Search, ponder and pray: What I discerned from the teachings of Joseph Smith

 

Joseph peepstone hat and transcriber
Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while Martin Harris acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat.

He was a charlatan, a pious fraud, a liar, adulterer, money digger and whatever else we offendeds can bring to pass in our minds as to why  we’ve been  had from the get-go. Whether, as was I, we were taken to a Saturday night baptism in the 50’s or 60’s by relatives who wanted theirs and our blessings within the kingdom, or whether in a moment of spiritually emotional conversion it all seemed so true and we joined up, the consequence of those moments was a more detailed immersion in the Church narrative which proposed what I have referred to frequently as the “true-churchiness of it all.”

Yeah yeah yeah … that’s how it was in our earliest spiritual mortal life. That’s how it was in the earliest years of our culture’s evolution into the 20th and 21st-century society thriving out of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake today.

I might suggest one impact of the true-churchiness narrative we were fed like  pablum with its claims of exclusivity, a perfect church peopled be imperfect members and the truest doctrines on earth. That impact is that members have a antiseptic perception of the organization, its doctrines, its heroes, its teachings and policies.

The mental resistance bases itself on an almost unconscious assumption that the Mormon Church teaches the purest doctrines, includes a priesthood authority that God gave it (including a power not unlike Obi Wan Kenobi’s “Force” with which miracles are wrought.

Yeah, yeah yeah. Our indignation has taken over our own common sense. We look at years of feeling guilty during the passing of the Sacrament because we were told that the true from of sacrament-participation is to think about the Savior and not so much to relate to remembering the Last Supper and what that might have felt like.

We look at years of agonizing over smoking and drinking coffee, having been spiritually inoculated against those things to the degree that we inflict upon ourselves our own sense of less-than in the worthiness sweepstakes because we know there are so many sitting in righteous reverence who are called to serve when we are not.

We agonized over tithing and the frequent testimonies that affirmed and/or promised nothing less than the tenets of the prosperity gospel if only we would place the required and requested amount into the outstretched hands of Church authority.

We agonized over Church callings as if they were prophetic opportunities to magnify ourselves in our own eyes as much as the eyes of our righteous peers.

We in fact came to believe in and live by the most harshest assumption that can be found in any performance-based religion: Only obedience makes one worthy to receive Divine blessings.

Which brings us back to the seriously flawed but inspired founder of the great global religion.

Joseph the Flawed gifted to his Saints some of the most powerful theological ideas to ever emerge out of the 19th century.

Regarding Joseph Smith, I think of this description as analogous:

“Another kind of sign-seekers are the people fascinated with psychic powers, believing that all genuine mystics must also be magicians who can foretell the future, read other people’s thoughts, heal diseases …

This can be done by giving the impression, allowing rumors to spread, and claiming nothing overtly. Just look knowing when funny coincidences happen, and you acquire a reputation for working miracles. Given the reputation, the actual miracles follow, because people believe in you.

When it doesn’t work you lament about their lack of faith …  Your successes will be remembered and your failures forgotten because so many people hope against hope for a real wonder-working Master, and you will end up by believing your own hoax. ” – Alan Watts

The most honest confession I can make for myself is that I am a product of what  Joseph Smith started two hundred years ago. By the time I was born, the rigid theology, doctrinal principles, procedures and ordinances were in place.

But none of those things are currently thriving in my most spiritual of inner sanctuaries. What are however are the habits of search, ponder and pray accompanied by the enculturation of the belief that God  hears my prayers, listens to my thoughts and has given to me through my own personal revelatory experience a testimony of his constant  presence in my life.

With that awareness I occasionally bear testimony of the Mormon Promises and have I have used them to obtain ANY knowledge on ANY subject regardless of whether or not the Church might define my questions as approved and without regard as to whether or not I was ever worthy to just ask the question.

That is how I perceived Joseph’s experience with God and the Spirit. His experience left him with the sure knowledge he could -in the eyes of scientific investigation – replicate his experience enough time to give him a confidence that waxed strong regarding revelation and inspiration.

An honest consideration of the charlatan reveals how fully confidence waxing strong in spiritual affairs permeates the membership and the overall approach to personal revelation.

Which leads me to a few paragraphs appropriate to the title of this article.

“I teach them good principles and let them govern themselves.” Joseph Said.

So  how about let’s govern ourselves and let the dogmatic preaching of a Church with its hand out for cash build its own fortune?

I have come to realize that how I see the world spiritually is a direct consequence of the teaching and examples of the charlatan.

​My soul is not some fragile, static and pre-existant jewel given me by God before I left to come to Earth and birth. The soul is alive, responds constantly to every stimulation, forever curious. It had a hand in forming my body and has a hand in maintaining my body and spirit in this life.

My soul thrives on subjective experience rather than the mere passage of time in some vague ever-rising eternal progression.

My soul has to work with the assets not only given but that which would develop into the mind’s ally most closely involved with physicality: my ego. My ego is not my enemy and cannot pretend to not know what my soul definitely knows.

The mind with the ego seated in the captain’s chair constitute the spiritual connection to the soul and eternity in one direction and the world and physical reality in the other.

I am then the manifestation of your own soul expressed mortally by the work of the ego. If my ego begins to take itself too seriously, it is up to the soul, who is the only presiding authority in my mortal arrangement, to take the ego to task, restore humility and move forward in faith.

In other words, I quote the Gnostic text in which Sophia, the Soul Spirit takes the self-important ego that thinks itself almighty to task.

“Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit; and he became arrogant, saying, ‘It is I who am God, and there is none other apart from me.’

When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, ‘You are mistaken, Samael’ — which is, ‘god of the blind.'” (The Hypostasis of the Archons, p. 167, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited James M. Robinson). 

Without the promptings from the mind of Joseph Smith – who spoke without any correlation of doctrines, performances and belief sets in mind – I would not have come to a place of my own revealed religion and spiritual practice.

If religious leadership leaves us confused and perhaps even doubting, I realize how well the process described from the mind of Joseph Smith works for me, and has going back to the commencement of my so-called apostasy.

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a

stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. – Joseph Smith, D&C 9

There are no perfect prophets, no perfect general authorities and certainly there is not a perfect church. There is not a perfect culture. I never chose the culture, it chose me when I was born into it. To think otherwise and reject it would be in truth tearing off my own hide.

I do not need to do that. Neither do you.

Own the way you’ve come to see the world.
Own how much of it comes from your culture.
Own it!