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.

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