Saturday, March 28, 2015

Coming Around



When I discovered that the Mormon Church was not what it said it was (thanks to Elder Holland and his comments in a PBS interview in which he answers questions about Blacks and the Priesthood ban, that were shocking to my true believing ears) it broke my heart to discover the hidden history of the Church, the remaking of events and the plain cover up, and elimination of much of the real history. But what really broke my heart was to discover that it isn't Christ's restored church on this earth, at least not in the sense that it claims to be.  Meaning, I doubt seriously if God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove and told him the things that the Church claims they did.  The evidence just doesn't support that story, I should say that version of the story, since there are three or four versions of the vision, and the Church only teaches the last one, which by that time included two Gods and a completely different vision then Joseph Smith originally claimed.  And you can listen to apologist's try to spin a good reason for the different versions, but I'm not into spinning things.  If I was, I would have listened to the apologist's spin on the Blacks and the Priesthood, or almost every other topic and problem the Church has with its history, there is plenty of apologist spin out there, enough to make your head dizzy. 

It did break my heart, because I believed it so deeply, my entire life structure was built upon it.  It's not easy to have your entire foundation ripped out from underneath you, lets just say, it's not for the faint of heart.  But I have never been faint of heart, I was taught to "put your shoulder to the wheel, and push along", I was taught to "lengthen your stride", I was taught "even the intent to deceive was a lie", and I was taught to "do what is right, let the consequence follow".  I guess in reality my church taught  me the skills, the integrity, the courage, and the ability to walk away, when I discovered it wasn't what it said it was.  So in that regard, I'm very grateful.  I'm glad that I learned those lessons so well, so when the time came that I needed to not be, faint of heart, I wasn't!

One problem the Church has are the literalists claims it makes, i.e. this literally is Christ's restored church, Christ is literally running it through revelation to the prophet, our leaders are literally Apostles and Prophets of Jesus Christ, the priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith by Peter, James, and John, and on and on and on...the literal claims are so numerous!  And that's why the Church is now being picked apart by some of its own members and others using historical records, primary sources, historical research, journal entries, scientific evidence, and words of their own leaders, just to name a few. The historical evidence doesn't match up with the Church's literal claims, plain and simple, and the Church is losing members because of it. 

Interestingly, the Mormon Church is not alone.  There are literalists of a different stripe, and they too are suffering from their literal claims.  Religion in general is suffering, but specifically Christianity, especially the evangelical, fundamentalist stripe.  Not every Christian believes that Noah was a real person, who built an ark and put two of every creature into that ark, and the earth was flooded. Not every Christian believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, without error or fault in all its teaching.  Not every Christian takes literally the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Christ, or the Second Coming.  But there are those who do and they would find good company with the Mormon's, because Mormons believe all of those things too, literally.  I say they would find good company with the Mormons, if the fundamentalists would stop sending Mormons to Hell, that is!  These fundamentalist's are holding on literally to all of these beliefs, even though there is no proof of any of it,  all of their literalist claims, fall apart, just like the Mormon's do.  But they are hanging on for dear life, turning a blind eye and deaf ear to all that is going on around them, and at the same time, proclaiming that only they know the real Jesus, and you have the wrong one, if you don't believe as they do, and they know who is saved and who's going to Hell. 

I don't begrudge literalist in any religion, I used to be one.  I know how strong those beliefs are.  There are two things in this life, I have learned, that are so strong... stronger than logic, stronger than facts, and stronger than family ties sometimes; those two things are beliefs and fears.  People will do some of the most amazing things because of belief and because of fear, both negative and positive. You could say that its these two things that makes the world go round.  And I'm fairly convinced that God gave us these strong senses as a survival mechanism, even though these two senses also cause so much destruction and havoc in the world.  Everything has its opposite and the goal is learning to choose love over other emotions, which is difficult to do, especially in light of our fears and beliefs.  Love is often the last thing we turn to, but I have hope in a patient God, allowing us to learn and grow at our own pace as our desires turn toward love and away from fear, which just happens to be the opposite of love.

Am I condemning literalist for their beliefs?  No, I love them, they are good people who do many good things, and some bad things.  All of us do.  They have a very strong world view and think that it's the only way, the correct way, and the goal for them and God also, is for you to think that way too.  But the literalists claims ruin things, because they're not really true, even though believers don't know that.  They don't see the harm that some of their beliefs bring to themselves and others, because they believe things so strongly they can't image that their "truth" could bring harm.  In a real sense literalist beliefs keep them hemmed into a tight knit world, usually surrounded by like minded people. Just as Alexander Leek says in the movie Mothman Prophecies:  If there was a car crash ten blocks away, that window washer up there could probably see it.  Now, that doesn't mean he's God, or even smarter than you are.  But from where he's sitting, he can see a little further down the road.  So in other words, those down below (those in their tight little world) may not be able to see out as far as someone who is not hemmed in by those literal beliefs, just like the window washer.       

The reason I say these literal beliefs ruin everything, be their religious or sectarian, is because the believer gets so caught up in the belief that they cannot see things clearly, or another's perspective.  In other words, they own the truth and cannot consider another's point of view.  The belief trumps everything, thinking stops, pride sets in, and adherence to the belief becomes the paramount virtue over love and acceptance of others, over consideration of another's position, or circumstance.

Okay, so it broke my heart to discover that my literal beliefs were not true.  There is value to literal beliefs, but there are drawbacks too.  Being able to open your eyes to all of that is very empowering, and yet unsettling.  You no longer have answers to life's important questions, be the answers true or false, there is a secure feeling in having them.   That's fine, but now it's grow up time.  Time to move on.  You are leaving a false belief behind where you found safety.  That's okay, its called growing.  I think its a false believe to think that the most important thing that God wants from us is to have faith, endure to the end, don't get out of the boat, just stay the course.  I think what God really wants is for us to think, think, think, learn truths through our own experiences, have experiences that will teach us love and compassion for others.  Why would a God want anything other than that?

I watched a movie the other day, at the end, a woman said:  You have to be willing to loose everything, for God to shape you into what he has planned.  Before I would have heard that and thought, you have to be willing to sacrifice all that you have, be willing to go through trials, have your faith tested, etc.  BUT, now I hear that and think, you have to be willing to loose everything, meaning your belief system, that's when you really loose everything, and allow God to shape you into what he has planned.  That's quite a different thing! Much more meaningful to God and to you.