Apr 11, 2009

If I Weren't A Mormon...

I suppose that we've all thought at one time or another about what our lives would have been like if we weren't LDS. Actually, whether you're LDS or of another faith, perhaps you've tried to imagine what it would be like to convert to a different religion. Lately I've been thinking about it a lot, not because I'm really considering "changing teams," but because I like to imagine what it would be like to see the world through other religious perspectives besides Mormonism. So here are just a few that I've been able to narrow down:

Catholicism: First of all, I'm under no illusions about my ability to be a "good" Catholic. If I converted from Mormonism to Catholicism, my aversion to certain doctrines and dogmas certainly wouldn't be lessened. However, I love a lot of things about Catholicism. The obvious attractions are the history, traditions, and churches. I've visited countless Catholic churches and cathedrals throughout Europe and Mexico and have always felt something special inside of them. Aside from being awe-struck on a purely secular level by beautiful art and stunning architecture, it's hard to not somehow feel closer to Deity in such an atmosphere -- especially when you throw Gregorian chants into the mix. It commands reverence in a way that I probably haven't experienced anywhere else. I felt it when I just happened to be in Notre Dame in Paris during an Easter Sunday mass a few years ago, as well as when I visited Palais des Papes in Avignon, France, or the stunning cathedral pictured here in Florence, Italy. I love the fact that many of the cathedrals are always open and you are free to walk in, light a candle, and just sit quietly and meditate in a place that is spiritually inspiring.

Another thing I love about Catholicism is intercessory prayers to patron saints and the Blessed Virgin. Many mistakingly believe that Catholics pray to Mary and the saints in order to worship them, which is false. As Mormons, we do something similar by petitioning each other to pray on behalf of ourselves or others. We do it in temples with the prayer roll, we do it in sacrament meeting when we ask the congregation to pray for someone in the ward. Catholics, however, have the option of petitioning departed saints to plead their case before God. I love this idea and would love to think that I could pray to Mary, or Heavenly Mother, or "saints," Mormon or non-Mormon, and have them ask the Lord on my behalf for something that I need.

As well, I used to always imagine Catholic confession to be a horribly embarrassing practice that I was glad we didn't have in the LDS Church. However, after reading Catholicism for Dummies, I sort of changed my mind about it. In fact, I could almost see the appeal in being able to go to a priest, who has taken an oath of confidentiality (very important factor!), tell him everything I'm feeling guilty about and then hopefully receive penance for my sins. In some ways, I think it must be very therapeutic. As Mormons, we only go to the Bishop for major sins, but Catholics confess even their lesser sins to a priest. By doing so, one would think that it would be easier to be mindful of everything we do and say and therefore always be "on our best behaviour," so that we avoid having to make frequent trips to confession. Pope John Paul II outlined three main reasons for confession:
  1. we are renewed in fervor

  2. strengthened in our resolutions

  3. supported by divine encouragement

Seventh-day Adventist: I actually knew zip about Seventh-day Adventists until I noticed that a vegan friend of mine had it listed as her religious views on Facebook. I was curious and did a bit of research. It has certain similarities to Mormonism, both in doctrine and policy, and Adventists do a lot of humanitarian and community work. In fact, my husband's uncle, who suffers from extreme back pain, recently stayed at a rehabilitation centre run by Adventists and after a 3-week stay, he looked like a new man. Being a heavy-drinking chain-smoking meat eater, we were skeptical about how he would like this meat-free, smoke-free, alcohol-free environment, but he apparently enjoyed his time in the centre. Seeing what it did for him, I wish he could live there permanently.

What I like best about Seventh-day Adventism is its emphasis on a healthy vegetarian diet. Most avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks like Mormons, but I like the fact that they promote and practise a vegetarian lifestyle. Adventists are credited with the development of certain health and vegetarian products, and according to Wikipedia, research by the US National Institute of Health found that the average Adventist in California lives 4-10 years longer than the average Californian.

The Black Churches: I know it probably sounds ignorant of me to lump a whole bunch of churches into one group based on race, but there is something special about the African American way of worship. I've never personally been to a "black church," but I've watched some services and sermons on TV. The minister giving the sermon is often quite animated, often backed up by an energetic choir and background music, and the congregation is lively. Mormons, by contrast, are pretty conservative in their style of worship. No standing, no clapping, no waving, no shouts of "amen." I don't think that either of these styles of worship are "right" or "wrong." I see value and purpose to both and am perhaps most suited to a style of worship where I can sit quiet and do nothing, but can certainly see the appeal -- and perhaps even need -- for a more animated style of worship.

Jainism: I first heard of this religion because of an Indian acquaintance of mine, who is a Jain. What I like about Jainism is its respect for all life. According to Wikipedia, "(B)ecause all living beings possess a soul, great care and awareness is essential in one's actions in the incarnate world. Jainism emphasizes the equality of all life, advocating harmlessness towards all, whether these be creatures great or small. This policy extends even to microscopic organisms." A devout Jain will not only refuse meat, but even root vegetables such as onions and potatoes, in order to preserve the life of the plant. Pictured on the right is a Jain temple in Ranakpur, India.

Veganism: I know, it's not really a religion, right? Well, no, not in the traditional sense, but I think that veganism holds, to many of its adherents, a spiritual aspect to it. I have a few friends who are vegan and although they're not really "religious" per se, they consider veganism to be their spirituality and are probably among the most compassionate and loving people I know -- towards both humans and animals. Veganism requires people to really think about how their dietary choices and actions affect animals and the environment. Although I'm not vegan myself, I definitely have a bit of "vegan envy" of those who are able to avoid all animal products for ethical reasons.

Agnosticism: Simply put, agnosticism is "the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of deities, ghosts, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently impossible to prove or disprove. It is often put forth as a middle ground between theism and atheism, though it is not a religious declaration in itself." (See Wikipedia for more information.)

I have my days, but for the most part I don't really doubt that God exists. I do doubt sometimes, however, whether we can ever really "know" that God exists. Wikipedia breaks down different types of agnosticism and I would say that I strongly identify with "Agnostic theism," also called "religious" or "spiritual agnosticism:" -- the view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence. Søren Kierkegaard believed that knowledge of any deity is impossible, and because of that people who want to be theists must believe: "If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe."

So what would I be if I weren't a Mormon? In terms of style of worship, I feel very drawn to Catholicism for the reasons that I mentioned above. In terms of ethics and morality, I absolutely love the message of Jainism, particularly the reasons behind its dietary code. It adds a more religious element to veganism and that's something that I find very appealing, even though I'm not vegan. Still, though, I feel drawn to Christianity. But Christianity can be a maze of confusion, with all the different denominations, interpretations and disappointing feuding and hypocrisy. (Mormonism in itself can be a maze that can test one's spiritual endurance.) Had I not been raised Mormon and found my own little niche in the Church, I think that I would have been drawn to something like Jainism, but would have perhaps still felt that something was missing. If I had found Mormonism later in life, I think I would have been drawn to the Plan of Salvation -- which is my favourite part about Mormonism -- but I think that I would have been scared off by certain elements of Mormonism and therefore would not have investigated it further.

So I think that if I weren't a Mormon, I would have felt drawn to a combination of Christianity and Jainism, but would have most likely considered myself to be agnostic. But after doing this post, I think I've finally figured out what I am right now:

I'm a practising Mormon Agnostic Theist with Jain envy.

What about you?

42 comments:

Karen said...

I wonder if you are less an agnostic and a dissident than you presume. Although there are times when some of us question and doubt, I am inspired by your faith in Jesus Christ and your faithfulness. Thanks for your blog and thanks for your thought-provoking posts. And, Happy Easter, Faithful Questioner.

Andrew S said...

Great post, FD.

As an agnostic atheist who is *inactive*...I find it tough to answer this question.

It's because while I could say different parts I find attractive about certain other religions (for example, Catholicism, as you mentioned), what would justify me getting active is having some kind of spiritual witness that I simply do not have. I haven't been able to justify religions based on the extra-spiritual factors.

Lisa said...

:)

My mom was drawn to Judaism for the traditions.

I'm drawn to it because they allow for arguing lol.

I live in a highly concentrated city of East Indian people and we've a few of their temples around. They've an interesting culture as well. For example, they welcome anyone into their temples. They require some things, but anyone can come. And they feed you. My SIL even went to one on a field trip as a kid! Crazy.

That said, I'm none to hep on their style (gold and purple makes for some interesting color schemes)

Anyway, interesting post! Anymore I consider myself an Agnostic Mormon. Now if someone were to ask me why, I'm unsure how I'd answer that. Perhaps because I believe it impossible to rid oneself of LDSism once it's become engrained.

But that's okay. I just refuse to "know" anything - and I don't believe in some LDS teachings. And I think that's okay as long as I try to keep my heart in the right place.

:D

T.J. Shelby said...

I'd lean towards being an agnostic humanist instead of currently being an agnostic LDS humanist...lol.

http://humaniststudies.org/humphil.html

Danita said...

I'm a Jainist/Vegan at 49 and have never looked back only to help those who could not help themselves.

Hye Sung said...

I myself am a convert but was apart of the Unification Church before. The Unification Church believes that God's continuing to talk to humanity, they believe in Spirit World, Universal Salvation, Eternal Families, etc., and has a lot in common with the LDS faith.

As a young Unificationist I kind of wanted to always be a Mormon and I'd frequently say, "Too bad they're wrong..." hahah.

If I weren't in the Church, I'd probably be a member of a conservative school of Christianity. I love Christian spirituality ('Blue Like Jazz', a book I read, taught me all about Christianity spirituality) and the simplicity of the Christian faith in the Missional Emerging Churches within the Christian Church.

I also am fond of the spirituality in Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. I do practice Lent and attend mass on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Midnight Christmas Mass, etc. I love the rituals!

:D

Papa D said...

I'd be a Buddhist Christian. (a disciple of Christ who sees the world through Buddhist eyes)

It's the closest I've ever come to seeing the grandeur of Mormon cosmology and theology elsewhere - and it's elastic enough to allow me to still be "Mormon" in every way I love.

Justmeherenow said...

Agnostic-theist and idiosyncratically schismatic "Latter Day Saint" whose organized participation in religion is predominantly among Sufis. (Not kidding about any of this....)

derekstaff said...

I often consider myself a deist Mormon, so Unitarianism would be a logical fit for me. Like Papa D, I'm also very partial to Buddhism (and to Taoism). Wicca has some very admirable principles. Within the Christian realm, I, like you, have a healthy appreciation for the Seventh-Day Adventists and the tradition of Black Christianity.

The Faithful Dissident said...

How could I have forgotten Unitarianism? :) I had actually planned to include it in my post. Thanks for refreshing my memory, Derek.

Christine said...

Wow like this question! I am Apostolic Orthodox but would love to be LDS. LOL! Coming from another end of it. I have to say that I love the LDS because it's simular yet so different from my own denomination. Unfortunately I am married to an evangelical and he will have nothing to do with the LDS side of me. Say much about our marriage LOL!

Jack Meyers said...

Hmmm, well, I'm evangelical Christian, but here are some of mine:

Mormonism ~ My love-hate relationship with the LDS church is pretty well established. I've written about my loves here.

Messianic Judaism ~ Okay, so this is evangelical Christianity run like a Jewish synagogue. But I LOVE it. I speak modern Hebrew and read biblical Hebrew, and I just love Jewish culture and worship. Jesus is such a central part of my life, I have a hard time seeing myself practicing a non-Christian religion.

Church of God in Christ ~ Next time I move, I think I will definitely consider making this black denomination my home. I love the black style of worship, I love the fact that they still dress up for church (I'm getting really tired of jeans and t-shirts for church), and the racial divide within evangelical Christianity really weighs on my heart. It will never heal unless white people start going to "black" churches and vice versa, right?

Eastern Orthodox ~ Of the big "authority" churches, this one is the most attractive to me. I do find myself envious of the level of ritual in other religions, plus EO's have theosis and... well, that's just grand.

Anglican ~ Paul Owen, co-author of "Mormonism, Apologetics & Evangelical Neglect" and co-editor of The New Mormon Challenge converted to Anglicanism in 2006. I believe I read somewhere that his need for an authoritative, apostolic tradition was part of his reason for converting. They're the only real "authority" tradition that ordains women, which is a big deal to me, plus it was C.S. Lewis's church, so I'm a bit curious to learn more.

Confucianism ~ I know, I know, it's not a religion, it's a religious philosophy, but I actually studied it quite a bit in high school and thought it was quite beautiful and elegant. Someday I may have to learn more about Christian Confucianism.

I also have considered veganism, but only for health reasons. I couldn't care less about not eating the cute, fluffy animals. Alas, I think I lack the discipline for it.

Mormon Heretic said...

I met a 7th Day Adventist at work, and found his vegetarian beliefs quite interesting. I don't know much about it, but would like to know more.

I did a few posts last year on the Greek Orthodox Church, and I have to say that it has some real appeals to me. For one, they view Catholics as the apostates, and feel they hold the true religion and authority back to Peter. Also, their view of theosis is quite similar to the Mormon exaltation--I was amazed at the similarities when I blogged about it.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Christine, thanks for sharing your thoughts! How would you define "Apostolic Orthodox?" I'm curious about your faith. Perhaps you can tell us a bit about it.

Jack Meyers, that was a great essay! I really enjoyed it!

"...and the racial divide within evangelical Christianity really weighs on my heart. It will never heal unless white people start going to "black" churches and vice versa, right?"That is a very good point. You know, I think it wouldn't hurt any of us to go to "other" churches, whether black, Catholic, evangelical, whatever, just to get an appreciation for how others worship. I admit that I haven't been so great at doing that. I went to a Baptist service with a Cavinist Baptist friend of mine years ago, and I've been to several Lutheran services in recent years, but I've never been to a complete Catholic mass, for example. I think that attending other services can help clear up stereotypes and build bridges as well.

MH, very interesting post about theosis! Y'all need to read it!

Rachel Greenwall said...

I was just wondering, what is the Morman plan for Salvation? I don't think I ever took the time to find out. I keep finding out that I am more judgemental than I thought. I have always been a Christian but people always think I am mormon because of the way I dress and act. I have always had Mormon friends but have always been quick to judge their beliefs. I really want to know more. Thank you.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Rachel, thanks for your question!

The "Plan of Salvation" is also sometimes referred to as "Heavenly Father's Plan for Happiness." To sum it up, it covers from our pre-earthly life (what Mormons often call the "pre-existence," since we believe that we lived/existed as spirits before we were born into this world), to our earthly life and how what we do here can affect where we will be going in the next life. I would say that the Plan of Salvation is really the core of our beliefs as Mormons. Essentially, everything about Mormonism revolves around Christ's Atonement and The Plan of Salvation.

Here is a good summary of "The Plan of Salvation" that I recommend. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask! :)

Christine said...

Dear TFD Moderator:

Apostolic Orthodox you will find within all of Armenia (not really sure of other countries that follow it). It's of the Oriental Orthodox division of the Orthodoxy. We are NOT Greek Orthodox. Our church was founded by Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus. Thaddeus was one of the 7 Apostles sent to Armenia.

We have a "Catholicos" which is the Catholic version of a Pope.

Most of what my church is would be traditions. I don't think that anything has changed since the church was founded. Our church is over 3 hours long, no sermons just prayers, and prayer songs.

It's beautiful and so much a part of my culture but, and this is a big but, I do not feel the fulfillment from this church. I do however feel it from the LDS church.

The Faithful Dissident said...

That's interesting, Christine. Thanks so much for sharing that with us. I had never heard of the Catholicos, so I was just reading a bit about it in Wikipedia. I've never heard of a church service being over 3 hrs long without a sermon. On one hand, it must be great for meditation to focus solely on prayer and hymn, but it must be a challenge as well. What is it about LDS vs. your faith that you think would be more fulfilling? Would it be the interaction in Sunday School, or activities outside of Sunday services? Does your church do anything of the sort?

ScottyDoo said...

I am a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist with a dash of Tibetan to add some color. Until a little over a year ago I was also a lifelong member of the LDS church.

I won't go into my whole life story here, though I will say that, looking back, for most of my life I was pretty agnostic, or even a tad apathetic when it came to the existence of God, and I still am. I was always told God was real growing up, and so I just assumed that he/she must be then.

Long story short, I was never fulfilled spiritually in the LDS religion and I realized that for me, this path had no heart.

I always had a fascination with Buddhism, and even worked to blend my Zen practice with Mormonism. As PapaD mentioned, it is possible to practice Buddhism along side basically anything else, but for me Mormonism and Christianity have just felt like an anchor weighing down my heart and my mind.

My wife, who also left the church at the same time, still considers herself a Christian, and we are working to find a path that we can walk together, using our two vehicles (Christianity & Buddhism) to help us along. It's been a bit of a rough start as I have little desire for Christianity. I love the teachings of Christ, and he was no doubt and inspired man...but the son of God? I just don't know.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Scotty, that was interesting, thanks for your comment. It's not often that we hear stories of people converting from Mormonism to another religion. I think sometimes many are under the false impression that it never really happens.

ScottyDoo said...

I believe the reason for that is because all too often, it's not a false impression.

My wife's biggest fear is that I would/will become an atheist, which quite honestly happens quite frequently I'm finding. A man I know refers to himself as a "Militant Agnostic". The word militant may come off a tad harsh to some, but I know that he means essentially that he's firm in his being agnostic, and I would have to place myself there as well.

I'm not ready to say there is no God, because how can I possibly know that? However I do know that I don't know and to be honest right now in my spiritual practice, it just doesn't matter. Both my Zen teacher and my Tibetan Lama (teacher) all have similar opinions. They said that they just really have no clue, and that's okay.

As my Zen teacher has said, incorporating an old zen saying: "If there IS a God, then I will chop wood and carry water. If there IS NOT a God, then I will chop wood and carry water". Basically, there's no reason to get hung up on the unknown. Drop all your concept and ideas about things you can't possibly know and just live, right here, right now in this perfect moment.

I apologize if I'm rambling, just another thought...

Buddhism can be seen as a religion for sure, but in more of a broad sense of the word, and not how it is commonly know and used today. There are endless debates on Buddhism between it being a philosophy or a religion. I always got hung up on the "It's not a religion" side of things until recently. Honestly, "religion" is just a label, and does not define the meaning and purpose of my personal practice. There are a lot of rituals and cultural baggage that have been accumulated over the centuries with Buddhism, which have made it appear as more of a religion, and that's fine by me. My path has heart and purpose, and I'm a better person because of it and that's all that matters.

Just because someone chooses a different path than your own doesn't mean that they are lost. There are many paths up the mountain, and it is my wish that we all find our path to happiness and purpose.

(phew, that was longer than expected).

The Faithful Dissident said...

"If there IS a God, then I will chop wood and carry water. If there IS NOT a God, then I will chop wood and carry water".That's a great philosophy to live by. Imagine if everyone in this world, believer or non-believer, would just "chop wood" and be the best person they can be.

I'm curious, how would you compare your spiritual state being Mormon vs. Zen Buddhist? What did you feel you weren't getting in Mormonism that you are getting in the religion/philosophy that you now embrace? Also, is there anything that you miss from Mormonism?

"Just because someone chooses a different path than your own doesn't mean that they are lost. There are many paths up the mountain, and it is my wish that we all find our path to happiness and purpose."Very true. Just last night I was talking to a man who was a Catholic priest but converted to Mormonism many years ago. He said that when he left the Catholic Church, he was met with nothing but respect. Of course they disagreed with his decision, but they understood that he had to do what he had to do and even many years later, he's still good friends with the people he worked with in the Catholic Church.

ScottyDoo said...

You know, that's a wonderful question that I think I've avoided articulating.

Here's a short answer, which I can go into more detail if someone asks for me to do so.

My views of life had never really fit in with much of the LDS culture and I often just felt confused by my questions, of which the LDS religion seemingly had no answers, and the attempted answers by teachers only illustrated that they had as much understanding as I did. Much of my issues came to a head while I was serving my mission, but I decided to set them aside as always.

As I began to deepen my study on Buddhism, literally ALL of my questions from my life were addressed, and not only that, but I had a sense of peace that I had never experienced before. It felt like returning home after a long hard journey. It just felt, for lack of a better word...right.

There are many who have the same experience I did, but from within or when they found the LDS religion. My path is not the path for everyone, nor the answer. It just became very clear to me that what I was searching for could not be found within the LDS religion. That is not the only thing that led me to part ways, but it was definitely a big one.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"...the attempted answers by teachers only illustrated that they had as much understanding as I did."While part of me likes to speculate and present different theories, it can be dangerous to do so when "attempted answers" or theories catch on and suddenly take on a higher status of "doctrine." Personally, I think that most of our questions -- even ones that I like to throw around -- aren't really answerable. When we try too hard and conclude that we have the answer, we may find out later just how foolish we were. There are certainly many examples of this in LDS history.

Scotty, when you left Mormonism, did you find it difficult to leave behind certain beliefs you had as a Mormon missionary? Do you hold on to any of them? For me, I think it would be very difficult to just stop believing in or change my concept of the Afterlife and Plan of Salvation. I can imagine worshipping in a different way or performing different rituals, but just can't seem to imagine having a different view of life after death, family sealings, etc. Probably this is because of personal experiences related to the subject, which I covered in my latest post.

ScottyDoo said...

Let me first gassho (bow) to you and thank you for this wonderful conversation. I very much appreciate your insight and questions.

I absolutely agree that many questions are unanswerable, and for me, that was exactly the understanding that, through Buddhism, I was finally able to come to understand. I was always searching for answers from external sources, but I now understand that we all have everything we need within ourselves. It's like we're all in a deep sleep and slowly we can begin to wake up and see what we already knew. This is what (to me) enlightenment is. It's merely remembering what we already knew.

I try to be careful to not hold anything as a truth with a capital T, as that is a dangerous thing to do. As Pema Chodron says "The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new."

There are many places where I recognize truth, but I am able to see that it is not the ONLY truth, just a truth for me. This was one of the biggest issues I had with the LDS church. The view of absolute truth. It just seems so arrogant, and really rubs me the wrong way. What I've discovered however is that this is nothing unique to Mormonism. You will encounter this belief in nearly every religion in existence, even within many sects of Buddhism.

We all recognize what truths we find along our paths, but the challenge is to learn to recognize them, be present with them, yet not cling to them, because everything changes, everything is impermanent. Our concepts and ideas about everything are just that. We create our own view of the world in order to support our egos and then we spend our lives elaborating on that illusion, instead of softening our hearts and our minds and being willing to be open. To quote Alan Watts: "The attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."

I feel that this was exactly what I decided to do. I was hurt, I was confused, I was upset and basically said, I'm open to whatever, and then I listened and followed my heart.

To answer your second question...

I never held any specific view on the afterlife, and although the Plan of Salvation is packaged nicely and tied with a bow, it just didn't click with me either. This is actually why I ultimately ended my mission early. In teaching the first discussion with a man who had no desire to hear the message, but was cornered by his family, I began to share the "First Vision", and to my suprise, I just couldn't do it. I didn't feel comfortable putting for the idea that I believed what I was saying to people, many who were spiritually vulnerable. I also felt that I was doing this man more harm that good. How do I know what's best for him? How is cornering him against his will and essentially forcing him to let us "share our message of good news" a Christ like thing to do? I was done. I called my Mission President that night and told him I had my bags packed and would be taking the bus to the mission office and I needed him to schedule me a flight home. Obviously there's many more details to this story, but I came home, married (in the temple) the woman I dated for 3 years prior to my mission, and had broken the engagement to serve. (I was 23 when I went, another long story, but joint decision).

So I guess there's not really anything that I've held onto as there was nothing that I held before. I decided that if I was going to do this, I had to drop all concepts, and everything that I was ever taught and start from scratch. I wanted to know that the nuggets of truth I found along my journey were because I found them, and not that I was given them and told they were truths. So honestly, I have no specific view of the afterlife. It could end up being exactly as the LDs church explains it, I really don't know, and I'm okay with that. At the same time, although this baffles my wife, is the same reason I'm willing to entertain the idea of rebirth, because who really knows? If I find something that works for me, then I stick with it...if not, then I drop it as it does nothing more than hinder progression and growth. I may pick it back up with my level of understanding is different, but maybe not.

Does this touch on anything you've asked? I feel like I'm just typing and typing and not sure how well I stay on track. My ADHD doesn't help that either. I prone to jump from topic to topic as my mind wanders. This has made for an interesting meditation practice.

ScottyDoo said...

I should probably note that I'm not saying that nothing good came from my being raised in the LDS church. It would be a lie to say that it didn't have a profound influence on who I am today. Of course it did, and that is why I respect that it is still the church of my ancestory (my 3rd great grandfather wrote Joseph Smith's First Prayer) and still the church and belief system which my family is a part. It just doesn't work for me.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Likewise, I thank you for this interesting conversation. It's nice to be able to do so without worrying about offending or who's "right" or "wrong." :)

I admire your honesty in your dealings with investigators on your mission. The Church wants missionaries with integrity and that should hopefully mean that it wants them to exercise that integrity even when things don't go as planned.

"I try to be careful to not hold anything as a truth with a capital T, as that is a dangerous thing to do. As Pema Chodron says "The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new."This unwillingness to be open to new truth is a danger even just within the LDS Church -- especially since we claim to believe in continual revelation and new truths being revealed.

More questions for you, hope you don't mind. :)

When you look back on your life now, are you able to pinpoint a catalyst to your decision to leave the LDS Church? Or was it a gradual realization that compelled you to leave?

We had a discussion a while back about why some are able to believe and others aren't. It was interesting.

ScottyDoo said...

I suppose that overall it was a gradual decision, but I do remember the moment where I realized that my life/path would forever change.

I in many ways had only one foot in, so I have a hard time saying that I was ever a TBM, as they say. There are many people who were all in for years and decades with hardly a doubt or question that discovered certain things that were like a smack in the face to them. I never had that moment really.

Like I said, I had my moment when I realized that I could no longer go on pretending to be something that I am not. I felt that I was being untrue to myself and I wanted to be able to progress and grow.

I have my issues with the church for sure, so I can't say that I just parted ways with no baggage to process and unload (still in the process). The LDS church is not just something you attend on Sunday and you're done. It's a culture, a lifestyle, and it's integrated into every strand of your life, whether you like it or not. The untangling process, as I think of it, is quite interesting and challenging in many ways, but for me personally, very liberating.

If it works for others I'm happy, but I felt like a bird with it's wings clipped.

Christine said...

Dear TFD,

I would have to say that The Plan for Salvation really lines up with what I have always believed. I do believe that we were spirits before birth and I strongly believe in the afterlife. I strongly believe that it was not the end of Prophets at the end of the NT. I believe that the Book of Mormon is real/true.

On the other scope I enjoy the fellowship and the community. I love the people as I have been around LDS folks for years now in various environments. I strongly line up with their personal and work ethics.

It's tough though because my husband is an Evangelical Protestant and we are on totally different pages on this issue. For years now we have disagreed on this and it's tough. I never talk to him about it but he's insistant to "brainwash me" or "preach to me" and it drives me NUTS.

Rachel Greenwall said...

I am really enjoying your blog. I have a lot of questions. Call them Mormon Myths, or what Christians hear about the LDS religion and wonder if they are true. Do you believe that Jesus is God? Do you believe that angels are the unborn spirits of people? Do you believe that God is a created being who was once a good mormon on another planet? Do you believe that Satan and Jesus were brothers? If you don't want to answer my questions that is ok, but I really would like answers. I have always believed that the answers to some of those questions are the opposite of my Christian beliefs and would make it impossible to call a mormon a Christian.
I have a friend who is converting and I want to know if she is denying Christ in the sense that she is denying the Christian beliefs of who Christ is. I feel as if I am rambling on trying to get my questions out.
There are things about the Mormon religion that appeal to a conservative Christian, like the modesty, the family values, the giving, the structure, etc. These things seem to be lacking in the Christian church because of there being so many different denominations and no one interpreting the bible in the same way.

Rachel Greenwall said...

I am not trying to attack your religion. My questions are coming our of pure curiosity. I really want to know what you really believe and not just what people say you believe.

derekstaff said...

Since I have a few free moments, I'll take a stab at answering your questions. They are not really myths, as there is some element of truth to each one, but they are often misunderstood.

We do believe that Jesus is God. However, we do not believe in the mainstream concept of the Trinity, but rather in what we call the concept of the Godhead. That is, each member of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are distinct and separate entities, not one in essence and nature. God the Father is creator of everyone else (including Satan, which does make Jesus and Satan brothers yes, as are we all brothers and sisters to each other and to them. Jesus is the Savior and God of creation, appointed and anointed to that position by the Father (see Hebrews 1:8-10; notice that verse 8 refers to the Son, who is then addressed as God in verse 9, which then talks about His God anointing him above his fellows. This shows us that the Son, Jesus, had a distinct and separate God, the father, as well as fellows, his brothers and sisters--us). Each of the three are united in purpose and play key roles in the Plan of Salvation; in this sense, they are figuratively one. The concept of the trinity (three aspects of God, each indivisible) we believe not to be biblically based, but rather a development of the Council of Nicea.

We do not have any detail about the past of God the Father. One of the early LDS prophets made one statement on the subject: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." Whether or not that means precisely that God was a Mormon on another planet is nothing more than speculation.

In LDS tradition, angels are often resurrected beings. They may also be yet unborn spirits. What makes them angels is simply their role; they have been authorized to come to the mortal world by God for some divine purpose, usually to give His word.

I recognize that many of these things differ from mainstream Christianity. Whether or not they qualify as denying Christ to you, I cannot say. I can say that our theology teaches, like mainstream Christianity, that it is only through Jesus that man can experience salvation.

That's my take on the questions, anyway. Anyone else see it differently?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Rachel, thanks for your questions! No questions are out of bounds, so I will do my best to answer them. Some of them are part myth, part truth/speculation. I'll explain. :) Derek has already done a great job at answering, and some of my answers will simply be reiterating what he already wrote. Since I had my answer almost all typed out before he posted his reply, I'll just post mine the way I had already written it.

Do you believe that Jesus is God?
Mormons believe that God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost (aka Holy Spirit) are 3 separate beings that come together to form what we call the Godhead. So they are 3 separate and distinct deities (gods), but they are one in purpose. When Christ said He and the Father were one, Mormons don't believe that He meant literally that they were the same person, but rather that they were one in purpose and always united.

I recently read about the Trinity that Catholics believe in and I'm guessing that most Christians believe the same (you can correct me if I'm wrong) and a lot of Mormons probably assume that those who believe in the Trinity believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one person (which of course doesn't make sense because why would Jesus pray to Himself?). However, like Mormons, Catholics believe that they are 3 separate beings, but that they come together to form only one God, if I understood the doctrine correctly. But Mormons believe that they are 3 Gods that form 1 Godhead. Hope that doesn't sound too complicated. :)

Do you believe that angels are the unborn spirits of people?
I would say that for the most part, we really don't know.

This may be something that some Mormons believe, but I would say it's largely based on theory and speculation as opposed to firm doctrine. We certainly believe that angels have appeared to people, such as recorded in the scriptures. Some believe in guardian angels, which may or may not be spirits of unborn people. They may perhaps even be the spirits of people who have lived, of people we know.

And then there is the question of evil spirits and who they are. Most Mormons believe that they are spirits who followed Satan in the pre-existence, instead of following God, and therefore were cast out of heaven and never had the chance to be born into the world and receive a body.

Do you believe that God is a created being who was once a good mormon on another planet?
Joseph Smith certainly taught such theories, but I would hesitate to call them official doctrine. Although many Mormons mistakingly assume that anything a leader of the Church ever said or wrote is "truth" or "official doctrine," this is not the case. I would say this theory of God once being a man or that we can become gods just like Him is a theory. LDS leaders have certainly taught, spoken and written about these theories over the years. Many believe it, others do not. Personally, I don't know. I think it's possible, but I think that some of these theories have been kind of blown out of proportion and just end up sounding outrageous and downright blasphemous if not understood. I don't think any of us should be preoccupied with "becoming gods" or being God's equal someday. There's probably a whole lot that we just don't know and never will until the next life. Certainly in recent years, there has been less heard on these subjects from leaders of the Church. I think it's because they realize that we simply don't know and they don't want people to be preoccupied with such speculation. The truth is, of course, that all the past speculation has given great material for those who hate the LDS Church and wish to expose it as a fraud. On the surface, it sounds like blasphemy. But if someone goes into it with an open mind and heart, and really devotes a lot of time to studying and pondering these theories, I think that some of it (perhaps not all of it) starts to make sense. But to be honest, it's not something that I think about much. I try to make being a good person my focus in life -- not whether or not I ever become a goddess. It's not even on my radar.

The reference to "another planet" you mention is probably connected to Kolob, which is mentioned in the Book of Abraham (a part of LDS canon scripture) said to be the star (or planet) closest to where God dwells. Once again, there is some wild speculation about this and what it all means. Here is a link you may find interesting if you want to know more about all this planet business. :)

Do you believe that Satan and Jesus were brothers?
This is another one of those things that probably sounds worse than it is. It certainly sounds blasphemous to most Christians that Jesus and Satan could possibly be related, but I'll try to explain.

Mormons believe that all human beings are the spiritual children of God. This includes Jesus (who wasn't just the spiritual son, but even the literal Son of God the Father). So, in the pre-existence, Mormons believe that all of us (me, you, Jesus, Lucifer, aka Satan, and every spirit child that God the Father ever created) were spiritual brothers and sisters. Therefore, we are all spiritually related "brothers and sisters." So, yes, I guess you can say that it's true we believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers in the spiritual sense. Both of them are also our brothers in the spiritual sense. But just as sometimes our siblings in the flesh can do things that we disagree with, such is the case with Satan. In no way do Mormons worship or admire Satan, nor do they believe that Jesus and Satan are equals. We worship Jesus as our Saviour and Redeemer and as our advocate with the Father. Therefore, we pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.

"I have a friend who is converting and I want to know if she is denying Christ in the sense that she is denying the Christian beliefs of who Christ is."
I'm sure this is a concern of many other Christians who have friends or families who are converting to a religion that many regard as non-Christian. However, those who take the time to look at the LDS Church with an open mind will find that Mormons are indeed Christians, as they proclaim to be -- just not in the traditional sense, such as "Catholic" or "Protestant." Many like to say that Mormons worship a different God than other Christians. I would say that is false. However, we do differ in our concept of God, as I already explained. But, as you already pointed out, Mormons and other Christians share a lot of common values and a very similar lifestyle.

Hopefully you'll be able to support your friend in whatever she decides. My experience has been that for the most part, people respect the Mormon beliefs once they are able to see beyond the surface -- even if they don't necessarily agree with them. There is a lot of theory and speculation in Mormonism, but it should only be taken for what it is -- theory and speculation.

The Faithful Dissident said...

If anyone posts any more questions, I will get to them as soon as I can, but I'm heading back to Norway in the next couple of days and probably won't be on the computer until later during the weekend. :)

Rachel Greenwall said...

I definately appreciate your responses. I am glad that I am starting to see that even though there are some "theories" that I don't agree with, I do believe that most Mormons are probably Christians.

I am sure I have more questions but for now, Who is Heavenly Mother? Where is she in the bible? I have never heard of her before.

Rachel Greenwall said...

I have always viewed the trinity as three seperated persons who make up one God. Kind of how mom and dad together are parents. C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity was a really big help in this area.

derekstaff said...

Rachel, there isn't any biblical references to Heavenly Mother. This is a modern revelation of the LDS prophets. We don't have any official information on Her except that She exists.

Your understanding of God and Jesus is pretty much the same as our understanding of the Godhead.

derekstaff said...

I meant that there aren't any biblical references to Heavenly Mother; goodness, my grammar and punctuation can be atrocious when I try to comment too rapidly!

Rachel Greenwall said...

Thanks so much for your comments Derek. I wish the LDS church was accepted as a denomination, but I think it is not because of all the extra stuff that sounds like mere speculation. I really just wish the body of Christ could be more unified.

Andee said...

I am a practicing Mormon with strong Jewish tendencies. There is actually nothing about the Jewish High Holy Days and festivals which are contrary to the teachings of the church. I love them. I feel the spirit as strongly in synagogue as I ever do in church.

Chris Almond said...

I left the mormon church about 3 or 4 years ago, I remember I used to imagine what I would be if I left the church or had never been in it. I thought I would probably be agnostic or maybe buddhist. When I actually left the church I became a Bahai for a couple years. I was very much drawn to the similarities to mormonism and the differences. I felt it was similar in the aspects that I still liked and like about the church and different in the ways that I disliked.
I don't really consider myself a baha'i anymore because of a variety of reasons, but still feel fondly of it and am philosophically inclined to many of its teachings.
It was actually learning about the baha'is that gave me the courage to leave the church. I had doubted the church heavily for several years but didn't have the strength to leave. I thought I would feel to empty inside and had I not immediately became a Baha'i that may have been true.
But one thing I wanted to say is this: although I am very similar to how I was while in the church in terms of personality, my world view has changed for more than I had imagined. So what I imagined, while I was mormon, what I would be like if not mormon was heavily influenced by how I saw the world at that time. I would say that for the most part, my mormon imaginings of my non-mormon self were pretty off base.

MORONIANGELOFLIGHT said...

I have traveled most spiritual paths out there only to come up empty, lifeless and
dead in spirit until..
I gave it all over to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1993
I'm now a follower of Jesus Christ and find it totally liberating to be free from "any" kind of religion! To be free to have a one on one relationship with the creator of everything! Without a person or institution making man made rules that actually get in the way of this relationship! I believe in the Bible as God's book of love letters to His creation, I believe He reveals His Truth and will through His Word. I believe that if you commit and submit your self fully to Jesus Christ you will be changed into a new creation, that you will become spiritually alive and empowered to become what He truly created you to be!