My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

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SilentDawning
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My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by SilentDawning » 05 Jul 2018, 08:38

I just spent 3 solid days with a traditional believer -- we are good friends. Got married in the same year, about the same age, had children about the same age gap along a slightly shifted timeline, and have talked regularly for almost 3 decades. He's a former Bishop, a constant TR holder.

We were out in the wilderness for 3 days. For the most part, I enjoyed myself. There is much to talk about beyond the gospel, and he makes me laugh with his minimalist, energy-conserving approach to life. It has worked well for him in so many different ways. Our political and other values are similar.

But finally, he asked me what I believe about the gospel. That was a MayDay, MayDay, MayDay! moment because in the past, when I have been nakedly truthful about it (say 5 years or more in the past) about it, it got a bit ugly and he "called me to repentence". Kind of like when a family member asks "do these pants make me look fat?". Awkward.

So, I told him I'd like to share it but I'm concerned about offending him -- to which he replied "then you better be careful how you say it".

I finally shared that I am an agnostic Mormon. Have great faith in my own ability to be wrong, and that I could change my mind at any time. That my life experiences have led me to question whether the church is all it says it is. That being a Mormon has led to misery in so many ways. That my mantra is to live my life with the goal of achieving happiness and joy. Quoted JS's "happiness is the object and design of our whole existence", "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy". That making such decisions, such as refusing callings, accepting callings, etcetera against this criterion has made life so much better.

Mentioned my concern about inadvertent leadership worship, about the tendency for the meetings to be boring, with flawed programs that go on for decades because no one is willing to question the "inspired" status quo. That I prefer to pay tithing to organizations I am running so I feel like a true philanthropist. How the church seems to not support individual members like myself in my non-monetary times of needs that are at the heart of the church's mission and the gospel.

Anyway, the trip took a turn or the worse when he:

1. Basically called me to repentance again.
2. Told me that if I don't enjoy church, it's my own fault. I've had it with that one -- the tendency to relieve the church and its leadership of ALL responsibility for structure that improves the experience of being a Mormon.
3. That I've basically invented reasons so I don't have to live it.
4. Had this air that he knows more than I do.
5. That I can't just pick and choose one commandment and ignore all the others.
6. That my attitudes toward the church wear him down.

When I explained to him that I am happier now than I have ever been, he said "that may be true for now, but life is eternal" -- implying that we can't eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and will suffer. When I don't consider myself eating,drinking and being merry. Not as I support others in their Mormonism, do a calling at church that helps all, agree for our family to pay tithing on my wife's income, sit outside the steps of the temple while supporting my daughter's temple wedding, and give hours to serving humanity outside the church.

Anyway, there was more, but I got quiet, and didn't enjoy his company for a few hours. LIke I just wanted to leave and go home. Eventually, as I steered clear of gospel topics, the friendship and fun restored, and at the end, I didn't want to go home again. It was partly the beauty of the area of the world I was in that did it. But also his companionship.

My conclusion -- it really is best NOT to share your unorthodox ideas with people who are traditional believers. They are completely committed to what they have been taught. Or, if you will, closed minded. There can be a lot of judgmentalism and outright lack of charity in their comments as well -- things that destroy relationships. And it wears down their happiness.

Like two stones that grind against each other until there is nothing left but powder.

Keep the two stones apart, they can form a foundation on which other structures can be built.

So, that was a life lesson from my vacation this week...one that I accept as tentative truth until life teaches me otherwise.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- 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."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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dande48
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by dande48 » 05 Jul 2018, 10:09

SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 08:38
So, I told him I'd like to share it but I'm concerned about offending him -- to which he replied "then you better be careful how you say it".
That would've given me cause enough to shut up right then and there.

But I agree, the vast majority of the time, these responses...
1. Basically called me to repentance again.
2. Told me that if I don't enjoy church, it's my own fault. I've had it with that one -- the tendency to relieve the church and its leadership of ALL responsibility for structure that improves the experience of being a Mormon.
3. That I've basically invented reasons so I don't have to live it.
4. Had this air that he knows more than I do.
5. That I can't just pick and choose one commandment and ignore all the others.
6. That my attitudes toward the church wear him down.
... are what you're going to hear. At least that's been my experience, 95% of the time.

As for,
SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 08:38
"When I explained to him that I am happier now than I have ever been, he said "that may be true for now, but life is eternal"
Mormon 9:14 wrote:And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them... He that is happy shall be happy still.
I've found that there are some people with whom it is helpful to be open with to varying degrees. But when in doubt, I always try to focus on common ground. There are some people you can healthily discuss and debate differences, but that is not most people.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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DarkJedi
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by DarkJedi » 05 Jul 2018, 11:34

I pretty much agree. Even if they ask, don't share because they don't really want to know. I sometimes struggle with how to nicely and respectfully respond to the question, though.
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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Heber13
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by Heber13 » 05 Jul 2018, 11:42

dande48 wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 10:09
when in doubt, I always try to focus on common ground. There are some people you can healthily discuss and debate differences, but that is not most people.
This is wise advice.

I also find asking questions to get them to talk, rather than offering up the feelings inside me that are precious and fragile to me, works better. So I can listen to their thinking.

I don't expect others to agree with me on nuanced interpretations.

What is the desired outcome for having the Convo with traditional believers? Certainly nothing they say is likely to change my views. Nor will I change their views.

In similar fashion, when I find someone else with an opposing political view to mine...I'd rather change the subject than get into it. Because you're talking about beliefs and opinions, not facts and truths that can be proven.

If it feels emotional...tread carefully, and only with those you can trust can be nice to you...not call you to repentance.
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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SilentDawning
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by SilentDawning » 05 Jul 2018, 12:13

I think he's ticked me off enough that I won't go down that line of conversation anymore. There is also a double standard. He's allowed to take pot shots at unorthodox believers. But the unorthodox believer, recovering from various kinds of church mistakes and "abuse", now in a happy place, isn't allowed to say anything that can be construed as negative about the church. And the scriptures support it saying "The wicked take the truth to be hard" or other scriptures that encourage speaking out against people who lack the desired standard level of belief.

But I value the relationship -- one of the few people in the world I can call and invite on a hiking or waterborne expedition in the wilderness at my age -- and with whom there is genuine friendship. So, with how I felt like simply distancing myself from him after his rather judgmental preaching session, I realize the relationship is at risk -- at my end -- if I keep up with answering his questions.

The other thing that got me is how he is quick to suggest name removal. This is even though I mention that a) my marriage is at stake b) my encouragement of the rest of my family is at stake and c) the contributions I currently make in our Ward -- ministering, calling -- are also at stake. As well as my own personal salvation since I emphasize my own agnosticism, and willingness to change if I have my own Road to Damascus experience at some point. He doesn't seem to think any of that matters -- his black and white approach to the gospel and belief is such that if I don't believe it, I should have my name removed. And this is AFTER I explain the consequences and lost benefits with which I started this paragraph.

It goes to show how the gospel, in the 'hands' of some people, in spite of its many virtues, can also morph character into a very hard-edged approach to life that is not compassionate. Or in my view, even wise, or eternally perspective-taking. In fact, not even charitable.

I like our open-minded approach here much better as it encourages acceptance of a wider range of belief. It's also more charitable than the thinking that accompanies black and white thinking.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- 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."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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dande48
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by dande48 » 05 Jul 2018, 12:33

SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 12:13
He doesn't seem to think any of that matters -- his black and white approach to the gospel and belief is such that if I don't believe it, I should have my name removed. And this is AFTER I explain the consequences and lost benefits with which I started this paragraph.
I think most members have this black & white mentality. Which is why so many people do end up having their name removed. The whole "Stay LDS" mentality is very strange from the traditionalist perspective. Each one of us, on some level, has reached the conclusion that the Church isn't "true" on some level or another (whether doctrinal, with policy, revelation, or leadership). Yet, for a variety of different reasons, we all have some desire to stay.

It's also kind of funny, how he's trying to use his religious beliefs to guide an "unbeliever". Sure, a believer might think it's a moral obligation to remove your name once you no longer believe the "Church", etc is true. But once your belief is gone, so is the moral imperative. The Church is no longer black and white, good or evil. It's a complicated mess, that gives a lot of people hope and comfort, and tries to help them live happier lives. Whether you stay or go, that's your call. But for most of us, it's a cost/benefit analysis, and not a black or white adherence to the "right" team.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by Heber13 » 05 Jul 2018, 12:58

dande48 wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 12:33
The whole "Stay LDS" mentality is very strange from the traditionalist perspective. Each one of us, on some level, has reached the conclusion that the Church isn't "true" on some level or another (whether doctrinal, with policy, revelation, or leadership). Yet, for a variety of different reasons, we all have some desire to stay.
Exactly!

And I remember (not long ago) being one of those people. I did not see myself as "uncharitable" because I did not see how my views were sounding to someone with a different perspective. I simply thought I was being very loving by telling them what I thought they needed to hear. Silly me.

Now that my views change, I need to remember that same thing.
dande48 wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 12:33
The whole "Stay LDS" mentality is very strange from the traditionalist perspective. Each one of us, on some level, has reached the conclusion that the Church isn't "true" on some level or another (whether doctrinal, with policy, revelation, or leadership). Yet, for a variety of different reasons, we all have some desire to stay.
It's why I'm glad to have all you in this group to talk about these things with.
SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 12:13
I like our open-minded approach here much better as it encourages acceptance of a wider range of belief. It's also more charitable than the thinking that accompanies black and white thinking.
Agree. But also...remember...your friend doesn't see it that way at all. I can tell by the way you said he said things like...
SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 08:38
3. That I've basically invented reasons so I don't have to live it.
...
5. That I can't just pick and choose one commandment and ignore all the others.
That isn't how you think, is it SD? So...he is obviously not at-one with you on this topic. He isn't grasping it. Perhaps he can't allow himself to without losing something dear to him.

I guess when I decide to talk to others, I must check my behavior and thinking, to make sure I'm not involved in stage 3 turf wars, on the same level of thinking others have who sound uncharitable to me, just on the other side of the fence, as you said...
SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 08:38
4. Had this air that he knows more than I do.
I prefer to think..."he knows as little as I do about such mystical things we all hope to believe in." And unless he is asking with intent to hear, I don't intend to change his mind with my ideas that won't matter and may only rile up my emotions. I'll pass. And perhaps talk to him about what he thinks about LeBron going to the Lakers.
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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SilentDawning
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by SilentDawning » 05 Jul 2018, 13:31

Good points -- Ray tends to rely heavily (and rightly) on the notion that we all have different perspectives, so opinions and positions need to be assessed from those perspectives. The fact that Heber13 recognizes my friend simply doesn't see it that way is at the root of it. Still is kind of jarring, though.

I do think black and white thinking is a curse in many situations. I suppose there are circumstances when it is appropriate, when there truly are only two choices, but in areas where the water is murky, or choices lie in a continuum, it is very limiting -- and comforting to the person on the white side of the thinking.

One thing I found amusing is that he was pretty black and white on commandments like tithing, temple, etcetera. But when I spoke about refusing callings, he was largely in agreement. He has been very discrimminating when he's been asked to take callings that inconvenience him, and has said "no" in the past. Doesn't subscribe to "never say no to a calling". So, although that's not a commandment, but a cultural norm, he does pick and choose to some extent. Same with programs in the church -- he was doing ministering years before the HT concept was changed in favor of that principle -- like inviting all his families over for a BBQ and considering that home teaching.

Still heavy on the basic commandments that broach TR worthiness, but not on the others.

Also interesting was his admission that the idea of being a divine being with the burden of creating worlds for eternity wasn't all that appealing to him. He's not ambitious. It had me wondering, is the celestial kingdom for everyone anyway?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- 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."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by nibbler » 05 Jul 2018, 13:49

SilentDawning wrote:
05 Jul 2018, 08:38
So, I told him I'd like to share it but I'm concerned about offending him -- to which he replied "then you better be careful how you say it".
To me that response would be a huge red flag that tells me someone isn't ready to discuss nuance. Someone that has thin skin when it comes to being critical of anything when it comes to the church. It's best not to even have the conversation, unless you keep it to things that will preserve their egos.

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SilentDawning
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Re: My Tentative Conclusion about gospel convos with Traditional Believers

Post by SilentDawning » 05 Jul 2018, 14:34

You are right Nibbler -- I shouldn't have taken the bait. I felt comfortable enough with him and also with myself to be open about it. In retrospect, it was a mistake.

I also want to share another indication of what too much "faithful faithfulness" can do to you, however. Not that it's BAD to be a faithful Mormon, but that unchecked, it can actually morph your behavior into something unChristlike.

At one point, I asked him for his opinion on something. While I was on vacation (a significant plane ride away from me), a relative died. She was young, and it was accidental and tragic -- a teenager. Two hours away, but happened about a day before I left for America again. To stay for the funeral would have meant extending my flight and an additional family member, accommodation, car rental, being severely backed up in my work when I returned, and more expense after already connecting with the family the day before. While I wanted to comfort the family, I am remote enough from the situation that my presence would not have been critical, particularly since there were other things I could do to show sympathy, give condolences, and support. Plus, it was on my wife's side of the family and SHE was leaving work to fly up for the funeral for several days upon hearing the bad news.

I asked my friend "What do you think is my moral obligation to show my respects in this situation?".

His response floored me... "Now that you are an agnostic Mormon, why does that question matter???".

Let me repeat that:

His response floored me... "Now that you are an agnostic Mormon, why does that question matter???".

To me, his question meant that since I am an agnostic Mormon, acting in moral, ethical ways wasn't necessary. I might as well live my life as a heathen, in sin, as the outcome would be the same whether I showed ethical and moral behavior or not in this life. His statement also implied that I personally don't matter from an eternal perspective. At its core was a kind of spiritual arrogance.

I explained the concept of virtue ethics. That it is based on personal moral character, independent of any religion. And that it was important to me to leave the situation having felt I did the right thing -- for the sake of my own self-respect, character, and for the impact my decision might have on others.

I left that part of the conversation wondering what he would do if he finds out the church is NOT true at some point? Reckless abandon? Unbridled sin? If he can ask that question of me, can't he ask that question of himself? Is it really "perfection of character" if as soon as you remove a specific religious commitment from your philosophy, there is no obligation to be "good"?

It struck me how incredibly important it is to be self-directed in your motives for moral choices, whether an active member of the church or not.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- 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."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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