For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
- Mosiah 3:19
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Interrogating my faith
As I've struggled the past year with repentance (I'm still a little unclear as to what that means as well), I've begin an intense process of interrogating my faith in the key doctrines of the church and Christendom, altogether.
I'm not satisfied with generic responses that often lack depth and that smacks of institutional inertia (that is, mimicking behavior considered "righteous"). I get these all the time: "you just need the right motives," "you need to pray with sincerity," "you need to simply hang in there," "just follow the Savior," "we're here for you."
The last one perhaps bothers me the most. "We're here for you..." implies that one knows my struggles, that one knows me, it also implies a correct path (do as me and you'll be good). I've tried participating in online support groups only to find the more I read of those posts the more I actually want to leave the church - people I don't know say, "we're here for you...". While I appreciate the sentiment, it does not sit well with me. Someone saying "We're here for you...", does not help me feel comforted, but only indicates a lack of compassion. As noted before, what is embedded within that declaration is an implicit standard of rightness that the group has somehow attained, and therefore will endow me with if I turn to them. A further problematic is the online support groups have stirred questions: the more I read, the more I want to run the opposite direction from anything these groups and their affiliates support and promulgate. I'm not sure I want to be associated with them, there is a lot of self-hatred and denial therein, a lot of smug and righteous arrogance.
I find more support with people not Mormon, not Christian, and many who don't even believe in God. They have no agenda for me, they do not pre-judge what is "right" for me, nor do they try to sway me in any direction. They offer simple sincere support, "whatever you decide, I just want you to be happy." A smugless statement like that is a relief. There is no pretense of their compassion, their compassion doesn't come with conditions. Those declarations allow me to choose, without feeling the weight of others thinking I'm erring and can't do it unless I see or join them.
These groups along with individuals I ask questions to tend to give the aforementioned generic (and unhelpful) responses to my questions.
I've been struggling recently with being filled with a spiritual desire to seek after Christ. While the Christ as a Savior makes theological sense, I do not feel a spiritual need for him. As a result, I have trouble closing my prayers to Father in the name of Christ. I'm not sure how to reconcile this. I feel closer to Father, but feel estranged from Christ (like I do not know him - which is true). It's not that I've not read, I could certainly write a treatise about the character and role of Christ, the theological significance of Christ is not unknown, rather, as stated before, I am not filled with a spiritual yearning to know Him, or to call on His name. Perhaps with time this will make sense or it may not.
Additionally, I've been having a lot of trouble with Thomas Monson as the prophet. I just can't connect with him, I try, but if I have to hear another story of a pioneer ancestor or about a widow, I think I'm going to go crazy. Perhaps one day I'll see him as a prophet, but really, I just can't connect with him. Another is Elder Cook, I try reading his talks, but get lost in his sermon. I can't follow it, I try to find a consistent underlying theme or principle, but get lost in his stories that don't ever make sense to me. I'm trying to have them make sense.
I have so many more questions. I have the missionaries come over and "teach" me, but I end up confusing them. My Bishop is frustrated with my questions.
I'm not looking for a one-size-fits-all response, I just simply want a real and honest answer, even if that answer is, "I don't know." Too often I think members of the church feel compelled by foolish obstinacy to have a clear answer to every question. Sometimes the most comforting response from a church leader or another member is "I don't know." When someone leads with weakness, I'm more willing to follow and listen. I just want the people I talk to in the church to be honest, to cease talking normatively and to start talking honestly.