Hi Ann, yes, I feel comfortable talking about my time in inactivity and also the epiphanies in the Temple. I was only inactive for several months sometime around 1998, but to talk about it I have to back up a bit. I got my endowment in the Atlanta Temple in late 1993. Like most people going through for the first time, I really didn't think much of it. Within a few months I was already thinking a lot about things that I'd never pondered on before--like what the world would be in the future. I was not deconstructing yet--at this point I still took the Church's teachings almost completely at face value--but my thinking was a lot deeper than at anytime before getting my endowment. You could say I was becoming mystical in my spiritualism.Ann wrote:Hi, Tom - If you're comfortable, I would love to hear more about both of these things.
So by 1998, when I considered leaving the Church, I was far beyond the level where someone would want to go back and "investigate" any other churches. It was so funny: I remember when the stake president asked me later why in the world would I pick a hell-fire-and-brimstone evangelical mega-church, I had no answer for him. There was nothing they taught that resonated with me. It felt like someone in high school having to go back to kindergarten--the questions and issues they raise in other Christian churches really were distressingly elementary to me. The LDS theological system is so much more sophisticated than theirs. The real reason I went to that church was to have company--just the single adult sunday school classes alone approached the population of an LDS YSA branch!
Epiphany in the Temple: at some point, I began to attend the Temple again. In 2002, I was watching the beginning of the video and I remember thinking that the music sounded a lot like science fiction music. Science fiction as a genre of movie and literature has always provoked a lot of thought in me. So at that very moment, it occurred to me that in the scientific era in which we live, we automatically accept futuristic vision while rejecting or looking down on classical/ancient renderings. When you tell people that Jesus will descend from a staircase in the sky, they naturally scoff at that; but the idea of "First Contact" with extraterrestrials is taken seriously. I am not saying that I thought that Jesus would be coming from another planet, just that I was making that comparison in my mind.
At that very moment, just having held that thought in my mind for a second, I was hit with the greatest realization of anything that I'd experienced up to that point in my life. It was like trying to drink from a fire hose, thoughts were racing through my mind faster than I could stop and think. All sorts of thoughts--like what if the Garden of Eden was not the place as described in Genesis but a vastly more advanced civilization (again I am not saying that is what it is, just that that was what I was thinking at the moment). All sorts of implications of these thoughts, far too many to remember, all going through my mind in the span of maybe five to ten seconds. The whole experience instantly left me exhausted and distracted. I wanted nothing more than to hurry up and get out of the Temple so I could finish thinking about all the implications. It became very difficult to focus on the endowment ceremony. This experience really marked the beginning of my belief, which continues to this day, that it is possible to have revelatory experiences in the form of thought that is far more profound than what we normally experience on a daily basis.