Friday, August 26, 2016

A Little Mormon Apostle

There's a little Mormon apostle
inside my head. He says,
You didn't try hard enough; you didn't pray long enough.
You let Satan deceive you; you didn't endure to the end.
You knows it's true; we know truth by what we feel.
Read the Book of Mormon; it has all the answers.

I'm sorry, little apostle. I gave it my best.
Or maybe I didn't. Maybe you're right.
Maybe the answer was just around the corner, just a little farther,
and I ended up settling for a mess of pottage.

My life is a mess. Life is messy. All your answers
work for some, the Chosen Few. Meanwhile, Whatever-It-Is-That-Is-Out-There
continues to love me, and to bless me, and to help me.
She blesses the Buddhists; He tells the Muslims the Qu'ran is true.
He sends visions to the Baptists; She smiles on gay parents who love their children.
She cheers for the atheists trying to make the world a better place.

The Great White Shark and the tiny Forget-me-not
continue to eat and to bloom.
What horrors and what beauties does this Earth bring forth!
What wrenching agony and grief still lie ahead for me?
What peace and equanimity?

If the world is to end, let us go down believing in love,
in goodness, in helping each other up when we fall,
and in what brings us deep joy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Talefolk™ - I Want You To Be Happy

"You know what I want for you more than anything?" he said. "I want you to be happy. Not fleeting, superficial happiness, but deep peace and lasting contentment that storm or tragedy might obscure but cannot destroy."

He went on. "Unfortunately, I feel that before you can have such happiness, you must have sadness first. Not just sadness but struggle, doubt, anguish, heartbreak, and pain - the whole gamut of human experience and emotion, I suppose. I wish it could be otherwise, but somehow - if you believe in love and help and happiness - you emerge from your difficulties and trials with a trust that life is beautiful, that healing is real (though it might take time), and that the sun will rise again for all tomorrow."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mormon Midlife Crisis No.1

As I work through my Mormon midlife crisis, I am resolved in two things:

  1. I do not want to be angry at or bitter towards the Church,
  2. I want to continue to believe in a loving God, who understands our struggles, and wants to help and bless us, and bear with us in our constant infirmities and shortfalls.

What is my first conclusion or tenet of my crisis? that God is hidden, as Isaiah 45:15 states. What does this mean?

  • God is all-powerful and all-knowing. None of us nor all of us collectively can surprise or shock Him. He knows the past and the future - time does not exist for God as it does for us. Nothing can frustrate his purposes or His plans.
  • God has ordained that this mortal existence be one of faith, meaning that regarding a) God's own existence, b) the nature/existence of life before and/or after mortality, and c) the purpose of this life, certainty and sure knowledge are extremely limited if not impossible. Since this is God's decree, no amount of human effort or knowledge can thwart it. There seem to be some who are granted special witnesses or mystical experiences that give them a measure of esoteric knowledge of these transcendent matters; in these cases, such experiences are highly personal, and are all but unable to be comprehended by others or verified by objective proof.
  • Some examples of God's hiddenness: the problem of pain; the problem of evil; religious scripture that paints God as vengeful, judgmental, condemning, harsh, and unforgiving; religious leaders who preach and reveal inspiring and uplifting concepts, but who themselves remain human, fallible, weak, mistake-prone, proud, arrogant, and less than morally upright and honestly forthright; and the general fact that God is not a visible, directly accessible and responsive personality in our lives, i.e. we do not see him, he does not speak to us as do the normally physically present people we associate with daily.

I fear that I may be already showing my weakness in my first resolution. I do not want to be angry or bitter, but I must say that my current crisis has arisen in large part due to personal religious questions that I feel my Mormon faith a) suppresses or discourages, b) has no answers to, and c) seems to require that I suspend my inquiry while continuing to believe and practice as though I had no questions or doubts.

I think what is boils down to is this: for years I have believed and exercised (imperfect) faith in and (far from perfect) obedience to the religious promises that the LDS Church taught and offered me. These efforts have brought both great blessings and great trials into my life. If understanding and applying religious principles about God should bring peace and comfort to my life, then misunderstanding and misapplying such principles seem to bring a converse measure of turmoil, strife, and anguish. I do not feel that I am any closer to answers or certainty. I confess some bitterness towards Church leaders and members who seem certain and claim knowledge of deity: who God is, what he expects of us, and what his thoughts and attitudes are towards us. I feel somewhat betrayed that despite all the promises and all the biblical stories of God communicating with man, the only communication that seems available to me are vague feelings and impressions that are very easy to doubt, very hard to trust, and very prone to being inaccurate.

But finally, I believe that, as a hidden God, he requires patience and searching on our part to find him. As a mortal, there are limits to my patience and my ability to persevere in things that I cannot see and cannot understand. I do not want to give up on God, but I am needing to find another way to exercise faith in him. Perhaps one that is more reasonable in my expectations, and is not so disappointed and does not feel so betrayed when understanding and answers do not come.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Faith: What I Believe Right Now

NOTE: References to "Church" below refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

DISCLAIMER: What I have written below represents my thinking at this point in time. I ask that you respect my right to change my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions at any time, as I go on learning and seeking for greater understanding.

One of my issues is the problem of binary or black-and-white thinking. It seems to me that the Christian scriptures themselves (Book of Mormon included) teach and promote this kind of thinking, which leads people to constantly judge or categorize the world and those around them as "good" or "bad," "righteous" or "sinful," "faithful" or not living up to their covenants.

My current perception of reality is not so conveniently simplistic. There are gay parents who love and sacrifice for their children and for each other, much more than some heterosexual parents do. There are people who become disenchanted with the Church, leave, and go on being honest, caring, decent people who contribute much to the world and to their communities. Some sick people in the Church receive priesthood blessings, and are not miraculously healed; some sick people of other faiths miraculously get better. And finally, the reverse of all these statements is also sometimes the case.

I guess that's where I am at: in an "I don't know" stage. I want to believe there is a God. If there is, he is certainly hidden as Isaiah 45:15 says. I want to believe in a God or power in the universe that loves us, and has sent us here to have experiences that help us grow. Sometimes there seem to be miraculous interventions in our lives from a higher power, but they are exceptional, uncommon, and personal, and can often be viewed or interpreted in a number of different ways. No religion can claim a monopoly on such experiences; they are present in all faiths and among all people and nations.

I believe in goodness, in loving, serving, supporting, encouraging, and respecting each other. I believe in forgiveness and compassion, for others and for ourselves. I believe in helping those who are marginalized and struggling; but I also believe that to completely remove their struggles from them, removes an important opportunity for growth in their lives.

I join with all organizations who value the special importance of families - all kinds of families. I believe in the special commitment and sacrifice that should exist between spouses, and towards their children. The family truly is the building block of civilization.

I believe that diversity must not only be tolerated but embraced and sought-after. If, out of fear of what is different, we lash out against or suppress that which we do not understand, or which makes us uncomfortable, or with which we are not familiar, we will trap ourselves inside a filter bubble that will cut ourselves off from others, and perhaps cause us to alienate or persecute them.

I believe that the powers of the Universe respect, notice, and reward work, dedication, and sacrifice. I believe that people should devote themselves to and work for what they love, believe in, and are passionate about. Balance and centeredness are also important. Leaders and organizations who inspire or persuade their followers into making great sacrifices and living with devotion to their precepts can accomplish amazing things, as well as terrible, atrocious things.

We need more leaders with integrity. We need to find and uphold people in our nation and our communities who care and who respect principles of liberty, responsibility, and compromise; who are apt to teach and empower rather than to use hostility, promises, and fear-mongering to gain power. And we need also to avoid worshiping these leaders, or setting them up as something other than they are: imperfect people just trying to do what they think is best, given the knowledge, understanding, and background they have at the time.

There are very real problems in our world today. I'm not sure that the best way to solve them is to store up a year's supply of food and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. There are amazing, brilliant, charismatic, gifted, and caring people in the world (actually, every one of us to some degree). We don't all agree on which problems are the most pressing, or how each problem should be addressed, but three things change the world: 1) the freedom, opportunity, and environment to express our views, 2) the responsibility and willingness to listen to and consider others' views without villianizing them, 3) the critical mass of consensus that, when reached, effects the change.