What Is Real?

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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What Is Real?

Post by hope » 27 Feb 2014, 12:30

I have believed all my life in the literalness of: The First Vision, Adam and Eve, the Book of Mormon, the translation of the plates, the story of Job, and so on and so on.

In Primary, Sunday School, Sacrament Meeting, and as a missionary (full time, ward, and stake), I was either taught these things or taught them to others. I taught them to my children. I believed Joseph Smith literally saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I believed Moroni was actually in JS's room. I believed there really did exist a man named Job who went through an unusual amount of trials.

Weren't all of you taught these same things? Did I miss something along the way where it was a given that all of these things were figurative and symbolic only? Did I completely and totally misunderstand everything? Where in the manuals and missionary discussions that I taught out of did it refer to all of this as figurative or symbolic only?

Yesterday I began reading recent threads and my mind is officially blown. I thought I was making 'progress' in my faith journey... and now I wonder what is real?

I know when I listen to certain music or am out in nature or feel & express love, I am moved to tears and feel a massive tug on my heart strings.

I know that when I look up at the stars and moon at night I feel a huge sense of belonging.

When I think of my father who has slipped through the veil, I somehow know I will see him again.

I feel promptings & and hear whisperings.

Beyond that, I don't know anymore what is real.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by journeygirl » 27 Feb 2014, 13:03

That is a very uncomfortable place to be, and I am right there with you. Except I don't feel any kind of promptings or communication of any kind. Most of the time this no longer bothers me. I have decided what is meaningful in my life, and I'm seeking those things. I am open to the possibility that all of this mythology is true, but I doubt it. I guess we may find out for sure when we die. For here and now, I just move forward and do what is important now. I hope you can get to a point where you can be okay with not knowing everything like you use to think you did. I use to think that the best part of the gospel was that it had an answer for everything. Now I think that was arrogance. I am glad to believe that the universe is still a mystery.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by Unknown » 27 Feb 2014, 13:37

I don't know. Sometimes I question reality itself. If I'm living in the Matrix, or this is just a dream, then my religion is just as imaginary as anything else that exists in my mind, it still seems real to me.

Meditation has helped me a little, just letting go of everything that may or may not exist, at least I know that I am breathing. It sounds small, but it helps. Plus, I realize that nobody else out there knows what is real any more or less than I do. We're all on a level playing field, sometimes we just think we know more than we actually do.
Last edited by Unknown on 27 Feb 2014, 13:48, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 27 Feb 2014, 13:42

Losing certainty can be scary - but I believe it also is the only path to rediscovering pure faith. Another central Gospel paradox.

I don't know, when it comes right down to it, what has been literal, symbolic, figurative, mythological, etc. - or, even, at the heart of it all, what "real" means in any objective way. If it's in my head, is it any less real - at least for me? When my mother's medication wore off and her schizophrenia took over, we called her visions "hallucinations" - but I guarantee they were every bit as "real" for her at that moment as what I saw around me. Therefore, I take everything in whatever way resonates the best within myself - meaning I worship / believe / interpret according to the dictates of my own conscience, let others worship differently than I.

It's quite liberating, and I think it's one of the highest aims of Mormon theology - to find / build one's own faith and live it. That might be my own misunderstanding of reality, but it's mine, so I accept and own it.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by Forgotten_Charity » 27 Feb 2014, 14:02

I'm so sorry with what your going through. I can empathize. I was fortunate to already be familiar with inside workings of public relations to know in any government, work or organization there is an official history and version of what happened.

Naturally it's very selective as each government, organization is by nature very sensitive to how it is perceived.
In fact that is each their top priority number 1 in each. It doesn't mean there isn't truth there, but rather selective by nature. It has less to do with church or religion and more about human and cooperate, government nature.

So when I came across it it bothered me less then most, but it had bothered me as much when I first worked in and studied American and world history. As well as friends from various government agencies sharing and showing things that surprised me. I over time became very comfortable with ambiguity. I don't need answers. I just need to search , study and test with my own eyes now. I think of it as becoming a man, independent, not needing others to provide me with answers. I will study, test, ponder and experience in my own now.

But it takes times to be comfortable with uncertainty. I maintain that at any point in time I see different results and experiences and test that I am free to change my mind at any time in any subject.

But for those still needing certainty, with regards to especially history or official history in any part. There really isn't any.

I always reflect back to Moroni chapter 7 and I think that encompasses nearly everything I hold dear as core values.

Others can feel free to be dogmatic in what ever beliefs. What really matters to me is faith(not in any man), hope that we will get there in time together as a journey process, and charity toward my fellow man/women and children, creatures.

I'm very happy with that belief and Moroni assures me it is very Mormon, not so much what each individual holds or insist to be true. But that I am true to my heart in faith, hope in him and charity toward him and all life.

Indeed in that light I do"stand all amazed". I can look for the good fruit where ever I can find it and celebrate with those around me at it. Whom ever and where ever they are.

That is my purpose. I hope you can find yours. Purpose and happiness is not something that can be given or taught, you have to find it for yourself--hopefully with guidance and help by others. But they can't give or teach it to you. It comes from within.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by On Own Now » 27 Feb 2014, 15:20


symbolism is a very powerful medium. "What is real?" isn't as important as "What does it mean?"

I understand you. You are right, the Church teaches all these things as real. Yet, even as a still-believing member of the Church, I had come to think of certain elements as only symbolic: Job, Kolob, The Book of Revelation. If you reflect for a moment, you probably already subconsciously have accepted some elements as symbolic without specifically thinking about it. I mean, even faithful members, if they think about it, probably don't think a snake literally spoke to Eve... talking snake... and that God cursed all snakes to have to go around on their bellies and eat dust. How about the 9-foot tall Goliath... really? Methuselah living to be 969 years old? A dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns?

If you are game, here's an exercise: pick up the Book of Abraham. Skim chapter 3 quickly. Think about Kolob and the stars and how just plain bizarre it is. Think about whether you feel uplifted knowing about Kolob. Think to yourself if you'd like to have to explain this "doctrine" to your friends. Now read the chapter carefully, but this time, assume it is a purely symbolic construct. What does it say? Is it more simple to think of it in purely symbolic terms? How does thinking of it as symbolic actually strengthen the content of the chapter?

Exercise 2: Quick, when Jesus was baptized, did the Holy Ghost descend from heaven as a dove literally or figuratively? Now, which is it? Think about it. Does it help to know that the Gospels don't agree? Then think for awhile whether it matters one way or the other. If it was a literal dove, then why would God do that? If it wasn't then why would the writers of Mark, Matthew and John use that figurative language? Then, you realize that it is the same message either way.
- - -
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
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"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
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Re: What Is Real?

Post by Roadrunner » 27 Feb 2014, 16:38

hope wrote:I have believed all my life in the literalness of: The First Vision, Adam and Eve, the Book of Mormon, the translation of the plates, the story of Job, and so on and so on.


Weren't all of you taught these same things?
Thanks for the post - it resonates with me. Yes, I was taught these were all literal. In fact my knee jerk reaction is to hear talks or lessons and to think "this is all supposed to be literal." Maybe it's my engineering training, maybe it's the way I was raised, maybe my orchestra is missing a few violins, but my perception is that these teachings are meant to be literal. It's taken a lot of mental effort to convince myself that I can interpret doctrine as I see fit.
hope wrote: I know when I listen to certain music or am out in nature or feel & express love, I am moved to tears and feel a massive tug on my heart strings.
As a music lover, I feel closer to God when I hear a piece of music performed well. The MOTAB inspires me and I appreciate a hymn well played on Sundays. I believe music is one of God's gifts to mankind.
hope wrote: I know that when I look up at the stars and moon at night I feel a huge sense of belonging.
Agree 100%.
Last edited by Roadrunner on 23 Apr 2014, 10:39, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by Forgotten_Charity » 27 Feb 2014, 17:28

Children of god teach a lot of "weird" things. Yes any things taken literary today were also believed in literally long ago and at the same time it wasn't as dogmatic in the beginning when things were first written and talked. It simply wasn't viewed as important I those times weather it was or not. The story itself is what was important.

That's why in the scriptures you do see things like "dragons" , "unicorns", talking snake, "leviathan", "behemoth".
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
9 Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
10 Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
The Lord points to his power in leviathan -- All things under the whole heavens are the Lord's.
1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
15 Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
16 Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.
17 He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
18 His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.
19 He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.
20 Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play.
21 He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens.
22 The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about.
23 Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.
24 He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares.
I could go on since it is Old Testament year and we will read this stuff this year in class. I already heard a few guys bust up laughing while reading some of those. Like on my own said, the value is in the story, not literalness. Much of what we read is just oral tradition and genealogy history and stories
Made for a very specific audience. It wasn't written in the time thinking thousand of years from
Now who will read this?

The Old Testament in particular was never meant for non Jews when it was written. It was designed to help them and their culture and that's who it was written for. With the Jews to teach non Jews about it. But it wasn't written for us to study at the time it was written. But we have these books now and they add value to our lives if including the BOM if we separate the wheat from the chaff.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by convert1992 » 27 Feb 2014, 18:09

hope wrote:I feel promptings & and hear whisperings. Beyond that, I don't know anymore what is real.
Hi Hope, I'm Tom and I have dealt with the sense of not knowing what is real and what isn't. Based on my own experience, I can tell you for certain that you are firmly grounded and heading in the right direction. Those last two sentences that you wrote make all the difference. That is what it is all about. And those promptings and whisperings lead to greater things, things that ultimately do confirm that the Church is true.

I myself have spent years wrestling with what seems to be overwhelming evidence that none of these historical events actually happened. It's fine with me if they never happened as long as the fruits of the Gospel are real ... and yes, they are real and even tangible. You know why Joseph Smith wrote about messengers shaking hands (D&C 129)? Probably because he knew that there are things from beyond the veil that are indeed real, even physically real, not just thoughts or dreams or visions. I know this too. So if somehow the narrative that we've been taught was never literally true, that's ok with me.

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Re: What Is Real?

Post by DarkJedi » 27 Feb 2014, 21:11

I've been where you are, and to some extent I'm still there. I did once literally believe all of the things you mentioned and much more to be literal, as taught by the church. Even before my faith crisis, though, I had come to realize some of them could not possibly be literal - like Jonah. Over time and through my faith crisis I have come to understand that most of it isn't literal (or real, I guess) and perhaps none of it is - although I do believe some of it is. I have also come to understand that it doesn't matter if it's literal (real) or not, what matters is what it means to me. That's actually why I don't care if Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon (I don't actually think he was capable of doing so) because what it teaches is good. So Jonah didn't live in a fish's belly - there is a good moral to that story, just like the nursery rhymes we share with our children. I've stopped obsessing about what is real or literal and what isn't and I have found peace in doing so.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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