A few weeks ago I was driving very early to the airport for a business trip. On the radio was a program called Coast to Coast. It is a show that runs 1 to 5 in the morning. It is mostly conspiracy theories, aliens, crop circles and the like. The topic of the morning I listened was on governments implanting microchips into people, and that the people committing the recent mass murders all have a chip implanted in them and are being controlled by sinister forces in the government. One caller speculated that Lee Harvey Oswald had a chip in him and was directed to do the killing of JFK, though the host added that at that time the chip would have been very primitive and bulky.
As I drove I listened to caller after caller relate how they have a family member or friend who they were sure had been taken over by an implanted microchip. The host had an “expert” guest on who claims he was a victim of these implanted chips and that 1/3 to 1/2 of all Americans have this chip implanted. The guest would engage with the callers, and validate their suspicions. I was thinking how crazy these callers are, and how gullible people are to ideas like this.
Then it dawned on me that maybe I wasn’t any different. At one time I believed an alien (angel) appeared to Joseph Smith, gave him a gold book and rocks to interpret the book. I believed these other aliens gave Joseph power over other people, and that he could share that power with others if he put his hands on their head.
The Church of Scientology if often the butt of jokes with their origin story of Xenu and the Galactic Federation. Does that sound any crazier than Kolob, the planet closest to God’s throne, the planet that controls all the other planets, and from which its light is the source of energy for other creations?
I now have a little more compassion for these late night callers. Who am I to throw stones at others when I lived in one of the most elaborate glass houses around?
What are your thoughts on people that believe the earth is flat, that the moon landing was fake, or that the earth is hollow and the Ten Tribes will appear coming our of the north Pole?
Photo By Staib – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7797606
“At one time I believed an alien (angel) appeared to Joseph Smith” Are you saying that you don’t accept that as a real event anymore?
The staunch believers among us know they have to make some concessions for their beliefs which are primitive and bulky.
At our general conference breakfast table I mentioned to my mother-in-law that Joseph Fielding Smith stated “we will never get a man into space” i.e. on the moon. Her instant comeback is that when he said this, he was only speaking as a man.
Every conspiracy theory seems perfectly normal to somebody. As a round Earther myself, I’m aware that although I’m in the majority now there was a time when most people thought that Round Earthers were the crazy nut jobs, and I wonder what are the common notions today that will be debunked by science in the future.
Right now the concept of gender binary seems akin to the flat earth of yesteryear. Social scientists and anthropologists are telling us that gender is a social construct that dictates what a person can do or wear and what they should earn for a living. And who they can play sports with. At times it has also dictated where they can go, whether they can vote or own property or run a business, etc.
And conservatives are fighting back to maintain the status quo. They want to protect the institutions of high school sports. They want to keep the new ideas out of our school classrooms and libraries.
I have some sympathy to the conservative concerns with regard to locker rooms and bathrooms. I have at times felt and thought like the conservatives on this issue. But after hearing people’s stories and experiences and understanding the vast diversity of both the biology and sociology of the species, it’s impossible for me to deny that there is a broad spectrum of where people fit in to society and their identities that they don’t necessarily choose for themselves. So there has to be some kind of solution that doesn’t just pretend the science doesn’t exist. The earth is round, the moon landing really happened, and gender is not binary.
I did think people might be making an unnecessary fuss in the arguments about public toilet facilities.. I’ve just returned from Amsterdam. One of the art museums we visited the public toilets were unisex. As a woman I was taken aback by the effect of scent on my feelings of safety and security. And that’s speaking as a woman fortunate to have had no bad experiences with men in my life. Now possibly there was a need for more frequent/ more thorough cleaning of the facilities.. But it did feel very much as though men had been marking their territory. The impact was visceral. And if it was visceral for me, as someone who generally prefers typically male subject matter, studied engineering, and generally fights against gender norms, how much worse is it for women who have had terrible experiences at the hands of men in their lives.. It was interesting for me to observe my reaction.
Hedgehog, that is so interesting because I just had a similar experience at a high school event where the boy’s locker room was put to use as a women’s restroom. There was nothing visually uniquely male about the space (urinals were around the corner) and yet the smell made me super uncomfortable. I felt like an interloper, and kept wondering if it hadn’t been cleaned lately, even though it appeared clean. I wonder if any men have had similar experiences in women’s restrooms.
Recently I was in Sedona, AZ which is known for its crystals, energy vortices, and magnetic phenomena all of which are claimed to help the spirit or body in various ways. My cycling companion said he wanted to stop and get a crystal for his wife – who left the church years ago but now believes in magic crystals – who was having back pain. I almost scoffed but then realized, yeah I’m a fully grown adult who believed in the healing power of olive oil.
Even the most progressive of us will seem woefully misguided to humans 100 or 500 years in the future. I can see any number of topics being viewed as incomprehensibly backwards: government institutions unable to control power hungry men, gun violence, beliefs about gender, the way we treat animals (especially those we eat), working conditions, and especially religious practices, etc. I mean I actually believed for years that 15 men meet regularly – like weekly – with a diety.
I try to give others grace. Frankly the hardest thing for me is giving myself grace for the ignorant crap I’ve done and said in the first half of my life.
I have my own pile of issues regarding religion and Mormonism in particular. However, I do think it’s funny that we laugh about the idea of using rocks to translate a book into another language while the computers/phones we use to type these messages are basically little boxes of rocks, sand, and lightning that can very literally be used to translate books into other languages.
cachemagic, I believe that Joseph Smith believed that God and angles appeared to him. But with the changing story line of his visions, I no longer have the same belief I once had. I’m hopeful, but not believing.
Hedgehog: Yes men are pigs and women should not be subjected to their public bathroom habits.
Bishop Bill, but are they?
Similar to ReTx comment, the facilities didn’t look unclean. I’ve certainly seen worse in women’s public toilets and not had that same reaction. There seems to be something about the “male” smell that triggers some kind of alert.
As ReTx said, it would be interesting to know how men react to women’s facilities.. but also I was wondering whether men might also have some kind of alert response to the scent of other men?
The Pirate Priest, it’s true. Like Joseph Smith, I have a magic rock in my pocket. The difference is, though, that while I may not understand the physics behind how mine works, there are plenty of people that do. In fact they make millions of them using repeatable processes! The fact that it looks like magic to me only emphasizes the gulf in scientific literacy between the geeks who make our phones, vaccines, and power plants and the rest of us who can’t even agree about whether climate change is real.
Carl Sagan warned of this when he said, “when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…”
Also, we can check Google Translate‘s accuracy using, you know, actual native speakers of any given language. Joseph Smith’s magic rock, however, only seems to have accurately translated his own imagination.
Actually, in 1963 there were no chips of any kind.
The first three tracks from the Glass Houses (1980) album by Billy Joel-
You May Be Right
Sometimes a Fantasy
Don’t Ask Me Why
I have lived in Asia several different times in my life. When you live in a Christian nation like the United States, it is very easy to take the fundamental beliefs of Christianity for granted, but when you live in Asia, in a country where there are very few Christians, you eventually come to the realization that these fundamental beliefs of Christianity that you’ve taken for granted your whole life seem very alien and strange in Asia.
One example of this is the supernatural abilities of Christ to resurrect and atone for people’s sins. To people who grew up in a Christian nation hearing the stories of Christ since they were an infant, the atonement of Christ is very comforting and beautiful. However, I’ve had religious discussions with my Asian friends where I’ve realized how alien the atonement is to them. To Buddhists (and yes, I know that the Buddhist world is large and beliefs vary a lot, so bear with my simplification), there is no need for a Savior–someone to help them overcome their sins. Buddhists have to achieve enlightenment and escape the pains of the world on their own (their community can help them, but there is no idea of a supernatural being that has some sort of magic ability to atone for sins). Likewise, the need for a physical resurrection is also very foreign to most Buddhists. In other words, when you’re speaking with a Buddhist, the supernatural accomplishments of Christ are just as strange, if not stranger, then translating ancient documents using a rock in a hat.
As a result of my experiences in Asia, I am very tolerant of the supernatural claims of other religions. After all, the supernatural abilities of the gods of Hinduism aren’t any stranger than the supernatural abilities of Christ or Joseph Smith. For ancient religions, it is very difficult to verify or invalidate any of the fundamental truth claims. I can also embrace the beauty and symbolic meaning from the truth claims of such religions that seem pretty much impossible to me. The stories don’t all have to be true to make a meaningful religion.
On the other hand, I’m not nearly as open minded to conspiracy theories. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that a moon landing really did occur. Yes, I’m relying on the testimony of a lot of other people, and I have zero first-hand knowledge, but there is so much evidence in favor of the moon landing that I simply don’t respect people that don’t think that event occurred. I have even less respect for flat earthers (and probably even less respect for people who think the lost 10 tribes are living underneath the poles) for the same reasons (and because the evidence is even more compelling).
There’s also not typically any underlying beauty or meaning to be found in a conspiracy theory like there is in a religious faith whose truth claims you might doubt. I’m not really sure that there really was a man (the first Buddha) who truly achieved enlightenment–and thus escaped the endless painful cycle of birth, sickness, and death–while meditating under the Bodhi tree. However, I can find a lot of meaning in the ability for personal growth to occur through personal meditation that Buddhists are very good at. On the other hand, what spiritual progress am I supposed to be able to achieve by believing (literally or symbolically) that 50% of the population has microchips by the evil government despite producing absolutely zero evidence?
I do have to admit that there is kind of a gray area for me when it comes to ancient religious versus modern religions. For example, I can find beauty and meaning in the stories of the polytheistic gods of Hinduism without needing or really wanting to try to validate whether such gods exist or not. The meaning of these gods and their stories has been developed over many centuries, and I can easily respect and find beauty in these things partly just because they are so very old, but also partly because I know that many people become better people by practicing Hinduism. On the other hand, I confess that I just can’t find anything of value in scientology. It’s so new, and so many details of its creation are well documented, that I think its truth claims are simply false. Reading the accounts of how scientology treats its members also makes me not what to even try to find anything of value in it.
Mormonism is not nearly as new as scientology, but it’s still much, much newer than the ancient religions of the world. We know a lot more of the details of the formation of Mormonism than we do of ancient religions. Some people feel like there’s enough solid evidence against Mormonism that they can’t have anything to do with it. Others feel that we are missing enough details of Mormonism’s truth claims that they still find room for belief. Still others are able to find some beauty and meaning within Mormonism even when some of the truth claims seem to be false.
I think that everyone is just doing their best. I have a theory that when we hear something that matches what is inside of us, that feels like TRUTH. I believe that we do have divine DNA inside of us that is good at recognizing Truth when we hear it. However, I also believe that we have biases, prejudices, and egos inside of us that will latch on to ideas that may not be true, but are self-serving in some way.
Some examples may include:
-“All those smarty-pants college people spent thousands of dollars to go to college, but that doesn’t make them better than me. I can look around and see for myself that the Earth is flat. I’m smarter than they are, and I didn’t even have to waste all that money on college.” (self-serving way of seeing things)
-“Everyone else seems to have a good time driving their boats on Sunday, but I know that real peace comes from sitting in the church building for 2 hours. They think they’re happy on their boats, but I’m the one who has found REAL happiness.” (self-serving way of seeing things).
I’ve never met someone who believed in a conspiracy theory that wasn’t somehow validating to them and their personal situation. Me included. I tend to drop or disbelieve ideas that aren’t validating to me and my actions. If I change my actions, then I find my beliefs changing, because I need new beliefs to validate my actions.
mountainclimber – that is a very profound distinction between conspiracy theories and religious beliefs! I love that. Religious beliefs have something beautiful, hopeful and enlightening about them. Conspiracy theories are about fear and making people ‘other’ so you can justify treating them badly, or at least feeling contempt for them. I’ve never put words to that before and I really appreciate you pointing that out.
On the topic of Christianity in Asia – I read a Church published book about missionary work in Asia. The author talked about how, before they could introduce people in Asian countries to the restored gospel, they had to convince them that they needed a Savior first. People are not born knowing that they’re inherently an enemy to God and need to be saved from their sins. I’ve been mulling over that difference between Christianity and other religions for some time now. There are a lot of ramifications to accepting that you need a Savior, and I’m not as willing to accept that there’s something wrong with my basic nature that needs to be fundamentally changed.
And on the topic of the post, I found this little gem on Tumblr. Someone said to imagine if we talked about Christianity the same way we talk about myths and other religions and she came up with this: “according to legend, a mob tortured a half-man, half-god, and nailed him to a wooden cross, leaving him to starve to death. But days later, on this very night, they found he had clawed his way out of the grave. Now those who believe lie in wait for him to rise again, To honour him, they have weekly gatherings where they chant and sing, and at the end of it they eat his flesh and blood.”
I agree that the church grooms people to believe conspiracies. But the kind of stuff the article is about is next level.
When did this start in America? Is it something of the political right?
Is Trump and the right wing media responsible.
I am not aware of this here. There could be a very small number of people who follow right wing US sites. Our conservative party here is just to the right of Democrats, but has been infriltated (branch stacking) by US inspired right wing groups like mormons, and evangelicals, anti gay, anti non binary, etc. They are now unelectable.
One of the big issues here at present is a voice to parliament, and the government, by our aboriginal people who have had a continuous civilization for 60,000 years. This group would be consulted on all legislation or regulation that affacts them. In order for the voice to be permanent, it has to go to a vote of the people. These votes usually only succeed if both major parties support the question, and the opposition (conservatives) have decided to oppose this one. If it succeeds in spite of their opposition it will show their irrelevance.
For those interested in how effective universal healthcare, that costs half the US system, can be. When we get past 70 we get sent in the mail a poo test. We send a sample back, and if there is a problem go for a colonoscopy. I had one 3 years ago and got a phone call on Monday inviting me for a follow up colonoscopy, which is sceduled for this Friday. Totally free. Bowell cancer is a major killer in this age group in the US. I can see a conspiracy in the US that this is an opportunity to implant chips in the old. Here it is preventative health care.
At one time I believed that Christ set up a perfect church with perfectly clear doctrine while he was on earth. And then the apostles died and “designing men” systematically and intentionally dismantled the whole thing, removing the “plain and precious truths” in the scriptures, ushering in a dark, godless period know as the “great apostasy,” which lasted up until one spring day in 1820…. Talk about conspiracy theories. Yikes.
I’m with Janey. I really like your distinction, mountainclimber479. Along the same lines, I wonder if how beliefs are proselytized might not also help distinguish religious beliefs from conspiracy theories. If you believe in a religion, you’d probably be happy to have family and friends join it with you, and to have it become more widespread. If you believe in a conspiracy theory, though, a lot of the fun is in thinking that you’re right while the great unwashed don’t know the real truth. Sure, you might want to convert some people to your conspiracy theory, but if it became too popular, if it were, heaven forbid, mainstream, then it wouldn’t be a conspiracy theory anymore and it would just be the prevailing wisdom. Anyone who enjoyed such thinking because it let them look down on the rest of us fools would have long ago fled from the movement by that point, I would think.
@Hedgehog and ReTX. My workplace has two sets of female toilets and one set of male. When the male toilets get blocked/flood and are put out of use (it’s a 400 year old building and so, yes, the plumbing is awful and this happens a lot) we get to use one of the sets of female toilets. And I have to say, it really is a breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically. Such a delight!!!!
“The author talked about how, before they could introduce people in Asian countries to the restored gospel, they had to convince them that they needed a Savior first. People are not born knowing that they’re inherently an enemy to God and need to be saved from their sins.”
That is really quite a sad approach when you think about it. So Christianity in Asia is essentially a solution looking for a problem. Let’s export our guilt-ridden western conscience to the rest of the world!
@mat…going along with what you said, to most of Christianity in the West, Mormonism is also a solution looking for a problem 🙂
That’s interesting Simon C. So, are you saying men (or you as a man) don’t like men’s facilities? Is this purely hygiene / cleanliness based, or is there an underlying scent/ pheromone effect beyond that I wonder.. are the female facilities less threatening, in addition to being that breath of fresh air..
Well, Hedgehog, I haven’t thought too deeply about this, but I think it is just the nice smell. They seem to be just as clean as the men’s from a hygiene perspective.
How on earth did we get on to talking about toilets?! Perhaps Bishop Bill is in despair seeing how this comment thread has gone. Although if you did want to have a back and forth about toilets for another 100 messages or so, then I’m game 🙂
But to (attempt) to tie it back to the OP. What kind of toilets would glass houses have, I wonder? Hopefully nice smelling ones but with very little privacy……
It did all start out from my having one opinion, and unexpectedly coming to appreciate the alternate point of view, based on experience, which I think was relevant..
although it has meandered somewhat..
poor Bishop Bill
Sorry, Bishop Bill, I can’t help myself (good post, btw…in Gospel Doctrine yesterday our teacher meandered from the NT material into talk of D&C 27 and the big sacrament meeting and Adam-ondi-Ahman, and I thought of your post with gratitude):
BUT, on the topic of toilets, my workplace has designated some toilets, specifically the two ones nearest my office, as gender neutral. I’m all for this. I have quite a few nonbinary students, and some trans students, and I want everyone to feel welcome and safe. The thing is, these used to be gender-segregated toilets, and all of the sudden, after the change, EVERYBODY started using the toilet that used to be the women’s. It was cleaned just as frequently and carefully. The free feminine hygiene products and bouquet of silk flowers stayed. But, yes, something, within a few days of the change, registered to my reptile brain as…wrong. Now I prefer to use the less-frequented former men’s room. I used it once when it was still a men’s room in a, ahem, emergency when the former women’s was occupied, and it felt wrong then. Now it’ s used so infrequently compared to the former women’s room, it actually is more pleasant to me.
My theory: many people with female reproductive organs find the lingering scent of many people with male reproductive organs threatening. Many people with male reproductive organs find the lingering scent of many people with female reproductive organs enticing.
To reiterate, I’m glad the toilets are gender neutral, but the responses were so interesting to observe.
Years ago, when I had an entirely different schedule, I used to listen to Coast to Coast fairly regularly. If nothing else, it was entertaining. The guest you listened to really does seem to be on the lowest end of the credibility spectrum. For every ten guests they had that made you laugh, there would be one that really did make you think in ways you hadn’t before. We need more of that (A favorite, fascinating episode involved a nutritionist who predicted Utah’s number one rank in antidepressant use twenty years before it got the title, tying it largely to the lack of self-medication through alcohol and tobacco, and the increasingly excessive sugar use—no doubt other factors are involved).
You listed some very “lower class” conspiracy theories. Spend just a little time on Google, and it’s disturbing how many “higher” conspiracy theories have turned out to be true over the years (or at least 90% true). I think even commenters on this blog were ridiculing the Covid lab leak theory just three years ago. That’s quickly becoming the prevailing theory, so go figure. I’ve never been overly quick to accept something, but I’m learning it’s equally wise not to be overly quick to reject it either.
It’s interesting to see you write about conspiracy theories, given how much you talk about logic. In essence, that’s really all conspiracy theorists do is think it terms of logic. They’ve ANDed events A and B, ORed it with motivation C, and so on, until it all makes sense logically, which it may very well. They’ve essentially removed all other aspects of what it means to be human in the process, being the complex beings we are. It’s a little ironic in the end, however. To quote J. Max Wilson’s “Apostasy as Conspiracy” blog post, “The appeal of logical completeness is emotional.”
I feel the religion comparison is more apples and oranges. As part of W&T’s increasingly critical tone toward the Church in general, there also seems to be an increasing tone among permabloggers and commenters of downplaying the experiences of believing members. “Warm fuzzies” and “connection” and feelings are ascribed to what one feels is the Holy Ghost. It’s so much more than that. I’ve felt intelligence come into me at times, as if intelligence was a shimmering substance that could be held in a bucket, and poured into the stagnant pond that my mind feels like by comparison. Those moments are real. You can call it self-hypnosis, evolutionary coping mechanisms, or what not, but divine communication comes across as the most reasonable. I do believe being a believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a very reasonable position to be in, given what I’ve experienced. At the risk of sounding arrogant, the most charitable take I can have on the non or former believer is simply to assume they haven’t experienced what I have, knowing there is only One who has experienced both perspectives and leave it largely in His hands. That alone is enough to keep my rocks mostly on the ground, even if I do feel they carry a little more weight.
What in the…what on earth happened to the comments section here?! Bahaha I can’t believe I’m chiming in here.
As a person who started my young working life cleaning an insane number of restrooms (schools…government buildings…church buildings…office buildings full of business folks and lawyers…high rises with 30+ floors, two sets of restrooms per floor, cleaned at least twice a day… I’ll let you do the math). I can with 100% certainty say that all bathrooms stink and are gross.
I have found just as many disgusting messes in women’s restrooms as men’s. A week working as a janitor full time will quickly dispell any of this hilarious restroom mythology. 😂😂😂
With apologies to BB,
Pirate Priest, I think you missed the point.. which was not comparative cleanliness.. but physiological effect of male / female scents on feelings of safety on the part of those needing to use the facilities.. something I had not considered in my previous belief that anyone objecting to unisex public facilities was making a fuss about nothing…
I wonder if temple toilets have the same effect? Be ye clean, sweet smelling odour and all that….
With all due respect, there is an important point in your premise regarding the “experiences of believing members” that requires clarification.
It is absurd to claim that spiritual experiences are reserved only for believing members of the Mormon Church. All humans can and do experience the “warm fuzzies” and “connection” you reference. We all possess the ability to have moments that connect us to the divine. Don’t tell me the parents of a newborn baby born in a New Delhi slum can’t rejoice in the birth of their child in precisely the same manner as a Mormon couple in a Provo hospital.
It is not a matter of “downplaying the experiences of believing members”; the simple fact is that Mormons cannot claim exclusivity for having such moments. It is nothing less than arrogant for a religion that has, at best, .18% of the world’s population to believe that God reserves blessings and truth only for members of their insular sect. Something about “no respecter of persons” comes to mind.
@De Novo – This is critically important.
I was sitting in a religion class at BYU when this whole topic came up – several students began a discussion about the LDS church having a unique claim on divine truth & inspiration. The professor stopped the class discussion and said, “If any of you believe that Mormons have a monopoly on goodness and truth, you are wrong – period.”
He then brutally picked apart the attempts of any students that wanted to argue the point with him. It was somewhat surprising given the venue and topic…and so refreshing to hear. It’s also absolutely true. Mormons do not have exclusive access to God, blessings, truth, etc.
Never once did I make a claim that others can’t experience something at least somewhat similar. God has far too much to do to than to work through one group only. But my experiences have often been associated with the specific truth claims of the Church. It’s not arrogance, it’s simply me living by truth and reason the best way that I can. I do not think the influence of God is limited to Mormonism, but I do not think God has multiple personality disorder, or is one who endorses all personal beliefs regardless of truth or personal value. The Idea that God could or would create an organization He specifically calls His own does not sound absurd, no matter how small that organization is in a world of agency. I don’t believe “no respecter of persons” means “no preference on a person’s preferred ‘truth’.”
I’ve heard of very few spiritual experiences from others that go directly against my own. Most of these experiences do lead an individual on a path of improvement, even if it doesn’t immediately lead to Mormonism. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a loving God. At the same time, I’m doubtful God would be anything less than displeased or angered if I walked back on the convictions I have sincerely come to know are from Him. There’s nothing arrogant about that.
I agree, Eli. There are many roads that lead to Rome. But Rome is not the final destination–it is the gate by which we enter the high road to eternal life. Even so, there is plenty of heavenly influence involved in getting us to “Rome.”
Trying to get the comments back on the rails after the potty party…
@Eli Your sentence about walking back on convictions caught my eye. I believe your comments are in earnest, so here’s an honest question for you (and anyone else wishing to weight in). This question isn’t a trap, but comes genuinely from the essense of this post and your comment.
I once felt a very deep conviction about the formal church and its leaders, but there’s now something of a rift between the church and my underlying faith. Does taking a step away from the formal aspects of the religion to gain perspective and clarity put me in danger of displeasing/angering God given my previous conviction?
This is making a distinction between faith and religion: once can believe in God without religion, while religion gives shape and direction to the faith (for better or for worse).
So I grew up very Mormon…I’ve checked all the important boxes of the religion, so to speak. Previously said “I know” certain things to be true, and genuinely felt that way.
Without dumping a pile of context life experience here, it would be dishonest for me to say that now.
Regardless of my faith in the religion and some of its leaders, my faith and belief in God is intact. I still work to become personally better and do good in the world.
Does one NEED the religion?
Also, what about my kids? Do I take them to a church that teaches things I disagree with or question? Do I attempt to qualify them?
Do I do what Joseph Smith did and see what other churches have to offer?
..these are the sorts of questions I wrestle with, and that I think are important to face.
I used to get “warm fuzzies” when listening to the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
In healthcare, there are models for viewing patients:
A) Deficit-Based (there is a benchmark range, and the individual does not have diagnostic tests in the range). This focuses on what the individual CANNOT do (in terms of matching the benchmark). This is comparing 1 set of “values” (or numbers) to an individual’s set of “values” (or numbers).
B) Patient-Centered Care. This focuses on what the individual CAN do, paying more attention to the strengths/weaknesses/changes of the patient (with minimal regard to what other individuals benchmarks look like).
Generally, the Pharisees were centered on “deficit-based” practices (“how many steps on Sunday”, for example).
Jesus is known for his “person centered care” – whether it be the blind man and his parents, the woman with long-term bloody discharge, the woman taken in adultery to be stoned, the woman at the well, etc.
I like to think that inside the church, “hospital for sinners” there would be person-based care. I have seen that person-based care for myself at times. You can’t care for an individual if you think your experience is “better than theirs”. The creation of that hierarchy by definition creates a scenario of condescension for the person in deficit (who doesn’t have as much as you), and of necessity, becomes impartial and not patient-centered care.
Pirate Priest wrote,
“Does taking a step away from the formal aspects of the religion to gain perspective and clarity put me in danger of displeasing/angering God given my previous conviction?”
The short answer is I don’t and I can’t know. I don’t know the level of your previous convictions. If they were anything like mine, I’d say yes, but I don’t know that they were. As said previously, it’s more charitable to assume they weren’t, but I can’t know that.
I’ll also say that I’ve slowly come to believe that Heavenly Father puts nearly (emphasis on nearly) the same amount of emphasis on our general mortal experience as He does on obtaining truth, and there is so much varied and important experience to be obtained in mortality, with ample chances or second chances for truth now, in the Spirit World, or the millennium.
I won’t claim to have experienced anything close to what you have. I’ve had friends leave the Church. I’ve read, watched, or listened to my fair share of uncorrelated and anti-material. I’ve had so many voices around me that it became easy to set some of my past experiences on the back burner, as powerful as they were. In the end, I couldn’t ignore them or the ramifications behind them, so I am where I am right now, and it strikes me as a very reasonable and truthful position to be in.
I have a hunch there are others where previous convictions of varying levels have gone so far onto the back burner that they’ve all but become forgotten or unconsciously ignored, given what they’ve gone through. I don’t know that God would necessarily be displeased or angered in those situations, but I can see disappointment as a definite possibility—but again, I can’t know.
“I still work to become personally better and do good in the world.”
I think that’s 95% of the battle right there.
I wasn’t sure how much of the rest of the questions where rhetorical, but I’ll take a stab at them.
“Does one NEED the religion?” Years ago I would have answered very differently—Yes in a heartbeat. I think the short answer is still yes. COVID taught me that I could do quite well maintaining my spirituality and soul searching without the formal organization of the Church. I wasn’t as surprised by that as I thought I would be given the Church’s emphasis on spiritual self-reliance, but I was also surprised by how many people needed it, and the pull I felt to help out again. If God wants me to be part of the religion, then yes, I NEED it.
“Also, what about my kids? Do I take them to a church that teaches things I disagree with or question? Do I attempt to qualify them? Do I do what Joseph Smith did and see what other churches have to offer?”
I’ll admit, it’s harder to answer than I thought it would be, but I would trust that you’re simply trying to do what’s right and hope for the best.
Thank you for the genuine questions.
@Pirate Priest , your experience and questions sound very similar to mine. Like you, I grew up very Mormon, checked all the boxes, and now I have changed the way I view the church, but still have belief and faith in God. I still work to become better and do good in the world.
I’m just some guy on the internet, but here’s my answer to your questions:
-Does one NEED the religion? No. I don’t think one NEEDS it. But I think it still can be helpful.
-“Also, what about my kids? Do I take them to a church that teaches things I disagree with or question? Do I attempt to qualify them?” There are a lot of values that I think are important for my kids to learn and develop – I looked in to teaching them those values on my own, and found that it would be a lot of work. For my situation I’ve found that taking them to church is a great way for them to develop those values/foundations and I often check in with them on what they are learning and qualify it. I don’t teach anything I don’t believe and I do teach them the things I do believe. But I always make it clear that they don’t have to believe what I believe, they can seek Truth for themselves.
-“Do I do what Joseph Smith did and see what other churches have to offer?” This is a great idea! I love the quote by Joseph Smith “The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we have the right to embrace all, and every item of the truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds and superstitious notions of men.”
I feel like I understand Mormonism well and I have picked all of the low hanging truths from Mormonism (and much of the mid-level and higher truths as well), and I’ve found some rotten apples that I can throw out as well. When it comes to other religions, there are a lot of low hanging truths that I can learn from even just a cursory study of other religions. I’ve been able to take these truths and add them to my bucket of knowledge and improve my understanding of God, find additional peace, and develop more love and compassion for my fellow man. In particular, I have found the Baha’i religion to have a lot of overlapping and complementary truths to Mormonism and it’s been a fascinating study. Studying Buddhism and Hinduism, and gaining a real understanding of meditation has helped me to connect with God in a much more real and meaningful way than saying my Mormon prayers has. Taoism was also a really fun study. I’ve found something good, true, and beautiful in all the religions I have studied. “And If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
Thanks for the replies.
There is absolutely “good fruit” to be found. I’d say it has definitely been a net good in my life. I don’t deny experiences I’ve had either, but I absolutely do not have the same conviction I once did about the formal church. Some of this stems from life experiences, but also I worry about how the church seems to be entrenched in some questionable positions.. Here’s a couple:
1. I have only daughters – I have serious concerns about how women and girls are treated and taught. Knowing the impact that rhetoric had on all three of my sisters, I’m hesitant to subject my daughters to it. The fascination with the female form and making sure it’s covered up…the continued inequality and expectation of subordination.
2. There was a time when the church maybe needed tithing to function…now it has an investment fund larger than the GDP of more than half of the countries in the world. There’s also the for-profit businesses. I care less about the investments than the continued requirement to give 10% plus (additional in fast offerings)…and tying it to temple recommends feels a lot like “pay or go to…err some lesser kingdom.” At what point should we expect Jesus to walk in with a scourge and flip over some tables?
Essentially, my faith in God and goodness is intact; I’m leery about the religion and where it seems to be headed (or not headed).
Once while doing some professional work for the LDS Church (not as a janitor cleaning restrooms haha), a member of the 12 acknowledged that “the church walks into the future while facing backwards looking at the past.” So I remain hopeful, but am currently feel stuck in a tough position.
@Pirate Priest. Yep. Those are valid questions and concerns to have. I won’t attempt to give an answer to those questions/concerns. Whether the conclusions you come to align with the church’s narrative or not, I believe the best we can do is to be true to ourselves, and follow Truth as we understand it (and that looks different for different people). I’ll refer to the Joseph Smith quote I shared above. Best wishes to you Brother.