Why I’m struggling (and it’s not what you think)

This weekend has been trying for me.

Since the church’s policy change regarding same-sex marriages was leaked on Thursday, my Facebook feed has been like a firehose regarding reactions to the changes. I tried to read so many thoughts, article, and blog posts in an effort to help me figure things out.

It didn’t work that well.

Instead of direction and guidance, I received anxiety and depression. There were times on Friday and Saturday when trying to respond to claims or viewpoints that I found myself shaking and had to stop.

Even going to the temple Friday night didn’t help. In fact, my endowment session felt like a two-hour stupor of thought. I drove away from the temple as lost and depressed as ever—a far cry from the guidance and inspiration I had received the week before.

A lot of emotions have run through my heart and mind. I’ve been upset, confused, hopeless, lost, abandoned, hurt, sad, lonely, disgusted, sick, and so many more.

As a parent of an LGBT child, I’ve struggled to know what to do. My daughter left the church earlier this year, but the changes still hit me hard, and I’ve been seriously considering throwing in the towel.

Before this weekend, I never fully understood what people go through when they wrestle with the decision to leave the church. Something I’ve learned is that it’s a complex decision with no easy answer.

In fact, two years ago, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed this very topic in general conference:

Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.

Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.

I can say with frankness that the last paragraph describes me. As the church as grown more evangelical and my understanding of the actual Gospel has become more Christ-centred, this growing divide has become problematic for me.

But there are aspects of Mormonism I love and that I can find in few other places: an anthropomorphic God, a feminine divine, the masonic temple rites, seer stones, visiting angels, continuing revelation, and the list goes on. Scriptures like D&C 18:10, D&C 93, Mosiah 4, and 4 Nephi 1 resonate with me.

So I continued on, focusing on what is right.

But this policy change and how it could affect my future grandchildren feels like the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.

And I find myself once again contemplating leaving. This time, however, it feels so intense. I find parallels even to the faith crisis story I shared 8 years ago.

But here it is three days later, and I haven’t found it any easier to decide what I’m going to do.

There are so many factors at play in me head. As I’ve commented several times, the church is like a cherry pie: it tastes so good, but it has pits.

Here are some of the things that make it taste so good to me:

  • The symbolism in the church found in baptism, the endowment, the Sacrament, and various other places.
  • The temple
  • God being a resurrected, glorified man who is our father
  • Having a mother in heaven
  • The example and teachings of Jesus (arguably this could easily be found elsewhere)
  • The unique teachings in Mormon scripture, specifically how we should treat others
  • The brotherhood of a quorum
  • Continuing revelation
  • A personal relationship with God

I’m not going to list out all the pits, but I will say there are many, and some of them are big. Despite the common rhetoric found among its members, the Mormon church is not perfect.

So I find myself in the middle of various forces pulling me in these two directions: all the positive trying to keep me in and all the negative trying to push me out.

But there are some other things that are making it difficult to make a decision:

  • I worry about not being able to baptize my three younger children
  • I worry about not being able to be an escort when my two boys go through the temple
  • I worry about Mary and the children following me
  • I worry about leaving Mary to take the role of a single mother at church on Sundays
  • I worry about never being able to go to the temple again, the one thing remaining that ties us to the esoteric church of 200 years ago
  • I worry about not completing temple ordinances for my ancestors, something I have been working on for 25 years.
  • I worry about others having to come to my home to give Mary and our children blessings
  • I worry about being the last person in my family to go on a mission despite being the first
  • I worry about what it would mean to my parents, who were my pioneers
  • I worry about what it would mean to those I taught and baptized on my mission
  • I worry about not being able to give my boys the Melchizedek Priesthood, something my dad was never able to do for me.
  • Related to that, I worry about not being able to be ordained a high priest by my dad, the last chance I have to get my priesthood lineage from him
  • I worry about satisfying those who already expect me to leave

So, for anyone wondering what I’m struggling with, it isn’t about trying to reconcile my beliefs with the new policy to rationalize it. I think it’s wrong. Period.

No, I’m struggling with so much more and with something far more complex.

And I don’t know how long it will take before I have my answer, nor what will happen when something like this happens again.

What I do know is that it’s not an easy decision for those who decided to leave the church, and we should be careful about judging them when they do.

What does the excommunication of John and Kate mean for the Bloggernacle?

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but the New York Times reports that John Dehlin and Kate Kelly face excommunication with church leaders.

I’m not going to discuss the morality or the logistics of these actions. I’m sure there will many others who will. What I am interested in is how this will affect the Bloggernacle.

Our Thoughts has been around for 11 years. It’s one of the oldest LDS-themed blogs, and about six months after it’s founding is when others started to pop up everywhere.

The Bloggernacle has served as a great vehicle for discussion difficult issues or questions without anyone fearing judgement or retribution. People felt comfortable expressing their doubts, and many found it cathartic and encouraging.

With Dehlin and Kelly facing excommunication, will it change the Bloggernacle. Will people stop asking difficult questions or sharing troubling doubts? Will people end up leaving the church because there’s nowhere to work through their challenges?

What do you think?

Is Religion Compatible with the Scientific Method

I’ve touched on this before, but felt that the general consensus was that faith is at least as reliable as science. I’m wondering how people deal with the problems that arise when faith and science collide.

From the LDS Church News:

…[T]here is no conflict between the facts and truths of science and those given to us by direct revelation. Rather than conflicting, the facts and truths in each area complement each other, each supplying answers to basic questions which we must know, eventually, if we are to fulfill our destiny as sons and daughters and co-partners with our Father in His eternal plan.

Apparent conflicts arise when the theories of science — which serve as a scaffolding erected to try to understand relationships among observed facts — are mistaken for the experimentally verified facts.

I can think of many examples where not just theories but experimentally verified facts conflict with religion. One need only a cursory review of the scientific method to realize that religion and science clash at every turn. Despite the numerous quotations from Church leaders that true science and religion are bedfellows, I see them as diametrical opposites and wonder how they can exist together when one consistently conflicts with the other.

The sandy soil of reason and logic

From the July 2008 issue of the Ensign, I found something interesting (emphasis mine):

We come to know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ not simply by the exercise of intellect or the process of logic but by acting on what we learn. Through faith and obedience, the validity of gospel doctrine can be etched upon our hearts.

If our faith is rooted in the sandy soil of reason and logic, it will be swept away by a rising tide driven by the escalating winds of opposition. A faith founded in Jesus Christ and on the rock of revelation will endure through the fiercest storms of life (see Helaman 5:12).

Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the definition of reason and logic that it does not shift like sandy soil? Perhaps he meant, false reason and false logic—but that’s not what he said. What do you think?

Staying away because of others.

The other day, I visited someone who is LDS but who no longer attends church. She said it is because of the hypocrisy she saw with the local leaders where she grew up. According to her, the leaders were inconsistent with how they gave out church discipline. For example, a bishop would disfellowship one person for fornication, yet put someone else on informal probation for fornication. She saw this as hypocrisy and as a result, she no longer comes to church.

Two things I don’t understand: why are people still staying away from church because of so-called hypocrisy, and why does someone allow the actions of others affect their own spiritual life?

People have been preaching for years that the people in the church are imperfect and are human. Despite all this preaching, people still expect members to be perfect and use their imperfections as excuses to stop coming to church.

Likewise, why would someone let the actions of another dictate whether they come to worship, partake of the sacrament, serve in the church, share their testimonies with others and so on?

Abish

While reading about Abish last night (see Alma 19), I couldn’t help think about her situation.

When she was younger, her father had some sort of vision, which was significant enough to convert her to Christianity. Despite her new-found faith, however, she kept it hidden. I imagine it was because of the consequences she assumed would befall her once her people found out she was following the Nephite religion.

That must have been tough for her.

What do you fear to be wrong about most?

I was reading a post over at apophenia a couple of days ago where she posted on the thought provoking idea of “what do you fear to be wrong about most?”

Late one night at Etech, Matt Webb asked a bunch of us what we would be most afraid to be wrong about. In other words, what are we most invested in and would have our realities shattered if we were wrong. This question blew me away and got me thinking.

Many of the comment threads here on “Our Thoughts” continually rehash the same ideas over and over and as far as I can tell a lot of the beliefs held here aren’t really based on anything more solid than feelings. (Don’t get me wrong, if that floats your boat then I wish you the happiest of sailing). However I wonder if having such a rigid viewpoint of the world might set some up for great disillusionment.

My real point is, though, considering which of your beliefs you are most invested in, how would you react to hypothetical but 100% concrete evidence that your beliefs were wrong. I would hope that everyone would say, “ok, while this may be life changing news, I suppose I have no choice but to change my beliefs. I think I can do it.” Would you change your beliefs if you had 100% correct scientific information that they were wrong?

What if the hypothetical evidence was 99.9% probable in its accuracy leaving only a .1% chance that your beliefs are correct, what would you do?