finding my way

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
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wayfarer
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finding my way

Post by wayfarer » 10 Nov 2011, 18:18

hello.

just a quick note to let you know a little about me. I live most of the time in India, with a home in the eastern US, and travel a lot in between. The travel prevents me from regular church attendance, and that has left a yearning for fellowship. I am here to seek the fellowship I miss, amidst what I've seen to be people who share some of my same challenges.

I've probably been a new order mormon of sorts for the past 25 years. Back then, I had found out about a lot of the church history, creative interpretation of church history by the 'brethren', observing the character assassination of the september six, and a lot of other things that really got me. I could not easily accept the church, having felt that it wasn't what it purported to be. I started drinking heavily, thinking it didn't matter, and at the same time feeling profoundly guilty about it. I had an interesting reaction -- once I did something not in keeping with the Gospel, I thought, what the ___, I'm guilty, and might as well enjoy it.

I found myself in the depth of hypocrisy, unable to accept either the life of a member, nor the life of a drunkard, and I had to find another path, and I did. Perhaps it started with recovery, perhaps it was the concept of a spiritual awakening -- ultimately, though, my spiritual path ends up being personally mine, and independent of any organization or teaching. Perhaps, if I were forced to give it a label, it might be somewhere between 'philosophical taoism', 'mystical atheism', and 'secular humanism' -- but labels don't quite fit.

About 20 years ago, I was sitting amidst colleagues in Denver -- we had just had some very difficult work times, and we were about to go to Winterpark for a ski trip. Someone gave someone else at the dinner a copy of Tao Te Ching, tr. Mitchell. What I read in the text transported me beyond the moment and I had as strong of a spiritual experience as I've had in reading the book of mormon or in any part of my mission or life to the point.

I say, "as strong", because I have had many strong spiritual experiences in the church, in reading the Book of Mormon, in teaching the gospel, in the temple, and in serving. The church has always provided me with great experiences. But, the church could not solve my problems with alcohol, nor could it actually make me happy -- my temple marriage was crumbling because of my wife's depression and my drinking. The intellectual conflict between my positive experiences and the pious fraud of Joseph Smith, BY, and the church hierarchy throughout its history was deeply troubling, but I could not deny the postive experiences I have had as a member.

Having this experience with the Tao Te Ching, I went to China to try to find the source of this marvellous material. What I found was a country devoid of spirit, and what I thought Taoism was, was not what it is -- it is a mumbo-jumbo of priestcraft coupled with weird supersititions. I was utterly disappointed with the religion of taoism, but the texts still provide me lot of support.

I went through a Catholic period, Hindu, Born-again Christian, every possible path one could imagine, and I found the same thing -- people making up this stuff as they go, claiming through pious fraud that 'this is the one truth'. True, I found in UU and the society of friends a much more practical approach, but they're fairly weak on the spiritual experience side for me.

Now that i have lived in India for a year and a half, I've had some really amazing experiences with, again, the scriptures of hinduism, but pujas and hindu religion don't do anything for me. There seems to be a trend here. a trend that says that all religions have bit of light, and a lot of unenlightened superstition and, for lack of a better word, 'crap'. It leads me back home to mormonism, but I'm not the same person I was when I emotionally left.

What I discovered more than anything is that the path has no destination. It isn't about the doctrine, the dogma, the concept of an afterlife, or that we lived before. All very nice stuff -- but devoid any shred of provable facticity, these may well be just stories and myths made up to help people find that spiritual experience. And, in my impression, that's perfectly ok. These things are 'agnosis' -- that which is not knowable.

So, oddly enough, I have stayed a member of the church in good standing. I've had many callings, enjoying every minute of service. I love the fellowship. I dislike pious fraud, but it is what it is -- every 'one true church' has it -- not to excuse it -- well this is the struggle, in my impression. In fact, I have found that church service edifies me, and helps me feel closer to the spirit.

I have five daughters, two sons in law, three grandchildren, and a TBM wife who has somehow put up with me for 33 years.

Cheers!
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
My seat in the bloggernacle: http://wayfaringfool.blogspot.com

Curt Sunshine
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Re: finding my way

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Nov 2011, 21:30

Welcome. What a fascinating story.

I'm looking forward to getting to know you better.
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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Re: finding my way

Post by cwald » 10 Nov 2011, 22:15

Welcome to StayLDS Wayfarer.

I've enjoyed our conversations at NOM. I haven't been over here much in the last six months, but I'm starting to prepare to return to some level of activity, and these good folks over here are perhaps a little better at mapping a middle-way for active members than NOM.
  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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hawkgrrrl
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Re: finding my way

Post by hawkgrrrl » 11 Nov 2011, 02:53

What a great story. I can really relate. There are many very spiritual experiences to be had in the world. I found Eckhart Tolle's books and many Eastern practices to be far more enlightening than our own tradition. Yet I also have had spiritual experiences in the church. I've often felt that you can only really get the spiritual benefits of these practices if you take them out of the religion to practice them (including Mormon practices). Within the context of the religion, it can get all tied up in worldly stuff, the praise of men, and social pressure.

This observation is my own as well:
I went to China to try to find the source of this marvellous material. What I found was a country devoid of spirit, and what I thought Taoism was, was not what it is -- it is a mumbo-jumbo of priestcraft coupled with weird supersititions. I was utterly disappointed with the religion of taoism, but the texts still provide me lot of support.
This is one reason why I think it's interesting that so many Americans are in a rush to practice Buddhism. Americans practicing their new age Buddhism are actually more spiritual IMO than many of those who practice it in a majority Buddhist country. Perhaps it's being part of the majority that drives away spirituality.

Welcome to the site! I look forward to hearing more of your views. Where do you live in India, if you don't mind sharing?

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Brian Johnston
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Re: finding my way

Post by Brian Johnston » 11 Nov 2011, 07:19

Hi Wayfarer!

I'm excited to see you here. I'm really looking forward to hearing more from you.

I met Wayfarer for dinner earlier this week and we had a fantastic conversation. He's had such a fascinating journey, and through that gathered a lot of really practical insights and wisdom.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

doug
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Re: finding my way

Post by doug » 11 Nov 2011, 09:54

Welcome.

Wow. It sounds as if you've had a lot of interesting experiences, some of which I envy. I have found the Tao Te Ching, along with other "wisdom literature", to be a great help to me, currently much more so than any other 'scripture' I have access to. I'd love to go closer to the source, mostly in order to satisfy curiosity, but I'm unwilling to make the sacrifices to do that. I'll have to content myself with reading about the experiences of people such as yourself.

You must have something going for you in order for your wife to have put up with all of that.
The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. -- Mark Twain

Minyan Man
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Re: finding my way

Post by Minyan Man » 11 Nov 2011, 15:05

Wayfarer,
Thank you for your introduction & welcome to the group.
You wrote:
...unable to accept either the life of a member, nor the life of a drunkard, and I had to find another path, and I did. Perhaps it started with recovery, perhaps it was the concept of a spiritual awakening -- ultimately, though, my spiritual path ends up being personally mine, and independent of any organization or teaching.
I believe that alot of us, in the church, have made similar choices, feel the same emotions & if we are lucky (or blessed), find recovery.
Do you use Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? I have & believe it saved my life. It was in AA that I learned the difference between being Spiritual & being Religious.
I think very few people can experience both.

After a few years, I went back to see my Bishop & explained where I've been. I discovered how little he knew about recovery & the AA program.
At the end of our talk, he started to talk about some of the members. As I was leaving I wondered what he was going to say about me. That is one of the reasons that I am reluctant to talk about my experiences with members of the church.

Now I'm trying to find my way back. I'm going to do it on my own terms. (It sounds like your quote.)
Right now, I can get through Sacrament meetings but Sunday School & Priesthood I have difficulty. It feels like claustrophobia & I can't leave fast enough.
As they say, One day (or meeting) at a time.

Thanks,
Mike from Milton.

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wayfarer
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Re: finding my way

Post by wayfarer » 11 Nov 2011, 20:02

Mike wrote:I believe that alot of us, in the church, have made similar choices, feel the same emotions & if we are lucky (or blessed), find recovery.
Do you use Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? I have & believe it saved my life. It was in AA that I learned the difference between being Spiritual & being Religious.
I think very few people can experience both.

After a few years, I went back to see my Bishop & explained where I've been. I discovered how little he knew about recovery & the AA program.
At the end of our talk, he started to talk about some of the members. As I was leaving I wondered what he was going to say about me. That is one of the reasons that I am reluctant to talk about my experiences with members of the church.
yes, i had 22 years of sobriety, at least 12 of which were actively part of the program. I found, without equivocation, that it is NOT a good idea to talk about AA experience with church members or leaders. Unless someone is in AA, it's very unlikely they can grasp what it is all about. It's also why anonymity is the spiritual foundation of AA -- there are very good reasons behind keeping your program very personal.

AA itself, however, has it's own dogma and 'fundamentalism' of sorts. The reason I no longer attend AA is twofold: 1) it outlived its usefulness for me some time ago, as my spiritual program deepened. 2) in time i discovered that the challenges I had with alcohol were due to a type of guilt caused by magical thinking in the church. Today, neither alcohol, nor religious guilt has any sway on me, and I have found freedom in living without such boundaries. Most AAs will think that is delusional thinking, and I would agree with them, for most people it is. Hence, if you have found peace and sobriety in your program, keep working it, because it works.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
My seat in the bloggernacle: http://wayfaringfool.blogspot.com

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wayfarer
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Re: finding my way

Post by wayfarer » 11 Nov 2011, 20:24

doug wrote:Welcome.

Wow. It sounds as if you've had a lot of interesting experiences, some of which I envy. I have found the Tao Te Ching, along with other "wisdom literature", to be a great help to me, currently much more so than any other 'scripture' I have access to. I'd love to go closer to the source, mostly in order to satisfy curiosity, but I'm unwilling to make the sacrifices to do that. I'll have to content myself with reading about the experiences of people such as yourself.

You must have something going for you in order for your wife to have put up with all of that.
the latter is a very good point. my wife has been clinically depressed in three rather significant episodes in our 33 years together. Yet today, we have as close of a relationship as we ever have had.

Her depression periods typically coincided with my periods of greatest challenge, but not quite in the order one would expect. Once the storytale nature of our mormon existence wasn't quite working, we BOTH had independent reactions to it -- she became depressed, and when i didn't find a lot of solace in the church, i allowed my thinking to stray as well.

- the first episode was the post-partum depression coupled with my alcoholism stage,
- the second episode was the years-from-hell teen kids period coupled with my church research discoveries during the september six stage,
- and the third episode was very recent: menopause/empty nest coupled with my change in responsibilities to an insane travel schedule.

During each of the first two episodes, my wife, a very faithful TBM, could not accept the idea that she may need medication to help her deal with the chemical changes and challenges she was going through. She got through by becoming more faithful, more rigid, and more ritualistic in her practice, in order to get to the point that she could handle life on life's terms. I checked out, i guess, and that certainly isn't the right path at all.

In the third case, menopause and my travels, she came to the realization that medication might actually be necessary, and has found a balance that works. Likewise, since my travel was necessary, and not a case of me checking out, and I think it ultimately did us some good -- helped her get more independent, helped me appreciate her better. And, not going to church together, church wasn't the answer to all our questions any longer (it never really was, but for a TBM, she wasn't there yet).

I have come back to the US for a little while, and because of all my travel miles, she's been hopping all over the place, having a great time. She went to visit a daughter, SIL, and granddaughter in central america a week ago, and I realized in the airport sending her off, how important she was in my life. This was a bit of I don't know what to call it. sappy I guess.

She doesn't like it when I express my distaste for the church's political positions and the narrowmindedness of some of its members, but at least we're communicating and unified.

I don't have any clue why I'm saying all this -- just what i feel right now.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
My seat in the bloggernacle: http://wayfaringfool.blogspot.com

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Re: finding my way

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Nov 2011, 20:28

Love the story -- it could be movie up there with Conversations with God, if you've ever seen that -- a story of a person's spiritual journey and enlightenment.

I'm fascinated with how you can find Church service rewarding. It was the lack of fulfillment associated with Church service that led me here for support. Then I read a lot of doubts and became associated with the gaping holes in the history, and then started questioning just about everything I've been told over the years, while still maintaining I've had spiritual experiences that LDS folks will call "testimony".

Anyway, welcome -- I look forward to your global perspective on the things we write here. I feel so one-dimensional after reading your post!
"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

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