Sunday, January 14, 2007

I haven't posted in awhile, so I thought it might be time for an update.

I just re-read my last entry, and it was better than I remembered. :) I can't say things have changed much in what I covered.

I realized a few weeks ago that I was actually getting a little flat in my spirituality, which hasn't happened to me since my de-conversion from being a "True Believing Mormon" began a couple of years ago. I trace it to a couple of things. I mentioned last time that I have been reading a lot of "liberal" stuff. My latest books are "Mormon Origins: Hierarchy of Power", which shows how the control structures of the LDS church evolved and the "revelations" backdated to make it look like it had always been that way. His claims are pretty easy to verify, because you can go online and find copies of the 1833 Book of Commandments and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and see the changes. Basically most of the story we tell nowadays evolved through the mid-1830s, with accompanying changes to Joseph Smith's revelations.

The other book I was reading was "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman, which describes some of the changes to the New Testament over its early history. Some were copying mistakes, and others appear to be intentional changes in order to grind some ideological ax or another. Most are minor changes. Some are not.

After all this I found myself wondering just who I could trust anymore and what from the scriptures could really be believed. I still had my core belief in God, but I was starting to wander just a little bit on just who Jesus was and just what the point of this whole thing was.

I honestly don't see Joseph Smith and many of the early Christian apostles as being that different in the nature of their writings. Generally I think they were recording what they thought God was telling them, and their stories don't necessarily always agree in detail and message. I think there's some level of inspiration in there, but not to the degree we say sometimes. With the documented copying changes, the difference in historical details, the difference in basic theology, I can hardly consider the scriptures inerrant in any degree. I think they primarily witness what the authors thought God was telling them, and our challenge is to figure out what God is trying to tell us through these divergent sources.

Given all that I just found more meaning and joy in motorcycle riding than in studying all this and doing all the writing I had been doing. Maybe it was all just a mysterious crap shoot anyway. I was tired of being blown this way and that in my faith. I'm tired of being the sheep for every self-appointed sheep herder out there who wants to tell me what to believe and what to do. The world is full of Eveready energizer bunnies wanting me to do my home teaching, give blood, rescue the poor, go fight and die in Iraq, buy their product, work my tail off to produce some product they can sell, and about a million other things. Everybody wants me to sign up for their cause these days, join their church, believe their version of the Christian story, spend money on their consumer product, and the list goes on. I'm tired of being herded by people like a sheep. I'm tired of junk mail and TV advertising. If I'm in any meeting with a person up in front with any other message than what they can unselfishly do for me, I've had enough of it.

All I really want to do these days is ride. Just ride. Engage in the real world, in small towns and farms and people living in the real world and not in a fantasy land they want me to believe is real so I'll invest my time and blood and treasure in it.

Well, you can tell I was pretty dead flat this week.

I decided to do something a little different in my morning scripture study routine, because I was beyond flat and into depressed. I ditched my study of the Doctrine and Covenants, LDS Church magazines, and LDS conference talks for a few days and just immersed myself in a parallel bible where I could compare things and see any translation differences, copying differences, whatever. I ran across something really startling to me:

Hebrews 10:10-24

The interesting thing is that this doesn't appear to be a disputed passage. It's pretty consistent across all translations. The writer of Hebrews is unknown, but the book can be dated to before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, just because the author doesn't mention it. The book is referred to by several early Christian writers. What all this says to me is really more the consensus of the early church than God appeared to the author and said, "write this".

I learned, or rather was reminded, of a couple of things. First, although Ehrman points out many things that were changed, there are a lot of core things in the New Testament that no evidence exists have been changed substantially. Whether what the author says is actually true or not is a matter of faith, but it seems to have been reliably transmitted, anyway, and generally accepted by the community as being doctrine. Otherwise it wouldn't have made it into the New Testament.

What it said was illuminating to me also.

I realized I had been immersing myself too much in LDS writings, which always have you doubting your worthiness and your relationship with God. God loves you based on how exactly you keep the commandments, and all these blessings are out there for those that do. Inspiration, guidance, a celestial family, etc.. The implication I think many people get is that, since these promises are so certain, if you're not feeling and receiving these things you must not be doing it right, and you need to clean yourself up more. You're always just one mouse click and one Victoria's Secret ad away from blowing it. The gospel is not about God's love for mankind, it's a massive filtering-out process, a game of "Survivor". We're tried and tested in this life to see who is worthy of godhood and who will eternally be a washroom attendant, serving those that get a higher score and make the final round in the quiz bowl of life. Plus I mentally fill in so much of the backstory about the organization's relentless push to reinforce its own authority and to bolster its legitimacy by sanitizing its founding history. It's just draining.

Anyway, verse 18 reminded me that Christ has paid the price for these sins I can't seem to get away from, once and for all. I think verse 22 was the real motivator. Drawing near to God with full assurance of faith. How often are we ever inspired to have full assurance of faith in the LDS church? It's always the refiners fire with angels, silent notes taking. Taking the deliberate path into sin is pretty damaging, but in absence of that I have that full assurance of faith and the hope of a fair deal, in this life and the life to come. God loved me enough to send his Son, and is not just waiting for me to screw up so he can give all my blessings to someone more perfect. At least that's what those who knew Jesus personally and those who received their witness seemed to think. Maybe that's what I think, too. It's at least one basic truth to hold onto.

Anyway, I've been studying in Hebrews and 1 John this week, and life seems a little better. The love of God seems more tangible to me than it did before and more accessible. There are promises I think I can trust a little more than I did before. If you weren't convinced before, you probably aren't now, but that's my witness, anyway.