Sunday, January 06, 2008

The latest --

I haven't posted in awhile, so I thought I would provide a short update.

The last few entries I made here were pretty positive about the church, but since September/October I have been trending the other way pretty substantially. In summary I have been attending a non-denominational bible study, and the contrast between how other churches teach the bible and how the LDS church approaches it is stark. This bible study basically talks about the bible and Jesus and not much else. It serves to illuminate just how much of what we do in the LDS church is focused on promoting the church and reinforcing the authority of the leaders. The study is held in a large Baptist church and most of the people in the class (200+) are Baptists, yet they never talk about the Baptist church, quote former Baptist leaders, etc. Just the bible and Jesus.

One of the things we covered a couple of months ago was the concept of "saving faith", which is basically an understanding that we depend on Jesus for our salvation and nothing else. Not ordinances, not our works, etc. I can't hope to do this subject justice in the space I have here, but it again helped me to appreciate how much we do in the LDS church is designed to convert people to the church rather than to Christ. Basically other churches try to convert people to Christ and then hope they find a church. The LDS church converts them to the church first, and then hopes they find Christ.

I'm also disheartened by the way they are handling the media issues surrounding Mitt Romney and some of the uncomfortable doctrine being exposed. i.e. whether Jesus and Satan are brothers, whether polygamy actually did take place after 1890 when it was officially abandoned, etc. Rather than being upfront about these things they are resorting to mealy-mouthed PR responses which are technically correct but not really truthful. These are questions that should be addressed head on and not obfuscated.

Recently Mitt Romney said he doesn't believe God has spoken to prophets since Moses, which totally disavows Joseph Smith and every other LDS prophet. Granted he doesn't speak for the church, but I think this is a representative approach. Officially, instead of standing up for what we believe, they are trying to blur the very distinctions we should be the most proud of, if this is really God's true church on the earth.

In summary I am not in a good place with respect to the LDS church right now. I love the people. The culture is my adopted heritage. Much of the unique doctrine Joseph Smith taught may well be true. However, I have difficulty giving my heart to a church that doesn't teach what I consider saving faith and that continues to be deceptive in public about its doctrine and practices.

It's hard to say where I will be a year from now, but before, I was unsettled by my concerns. I wasn't sure what to do. I was torn between the good and the bad in the church. Now I understand why things bother me, and I can easily separate my love for the people from my disdain for the institutional church. I understand that the "restoration" merely restored priesthood authority, and I just don't think that's important anymore. I have trouble sustaining leaders at the general level who are not totally honest in what they present to the public.


Former Home Teacher But Now Heretic said...

I hadn't heard that one, about claiming the last "prophet" to speak with God was Moses. Interesting.

You may have seen this, but in the New Hampshire debate Saturday Romney made reference to "his position" on an issue and Huckabee responded "which one?" Ouch!!

I wonder how much of this multiple positions on issues comes from trying to be one way because of external pressure, but at heart being or feeling another way? I know as a Mormon I felt ALOT of pressure to be the perfect person. It came out as unauthentic. There was the person I wanted to be, the perfect Mormon. Then there was the real me.

I think Mitt as a candidate has done more damage to the churh than helped them. He seems to really typify the issues that being Mormon can create: robotic/stilted style, honesty problems, etc.

I'm glad to be out!!

Not just in mourning said...

Former home teacher said: "He seems to really typify the issues that being Mormon can create: robotic/stilted style, honesty problems, etc."

This is unfortunate, but true. And I am sad, for the sake of my loved ones, to see it.

Yes, CF. I did notice about a year ago that you really were hurting for/by/about the church. I thought that in a way it was admirable that you were worshipping successfully in the temple, for example. I would like to be able to worship successfully in the LDS temple as well as in a Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other group. If I can't even sorwhip with my own people, that doesn't bode well for my supposed transcendent spirituality.

But you seem to be clarifying now that perhaps you were still simply holding on. And perhaps with the minimal heritage and family ties you have, you will not long be a Mormon.

Are your children and in-laws strong LDS?

ChristFollower said...

My daughter and son-in-law are TBM. My in-laws are TBM. My college-age son is inactive.

Not just in mourning said...

So the magnet holding you to the Church is actually somewhat weak?

It sounds like you and your wife may be in a good position to simply announce as necessary that you are now going to XYZ church and tithing to X, Y, and Z charities. Is that where you are?

If so, what will you do with your memberships and about contacts?

Sorry if I'm covering a lot of territory. I realize these are all the classic issues. But I am interested in you.

ChristFollower said...

This is difficult to describe, but my way of looking at religion has shifted a lot lately. The LDS church has us focused on institutions. "Which church should I join"? The question I think God would have us ask is, "who is my Lord?". I guess I'm focusing on the latter question and worrying less about which organization's membership card I should have in my wallet. Yes, my ties to the church are getting a lot weaker, especially in the last week. I posted about a devastating home teaching visit I made early in the week on NOM. There was just no light of Christ in the First Presidency message, the visit was rote mechanical, etc. It's less that my church ties are fading than I'm being converted to something higher and better.

I don't plan any sort of announcement or break with the church, because it's just not that important right now. In a weird way I think I can have more influence on people in the church as a member, even a barely active one, just because I am still a person of faith and am not an "angry ex-mormon".

As far as contacts, we still have a few people that keep in touch. Most just ignore us because we're not considered a "resource" anymore, and thus are of little use to them. We love who we can and don't worry about the others.

Not just in mourning said...

Pretty much ditto everything you said, though my life situation is very different than yours. Spiritually, I continue to feel that we are very much kindred souls, even though in 20 years I may still be sitting in an LDS ward looking like a upwardly mobile priesthood holder (an umphie?) and you may be on a motorcycle ride ministering to a fellow who is contemplating divorce.

Here are some of your phrases I especially would like to echo:

"who is my Lord?", over "Which church should I join" Wouldn't it be nice if all this religious superstructure could all just blow away like dust?

"I don't plan any sort of announcement or break with the church, because it's just not that important right now."

Spiritually I agree. Pragmatically, I am in church every week with beloved family, so it is outwardly important. Bishop will still call me in about a recommend. My sons will turn 12. My kids will get married in the temple. My parents, my brother, my sisters, all my aunts, uncles and cousins will meet with joy in the temple and at baptisms and blessings. Even my inactive/rebellious/wayward relatives appear to be unwaveringly loyal to the church. It is in my blood.

Maybe what I am saying is:

Transcend the church? That's easy for you to say.

The day may come when you may say, "I was once a Mormon." But I sense I will always be a Mormon as a Jew is always a Jew. In some strange way, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself receiving the Second Anointing someday (if I ever decide I should have a recommend again). Kind of fries your brain, doesn't it?

By the way, how is it that you affirm a testimony of the restoration? My family would probably appreciate your giving me some pointers, or maybe talking me through that point.

Not just in mourning said...

Do you want to give a link to that NOM post?

ChristFollower said...

Navigating a temple recommend interview hinges on a good faith interpretation of the questions. You have to answer the question that is actually asked, not what you think should have been asked, or reading a lot into the question, etc. The interview asks if you have a testimony of the restored gospel without providing limiting details of what that means. When I had my last recommend interview in June, I interpreted that question as asking whether I thought the church was true. i.e. a force for good, whether Jesus acts through the church, etc. I felt it was and said so. I am now taking a different interpretation, which I'm not sure I can answer 'yes' to anymore. Having thought this through I think the "restored gospel" is not just the church, but the restoration of exclusive authority to form the Kingdom of God, and I can't agree with that.

As far as my NOM post, it was a comment on another thread and I can't remember which one it was. Basically I visit a desperate family with five kids and tried to give the Ensign message, and the whole visit was mechanical and awful. Everybody was just going through the motions and praying it would be over soon.

Bing said...

Here is a link to the comment Romney made about God only speaking to prophets until Moses. Also, "Perhaps some others...."

Not just in mourning said...

Literalist home teaching can be embarrasing and painful.

Regarding recommends, it's the good faith part that makes it so tough, isn't it? I would like to carry a recommend as a good family and church member, but the good faith part prevents me from saying yes.

Unfortunately you, I think, and I have a hard time getting over the sense that a testimony of the restoration implies a testimony of the apostasy. But we don't see the earth in abject darkness in 1819 and then in glorious shining light in 1831 (or even 1845).

What I may try instead is a "yes with introduction" or "yes with expansion".

Q3: Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?

A: Yes. I believe that the gospel is always restored by God, ending the night of apostasy, for those who seek, ask, and knock in faith. That is as true in these latter days as it ever was.

Also, I have learned by experience that a good spirit goes a long way. I need to remember that.