Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thoughts on the temple--
This is kind of a weird post for a "disaffected" blog, but maybe it will average out with some other things I have said previously. If you're non-LDS you will probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but I just want to write and not translate right now.

Of late I've developed a real sense of enjoyment in attending the temple. I recognize that the temple doesn't work for everyone. Often it hasn't worked for me, but that's because I went out of a sense of duty. I was supposed to go, so I went. Under those circumstances it was kind of claustrophobic, without windows. I felt sort of trapped. I couldn't get out.

My circumstances are different now. I go because I want to, because I enjoy that sense of peace and separation from the world. I enjoy the symbolism of entering into the celestial room, as though entering heaven.

I had the chance to visit the Mt Timpanogos temple a month or so ago. I hadn't been to a large temple in about eight years, and the grandeur of the celestial room was literally awe-inspiring. The bright light from the windows just made the entire room glow. An entire large room of people dressed in white. They looked like angels.

I guess my thoughts tonight were more on leaving the temple than entering it.

I don't really take the temple for granted anymore, because each visit could be my last. I recognize I barely qualify for a recommend because my activity is about 50-50, and many bishops would start to ask me probing questions about my testimony of the "restoration", and my recommend would end up locked in his desk until I could produce more orthodox answers. I really stand out in the temple, because I have a beard and a ponytail these days. These are going to be red flags to a more strict bishop, and away goes my recommend based on his feelings about my answers. For now, though, I'm enjoying it while I can.

Used to be I walked out of the temple and I was struck by how "unclean" the world was. I earned my recommend by being righteous and by following the rules, and after walking out of the temple I didn't want to touch anything. People just looked dirty and clueless compared to those angels dressed in identical white clothing. The temple was a safe haven from the chaos of the unwashed and uneducated on the outside.

My perspective has changed.

I haven't "earned" the right to go to the temple. It's random chance as much as anything, the luck of the draw of bishops. To the extent righteousness gets me in the door, it's not my righteousness. It's the atonement of Christ that washes away my sins and makes me righteous, not my own efforts. My own "efforts" only count to the extent that I have accepted the grace that has been offered me and done the few simple things asked by the LDS church. I no longer see the world as being unclean. The temple is not a place to hide from the world. It's a place to prepare to engage it. Our mission is out in the world, spreading the message of Christ and ministering to those who need us, not hiding from them because we're somehow "cleaner" than they are and have a membership card to prove it. We're not called to dust off the world as we walk into the temple. We're called to try to take the temple with us into the world. We're not better than anybody else because we can go to the temple. We are the luckiest people in the world because we can.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Since I've become a less orthodox Latter-day Saint I find I get depressed a lot. I feel bad about things. I feel bad about people. I wish I could fix problems better. I wish I could communicate my faith better.

One of the things I realized yesterday is that I feel bad more because I empathize with people more. Before I used to look at the bad things that happened to people, and I thought "if that person were only a member of the church, this wouldn't have happened". "If only that person were more active in the church, this wouldn't have happened." "If only that person followed more correct principles, this wouldn't have happened". I used to look at entire categories of people as sort of broken and unclean and mostly responsible for the bad things that happened to them. I put an emotional distance between myself and them that didn't involve me in their problems.

I don't really do that as much anymore. I don't apply those silly rules as much, and consequently I hurt for people more, regardless of what they might have done to get themselves into trouble. I just feel bad for their problems and wish there was something I could do to make it better. I tend to think of most everybody as kind of a mixed bag, struggling to make their way in this world as best they can, based on the information they have.

That doesn't mean I actually *do* anything most of the time. I just feel bad for them. I identify with them.

I think Jesus was like that. He looked at people, shook his head, and tried to love them anyway.