Sunday, July 31, 2005

Caution: Exploding Heads

"If you live in a closed belief system of certainty, resistance to new information is intense, and the breakthrough feels like death. You feel as if your head might explode." --Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit Without Disconnecting Your Mind

So I've been reading this book. I was attracted to the title because lately I feel like if I want to keep the faith I've held to for years, I'll have to stop thinking. Not that Mormons don't think--I know many many hugely intelligent Mormons, my wife being one of them--but rather the more I think the more Mormonism doesn't make sense to me. And I'm not willing to give up thinking.

A big premise of the book is that you can be a Christian without believing all the little points of doctrine that Christians believe, that you can still embrace that community without accepting all of its dogma. (Actually, the author states it much better than that, but that's the idea as I understand it.) So that has me wondering if I can be a Mormon without believing, say, that the Book of Mormon is a literal history of the ancient people of America, or that Gordon B. Hinckley's right to receive and interpret revelation is greater than my own. And I don't think I can. The Mormon rule of thumb is that if your personal revelation is not in line with what the prophet says, then that "revelation" must not come from God. I don't think I can trust another man to interpret God's word more than I can trust myself (and believe me, I have a healthy sense of distrust in myself), and I don't think Mormonism is one of those faiths where you can buy just a slice. It's the whole pie or nothing.

And that is a scary idea. I've been a Mormon all my life. I don't know how to be anything else.


Tolkien Boy said...

Just remember, the ultimate journey is the discovery of truth, no matter what your religious preference. And don't you think God is interested in ultimate truth? To me, anyway, if God isn't able to give us ultimate truth, then there isn't any God. And if there isn't any God, then - well, life is either more simple or more complicated, depending on how you look at it.

Master Fob said...

Perhaps there is a God who is able to give us ultimate truth but chooses not to. Maybe he's waiting till we have faces. Maybe we aren't capable of grasping ultimate truth in this lifetime. Maybe if the point of the journey is the _discovery_ of truth, then we should be wary of those who claim to already have it. Or maybe you're right and I'm wrong.

svoid said...

The quote from your book reminds me of a quote from the movie, "Dogma", where Rufus, the 13th black apostle, is telling Bethany Sloane, the great-great-great-great-(etc.)-grandniece of Jesus Christ himself...

Bethany: Jesus didn't have any brothers or sisters. Mary was a virgin.
Rufus: Mary gave birth to CHRIST without having known a man's touch, that's true. But she did have a husband. And do you really think he'd have stayed married to her all those years if he wasn't getting laid? The nature of God and the Virgin Mary, those are leaps of faith. But to believe a married couple never got down? Well, that's just plain gullibility.

Sorry for the tangent, back on topic... So, Rufus is explaining to Bethany why it's bad to have beliefs. I don't have a direct source for a quotation so I will have to paraphrase: Beliefs are dangerous. People tend to build these whole structures of beliefs and the structure becomes immutable. People have gone to war to defend their beliefs, people have killed to defend their beliefs. It's better to have Ideas. You can change an Idea. Changing a belief is trickier.

Your closing paragraph is interesting to me considering what you wrote in your essay regarding labels. Where does "Mormon" really fall in the ranking of labels that you use to define yourself? You say, "I don't know how to be anything else", but I would argue that you know how to be lots of other things. Even without "Mormon", you are still "father", "husband", "brother", "friend", "writer", "librarian" and "child of God".

Master Fob said...

Good point, brother.

Tolkien Boy said...

Um...why are you always concerned whether I'm right or wrong? It makes it almost impossible to post...

Mandi said...

>>the more I think the more Mormonism doesn't make sense to me. And I'm not willing to give up thinking.<<

Total stranger ringing in here.

You have been a Mormon all your life and all of a sudden it's not making sense to you? Sounds to me like you have learned more than you wish to know and being of greater thought than just "I believe what they tell me to believe" you're now torn between the devil you know and the devil you don't know....

Rich Alger said...

“I don't think I can trust another man to interpret God's word more than I can trust myself” (master fob

Don’t trust yourself independent of what you know to be true. You are fallible. God is not. As you connect yourself to Him through obedience to what you know to be true, you will not fail. Any man would not fail. Failure to increase our knowledge of truth comes when you disobey what you know or feel to be true.

Every man can know independent of anyone else what truth is. The Spirit of God will testify of the truth of all things. The key is you must follow His promptings in order to keep feeling His presence.

This usually means some sort of commitment. After finding out the Book Of Mormon is the word of God, you will know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the church of God. You should be asked to covenant with God, by baptism. As you keep your covenants with God you receive more light. If you continue to be obedient, you receive more light, more understanding of truth, “and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”, (D&C 50:24)

This has a practical, every day application. I could be awakened in the night by the cry of our crying baby. I feel to go to him and comfort him.

Now, if I do not follow this feeling I may think, “I have to get up before my wife. She will hear him in a little while and take care of it”. “Why does she not hear him? Doesn’t she know that I need my sleep?” I could torque myself into an argument with my sleeping wife. That would affect how I would react if she did get up, “Why did you make me get up? You can take a nap today; I can’t”.

Even if these reactions were unspoken feelings and not even conscious thoughts the effect would be the same. I would alienate myself from my wife.

What if, instead, I just got up and took care of my child? If the baby kept getting up in the night, I could work out an agreement with my wife. “I will get up with him every other night." Then I could feel at peace with waking my wife and asking her to get up with him. Or, in the first place I might have woken her up and asked her to get the baby. As long as we worked out any problems with it later with a mutual agreement, a commitment, it would be fine. It would be something that invited us both “to do good”.

“When you do good, you feel good, and that is the Holy Ghost speaking to you”, (President Ezra Taft Benson, Friend Sept 2001). The key is to do what we know to be good and true. Then we will be in a position of light to recognize “the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (I John 4:6).

I would like to follow up on any response. Do you have an RSS feed? If not try It is recommended by blogspot.