevertheless.
As a side note, I think what has helped me the most is to try and understand Mormonism in the context of the entire world. This has helped me to avoid developing strong resentments towards the Church and my upbringing. Mormonism is just one religion in the world of literally thousands of possibilities. Chances are, that if I were not born into Mormonism, I probablly would have been born into another religion that would compete for my obedience and loyalty. It would do so by claiming some special ability in either philosophy or divine investure to serving as a vehicle for my salvation. It would have it’s codes, history, and creeds. I would probably have issues with those religions as well. In other words, we may want to take privilege in feeling “cheated” by our Mormon upbringing – or experience for the convert – but our experience are really not all that unlike most people in the world. My parents loved me, they were great people. I was raised in relatively decent economic circumstances compared to most people living in the world today. I have recieved a reasonable education, and have had professional oppurtunities that have allowed me to manage a reasonable living for myself and my family, and yeah being born Mormon was part of the deal too. I don’t mention any of this to brag, but to just point out that most of the good things that have happened in my life, if I’m being honest, had less to do with my superiorority to others in the world, and more to do with the circumstances I was born into that were beyond my control – just like being born Mormon was beyond my control. It would be counterproductive to resent that, or to carry Mormonism as a worthy chip on my shoulder. I wasn’t born a young female who was sold into prostitution in Europe or Asia.
Yes, sleep paralysis, but with a HEAVY dose of the “doppelganger” experience. I’ve talked to a few others who’ve experienced the paralysis, and to one other who also felt the “evil” presence. The brain can do some really interesting things when you combine sleep paralysis with imaginative dreaming and a religious upbringing. I guess since I didn’t have an alien abduction story to tell means that deep down I believed the “FIrst Vision” video more than I believed E.T. But since my “brain” now has the information, it rather quickly recognizes the sleep paralysis and there has been absolutely no doppelganger aspect since then. (And it’s been really nice to not feel either crazy or spiritually targeted.) Perhaps the truth really did set me free in that respect.
Another “interpretation” story related to this:
It only happened to me a couple of times during the whole two years of my mission. I decided that this was because of the special protection of the “mantle” and the garments I was now wearing. Really it was because during my mission I had a more regular sleep pattern than at any time in my life since elementary school. The couple of times it happened were during a period where that sleep pattern was interrupted by illness. When I started doing shift work a few years ago….it really took off. 🙂
Generally speaking, whenever I made some concerted effort at achievement in my life, I’d end up in sleep paralysis once in a while. I thought it was just a more spiritually direct “opposition in all things.” Nope. Just that anytime I started pushing myself I’d burn the candle at both ends and trigger the problem.
So as I said earlier, I’m now reserving judgement on all kinds of issues and experiences of faith, suspecting that the perfectly reasonable solution may come to light.
Lulubelle and Cowboy, it’s nice to know there are others in very similar situations to my own. Every single person in my family and virtually everyone I care about in my life is LDS (I had numerous ancestors on both sides who came across the plains with Brigham Young). I can’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent considering the repercussions of leaving the church. There is literally no way to overstate the effect it would have on my life and the lives of my children. Cowboy, I understand how you feel, and that’s the approach I took for a while after coming to the conclusion that I didn’t believe the church contained objective truth. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get away from the fact that there IS objective truth, even if there might not be ONE great objective truth. The relevance of that is that I don’t believe what the church teaches to be objectively true. That’s not to slam the church; I don’t think it’s an evil entity that has ulterior motives. At the same time, how do I continue to encourage my children to learn and believe and practice a religion that I don’t just believe to be not THE true church, but wrong? I got to a point where I felt I couldn’t in good conscience continue on that path. Perhaps even more than the doctrinal issues, how can we teach our children our values and morals (many of which are direct contradictions of church teachings regarding things such as homosexuality), and then take them to church and, at least partially, co-opt their rearing to an entity and individuals who believe the opposite? I think it’s ultimately untenable. And I hope no one misunderstands me – let me reiterate that I don’t think the church is evil or that it’s beneath me or my children. But at the end of the day I feel like my values are all I really have to impart to my children.
So that’s kind of where I am now; my wife and I are struggling with where we go with that. I think ultimately it’s going to mean biting the bullet and withdrawing from the church completely, which is difficult on so many levels. There are many things we both love about the culture in which I was raised, but I don’t think that can overcome the bigger issues.
I will say, though, that I appreciate this post and the tone of everyone who has contributed. It is not easy to be an apostate from the mormon faith, and I expect there will be some tough times ahead. I wish there were more people (in every religion) like those in this group, and who knows, maybe my family will surprise me (although I’m not holding my breath).
“So as I said earlier, I’m now reserving judgment on all kinds of issues and experiences of faith, suspecting that the perfectly reasonable solution may come to light.’
Could a reasonable explanation be that it is a medical issue?
Cowboy and brjones:
Sounds like the same problems I’m having. Mostly it’s “what is best for my family”? The benefits to my kids added to the fact that my wife will likely take a long time to reach the same conclusions I have will likely mean plenty of church participation for me.
I believe there’s a God, so the idea of regularly going to church isn’t hard to swallow, but in order to not mess with other people I generally stay silent now in lessons. I’d love to be actively participating, but I’d probably just get myself (and my family) into trouble.
I actually think that Church is a good place for my children when all is said and done, but not perhaps for the same reasons as most. Sure the Church teaches good things and reinforces many of principles my wife and I try and teach, but I am trying to get my mind wrapped around the idea that regardless of what truth’s I may think I have, my children will be best served by developing their own perspectives. This is why I think Church is good place, it creates exposure to culture, particularly the culture they are immersed in (Utah County). Sure the Church emphasizes points that I disagree with, but I hope this allows me an oppurtunity to then introduce them to opposing views and notions, and from there they move on. I think we can do more harm by over insulating our children into conforming to our thoughts and belief. I recognize that there is a fine line here, I wouldn’t expose my Children to dangerous circumstances, or to situations they are not emotionally prepared to handle, but I reject the common intent of that point which really leans towards a parents right to indoctrinate their children. So, to the point, I might suggest that we could do more harm to our childrens development by limiting their exposure to the reasonable and relevant divergences in current issues.
I agree with your point that exposure to different points of view is good, Cowboy, but if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that there is more harm with respect to isolating your children from diversity by REMOVING them from the mormon church. That is definitely an interesting perspective. I think that to the extent that you are striving to introduce your children to principles that are different to those they are learning in the mormon church, they will get a diversity of perspective and I can respect that. However, by that rationale, you could argue that it’s good to have them involved in any group or movement, so long as that group is generally good, and as long as you are teaching them something different, it’s a positive thing. That seems to suggest that we should be actively involving our children in things we disagree with, just so they can get some perspective. I strongly disagree with that. I think my kids are going to get plenty of exposure to points of view with which I disagree, without me actively exposing them to such things. I think this is especially problematic when that group is teaching that its principles and precepts are absolute truths and that other perspectives are wrong. Beyond that and in addition to the teaching of principles, I have issues with certain cultural mores within the mormon church that, while I don’t necessarily find offensive objectively, I don’t support and would find hypocritical tacitly endorsing by raising my children in the church. I may think the catholic church is full of great people and wonderful rituals, but if I choose to induct my children into the organization, I am endorsing the group. This might not be as big a problem in another religion, where it’s ok to pick and choose the aspects of the religion you want to follow. But I think it’s very difficult to make a conscious choice to be a half-in, half-out mormon. I don’t think it’s wrong for anyone to do that, and in fact for a while that’s what I thought I would do. But I think the pressure from the church’s culture makes it very difficult to maintain.
In any event, I would disagree somewhat that it is limiting to a child’s diversity to remove them from the church, especially when they live in Utah, as we do. They will be surrounded by it and aware of it their entire lives, and if they choose to associate themselves with it when they are older, I will be fine with that. Again, these are all just my perspectives, and I realize that everyone’s is different. I think each person needs to do what is best for him or herself and their family. I think the common theme running through this thread is that most people feel the same, which I appreciate.
I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I thought it was pretty clear from my comments that these experiences were, in fact, medical issues. Learning that something I previously processed in spiritual terms was just biology has caused me to be skeptical about other spiritual events in my life. How can I “know”….faith actually becomes a bigger and much more important word when there is reason to doubt.
Getting back to the topic of the post, the process of discoving this has played a part in the distance I’ve now placed between myself and the church. (this is more a private than a public distance) The very process of becoming a little more skeptical allowed me to examine past and present aspects of the church and see them through a less faithful lens. I remain in the church because I still believe in God, and maybe even more than that, I’m not willing to cause a lot of trauma to my family when I could very well be wrong about some of the conclusions I’ve come to about the church.
It sounds like you are saying you would be more inclined to allow the people at the wardhouse indoctrinate your kids than to indoctrinate them yourself. But I don’t know how anyone can think that, so perhaps you didn’t explain yourself well or perhaps I am misunderstanding your point.
I think this issue is pretty interesting. I used to be 110% active and loyal to the church. But this was based on the belief that it was true. I had a friend who said to me (when I was completely active), that even if he decided that he did not believe the church was true, he would still raise his children in the church and take them to church, etc. I disagree with his position, completely. And it is not just because I have doubts now as to its truth. Even then, I thought living this contradictory life (not believing its true but going and taking your kids every week) would not be healthy and would not last. But that is just my opinion. I would be curious how others feel about that statement my friend made.
56: Yes Cowboy, I would have to say that came across to me as very odd. I would not exactly equate Primary class with cultural diversity.
I’d like to try a little experiment for those who having been commenting from about #51 forward. I just finished reading something that I think would have the power to increase just about anyone’s faith. If any of you decide to read this I would like to know, after reading every word, if you felt a stirring of faith? Just a simple yes or no will do.
Here it is:
Hope the link works. Let me know if you have trouble.
Just to be on record here Adam — I am well pleased with the astuteness of your observations, the sturdiness of your words and the iron of your soul. What a joy it is to be joint partakers with you of that pure fruit which is above all else… The path to the tree of life we freely acknowledge is not an easy one. We cannot torch, condemn, nor disdain the fruit because the orchard is covered with weeds and thistles. It is worth it.
I have reservations about what your friend says. Basically, the question is not if the church is true…but if the church is *good*. The problem is that most people have the tendency to say that untruth is not a good thing…or that when you do not view the church as true, you will generally oppose the church’s insistence that it is, or its insistence that its values are more than just good or bad but true.
#62 – Jared, I have not read this, but I will gladly do so, and will give you my honest impressions. I have a question for you, now. I just finished reading the book “Letter To a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris. I feel that anyone who reads this book will be compelled to wonder, to some degree at least, about the existence of god, or, at the very least, the WAY in which his or her religion expresses itself in his or her life. Would you be willing to read such a book?
Jared, I just got done reading the talk, but I regret to inform you that it didn’t do anything for me.
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I thought it was pretty clear from my comments that these experiences were, in fact, medical issues. Learning that something I previously processed in spiritual terms was just biology has caused me to be skeptical about other spiritual events in my life.’
I guess I was trying to say that the two might be, in fact, unrelated. The fact that you have classified yourself as having a sleep disorder might not negate the spiritual experiences that you did have.
I just put the book on hold. I’ll take a look at it when it arrives. I’m interested in this type of book. Over the years I’ve tried to understand the view point of those who are in the camp of those who oppose religion or are self proclaimed atheist and etc.
I’ll be looking forward to learning what you think about Elder Rudd’s remarks. Remember, I am interested to know if you have a stirring, even slightly, after reading his remarks.
#62 – Jared, I read the article, and, like Andrew S, didn’t have much reaction to it either way. What about it did you find so impressive (this is not a caustic question; I’m genuinely curious)? Reading the article, I did think of a couple of things, though. I still don’t completely understand how someone giving a blessing, or saying a prayer, etc., and then having something spectacular happen, is proof of anything, let alone god’s existence or his involvement in that person’s life. The reason I find this puzzling is that there are FAR more instances of someone praying for a miracle and nothing miraculous happens. Why are instances of blessings or prayers only significant when they turn out miraculously, while those that don’t produce a miracle are glossed over or classified as answers, just not the answers the person was looking for. If god answers all prayers, then a miracle is no more significant than a person with cancer praying to be cured and then dying. That person’s prayer was answered the same as the person who was healed, but we only get to hear about the “faith building” anecdote. This is bothersome to me. I think it’s interesting that the brother that gave that talk went on and on about the simple things of the gospel, but each of the stories he told were highly atypical and had miraculous and uncommon outcomes. Personally I’m not a big fan of anecdotes as a way of convincing a person of anything, and honestly I felt that way when I was an active member. For one thing they’re far too easily manipulated. For another thing, I think the negative implications of such anecdotes are rarely considered. If a pauper’s simple faith will bring a general authority right to her home when she’s sick, then what does that say to the millions of people who pray fervently and they receive nothing, not even comfort? If someone’s child is spared in a car accident due to the lord’s love for him, then what of the millions of children who die in accidents, of disease and at the hands of monsters ever day? I don’t want to get too involved in this conversation, because I become more and more frustrated. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of “faith promoting” anecdotes.
#66 Andrew S.–
Thanks for reading it and passing on your thoughts. Tell me, do you feel the information in this talk was truthful, or would you say it was otherwise? I’m interested to know your perspective. Of course, if you don’t care to answer this question, I’d understand.
In my mind, I can see a specific set of possibilities about the claims made. The person relating the information was:
Do you see any other possibilities to add to this list?
At the moment, I see little reason to be convinced of the truth of the information, but at the same time, I see little reason to be convinced that it’s a deliberate untruth. I like your third option…that it’s a deception, but at the same time, I’m not saying that it is.
My questions are some of the same questions that brjones has in 69. For example, if these stories are completely truthful, this doesn’t speak anything about god, his existence, or his involvement in his life. So, to clarify the position of “deception,” it could be something like we do not know the naturalistic causes because we do not currently have the tools to decipher it. For example, people who first learned about basic sanitation, boiling water, etc., probably thought it was miraculous that these things could make the water or food they ate safer, but they didn’t have the tools to know specifically why. Only when people discovered germ theory, etc., could they come about realizing why people got sick and how one could avoid it. Since I don’t pretend to know everything, it’s very possible that there are things that are currently inexplicable. However, people giving up and just blaming it on God doesn’t really compel me, because that kind of thinking, I feel, keeps us back and is a slap in the face of progress.
Now, now, I kinda got on a tangent. Let’s say it is supernatural, attributable to god, etc and that the stories are truthful in the way that the speaker means it to be truthful, etc., Then I still have some of the same considerations as brjones. What kind of God does this speak of? It doesn’t speak of one who should be worshipped, in my opinion (or at least, not one that I am compelled to worship…obviously, you are compelled by this very talk and think others should be). It speaks of one who selectively heals some, selectively doesn’t heal others, and expects us to be grateful either way. For example, I mean, it’s really trivial to ask the question, “Why doesn’t god heal *all* the sick?” But such a question does lead to some rather disturbing answers that many believers of many religions are willing to accept at face value. For example, suggesting that those he healed had ‘true faith’ or were ‘more righteous’ makes God into some favoritist…but OK, whatever. However, the real problem is that it seems to be a slap in the face to everyone who prays and has faith but gets nothing.
Suggesting alternatively that God works in mysterious ways, or that those he does not heal are also part of his plan, etc., etc., are all just as inconsiderate of answers in their own special ways. It leads me to ask…even if this god did exist, why should *anyone* be compelled to worship him when he is so mysterious and there seems to be no cause and effect relationship, no rhyme or reason, etc., to him.
In the end, these are all basic questions and basic, flawed answers that assume we know too muh. But that’s the only thing I really get from the article you proposed. It is basic and simplistic, and because of it, it seems kinda shockingly ignorant in the way it glosses over issues and is somewhat uncompassionate for the complexities of real lives.
I guess, I would add a fourth option to your three. Perhaps misinformed or incompletely true or incompletely false. These shouldn’t have the bites of truthful or untruthful or deceived.
Thanks for reading the article. You ended by saying you didn’t want to get into this subject so I’ll respect that.
#71 Andrew S.–
I appreciate you taking the time to read Rudd’s article and commenting on it. I am trying to gain perspective.
In a nutshell, I see those among us who are “former Mormons” in a mirror image of AdamF. He believes but is troubled by some things, while others disbelieve but are troubled by some things.
I think there is a lot to what you say. I think that some people are so inclined to believe. They are inclined to be stirred by the talk you presented, or if not, by similar stories or similar experiences. This isn’t to say that they will always believe, or that they won’t have a lapse or be able to walk away or whatever…but this inclination to believe is a part of who they are.
But I don’t think everyone has this…so for people who do not have the inclination to believe, I think what you’ll see is what my experiences and others have been. We aren’t stirred by such passages, and they don’t compel us.
So, I believe that the answer will be different for different people. For people who are inclined to believe, they need to find out what they believe and stick to it, because walking away from that will make them feel like there’s something missing, or that they are denying some part of themselves…and that’s not a good thing for people to have, I don’t think.
But for people who aren’t inclined to believe, I don’t think we should force it. Forcing it will make us realize that we are denying ourselves to try to fit into a mold that we simply don’t fit in, and that’s also not a good thing.
it’s interesting how you say it though. Some believe but are troubled by some things; others disbelieve but are troubled by some things. So, do you think there is ever away to get past troubling things…because my idea is that when you have things that are troubling to you (e.g., things aren’t just troubling on their own…no, things are troubling in relation to a person experience the emotion) this is a sign that you need to somehow confront your beliefs and experiences and reevaluate something.
I thought the point of AdamF’s post was having the faith to believe in spite of doubts as opposed to allowing doubt to overtake the faith to believe. Some of us want to believe so we have that faith. Some do not want to believe so they lack that faith. And some still take a great deal of pride in the fact that they choose not to believe.
I do not believe that doubt “overtakes” faith. Once again, if you have the inclination to believe…then it’ll make most sense to you to do whatever it takes to believe despite the doubts. This is what I view faith as. That is the desire to believe…it’s not something you choose, but something that chooses you (to borrow from a recent BCC post on the issue).
And so others naturally will not have an inclination to believe. So they will not have a desire to believe…it’s not because they aren’t trying hard enough…rather, it’s just not in them. So in this case, there isn’t a faith that doubt takes over. Lack of faith is just that…lack of faith.
Now, I think what is possible is that someone just loses the inclination to believe. But this is not something chosen again…it’s something that from all the experience and stories I’ve heard (although anecdotal evidence is weak — I know) that can possibly come from a rather shocking event that reaches to the core (but in the same way, such a shocking event can create faith in someone who did not have it.)
#74 Andrew S.–
Over the years I’ve been acquainted with various kinds of belief and disbelief regarding God. On each side there has been some doubt about their conviction.
You asked: Some believe but are troubled by some things; others disbelieve but are troubled by some things. So, do you think there is ever away to get past troubling things…
I don’t think so! In my case, I don’t have any doubt about God, none at all. The doubt I am troubled with is how well am I doing with what I’ve been given. The Lord says: where much is given, much is required. The Lord has given me (it took me a long time to realize it) an unusual testimony of His existence. I don’t have a sure explanation why this is the case, but as I get older I want to make sure I don’t return having neglected His gifts. That can be troubling.
#72 – Actually I don’t mind discussing it, Jared. I just didn’t want to start rambling on without going anywhere. I actually find the topic very compelling.
Just to clarify, I don’t believe that it is necessary to expose our children to Mormonism in order to provide them with culture. I just don’t believe it is necessary or harmful to take children to church (any religion) even if you don’t entirely agree with it in order to protect them. There of course is always an exception. I wouldn’t take my children to a snake handling pentacostal church for example. I share the view that we have an obligation to teach our children, to instill morals etc. But I don’t think we should be so focused on making them think like us that we insulate them in a false hope of protection, from engaging issues. Some examples of the extremes here would be the debates regarding theories of evolution or ID in schools. Sexual education, including homosexuality, religious diversity, etc, would also be examples. If you read my prior comments you will note that when the Church teaches a point I don’t agree with, I will engage that issue with my children, so I don’t pass off the indocrination to the Church.
#75 – Jeff, I think it’s interesting that you didn’t account for people who want to believe but who either don’t have the faith or lose that faith. You seem to be saying that those who don’t believe have chosen not to believe. I don’t know if that’s what you meant, but if it is, it seems to be a bit judgmental. I personally know people who sought answers from god with all their hearts, and never felt they received anything. These are people who were desperate for answers, and were tortured at not receiving them. The scriptures say what father, when asked for bread by his son, will give him a stone? How much more will our heavenly father, who is perfect, give us, if we but ask? There are MANY people who find this scripture to be patently untrue, and frankly, very painful. Now, if you want to argue that they should have persevered, I will not argue with that, as that is a consistent and logical statement. But I don’t think it’s completely fair to say that anyone who doesn’t have sufficient faith to believe chooses not to believe.
I read the article, and frankly did not have an experience that I could describe as a “stirring of Faith”. To be honest, I’m not sure I know what exactly that is supposed to mean in the first place, The Holy Ghost? Secondly, I don’t think I agree with the talk either. First it is too idealistic for my experiences. I have tried the simple approach of saying a prayer and waiting for answers unsuccessfully. Second, I don’t know that faith is that easy, I’m not sure where this notion comes from. While I don’t like to challenge the integrity of someone I have never met, I am skeptical on the details. The story of finding the womans house seems a bit far fetched, perhaps it not, but suffice it to say it is not an experience I have ever had. Other than that, I don’t have an strong objections to the article, but I am afraid it did not cause me to rethink my positions.
I do wonder about the premise of the talk, Jared, in the context of some of your recent comments. Is it your feeling that many of us who do not share your feelings, have become confused by overcomplicating the gospel/Church history. Or do you feel that many of us have been the classic hearers of the word, but have failed as doers of the word?
I’m just exploring, learning, and appreciating the diversity. I will say, though, that I don’t believe in atheism.
By the way, thanks for reading Rudd’s remarks and sharing your thoughts.
re 78: Well, as you clarify then, your doubts are related to peripheral issues (not necessarily “doubt about conviction”). You don’t have any doubt about God at all, for ex, but about issues that are peripheral (how well you’re doing with what you’ve been given)
re 83: I think you’ve made sentiments before about your not believing in atheism, but I don’t know if you’ve ever elaborated on it. It seems like a strange thing to say. To not agree with it is one thing…but to not believe in it?
#85 Andrew S–
I don’t believe in atheism because of my experience in the military. I know there are those who attempt to refute the “no atheist in a foxhole” quip , but I lived it with men who claimed to be atheist, but when death appeared imminent they abandoned their atheism, only to return to it a few days later, when they were safe.
Note: I just posted this on my website. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile.
re 86: Jared-
once again, anecdotal. Not only that, but your anecdotal evidence can be turned back against you. I know enough people who once were theist, were faced with the absolute horrors of war too and came back with utterly no possibility for believing in any sort of god when they know of such horrors that the real world has. People who could be said too to have “no doubt about God at all” before they left, but after their experiences, they were left with no inkling in their bodies to even comprehend the possibility of a god throughout it all.
These people don’t return to their theism, because forever, they are left with the thought that they can never get over that it is a false hope in something that ISN’T, because they are acutely aware of what IS.
What does it solidify within me. Personally, it solidifies me that these experiences — whatever way they lean — tell us more about a person rather than the world. Some people, in the face of ultimate adversity, will cry out in hope of some creator. Others, in the same adversity, will understand acutely that the creator they one thought was there never really was, so it’s no wonder they are abandoned. BUT the conclusion I get…is that either person’s reaction does not make an argument god. But rather, an argument for people.
I’ll do a risky thing–I’ll tell those I’ve had an exchange with tonight that I have a feeling in my heart of affection and love for each of you. I can understand in part the reason for your alienation from the church and even God. I respect you and feel that you’re beloved of God.
I hope that sentiment isn’t more than this blog can handle.
It’s not Jared, thanks.
aww Jared, that’s fine. We can handle a lot, even if comments sometimes get heated.
Rather, I just think it’s imprudent of you to worry or have such concern. Because what you can’t see, and what you don’t see, is just as happy as you are following what you think God wants you to do, others are just as happy when they free themselves up to realize that they don’t have to believe in something that seems irrelevant in their lives and they don’t have to believe in something that makes no sense. So, it’s not about “alienation,” although yes, for some, they get stuck in alienation and can’t move on (and I do have a feeling in my heart too for each of these people). Rather, for me, I do not feel alienated, because I know where I am and I know I’m moving in a good direction for me. If I tried to continue to force the direction of the church onto me, then things would be different. There would be alienation. But because of my making a clean break, I don’t have any problems relating to this issue.
I *believe* religion to be a construct of men.
I don’t believe in any description of god that man has come up with. That is different then ‘I believe there is no god.’
I believe the label ‘atheist’ to be so misunderstood and abused as to make it meaningless. However, it has been my experience that those who don’t believe in god are less afraid of death then those who do.
I believe the drive to do good is an inate part of being human.
I don’t *know* anything, and I doubt as much as I can. Surety is an illusion.
imperfection…i’m interested in what you say, “I believe the label ‘atheist’ to be so misunderstood and abused as to make it meaningless.” Because I mean, even I can agree with the idea that it has been so misunderstood, but I don’t think that makes it meaningless. I think, rather, it gives it a meaning and connotation that it doesn’t necessarily deserve, and then if I have any job, it’s to straighten out a true definition. So I mean, personally, I’m not going to evangelize for atheism or not, but I do evangelize for what I think is an intuitive and etymological definition of atheism, along with a distinction between strong and weak (e.g., the difference between saying “I believe there are no gods” or “I don’t believe there are any gods”), as well as a clarification of what agnosticism is and is not. So, I think the hijacking of terms can be fought.
I believe the label ‘atheist’ to be so misunderstood and abused as to make it meaningless – One of the best things I have learned in the last little while is that there are all kinds of atheists. I used to think someone like Dawkins was like the president of atheism, but now I know he’s just a smart guy who gets published.
“it has been my experience that those who don’t believe in god are less afraid of death then those who do.”
Interesting question. I’m sure there is some research on this, could be interesting…
#90 Andrew S.–
I see your point. I also have loved ones, and family members, who express the same thoughts.
Sometimes we have to take two steps back in order to move forward.
On another subject–it’s getting late
If you have a blue eyed girl in your life click the following link–from 1959 or so.
#86 – This is interesting. I’ll share a brief experience that isn’t groundbreaking, but is relevant. It’s a fairly recent development for me that I find myself out of the church and out of religion. About 9 months ago, when I had recently begun to believe the things I now believe, I was on an airplane that was experiencing heavy turbulence. I am moderately afraid of flying anyway, and I was more than a little nervous. In my mind I began to say a prayer for safety for the plane, and for my safe return to my family, but I didn’t get very far. I decided at that moment that I was not going to be one of the people that Jared referenced in his comment, who doesn’t believe in religion or god or commandments, etc., but when the heat is on he’s praying for deliverance just like everyone else. Part of this stemmed from my logical mind reasserting that I didn’t believe in prayer, so it was lame to fall back on that. But part of it was just a feeling that it would be a lack of integrity on my part to be that person, and that I wanted to be as consistent as possible.
Not a great story, I know, but I have thought of it often, and Jared’s comment made me think of it again. I wonder if people who return to prayer in tough times do so because deep down they believe there is someone who can help them, or if they are just returning to deeply ingrained customs and practices. Then again, maybe it’s just a matter of hedging your bets.
I really needed to read this. Thanks for sharing.
I’m mormon because I’m the 5/6th generation of them. Have had incredible experiences in my youth, college and on my mission. I don’t think those will ever not be a part of me.
I got shocked a little with a recent traumatic event at home, shook my faith, and received no answers or comfort from church, prayer, or scriptures. Studying church history on the internet opened my eyes to many things that I can’t reconcile. After months of studying, I don’t think I’ll ever reconcile except that it seems I’m starting to be ok with it. Things JS or BY said or did don’t seem to bother me anymore. It hit me when I took a youth in my ward who is struggling, and took him out for ice cream and spent time with him talking and it felt good. Dissecting the past is interesting and provides a mental workout for me, but doesn’t satisfy me.
Reading GAs talks on the plan of salvation and Christ make me feel good. The more I serve in my calling and try to love others, the more that fills me.
I still believe the church was restored by God. I am letting go of some of my mormon-centric ideals I used to hold, and accept others in other religions are just as good as I am, mostly better, and God will take care of good people.
I have confidence in the attributes of God. I accept earthly flaws in prophets, church leaders, and written material obtained through mortal vessels. I can focus on love and good things and have faith all things will one day make sense to me.
I feel going forward I need to be more open minded to the world outside of mormon-land, and find the good from all places. I don’t know how far that will take me, but I doubt I will ever leave the church. I don’t believe any other religion would be any better. The first principle is faith, it is apart of religion. Therefore, there will always be some things difficult to understand but enough spiritual guidance given to me to move ahead without fully intellectualizing it.
Currently, polygamy is the most difficult thing for me to grasp, but I don’t fear I will leave the church over it. I respect others who choose to do so.
What keeps bringing me back is simply God’s love. That’s my story.
One could argue that your 1st reaction is most telling, before you talked yourself out of prayer.
I think the pressing part of brjones post was not talking himself out or not, but the idea that we can have deeply ingrained customs and practices and default to these things sometimes. It doesn’t make these practices indicative of anything grander.
Most specifically, we do grow up in a society where language and ideas about god permeate culturally and socially. So, it’s easy to imagine how that becomes a deeply ingrained idea, without giving any credence to the idea
When I was on the high council (twenty plus years ago) I remember a fellow high councilman bearing his testimony that certain deacons/Beehives were preserved by ministering angels when the van flipped over. 3 of the 11 youth were killed in the accident. So what do I make of that. One, the speaker was astoundingly clueless about the implications of what he was saying and secondly, to this day I do not know how to interpret this? Just physics and statistics? Or very selective and rare intervention? I believe despite no answers and despite the obvious contradictions in much of life? But what do I believe in? And on what is it based? I do not believe in what CS Lewis called “magic” in fact one of my favorite essays is CS Lewis’ “Efficacy of Prayer.” To follow Christ I believe is to come to know incredible ironies, betrayal, being cast out of the synagogue, abandoned by friend and being rejected and being denied your righteous goals and have nothing make sense but still believe. Believe what? For me much has been stripped away through experience, study, and observation free from any ambitions or need to be accepted —to the point my only confidence resides in one person and absolutely no one else…
Ron, thanks for sharing that. When you say “confidence resides in one person and absolutely no one else…” whom are you referring to? Not that everyone needs to believe in God, but not being able to trust others is profoundly sad and lonely to me–worse than almost anything. Could you clarify or share a little more? Thank you.
#98, you are right:
we do grow up in a society where language and ideas about god permeate culturally and socially
But it transcends languages, cultures, and times. It is the common thread among the entire human race throughout time.
Surely it can be (and has) been argued both ways … just seems there is a lot of evidence it is beyond a western judeo-christian culture thing. It seems pretty universal, and even with all our advances in medicine and science, religion of some kind remains the most influential force for humankind. (not for everyone but for more people than not).
I can see it was not clear. and thank you for responding. I have come to a point where my faith is in Christ and Christ alone. but I suspect that I do not see and have faith in Him in the same way others do, including most fellow Mormons. This would be another thread and place but I have a very Girardian view of Christ and see Him as one to emulate and not as my personal scapegoat to bleed or suffer for my sins in a penal substitution way. I see now that my words were a little dramatic for the reality is that I have been married 33 years and trust my wife, and have confidence for example in many others but not completely. What was unsaid is that I do not worship and have confidence in any man to mediate my faith and personal revelation. In a Tao sense I trust my “inner voice” and direct revelation and no one gets between that and my faith in Christ—having developed a well earned suspicion of men no matter what chief seat or throne they sit on….now I am probably just as unclear.
re 101: at the same time, people *do* have very different and contradictory religious conclusions…as I wrote about in 38. Not only that, but that some don’t even have those experiences at all…some come to different conclusions after trials, etc., etc., makes me think the evidence has to be evaluated a little more complexly than face value.
I am completely aware that religion is a most influential force. But I recognize that its pervasiveness is not a function of its truth or of any external or objective quality to it, but a testament of human subjective experience. For example, let’s talk about language and culture. If you think about these things, these are also pervasive. Every group of people develops some kind of culture, and every group of people develops some kind of language. And languages also can have the interesting quality of following certain frameworks (at least, it is very rare that we find this paradigm is broken, as one person thinks it has with a tribe of people called the Piraha)…but what is this really telling us? Is this saying that language has some kind of external, objective quality or framework to it? Or rather is it telling us something about what’s inside humans, perhaps how we have developed over time to value social interaction, and that sort of thing.
“I’m now reserving judgment on all kinds of issues and experiences of faith, suspecting that the perfectly reasonable solution may come to light.”
Honestly, I reserve judgment most of the time, with most things, including faith. Perhaps it protects my faith, but I approach it in more of a “pray and go” kind of way and “hope” God is involved if He should be, rather than interpreting everything through the lens of faith. There are times when I received answers, but that is usually at the end of a very rigorous and drawn-out process for me.
“It is not easy to be an apostate from the Mormon faith, and I expect there will be some tough times ahead.”
I am glad that you are comfortable participating here. I wish you the best, and hope things don’t go too roughly.
“in order to not mess with other people I generally stay silent now in lessons”
This is interesting because I sometimes feel I can’t express what I want. Granted I generally can, but I have to pick and choose carefully what I say. For example, in my marriage class I teach, I led a class discussion when the issue of “presiding” came up, rather than give them all my cynical thoughts on the matter, (It actually turned out better than I thought though, and I learned a few things). I wish there was more room for diversity of thought and belief in the culture. It can work, I think, and conversations like this prove it.
# 65 brjones
Thanks for the book recommendation. Last year I read “The God Delusion” – well listened to it. I didn’t quite finish it because listening to Dawkins THAT long just became overbearing, but I will look into this one, by Sam Harris. Granted I have a hard time with polemics (same with apologists) because they are SO incredibly biased, and they think that admitting that makes it okay to go on with the book. It’s on my list now though, thanks!
”Why are instances of blessings or prayers only significant when they turn out miraculously, while those that don’t produce a miracle are glossed over or classified as answers, just not the answers the person was looking for.”
Confirmation bias, and keeping the cognitive dissonance down. We seek out things that confirm our views, and distort, deny, or reinterpret things that don’t. Great question, that’s my psych answer. 😉
“I see those among us who are “former Mormons” in a mirror image of AdamF. He believes but is troubled by some things, while others disbelieve but are troubled by some things.”
Just keepin’ it balanced! My Joker to their Batman, uh, I mean my Costello to their Abbot, or something. Really though, I do appreciate the diversity here, quite a bit. Perhaps even more there is really a lack of aggression in this thread, and I VERY much appreciate that. Thanks everyone, it means a lot. We completely disagree on some things, but do so in a peaceful way.
# 80 Cowboy
Well said Cowboy, and I agree. I refuse to “pass of the indoctrination” as well, not the least of which is because often those who are doing the “indoctrination” are other ward members, whom I may not agree with on any of the issues you mentioned above, for example. Like if my son gets taught in Sunday School that Darwin was evil, he will surely hear my view, and why I think the way I do. I realize authority figures have a huge influence on the opinions of children, but I will try (overtime) to teach him to decide for himself.
# 86 Jared & # 87 Andrew S
Re: atheists in foxholes – Actually, to keep the jjackson influence going here, there are psychological explanations for the foxhole thing. I’m not a death expert (I mostly just study attachment and relationships) so I don’t have it in front of me, but it seems there are more ways to interpret these experiences.
# 90 Andrew S
I just think it’s imprudent of you to worry or have such concern.
This is something I have changed on over the years. I used to give myself ulcers (okay, not literally, sorry for those who have them!) over friends who left or were antagonistic to the church. In a huge experience of irony (hope I’m correctly using that word), it something out of Mormon Doctrine (that I had remembered reading years earlier) of all places that calmed me down and helped me to not be so concerned. It said something about all good people being led eventually to the gospel. Fitting that into my own spiritual schema, I now believe, and have for quite a while, that all good people will be led to where they need to go. In fact, disparaging them or even putting up emotional resistance only hurts things in the long run. It is a huge relief to feel that way.
#96 KG McB
Thanks for sharing some of your story here. I feel similarly on some of those issues. With polygamy, I eventually received that feeling of peace on the issue. Not an answer per se, but an ability to let it be there without the weeds overtaking the fruit as WP Lyon said above.
#102 Ron Madson
Thanks for adding more! I really appreciate your comments, and I can totally see your point on not having confidence in “any man” to mediate your faith. Your second comment was very clear, thanks again.
#81 – brjones
“#75 – Jeff, I think it’s interesting that you didn’t account for people who want to believe but who either don’t have the faith or lose that faith. You seem to be saying that those who don’t believe have chosen not to believe. I don’t know if that’s what you meant, but if it is, it seems to be a bit judgmental.”
I am not in a position to make a judgment about individuals but I would say for me personally, I choose to believe because of the faith experiences I have had. I could just as easily deny those and choose not to believe. Do I think some folks just choose not to believe, yes, I do. Choice is the over ridding factor in almost everything we do or don’t do. but, I am not in a position to judge another.
#106 – I would certainly agree that anyone who has left the church has made a choice to do so. At the same time I think the phrase “choose to believe” is not accurate. I don’t think anyone can really choose to believe in god. One can choose to ACCEPT things that they are taught or read or experience, and they can choose to exercise their faith in the hopes that it will be rewarded with experiences and knowledge that confirm that god is there, and they can choose to disregard data that might cut against the things they accept as true, but at the end of the day belief is not chosen. I don’t think accepting something as true is the same as actually believing it. I can say I choose to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, but even my most fervent pronouncements of that position do not mean that I am actually convinced of it. At some point I may become convinced, but my point is that you can’t just choose what you believe. So, Jeff, I agree with you to the extent that people who have given up the fight or stopped trying to believe have made a choice, on the other hand I would disagree that anyone really chooses to believe or not believe.
I dunno, Jeff…I just think it puts too much to choice, when really the choices we make are strongly influenced…some can best be described as “false choices.”
I mean, you say choice is the overriding factor in almost everything we do, but to me, I have to ask: why do we make the choices we make, and what does it say about the value of our choices. and to me, I can’t accept just a sheer gungho “force of will” model. This kind of model is what so many people internalize, making them think that they need to stay in repressive environments they don’t believe in because hey, they have to “endure to the end,” or if they just “desire to believe” (even though you can’t FORCE desire), then sooner or later, they’ll stop being the equivalent of theological failures (since the theological “success” is to read the BoM or the Bible, get a spiritual confirmation, and go about your way as a happy, successful, faithful member. If you don’t have these things but you still buy into that model, you will always think yourself not good enough because you can’t have the experiences others seem to be having).
So, in my opinion, once again, we need to look at why people make choices, because the reasons why can justify a different choice. If your choice to believe or choice not to believe means the difference between people who stay despite having doubts, not having confirming experiences, etc., vs. the people who leave because of those things…then I would say that you are describing not a choice to believe…but in fact just a choice to stay or not. Rather, the believing is the setup. The faith is the set up. Having confirming experiences is something that strikes a person…not something they choose…and if they have confirming experiences or if they have an inclination to faith, then that justifies their staying. if not, then they need something else, or there is not justification.
It’s kinda the question on homosexuality. Sure, it’s a choice to have sexual relations or not. But this makes the equation too simplistic…really, at the base of that choice is an unchosen desire and inclination. So, really, we’re looking at, “Is a choice justified? How long is it justified for? Would a different choice be justified with different base conditions?” It’s not so easy as to say “choice is the overriding factor.”
#107/108 – I provide this answer to the both of you. I cannot reconcile what you are saying because of my firm conviction in choice and agency. This boils down to those things we have real choice in, such as belief in a specific religious persuasion. But, starting with the beginning of the Plan of Salvation, agency and choice has played a key role in our existence. I believe that is still the case.
Frankly, I can’t see it any other way. My own experience tells me that we make the choice to believe or not to believe based on our expediences. Even if some things ring more true to us than other, we still make choices between them. For example, I would have never joined another Church other than the LDS Church even though all Christian Churches are based on the fact that Jesus is the Chosen Messiah of the World. This is because the other doctrines and practices of those other churches I was exposed to did not make sense to me. The LDS Church did and so I joined it.
Jeff, ok, I understand that, but I think that in fact, your answer does have parts of what brjones and I are trying to say. You would have never joined another church other than the LDS church…because the other doctrines and practices of those other churches did not make sense to you.
So, my question is…did you choose for LDS doctrines to make sense to you? Could you just choose for them to not make sense, or for other churches’ doctrines to make sense to you? My contention is that you did not choose this. Nevertheless, because they do make sense to you, your choice to join and participate in the church is justified. So, as per your argument, yes, you could join any other church even though you say you “would have never”…I do not deny that possibility of choice, but I ask: would such a decision make sense to you? I don’t think it would, because those other concepts didn’t make sense. You were not inclined to them. It could be that you were not ready for them, perhaps, and that in the future, you might. Regardless, you did not believe in them nor did you have faith in those concepts.
I think Andrew S is right. You didn’t choose to believe the mormon church was true. You chose to join the mormon church BECAUSE you believed it was the truth. What I’m saying is that belief is separate and apart from choice. My parents always taught me that free agency meant the right to choose how to act, but not the right to choose what was right or wrong or the consequence of actions, and I think that’s the same principle here. A person will recognize truth as they see it, but I don’t think an individual can choose whether to believe something or not. I think there are probably many people on this board who, at one point, would probably have chosen to believe the church was true rather than go through the pain of extricating themselves from it. There was a time when I felt that way. I think Andrew S’s comparison with homosexuality is apropos. It’s like telling gays to just stop being gay. Well they can stop acting gay, but obviously they can’t just stop FEELING gay. I think this is the same thing. I can choose to be obedient to the teachings of the mormon church and I can choose to do the things that I’ve been told will lead me to receiving knowledge of the truth, but I can’t just decide I’m going to believe it.
Adam, I just don’t get it. I, too, thoroughly enjoyed your post. Too few Mormons are aware of the evidential problems (BOM historicity, BoA, etc.) confronting their faith, let alone intellectually honest enough to actually wrestle with those problems. So on that front, I must commend you.
But still, I don’t think your post explains how you justify your belief in the church. I empathize with your wanting to stay with the church–that you enjoy the symbolism, the rituals, the community. But those issues have no bearing on the truth or falsity of Mormonism. Just because you want the church to be true doesn’t make it so. So ultimately, it does seem like your shelving valid objections to the church and letting faith supersede reason.
I apologize if you have answered this concern elsewhere in the thread. I haven’t read the entire discussion; I only perused it.
Hey, thanks for the comment. I honestly can’t remember if I answered any similar questions as it has been a while, but I will try to add something here…
Question for you: What would “justify” any belief? Also, from what faith/no faith background are you coming from? This is important because if you are atheist or agnostic, this conversation will be different than if you are a believer in some form.
So, regarding a justification, if you mean justify to others why I believe, I suppose that is not possible, just like no one else can justify to me something that is spiritual.
“it does seem like your shelving valid objections to the church and letting faith supersede reason”
Fair enough, but we may just have to settle on disagreement there. One of my points was that if I left the faith, I would have to “shelve” a lot of things too. So, adding up the good and the bad, without shelving any of it, it makes more sense to me to keep the faith, rather than reject it.
Question: What does putting something on the shelf look like, and is it possible to NOT do it?
What do you think?
Just reading a few of the comments again, I think comment #2 raised the same issue, but I am not sure about the follow up comments. If you are interested, look over some of the replies to that one as well.
Re-reading my post again, I also said I was not making an argument FOR believing in the church, only for MY belief. On that end, I make a fairly convincing case to myself.
I suppose we may have different orientations to matters like this though. I am usually not a “true or false” black and white type of thinker.
I would also like to thank you for your challenging comment… it spurs me to think about refining some things. At the same time, if you ARE an atheist, I don’t think you will ever “get it” – I DO NOT mean that in a harsh way, but only from experience talking with friends and acquaintances who have tried VERY hard to understand, but cannot. The one exception I have found was with my sister, who is also atheist, and seems to understand somewhat, but she’s also a shrink. 😉
I’ll stop now, and wait for a response if you are still interested.
Well, I think evidence should justify any belief. We could have a healthy debate over what would constitute “sufficient” evidence for Mormonism. But I hope we can agree that the reasons you proffer for belief–namely, the symbolism and community of Mormonism–do not amount to evidences for the church. You yourself said: “This is not an argument for Mormonism.”
So my question is, “If your reasons for believing aren’t meant to convince others of Mormonism, why should they convince you?”
As for my background: I was raised LDS and was a faithful member until only a few years ago. I left the church over many of the same issues that occasionally bother you. I am now an agnostic atheist–that is to say that I neither know whether a god or gods exist, nor do I believe that they do exist.
I’m confused about what you’d have to shelve with leaving the faith. Could you elaborate? I suppose you mean that you’d have to deny your positive (and spiritual) experiences within Mormonism. Yes and no. In leaving the church, it’d be difficult to participate in the symbolism and community in Mormonism. Granted. But you wouldn’t have to deny your spiritual experiences. You don’t have to deny that you had such experiences; rather, you only need to deny what those experiences mean. Perhaps I was presumptuous with what you meant, Adam.
You claim that on balance, you’d be “shelving” more with leaving the faith than with staying with it. But again, what you’d lose with leaving Mormonism aren’t reasons for Mormonism. You’d lose the symbolism, community, etc. These are not reasons for believing in the church; at best, they are reasons for wanting to believe in the church.
What does it look like to put something on the shelf? In the way I’m using that figure of speech, to shelve an objection is to (at least initially) acknowledge its existence but willfully ignore its implications. To some extent, everyone does this. Nobody is wholly rational or logical. But that fact, however, does not justify our shelving objections to our beliefs. To the extent that you understand that you’re shelving objections to Mormonism, it is within your power to take those objections off the shelf, dust them off, and give them a fair reading.
Thanks for the timely response. I hope to hear from you again soon.
Jon, these are great points, and I want to give them some due thought before I answer. Unfortunately, I am very busy at the moment. I will definitely think it through and have a longer response though! Please forgive me if it takes me a bit to reply again, I have to admit that while I love these conversations about the big existential stuff, I am a bit worn out after a similar extended conversation with an acquaintance who recently left the church and seems to be in a very similar situation as you do. He recently did a guest post here called “Trying to Understand My Friends who Didn’t leave the Faith” if you are interested. It was a hit–there were like 800 comments.
I would like to say quickly here that those “objections” are indeed off the shelf, and have been more often than not. They have been given a fair reading more than once–they periodically come back as it just seems to be part of my personality. I don’t just run into these issues once and shelve them. Believe me, they have absorbed me completely at times. I have wrestled with most of them. The only shelving that occurs with me is when things emotionally get put to rest, to the point that I’m not stewing about something.
Adam, from reading your post it seems that you decided to put more stock in feelings that the church is true than any logical explanation of some of the difficult issues. Am I misinterpreting? I reason I ask is, when you wrestled with these issues did you come to a logical conclusion that satisfied you or did you come to a spiritual comfort that satisfied you?
Gosh, I can’t leave it alone, lol.
Sometimes, the logical conclusion seemed to be too much on the apologetic side of things, so it wasn’t satisfying. Sometimes, I have had some sort of comfort on an issue so that it didn’t bother me as much. Other times, I have had neither, i.e. no comfort and no logical conclusion that is satisfying. I HAVE had to shape what I believe the church and the gospel to be, however. I.e. I DON’T think that the church is free from error by any means. It seems that many people who leave the church are disillusioned because they believe that this or that MUST be the case in order for the church to be “true.”
I do think, however, that feelings and reason should be used together–perhaps even equally. I don’t like either extreme of those two aspects.
I’m in no hurry, but I do anticipate your response. My thanks in advance. If you’d rather, feel free to email me your thoughts in the case that they are too personal to publish here: email@example.com.
I read (and enjoyed) your friend’s said post a couple weeks ago. I was impressed by how well-received it was here at Mormon Matters. Thanks for the suggestion, though.
Thanks for your time, Adam. Take care.