Trying to Make it Work

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
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Andrew
Posts: 34
Joined: 11 Apr 2011, 11:20
Location: The Great Midwest

Trying to Make it Work

Post by Andrew » 11 Apr 2011, 12:43

Forgive the length.

I'm somewhat surprised to find myself typing this intro; I thought I was mentally and spiritually finished with Mormonism.

I just listened to Part 5 of the Mormon Stories interview with Jared Anderson. It sparked something in me; some hope that maybe I can carve out a niche for myself in the church and forgo the obvious heartache to loved ones that my departure from it would cause.

But I need help. I need the wisdom of others who have been successful navigating remaining Mormonism after a faith crisis. I need to be able express my frustrations and concerns.

I know some of the participants I see here from another online forum (both current and former participants on that other forum). So, with trust that people like Brian, Tom, and Ray (and possibly others) wouldn't be involved in a nasty endeavor, here I go on StayLDS.

So, about me.

I'm 31, happily married, father of two beautiful young girls. I grew up in the church in the heart of Salt Lake, with apostles, presiding bishops, and even a first presidency member on both my paternal and maternal lines. Though I come from devout stock, my upbringing was faithful and orthodox without being dogmatic.

Like all good Mormon boys, I served a mission. I was well "prepared" - I'd graduated from seminary, being pretty observant when it came to the WoW and chastity, avoided trouble, and had read the Book of Mormon 4 or 5 times before entering the MTC.

In addition to suffering a severe depressive spell on my mission, I soon encountered very good questions on my mission, and allowed myself to ask some that I'd suppressed prior to serving. In addition to these questions, I was surprised that so many Christians had such deep and seemingly meaningful relationships with God. They spoke of Jesus with a familiarity that I'd never heard in Mormondom. At some point on my mission, I allowed myself to think, "it's not true."

Despite the many difficulties, I finished my mission honorably, served in some leadership positions, and had some good experiences. On net, however, it wasn't a great experience. I could not in good conscience recommend anyone go on a mission.

I came home with issues to deal with and questions to answer. As I attempted to find answers and explanations, more questions arose. At the same time, I was realizing that I was a liberal, politically and theologically. I'm just wired that way. As such, I felt increasingly out-of-place and even unwelcome at my local ward and in the broader church. Within a year of returning, I was convinced that the church was not what it claimed to be, and that the historical narrative the church told was woefully incomplete at best, and a total fabrication at worst.

Some "wilderness" years followed. I had lost all faith; I gave up many friendships and family relationships for fear of being rejected; having lost the moral guidance of Mormonism, I was rudderless. Then I met a wonderful, beautiful girl at school. She saw past my rebellion, anger, and sadness, and we began dating. Soon, I was in love. She wanted to go on a mission, and of course wanted to get married in the temple. Her mission, she thought, would give me ample time to prepare myself for the temple and church activity.

I made a few half-hearted efforts while she was gone, but they didn't take. She came home, saw that I hadn't progressed, and delivered an ultimatum. Around this time, I discovered Mormon Stories, which, in it's early days, made me think that I could find a way to be active despite being a non-literal believer. I began reading the Book of Mormon again, and had a regenerative spiritual experience when reading about Alma the Younger. At that point, I decided that even if the BoM was not a historical document, it contained truths; it preached a God that I could believe in and that frankly, I needed.

So, I began working towards a temple recommend, and in relatively short order, had one. Within 7 months of my spiritual experience, my wife and I were married in the temple.

My life in the church went pretty well for the following three years or so; we both finished grad school and had our first child. I had some hiccups every now and them (Prop 8, Julie Beck's "Mothers Who Know" talk), but also had wonderful experiences. KBYU aired a broadcast of the celebration of the revelation lifting the priesthood ban in May 2008. I was deeply moved by the faith and testimonies of African-American saints who'd waited and endured and by those who'd experienced some of the ban's negative reverberations, post-revelation. We had a wonderful bishop who called us to teach an alternative Sunday school class on church history. We basically used Rough Stone Rolling as our manual and had some very frank conversations in class about the translation of the BoM, polygamy, and other controversial issues. (The class ended with the shifting of ward boundaries, moving us into another ward.)

About a year ago, after relocating for a job and finding ourselves in a new ward, and while adjusting to having another little girl join our family, I began to experience some spiritual tension that I hadn't felt in years. I was teaching Gospel Principles, and while I loved the opportunity to be the first exposure to the institutional church for many seekers, I found the manual increasingly difficult to rely on. Doctrines are presented in such a literal, almost fundamentalist way that I had to be very careful in how I presented the material so as to feel comfortable with what I was saying but not straying too far afield. Cultural issues (the treatment of women and young women in curricula and in practice; the politically conservative nature of the church, the lack of emphasis on the social justice aspect of Jesus' message and the message of the BoM, the City Creek Center development, etc.) began to bother me more and more. In short, the good that I found in the church of community, fellowship, and a place to practice Christian love, was being completely overshadowed by my biggest concerns and stumbling blocks.

Even while facing this tension in my relationship to the church, I continued exploring spirituality. I began reading books on biblical interpretation, Christian history, and Christian living from a more theologically liberal perspective at a voracious pace. I convinced my wife to attend the services of other churches in our area. The first one we attended was the United Methodist Church in our area, and we both enjoyed it immensely. We began attending their services about twice a month. I felt (and continue to feel) that I hear the good news of Christ preached there, without so much of the weird cultural baggage Mormonism has experienced. There is no discussion of temple attendance or of obedience or following the prophets; week in and week out, the message has been about God's love for humanity, us personally, our need to emulate Christ and to live as disciples. I should note that this was around the same time as General Conference last October; President Packer's certainly contributed to this vast dichotomy I saw between the messages of the LDS church and that of mainstream, or at least the more theologically liberal strains of mainstream Christianity.

Like Joseph, "In process of time, my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them..." But rather than the strife and contention of the various sects preventing me from joining up with them, it is the potential conflict and strife in my dearest relationships that prevents me from leaving, either formally or informally, Mormonism.

I recognize the good in Mormonism - both the doctrine and institution itself; but I seem more and more aware of the negatives. At the same time, I am perhaps viewing mainstream Christianity through rose-colored glasses, and am experiencing a bit of "the grass is greener..." syndrome. This has become all-consuming. I spend my free time listening to podcasts (those from a Christian perspective and those from a mostly disaffected Mormon perspective) and reading more books on Christian spiritual formation and the New Testament.

Still with me?

So, I've felt stuck. I feel that I hear God's message elsewhere, in another tradition, a spiritual balm that I've longed for. And yet every relationship I value would suffer if I were to "follow my bliss." I've had hopes and visions before of being able to practice Christianity - that is, non-judgmental love and kindness - within the church, but I find myself so distracted by some teachings and many cultural aspects.

A long, emotional conversation with my wife last night made me want to make things work with the church; the aforementioned podcast gave me some hope that it might even be possible.

So I seek your friendship, encouragement, and wisdom.

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Brian Johnston
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Location: Washington DC

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by Brian Johnston » 11 Apr 2011, 16:01

Hey Andrew!

Like you mentioned, known you for a while from other places. Glad to have you join us here and hang out. I'm not sure we have any easy, simple answers. It isn't easy to stay. It isn't easy to leave. Like you already noticed, the "awakening" we experience puts us in a tough bind. There's no going backwards. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. I firmly believe there are ways to move forward. Obviously, we explore ways of staying, or at least peaceful and less-stressful ways of remaining connected on some level. You have to do what's best for you and your family in the long run. There's nothing for certain or forever about it either way.

There are people who make it work. I look forward to kicking around ideas with you. I think a lot of people would benefit from exploring your thoughts on carving out a "Christianity" within Mormonism. That's appealing to a lot of folks post-crisis. I'm curious how to make that work. It's a valuable approach.

Andrew wrote:I know some of the participants I see here from another online forum (both current and former participants on that other forum). So, with trust that people like Brian, Tom, and Ray (and possibly others) wouldn't be involved in a nasty endeavor, here I go on StayLDS.
Maybe it really is a nasty endeavor :twisted: muahahahaha. Don't worry. We don't get too freaky until after you've been here a couple months. :lol: :lol: :lol:
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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mom3
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Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by mom3 » 11 Apr 2011, 19:35

Welcome Andrew,

Your voice will be a welcome addition. Thanks for the long intro. I wrote 2 a week ago. The first one was long. The second shorter. People seemed to like both. Lots of us are verbal. Join us.

I pray for your healing.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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cwald
Posts: 3628
Joined: 10 Aug 2015, 06:39

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by cwald » 11 Apr 2011, 19:42

Nice to have you on board.
Andrew wrote:I know some of the participants I see here from another online forum (both current and former participants on that other forum). So, with trust that people like Brian, Tom, and Ray (and possibly others) wouldn't be involved in a nasty endeavor, here I go on StayLDS.

:?: I'm not sure what you mean. Hmmmm? I all I ever ask is that people are honest and real --- and that we call a spade a spade - when it is spade. I don't like to mince words much, but other than that, I am here to find reasons to STAY, rather than reasons to leave.

Oh yeah, I enjoyed your intro. Interesting story.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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HiJolly
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Joined: 11 Feb 2009, 21:25

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by HiJolly » 11 Apr 2011, 20:35

Welcome to the site, Andrew.


HiJolly
Men are not moved by events but by their interpretations.
-- The Stoic Epictetus

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SilentDawning
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Joined: 09 May 2010, 19:55

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Apr 2011, 21:10

Andrew:

I honestly say I read the whole intro top to bottom without disengaging even once. Very interesting. I look forward to your comments. My reasons for staying are simplistic -- it's good for my kids and keeps my family together. But it's with a lot of white-knuckling, unfortunately. It ain't easy, but doable -- at least, so far....Welcome.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Curt Sunshine
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Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by Curt Sunshine » 11 Apr 2011, 21:50

It's late, so all I will say right now is, "Welcome. Glad to have you here."
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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cwald
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Joined: 10 Aug 2015, 06:39

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by cwald » 11 Apr 2011, 22:32

SilentDawning wrote:Andrew:

I honestly say I read the whole intro top to bottom without disengaging even once. Very interesting.
Yeah, me too.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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MtnMan
Posts: 27
Joined: 16 Feb 2011, 17:18

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by MtnMan » 12 Apr 2011, 18:54

Hey Andrew,

I too am a 31 year Salt Lake City native. I couldn't help but wondering if I knew any Andrew's that fit your description. You wrote a very good intro. One of the things that really amazed me when I found this site and other like it is how similar others' experiences of disaffection are to my own. I really thought I was nearly alone. Anyways, but of luck in your journey.

-Greg

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BeLikeChrist
Posts: 197
Joined: 27 Feb 2011, 04:50

Re: Trying to Make it Work

Post by BeLikeChrist » 12 Apr 2011, 19:16

Welcome Andrew, good to have you here. Sounds like you have gone through a lot.

I can understand the difficulties of dealing with the cultural aspects of the church because I have had to deal with that myself. It seems we are stuck between a rock and a hard place because the ordinances seem divine but then the church culturally seems to contradict Christ's teachings regarding social justice. There are other cultural issues too and I definitely am a liberal Mormon.

Other church denominations seem to have a more Christ-like culture than Mormons do, some maybe less so.

Where I am at is at a stage in life of wanting to become active again and realizing that if I want eternal life I have to be submissive to the powers that be, especially in terms of living standards(commandments). There are things, though, about the LDS church that I do have a hard time accepting culturally which I wish would be different. Namely, the church culture's stand on masturbation being considered part of the Law of Chastity (too strict in my opinion) and how the church could improve on how they treat gay members.

My approach to reactivating will be not so much working to get a recommend right away but to work at going on a regular basis and first and gradually submitting to the powers that be before getting a recommend. I just want to go and feel good about going before i consider a temple recommend. My first goal would be to go to take the sacrament worthily on a regular basis and progress from that point on.

BeLikeChrist

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