Know what's the most Mormon thing you can do?
Allow someone else to control the narrative.
Let someone else tell you who you can be friends with, and who you can talk to.
Refuse to follow the evidence and see where the truth lies.
Cling so tight to your confirmation bias that you vilify the wrong person.
Turn your back on people you once loved because they weren't afraid to call the emperor naked.
That's the most Mormon thing you can do.
Friday, April 21, 2017
“.... whoa whoa whoa feelings….”
I read a facebook comment today testifying of the Book of Mormon, stating, “I feel the spirit touch my soul when I read it. It tells me that what I’m reading really happened.”
But they don’t verify truth.
As a former Mormon, I have spent a lot of time contemplating feelings. ‘The Spirit’ is much mocked amongst my peers on the fringes of Mormonism. We don’t like to admit that we are guided by feelings, or ‘The Spirit’, but rather by fact, and reason, and logic. Those things matter too, maybe as much or more so than feelings.
But, feelings matter.
For years, I had a gut feeling that the church was not true. I ignored it, preferring to put my faith in the feelings of my beloved parents that the church was true. With a capital T. I couldn’t let myself go there. I couldn’t allow my brain to consider the implications inherent in acknowledging my own feelings. To do so meant giving room to the doubts that threatened to tear my world apart, and I had no idea what my new reality would look like. I couldn’t envision a life without the church.
Now? I feel peace, and wonder, and awe. Making space for my feelings opened me up to so many new possibilities. I regret that I didn’t listen to my feelings sooner. Decades of doubt buried deep makes for quite a mess.
I had a feeling that I should marry Boston Bob. Boston Bob did not share my feeling. Had I persisted and pursued Boston Bob based on my feeling, Boston Bob might have had a feeling that I should be arrested and charged with stalking. He wouldn’t have been wrong to pursue that feeling.
When my now beloved spouse asked me to marry him, I had a feeling that I should say yes. It was perhaps the strongest feeling I’ve ever had that I should do any one thing, and, in this particular case, my feeling led to 28 years of wedded bliss. For me. I cannot speak for my beloved. Though I suspect he shares my feelings, based on his actions.
Upon the birth of my third child, I had a feeling that I should have a fourth. I resisted this feeling, as I had no desire to repeat pregnancy at my advanced age. But the feeling was persistent, and, eventually, we had that fourth child. She is a delightful addition to our family, and I’m so grateful that I gave heed to that feeling.
However, I have many friends who have had similar feelings that another child awaited their family, and those feelings did not lead to another child. As they have shared their stories with me, I feel their grief that what they most hoped for and dreamed of did not come to pass, in spite of their feelings that it would.
Feelings matter. But they don’t verify truth.
I know many people, good and honest people, who testify that they know the church is true. Their feelings are so strong they resemble knowledge. I also know many people who have testified that the church was true, only to realize later that it wasn’t.
Feelings do not verify truth.
Feelings do not verify truth.
Feelings can point us in the right direction and help us find truth. And, sometimes, in the absence of truth, feelings can lead us to that which is good. Or so I’ve heard. I know many people who have doubts about the truthfulness of the church, but stay because they believe it is good. I don’t subscribe to this philosophy myself. I don’t believe good can exist in the absence of truth. My feelings tell me so.
Growing up, whenever I was presented with a choice in life, my father would ask, “What does your gut tell you?” Often, if I would stop and listen to my gut, my feelings, I would find the answer I was looking for. But not always. Remember Boston Bob? My gut told me he was ‘the one’. He told me he wasn’t. My feelings couldn’t change that fact. However, the experience did teach me to scrutinize my feelings a little closer. Had I done so then, perhaps I would have realized that BB and I were not a good fit, and my feeling was nothing more than desire masquerading as ‘the spirit’ testifying that I had found ‘the one’. I was attracted to BB, I liked spending time with BB, and I thought he would make a good celestial spouse. When I told God all of this, in fervent prayer, he confirmed my feeling with a testimony that BB was ‘the one’. Looking back, knowing what I know now, BB and I would have been a disaster. My beloved, ‘the one’, was, and is, the right fit for me. My feelings, combined with our shared history of wedded bliss, provide all the confirmation I need.
Feelings matter. I pay attention to my feelings, and I examine them closely for nuggets of truth. I trust my feelings, because they have often led me to good things. Like my beloved spouse, and my delightful child.
But, they do not verify truth.
Boston Bob did not want to marry me, and the church is not true.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
It’s Easter this week. Religious holidays have presented a bit of a conundrum for me since my faith collapsed.
Actually, Easter has always puzzled me. What do a giant Easter bunny and Peeps have to do with the resurrection of a savior of mankind?
As it turns out, very little.
Easter, like most Christian holidays, has its origins in paganism. It marked the end of the cold winter season and the beginning of new life, as evidenced by leafy buds on trees and tulips poking their heads up out of the ground. How the bunny got involved depends on what source you consult. Suffice it to say, the Christian celebration of Easter is an amalgamation of legends and stories culminating in hunting for colored eggs and eating lots of jelly beans. Or something to that effect. Oh, and then also going to church and thinking about Jesus. In new clothes.(I'm wearing the new clothes. Not Jesus. Though, come to think of it, his attire probably was new. Or refurbished. Okay, now I'm wandering into blasphemous territory. Sorry.)
In my household growing up, my parents separated the secular from the religious by giving us Easter baskets on Saturday morning, leaving Sunday free for worship. My mother never told us that our baskets full of candy and trinkets came from a giant bunny; she didn’t want us to be confused when it came to Jesus and his sacrifice. As it turns out, her lack of context left me befuddled anyway. I never could figure out how it was all related. I just knew that we colored boiled eggs on Friday, got a basket of goodies on Saturday and had an Easter Egg hunt in the backyard, then went to church on Sunday morning wearing a new dress. I was expected to sit still in that new dress, hyped up on fake chocolate Easter eggs, and think about how Jesus died on a cross. For me. So I could go live with Heavenly Father again.
As you can clearly see, religious worship never really took with me.
Mormons sort of bastardized the entire Easter celebration and the Lenten season. Lent, from my limited understanding, is a time of personal sacrifice. As a Mormon, I was not taught in the ways of Lent, and I never knew anyone who practiced it religiously, pun intended, but I knew many people who trivialized the concept by giving up such things as Diet Coke or sugar.
I decided this year that I wanted to understand Lent from a religious perspective, so I accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a Lenten service at a nearby church.
I felt like a voyeur.
As I listened to the pastors recite scriptures, and the congregation respond out loud by repeating particular phrases, I searched my heart for any feeling that could be interpreted as the spirit. And I felt none. Nothing. I was void of anything remotely resembling a spiritual experience.
There was nothing familiar about the setting or the proceedings. Even the hymns were different from those I’d heard as a Mormon. The people were dressed casually, and the room looked like any other community gathering spot. It was completely unlike any church service I had experienced growing up.
I wasn’t exposed to different religious traditions by my parents. They believed Mormonism was True, with a capital T, and saw no need to branch out. I do not blame them for this. They had all they needed, and they believed they were leading their family back to God via the LDS church; what would have been the point of attending other religions?
So, as I sat through the unfamiliar service, I was mystified. I looked around me at the congregation gathered to worship their savior. I wondered at the devotion that had led them to seek salvation at the hands of a jealous god, and I searched their faces carefully for some clue to their dedication.
I listened to their hymns, and wondered why my heart remained still. Am I missing the devotion gene? How did reverence for sacred things so completely pass me by? Why is my heart not fertile ground for the seed of faith?
What is the difference between me, an agnostic borderline atheist who cannot decide if a supreme being exists and cares about humanity, and an adherent of Christianity? What is it that leads worshipers to seek a savior, and to mark their faces with ashes as a sign of their devotion and penitence? Or to don sacred, holy underwear? To tithe their ten percent? To sacrifice half their weekend in pursuit of connection with divinity?
Honestly, I have no answers. All I know is that the service left me cold and wanting. I felt nothing more than admiration for those who are willing and able to set aside worldly things with softened hearts and allow the spirit of god to take root. I often wish I could be one of them.
But the feeling passes quickly as I contemplate the Mexican food my friend promised me in exchange for my presence beside her as she worshiped.
I guess that makes me an adherent of gastrolatry. I worship food. I can work with this. Granted, it costs more than ten percent of my income, but the rewards are immediate, and filling. Pass the salsa.