At this point in my public life, I’m a sort of vague unassuming lds member. I’ve found that church is a miserable slog through a hell; as the years pass I’ve come to accept Robert Smith’s (of Upward Thought) assessment that the church does more harm than good due to pervasive false traditions. Despite the fatigue I experience through the lds church, I continue to attend. I don’t make ripples because I’ve found it a completely fruitless effort.
I recall an incident that shaped me deeply. During my first year at BYU, I came to the conclusion that the church was not true. I was angry. Tangibly so. One time I was arguing with my mother about some things that Boyd K. Packer said. My final point was basically, “Why can’t Boyd K. Packer just be wrong on this point?” It was frustrating to be arguing with a brick wall – one that placed the scriptures in a subordinate position to tradition. My mother made it clear after my statement that she didn’t want to discuss it any further and the phone call ended.
I felt isolated at BYU. At that moment I felt isolated from my own blood – my family. I realized I was alone. I didn’t just feel alone, I was alone. Emotion and pain consumed me in the seconds after the call ended. I had a total emotional breakdown. I was living in a dorm setting at the time and I quickly scurried to the public restroom as I held back tears. I didn’t want my roommate or anyone to see me so I locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried. It was a pathetic scene. I hate reliving it in writing.
I did come out of that stall comforted. I learned that my reliance had to be on Jesus and “no other name under heaven” (Acts 4:12).
Most other interactions in the church have been similar negative experiences, though not as dramatic. I argue from a fundamentally different perspective than the church accepts as authoritative. The best way I’ve found to articulate the idea is to use a tree as a model: The lds church (an some others) view truth as the fruit of the tree of authority. I believe that authority is the fruit of the tree of truth. The lds church assumes if something stems from proper authority it is true. I assume that whatever is authoritative is derived from truth. “Between us . . . there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26).
My perspective is a difficult one, by what criteria do we discern truth without an “authority”? The other perspective has an answer to that question, therefore it is satisfying to many. I see why it is appealing to adopt; it solves my dilemma and frequent source of pain – searching for truth.
So where is the truth tree?
All this reminds me of an interesting little quote from Joseph Smith: “Had I inspiration, revelation, and lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past, there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes and shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion till they had learned something.” (13 Aug 1843)
Apparently, Joseph Smith didn’t think his congregation had learned anything. Also, he seems to indicate that this “learning” was not something that could be communicated person-to-person. It was not obtained in a church, nor a general conference, but at home in silence.
I really ought to learn something about religion. And maybe I should abandon this little stupid blog and seclude myself to monastic vows of silence on religion.
Recently, I’ve become somewhat infatuated with Jordan Peterson. I was watching a video recently where he said something that comes as close to an articulated truth as men can conjure up in language. I jotted it down:
“Straighten out what you can straighten out and stop saying things that make you feel weak.”
Over the last eight years (particularly through a crash course of necessity at BYU) I learned to stop saying things that make me feel weak. However, because of that same dogmatic environment I never learned to replace that speaking untruths with truths. I’ve confined myself to “silence on religion“. I can tactfully avoid saying things I disagree with and dance around with my words. I know the church is imperceptive to my lack of affirmation of basic lds doctrines. I was able to serve a 2 year mission and never say any form of “I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God”.
It reminds me of a discussion with a religion professor at BYU, where she talked about how she had to speak the language of her department in graduate school to please them. Her school assumed that there was nothing “true” about the New Testament and treated it through that lens. Her personal opinions and beliefs were divorced from the things she spoke or wrote.
She learned to satisfy their biases. I have done likewise within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Over the last 6 months I have seriously considered giving up on the lds church. I’ve been convinced for a while (say 2013) that I would one day leave. While serving my mission, I had a dream where I was in a church trial for my beliefs. I was excommunicated. I interpreted this as the spirit of prophecy and it brought me peace. No directive has come through inspiration to distance myself from the church. As such I don’t feel at liberty to leave or remove my name from the records of the church. Jesus lived 30 years in a corrupt religious environment and did not make waves until his time had come. But I am tired of waiting.
A few days ago, I was out with the missionaries teaching. Of the three “teachers” I was constantly trying to direct the conversation into the scriptures while the others sort of parroted general mormon doctrines. I don’t much care whether anyone joins the lds church, but my presence is interpreted as supporting the church program. Maybe my “silence” is just as bad as “speaking untruths”, it certainly makes me feel weak.
I remember the frustrations that I felt as a missionary and would like to ease the burdens of the lds missionaries, though we have different yokes. If I were to leave the lds church, I’d be left with no outlet for charity. There is no one in my area who shares my views, who I could fellowship with. In my circumstances leaving doesn’t seem to be a productive route. Like Adam in the garden, I am confused at seemingly contrary directives; I grow restless and desire to take things into my own hands and eat fruit out of season.
Would that the Lord send direction. Maybe I missed it. That thought crosses my mind frequently. I am not who, what, where I could be in some alternate world. I feel like one of my alternate selves stumbled on better choices and has entered the rest of the Lord. But he isn’t me. And for some reason, I am not him. And that “some reason” would be good to know.
Jesus is Lord.
I Am not.
I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. (Alma 29:3)