Typical yet lengthy story

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marty
Posts: 71
Joined: 10 Sep 2015, 15:22

Typical yet lengthy story

Post by marty » 10 Sep 2015, 16:56

I've been working on writing out some of my thoughts (not related to this forum). Thought I'd just post it here, even though it is really long. This focuses on the core issues regarding my belief rather than itemizing the many individual issues I struggle with.

The tl;dr version is basically this: Through studying history, I realized that prophets are fallible, but the Spirit has been unreliable and/or confusing in my life -- this has led me to a place where I won't give blanket trust to any men (or women), regardless of calling, yet I lack trust in the Spirit to know what to believe and what not to believe. For now, trying to make it work in the Church with my wife and three small children.

In other words, a typical story.

-----

The Long Version

When a child is young, faith is given freely --- channeled through the adults to whom they are emotionally connected. There is very little requirement for this faith, hence a child’s naive belief in fantastic stories of mythical beings, magical occurrences, and the like. Each religion lauds and admires the faith of its young adherents, while simultaneously discounting the childhood beliefs of other faiths. In fact, this principle is the basis of evangelism: help people recognize the incorrect indoctrination of their youth, and change their faith to the one true belief.

I was certainly no different. As a child, I approached faith with complete devotion and trust. When I went to church, I learned many stories about Jesus healing blind people, and I also learned that when a person has enough faith, God has no choice but to honor their faithful request, even including moving mountains. I didn’t doubt that this was true, and ‘knew’ that God felt the same way about me.

When I entered the first grade, my parents realized that I had poor eyesight, and I had to wear glasses. I hated glasses, and I hated not being able to see. After contemplating it for weeks, I laid in bed one night preparing to ask God to heal my eyes. I mustered all the faith I had, said a sincere prayer, and then closed my eyes for a few seconds. When I opened my eyes slowly and in great anticipation, I was disappointed to find that my eyes remained as bad as ever. I repeated this process over the coming weeks, but eventually stopped, recognizing that I clearly did not have the faith required to “force” God’s hand to perform this miracle for me.

When it came time to be baptized, the most anticipated part of my baptism day was to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I felt so happy and clean after being baptized, knowing that my many sins were washed away, and I couldn’t wait to experience what it felt like for the Holy Ghost to fill my body and soul. When my dad said the words “receive the Holy Ghost”, I waited anxiously, but didn’t feel or recognize any distinct feeling. I wondered why this was the case, and pondered on it for a year or two afterwards, but I was already feeling happy, and I ‘knew’ the Holy Ghost would show up when I needed him most.

A year or two later, I kneeled in sincere prayer to ask God if the Book of Mormon was true. I didn’t doubt it was true, but felt like I should take this important step and get my own strong testimony of it, like everybody else had. I knelt and asked God sincerely about the Book of Mormon and waited. Again, I didn’t get any distinct feeling or prompting that I felt like warranted a spiritual manifestation, so I assumed I was either feeling the Spirit already and didn’t know it, or that I must already know it was true, and thus God didn’t need to have the Spirit testify again.

As an 18-year-old preparing to serve a mission, I had a chance to take a Book of Mormon tour through Guatemala with my best friend, whose dad organized and held tours in Central America to visit some possible sites for Book of Mormon cities. My mom and dad also attended for the first several days, after which it was just fathers and sons traveling around Guatemala in sketchy trucks and buses.

This experience proved to be a very galvanizing and powerful experience for me, as I walked where Nephi and Alma walked, and could connect the stories from the book with the actual locations where they happened. I knew at the time that these sites were not guaranteed to be the actual Book of Mormon sites, but I felt a powerful feeling more distinct than anything I’d felt before that I interpreted as a spiritual witness that we were visiting real and actual Book of Mormon sites. I’d felt a similar rush of good feelings during inspirational EFY talks, great uplifting church music, and occasionally during General Conference or Church. But these feelings were even stronger. On a few occasions, I was moved to tears -- feeling incredibly appreciative that I could stand on holy ground.

Later in life, I would experience great confusion to learn that these Mayan cities we visited weren’t Hebrew in origin at all, but rather shown through DNA and archaeology to be Asian migrants that arrived in the Promised Land 16,000 years ago by migrating across the Bering Strait. Even Mormon archaeologists agree with this assessment and agree that Lehi’s band arrived in the Promised Land only to find it already well-populated. I’d always been taught that the Native Americans throughout North and South America were the direct descendants of Lehi… but suddenly in an instant Lehi’s seed vanished, diluted and intermixed to the point of being unidentifiable.

This obviously challenged my long-held beliefs, but even more so it challenged my own trust in my ability to discern truth through the Spirit. Why did I feel so powerfully when I visited these sites? Were those feelings I felt in Guatemala truly the Spirit, and the thousands of scientists with millions of data points are wrong? Or was I just feeling happy to be traveling the world with my dad? Or did I just want to believe so badly that my mind created these feelings? What does it mean for other times I’d felt those same feelings of peace and happiness? What about all the times God seemed to be silent when I felt like I needed him?

It wasn’t until later in life that I found myself in a place where I could be honest with myself about the fact that the method I’d been given for discerning truth didn’t have the consistency or reliability I needed. I’d spent years blaming myself; feeling guilt, shame, and inadequacy for my inability to wrangle this seemingly awesome power. In reality, when I observed the working of God and the Spirit in my own life and others, I observed that others seemed to have the same experience of inconsistency and sometimes confusion that I was having. I wasn’t the only person who had asked God important questions without receiving an answer. On the flip side, sometimes God would give people answers or direction in a powerful way only after great effort and sacrifice, and sometimes God gave freely without even being asked. People reported feeling strong spiritual manifestations over things that ultimately turned out to be false. People would feel the same amazing Spirit that would lead them into a suicidal death cult. People would receive blessing of healing only to die a short time later, and people would be given blessings that they would die, only to recover and move on with life.

The standard answers to these problems felt wholly inadequate and only led to other impossible questions, primarily around why God would make this critical element of our spirituality so subtle as to confuse or be inaccessible to most of his children.

There was a second issue that greatly complicated matters. Through studying Church history, it became very clear that the Church is and has always been led by fallible men. Fallible men can be wrong, even when they feel like they are being led by God. That goes for Nephi all the way to Thomas S Monson. Growing up, I learned that God would never let his prophets lead people astray, but suddenly I was confronted with numerous examples of prophets and apostles being on the wrong side of a number of issues. I don’t mind following a fallible prophet, but that suddenly placed a huge responsibility on me for discerning truth from error, rather than just following blindly.

When I combined the complicated Church history with an unreliable system for discerning truth, I quickly realized that I was far out of my depth. It was as if I saw everything in and about the Church with different, more hostile eyes, but lacked the ability to really control or make sense of what I saw. Questions started piling up, about polygamy, masonry, scrying, translations, steel, horses, and more -- and nothing seemed to have a decent answer. Apologists work hard to stretch the facts to a place where they could be true, but that’s a low bar that often didn’t translate for me into believability. Yes, it could be true if the stars all aligned perfectly, but it seems highly unlikely.

One day, I finally admitted to myself that I simply don’t believe many of the core stories and beliefs of the Mormon faith any more. That’s a jarring statement for many, but it’s not coming from a place of rebelliousness or anger. It’s simply an authentic assessment of what’s actually there. When I weigh all the historical & scientific evidence with the spiritual evidence… when I study it out in my heart and in my mind, there are many things I just can’t believe. Does this prove anything? Not at all. Is my mind firmly made up? Not at all. I’m sure there will be scientific evidence as well as spiritual experiences in my future that will continue to shape my beliefs.

What do I believe? Honestly, not much. But where the doors of belief have closed, I’ve found other doors open that are filled with mystery and wonder. Statistically speaking, the odds that I would come into existence and be typing on this computer right now are effectively zero. Some thing or force set this universe in motion, and I find a deep sense of wonder in that idea, regardless of whether the creative force has fingers or toes. I do feel like there is some sort of cosmic connection (the Spirit) that we all share, and there are a number of experiences in my life where I’ve witnessed myself or others being guided or shaped by this force in a beautiful way. Even though I don’t feel like I have any control or access to the way it moves in my life, I want to remain open to the idea that there’s something there. So, I think I’ve settled more comfortably into a more abstract and mysterious view of things.

I did go through a period of anger where I felt betrayed. I felt betrayed by my parents and by my Church leaders. For the most part, that anger has subsided as I realized that they were just doing the best they knew how with the information they have. Yes, there’s been whitewashing, but I don’t know if I can really blame leaders, or suggest that I would have done otherwise. Plus, I’ve realized that don’t have to believe whitewashed versions of things - just like I don’t have to agree with or follow political advice from the brethren -- just like I don’t have to believe that God wanted Joseph Smith to marry other men’s wives. And I can approach that position without anger and frustration or condescension towards people who do believe that way.

My personal revelations around faith have been a huge trial for my believing wife. Like most LDS women, she thought she married a righteous priesthood holder that would walk side-by-side with her to the Celestial Kingdom. She feels that crumbling around her, and she feels depressed and alone. She looks at me like an alien from another planet - still not sure about what I really am. I didn’t take her on my faith journey, so it also feels very sudden to her, which has made it difficult if not impossible to maintain trust in me. Also, I’ve made some very serious missteps in sharing our private conversations that caused her a lot of hurt and distrust.

Additionally, we have small children, which naturally raises a host of questions in her mind about how they will be raised, and whether our kids will be in a position where they have to choose between Mom and Dad.

As for me -- I think my wife is fantastic, as a believer or not. I want my kids to grow up as free-thinking authentic individuals committed to bringing good into the world - beyond that, I’m pretty open. I’m fighting for my marriage, but trying to also acknowledge that my wife may realize that her needs dictate that she divorce me and remarry a righteous priesthood holder. On the flip side, I’m not interested in building a marriage where I feel like a second-class citizen, a charity case, or where I’m looked down upon. Fortunately, I feel like this whole thing has actually built our marriage incredibly, even though we are both experiencing moments with what feels like negative results.

For now, I’m remaining active in the Church. I’ve told my wife that my activity may not last forever, but for now it feels important, and I’m working to see the beauty in Church activity and not approach things with unrealistic expectations.

I'm glad this place exists. I look forward to getting to know people better.

Minyan Man
Posts: 1999
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by Minyan Man » 10 Sep 2015, 19:46

marty, welcome to the "group". Your introduction is thorough and very similar to others on this site.
You said:
I did go through a period of anger where I felt betrayed. I felt betrayed by my parents and by my Church leaders. For the most part, that anger has subsided as I realized that they were just doing the best they knew how with the information they have.
I personally went through a lot of anger. (Not for the same reasons.) I called it: righteous indignation.
It continued for many, many years. It hurt no one, except me. Focus on the things you like about the Church & the gospel.
Try to build from there.

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DarkJedi
Posts: 7315
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by DarkJedi » 10 Sep 2015, 20:55

Welcome. Most of us here can relate to your thoughts and feelings on some level. I'm glad you found us and glad you wrote a detailed introduction. It's interesting to me that these feelings go so far back into your childhood, but I was a convert as a young adult so could not have experienced that. I haven't actually encountered anyone else who has talked about these things happening at such a young age, but it seems age matters little. I specifically relate to your mistrust of feelings and can describe experiences very similar to yours where I had really strong impressions that I believed wholeheartedly were the Spirit only to later discover they probably were not - and the ensuing confusion was devastating. Like MM, my anger stage lasted a long time. My first step in coming out of my crisis was the recognition that all of this couldn't have just happened, that there had to be some force behind it and have only more recently come to terms with the idea that this being (or whatever it is) could possibly actually be without body, parts or passion - although I don't know that. Truth is, I know very little and the more I learn the less I seem to know.

Don't be a stranger, come back and poke in the corners, and throw your two cents in. We're glad to have you.
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."

My Introduction

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LookingHard
Posts: 2950
Joined: 20 Oct 2014, 12:11

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by LookingHard » 11 Sep 2015, 08:44

Wow. I could have written that! Welcome


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On Own Now
Posts: 1774
Joined: 18 Jan 2012, 12:45

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by On Own Now » 11 Sep 2015, 09:44

marty,

Welcome to this site. I look forward to hearing more from you. As this site continues to grow, it is refreshing to welcome new people and new perspectives. At the same time, of course, I feel for you. It's a difficult thing you are experiencing. I hope we can help. I hope you can help us.

I think it's a very good attitude that you expressed about getting past anger and not blaming the Church, its leaders, your parents for the whitewashing. This can be a valid and significant struggle. But I think it's healthy to recognize that that is the way they see it. From their perspective, it makes sense. I don't believe there is any malice or deceit intended. I find it helpful to recognize that, because it make it easier for me not to judge and easier to forgive and move forward.

I, too, have a believing spouse. What I always say here is that I constantly keep in mind that I'm the one who changed, not her, so I shoulder a responsibility for patience and compromise. There are a number of threads on the topic of the believing spouse. It seems to me that you've got a good start, but this is a great community for exploring these concerns. Here's a snippet from one of my comments on an earlier thread, written to a woman with a believing husband, so I'll adapt for you:
On Own Now wrote:When I first started to express to my wife that I was no longer a believer, there was worry and concern. For me, I felt pretty devastated, set adrift, confused, lost. I didn't know where life would take me. I didn't know what to do with myself. That was my side of it. It turned out that my wife also had a side. It was that she felt sad for me, devastated, confused, she didn't know where life would take her. She didn't know what to do with me. She didn't know if I was going to start to become an alcoholic, stop spending time at home, get tattoos on my forehead, quit my career and become a drifter, become an angry person, become anti-mormon, have an affair, etc. At the time, I kind of felt like, "of course I'm not going to do that", but now that I look back, I realize that all those things were potentially on the table, because I was experiencing a sea-change about my own self-identity. Well, not the affair, and maybe not the forehead, but everything else was a possibility. It was an uncertain time for me, and it was also, differently but just as intensely, an uncertain time for her... I suggest... getting serious and reassuring your [wife] that you are still the same person that [she] married and that while your faith is changing, that your core is not. You still want to be a good person, you still want to have a full life together, and that more than anything else, you love your [wife], and need [her] more now that ever.
- - -
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
- - -
"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
- - -

Ann
Posts: 2576
Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by Ann » 11 Sep 2015, 10:02

Hi, marty- I'm glad you're here. :wave: So many of us are in similar marriages. Long story short, things have gotten better since the initial shift/disclosure, but we had to tread very lightly in the beginning. OON's thoughts on the subject are great.

Looking forward to hearing more from you, especially since you're on the younger end of the spectrum here. Please stay!
"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

marty
Posts: 71
Joined: 10 Sep 2015, 15:22

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by marty » 11 Sep 2015, 11:29

Thanks everyone. I loved this comment:
I'm the one who changed, not her, so I shoulder a responsibility for patience and compromise

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Heber13
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Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
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Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by Heber13 » 11 Sep 2015, 11:58

Glad you're here and shared your story.

One thing I found very helpful for me was to see others say it can be survived, and you can work your way through it, like others have.

That doesn't make your story (although similar) less powerful. We all learn from each other.

I look forward to learning more from your posts.
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
Posts: 7348
Joined: 09 May 2010, 19:55

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Sep 2015, 18:07

Great job of explaining your situation. Very eloquent. I am of the 'be as active as I need to be in order to keep your marriage whole'. Do it out of love for your wife. Look at it as the price of your marriage. .....

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"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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SunbeltRed
Posts: 349
Joined: 20 Jun 2014, 11:07

Re: Typical yet lengthy story

Post by SunbeltRed » 16 Sep 2015, 12:53

Welcome!

Epistomology has always been an issue for me as I was also someone who never felt like I received answer to prayers. The transition is tough, this place was so amazing as I started to explore my faith in ways that I hadn't in the past.

I am also moved by the vasteness of our know universe and the infentesimal likelihood that we should exist and what that may or may not imply (I'm pretty agnostic and feel very similar to Einstein in my belief about God).

Glad you found the group.

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