A truth left out … but now acknowledged … to the shock and dismay of many who had previously believed without critical thought.
Things aren’t what they were thought to be.
With a loss of control of source documentation regarding integral parts of the LDS foundation narrative, the Church itself has in many ways been forced to acknowledge that Santa’s sleigh doesn’t fly, that he doesn’t carry presents for every child on earth in that sleigh and that he doesn’t tumble down chimneys.
Nevertheless, the Church maintains, Santa Claus is real. The naughty-or- nice detail is still in place and gifts or coal is still in the offing.
This is in effect an attempt at transparency that leaves serious Latter Day Saints who take their theology, doctrine and most particularity the supernatural aspects of their history swaying at the end of a rope whose strings seem now at greater risk of unraveling.
Such is not, however, a beginning of the end.
Rather, it may very well prove to be that intellectualizing the previously un-provable narrative will open a floodgate that could reduce the literal-minded percentage of practicing Mormons, but not lead to some catastrophic collapse of the entire religion.
That is because Mormonism is in reality a major global religion with its own peculiarities but possessed of enough true believers and doctrinal goodness so as to sustain itself and a place in the religious thought of the planet.
Let me begin by asking that you describe to yourself (and for your own understanding) the spiritual image that comes to mind when you think of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Ghost and – but not least – Mother in Heaven.
Is your image of God the Father defined by the doctrine and theology of your particular religion?
Is your image of Jesus that defined by fundamental Christian theology?
If you pray to Jesus Christ, do you pray to the standard Christian theological definition of the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the He-Who-Accomplished-the-Atonement?
And how – if you carry such an image – do you perceive Heavenly Mother; the Goddess?
Many ancient pagan religions encouraged prayer to statues. Christianity has a tradition of bowing and praying to statuary images of Jesus, Mary and the Saints. It would be interesting to discover whether we offer prayers to internally imagined anthropomorphic divine images, merely offer mental oblations to the cosmos or carry out something entirely different?
If one had achieved a genuine and spiritually sensed relationship with the higher power – God, if you will, as one had come to understand God – how would you respond to the following portrayals if they did not fit what you already possessed in your experience?
Could you easily accept a new idea of God as a Boss of the Universe no matter how respectfully and reverentially that notion is expressed?
Could you easily accept a new idea that God is a kindly, and benevolently divine version of a Caesar?
Could you easily accept a new idea that God is the male head of a divinely created and eternal Patriarchal Order that relegates every female to a secondary role in a forever of existence?
Based on a relationship with the Divine that you had already achieved, could you easily accept a new idea that the Divine with whom you commune is actually a judgmental and critical god who cannot look upon nor tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?
On the other hand, could you easily accept a new idea that the higher power with whom you have intimate and personal communion is also the Divine Author of Compassion as the ultimate way of human interaction?
Could you easily accept the idea that the God you have come to know is focused entirely on our loving one another and entirely not focused on our condemnation of anyone?
The adolescent religion of my birth was presented to me as the defined nature of life based on a continuous pattern of spiritual prompting. Mormonism came into being in the world of 19th-century American religious literal-ism based on experiences that bore in their very existence widely-accepted assumptions as to the perceptive definitions and meanings of spiritual promptings … revelation, as it were.
The Father and Son described by Joseph Smith in his Vision were entirely consistent with the fundamentalist bible-based definitions of who God is. In addition, there is consistency with how that male and patriarchal god communicates to man, not to mention a notion that the Almighty rarely speaks to humans individually as a matter of course. We owe much of that to the controlling theology, dogma and orthodoxy of the original Roman Catholic Church fathers.
However, when God the Father speaks, such communication includes an investiture of authority to those “called” to speak on His Divine behalf and who then become His middle men to the rest of the mortals.
It is necessary to understand and acknowledge one’s own personal cosmic vision and then acknowledge the assumptions upon which definitions and constructions of both reality and the spiritual world are created.
We create them all by ourselves. Others do not create them for us except to the degree that we let someone else’s constructs become our constructs.
In very powerful but subconscious ways, many believers practice their religion with an internal image that they “know” exists. This internal image they have never actually seen exists essentially because believers have accepted the testimonies of others who likewise have never seen it but also “know” it exists as defined in the traditional LDS way of testimony and authority.
In the same fashion, many believers “know” of the reality where the patriarchal god “is,” where Jesus Christ “is,” and where Satan “is” and “works” and “wants to rule.”
For many Christians, that spirit world exists in some other dimension and interacts with our own world in supernatural ways.
This imagined Mormon reality has its conflicts with the imagined reality of other Christians, not to mention other non-Christian religions who define the High Power in their own way.
But let me write specifically to the assumptions most believing Mormons live by.
There is the view of a purely supernatural, all-wise, all-knowing and almighty God who at times intervenes in the affairs of mortals in dramatic or not-so-dramatic ways. The Mormon Heavenly Father is essentially co-dependent who is a king of commandments and who is typically a type-A personality who runs the universe by edict.
Most believing Mormons easily accept and live according to the idea of an invisible Jesus/God personage who is vitally invested in human life and who directs forces of good against the other supernatural power and source of evil, Satan. This God of today’s Mormonism remains as he was in the 19th Century.
The fundamentalist god of 19th century spoke through a foggy notion prophecy and only to especially chosen humans who – a not unnatural idea – were destined to do a great work through the power of that fundamentalist god who didn’t talk to just everybody. The means of communication was equally and mysteriously superstitious, expressed as much through the mind-set of magical thinking as it was through wild assumptions of how the biblical god had always spoken to chosen prophetic heroes or heroines.
Joseph Smith started early with peep stones which later came to be defined orthodoxically as seer stones. His belief in and habit of using peep stones undoubtedly influenced his willingness and inclination to see himself in a prophetic (think mystical) manner. It further allowed an almost casual declaration that he had come to a place of spiritual experience with which he could channel the mind of god to everyone else (although Joseph would have never called it channeling.)
This magical and folkloric way of thinking is why Joseph summoned Moroni exactly on September 21st because that was the solstice time of magical practice in which one did that sort of thing. That is in fact how the first conversations with Moroni were channeled and later information received via a peep stone.
That is why the peep or seer stone is vital to understanding anything necessary accurate to the LDS historical faith claims.
Human spirituality for the most part – and perhaps with the exception of certain charismatic perceptiveness – in this century is no longer the simplistic 19th century evangelizing fundamentalism of the American frontier.
Modern spirituality is best blended with common sense and ethics rather than being limited to an organized religious institutional tradition driven by hundreds of years of theological guesswork that had become more and more obviously flawed and inadequate.
What is called for is spirituality that functions as part of and not a background to a reality that is defined daily by human interaction, curiosity, discovery and challenge.
Contemporary Mormonism is one example of the Old Time Religion that does not work – principally because all those old assumptions that were never valid are now seriously impeding social movement toward social justice and genuine compassionate concern for each other.
The LDS leadership has endeavored to come clean regarding one foundational myth: that of the how the golden plates were translated and visually inspected by Joseph Smith. Believers now see the Church asking its members to move through a process of intellectualizing the factual part of their history. However, the insistence remains that the superstitious assumptions that drive the day to day living of the religion remain legitimate.
Until we get past that feeling of being offended we will possibly forever remain the unresolved and wronged human being trapped in memory and living in ignorance of personal proprietorship of our lives.
I could not heal myself until I took ownership to the degree possible of my own willingness to believe or suspend disbelief all those earlier years.
Literal-minded belief – which is the weakest kind of human religious spirituality – is also a major player in the inability to heal one’s self.
Literal-minded belief in the true-churchiness of it all causes an instinctive fear for eternity.
Such an internal and emotional fear can cause one to relinquish ownership of one’s own spirituality. One is then tempted to remain captured by the notion that God deals with souls no directly; not intimately; but in a detached and distant manner using middlemen.
You literally then don’t have to believe so much in God as much as you have to believe in the middle men.
So long as you believe in middlemen and that they are appointed by God to do His talking and to do his intimate work in your life, you are stuck in literal-minded submission to an extremely false notion.
Members are encouraged to believe or assume that every answer to every prayer must include in some form or manner a “burning” that testifies that the church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, the the current president is a prophet today, that the Book of Mormon is true … any of an array of exclusively LDS beliefs.
The Church seems to be betting on the idea that the seer stone acknowledgement is an acknowledgement of an original historical truth that was formerly presented in a way intended to bait and switch. Hence we are already seeing an assortment of intellectualizations regarding the seer stone from semi-official and unofficial but strictly within the circled wagons of true believing sources.
The substance of this transparency by necessity then is an acknowledgment of how Santa really gets his job done .. but not any kind of admission that Santa isn’t real. On the contrary, Santa is even more so Santa and his Elves are living proof of his existence.
If the spiritual experience doesn’t have that confirming element to it, then the objective of prayer, meditation and communion is incomplete and – perish the thought – might not have been an endeavor worthy of effort.
We do this to ourselves.
The Church only encourages us because … well, because it is now a big church with more global needs. The corporate view of management whether serving hamburgers, selling software or ministering to believers within a mythical absolute is the same:
control of flow.
What flows must be controlled whether we are talking numbers, testimonies or the support of those called as mid-level managers of congregations. The only really tangible and measurable tool of control is conformity.
But reality reveals that those warm feelings that come from our prayers are ours to own and not something connected to the true-church narrative.
They are not on loan from the Church and they are not feelings on which the Church has a claim, let alone any monopoly.
Drop the literal-minded acceptance of the need for middle men in your relationship of prayer and communion with the divine and you will have taken gigantic steps in the direction of your own personal liberation.
Regarding immediate and extended family and what reactions might occur, do not be so arrogant in that you assume responsibility for the happiness of others.
Do not assume that you owe some great sacrifice of remaining in a box that family wants you in – even when family is not aware and does not accept that they are forcing you into a box from which you are not allowed to escape.
Here with our “families-are-forever” mantra, lies programming.
Whether deliberate or not, it is a programming that facilitates a family-based peer pressure to insure social conformity and assert the Church control that had loosened with your dissent.
Blood is thicker than water.
In no way however is that ever supposed to mean that family can bloody it’s own members spiritually and not offend God.
Finally, regarding the acknowledgement of the peep stone, that face in the hat and all that jazz.
Don’t gloat, don’t I-told-you-so … don’t get childish about it. Your wounded feelings are not paramount here. Those who gloated when you dissented, told you so and insisted that you are living in the Great and Spacious Building as a mocker of the truth of god are now sitting in sand castles (temples) whose foundations are a lot shakier than they thought.
Be the grown up.
If such seems to be occurring, perhaps faith is needed if one remains a believer in however form that takes. A loving God might eventually open the window where family has closed the door.