Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Planting Seeds of Doubt

I love walking through the gardens at Temple Square during the spring season particularly when the daffodils and tulips are at their prime. The volunteers that plant and maintain these gardens do a masterful job in creating a beautiful patchwork of color with their placement of different varieties of flower combinations throughout the flower beds around the church office building compound and Temple Square.

Yesterday as I was walking through the gardens enjoying the volunteers work I was approached by two sister missionaries, one from France and the other from Mexico. Not wanting to get into a religious conversation, I greeted them with a smile, said hello then began to walk away when the French Sister started to engage me in a conversation. I explained that I was merely here to enjoy the flowers when she asked me if I were a member of the church.

I took a deep breath and said “no I am not”. She then asked if I was familiar with the LDS Church. I gave a slight smile again and said, “OH yes, I am quite familiar with the teachings of LDS church” She then asked if I had ever read the Book of Mormon and been able to put Moroni’s promise to the test. I replied that not only had I read the Book of Mormon many times and had put Moroni’s promise of asking God if it was not true to the test, I used to be a member of the church.

This revelation seemed to confuse her and she asked “You used to be a member of the church and left? Why would you do that?”

I took another deep breath and simple said “…well because the church is not what it claims to be…you see…the church presents itself as the one true church on the earth, holding all the authority to offer eternal life to its adherents…but that is simply a claim that is not based in reality. The church teaches fiction as reality…but its truth claims don’t sync with reality. She said what do you mean? I then said, “You’re from France, a beautiful country, France is the sight of multiple pre-historic caves containing drawings made by pre historic humans dating back 40,000 years yet the church teaches that human existence began a mere 6,000 years ago with Adam and Eve. So here we have a hard evidence example where your religions truth claims clearly conflict with reality. The church is passing off fiction as if it were the truth…which it is not.

I then turned to the Mexican sister and said “You come from a great and noble people, the Mayan civilization. The church would have you believe that you descended from a people that immigrated to the Americas from Jerusalem in 600 BC, but we know through, archeology, genetics and anthropology that your ancestors arrived in the America’s at least 14,000 years ago if not earlier via a land bridge that linked the Americas with Asia. So again church truth claims conflict with reality”

By this time the sisters seems to be somewhat flustered so I decided to double down. The church teaches that there was no death in the world prior to Adam is this correct? To which they agreed, so I pointed out all of the hard evidence proving this claim to be blatantly false. I told them that the seeds of my doubts were planted on my mission when people just like me asked hard questions that the church could not answer satisfactorily, I told them that I was once a bishopric member, had been on the high council, married in the temple and that yes even I had once born testimony that I knew with every fiber in my being that the church was true…but when I had said those words I knew in my heart that I was lying to myself, trying to make its truth fit with the reality I also knew existed…it was only when I finally put my doubts aside and made the decision to test the truth claims of the church against the empirical evidence that I came to the conclusion that despite having some good in the church its claims just did not stand up to scrutiny.

The Mexican sister then said…”wow you’re a very logical person”. I smiled and said “yes”. If the truth claims don’t sync with reality…then I reject those claims as being false truth claims.”

I then apologized for being so forthright stating that I had merely come to temple square to enjoy the flowers and not to engage in a religious conversation, but the French sister said no I asked you so it is ok. I wished them all the best on their missions but closed by saying…despite your knowing that the church is true, I believe that you also know that there is something that just doesn’t add up…Don’t be afraid to ask your religion the hard questions. Your faith must be built on a firm foundation of reality not fiction. I’ve meet with bishops, stake presidents and yes even with General Authorities …and none of them have satisfactory answers to these questions. Their only solution is to have you ignore reality…which can only cause metal conflict.

I wished them the best…and walked off. While I don’t know if what I said made any difference…perhaps, just maybe I planted that same seed that was planted in me by some forgotten person I too had met on my own mission so many years ago.

Friday, April 04, 2014

My Thoughts on John Dehlin Leaving the Church

Throughout history there have been cultural agitators who have dared to speak "truth to power", who stand unafraid, without the filter of anonymity before that power and expose the raw truth to the world. Luther, Gandhi, King and Chaves come to mind. While the Mormon world is much smaller and the hoped change of little importance in the grand scale of human history it is important to those who are affected inside this culture.

John’s agitation of Mormon hierarchy, his exposure of institutional historical whitewashing and its lack of accountability and transparency, his fearless open questioning of authority completely blindsided Mormonism’s so called prophets, seers and revelators. He caught them completely unprepared in a new internet world where some random guy from Logan could start a podcast that had the audacity to actually ask questions and expect an answer.

John became the voice for those within Mormonism’s spire who had no voice; the disaffected, the LDS- LGBQT’s, its feminists and those struggling within mix religion marriages. Not only was he their voice, he became their therapist someone who actually “got it”, who understood the struggle within the culture. He was the voice that made us feel that we weren’t crazy after all for questioning the church.

Did he do it perfectly? No. Has he accomplished every change he’s hoped? Of course not…but he has made a difference…how many of us or those who are so quick to criticize him can say that we’ve made a difference on so great a scale within the small closed world of Mormon society. John has been that voice prodding the corporate church to carve out a small place within their tent for allow for cultural Mormonism to exist side by side with faithful believing Mormons as one grand culture of Mormon's both believers and non-believers, both orthodox and unorthodox, gay and together in peace with each other.

I for one will be forever thankful that I found Mormon Stories and John Dehlin that one day some 12 years ago when I was struggling to make sense of the fractured world of Mormonism. John was real, he was unafraid to challenge, to ask the difficult questions and demand truth from power.

Does anyone really think that if not for people like John the church would be making the subtle changes that it is making today? Would woman really be offering prayers in General Conference? Would the church have shifted its stance of homosexuality acknowledging nature over nurture? Would GA’s really be out conducting recue meeting in far flung corners of Mormonism if not for people like John?

John has been that annoying mosquito pestering church authorities, demanding accountability from an institution that demands unquestioning devotion and obedience of it's male hierarchy. He was the right man at the right time.

Thank you John…for all you have done for our community I personally wish you peace where ever your life path take you.