Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by Forgotten_Charity » 10 Jun 2014, 12:49

This probably deserves it's own thread but there is a lot of research about the good and bad of any organized religion.
What what you decide should be based upon what works for you but knowing the good and bad in our church as with any organization or organized church will help. This article stems from millions of people over the decades being consoled and what hurts and helps most people inside of it.
Do you want to believe in God but can’t?

Do you believe in God, but wonder if you’re just fooling yourself?

You are not alone. Yet, you may still have a religious mind.

Religion began long ago, in distant memory. We find ritual objects in burial grounds and altars in prehistoric ruins. The ancients, without TV, a smart phone or Facebook, looked up at the stars every night, and saw meaning in the way the stars and planets moved. They felt their insignificance every day.

Death was easy…and yet life was a great blessing.

How Faith Began:

Fertility gods permeated the Fertile Crescent, from Babylon to Egypt, and beyond. People prayed for a good harvest. It was a matter of life and death. Rain meant the gods came through. Drought meant that they did not. Man, in turn, believed that if he pleased the gods, his belly would be full.

Faith entered history by way of the stomach.
Since ancient times our Western kind of religion has evolved. The Monotheistic faiths started by Abraham (whether mythic or real, he serves as the beginning of a new era), meant that there was one unifying God in the universe, not simply competing deities. Prior to Monotheism, gods where more like supernatural kings, with sovereignty based on location or tribe.

Now, with Monotheism there came a Unified Field Theory of faith - One God for the whole world.

The Church, Synagogue & Mosque:

Institutions rose to represent God and His word. The notion that God gives and God takes remained central, and as shamans evolved to clergy, the fact remains that the Church, Synagogue or Mosque saw its function as helping their flock entice the good from God, and avoid punishment.

The Church oversaw the invention of the hospital and some of the most sublime art and music ever created. It developed a system of faith that facilitated community and an awareness of the oppressed. There would be no Martin Luther King without his Church.
The Synagogue focused pious Jews on God’s word, and the Talmud created a moral and legal code that to this day, stands as a bedrock upon which civilization understands right and wrong.
The Mosque transformed the Middle Ages with its preservation of ancient thinking and with advances in science and the arts. Algebra gets its name from Arabic. And, Rumi’s poetry continues to inspire hundreds of years after his death.
These institutions have earned the right to be taken seriously, even in the modern world.

At their best, organized religion encourages love and community; at their worst, they revert back to tribal animosities, leaning toward my God is better than your God. There is a dark side to organized religion; a very dark side.

Faith Gone Bad:

When children are sexually abused by priests and the Church hides it in order to protect its own self interest, something has gone very wrong. The urge for self preservation comes before justice. This is the cancer of religious institutions. Survival trumps truth.

When a child molester is protected by the leadership of an Hassidic community (or a Jewish University) because of the wish to control what the outside world gets to know, self-preservation, once again trumps justice. This is more common than we would like to think; and it is dark.

And worst of all: When 62 people are killed by gunmen invading a shopping mall in Kenya, claiming God is Great, we are witnessing tribal conflict and a tribal god. No wonder modern people are turned off by religion when they hear about such atrocities in the name of God. Who needs it?

Getting Back to God:

Modern people are often turned off by what they hear about faith. So, let’s take a look at the facts.

Guilt: If you feel guilty sometimes, it probably means that you’re healthy. Guilt is a human experience. Just because a religion claims that you feel guilty because your soul is out of touch with God, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Meaning: The need for meaning is built into our DNA. To quote one of my favorite authors, Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve. — Erich Fromm
Idealization: The tendency to idealize others goes back to our childhood. We idealized our parents at some point; now we tend to idealize actors and celebrities. For centuries people have idealized clergy, who claim a connection to God. In 2013 it's a good idea to idealize carefully. Not everyone deserves it.
Mentors: We all need mentors. The wish to get direction in a confusing world leads us to self help book, Psychology Today and until recently, to organized religion. Clergy are only now beginning to gain the skills necessary to provide professional pastoral counseling.
Tragedy: There are moments in life that are filled with fear. And, we need ways to find solace, strength and a course of action. Divorce, cancer, an unhappy child, unemployment all hurt and who can’t identify with the Psalmist who asks for love in the throes of woe.
Joy: Do you look at the world and find inspiration in a sunset or the sound of a child’s laugh? It’s there, everyday, if you are open to seeing it. You can thank God for your health or your beloved, or you can just be grateful.
Magical Thinking: We all have vestiges of magical thinking in our minds. It comes from child development. It’s the thought that you can influence the Universe or be influenced in some magical way. Example: I didn’t get on that flight that crashed, there must be a reason. Maybe…or maybe not. This need to believe that the Universe is sending messages to you and you to it, has its source in childhood. It’s not a bad thing…it just is.
Ritual: You don't have to have OCD to find ritual compelling. It's inherent in human nature. We have bedtime rituals, graduation rituals, wedding rituals, sporting rituals...and many private rituals. Some are inspired by religion, others by a need for meaning. When religious ritual works, it's one of the great human moments. But, understand that ritual has its wellspring in its humanness. God doesn't need ritual, we do.
Extrasensory Experience: There are those who experience altered states of consciousness that lead them to sensing some knowledge of God. I don’t dismiss this quickly. I just wonder if human beings are capable of out-of-body states, which are then repackaged religiously. In other words, what's interpreted as spiritual, may really be psychological.
Finding Your God:

Religion has a special purpose for human beings; always had and always will. It’s truly meaningful when you own your participation in it, rather than doing it compulsively. The latter is about submitting to power, the former is about joining a great project out of love or respect.

Whatever your background may be, think about individuating from your faith, like a teenager distances from his or her parents. It's a natural part of development to question your upbringing in order to re-embrace it down the line, but this time from a position of maturation.

Or, walk away if it makes no sense. The key is to be active with one’s faith, not passive.

The Religious Mind:

Faith is a dance between the mind, spirit, and experience. As a child psychiatrist, I am intimately aware of the power of the mind and the value of our imagination. Most people think of the imagination as a passive trait, kind of sitting in a person’s skull as they think about painting or art. But, really, it is our interface with the best and the worst of the world.

Imagination opens the door to love. How could we love if we don’t imagine that he or she is special? Or career: our imagination gives us insight into what it might be like to be a teacher or doctor. How can you enjoy a movie if not for imagining that it is somehow real, if only for two hours? What invention—the plane, the car, or the computer—didn’t start with a spark of imagination?

How can we encounter God, if we don’t open up our imagination to the beauty and complexity of sacred scripture and ritual?
Religion at its worst oppresses the mind towards institutions that need followers. It banks on coercion, guilt and the human need for comfort. Religion at its best understands and elevates the human project, by encouraging healthy values, productive guilt, meaningful solace, and a way to express gratitude for the blessings of this life.

You want faith and a religious community? There are four essential admission tickets.

Individuation: The first admission ticket is your individuation. You must approach faith as an adult. Leaders are just people who can—and do—make real mistakes. Embrace your religious community with an appreciation for what they’re trying to do, while remaining critical when required.
Imagination: The second admission ticket is to allow yourself to open up to a richer imagination, without being frightened that you’ll be abandoning your rational self at the same time. Bad religion diminishes the imagination, just telling you what to do and when to do it; or what to think or feel. Great religion sees you as a spiritual being grappling with the complexities of life, including a world in which it’s sometimes tough to perceive a Godly presence.
Text Study: The third admission ticket is taking spiritual texts seriously. Whether you believe sacred literature originates from the Almighty or from Man, approach these timeless texts like they have something important to say to you today. Our ancestors had their problems and fears...and their take on God. You may agree or disagree, but be part of that conversation.
Spiritual Practice: The fourth admission ticket is a spiritual practice. It may be going to services, starting a daily mediation or studying sacred texts with a knowledgeable partner. Allow yourself to experience ritual. Many faiths have rituals that reach deep inside our psyches to provide meaning and healing. Commit freely and without guilt. There is a power to showing up.
Wonder if God exists?

Open yourself up and see what you find.

It’s your unique journey. That’s the way it's suppose to be.
When a organization begins first priority of self preservation... Down the rabbit hole things go. For us it the self preservation began with not wanting certain things disclosed that would hurt its image for self preservation. The fallout is the making of the decision for self preservation and perpetuation. A basic human instinct. Not one of intended malice but with disastrous results none the less.

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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by wornoutsneakers » 10 Jun 2014, 15:03

nibbler wrote: I can sympathize. I compare this period of my life with Jesus' time in the wilderness.
Jesus' period in the wilderness occurred some time after his baptism. My FC was after my baptism and after being truly dedicated to the church.
The spirit "drove" Jesus into the wilderness. I often felt driven towards a FC. Other gospels say that the spirit led him to the wilderness. As strange as it sounds I feel like my FC carried me to a better place... maybe the spirit wanted me to be in the wilderness to similarly learn important lessons.
The rub for me is that Jesus eventually left the wilderness and went back to Galilee:
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee
He started his mortal ministry after returning.
I may be reading far too much into the short narrative but I try to find my path by drawing similarities to Jesus' time in the wilderness. I very much feel like I am in the wilderness but not in a physical sense. It took Jesus 40 days of fasting before he returned and he was perfect; that tells me that the journey will not be easy and it will not be quick. I have to commit to the long haul. What really concerns me is whether I'm 100% satisfied with being in the wilderness (it's not a bad place) or will I make an attempt to return. Can I finally learn the lessons I was meant to learn in the wilderness and take those lessons back to my community to effect change, whatever the cost? I don't know that I could ever do that, but even that is just another doubt to conquer.
From time to time I try to think of Jesus as someone that possibly saw through the orthodoxy of his time and tried to use it as a common language to take his people some place better. If he truly knows how to succor me he must have had to deal with similar doubts in similar circumstances and he must have found a way forward despite them. That's the path I'm searching.
So I'd say take it slow. You don't want to move through the wilderness so fast that you miss the best path forward. The wilderness has important lessons to teach us that can't be rushed.
I want to thank you Nibbler for that awesome explanation. I think i have something new now to read and research so to speak. I have been struggling alot lately and have feared i was out the door. I already knew this about Jesus but never fully considered it lately. I have been in a very dense and dark wilderness of my own lately.

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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by Old-Timer » 10 Jun 2014, 15:16

One of the most profound statements I have heard in my life is the following:
People say they believe what they see. That's not true. People see what they believe.

I see those pictures and there is no way whatsoever I can believe the people are exchanging a temple sign. I simply don't see it. You see them, and you think they might be or that there is a good chance they are. Nothing is different in the pictures; the only difference is what each of us sees. Of course, there are some things that are so clear and unambiguous that any reasonable person would see the same thing as any other reasonable person - but those things are FAR less numerous than most people assume. The vast majority of things are open to individual interpretation, even many things that seem simple to most people. (Watch Fox News and MSNBC reporting about the exact same things, if you doubt that.)

I am not sharing that as a judgment of any kind - but it is important to understand. Your situation (faith crisis / transition) is causing what you see, NOT what actually is happening in the pictures. That is neither good nor bad, in and of itself, but it is important to understand. You have to decide if you want to see that sort of thing in everything around you or if you don't - and if you don't, you have to discover coping mechanisms that will keep it from happening.

What others here are sharing are some common coping mechanisms that have worked for them. Those things might or might not work for you, but, if you want peace to any degree (no matter your ultimate decisions), you have to find ways not to see nefarious things in innocent things - and seeing things that way absolutely is a common result of a faith crisis that isn't addressed / handled proactively and directly.
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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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by jhp33 » 10 Jun 2014, 16:23

Old-Timer wrote: Your situation (faith crisis / transition) is causing what you see, NOT what actually is happening in the pictures.

This is where I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Are you saying that you DON'T see DOM's thumb over (or in between) the knuckles on JFK's hand??

I can understand someone saying they don't think they're making the token, as in they're not doing it intentionally. I can understand someone saying it's innocent, or a coincidence.

But if you can seriously say that you and I are looking at the same photo, and that you think that is a completely, 100% normal handshake and that no one's thumbs are placed on or between anyone's knuckles, then I think I need to check myself into a mental institution.

Frankly, I'm a bit frustrated by the reactions I'm getting here. Usually, this forum is about accepting the conclusions/interpretations that people come to here, because we all know that we can see the same exact things and come to different conclusions.

What I'm hearing repeatedly is that my viewpoint is invalid because I'm not handling my faith crisis correctly and that I'm only seeing what I want to see.

I'm SEEING what I am SEEING. How I am interpreting it is what I can accept might be different from others. But saying DOM's thumb isn't roughly in the same position it would be in the temple is like saying he's not shaking hands with anyone in the picture, he's actually standing on his head. Either that or I've been getting the temple tokens wrong this whole time.

FWIW, tonight I set up an appointment with my bishop for tomorrow to let him know I'm going to be scaling back my activity in the church and I'd like to stop receiving emails from my HP group asking me why I haven't done my home teaching, and I'd like to stop being bombarded by my home teachers even when I've told them I don't want them to visit. I don't want a calling right now. I want to do church on my own terms, not anyone else's.

So I am taking steps to handle my faith crisis. It's not as if I'm spending all of my time Googling conspiracy theories. These were just a few photos I happened to come across that, combined with some stuff I've been reading, sparked me to take some decisive action.

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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by Old-Timer » 10 Jun 2014, 16:54

jhp33, you used the word "clearly" to say that each instance was of two people exchanging temple (Masonic) signs - and, I should add, different signs. I looked at each picture and video, and I looked at who produced them and what those producers said. The sources you cite are hardcore, conspiracy theorists, including at least one extreme anti-Mormon source (a Catholic group dedicated to tying in Jews, Mormons and Masons as involved in a global conspiracy and claiming to have averted the end of the world in 2009). They are looking everywhere for proof that Mormons are emissaries of Satan, so it's no wonder they published the picture of Presidents McKay and Kennedy as proof of a horrible conspiracy.

Yes, I can look at the pictures and videos and see how someone could reach the conclusions you mention - but saying it is "clear" is a case of seeing something for which someone is looking. Each of them easily could be simply handshakes among thousands of handshakes that ended up looking similar to temple signs. After all, we are talking about three instances from multiple thousands of possible instances, over a half-century.

What I'm saying is that there is nothing "clear" and "objective" about it - and that there are differing, reasonable ways to view the question. I'm also saying that, even if you are convinced they were exchanging Masonic signs, you still need to develop a coping mechanism IF you want to StayLDS in a meaningful way. That's all I'm saying.

Finally, this is not an echo chamber of any kind. It is not a place where everyone agrees with each other. We try to be a support group, first and foremost, but part of being a legitimate support group is being honest about when we see things differently than each other. We "call each other on it" quite often in these threads - and there is no consensus about anything we discuss. We try to be caring and accepting, but we also try always to be honest. Those who participate here have to understand that.
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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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by jhp33 » 10 Jun 2014, 17:02

I think perhaps we're speaking past each other, or probably more accurately, I haven't been perfectly clear.

I am very much willing to accept that the conclusions I come to are not absolute and don't represent the only way to view things. In fact, I don't have a conclusion as to what the pictures show. They just seem very odd to me, but I don't really know what they mean.

It has been a very hard few days for me. I'm sorry if I have come across as hostile. And I do very much appreciate you all checking me against reality.

I wish I hadn't brought up the photos at all. They, in relative terms, have very little to do with where I'm at right now, and I feel like that's where the focus has been. That's my fault.

Thanks for your post, Ray. I appreciate you.

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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by Old-Timer » 10 Jun 2014, 17:18

Thanks, jhp33. I know it's not about the pictures - that they simply are another straw.

Having said that, fwiw, when I see the picture of Presidents McKay and Kennedy, I see one man shaking hands with a man whose hands are significantly larger - and the discrepancy in hand sizes creating a shake that looks similar to a Masonic sign (and I think the evidence is overwhelming that JFK was not a Mason). I also have read "charges" that Dick Cheney is a Mason, but I have neither seen nor read anything from a credible source that makes that claim.

I will leave that aspect alone now, since, as you said, it's not the central issue.

As cwald is prone to say, "Peace." :smile:
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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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by On Own Now » 10 Jun 2014, 17:29

Hey jhp33,

No problem with letting something like those photos bug you... the reality is that is probably indicative of your overall view of the Church right now.

One thing I know about myself, is that I tend to become poisoned toward specific topics, and that is more of a detriment to me. For example, right now, and for a couple of months, I've felt 'poisoned' regarding JRHolland. I don't want to hear anything he has to say, I wouldn't walk across the street to shake his hand (even in a masonic handshake). I have very logical reasons for that, but ultimately, I'm the one hurt by the poisoning. JRH has had many good things to say in the past, and I'm sure he will have many good things to say in the future; things I will miss because the next time I see him in GC, I will leave the room. That hurts no one but me.

I had to laugh recently when one of the people here (hi joni) wrote about her deep frustration that we have to stand during rest hymns. It was funny, really, because I have just as much frustration that in my ward we don't stand during rest hymns. We've both been poisoned in opposite ways; but ways that match our circumstances.

I've seen people become poisoned toward aspects of the Church and I've seen people become poisoned toward the whole Church. I believe with all my heart that no good comes from any level of this. I'm not strong enough to avoid it, but I know I would be better off if I could.

It doesn't work this way for everybody or all the time, but I have found a lot of peace by 'gripping' the things I like and 'shaking' off the things I don't. When I'm able, that sure makes life more tolerable.
- - -
“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
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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by DarkJedi » 10 Jun 2014, 17:37

You brought up meeting with your bishop, that's good. Don't be too hard on the guy - he and the HPGL, et al are just doing what the rest of us are doing - trying to walk the path they think they're supposed to be on and make their way through the lone and dreary world.I did what you're about to do before my long period of inactivity. I asked to be released from my calling (GD teacher at the time), said I didn't want a home teaching route, etc. I did want a home teacher, though - just not the one I had. Maybe you could suggest someone who might better fit your needs and desires, perhaps a friend in the ward who won't be judgmental and will just be your friend and not your rescuer? "Scaling back" and doing the church on your terms is fine and may well be the best thing for you right now - but it can also get you lost in the desert. Hungry, helpless and cold is no way to live, I'm just suggesting you don't cut out too much and "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

And, we're here for you. If there was a rescue to be done, it was this site that rescued me, not my local ward/stake.
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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Re: Where I'm at...not sure what to do next

Post by jhp33 » 10 Jun 2014, 17:49

DarkJedi wrote:You brought up meeting with your bishop, that's good. Don't be too hard on the guy
Thanks, DJ. My intentions are actually quite the opposite. I want people to know that it's precisely because I don't want to become a bitter ex-mormon that I'm taking these steps. I love the people in my ward. So much. I know they want the best for me. But a lack of clear communication is exactly what leads to some of the problems I'm facing. Lack of communication causes people to jump to conclusions and assume things. I need it to be crystal clear to the people who are in charge that I'm choosing this and it doesn't mean that I don't love them. It doesn't mean I want to go sin. It doesn't mean I hate the church. It just means I need space from the structure of the church so my head doesn't explode.

I want to go to church. But I want to go when I really want to, not because I have a job to do. I want to go to ward activities and interact with my fellow saints. I want to visit people in the ward I care about and do service, but not because it's my duty. Because I want to.

I know there are a lot of people who are able to do both at the same time, but something in me is fundamentally broken right now that does not allow me to fulfill my duty and do it because I want to at the same time.

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