So much of what is preached and publicized in the Church today consists of encouraging and sustaining a notion that we celebrate our membership by being anxiously engaged in the organizational busy-ness of performance-driven behavior.
Why would anyone invest all that emotional, physical and spiritual energy if not seeking and believing in the ultimate LDS Gold Medal symbol of victorious mortality?
If we move only a step or two away from the narrow vision we are given through that spiritual keyhole formal correlated dogma offers believers, might we then be able to ask ourselves if there is any other reason for being religious; for seeking positive personal piety and for desiring some sort of epiphany that gives a sense of belonging to and being loved by Heavenly Parents?
Why incorporate religious practice into one’s life at all if it is possible to figure out a way to be strongly compassionate and ethical in the way one lives without a crutch of organized religion?
The Golden Rule with it’s implied reciprocity of kind and sensitive interaction among human beings does not have the Bible or a specific religion as its source. Why would it not make sense to simplify one’s mode of being by merely relating to everyone else as you would like them to relate to you?
Why keep on showing up, singing the songs in community, bowing the heads in community prayer, sharing and bearing thoughts and testimonies in the communal manner? Is it not because such is the habitual way Mormons – particularly those Mormons with many years in harness – see themselves; religious children of a Creator who has actually revealed His existence and connection to humanity?
Do most Mormons know any other way to “be” a Christian believer than being Christian by striving to “be” a Christian Mormon in the “True-Church-iness” mindset of performance and worthiness?
Does the all-or-nothing way of being a Christian Mormon leave any room for something less than anxious engagement in earning promised rewards …
… because there is a law irrevocably decreed that confirms to Mormons that Heaven is a reward for a lifetime of planting and then harvesting crops of religious merit based on performance?
Why could we not learn to be Mormons who are content with trying to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, giving, honorable and all those things that don’t require attendance, witnesses, the name of Jesus Christ and “by-the-power of the priesthood?”
As I stated previously, when we participated with members of our Episcopal Parish we were not even one time exposed to sermonizing, preaching, teaching or exhortation on how to be good Episcopals;
On how to satisfy and please God based on our performance as faithful Episcopals:
On how glorious the Episcopal faith is because no other creed has the total truth of Episcopalianism …
None of that
… just things like the Sermon on the Mount, personal struggles with moral dilemmas, forgiveness, faith, hope and charity with no eye single to any particular glory.
That is the way I plan to not be a Christian Mormon but rather, a Mormon Christian.
That is why I accompany my wife to any Church for as long as we both desire the give and take of communal and community participation with mutual regard and affection.
That is why in my own way, I have insisted to our leaders and to my pioneer-heritage family that I do want to participate with my spiritual brothers and sisters, but with no eye single to helping them and being helped by them to pass by after-life sentinels on some uniquely monopolized truth path that will leave me above and beyond all those who chose not to be faithful.
Performance-driven religion is a score-keeping religion. Like tournament golfers, I suppose, individuals are encouraged to carry around mental personal scorecards and make entries of their performance strokes and go to clubhouse meetings where on-going tournament results reflect the good strokes and bad strokes and where songs and lyrics are sung to the one true way to swing a golf club.
Mormons can be as performance-driven as the correlated Church exhorts them to be, but they do not have to do that if they don’t want to
… so long as they understand – or learn to understand – that literalness in belief is but one way … but not the One and Only True Way of being.
There is a caveat that comes with literalness in belief; a caveat perhaps that most non-critical-thinking believers have a hard time realizing. Whether based on critically studied and well-thought-out concepts or based on blind trust, believers to an astonishing degree live a religious life by pretending and then acting as if the myth and accompanying theology were true.
Having internalized – in many cases for decades going back to birth – it is precisely that pretension and activity that is part of an uncritical, almost mindless religiosity that rarely extends to other venues of 21st century living. In fact, other venues in which believers culturally and socially participate (think “Let’s go shopping!” “Who’s going to win?” “I’m going to vote for -.”) provide the basis for moralizing preaching and teaching week by week in LDS chapels.
Morality is not theology because it consists, as Alan Watts wrote, “of telling people how to behave.”
Focusing on morality – telling people how to behave – does not impact public or private thinking except as it relates to control of behavior and an inculcation of a belief in a merit-based gospel of performance. So long as the emphasis is on morality the emphasis is on control.
Preaching morality rather than the virtues of goodness – particularly the common good we all ought to be seeking – gives us mostly sermons and exhortations limited to issues that are defined entirely by judgmental thinking.
Judgmental thinking in a religious or spiritual context drags the positive and negative aspects of human behavior into moral areas where actions are governed out of a concern for reward or punishment and validation by our communal religious crowd.
Judgmental thinking has at its core the idea of worthiness based on reward and punishment. Reward-or-punishment teachings are tools of fear, shame and guilt and if ever used successfully, always result in the right things being done for the wrong reasons.
In the Salt Lake Church do we not often feel like one must lean toward if not actually feel one’s self as being righteously inclined, but unworthy? Do we not feel like we need the external hand up offered by the Church’s social participation program as a means of personal on-going atonement for our human frailty?
Does not such a felt need make it exceedingly difficult to attend and participate in a literal-minded mindset without feeling inadequate, guilty and to a degree unworthy of the perfection modeled by Heavenly Father, His Kept-Hidden Heavenly Wife and their totally perfect Son?
I might try to remind everyone I encounter in my non-Celestial-minded church participation that none of the doctrine, theology, performance-based judgmental standards are real or based on anything spiritual except the unsubstantiated testimonies of others.
However, in a culture that seems to insist that if a single soul testifies in public, a rigid and inflexible truth has been declared, a truth by which all those who hear the testimony will be judged, my reminder tends to be ignored out of ignorance, fear of apostasy or literal-minded convictions whose roots run deep within a psyche.
I believe that I share my own spiritual with emancipated and thinking cultural Mormons. Our self-conscious and suppressed pain and anger in meetings is among other things based on a fear, shame or guilt at being wrong, on offending a myriad of friends, family and acquaintances who might then be disappointed or condemning of our broken hearts.
It is that struggle that is much more important for our well being than worrying about the falsehood connected to that which we are exhorted to mindlessly conform.
I am a cultural and heritage-based Mormon. I am also an heir to the religious-minded psyche that was nurtured out of my childhood and that served and informed a spiritual-mindedness that accompanied me out of the protected valleys of Rocky Mountain religion.
It seems that my Mormon way of seeing things – which is not a correlated Utah Church-based Mormonism – is part of my spiritual psyche. Even though none of the fantasy theology and cosmology is true for me, it is not that theology and cosmology that draws out my spiritual hunger and prompts me to spend time among my own beloved kind of people.
This is an almost irrevocable truth in life. If a way of being is working satisfactorily for a human being who has a conviction basis to that way, it is not ethical for me to say
“Although I cannot replace what you believe with the right stuff, what you are believing and doing is not only false, but wrong for you.”
To do so makes me as guilty of mindless and judgmental criticism as are those friends and loved ones who frustrate me most.
Christian Mormonism may be the natal language of my nurturing but I now through experience have learned to speak Mormon Christian … and there is a marked difference.
Mormon Christian is my language of spirit.
It is the language best suited for me even thought that suit must exclude a costume of conformity that I cannot wear.