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What do you say?


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My somewhat nontraditional view of the Church and the gospel makes some things easier. I don't have to try to find tortured doctrinal justifications for rather large mistakes in our past. I don't have to worry that I'm going to hell if I disagree with Gordon B. Hinckley's view of appropriate media. And, I can justify myself in some degree of sin.

There is one thing that's a lot harder because of that view.

I'm always touched by stories such as this. It's tough to see people urgently trying to embrace the Church that I believe to be true and just being hurt by it. I can't understand this. Yeah, yeah, divine tests, time of probation, I know the standard answers. That doesn't make it easy to see or understand.

Now, if I were the standard Peter Priesthood, I'd have a nice, easy answer for people like Kiskilili. I could say "just keep coming to church and everything will be fine. It's all for your own good and as long as you never deviate from the path your leaders chart, you'll surely be saved in the celestial kingdom." Or, alternatively, I could say nothing and simply take satisfaction in towing the line, lamenting the souls that weren't tough enough. Most Peter and Molly types that I know would choose the first one while sincerely trying to understand the person in question.

The problem is, I don't think the Church is perfect. I think we have more truth than anyone else, but I also think we've got our share of "philosophies of men", cultural baggage, and human incompetence. Throw in my beliefs in progression between kingdoms and a more forgiving God than we generally assume and, well, it's tough for me to give the easy advice.

For me, the central point of the gospel is Jesus Christ and serving other people. If the Church is getting in the way of a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ and is not helping one to serve, I'm not sure that I can ask anyone to stay.

Indeed, I can say with relative certainty that I would have no qualms with telling a good person that is experiencing a tortured time in the Church to step back for a while. I wouldn't necessarily see any irreversible spiritual consequences for someone that chooses to leave (the God that I know isn't going to pronounce a never-ending curse on someone that picked the wrong church). I think there are lots of Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, et cetera that would be better off Mormon. I also can conceive of Mormons that would be better off temporally and, yes, spiritually, were they to choose one of those other options.

But I still wouldn't be satisfied. At the end of the day, I stay because I think it's right. If I ever think the Church isn't God's organization, rest assured, I'm out. And, most fundamentally, I would have a difficult time advising anyone to move further from the things that have helped me so much in my life. None of those other religions helped me to understand Christ or his atonement. While all may be well-intentioned, Mormonism provided me with what I needed and with a good bit of truth that I'd never had before.

So, you know, I couldn't ever tell a person to just up and leave. I also can't tell a person to just stay like nothing happened. All I can do is say that I've found a way (or pieces of a way) to allow the gospel to change my life. If it's possible for me, it's possible for you too.

At the end of the day, that still sounds too empty for me.


6 Responses to “What do you say?”

  1. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    D-Train,

    Just expressing that you can imagine a scenario where you could be "out" is probably about the most helpful thing you could say. It goes a long way in the direction of sympathy...'cause it shows that you've taken the time to imagine and realize that there is such a possibility as losing faith...even for yourself.

    Then you can see that real faith isn't something that is casually thrown away, but can only be ripped from the heart; causing the kind of pain and anguish of soul that comes from profound loss. Which is ultimately the reason that even deep sympathy can "sound empty".

    Considering how energetically we all cling to cherished beliefs, I'm guessing that someday we'll all have the opportunity to learn what it's like to lose our faith and discover that we know nothing. Seems to me that this is the path to enlightenment.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Anonymous Crystal 

    D, it is a bit of a sticky wicket, isn't it?

    I guess the best advice I would have for someone is that they have to do what they think is right.

    The time that I spent away from the Church did a lot of good for me, and even a little bad, kind of like life in general, but it isn't something I'd reccomend to anyone who didn't already think it was what they needed to do.

    When advising someone who seems to have lost hope (which is worse than losing faith, I think), almost any advice we give is going to feel a little empty.

  3. Anonymous Arwyn 

    It's taken me a long time to read through the linked post, thanks to being at work. Silly job.

    But thanks for linking to this, D-Train. It brings up a lot of questions and thoughts.

    I'm with you in believing that the Church is imperfect but at the same time still faciliates the fundamentals of the Gospel -- especially in the aspect of service, which I think the Church is pretty good at.

    I've been going through a crisis of faith in the Church itself for about two years now; until recently, by faith in God and the essentials of his Gospel haven't been shaken. This is a new feeling for me, and one I sympathize with Kiskilili over.

    However, I haven't reached a point where I could say that God doesn't care. I have too many weighty feelings and personal revelation to that effect. The big question for me arises along the lines of whether Mormonism is the best road to the God I believe in.

    Either way, though, I'm with you in saying that maybe some time away is a good thing. On the other hand, for some people, maybe it's not. It's ultimately an individual thing, and the path toward peace has to be tailored to the individual. Neither I nor the Church can impose a catch-all solution.

    And I think God knows that.

  4. Anonymous Katie 

    I agree with Crystal about this being a sticky wicket. Well, I don’t know what a wicket is, but I agree with the stickiness.

    I read this line with some interest:

    For me, the central point of the gospel is Jesus Christ and serving other people. If the Church is getting in the way of a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ and is not helping one to serve, I'm not sure that I can ask anyone to stay.


    I also believe that this is the central point of the gospel. Lately, however, I have been doubting that the Church is helping me do these things. It may even be getting in the way of them. I have been reading a book about Christian ethics for my class in well, Christian Ethics, and it made a point I find thought-provoking. It argues that assurance of salvation, salvation by grace by a loving and forgiving God, is requisite before one is to go out and serve one’s neighbor. If someone does not have the assurance of salvation, they will inevitably find their spiritual energy drained away into thinking about their self, about their own salvation. They are never liberated by grace to concentrate on their neighbor. Instead they ever concern themselves with the state of their own soul, tirelessly toiling for salvation. This is what I sometimes feel the church does to me. I am forever thinking about the things I must do to gain the Celestial Kingdom-tithing, Word of Wisdom, VTing, praying, scripture study, church attendance, ect ect., that it sucks my energy away from thinking about other people and forging a relationship with Jesus Christ. I just have not been finding church liberating of late. And I am concerned about the lack of talking about Jesus Christ in my ward. If in the Mormon view, salvation is 90% grace, and 10% our works, than why our sacrament talks 90% works and 10% (if that) grace. I feel this thirst for Christ that is going unsatisfied.

  5. Anonymous annegb 

    Very good post, D-Train. You express my feelings well, and the others, you guys, thanks for sharing. I needed this tonight.

  6. Anonymous PrAuvx1tJA 

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