My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

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mackay11
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My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by mackay11 » 24 Mar 2014, 00:39

**Sorry, this is long. Skip if you like. It's my 'where I'm at' letter to family and friends. I'm sending it to my Mum this morning. And yes, my name is really Gideon. You can call me Gideon if you like, but I'll always feel like Mackay on here.**

For several months, there have been two things that I’ve been afraid of missing out on if leaders at church discovered the ‘real me’ and took away my temple recommend. I have wanted to go through an endowment session with the new film and I’ve been looking forward to attending my sister and brother in law’s temple sealing.

Today I got to do both and now I feel a freedom to be completely authentic. The things that matter most to me are mine to cherish. The church can’t take those from me. I’m not afraid anymore.

I went through an endowment session for the first time in over two years. I have long-loved the temple experience and the time living in China made attendance difficult.

The endowment I experienced yesterday represented the positive changes the church is trying to make while also being limited in the extent it can evolve by its heritage and written texts.

The endowment session today was bitter-sweet. It was bitter because the script was unchanged. The same process, covenants and symbols are kept. Eve retains the same subservience and silence in later parts of the story as previous films. For my wonderfully independent and intelligent wife, daughter and mother this suddenly, perhaps for the first time, upset me. I choked up and wiped tears from my eyes a couple of times at the implicit message the endowment script gives to the women of the church. I hope that one day it is changed.

If the endowment were written today I don’t believe it would be included. Brigham Young once said, “When God speaks to the people, he does it in a manner to suit their circumstances and capacities… I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings.” There are still things taught in our church today that don’t “suit our circumstances” and are stuck in the past.

That’s the church’s challenge. We can’t simply throw our passed texts and leaders away wholesale. They are our origins and foundation. As much as I would welcome it, fast change would be too unsettling for too many people. My desire for change does not extend to the disregard for the spiritual welfare of my friends. Change, unfortunately, has to be slow, to be accepted.

But change is happening and visible. Today’s endowment session represented that and it was ‘sweet.’ One of the couples in the prayer circle was mixed race. Less than 60 years ago, the First Presidency would have called their marriage “repugnant” and against the Church doctrine. The session officiator, who at times represents God and a priesthood leader, was black. Only 36 years ago he wouldn’t have been in the temple at all.

Beyond the participants, the portrayal of Eve is perhaps a self-contained analogy of the church’s attempt to move forward and give women a more positive part in the church. With no change in her words, a different message was conveyed. Eve was an empowered and an active participant in choosing the elevation of mortality’s opportunities and progressing out of Eden’s limitations. More could have been changed, and I hope it will one day, to have put her on an equal footing to Adam. Baby steps will become giant leaps when we look with hindsight in the future.

Despite the appreciated evidence of change I also went with a desire to reach a resolution. As I sat through the endowment, and aware that I would see my sister sealed later in the day, I felt a deep peace. I have felt a growing disengagement with the church structural organisation and instead a desire to have a more meaningful connection with people I care about and with God. During the ordinance, I considered how the endowment is symbolically an upward trajectory.

In a 1977 devotional, Ezra Taft Benson lists the covenants made in the temple as: “the law of obedience and sacrifice, the law of the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration.” (As an aside: I actively disagree with the politics in the speech, but appreciate the open reference to temple covenants that are otherwise kept excessively secret).

I was speaking to a missionary earlier this week. He said that every lesson their president teaches revolves around obedience. I suggested that God was not really interested in obedient children and far more interested in optimal children. Obedience is a way of establishing good habits which, in turn, create strong character. Obedience isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. The same could be said in the temple. We start with obedience but progress towards accepting the law of consecration, even if we don’t currently live it, and in doing so commit to “building up the kingdom of God and establishing Zion on the earth” (see here and here).

During the endowment I felt a growing ability and willingness to serve the God I believe by serving other people. As an April 1993 New Era article taught, “…the temple reminds us of the person we ought to be.” I feel I am becoming the person God wants me to be. I also felt a genuine peace with the decision to not look to a human intermediary for finding ways to do that. I appreciate what religious leaders and thinkers can teach me, but I don’t want to be dependent on them. Ultimately, the endowment teaches that we can only follow the council of church leaders for a certain time. In the end, at the end, they make way and we commune directly with God, the best source of truth. The pamphlet, Preparing to enter the Holy Temple, suggests that as we progress “toward the veil” in the temple, we are “and enlightened on matters of spiritual importance.” The endowment experience teaches that there are some things that we can only learn from communing directly with God and that answers are not available from other people. It teaches that we need to develop independence.

So where does that leave me? Or lead me? As I moved into the Celestial room I carried with me a resolution and sense of conclusion. For over two years I have described myself as: “unconcluded.” I realised that the endowment session had felt like a conclusion. President Monson was right when he said, in April 2011, “In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.”

I wanted to confirm and apply my conclusion before leaving. I found a chair in the corner of the room and, having spent two years “studying it out in my mind,” sought confirmation. The February 2014 Ensign suggests that, “Once we have studied an issue thoroughly—including the scriptures and the words of our leaders—we can then pray about our decision with confidence that the Lord will guide us.” Regarding this process Elder S. Dilworth Young said, in April 1976, “…according to his wisdom, his word will come into my mind through my thoughts, accompanied by a feeling… which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace.”

Sitting in the chair I offered up a prayer to seek this simple confirmation that my conclusion was acceptable to God. My conclusion may surprise, given the experience I’d just had but is important to me.

As I prayed, the words came naturally, the culmination of hundreds, perhaps even hours of study and consideration. I felt complete peace and spiritual confirmation – a burning in the bosom – as I prayed and expressed the following:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the only true church, but it is a church that contains truth. It is not better than or more superior to other religions but is a good way of working towards greater godliness. Other religious expression is equally valid. The Church is not the kingdom of God on earth but gives us tools and teachings to become a part of the kingdom of God. It is not Zion, but helps us build Zion. It is not the church of the Lamb but is a part of it and helps us be a follower of the Lamb… just as other churches also do.

There have been inspired prophets through the ages who are able to teach with clarity and inspiring words, despite seeing through a glass darkly. I consider Joseph Smith to have been one of them, despite his challenges and natural human limitations.

The leaders today are not teaching or talking “as if God were speaking.” They are well-meaning and often give good advice but their manner of receiving divine guidance is very similar to the sometimes limited inspiration received by the rest of the membership.

Obedience is not the ultimate objective. Becoming our very best selves and helping other become the same is a better one. I do not believe that what we eat and drink, what we wear, what money we pay, which meetings we go to really matter. I believe that what matters most is the way we treat each other. Compassion and charity matter most.

I also believe that all are equal in your eyes: Male and female, black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor, homeless and housed. Unity in and acceptance of diversity are godly virtues.

I recognise that being part of the Mormon community means certain behaviours are an expectation and help the individual be better involved the group. Compassion and consideration should also extend to my friends and acquaintances at church. I won’t actively impose my perspectives but will also be entirely genuine in my own views and beliefs. A balance of respect and authenticity is important. I want to build up, not break down.

This conclusion could lead me further from Mormonism as I work on a more meaningful spirituality. I have never sought to leave the church. That’s not the objective. I am happy to worship in this faith community and have enough friends to feel comfortable doing so. I am uplifted by many of the perspectives and experiences in the LDS faith. At the same time I’m not bound to it. My covenants are with you, God, not with the church. There may be times when a Sunday is better used for other forms of service and spiritual uplift with my family.

My personal spiritual development is not dependent on membership in an earthly organisation but on a willingness to continue pursuing the best and most positive course as it is unveiled to me. While it may result in less frequent attendance at LDS meetings, it isn’t a forgone conclusion. I will go where I feel you want me to go.

For this reason, the church organisation and leaders can’t threaten or take anything of significance. If they now, or in future, choose to take my recommend and or even my membership then I would miss the worship experience found in Mormon holy places, but would still keep the things of most important to me. I retain and respect my commitments to you, to consecrate my time to the best ways to serve you by serving others. My home and family is the best place to start.

I don’t feel confused or deceived or misguided. I feel gently and genuinely guided.

I’m not afraid anymore.”


Throughout this prayer and thought process I felt a constant peace.

Several years ago I experienced a “stupor of thought” during prayer and wondered if I might feel the same mental block when praying about something that some Mormons might consider wrong without even needing to ask. Instead I felt clarity, not confusion.

While praying, I felt the same spiritual witness, or burning in the bosom, as I have felt at other significant times in my life. A prayer of a 10-year-old about the Book of Mormon in 1988, the plea for reconciliation with God and His approval on an Italian mountain top in 2011, the feeling of standing on holy ground in a Buddhist cave temple in Thailand in February 2013 and the change in prophet paradigm on a pagoda overlooking bamboo covered Chinese mountains in July 2013.

I feel complete peace with my conclusions. I feel concluded. I feel able to move on and carry on.

I’m at peace and I’m not afraid any more.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Mar 2014, 01:12

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

I'm grateful we have contributed a little to your peace.
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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SilentDawning
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by SilentDawning » 24 Mar 2014, 05:11

I read it over....

I'm not sure what history you have with everyone in you family, but I wonder what the fallout will be of this. I try to keep these kinds of thoughts to myself only because I don't know how the local membership and leaders will react. Its not so much being a afraid of them, but feeling its more prudent to keep my opinions secret lest I attract something unpleasant from them.

At the same time, I'm glad you're at peace. I'm pretty at peace with my church experience right now too. Now and then there are skirmishes when the leadership puts me on the radar and wants to talk to me. This is a bit stressful because I don't want to limit my future options or say something that will be simplified in a negative way and then shared with the entire stake.

If I didn't get this from what you wrote -- I'm sorry -- but I'm curious about why you wrote it at this time. And how does your immediate family feel about it? (your wife, for example).
"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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mercyngrace
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by mercyngrace » 24 Mar 2014, 05:27

Gideon,

I felt such a sense of peace reading your post. Thank you so much for sharing it here. I share many of your conclusions.

MnG
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. ~ Luke 7:47

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mackay11
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by mackay11 » 24 Mar 2014, 06:31

SilentDawning wrote:I read it over....

I'm not sure what history you have with everyone in you family, but I wonder what the fallout will be of this. I try to keep these kinds of thoughts to myself only because I don't know how the local membership and leaders will react. Its not so much being a afraid of them, but feeling its more prudent to keep my opinions secret lest I attract something unpleasant from them.
I've been exchanging messages and chatting about things with my mother for about a year. She's aware of some of the issues and I have been sharing some of my blog posts. She is very supportive and this won't come as a massive surprise.

I've not actively shared this with anyone else among family/friends but might do if needed, if they want to understand why/what etc.

As for local leaders, I won't go out of my way to share this message either. Again, if they challenge me on certain perspectives/ways of living I'll refer them to it. I suppose until this weekend I'd been a lot more careful about being private about more than otherwise because I didn't want the threat of my recommend being taken away getting in the way my desire to attend the temple.

Now that I've been, I feel a freedom to be more authentically 'me.'
At the same time, I'm glad you're at peace. I'm pretty at peace with my church experience right now too. Now and then there are skirmishes when the leadership puts me on the radar and wants to talk to me. This is a bit stressful because I don't want to limit my future options or say something that will be simplified in a negative way and then shared with the entire stake.

If I didn't get this from what you wrote -- I'm sorry -- but I'm curious about why you wrote it at this time. And how does your immediate family feel about it? (your wife, for example).
My wife is delighted. She's not been to church in over 3 years. She wants me to be happy and authentic. She's seen some of my outbursts and is concerned by the emotional pressure on me and the family. She's also concerned by the fundamentalism at church - especially for the kids. She is happy for me to go to church or not go, whatever helps me be happy.

The one area that I'm probably going to retain a semblance of "face" about is her mother and step-father. They've had a tough 18 months and don't need this at the moment. I suppose on that count I'd rather they didn't see the entire picture, but even there, wouldn't mind if it comes out gradually.

Perhaps the OP wasn't clear. I'm not mailing this out to lots of people - but will share it as the opportunity comes up.

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Orson
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by Orson » 24 Mar 2014, 08:05

Thanks for sharing. If anyone questions the validity of your place in the church they should carefully read President Uchtdorf's talk "Come, Join with Us."
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I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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SilentDawning
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by SilentDawning » 24 Mar 2014, 09:19

Thanks, Gideon, for giving the answers to these questions. I was curious as "coming out" as unorthodox mormon certainly carries risks. It sounds like yours is contained and that you have support of immediate family. That is good.

Where you and I diverge is in how much we would share with local leaders if pressed. In my heart I want to tell them:

a) I feel they take advantage of, or for granted, their hard serving members.
b) Seem to care more about organizational interests than needs of individuals.
c) Seem to define service in ways that limit choice and growth for members
d) Seem to be kind and charitable when one is complying with cultural norms, but will turn on you in a moment if they feel you are being too unorthodox.
e) Weren't there for me in critical periods of my life yet seem to want to show up when they they need something or think I'm not in compliance with church policy (such as attending out-of-boundary wards).
f) Do a terrible job of creating quality programs and experiences on Sunday, yet put it on the backs of the members to just tolerate it out of charity or a sense of duty.

But I can't say those things. It would get boiled down to "he's gone off the deep end" or "he's apostate" or some other label that puts me in a box. So, I say little or nothing. Its sad, but I don't feel I can trust local church leaders any longer. So, although I would love to "come out" as you have to your mother, I guard it closely. I'm glad your outage is contained.
"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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mackay11
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by mackay11 » 24 Mar 2014, 10:34

SilentDawning wrote:Thanks, Gideon, for giving the answers to these questions. I was curious as "coming out" as unorthodox mormon certainly carries risks. It sounds like yours is contained and that you have support of immediate family. That is good.

Where you and I diverge is in how much we would share with local leaders if pressed. In my heart I want to tell them:

a) I feel they take advantage of, or for granted, their hard serving members.
b) Seem to care more about organizational interests than needs of individuals.
c) Seem to define service in ways that limit choice and growth for members
d) Seem to be kind and charitable when one is complying with cultural norms, but will turn on you in a moment if they feel you are being too unorthodox.
e) Weren't there for me in critical periods of my life yet seem to want to show up when they they need something or think I'm not in compliance with church policy (such as attending out-of-boundary wards).
f) Do a terrible job of creating quality programs and experiences on Sunday, yet put it on the backs of the members to just tolerate it out of charity or a sense of duty.

But I can't say those things. It would get boiled down to "he's gone off the deep end" or "he's apostate" or some other label that puts me in a box. So, I say little or nothing. Its sad, but I don't feel I can trust local church leaders any longer. So, although I would love to "come out" as you have to your mother, I guard it closely. I'm glad your outage is contained.
I completely understand because I was in that situation last year. My post was in no way intended as a call to arms. I deeply repect the need to balance situations. I'm sorry you have to keep your feelings "in."

For all the euphoria of being "free" yesterday, I've come back to reality a little today. One of my best friends is the branch president. He's desperate for me to hang in there at church (partly as a friend and also because we're so short on people). I don't want to let him down.

My father-in-law is another dear friend (and very TBM). He's also not well and needs support. For all my bravado, I don't want to hurt him either.

It's not easy is it.

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On Own Now
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by On Own Now » 24 Mar 2014, 11:34

Gideon,

Congratulations on your experience, your enlightenment and your "new life". I loved reading your manifesto. One thing I really appreciated about it is that it is a terrific example of what we often say on this site: focus more on what you DO believe than what you DON'T. As for "bravado" and sharing with others who might not connect with it in a positive way, I'd simply say that it doesn't matter whether you share it or not. This is a beautifully contemplated basis for a spiritual devotion. It only has to belong to you. Share it with whomever you will, but sharing it neither validates it nor compromises it.

Thank you for sharing it with this community.
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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
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"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
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richalger
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Re: My name is Gideon and I'm not afraid anymore

Post by richalger » 24 Mar 2014, 11:58

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It is heartening to me.

Thank you also for the quote from Pres Benson.
mackay11 wrote:In a 1977 devotional, Ezra Taft Benson lists the covenants made in the temple as: “the law of obedience and sacrifice, the law of the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration.”
I had looked for this before.

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