Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

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kissproof
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Joined: 19 May 2015, 06:21

Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by kissproof » 19 May 2015, 11:27

Hello from sunny (and occasionally weird) California! I am a 37 year old husband and father to the world’s greatest little boy, and I wanted to share my perspective with you, and maybe elicit any feedback on the somewhat unique nature of my circumstances.
I joined the church 15 years ago, because I was involved with a girl who was LDS. Coming from an interesting and varied religious background (my parents were ex-hippies who dabbled in everything from Catholicism to Hare Krishna), I was perhaps at a great advantage in some ways, and a tremendous disadvantage in others. Although I am now and have pretty much been a Christian my whole life, I didn’t have much of testimony at all about the specific doctrine of the church or the BOM, so to my great regret and shame, I kind of BS’d my way through that part. However, once I was baptized and began participating in the life of the church, I liked, and even loved, so many aspects of it that I became very attached to it. I befriended many of the local missionaries (we were around the same age), and accompanied them often to home teachings. I loved the communal aspect and the overall kindness and decency of pretty much everyone I met. Yes, there was politics and many cultural things that drove me crazy, but overall, it was a great experience.
Long story longer: several months into this, I began having a lot of questions, mostly based on things I discovered on my own (this was right before the internet took off). Because I am a voracious reader, I read much of the D&C and Journal of Discourses, and stumbled upon many of the same issues others here have confronted. I asked my missionary friends, and they had very little in the way of answers; I asked my bishop, and he basically told me to stop asking. I asked my girlfriend’s father, who also was a convert and a very educated man, and he echoed what the others had said, but added that if I wanted to be happy, I might want to let this stuff go. I didn’t, no one would help me with my questions, my relationship fell apart, and I left.
Flash forward: as mentioned, I have a family and we belong to the Orthodox church, which my wife and I joined after have unsatisfactory experiences at other Christian churches. Through the years though, I have kept up with the happenings of the LDS church, and thought of my time there often. I have also known many people with heartbreaking stories like the ones shared on this forum, and I can’t imagine how difficult and extremely painful it must be to reconcile a lot of this stuff, especially if you were born into it. However, having gone to a lot of churches, I can say that, in my own experience, nothing matches the experience I had in the LDS church, in terms of either community or prayer. Yes, much of the theology is difficult to accept, and the history of the church troublesome, but in many ways, this mirrors the rest of Christendom. I have read the thoughts of many ex and on the fence members, and while I totally empathize, I often find myself wanting to tell them that this isn’t necessarily an either/or situation. Theology and history are both, even in a secular sense, slippery and subjective; whether something is factually true, in a journalistic sense, is much different than whether it is true in a larger, spiritual sense. There are many ways to skin those particular bloodthirsty animals.
For myself, I have been contemplating rejoining the church. I have spent weeks now researching the things I had questions about many years ago, and while there are certainly very troubling and challenging issues, I don’t feel like any of them aren’t able to be overcome—not necessarily by trying harder, or believing more, but thinking about them differently. Many folks here have belonged to the church for a long time—perhaps their entire life—and might be unfamiliar with the difficulties encountered in other churches. The world is changing, quickly, and the division between the sacred and secular grows ever-wider. If you saw the numbers from the last Pew Research report on religion in America, you know that this church isn’t the only one struggling. Many, on all sides of the fence, are wrestling with similar questions. The difference is that—again, only from my experience—none of them have the advantage of the community of the LDS church, which, for all of its thorny issues, still has the best thing going in regards to an actual church. The mind-numbing conformity and sanitized history are definitely huge issues the church must confront, but I believe technology has democratized this process, and forums like this give members a place to ask questions and wrestle with their faith in ways that the church has not permitted. That, I believe, will change too.
I certainly have no place to speak about anyone else’s experience, and reading the stories here makes me feel terrible for the people that are struggling. I can’t speak to that specific kind of experience, because it isn’t mine, but I can say that struggling with faith, wrestling with one’s place in a larger community and in an increasingly hostile world, and dealing with painful issues that bleed over into every area of one’s life, aren’t exclusive to the LDS church. Increasingly, and perhaps sadly, they are universal.

Ann
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Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by Ann » 19 May 2015, 11:54

Hi, kissproof - We're glad you're here :wave: and look forward to thinking about things from your undoubtedly interesting perspective.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

Roy
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by Roy » 19 May 2015, 13:45

Thank you Kissproof.

I currently participate in a number of christian churches and I agree with you about the community part. The LDS church can be like a small close knit neighborhood that looks out for each other but also gets nosey about your business. :mrgreen:
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Heber13
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Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by Heber13 » 19 May 2015, 14:32

kissproof wrote:struggling with faith, wrestling with one’s place in a larger community and in an increasingly hostile world, and dealing with painful issues that bleed over into every area of one’s life, aren’t exclusive to the LDS church. Increasingly, and perhaps sadly, they are universal.
thanks for stopping by and welcome to ya!

I agree with your findings, that these faith struggles are not uniquely mormon. I've been a member of the church my whole life. So I have limited experience in other religions other than my studying and visiting some churches and talking with friends and coworkers.

Where ever a person finds themselves (mormon, buddhist, catholic, non-religious)...there is enough challenge in life to bring questions about meaning and purpose to thought. And the communities where we can do it together is of support and help.

I like how the church gathers as "wards"...like a hospital ward...we're all not well and all needing a place to get some healing and help, but sometimes gathering with others who are sick has risks. I just find the rewards outweigh the risks.

I have also accepted imperfection in the church...but wonder where else I would go for me to feel part of the community...reminding me of John 6 67-68:
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go?
I feel that way. Where else would I go? I guess there are options, but those are also imperfect options. I seem to be mormon and OK with growing where I'm planted.

kissproof...what would you say is the most attractive thing the church has for you that calls to you and your spirit?
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

kissproof
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Joined: 19 May 2015, 06:21

Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by kissproof » 19 May 2015, 15:29

That’s an interesting question, especially since you hear a lot of talk about leaving the church, and not a lot about joining, or in my case, coming back. There’s a lot to it, but in short, I would say that there is an overall goodness—an overriding sense of purpose and decency—that exists in the church, and ironically, I believe that this is not despite of its numerous and obvious shortcomings, but because of them. I would often say in conversations over the years when Mormons and their seemingly whacky theology came up, “yeah, but there’s something to it…” because I couldn’t readily explain away the feelings or experiences that I had there, and which are unmatched anywhere else. I find this even more interesting because, unlike many here, I wasn’t raised in it (in fact, I was raised with an active distrust/dislike of Mormons from my parents), and I experienced many of the same things that people who have familial or cultural bonds do. The theology, sure, but I haven’t quite been able to shake the other stuff. And now, raising my toddler son, the environment in which he grows up becomes increasingly important, so there’s that too. I have often wondered sometimes if that the ultimate appeal is that the LDS church is so deeply flawed—and thus deeply human—that makes it more accessible. A lot to think about.

Yonni
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Joined: 18 Mar 2015, 17:14

Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by Yonni » 20 May 2015, 08:08

Kissproof, Welcome, I love your perspective! Finding positive attributes when it seems buried in a quagmire of difficulties. Thanks for introducing yourself!

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Heber13
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Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by Heber13 » 20 May 2015, 08:54

kissproof wrote:I would say that there is an overall goodness—an overriding sense of purpose and decency—that exists in the church...“yeah, but there’s something to it…” because I couldn’t readily explain away the feelings or experiences that I had there, and which are unmatched anywhere else.
Very well expressed. There is something about it that keeps me connected...even if the ideas and the teachings can be debated or picked apart and in some cases just seem wrong to me. But there is something worth holding on to.

For me...it tells me something of our human experience. Beyond just finding "right" and "wrong" words and teachings...but something more. More along the lines of finding goodness and finding experiences that help me be better...even if the expression of things in words is insufficient and sometimes clunky in trying to express the truth, because we're mortals trying to do so with language that is limited.

Reminds me of one of my favorite Joseph Campbell quotes:
“Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.

The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That’s where you are. You’ve got to keep both going. As Novalis said, 'The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
I think the church experience is about struggling to align that outer world with our inner world. In church speak, we call it the physical world and spiritual world. We often speak in terms of the spirit, and our spirit, and our spiritual eyes. To me...these are all pointing towards this inner self that we have, and like in Buddhism, trying to align ourselves to the true flow of things, and accepting the outer world and being aware and enlightened to know how to process things that feel right to us...therein finding peace and reducing suffering.

If we only focus on the doctrine...the image of nature, as Shakespeare said, we are missing the gospel principles behind it. That applies to Tithing, Word of Wisdom, Temples, and so forth. All the weird stuff in mormonism is only weird if we reject the image it is trying to reflect. And some people just don't resonate with the image, I get that.

But whether it is the mormon image, or something else you use to reflect the image of reality that helps you connect the inner world and outer world...connecting and finding peace and fulfillment and goodness in life for you and your family is what life is about. In my life...mormonism can do that...when I choose to not let the not good stuff bother me, and choose to focus on the good stuff, and look to make connections in my ward, I feel better.

My cafeteria approach to mormonism is good for me. I look for the things that help me be better.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to learning from your posts as you share more with us.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by DarkJedi » 20 May 2015, 09:38

Welcome Kissproof. I like your perspective - it took some of us quite some time to recognize the "go where?" reality. I agree with you - the church is good and it does good. It is not perfect and its biggest fault is its people - which are also its greatest benefit. I am reminded of Scrooge's nephew's words:
And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!
Please visit us and continue to share - we're a pretty good bunch of people if I must say so myself.
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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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Hello, and an Inside/Outside Perspective

Post by hawkgrrrl » 20 May 2015, 10:03

I often find myself wanting to tell them that this isn’t necessarily an either/or situation. Theology and history are both, even in a secular sense, slippery and subjective; whether something is factually true, in a journalistic sense, is much different than whether it is true in a larger, spiritual sense.
This comment resonated for me today because I was listening to a comedian talk about how there are no atheist soup kitchens. This comedian said if you were raised without God, you would only ever become religious if your life basically fell apart. (I'm not saying all of his observations are 100% accurate - this was just his set). Anyway, he said he would rather have a 30 minute conversation with a reasonable Christian missionary than any conversation at all with a vegan atheist, and then he talked about the community thing. Religion is definitely pro-social in terms of bringing people together. Now some of those people suck at it and try to drive some out of the group, but the community is basically the temple and where the spirit exists. As it says in the NT, where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there will I be in the midst of them. I think that simply means that it's not our doctrines or our actions, but our community that elevates us by connecting us.

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