So I think I need to update blog readers about my current location in the world of faith.
In the LDS faith, the faith continuum goes something like this:
- Start as a child, dependent upon your parent’s faith.
- Have spiritual experiences while praying, reading the Book of Mormon of Bible, etc. that let you feel the church is “true” for yourself
- Eventually have enough of these experiences that you can say, “I know the church is true”
- Knowing the church is true, you have faith in the things you do not understand, believing that they are the way they are for a reason, and some day we will understand them when God answers our questions after this life.
This is, more or less, how I was taught. The question is, is this the only, or even the best way? For me, this is more how it works right now, I guess:
- Grow up in the church believing all of my experience led me to a knowledge of the church’s absolute trueness.
- Have my world crumble beneath my feet as I was faced with too much information that contradicted that idea.
- Decide that black and white, absolutely true or absolutely false paradigm is not going to work for me if I want to try to have faith in something.
- Figure out what things I can believe in, given my experiences and all available information.
- Move forward having faith in the things I feel there is room for me to believe (anticipating that I find there ARE things I still find room to believe)
This is not the way I was taught, but I am starting to be okay with that. The absolutely true or absolutely false paradigm no longer works for me. But for me I am hopeful that there is a middle ground.
So here’s where I am at so far:
The concept of God is the most important, most central idea to my faith. I am currently trying to read about God to decide if there is room for me to believe. This process is not over, but I am hopeful that there may be enough logic for me to continue believing in the idea of a supernatural power or being that interacts with us on a personal level. If I feel there is no logical room for the concept of God, then my faith journey will largely be over and I will need to find spirituality outside of religion most likely. If I am able to believe in a God, then the kind of God I will choose to believe in will be the kind of God I feel I have experienced, a loving God.
So deciding whether or not I can believe in God is kind of the first step for me, but I am hopeful enough at this point that I am already beginning to reconstruct some sort of belief. If I eventually decide that the concept of God no longer works for me, I suppose that reconstruction will have been in vain
The other things that have been the most central to my faith are a belief in answers to prayers, an afterlife, eternal families, priesthood power, Jesus Christ, scriptures, and prophets–in that order. For a lot of people, the order of importance to my own personal faith is probably shocking, but they are in this order because of my own personal experiences that have built my faith. A lot of these beliefs are somewhat unique to Mormonism, so it is highly likely at this point that if I am going to choose to participate in a religion, it will be Mormonism.
The question then is what things are crucial to my faith. In order to believe in the concept of eternal families, do I have to believe in the temple rituals? Would it make sense to believe in eternal families without the temple? That question has yet to be answered for me. In order to believe in the priesthood power, do I have to believe in Jesus Christ? Could I believe that the priesthood power is actually power from God, not Christ, even though the church teaches it as Christ’s power, without believing in a divine Christ? That scenario seems problematic, but maybe it could work (I am not saying I don’t believe in a divine Christ, I just have yet to fully explore that question). These are the sorts of questions I have yet to answer.
The idea of infallible prophets no longer works for me. I have read too many contradicting statements between different prophets and apostles, too many things preached over the pulpit in former and present times that don’t seem or feel good to me, and too many things that seem to be absolutely of worldly origin to believe they could be 100% from God. I don’t see any way that I can believe that prophets are inspired in everything they say anymore. But maybe I can still believe they are inspired in a lot of what they say. That is still a possibility for me, and I will embrace that as long as I feel I reasonably can.
How then, do I determine what things are inspired or not inspired? Well, I listen to my brain and I listen to my heart. If something feels wrong or seems illogical then I’m going to say, for myself, that it probably is.
This type of belief, to some, may sound like I am saying I am wiser than God. Well, I am not trying to place myself above God (if he in fact exists). But I am also not giving someone else authority to dictate my personal decisions. I am using my intellect and my sense of right and wrong, some would even call this combination the spirit–D&C 8:2, “Yea, behold, I will atell you in your mind and in your bheart, by the cHoly Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” Some people are comfortable assuming that prophets will never lead you astray, I am not comfortable trusting anyone to be infallible. I think prophets can be wrong, so if I am going to believe in prophets, I am going to listen to what they say using my own heart and mind and decide if I am feeling inspired by God.
Now, as you can see on my blog, I have started discussing issues surrounding Mormonism. Many of these issues are issues that are not central to my personal faith. Do I think women should have the priesthood? For now, I definitely think that would be good. But that issue is not central to my ability to have faith or stay in the Mormon church. If women do not get the priesthood for 100 years or ever, it probably will not effect whether I stay or leave the Mormon church. The same goes for my discussion on the church’s disciplinary system and the on the idea of modesty. Do I think some of those things should be changed? Yes. But these things are not central parts of my faith (though for some people they are). Because I believe in fallible prophets, and I believe God, assuming God’s existence, wants me to make decisions for myself not rely on a prophet in everything, I feel fine about disagreeing with the church on some of the church’s teachings. I do not see this as wrong any more (and I have read some prophets who maybe would agree with this approach–though I should make a whole post about that I think. I’ll try to do that). For this reason, I just am processing my new/developing views on topics in the church. I am not trying to be offensive, just trying to hear others’ input and voice my own new views on these important (but not faith shaking for me) topics.
This approach is unorthodox for a Mormon. I realize that. But it might make sense to me, and it might provide a path to belief for me. Many members of the LDS church may find my methods harmful, and I feel sorry about that, but for me, this is what currently makes the most sense.
Feedback is welcomed 🙂