My Life Seems to Have a Plan

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InquiringMind
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My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by InquiringMind »

Hi everyone. It's been awhile since I've posted here. I've tried a few times to reconstruct a belief in the Church (after my initial faith crisis) and I've tried a few times to come back. I really miss the sense of community, and it's actually quite difficult to find community outside of religion. So far I have not been able to make it work, as I have essentially been a secular atheist and my beliefs have been too far away from mainstream Mormonism.

Some recent events have given me reason to reconsider my secular atheism. I'm not sure what it all means yet, and I still don't know if I will be able to make the Church work for me (as much as I'd like to make it work). But I at least would like to talk about it.

I feel as if my life is following some kind of predetermined plan, a plan that I am not allowed to know about in advance, nor do I have the power to change it. The plan seems to be non-negotiable, meaning that I cannot use my free will to choose a different path in life. The event that brought this to light for me has been a forced change of career direction - not forced by external circumstances, but by some cosmic (or perhaps internal) force that can't be named. Specifically, I am am currently working at NASA as a scientist/engineer, and I had planned to stay there as a scientist/engineer for the rest of my career. But I am getting a very strong sense that I will not be allowed (by this cosmic force) to have a career as a scientist/engineer, and that after my current job appointment is over I need to leave my career as a scientist and go fly airplanes (I am already a private pilot with about 100 hours of flight time).

I am still quite angry about this because I did a lot of work to get my physics education, and being a scientist/engineer is usually a better career than being a pilot. I can become a flight instructor but I don't know what I would do with my pilot credentials after that. But The Universe/God is being very clear with me - my destiny is something other than being a scientist/engineer and the next step in my life is to fly airplanes. Again, this is not a conscious choice on my part, as my own judgment would clearly tell me that staying in science/engineering is a better career move. But I have a sense that I am being pushed by some Higher Power to make the change.

This wouldn't be so strange, except for the fact that this sort of thing has happened in my life several times and in several ways. It's all enough to challenge my secular atheist worldview. There is definitely something more going on in my life than just my own conscious choices, and I'm not quite willing to accept the explanation that this "life plan" is all administered by my unconscious mind, because I think that's giving my unconscious mind too much credit. I'm open to a broader explanation at this point, possibly involving the existence God, and perhaps some kind of pre-mortal agreement or contract about what I am supposed to accomplish in my life.

I've also been reading about near-death experiences and about children who remember past lives, and I find the evidence to be worth considering. I have never liked the idea of reincarnation, but some of the stories that some children tell about past lives they've lived are quite compelling, and the evidence is difficult to dismiss. Some people who have NDEs report that they did indeed make a pre-mortal contract with God about what they would accomplish in their lives. I'm not sure yet how all this fits into Mormonism, because at the institutional level, Mormonism puts a lot of emphasis on our conscious choices, and teaches that our destiny is whatever we choose it to be. It seems like the closest doctrine in Mormonism is foreordination, which does seem similar, though not quite the same.
Roy
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by Roy »

My advice on making major life transitions is the same that has often been preached here at stayLDS. Go Slow and Don't burn bridges and Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

A career change can be similar. I would do my best to explore this new world of flying in addition to my current career. I would endeavor to learn as much as I could about how feasible it would be for me to make a living on. Even after leaving my "day job," I would do everything possible to keep the door open for a possible return after a few years if the pilot career didn't pan out as expected.

Ultimately, you get to decide whatever narrative that you want for this change. Maybe the narrative will help you to gain new courage and a sense of purpose. May you feel inspired and directed in whichever decision you ultimately make.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
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InquiringMind
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

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Roy wrote: 16 Sep 2022, 14:52 Ultimately, you get to decide whatever narrative that you want for this change. Maybe the narrative will help you to gain new courage and a sense of purpose. May you feel inspired and directed in whichever decision you ultimately make.
Thanks Roy. This is a life transition, and going slow is always good advice. I'm a little less concerned about the career specifics, and more concerned about what it means, more broadly. It suggests a somewhat different worldview, one where life is more like being "along for the ride" rather than being self-directed, rather than me making choices and taking responsibility for them. Given that that such transitions seem to push us in a certain life direction (even seemingly against our will) rather than allowing us to make conscious choices, what is the meaning of the idea of "choice and accountability"? That's the part of it that seems strange - the idea that I'm making choices and taking responsibility for those choices seems to be inapplicable here.

And what is the entity that precipitates such transitions? Is it God, by God's own decisions that we can only know after we die? Or is God merely carrying out some previously agreed-upon plan, according to some kind of pre-mortal contract that I signed? Am I in the situation I'm in because God wants me here by His own plan, or because I asked for it to be this way? Or is this all created by my own unconscious mind?

And the issue of a narrative is something I've been thinking about. Since there doesn't seem to be any way to know what the "facts" are in this situation, do I just get to make up whatever narrative I want? Can I really just make something up? In the absence of any better information, it seems that making up a story about what's going in my life, even if the story is probably wrong, is the only option I can see. The thing is that I have been through such things a few times in the past, and I can almost guarantee that whatever narrative I make up will probably be wrong. Many of the narratives I have told myself about what I was doing in my life have turned out to be wrong, often ending in great confusion and disappointment when my narratives fell apart. But since I didn't have better information, that's the best I could do.

This has been a major point of frustration for me. I do want to believe, but there just isn't any definitive information at all about God, so I just end up having to make up whatever I can about God. What is the difference between faith, and just making up whatever I want about God? And how can I avoid the disappointment that I feel when whatever I decided to make up about God and my life turns out to be wrong? This is why I was an atheist for so long. I have not been able to come up with any beliefs about God that don't fall apart very quickly or that don't seem like some completely made-up wishful thinking on my part. I feel like I'm looking for the truth, but the truth just can't be found. It's either hidden away in a place where I can't see it, or it doesn't exist.
Old-Timer
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by Old-Timer »

I love the concept of faith, because it really does mean we have the right to live according to our hopes without feeling compelled to cram knowledge into spaces where it cannot fit. We can choose to live for what we hope will be, and to do so “according to the dictates of our own conscience”.
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
Watcher
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by Watcher »

InquiringMind wrote: 16 Sep 2022, 09:33 Hi everyone. It's been awhile since I've posted here. I've tried a few times to reconstruct a belief in the Church (after my initial faith crisis) and I've tried a few times to come back. I really miss the sense of community, and it's actually quite difficult to find community outside of religion. So far I have not been able to make it work, as I have essentially been a secular atheist and my beliefs have been too far away from mainstream Mormonism.

Some recent events have given me reason to reconsider my secular atheism. I'm not sure what it all means yet, and I still don't know if I will be able to make the Church work for me (as much as I'd like to make it work). But I at least would like to talk about it.

I feel as if my life is following some kind of predetermined plan, a plan that I am not allowed to know about in advance, nor do I have the power to change it. The plan seems to be non-negotiable, meaning that I cannot use my free will to choose a different path in life. The event that brought this to light for me has been a forced change of career direction - not forced by external circumstances, but by some cosmic (or perhaps internal) force that can't be named. Specifically, I am am currently working at NASA as a scientist/engineer, and I had planned to stay there as a scientist/engineer for the rest of my career. But I am getting a very strong sense that I will not be allowed (by this cosmic force) to have a career as a scientist/engineer, and that after my current job appointment is over I need to leave my career as a scientist and go fly airplanes (I am already a private pilot with about 100 hours of flight time).

I am still quite angry about this because I did a lot of work to get my physics education, and being a scientist/engineer is usually a better career than being a pilot. I can become a flight instructor but I don't know what I would do with my pilot credentials after that. But The Universe/God is being very clear with me - my destiny is something other than being a scientist/engineer and the next step in my life is to fly airplanes. Again, this is not a conscious choice on my part, as my own judgment would clearly tell me that staying in science/engineering is a better career move. But I have a sense that I am being pushed by some Higher Power to make the change.

This wouldn't be so strange, except for the fact that this sort of thing has happened in my life several times and in several ways. It's all enough to challenge my secular atheist worldview. There is definitely something more going on in my life than just my own conscious choices, and I'm not quite willing to accept the explanation that this "life plan" is all administered by my unconscious mind, because I think that's giving my unconscious mind too much credit. I'm open to a broader explanation at this point, possibly involving the existence God, and perhaps some kind of pre-mortal agreement or contract about what I am supposed to accomplish in my life.

I've also been reading about near-death experiences and about children who remember past lives, and I find the evidence to be worth considering. I have never liked the idea of reincarnation, but some of the stories that some children tell about past lives they've lived are quite compelling, and the evidence is difficult to dismiss. Some people who have NDEs report that they did indeed make a pre-mortal contract with God about what they would accomplish in their lives. I'm not sure yet how all this fits into Mormonism, because at the institutional level, Mormonism puts a lot of emphasis on our conscious choices, and teaches that our destiny is whatever we choose it to be. It seems like the closest doctrine in Mormonism is foreordination, which does seem similar, though not quite the same.
Greetings InquiringMind: Thank you for your posting. I find many parallels in my life similar to yours. From a young age it seemed to me that too many factors beyond my control had impact in my life. This became most evident during my time in the army during the Vietnam era. My combat orders were suddenly changed while enroot to assignment with my company (186 Engineers) and I was assigned to a military intelligence unit (something I had no prior expertise or interest).

Following this military redirection, I started keeping a journal of notes whenever I encountered these life altering experiences that were outside my control. I would recommend you keep a similar journal of your experiences. I discovered that these anomalies always contributed to something I would need later in my life.

Similar to you my education was math and physics. After college I took employment with a software company and was quickly transferred to the east coast working for the defense department where I was forced into early stages of artificial intelligence. I struggled living on the east coast and looking for a change I went to work in Seattle. I ended up (because of security clearance) working on government contracts. I was put in charge of testing hardware and software. I discovered that the vast majority of testing, of necessity, needed to be at what I called extreme anomality thresholds. I was also the lead design engineer on the project.

Two aspects of my life are a strong relationship to both logic and to the restoration of the church. I have discovered that most (perhaps even a vast majority) of those connected to religion are somewhat resistant to logic – perhaps even somewhat being in opposition to employing logic. I find a lot of resistance to logic on this forum. Often when I refer to something being logical, especially in a religious setting, I find little support. For myself, I cannot understand or relate to anything until I can connect to the logic of it.

I sense that you are also one driven with logic. As you study your own life, I sense that you also expect some logic – including the meaning of life and religious understanding as well as things discovered in science. Perhaps we will exchange more ideas. I would hope so – at least to exchange with someone also trained in logic and reason; especially in dealing with extreme anomality thresholds.
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InquiringMind
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by InquiringMind »

Watcher wrote: 18 Sep 2022, 13:34 I would recommend you keep a similar journal of your experiences. I discovered that these anomalies always contributed to something I would need later in my life.

Two aspects of my life are a strong relationship to both logic and to the restoration of the church. I have discovered that most (perhaps even a vast majority) of those connected to religion are somewhat resistant to logic – perhaps even somewhat being in opposition to employing logic. I find a lot of resistance to logic on this forum. Often when I refer to something being logical, especially in a religious setting, I find little support. For myself, I cannot understand or relate to anything until I can connect to the logic of it.
A journal is a good thing, and I have quite an extensive journal that I've kept for a long time. I also think of those anomalies in my life, and about their meaning, and about whether or not they are supernatural in any way, or whether they are just produced by my own unconscious mind. They do clearly seem to exist in my life, but I can't say for sure where they come from or what they mean. For whatever they are worth and whatever they mean, I can't say that they corroborate any stories about gold plates.

Many of these anomalies (as they might be called) do seem to take the form of manipulation of events - a phone call that was never returned, a sure-bet opportunity that mysteriously fizzled out at the last minute, a sudden change of plans, a door that suddenly closes, a rejection that eventually works out for the best, a surprise opportunity.

At this point I think it would be impossible for me to deny the existence of such events, and I might be willing to believe that there might be some overarching plan, perhaps a Divine plan. But still, I am actually quite unhappy with this plan and have never really been happy with it. I don't have some of the things in life I want most, seemingly because they are not part of the overarching plan. I don't have the free will go out and get the things I want because, as I have said, that isn't the plan, apparently. I don't have a bad life, but it's also not the life I wanted, and it's not a life that I really like all that much. The hope I have at this point is that there is some greater purpose to this, and that I'll have a better life later on because of whatever it is I'm learning right now. Even if it's true that there is a greater purpose to this and that I'll have a better life later on, I am frustrated that I am not given any clear information on what that better life might be.

As for logic, I'm not opposed to faith as a principle, but I am unwilling to believe anything that is obviously wrong or that is clearly contradicted by good evidence. Whatever I believe, it has to make sense on some level, and I'm not willing to engage in a lot of wishful thinking and call it faith. I have gotten myself in trouble in the past when I continued to have "faith" in things that were contradicted by obvious reality, and it didn't end well for me.
Watcher
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

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InquiringMind wrote: 18 Sep 2022, 17:05
A journal is a good thing, and I have quite an extensive journal that I've kept for a long time. I also think of those anomaloies in my life, and about their meaning, and about whether or not they are supernatural in any way, or whether they are just produced by my own unconscious mind. They do clearly seem to exist in my life, but I can't say for sure where they come from or what they mean. For whatever they are worth and whatever they mean, I can't say that they corroborate any stories about gold plates.
Greetings again: Perhaps the thought of a journal was not quiet what I meant – perhaps a logbook would be more in line of what I was thinking. What it is called does not matter. I keep impressions thoughts and a record of what seems important at the time. I kept records of my work and ideas as well. I have always stayed active in the church and I keep records of my thoughts of various doctrines and things learned from callings and experiences. I often surprise myself in how much my thinking and beliefs have evolved over time. I suggest you tailor such things to your liking.
Many of these anomalies (as they might be called) do seem to take the form of manipulation of events - a phone call that was never returned, a sure-bet opportunity that mysteriously fizzled out at the last minute, a sudden change of plans, a door that suddenly closes, a rejection that eventually works out for the best, a surprise opportunity.

At this point I think it would be impossible for me to deny the existence of such events, and I might be willing to believe that there might be some overarching plan, perhaps a Divine plan. But still, I am actually quite unhappy with this plan and have never really been happy with it. I don't have some of the things in life I want most, seemingly because they are not part of the overarching plan. I don't have the free will go out and get the things I want because, as I have said, that isn't the plan, apparently. I don't have a bad life, but it's also not the life I wanted, and it's not a life that I really like all that much. The hope I have at this point is that there is some greater purpose to this, and that I'll have a better life later on because of whatever it is I'm learning right now. Even if it's true that there is a greater purpose to this and that I'll have a better life later on, I am frustrated that I am not given any clear information on what that better life might be.
I realize that I did not complete several thoughts in my previous post. From my experience in creating test scripts and the purpose of testing – I have logically considered that our mortal existence is likely a result of our creation. Things created from a singular source are usually lacking diversity and are more standardized. Things more tailored to specific and unique things are of necessity more diverse. I have also become an advocate of “Agency”. In LDS doctrine agency was the singular point of contention in the pre-existence that cause a war between Satan and G-d that is still going on. Agency is in essence the doctrine that the individual has the power to choose their destiny and purpose. It seems logical to me that if a person intended to learn all concerning compassion that they would design their life to experience the extreme thresholds of compassion. Thus, I have concluded that if “Agency” exists it is more logical that our current experiences are based on our own design rather than something G-d is imposing upon us. I have found that there are extensions of this thought that are offensive to some religious thinkers.
As for logic, I'm not opposed to faith as a principle, but I am unwilling to believe anything that is obviously wrong or that is clearly contradicted by good evidence. Whatever I believe, it has to make sense on some level, and I'm not willing to engage in a lot of wishful thinking and call it faith. I have gotten myself in trouble in the past when I continued to have "faith" in things that were contradicted by obvious reality, and it didn't end well for me.
As for faith – I will give my impressions for what it is worth. I think of faith and logic as two different sides of the same coin that allows us to explore the possibilities of things that lack insufficient knowledge of what is or will be. I think of the logic of faith as something very akin to theatrical physics. I believe it best to start with the foundation of what we know and then considering what we experience, we project with the logic of faith to attempt to understand or come to some semblance of belief. For me this then is the purpose of discussing such things of religious nature or of faith - to test our logic in forming our understandings and beliefs. I am quite surprised when those of religious nature (or anyone for that matter) that become most upset if the logic of their beliefs are challenged in any way. I would much rather myself to deal with the embarrassment of congerring faulty logic than the years of trying to live up to something logically flawed that I was too irrationally flawed to realize.
Roy
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by Roy »

InquiringMind wrote: 18 Sep 2022, 17:05 At this point I think it would be impossible for me to deny the existence of such events, and I might be willing to believe that there might be some overarching plan, perhaps a Divine plan. But still, I am actually quite unhappy with this plan and have never really been happy with it. I don't have some of the things in life I want most, seemingly because they are not part of the overarching plan. I don't have the free will go out and get the things I want because, as I have said, that isn't the plan, apparently. I don't have a bad life, but it's also not the life I wanted, and it's not a life that I really like all that much. The hope I have at this point is that there is some greater purpose to this, and that I'll have a better life later on because of whatever it is I'm learning right now. Even if it's true that there is a greater purpose to this and that I'll have a better life later on, I am frustrated that I am not given any clear information on what that better life might be.
I think that you may get much value out of what I call the "currant bush doctrine." This is based on a famous talk by Hugh B. Brown.
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... h?lang=eng

Particularly, when people go through really hard things it can be comforting to see an overarching purpose to it all. I feel that this doctrine coexists in LDS thought with free agency. There is enough support for it that you could be a hardcore "currant bush" believer and not run into any problems (as opposed to believing in reincarnation or something of that sort, the teaching of which would cause a stir).

Read the talk and then let us know if that fits more or less with where your experience is taking you.

PS- As long as you feel led to do objectively good things then this all works out. If you feel led to kill Laban or abandon your family then you would need to slam the breaks and get some professional counseling.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
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SilentDawning
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by SilentDawning »

I don't believe my life has a plan. If it does, it's been engineered to have some pretty rough experiences I wouldn't have chosen had I known in advance. I am not sure what is convincing you that flying airplanes is your next career, perhaps you could elaborate on that. Personally, i think that as long as I keep developing myself and adding value to the company I work for, I'll be able to stay with the position I have for life. Naturally, there may be unexpected downsizings that could affect me, but these things are not part of a divine plan that I'm aware of. I think that one's career is partly luck, and a good deal of solid political behavior, hard work, and to some extent, the grace of God (I never want to leave Him out of the equation). But I don't see that God has some plan for my life. The plan is heavily influenced by the decisions I make, and I could screw it up dramatically if I decided to slack off in my work, tick off the higher ups who control my position, etcetera.
"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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InquiringMind
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Re: My Life Seems to Have a Plan

Post by InquiringMind »

Roy wrote: 19 Sep 2022, 10:43
I think that you may get much value out of what I call the "currant bush doctrine." This is based on a famous talk by Hugh B. Brown.
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... h?lang=eng

Particularly, when people go through really hard things it can be comforting to see an overarching purpose to it all. I feel that this doctrine coexists in LDS thought with free agency. There is enough support for it that you could be a hardcore "currant bush" believer and not run into any problems (as opposed to believing in reincarnation or something of that sort, the teaching of which would cause a stir).
Yes, I was thinking about this talk a few months ago. It does seem to fit, at least I hope it does. The life he got was better than the one he had wanted, and God stopped him from moving down one path and pushed him towards a better one. I guess all I can do is hope that's true for me.
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