I have a dear friend that joined the Church when she was in her late teens. She was raised Jehovah's Witness, then joined the Mormon Church, then left it in her mid to late twenty's; I would call her Agnostic now, I think she would agree with that. I contacted her the other day to tell her I too had left the Mormon Church. She asked me some questions about what I believe now, and since I had been wanting to do a post on that I will include some of my answers to her here. Not that what I believe is that important, but I think it's helpful to share with others our beliefs, even though beliefs are not a stagnant thing and they change as we grow and experience different things in life. That's a good thing. We don't want to become stagnant in our thinking. So if you are in a stage that is difficult because your belief system has been challenged, just look around at all the gifts that is bringing you. You are no longer stuck thinking a certain way, you are now free to experiment, to question, to challenge, to ask hard questions, to peek behind a curtain, uncover that stone. You can now get down and dirty and fall of the pedestal that says, you own the truth; it's called humility, and it's a very powerful tool for learning, growing, loving, and finding happiness. Don't ever be afraid of humility... it's God's best tool. As hard and challenging as it is to admit to yourself that you have been viewing life through biased lenses, (and we all view life that way) and as grave and disturbing as it is to question one's faith or to lose that faith, the fears you will loose, the compassion you will gain, the joy of questioning, learning, seeking, experiencing life in new and exciting ways, far out way the price. Just try it on, take it for a test drive, you will love it! You might think, it's too dangerous, too frightening to question your views. Let me just reply to that with: it's very dangerous to stay stuck in a mindset that isn't correct, and no matter what your mindset is, I guarantee there are things in it that are not correct. Why live life thinking that they are? And as for it being frightening to exam your beliefs, I guarantee that you are frightened right now, about something. There is something in your belief system that is frightening you: the government, society, your children's choices or potential choices, global warming, the Second Coming, Obama, terrorism, racism, the economy, the future, death, illness, salvation, or a million other fears. and the sad part is, we come to these fears with a biased mind, in which we have staked everything, and we let these fears play out in our mind and life for maybe no reason. I read a book once called, Loving What Is, it's a great read, and the author says she puts anything that is out of her ability to control into "God's" category, even if you don't believe in God, she calls it that, just to remind herself that, "I have no control over that, and I will not waste anymore time worrying about it," I will leave that up to the powers that be. But, if your belief system is so strong and you think you are so right, you will still buy into your fears, thinking that you are wiser and know more, I guarantee it, I have lived it.
Now to my friend's questions: she asked if I had lost faith in a Heavenly Father? At first, I felt unsure about everything, which is a good thing, leaving the Church gives you so much compassion for others and their beliefs. I totally get atheists now, I respect where they're coming from, and I don't think they are the evil people I grew up believing they were. I get agnostic's, everyone, I respect them, even Mormon, especially Mormons, I am a Mormon... I understand their beliefs and the commitment they have to them. When people say that the Bible is not factual, I get that too, it falls apart under scrutiny, just like the Book of Mormon does, I agree with you when you say you don't have any confidence in organized religion, I agree with that, but I also see the good it does, along with the bad, but the good out weighs the bad in my mind, but an argument can be made the other way too. I do believe there is a God, and since my concept of who God is... is Heavenly Father, yeah I guess I stick with that. Why switch that out for another God, since I don't really know for sure, why switch out the one I understand and have prayed to my entire life, and have a history with? Did prayer get hard for me? Yeah, it did, but there is still that desire to thank God at the end of the day for all the wonderful things in my life, and gratitude is such an important facet of happiness, that I don't want to not have gratitude. And if God, is really responsible for all the things in my life, which I think He is, I would hate to be ungrateful.
Let me just pause from my conversation with my friend for a moment here to add: I don't think we have a pointless God.. meaning that I think there is great purpose to our life. I believe in a God that has the same destination for all of us, and our life's purpose is to learn and grow. It's called progression in the Mormon faith and I very much believe in it. I don't believe in the Mormon idea of progression, if that means we will eventually end up in one of three kingdoms and remain there for eternity. Hey, but lets give Mormon's some credit, at least they aren't sending people to Hell to dwell forever just because they don't say a "sinner's pray" (that isn't biblical anyway) or they don't "confess"
Christ just the way some Evangelicals think they should. Mormon's believe in Christ, and they love Him, they worship Him, and they are grateful for His atonement in their life, they view Christ's atonement as: their means of salvation, what enables Christ to forgive our sins, and Christ's ability to change our nature. They believe all of that in spite of their church's attempt to usurp Christ's authority, so that the Church speaks for Christ, the church is Christ, basically in a Mormon's eyes. That's why Mormon's hold to the Church so strongly, the Church is Christ's gospel, they love Christ, so they of course love His Church, and reverence their leaders way too much, because it's one in the same to them.
What do I think of Christ? That question actually comes from Mormon scripture, "what think ye of Christ?" Well... I have a hope in Him, I love his teachings, I think they are a good way to live your life. I think the Biblical Christ is hard to prove, but I have a hope in Him, and in His saving ability, if that is necessary, which it might be, but I don't think the purpose of this life is salvation. Was a Savior necessary for God to send us to this earth so we could progress and learn? I have always been taught that, and for all I know it may be so, but, like I said, scriptures fall apart under scrutiny, so that just leaves you with faith, doesn't it? And if that is what you are left with, then I have to give the person who wants to believe the Book of Mormon as scripture as much respect as the person who wants only to believe the Bible as scripture. They are both a matter of faith in my mind, and cannot be proven as fact or historical. That maybe where faith comes in, but not about KNOWING, like Mormons like to say they "know." Mormon's don't "know" anything... anymore then Christians "know" things for sure. It's all based on faith and teachings and your own personal experiences. And I'm not slamming anyone's personal feelings, experiences, or faith, it's not my place to do so. It was Christ that taught us not to judge.
My friend asked if we felt betrayed by the Church? I told her yeah, we do. We feel like we were the faithful spouse, we were loyal, we did everything we were supposed to, we upheld our end of the bargain, and the Church played the harlot. It lied, it wasn't faithful. So you are constantly sorting your life out, the good, the bad, that came from spending your entire life in the Church. I used to see everything good in my life, as a result of being a member, and that may be so, but there is a lot of bad too, mostly in attitudes and in the way you view things.
She asked if I thought Joseph Smith was mentally disturbed? No, I think he was a brilliant con man, and self-aggrandizing womanizer. But I could be wrong, and I hold that possibility out there. Did he see God, and translate the Book of Mormon from gold plates? The evidence strongly suggests that he didn't. Did he bring some truth and enlightenment to the world, yes I think so. So that's where I give him a little possibility of being... what I don't know, a prophet? I would have to have a new definition for prophet to call him that. But I certainly don't know all things, and I don't know how God works, remember, our ways are not His ways, and there are the mysteries of God.
We just don't know exactly how God does things, do we? It's kind of the mystery of it all that leads you right back to faith again, not knowledge. I was listening to someone the other day and she was saying that she had to learn to live with uncertainty. Uncertainty sounds a lot like faith, this life may be based on uncertainty, perhaps faith... why? Why would God design it that way? I don't know but my thinking is that uncertainty gives you the ability to think, test, and grow, and to come to conclusions, rethink and come to new conclusions, test and grow. All in all, not a bad plan after all.