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You don't have to roll like that


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At times, I'm far more critical of the Church than I should be. Part of this lies in the fact that it's harder to agree insightfully and still add something than to disagree insightfully, since disagreement with the party line provides easier access to questions.

So let's put a few things on the table. I have serious questions about scriptural historicity. I believe the Book of Genesis and much of the Old Testament to be Jewish mythology. Given that, the Book of Moses and Book of Abraham, in my mind, are at least largely allegorical or ahistorical in nature, whether provided by revelation or not. I am open to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is not a historical document, although I see no compelling evidence one way or the other and don't have any of my testimony riding on it. I also don't think the Church can provide one tenth of one percent of what we need to know about salvation and the next life.

That said, I'm troubled by a lot of the negativity that I and others often show. I was prompted to consider this by this excellent post at LDSLF by Ned Flanders. As usual, Ned is open about his feelings and gives everyone that engages him fairly a good hearing. I must, however, disagree about the "baggage" that Ned and many others on that thread see in the contemporary Church and in Christianity as a whole.

It's true that there were probably some sexual shenanigans in the early Church that shouldn't have been going on. It's true that people of faith have been remiss in treating others with the respect that Christ demands. It's true that we make historical claims that can't often be substantiated.

It's also true that we offer things as a Church that enhance anything good that a member or investigator can bring to the table. We emphasize personal revelation in a way unsurpassed by any. Indeed, RT and Serenity Valley's podcast on the First Vision notes the most important aspect of Joseph's vision: he had a question and God gave him an honest to goodness answer. We don't get visions or even answers all the time, but I do believe that anyone that urgently seeks God can find his hand, whether in the scriptures or in the warm feeling that you get when you do right and know you've done so. The message of the gospel is a message of forgiveness, love, and hope. For me, the most important thing I've learned in the Church is this: that no matter what you do, God is a good guy that cares and he wants you to succeed. I've had tons of trouble lately finding that hope, but I know that it's there and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I also know that God wants you to work out your salvation with fear and trembling with him. I know that you only need the institutional church insofar as it helps you do that and that regardless of the imperfections of the Church, there is a role to be played there. The prophets and apostles are there to help you get the guidance you need in your own life, not to be pointlessly obeyed. They teach us as best as they can with the help of God and it's up to us to get further/different answers for ourselves if we feel we need them.

God doesn't hate you for asking questions or screwing up. He knows you as you are and as you can be. Don't let anybody that teaches you different get you down.

You do not have to insist on unquestioning obedience to leaders to be a faithful Mormon. You can have different views about Book of Mormon historicity. You can define Sabbath observance in different ways according to your circumstances and conscience. You can even insist that PEC meeting is not a conference call with the Lord.

Are there people that disagree and judge anything that moves without a tie on? Of course there are, but the judgmentalism, closed-mindedness, and intolerance of the stereotypical Church member are found in all walks of life. Basically, these things can come along with any firm convictions. It's up to individuals to try and resist them. Don't let them define your view of a faith.

Jesus is the Christ and his life and teachings can serve as an example to any who choose to follow. He honors the best efforts of all of his children to live according to their conscience and best inclinations. Joseph Smith did serve as an instrument in his hands to move his work forward. While our understanding of his role is not complete, the faith that he founded can serve as a foundation for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The authority of the priesthood has been restored and can serve as vital assistance in our journey.

I just wanted to put something positive, honest, and relevant up today (in contrast to the usual fare provided by yours truly). I hope it doesn't come across as a sermon, since it's mostly directed at the mirror.


9 Responses to “You don't have to roll like that”

  1. Anonymous NFlanders 

    Thanks for the honest and bracing response, D-Train.

    I hesitate to bring any negativity to your extremely positive post (I don't want to be the Debbie Downer of the bloggernacle.) I guess my problem is a lot of the extraneous beliefs that have grown up around Christianity. Like you, I think the gospel as recorded in the New Testament has a lot great ideas. Unfortunately, people have attempted to implement them with widely varying degrees of success.

    I think each person has to decide for themselves what they believe. I think Mormonism is much more demanding than you admit, and I simply don't believe that many of the demands are justified or healthy.

    However, I do think it's possible for some people to be very healthy and happy Mormons. I know because I've met them here in the bloggernacle. I can't be one of them; I'm much happier as an unbeliever.

    As for you, D-Train, I want you to be the happiest person you can be. Only you know whether that is inside or outside of the church. If it is as part of the church, I hope you don't let people like me get you down. It is people like you who make church bearable for people like me. And for that, I (and all future church members like me) thank you.

  2. Anonymous Laura 

    Thanks for this, D-Train. It was just what I needed to hear today.

    As I keep trying to believe this gospel and live it, I feel like I get pulled in different ways. But I can't deny the spirit that I feel in church. I can't deny the feeling I have when I pray. The whole idea that Jesus is the Christ is so right to me.

    When I viewed the world as arbitrary and unknown it brought me no happiness. Doubting God was such a black hole. Believing has a great lightness and it feels right.

  3. Anonymous Susan M 

    Do you ever think about what religion would be like today if we had as much information about the first 12 apostles' lives as we do about Joseph Smith and the early church leaders? Interesting to think about.

  4. Anonymous D-Train 

    Ned,

    Guys like you cannot get anyone down that has also had difficulty. I firmly believe the things in this post. I also firmly believe that God will work out a plan with each of us that seek him. I also believe that those that aren't sure whether God is there or not will receive help in living according to their conscience. Nobody that honestly tries to do right is anything other than a great influence. I simply can't hold with anyone that sees the matter differently.

    Laura,

    You've summed it up well and truly. We've all got our questions and quirks, but the bottom line is that we've got to go with what feels right. For Ned, it's the idea of Christ in the New Testament. For Molly Mormon, it's the unswerving obedience to rumors about what a seventy said. I think a great challenge that I face is to respect the righteous desires of others. It seems that I have the most trouble doing this with people that are super-active Mormons (I think I have a much easier time with Ned's point of view than with Ms. Mormon).

    Susan,

    Never thought of that and you win the big prize. The bright lights of history can add lots of warts.....

  5. Anonymous Stephen M (Ethesis) 

    We see a lot of warts in both the Old and the New Testament. Noah getting drunk. Abraham's family problems (not to mention Jacob/Israel's problems). Eli and Samuel's problems governing Israel. Paul and Peter in conflict, guys firing their mission companions, etc.

    I do see a lot of things differently, perhaps from the fact that I've worked in roleplaying and mythic simulations and have friends who design games, perhaps from other reasons.

    I see polygamy as a force that turned the LDS Church into an ethnic group and that provoked the sort of persecution that refined the Church and kept it from assimilation, while the ethnic nature allowed it to survive until David O. McKay and the Church's growth into more than an ethnic group.

    I see the Book of Abraham as connected to the Egyptian endowment sequence (which is similar to the one used by the Triad Lodges of China, btw) and sharing the essential nature that is supposed to be hidden in a Book of the Dead (which, the magic part aside, is supposed to be a guide for the soul to traverse the underworld and gain Heaven successfully, much like some of the Masonic books that are out there -- attempting to convey their rituals without exposing them).

    Yes, I have known the way to the peach grove and the path of heros and I bleed when cut.

    Many things which others stumble at, give me strength and belief.

    Though the greatest stumbling block of all, the one called the rock of offense, Jesus Christ, gives me the greatest strength.

    I think that should be so for all.

  6. Anonymous annegb 

    D-Train,

    This is a very well-done post. I'm going to study it out. I appreciate what you've written.

    I think it takes courage to digress from the norm. I heard a quote in a psychology class: "there is power in conforming to the norms and mores of the society in which we live." I think that's totally true. Most people don't have the kind of courage to be different.

    I do. It's scary, I get in trouble sometimes, but I soldier on nevertheless. I try to be true to myself and damn the consequences. My husband most of the time, doesn't say much, he is conforming. He's gotten used to me, I guess.

    I sometimes go over the top, especially with young sisters, because I want to give them courage, should they have the inclination to be different. None of my behavior is calculated, but as I age, there seems to be an effect which is mostly positive.

  7. Anonymous Mike 

    very well done post indeed. thanks D-Train

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