About Corazon

Monday, August 17, 2015

Letter to a Believer and a Doubter: Why (and How) I Choose to Stay Mormon

Every once in a while (and especially over the past month) I get asked the question, "Why do you post material that is critical of the church on your Facebook wall?"

That's a fair question. After all, oftentimes those with an axe to grind will post articles, pictures, memes, etc. that are intended to throw a jab or two at the Mormon religion (or any other religion for that matter). Why else would somebody post material that doesn't present Mormonism in the very best light possible? Or articles that lead the reader to ask himself/herself difficult questions that perhaps haven't been considered before?

I have been accused of being "apostate" or "deceived by Satan" probably a dozen times in the past couple of years. The accusations have come in the form of emails, Facebook comments and even being stopped in the halls of church itself. My response is usually offering a smile (unless I'm really pissed off and go into cop mode) and asking the question, "What sort of material do you think I should be posting?" The question appears to be interpreted as being rhetorical in nature, as I have yet to receive an actual response. Maybe the other person just doesn't want to "go there" and in the interest of keeping the peace they drop the matter entirely. If so, I salute them. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."

But I can't drop it and let me tell you why.

Along with those emails accusing me of apostasy, I have also received correspondence (probably three times as much) from others who share (sometimes in the strictest of confidence) their own personal struggles with church history/doctrine. They (like me) desperately look for others with whom they can express their sincere doubts, honest questions and heartfelt struggle without being accused or blamed of heresy. Usually these individuals (like me) have felt that traditional church members and church leaders were "unsafe" outlets and that full disclosure of genuine struggle over church matters could lead to more problems than solutions. As one friend has said (and I share with his/her permission), "Opening up to ward members and ward leaders is like asking Mike Tyson to take it easy on you in the ring."

By no means am I some popular guy with a following. My blog gets, at best, 50-75 hits a day and most of those are random Google searches from people who don't even know me. I'm not John Dehlin or Seth Adam Smith and I don't want to be. I write this blog because...well...I enjoy writing. Writing is an outlet and a hobby for me. I don't care who reads my material to be quite honest. But contrary to what those who accuse me of apostasy may believe, I actually do have some friends and family members and I do care deeply about them. In addition, I do care about and understand those few who have reached out to me to express their earnest desire to better comprehend the complexities of Mormon history and theology that are usually eschewed by the...shall we say..."correlated" majority. I have experienced those long, dark, empty, yet somehow sacred nights in which you can feel your soul hurt in a way you didn't think possible, and in a way few members understand. I understand the desire to sincerely dissect the issues, weight the evidence, and engage in open and safe dialogue so as to better understand the questions that naturally arise. I've been there and in some ways continue to be there.

So, in short, this is why I post "un-correlated" material (on occasion) on my Facebook wall.  I say "un-correlated" because I want to be VERY clear on a couple of things:
1.) I DO NOT have a bone to pick with the church! I am a Mormon and love being a Mormon. I sustain the local and general leaders (and I'm glad I don't have their responsibilities) and I believe (perhaps in my own unique way) in the core doctrines of the faith. I cherish my membership and the many opportunities that my participating in this faith has given me throughout my life.

2.) I believe that the greatest threats to Mormonism today are not the critics, the doubters, the skeptics, the haters, the liars, the bitter ex-Mormons or the Jack Mormons (we've had all these types for over a century now). Instead I believe that in many instances, the greatest threat to Mormonism are Mormons themselves. In short, we are sometimes our worst enemy because we simply do not or will not understand those outside of our own secure little Mormon bubble.
The "un-correlated" material to which I refer is meant to elicit a meaningful dialogue, or at least to spark some deeper thought on the part of the reader (that is my hope). It is not meant to attack belief but instead to better understand it (again, that is my hope). But most important, it is meant to extend a hand of friendship and understanding to those who struggle. I for one am unwilling to hide behind the traditional "popcorn popping on the apricot tree" rhetoric and say that "all is well in Zion." There are members out there (a growing number of them) who have real doubts and concerns that aren't the result of sin, giving into Satan or failing to read their Book of Mormon and have family prayer daily. Their doubts and concerns exist because...wait for it...there are legitimate, fundamental and substantial questions to be had! Ignoring, downplaying or pretending that the doubts of others don't exist does absolutely nothing to help them in their plight. In fact, it only makes things worse. In short, there are just as many good reasons to doubt as there are to believe the truth claims of the church. Or as Terryl Givens puts it,
The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true.  There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. Fortunately, in this world, one is always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our egos. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.
The desire to believe is not somehow more virtuous than the capacity for doubt, just as the capacity for doubt is not more virtuous than the desire to believe. Instead of seeing belief and doubt as opposing rival forces we should see them as the gatekeepers to the human heart. Again from Terryl Givens:
The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god, waiting to see if we "get it right." It is the only summons, issued under the only conditions, which can allow us fully to reveal who we are, what we most love, and what we most devoutly desire. Without constraint, without any form of mental compulsion, the act of belief becomes the freest possible projection of what resides in our hearts. Like the poet’s image of a church bell that only reveals its latent music when struck, or a dragonfly that only flames forth its beauty in flight, so does the content of a human heart lie buried until action calls it forth. The greatest act of self-revelation occurs when we choose what we will believe, in that space of freedom that exists between knowing that a thing is, and knowing that a thing is not.
In other words, the virtual tug-of-war between faith and doubt serves as a litmus test in which both faith and doubt act as virtues so long as they are both put in check. After all, having faith for the sake of faith is no virtue but instead is merely blind obedience and acceptance of what one has been told. The same is true of doubt. Electing to disbelieve, without recognizing the true virtues of honest faith, is a living example of anti-religious bias.

So what is it that I would want both the traditional believing Mormon (particularly those who accuse me of apostasy) and the sincere doubter (who occasionally emails me) to know? Above all I would hope that they would be able and willing to sit down with one another and accept one another for who they are. Sadly this rarely ever happens because both sides arrive fully loaded to the meeting. The believer is oftentimes unwilling to concede that there is ever a legitimate reason to doubt the truth claims of the church, while the doubter is oftentimes unwilling to concede that faith can and does trump reason in many instances. As a result, such a meeting ends with each camp delivering its "go to" trump card to the other and both parties departing with a greater belief that ultimate truth is on their side.  

But again, they both miss the point of both faith and doubt. As stated above, faith and doubt are NOT enemies but rather polar ends to a powerful battery that when allowed to work as designed can provide the energy to bring about great things.  

I realize that I am not going to solve this battle today and I don't want to even try. Instead, I want to leave both the traditional believing Mormon and the doubting Mormon with some of the reasons that I remain a happy and believing member of the church. After all, the reasons for choosing to stay or leave any faith are personal, so I can only speak to those things that I have experienced and that work for me. I post them here in the hopes that the true believing Mormon will be able to better understand my perspective (without resorting to the "apostasy" nonsense), and so the honest doubter will know of how I am able to "make it work." These core beliefs that I cling to are probably not your traditional "Sunday School" doctrines, but they are all VERY Mormon nonetheless. They have given me a working template on which I hope to continually build a stronger and more meaningful connection to the divine.

So, without further delay, here is my "Letter to a Believer and a Doubter."

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Dear friend,

I know that it can be tedious to talk about religion these days. We live in a world where attention spans are often short, tempers are often hot, and any measure of disagreement is met with swift and severe rebuking. We've created an "Us v. Them" dichotomy on almost every important stage of society which prohibits us from engaging in meaningful dialogue that I believe we all are craving. We lock ourselves into our safe little homes, away from our neighbors, and drown out the loneliness with partisan talk radio, apocalyptic politicians/evangelists and self help books that fail because they focus on "self" rather than on "others." In short, we have become increasingly convinced that our safe little worlds are the only remaining bastions of truth in a decaying world. We cling to them tighter than the day before because to let go of our death grip on being right is simply out of the question. We discriminate when it comes to who we let in to our safe little worlds based on how much they agree with us, because disagreement (in the enlightened modern world) has become the new scarlet letter.

And it doesn't matter what the disagreement is about. In today's world, a friend who espouses an opposing political opinion, religious creed, NFL team or diet plan is quickly dismissed. Such an enemy is "de-friended" on Facebook faster and more arbitrarily than an Internet pop-up ad. Our need to be right has made us slaves to ignorance and enemies to tolerance.   

Despite these modern cultural shifts I believe that the human heart is still very much the same as it has always been. Even though our attention is easily distracted by the newest cell phone, Facebook comment or Star Wars trailer, what we crave most is connection and reconciliation. In short, what technology and society try to give us most (greater connection and convenience) is where they deliver the least. Wal-Mart isn't a friendly experience, social media doesn't give us a social life and On-Demand media just makes us extra demanding. What we really need is what has always been in front of us:

We need each other.

But my letter today isn't intended to address the social/cultural/technological limitations of our day, so my apologies with the soap box. Instead, I hope to take the concepts mentioned above and extrapolate them to the matter at hand: how can a true believing Mormon better accept those who don't adhere to their specific world view and how can a doubter who wants to "make it work" find the faith to do so?

First, allow me to address "The Believer"

I'm going to assume that you are a reasonable person who sincerely wants to do the right things for the right reasons. You aren't perfect, of course, but you, like the majority of people in the world, are doing your level best. You want to help others where you can. You want to be open-minded. You want to make a difference in the world.

You are also a person of integrity and for that reason you hold true to that which you believe. This is evidenced more in your religious convictions than in any other part of your life. You have gained a testimony of Joseph Smith, the Restoration and of Jesus Christ's central role in that plan. These are truths that bring you greater joy than anything else in your life. Naturally, you want to share that joy and so you "let your light so shine." You are a caring parent, a loving child, a thoughtful friend and a helping hand. In short, you are an ornament of goodness that proudly hangs from God's tree of life.

You love the church and so you feel the need to protect it whenever it comes under attack. You are aware that the church's history of dealing with persecution is what caused thousands to cross the plains and settle in the West. This legacy of faith is something you cherish, so when anyone challenges the validity of these truths (whether in or out of the church) it is easy and natural for you to want to defend your faith.  

I cannot and will not question your integrity or your motives. I believe they are pure and good. But what I will ask you (for the sake of so many who have struggled) is this: are you truly concerned about your doubting brothers and sisters when they raise issues that you interpret to be attacks on the faith? Yes, you may talk about them in Ward Council Meetings or remember them in your prayers. You've probably ingested all you can from local and General leaders on how best to meet the needs of a doubting member. 

But have you ever listened to them? 

Have you considered the reasons they doubt and struggle? Have you seen the genuine anguish in their face? Have you been able to discern the honest nature of their plight? If so, it should be plain to you that their struggle is not the result of sin, laziness or the buffetings of Satan, and "cookie cutter" solutions (i.e. "just pray more," "fast about it," "read your Book of Mormon") are not what your brother/sister are needing. I'm not suggesting that you give in to their list of grievances or even entertain the specific reasons for their doubts. What I am suggesting is that instead of providing correlated solutions to un-correlated problems you first consider the following:

1.) Resist the Urge to Label Their Struggle as being "Anti-Mormon"
Believe me, they've heard this line before. Many times. And what it really means to the doubter when you say it is, "Your doubts are just silly and unfounded." In reality, the cause of a faith crisis is oftentimes church approved material. Whether it takes the form of the new church essays on difficult gospel topics, the Journal of Discourses or scripture itself doesn't really matter. When you accuse someone of studying "anti-Mormon" material you are cheapening the reason for their struggle.  

2.) Seek to Restore Trust Instead of Attacking the Cause
Regardless of what you might think, the majority of people who endure a faith crisis aren't doing it over trivial matters. Odds are they have done their homework and may even know more about church history/doctrine than you. The natural desire is to attack the cause of the faith crisis by attacking historical arguments themselves. Avoid saying things like, "You're taking things out of context" or "That isn't important for your salvation." Instead, seek to rebuild trust. This is what they are wanting most: a desire to once again trust the church.

3.) Be Open to Sincere Questions
This can be tougher than you think. When a doubting member poses an un-correlated question in Relief Society/Elder's Quorum chances are they want an answer and aren't trying to stir the pot. Assume best intent and avoid the whole, "That isn't an appropriate question for this forum." Really? Church isn't the place to ask these questions? And we wonder why so many seek other outlets to find their answers! To be sure, some questions aren't appropriate, but it really isn't that hard to distinguish between the honest seeker and someone who just wants to stir the pot.  

4.) Separate Church Culture from Church Doctrine
Like any institution, Mormonism has developed its own culture. We do things because it has become "the Mormon way." But make no mistake, many of these things are simply cultural creations. The quickest way to lose a member who is struggling with a faith crisis it to make them feel unwanted by continuing to sustain bogus cultural practices. All should be made to feel welcome in church regardless of dress, opinion, etc. As Elder Uchtdorf taught: "As disciples of Jesus Christ we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God's commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social and political preferences. The church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples," Just because they aren't Mormon in the way you want them to be (or in the way the majority is) doesn't make much of a difference.  

5.) Take as Much Off the Table as Possible
There are so many historical, scientific and doctrinal issues that we as a church can and should be able to "let go" of and not worry or waste time debating.  Issues like evolution, polygamy in the afterlife, the location of Kolob, etc. are all points that miss the point. Try to avoid defining where the church officially stands on issues that either don't matter or that are impossible to define. Trust me, the doubting member already has plenty on his/her plate. We don't need to add more.

6.) They Can't Go Back but They Can Go Forward
Chances are that any member who endures a crisis of faith is going to be permanently changed. They can't go back and shouldn't be pushed to do so. This may be the hardest thing for a traditional believing member to accept. Once you've peeked through the curtain to see the Wizard of Oz chances are you will never see Oz in the same light again. Instead of sending this person on a guilt trip of shame, help them to move forward in faith. A doubting member cannot unlearn what he/she has learned.  Instead he/she must now seek to find understanding and rebuilt trust. The old frameworks, old expectations and old assumptions aren't coming back and you are wasting time and energy if you endeavor to do so. Instead encourage new paradigms and new ways of understanding.

In conclusion, remember that the "doubter," like any person, is not somebody to be defined, labeled or neatly placed into a box.  He/she is a real person with legitimate reasons for concern. As I mentioned above, there are equally good reasons to doubt the truth claims of the church just as there are equally good reasons to have faith in such claims. Your ability to recognize this fact and to treat the doubting member with love and absolute acceptance will determine a great deal moving forward.

And if they do choose to depart, don't let them depart from you. This is especially true of family members. There is no more pathetic example of Mormon hypocrisy than when a family member is made to feel shunned, marginalized, unwanted or unloved. I'd tell you what I really think of such a person but I want to keep this G-rated. Just remember that your choice to be a "good Mormon" makes you absolutely, positively, no better than the member who chooses to depart (for whatever reason). If you take one thing from my blog today let it be this: love always wins and is always the best policy.

Let me now shift gears and address those who struggle with doubt.

First, let me say that I consider you a kindred spirit. I will never understand everything you deal with but rest assured I understand a good portion of it. I have dealt with my own crisis of faith for over a decade now (reference this blog post for more specifics) and have come to know many of the issues you struggle to understand. I consider you friends and sincerely believe that you represent the best and brightest that Mormonism has to offer.

I admire your ability to look outside of the traditionally prescribed and accepted box of correlated Mormonism and to seek answers for yourself. You recognize the value of honest inquiry and the need for greater intellectual rigor.  You are to be applauded for refusing to "go with the flow" and for daring to ask the question, "What if I/we are wrong?"  Believe me when I say that I wish there were more of you out there in the church.

I know that faith is a difficult concept, especially when you see the many blemishes that obscure the "only true and living church upon the face of the earth." You have uncovered hypocrisy, familiarized yourself with REAL history, recognized the flaws in our theology and endured the finger-pointing of the majority. To borrow from Robert Frost, you have ventured down "the road less traveled" and it has "made all the difference."

Now you are at a crossroad. Do you continue down the path of honest intellectual curiosity and continue to discover the inevitable errors caused by frail and imperfect humans (many who carry the title of "Prophet")?  Do you embrace faith or abandon it completely? Is there even a place for you in a church that sometimes demands conformity?

These are questions only you can answer. Just know that even though you may feel like an outsider or an outcast, there is a place for you in this faith! I don't care what the critics tell you nor am I ignorant of the many who have been excommunicated for "apostasy" because they asked too many questions in a far too public manner. I still maintain (perhaps blindly so) that YOU ARE NEEDED in this church!!! Even if the reason is simply because I need you. I wasn't kidding when I called you a kindred spirit. I feel I can relate more to you than I can to most members.  This is why you matter so much to me. This is why I post the things I post of Facebook. I want you to know that YOU MATTER and your questions/doubts matter too.

I'm going to try and avoid giving you the textbook reasons as to why I stay in the faith. I realize that you are a thoughtful group and I appreciate that fact.  For those reasons, let me provide for you a few of the reasons I choose to stay in the faith, along with a few of the doctrines of Mormonism that I find most sublime.  

I choose to stay for community. Mormonism is my tribe. It is my native language to God. I can no more discard my Mormonism than I can discard my "American-ism." This doesn't mean that I live without struggle. I find the Mormon community to be inspiring and aggravating. Perhaps there is a reason we are organized into wards. It recreates the setting of a family. Families are complex and so are Mormon wards. In the interest of full disclosure my wife and I struggle like crazy with our current ward. We feel marginalized all the time. This struggle, however, doesn't negate the fact that this is my community. Even if I don't feel like it all the time (we hardly feel like it), this is where we ultimately belong.

I realize that this isn't necessarily profound. After all, my Mormon heritage does not oblige me to stay with the faith. I'm free to leave whenever I feel like it. But leaving, at least for me, is akin to admitting defeat. It is giving up on something because I finally discovered that it wasn't what I thought it was. For some, this is more than justifiable reason to leave. If the church isn't what they had been led to believe then the game is up. I get that. But I also believe in learning to appreciate nuance and accepting people and things for who and what they are. Nobody is perfect and all institutions are man-made, meaning they are imperfect as well. If we abandoned everything that wasn't what we hoped it would be, all of us would have to give up on our jobs, our spouses, our children, out parents, etc., etc., etc.

I choose to stay because I believe in change and want to be a part of it. We are a church that is built of the concept of continuing revelation, which really means continual change. Yes, Mormonism sometimes moves slowly and carefully towards that change, but it DOES CHANGE, and I believe for the better. We have become more inclusive, more patient, more tolerant, more loving and I have the hope that we will continue to do just that in the generations to come. The goal is progress, not perfection. I don't expect prophets to bat a perfect 1.000, nor do I expect the church to always get everything right all of the time. I would hate it if somebody gave me that standard so why would I demand it of others? As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil's fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can't quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving. 
I choose to stay Mormon because I find beneath the sometimes popular nonsense a uniquely rich and vibrant faith that is deserving of sincere study and reflection. The following are just a few of the doctrines I love most about the Mormon faith:

1.) Eternal Progression: We are taught from an early age that God has prepared for us a plan that will allow us to become more like Him. In addition, we are also taught that this life is but a drop in the bucket to our existence and that further growth and improvement will be had in the life to come. Sometimes I think we downplay just how significant the doctrine of eternal progression is in the Mormon faith. The concept of eternal progression means that even God continues to grow and improve (if that weren't the case then there would be no ETERNAL progression). Growth and change are a never-ending process.

2.) Absolute Agency: The concept of agency is, at times, a bit of a paradox to us Mormons. We cling to it when it is convenient to us but not so much when it goes against our collective desires. Regardless of this fact, Mormonism teaches that man is truly sovereign in every meaningful way. We are the captains of our own ship and as such we are free to choose for ourselves whatever path we want. But the Mormon concept of agency is much more than simple choice.  As Joseph Smith taught in his King Follett discourse:
We say that God himself is a self-existent God. Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principle? The mind of man -- the intelligent part -- is as immortal as and is coequal with God himself. I might with boldness proclaim from the housetop that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all...intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle.
We have always been agents unto ourselves and always will be. This is perhaps my favorite doctrine in all the church. More on this in an upcoming blog post.

3.) Exalting the Human Body:
It was Friedrich Nietzshie, the famous philosopher, atheist and critic of organized religion who said, "I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance." Amen, my dear atheist. Amen. One of the most sublime teaching of Mormonism is that the body is a gift from God. In fact, to become like God one must have  a glorified and perfected body. Though most Christian faiths preach resurrection, they still, at times, treat the body like a temporary shell that we simply must deal with, but thankfully will discard in the world to come. Not so in Mormonism. One of the main reasons for this life was to obtain a body. We see the body as divine and as being necessary for growth. We teach of a God who has a body of flesh and bone and also of passions. The human body gives us those passions and as a result gives us progression. Instead of merely dealing with the human body, Mormonism celebrates it as divinely appointed and necessary to our growth and progression.

4.) The Ultimate Gatekeepers of Grace:
The Mormon faith places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of works and rightfully so. But we are also a religion that deeply adheres to the doctrine of grace. Instead of going into greater detail I will refer you to the following talk by Brad Wilcox, who explains this better than I ever could:



5.) Universalist Approach to Salvation:
As elitist and as exclusive as Mormonism may seem, the fact is we are (or at least should be) the ultimate Universalists on the planet. As Joseph Smith taught, "God will fetter out every individual soul."  In other words, everyone is going to have every possible chance to "make it back" to our Heavenly home. If this wasn't the case, God isn't much of a God at all.  Mormonism, no matter how you slice it, is a Universalist faith.

And finally, I choose to stay Mormon because in it I have found Jesus. If there is a single gift that I appreciate most about having endured a faith crisis it is this: my loyalty will never rest with Mormonism or any other creed; my loyalties rest with Jesus. I don't shy from admitting that I have put all my eggs into the Jesus basket because I believe He is a surefire win no matter what. To the believer, Christ represents the atoning Savior of Mankind. To the skeptic, he represents, oftentimes, the very best of human philosophy. To quote James E. Talmage from his book, Jesus the Christ: "even the blasphemer recognizes the supreme nature and message of the very name of the man he desecrates." I believe very strongly that both devout believer, honest skeptic and everyone in between should strive to never let their Mormonism get in the way of their Christianity. After all, Mormonism, like any creed, saves nobody. It is in Jesus alone that salvation is to be found. As the Book of Mormon teaches, "hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in the words believe in Christ."  If Jesus is all that is left that is more than enough! In the end, everything else is colored bubbles anyway.

In conclusion (and I've certainly gone on for long enough) I want to share the following picture:


This medallion and cross is something I wear with me almost every day.  I do so because it reminds me of a couple of things: first, the cross is obviously a reminder that it is Jesus in whom I place my trust. The medallion is actually called a Jupiter talisman. Most are probably not aware of what a Jupiter talisman is so let me briefly explain. A Jupiter talisman is essentially a "good luck charm" that has its roots in pagan and folk magic practices.  Joseph Smith owned and wore one throughout his life, He was actually wearing his Jupiter talisman when he was murdered at Carthage. Joseph Smith wore his because his life and his religious experience were deeply rooted and affected by the practice of folk magic that was common in 19th century America (this is why Smith used a seer stone throughout his life as well).  Don't worry, this is the only less-than-pleasant tidbit of Mormon history that I plan on mentioning today.

So why do I have and wear a Jupiter talisman? I do not prescribe to folk magic or pagan ideology so clearly my Jupiter talisman carries no special powers in my mind. It's just a simple medallion.  I wear it because it serves to remind me that religion...all religion...is full of the crazy, the inexplicable and the downright bizarre. Once you go down the rabbit-hole of religion, you go DOWN the rabbit-hole. This is something I believe both devout believers and honest skeptics should keep ever-present in their minds. None of us will ever have all the answers we want, nor will we ever be able to conclusively prove what we believe.

Whether we embrace the "rational" disciplines of history, science, etc., or we place our faith in the symbols of the Christian cross, the Jupiter talisman or crazy seer stones, the lesson is not WHAT truth we believe but HOW we let that truth change us. If we stand for our beliefs while driving others who believe differently away from us then we missed the point of Jesus' message entirely. If we choose to be more critical and carry a skeptic's perspective, yet mock those of faith then you're just as much of a hypocrite. The goal is to live in harmony with each other, in the same way faith and doubt learn to co-exist. That's the great message of both religion and rational inquiry...

...at least that's what my seer stone told me.  =)

2 comments:

Brett said...

This great, Brad. My favorite of all the "letters". Thanks for writing it!

Anonymous said...

I have just found your blog site and loving what I have read so far. My parents and sister and bother in law; former bishops, sealer & RS presidents had their names removed from church records 8 years ago after reading church history. I had to see what had affected them so deeply. The study of church history changed me too, but in a different way. There were times it felt uncomfortable and many things I couldn't understand. But I stayed and worked through it. Not all, it's a process. I am more enchanted, grateful, god loving and sometimes impatient for change than I have ever been. I'm still here enjoying my journey. I think your blog will add to that enjoyment. Thank you