The more time goes by, the less most church history issues bother me, but the more some of what I would term “bigger picture” issues trouble me. I’ve already discussed this a little bit, but I wanted to talk about one particular “big picture” issue I am struggling with. I recently was reminded of this issue in the book Standing for Something More by Lyndon Lamborn. He was excommunicated from the LDS church for sharing freely the things he felt the church was hiding: ugly aspects of church history and religion. I mentioned him earlier when I posted a link to the recording of his excommunication.
Lyndon talks about how the “truth test” in Mormonism is unreliable. In Mormonism this “truth test” can best be summarized by Moroni 10:4-5, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.” These scriptures are still beautiful to me, and I am not trying to discredit them or be demeaning, I am merely talking about a current struggle I am having surrounding this idea that the H.G. can testify truth to you, and that this is a reliable way to know if something is true.
So what is the problem with this method? Well, people from all religions experience these burning in the bosom type feelings that affirm to them that their religion is true, or that Jesus saved them, Allah is the supreme ruler, or whatever their particular religion teaches. People also experience these same feelings while reading good fictional books that definitely are not true. Lydon’s point is that this feeling, that we are interpreting as the Spirit or God telling us something is true, is not a reliable test of whether something is true or not.
That kind of shakes me up a bit. A lot of the foundation of my testimony was a good feeling at girl’s camp here and a great feeling at a conference there. These little experiences largely form the base of my belief in the LDS church, and in God. But if I had been raised in any other religion would I have experienced the same feelings, the same answers to prayer, the same warm-burning-filled-with-lightandjoy sensations that I have experienced as a Mormon, only experienced those feelings as testaments of the other religion? From what I am reading, the evidence seems to suggest I would have. And if these experiences are universal, and not necessarily linked with truth, then how can I think that my experience is somehow an exception to that?
This is my struggle at the moment.
The fallout of this is that we must rely on other, more reliable, tests of truth, like the scientific method.
But then, after a couple days of thinking about this, I started getting sad. That’s what always seems to happen. When I believe, I feel great. When I start wondering if there is no God, and if my religion is basically false, I feel a lot of sorrow. Maybe that is just a normal part of the process of letting go of something I held dear. Maybe it will get better; lots of people, like Chris (click here to see my previous post about Chris), seem to suggest that it will get better.
What I worry about is that Mormonism, and my belief in God and an afterlife which are so central to Mormonism, is too core and important a part of who I am. I worry that if I let go of it, I won’t ever find the level of happiness I had before. Ricardo has a really hard time relating to this, since for him he has found the same happiness outside of the church as he had in it. He really has. It’s a little different, but he is equally happy. He lost a few things–like the peace of feeling certain about an afterlife, but he also gained other things–like additional autonomy, which has brought him more peace and happiness. I have experienced this additional happiness from autonomy, from feeling like I really do get to decide what I think and how I feel about everything, rather than looking to the prophets or my parents for guidance of many things. However, for me, this additional happiness has been pretty limited, where the joy I had in the church was exponentially larger than this new joy I have found. I guess you could summarize it by saying that I worry that I traded down as far as my own personal happiness is concerned.
But then, I can’t just believe something just because it makes me happy, right? That would be like believing in Santa still…Christmas would be extra exciting, but is it really worth it? I kind of need to feel like there is more to the Mormon story than there is to the Santa story to stick with it. And some days I still really do believe there is more to the Mormon story. My heart tells me there is. But then, my heart once rejoiced in Santa too… If you really sit me down and ask me, do I really think there is something true about Mormonism, or even do I really think there is a God, in both cases it sadly still just depends on the day you ask me. And that is making mi vida a little loca…and I’m not talking about la Vida Loca that Ricky Martin talks about either…
Ricardo says that ultimately I just am making too big a deal out of it. The important thing is just living a good life and finding happiness in life, and you technically should be able to do that even if you have no idea if there is something after this…technically. I, however, am failing at this. The problem is that my religion was A BIG DEAL for me, it maybe was even THE BIGGEST deal of everything in my life. So telling me to make it less important somehow just doesn’t even sound possible. But maybe it is.
I suppose I am still looking for the truth, and I’m just not sure what to trust. I’m still searching for the best possible solution, and that just still is not totally clear to me.