Friday, September 08, 2006

Progress Report –-
It’s been awhile since I posted anything here, because we’ve been sending our youngest child off to college and taking some extended vacations.

What I initially conceived was a detailed description of the last few weeks, but I’m not sure I have the time to write it or you have the patience to read it. Details available on request, but I’ll provide the Readers Digest condensed version under the impression this is a better fit for both of us.

I haven’t attended my own ward sacrament meeting for four weeks now, and we’ve been away from church for three, due to visiting other churches and traveling. Frankly I haven’t missed it much. The local Episcopal church we have joined has provided spirit-filled worship experiences, and the church we visited in Indianapolis preached an inspirational sermon. His subject was basically throwing ourselves into the arms of Christ as children throw themselves into the arms of their fathers when they come home from work. The scriptures teach us that we are secure in our salvation once we make the leap of faith, so we don’t need to doubt our worthiness or our status continually. We don’t need to live in a state of fear about the state of our relationship with Christ. We just need to throw ourselves into it and look forward and up rather than inward and back.

Nobody in our ward seems to have noticed our absence, although I think people are aware we have been traveling. No phone calls telling us we are missed, nobody asking about how our trip was, etc.. E-mail about submitting my home teaching reporting, and somebody wanted a recipe from Wife of Bath. We haven’t heard from home or visiting teachers in months, although our leadership knows we have a “testimony” situation.

I have been playing “garment roulette” over the last few weeks. Sometimes I wear them. Sometimes I don’t. I can’t tell the difference. I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine with Wife of Bath, and I can’t tell the difference in my spirituality there either, other than a suspicious mild headache the next morning sometimes.

Today I wore my garments for the first time in a few days and read the latest Ensign. Surely I should have been filled with the spirit and inspired to return to a life of orthodoxy.

Basically it was the worst morning I have had in awhile. President Faust quoted a collection of men who have been dead for thirty years about how the father should be returned to a position of authority in the home. Elder Perry talked about what I’m sure must have been a truly inspiring family activity where he took them on a tour of Logan UT. At every stop he quoted a scripture and related a moral lesson from his upbringing, thus teaching that the most important role of fathers and grandfathers is to reinforce their own authority by imposing rigid programs and lecturing their family members. Much as we do in the church. One wonders if senior church leaders run their personal lives like a series of conferences and meetings, where family members are gathered to listen to them preach from the scriptures and personal time is scheduled like a temple recommend interview, as we are counseled to schedule personal interviews with our kids, schedule Family Home Evening every Monday, and “date night” every Friday, except when we can get a “twofer” by taking our wives to the temple on ward temple night as a date, thus freeing up a Friday night for preparing a talk or lesson.

A divorced woman talked about how she got through the divorce by relying on the programs of the church and the temple and applying a series of practical steps, similar to what might be found in Ladies Home Journal. I believe Christ was mentioned somewhere near the end of the article, but I’m not sure.

I find myself drifting out of an interest in activity in the church. It just doesn’t seem that relevant any more. What I find I need is to be brought into a close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and then patiently led back into that relationship when my human tendencies cause me to drift away. I need to be brought into an awareness of who Jesus was and how he lived, taught, and served, and I need opportunities to be connected with other people with whom I can share those experiences and learn to serve. I need to be led to people different from me so I can practice loving as Jesus did, aware of their faults yet offering unconditional love and personal acceptance. Jesus had a way of accepting and supporting people who were failing, without necessarily condoning their behavior. He could tell a woman taken in adultery that he didn’t condemn or judge her, while at the same time encouraging her to turn away from her sins.

Basically what I see the church doing is striving primarily to reinforce its own authority, involving us in programs and teaching experiences where we don’t have to think or rely on the spirit, and then talking about Jesus as the wellspring of where the authority of all these people telling us what to do comes from. He’s out there somewhere, and during our free time from all these other things we’re encouraged to find him.

I remember reading somewhere that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. What I generally feel towards the LDS church right now is not hostility. With some exceptions everybody is doing the best they can to magnify what they have been taught. They have been taught the church is the Kingdom of God. The general authorities need to cover up the history to keep the weak in the fold, and the stake and ward leaders need to keep people anxiously engaged and busy in the church to keep them connected to it, so they don’t wander off on their own and drift away. Basically the earth is flat, and people who wander away from the mainstream of the church fall off the edge and are eaten by horrible sea monsters and dragons. They have to prevent that at all costs, and the “truth” will work itself out later in the millennium.

No, I’m just indifferent. Good people doing their best, but it doesn’t lead me to Jesus. It leads me to a closer relationship to the church and its leaders. I guess that works for most people. It doesn’t work for me.

Aren’t you glad this was the condensed version?


Anonymous said...

HI CF! I'm so glad you are back - I was a little worried about you and relieved when I saw WoB, then you, post on the NOM board. As always, your comments provide inspiration and insight into our situation. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Kristin said...

What you described as indifference is exactly what I've been feeling for months now. I am currently enjoying a quiet Sunday at home with my daughters, while my husband and son submit to the pressures of the "fold".

Anonymous said...

Nice to read a new post. You and WoB are champions in my view!! Thanks for visiting. .....roomate

Anonymous said...

I am interested in your "feeling" approach to the garment and the wine experiments. I assume those experiments are in the context of broader contemplation on those issues. I would be interested in reading your greater meditations on the value of wearing vs. not wearing the garment and the value of drinking, not drinking, or only rarely drinking, or whatever, wine.

ChristFollower said...

At the present I really can't tell the difference. I just put on whatever comes out of the drawer these days. Garments, regular underwear, mix/match. When I get undressed I'm usually surprised. There's no difference in the "feeling" or how inspired or spiritual I feel.

Likewise with alcoholic beverages, although I rarely indulge. I imagine if I got more focused on that it would be different. i.e. if it was an everyday thing, I went to bars, etc.. On my current once/month or so basis I can't say it affects my spirituality one bit.

I've come to believe those things have eternal value as expressions of faith, and there are many expressions of faith to choose from. What we are called to lay upon the altar probably differs from person to person. The what matters less than the why.