Friday, June 03, 2005

honesty part 1

i’ve had some solo time in the canyons the last couple nights to think about things as well as an e-mail this morning from a good friend to confirm it all. i don’t know how to begin this, i just know that i need to. much of this website has been a façade hiding what has been going on in my life for the last long while. through exaggeration, sarcasm, and cryptic messages, i’ve been lying to myself and others. lately, i’ve been trying to break away from that, but in the process i’ve continued to not be honest to myself and others. i think it’s something we all do. we do it to protect ourselves, others, and the relationships we share. i think in the end, a lack of honesty tears all those things apart.

part 1 – my, myself, and god.

this may come as a startle to some of you. to others, it may be no surprise. for the last year or so i’ve struggled with my belief in god and religion. some blame may blame it on the uvsc philosophy department, but they shouldn’t. this probably would have happened either way. i can’t really explain how it all started. there was no real beginning. one day it was just there. for some reason, i just couldn’t get god to fit into the world view that i had come to see the world as. i kept going to church. i said my nightly prayers. i read my scriptures. put my garments on every day, but it somehow lost all meaning. besides the prayers and scripture reading, it all became a routine. though i still found praying and reading scriptures beneficial, they had eventually lost all divine aspects and just became modes of self-reflection and meditation.

after i moved to a new ward, i pretty much lost all desire to go to church. in my last ward, i hated going but went because it was expected of me. if i didn’t go, people would start asking questions and my bishop would most likely be knocking on my door. my idea of the ‘church’ and the ‘gospel’ seemed so different than what others were talking about in meetings. i’d bring books to entertain me through sacrament meeting and would try to be controversially thought-provoking during sunday school and priesthood. though i was questioning the divine origins of joseph smith’s theology, it was the thing that kept me hope. sure he may have had his faults, but he had a wonderful idea of community that brought a whole new meaning to religion and theology. the only problem was that in expressing this aspect of the gospel, i felt more and more like it was not what others around me saw in church.

i have heard that by sharing your testimony, it grows stronger. i tried to share it often. but inside my doubts of it kept growing stronger. suddenly it seemed i was telling others about my beliefs in god that i know longer understood or believed. i felt like i was lying to everyone including myself. intellectually, i created a view that god no longer fit in. though my intellect said ‘no’, there was still something that said something else. i’m not sure what it said. i’m not sure what it meant. it was a sort of yearning. this hope that there has got to be something more to life than live and die.

lying about things can sometimes be so much easier than being honest about them. i lied to my family and friends about my testimony. i assured everyone that it was as strong as it could be. by lying to others, i also lied to myself. why confront the problem, when it is so much easier to just lie to myself about it?

some time ago, i met someone that i felt like i could talk to about this. it felt good being honest. i felt like a burden that had been wearing me down for a long time and it was finally lifted. in telling her how i felt, i had also told myself how i had felt. it scared me. my whole life had seemed to be built around the church. suddenly, i was admitting to myself that it was no longer the same. i felt lost and confused for a while. in some ways i wish i hadn’t said anything. that’s why we are scared of being honest. it liberates in some ways, but hurts us in others.

i told my dad about my feelings when i was done telling my friend. i was scared to, but i felt like i needed to. he was the person i had lied to the most about this. my dad loves me. a lot. and it was wonderful to know that he loved me either way. however, i let that become a wedge between us. my dad was calling me all the time (something i need to learn to avoid doing) and sending me e-mails with articles and testimonies. it felt like he was trying to fix me. as if i was broken and in need of repair.

maybe i am broken. maybe i do need repair. but this is something i need to find out for myself. nobody can fix me. it’s something i have to do.

in the process of being honest, i quickly found how scary it could be and turned back to the security of lying. having already busted out the truth, i had to alter my lie. i had to protect my integrity and world view. to those who knew my doubts, i’d lie and say that it was no struggle. that it was completely liberating. that i no longer needed god or any of that in my life. i lied about the emptiness i felt. i lied about the yearning i have for something more. i lied about my gut telling me something.

so here i am. i’m not exactly sure where that is. i don’t think i really enjoy where i am, but i’m not sure exactly where i want to go. i’ve got to figure out what my gut is saying to me. to sort things out. to be completely honest with myself and others.

15 comments:

  1. Trust your feelings. If something doesn't sit right with you, it probably isn't right for you (or anybody). You can't live your entire life hoping to eventually get an answer when you've been dilligently doing the things you've been taught to do to get that answer (search, ponder, & pray).

    I've been reading your blog for some time, as well as your postings on Provopulse.com. (No, I'm not some creepy stalker; I'm a kindred spirit.) You're a smart, rational person. You've done your homework. You've found things you don't like but you choose to ignore or suppress. No doubt, some of the things that bother me are bothering you.

    1. That Joseph Smith had a reputation for being a golddigger, using magic sticks and such.

    2. That he originally identified the visiting angel as Nephi, not Moroni.

    3. That the Book of Mormon, which was divinely dictated word-for-word to Joseph through the seer stones, has been corrected, changed, and modified too many times to count.

    4. That the First Vision, a crucial part of our testimonies, wasn't even known to early pioneers.

    5. That Joseph, on that September evening when Moroni visited him, was praying to know if there was a god, even though he said he had a vision just three years prior.

    6. That God supposedly disallowed blacks from having the Priesthood, yet He did not stop Joseph from giving it to Elijah Abel.

    7. That Joseph had himself married to women who were already married to others.

    8. That Joseph married 14-year-olds.
    9. That Joseph was fooled by the Kinderhook plates.

    10. That the peoples of the modern American continent possess Asiatic DNA.

    11. That Brigham Young and others were racist (as is evident in the Journal of Discourses).

    12. That Brigham Young taught the Adam-God doctrine, a teaching that was incorporated into the endowment.

    13. That the endowment, like the BoM, has gone through so many changes, no doubt from social pressures, even though Joseph said "Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed."

    14. That the washing and anointing was drastically changed this past January.

    15. That the endowment used to have grisly penalties that have been removed.

    16. That Gordon B. Hinckley and others were fooled by the Hoffman forgeries.

    17. That Ezra Taft Benson was a racist, and thought Martin Luther King Jr. was a communist.

    18. That polygamy will be practiced in heaven.

    19. That you should get married right off your mission, have kids right after you're married, and keep making more kids.

    20. That the Church's retention rate is terrible.

    21. That things once condemnded by the Brethren (evolution, birth control, etc.) are now treated as hush-hush.

    22. That the Brethren have encouraged "lying for the Lord" from time to time.

    23. That Spencer W. Kimball said he could see that the people of South America were becoming more white and delightsome with each passing generation.

    24. That Brigham Young said "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."

    25. That 2 Ne. 30:6 used to say "and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people," but now says "pure and delightsome people."

    26. That Joseph's original version of the First Vision was that an angel of God had visited him.

    The list goes on and on and on.

    What is my point? Trust your feelings. The Church is a white-man's church. Its structure (meetings, schedules, organization) only works in the U.S. Its founder, Joseph Smith, was a fraud. You know this. He did so many things that were self-serving. He was good at deception. You know this. Trust your feelings. Remember the oh-so-many times you've sat in Conference, a bishop's interview, or priesthood meetings, and you thought "I don't agree with that. That couldn't be. That's not true, is it? That's stupid!" Trust your feelings.

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  2. besides #19, none of those things have really bothered me. the church is made of humans and always has been. i wouldn't expect anything different.

    in fact i would disagree with aspects of 2, 3 (they have been counted), 4, 5, 9, and 21.

    if anything bothers me, it's the ignorance of many members who choose to ignore certain things and the views of some leaders that the human qualities of other leaders should be suppressed.

    another thing that bothers me are anti-mormons who feel they need to build up some kind of case against mormonism. i don't know what your background is, nor do i really care. i do hope though that you apply your criticisms equally across the religious field.

    i've got no animosity toward mormonism. it still has a very special place in my heart. sure, there are things about the culture and organization that i find very offensive and troubling, but those things will pop up anywhere you look.

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  3. p.s.

    this goes for any commentors....

    please do not post your testimonies, nor post your laundry lists of why you left the church or think mormonism is evil.

    this is something i'm doing on my own.

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  4. I am not anti-mormon; I am pro-truth. You cannot honestly tell me that many aspects of the Church and its history haven't bothered you. I can tell you that polygamy is something that many women and girls think about almost daily; it bugs them, but they wouldn't dare say it.

    And about the Church being made up of humans, that just doesn't cut it. The response regarding leaders, "Oh, they were just men of their time," doesn't hold. They were supposed to be above men of their time; they were "inspired" and had divine communication. They should have put off the "natural man." Shouldn't we expect that of our leaders, past and present? I'm not talking about minor faults. I'm talking about serious things such as racism. The Church has a bad history with it, even though they say "Love one another." They sure don't do it. I can forgive a slip of the tongue or any little fault, but to be so bigoted and harsh with regards to race or anything like that is unexcusable.

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  5. You can't honestly say that a lot of those things haven't bugged you. Many women and girls think about polygamy almost daily; they hate it, but they wouldn't dare say that.

    I am not anti-Mormon; I am pro-truth.

    Yes, the Church is made up of humans. Humans are not perfect. But the Church's leaders have been guilty of such un-Christlike things, you have to wonder if they truly are "inspired" and have divine communication. I'm not talking about minor faults. I can forgive a slip of the tongue or anything small. I'm talking about serious things like racism. Racism is an enemy of love. Yet these Brethren have said to "love one another."

    The response is always given, "oh, they were just men of time." What a stupid argument. Being men of God, they should be above the men of their time. They know better. They teach to put off the natural man, yet it is not done. How can someone preach of Christ yet put down the "Negro" and threaten to kill anyone who marries one?

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  6. I share some of your views Tyler, however some I find to be too extreme, but in all, I really admire your courage in allowing your authentic self to be realised. It is not an easy thing to discover who one is and to discover how one thinks, and then to find that many of one's thoughts run contrary to the cultural and social institutions that we are placed in.

    So, honestly, I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of honesty and understanding. Above all, to thine ownself be true.

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  7. veritas,

    anyone who posts a 26 item list as to why they think mormonism is false, i pretty much consider an anti-mormon. the same would go with someone who did the same for islam, catholicism, zoroastrianism, any form of hindusim or whatever.

    like i said, the past of mormonism doesn't bother me at all. it was largely the one thing that made it believable for me. it's when the human element is removed that things become uncomfortable and bothersome. instead of the past, it was the remaining threads of the 'traditions of our fathers' that bothered me in mormon culture. yes, i found the polygamous, racist, sexist, etc. history of mormonism's past (and lingering presence) bothersome, but for me they were never reasons to abandon it. rather my growing doubts and disbelief sprouted from concerns of the general notions of the divine and super-natural that somehow became too difficult to reconcile with the changing worldview i began creating and defining for myself.

    for a while i was pretty sure that there was no turning back, that my worldview was set and that nothing could change it. but that is a rather conceited position to take. i dunno what is going ot happen. perhaps, my views will change and things will make sense for me again. i dunno.



    thanks for your comment mark

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  8. What do you mean by "human element [being] removed? I need some clarification. Also, what do you mean by the "remaining threads of 'traditions of our fathers.'"? Thanks.

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  9. What do you mean by "human element [being] removed? I need some clarification.

    i'm referring to this false dichotomy pushed on religions that they must either be fully originated and guided by the divine or fully originated and guided by man. by affirming this idea, those who want to hold onto the divine aspects of their religion end up denying the human elements that affect the practice and doctrine of their faith.


    Also, what do you mean by the "remaining threads of 'traditions of our fathers.'"?

    this is referring to traditions, folk doctrines, and even doctrines replaced with new 'revelations' that i find troubling (ie. polygamy, blacks/priesthood, sexism, etc.)

    how did this post turn into me defending mormonism anyways?

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  10. "how did this post turn into me defending mormonism anyways?"

    Depends on how you look at. Are you defending Mormonism, or are you defending what YOU believe?

    I agree that there is a false dichotomy that every single thing must be guided by the divine. Granted, there is a human element. However, Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith was 100% inspired by God to restore the Church. In that sense, the Church was fully originated by the divine. I believe that a religion must originate by 100% divine influence. For that reason, I don't believe in Mormonism.

    Gordon B. Hinckley always puts this question into a black/white situation. He says something along the lines of "Either Joseph Smith was a charlatan, and this work is a fraud, or he was a prophet of God." President Hinckley agrees there is no middle ground.

    I can't accept a "divine" document, The Book of Mormon, when it is not 100% true; that some Brethren felt the need to change some things over the course of 150 years. Obviously, they felt God didn't get it right the first time. I'm not talking about commas and such. I'm talking about wordings, phrases, etc.

    It's obvious the Church is keeping up with social norms, only it does so decades late. The Church renounced polygamy because the government said so, though they lied and continued it under the table for a few years.

    Many Brethren vehemently opposed the ERA. I wonder what they would say now if it were on the ballot.

    Blacks got the priesthood because the Civil Rights movement broke new ground, though the Church was a decade late in fixing things.

    Homosexuals were always told to hit the road or "let us fix you with our science." Now, it's "Come, let us help you. We love you." (Look up some of the homosexual shock treatments that were performed in the 60's and 70's at BYU).

    Adam-God was dropped.

    After multiple complaints from members, the penalties and such were dropped from the endowment. Again, the Church bows to social pressure, both pressures from within and without.

    Finally, the washing & anointing was completely changed in January, '05. People were sending letters to the first presidency. They didn't like being touched that way. So the Church changed; they folded.

    How's that for divine "revelation."

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  11. veritas,

    i already know all of this (besides the recent temple changes - which really doesn't surprise me), so i don't see why you feel the need to report the same ol' anti arguments over and over again.

    all your repeated arguments only work within the context of a 100% divinely guided theology that joseph smith himself (among many other leaders) have rejected and that i cannot recall ever accepting.

    if you cannot accept something outside of the all-god or all-nothing dichotomy, then that's your thing. if you feel that a religion must be void of all social and cultural aspects in which in sprouts, then i disagree because i don't believe such a thing is possible.

    as i have already said, i don't want your laundry list of reasons why you can't accept mormonism. i already know them. i know about all of the changes in the book of mormon, in the endowment, in church doctrines and policies. i know about the anti-era movement. the racism and certain church leaders. i know about the current anti-gay sentiments of many church leaders and such. i know all the crap. so stop listing them over and over again.

    anti-mormonism isn't necessarily a matter of information, it's a matter of presentation. to me, you are an anti-mormon. if you have something viable and meaningful to say, then say it. if not, i'd ask that you keep your anti-mormon agenda off my site.

    i almost feel like you are trying to work some reverse-psychology on me...

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  12. I will respect your wishes and stop posting anti-mormon stuff, though I can't fathom how the points I mentioned don't bother you.

    It all boils down to one thing: truth. Truth does not change. What was true 150 years ago is true today. I'm not talking about social norms, which are subjective. I'm talking about plain, eternal truths. The Church adamantly declares and pronounces the mysteries of Heaven from the pulpit. Years later, they teach something contradictory, or deny that what was taught is actual doctrine. In other words, they change, flip-flop, shy away from a solid answer; you get the idea.

    The Church has a long, sad history that most members don't even know about; parts of that history they would deny as true, though they know no better.

    I was once an unconventional Mormon in Happy Valley. You can relate to that. Since then, I have pulled the blinders completely off my eyes. I am a BYU student. I am a Mormon. I go to chuch every week, but it's all a facade. Do I lack courage to state how I really feel? Of course I do. For the moment, it's the smartest thing not to come out. I am not gay, nor am I a minority. Everything I have mentioned shouldn't bug me as a white male; however, they bug me as a human being, one who wants truth.

    I'm not trying to persuade you to join "the Dark Side." Where I am in life is anything but dark. From my perspective, LDS are just the victims of tradition and dogma. I was too for 21 years of my life. In some way,I still am.

    I like reading your blog. If you don't want me to post anything more about the Church, I won't. You probably won't want to talk to me at all, though I'm open to talking about anything. Let me know. I'll respect your choice.

    Finally, the dorkish part of me wants to quote "The Empire Strikes Back." This dialogue sums up this entire post.

    Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

    Yoda: You will know.

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  13. It all boils down to one thing: truth. Truth does not change. What was true 150 years ago is true today. I'm not talking about social norms, which are subjective. I'm talking about plain, eternal truths.

    i guess this is where i differ. if there is any eternal 'truth', it is unaccessible to us in its entirety. truth can only be accessed, understood, and discussed within the context of one's previous understanding which is a conglomeration of one's culture, power structures, experiences and so forth. i am a relativist as far as epistemology is concerned.

    of course this then puts a twist on the way i feel about religion right now.

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  14. Yes, truth in its entirety is inaccessible to us. But our culture, our upbringing, our beliefs do not affect real truth. Truth stays the same no matter what we do. I am a relativist as far as many social norms and morals are concerned. I can understand how being a relativist would put a twist on the way you feel about religion right now.

    Remember, the Church has always condemned relativism as a tool of Satan.

    Spencer W. Kimball's "Absolute Truth" talks all about this; I'm sure you've read it.

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  15. Remember, the Church has always condemned relativism as a tool of Satan

    i think i can recall some leaders speaking out against moral relativism, but as far as 'the church' goes, i don't think it is an entitity in itself that is able to speak anything.

    Yes, truth in its entirety is inaccessible to us. But our culture, our upbringing, our beliefs do not affect real truth. Truth stays the same no matter what we do.

    if absolute truth is unaccessible and cannot be described without the tainting of our culture/experience/etc, then referring to it as such is not possible.

    I can understand how being a relativist would put a twist on the way you feel about religion right now.

    probably not in the way that i am thinking. rather, my conceited idea that the worldview i accept (where god cannot fit) is correct and will not alter does not fit with my epistemological relativity. i guess it could very well change.

    ReplyDelete

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