Time … long overdue in fact … that we leaped down off our crosses.

April Conference Priorities: No-Votes and Counterfeit Families

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat: “God don’t make trash.”

On mark-missing and being mistaken in what we say and do.

It is interesting how many of our human foibles – particularly when they are our own – tend to be more effectively dealt with as if we are correcting a missing of the mark.

Most Christians however are not taught that their mistakes are missing marks. Rather, sins are  SINS; behavior that offends, disappoints or hurts God’s feelings. These notions are reflected in how we are exhorted to face up to our sins and sinfulness; to feel the cultural guilt, shame and sense of having offended a God who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance.

Congregations are full of mark-missers, not sinners. Many have missed the mark big time. In the opinions of those who seem to specialize in detecting mark-missers and seek out indications of sin, mark-missers shoul be called to repentance.

Why? Because by theological notion they have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any you-also-know-what. Trouble is that it’s hard to love with all one’s heart a low-tolerance-with-no-allowances kind of God. A God who cannot tolerate mark-missing to any degree is a God to be feared, not respected.

We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die young with high blood pressure, but also they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonable demands on those around them.

Perfectionists tend to be highly intolerant of “flaw-ful-ness” and imperfection in others. Likewise, most perfectionists imagine themselves to be subject to the terror of not being tolerated with much degree of allowance by those upline in a  hierarchy  whom perfectionists view as powers that be.

Why would we need to believe in a Supremely Divine Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful; as too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?

… and who stubbornly and relentlessly insists that He (The Supreme Divine) is is unable to tolerate you-know-the-rest?

Sin?

Sin has been incorrectly defined and then institutionalized for the most part as a wicked act, something that is in a nasty way an affront to God. Acceptance of the notion of sin suggests that the God of no- compassion is obsessed with morality as the basic concept by which Goodness is defined. The implication suggests that therefore we mere mortals should also obsess on sin.

So many among us accept the changed meaning and image of sin as something immoral which is then married to the image of a judgmental and punitive God.

It then follows that sin creates in our lives a sense of something connected with the more powerful word, “evil”.

It then becomes easy to accept the idea that the Divine Monarch Himself is offended – precisely because when we sin; because we commit evil acts.

One might conclude that when the phrase “we are all sinners” is expressed, the horrific “we are all evil” is just around the bend. Sinfulness viewed in that manner then literally relegates humanity to living in a state of criminal activity as viewed by God.

That seems to be the desired state needful to those who equate morality to theology;  whose pastoral livings are based on teaching about the evil of sin and offering advice on how to clean it up.

But …

Once we can conceive of God being offended, we cause God to no longer be God.

God should be much larger then merely being “offended.” An offended God has been reduced to a reflection if judgmental mortals ; as such is no longer really God or God-like.

It gives lie to any pronouncement of mercy. Jesus understood this and used the Prodigal Son to demonstrate it.

From the labels of sin and evil, the next logical step with sin is a concept of punishment,  exclusion or discriminatory thinking in which the sinner somehow has failed while the rest are still acceptable to God.

The sinner now has a handicap that leaves him/her “less-than” until the other FORM-ula (as in form over substance) ingredient of repentance is accomplished.

Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point. Many believers almost unconsciously decide that since the sinner is now “less-than” what true believers  consider themselves to be, many believers suddenly find themselves “uncomfortable” in the presence of sin and/or sinners.

Believers and non-believers tend to exclude by condemnation, by social avoidance, by shunning, by excommunication or by something worse. All of which is a false and non-scriptural path and reflects the spiritually violent thinking of the Prodigal Son’s older brother.

The arrogance of that act is reflected in Roman Catholic calls to Crusades and more horribly in the Inquisition. When we casually equate the word “sin” with “evil” we are never very far from looking like and participating in the evil acts of those Inquisition accusers who self-righteously assumed that they had a God-approved right to judge and punish.

Reformers such as Luther only put a Protestant spin on the traditional concepts of sin which came out of Roman Catholic dogma – concepts that remain reflected and camouflaged within the Bible today.

Protestant fundamentalists thrive on the strength of viewing the Bible as inerrant and absolute and portraying the terrible image of a punitive monarchical God. It was not Catholics who executed so-called heretics and witches in New England in the 1600’s. It was Protestants.

We members of a Christian society who casually evoke this altered meaning in our use of the word “sin” have habitualized a tendency to judge. We don’t have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual “shoulds” is to discern not “sin” but whoever has “sinned”.

We allow ourselves to condemn the action and feel to thank God that we have not done what the “sinner” has done.

However we tend not to stop there. Many of us behave in ways that suggest that we personally feel  more holy, more worthy and even more righteous than the sinner. We then deserve the blessings God bestows while sinners do not deserve those blessings.

“We don’t hate the sinner. We hate the sin, but we love the sinner.” And many of us lord it over the sinner.

There is a smugness and condescension in that statement that is almost impossible to hide. When preached to the choir, such a statement might receive applause. However, as a public declaration of attitude, it is something detrimental to an image of Christian compassion and understanding.

It is not the thinking of the Father of the Prodigal Son.

It is a thinking that lies at the heart of an attitude which accelerates from hating the sin to advocating punitive action against the sinner.

It is not “Go, and sin no more.”

Again, Jesus understood this. He made no attempt to modify the stoning of the woman caught in adultery into something less capital but still punitive. He simply said in effect,
“Go and sin no more. Try to stop missing the mark and you will stop harming yourself and others.”

We as a society have systems in place to apply punitive sanctions against those whose behavior crosses the line into criminal activity. Unless we honestly believe that “sin equals crime”, we have no justification for being invested in our morally judgment-and-punish business.

It is true that we have every right to make choices around who will be the friends with whom we can safely interact. Common sense dictates that we should do so. But if we truly think we can love the sinner while abhorring the sin, let us put to the test the idea of loving neighbors as we love self –even if we can only do so from afar.

If those who preach can get those mortal congregations who judge to stop doing so, they  will do a great work in the social context truly honest and compassionate living.

It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is merely other human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we but who seem to insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners; as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state.

Our own human experience has taught us the value of mental and spiritual reinforcement and its impact on successfully eliciting change that is self-motivated and  more likely to come to pass.

We already know this.

So does our Divine Mother and Father, who do not consider his creation as something evil.

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat: “God don’t make trash.”

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On community: It’s possible to belong and be active … and not have the Celestial Kingdom as your objective

Image result for celestial kingdom

There are many who are quite content to live in the simplest arenas of belief – who feel no need for deeper spiritual and mystical experience and have no hunger to come any closer to God than they are right now.

There are others who are so secure and established in a fixed and unchanging spiritual mode that they truly are afraid of really exploring and testing what they really believe. In some cases people like this will be critical of explorers, questioners and testers who are on a quest to come to know God as God knows them – in a highly personal and spiritual context.

Traditional formulas full of shoulds and should-nots are like paved roads. There is much to see from the road, but you never know what meadows and mountains exist if you do not step off the road and make your own trail into a wilderness of opportunity.

Nowadays the internet is a melting pot of literally hundreds of “post-mormon” or “mormon dissent” or “ex-mormon” websites, blogs and discussion boards. After a while it seems like if you have been to one you have been to all of them. Even the most senior moderators on the most senior discussion boards will tell you that there is hardly anything, any issue, any circumstance or any thought, gripe, rant, disappointment or disillusionment that they haven’t already seen many times over.

What’s with the veritable plethora of angry, frustrated, disappointed or disillusioned human beings who do not seem to be able – in a wise, mature or logical way – to write off their connection to the LDS Church and simply get on with life?

I don’t have an answer.

What then might we do with our Mormon heritage and connections?

We are not responsible for the happiness of anyone else in our lives. They are responsible for their own happiness.

In that regard, just as we know we have no right or obligation to impose our beliefs on anyone else or make a relationship with anyone else conditional on our being pleased by them, they have no right or obligation in the reverse.

We owe our fellow saints our maturity. We have no obligation to reward spiritual and emotional immaturity. If relationships are that fragile and conditional, someone needs to be the adult. It is unreasonable and makes not sense to be in a relationship where one soul is responsible for the contentment of everyone else. If friends and family want a conditional relationship with you … are you not obligated to ask them to grow up?

Why must we keep doubts quiet when they arise?  One of the admonishments I encountered frequently was that I should refrain from questioning the Church version of the Gospel because by questioning, I might be influencing others of less spiritual strength and causing them to lose their faith.

This never made sense to me. The idea that I have power in and of myself to overrule God’s influence in the life of someone else belittles God by suggesting I might overrule God’s will regarding someone else.

I came to understand that my own spiritual strength was something I had worked out with fear and trembling assisted by the Spirit. Spiritual strength is not loaned by someone else inside or outside any church.

The “true-churchiness” point of view; that way of seeing and believing – trusted as it was for years – broke down.

The church never had an adequate response to disillusionment it could not contain by exhortation to conformity, exhortation to more intense and frequent prayer on very limited subjects, and unspoken or blatantly declared accusations of doubt, sinfulness or even apostasy.

None of these approaches, used by the Church as tools of control, worked anymore.

Why?

Over the past twenty five years the Church has lost permanently any control over that contrived narration that encourages blind believing and unjustified fidelity to a cause the Church itself cannot prove exists. The pretended truths constantly crash against the wall of indisputable facts that reveal the pretenses as childish, immature and invalid.

There are tens of thousands of LDS Rip Van Winkles who have awakened from twenty or more years of blissful or not-so-blissful) slumber to discover that the reality that secured their lives when they fell asleep no longer exists.

Such reality was never real.

The theological and religious lullaby that worked so well in the past now comes across to awakened souls as not much more than a medley of childish adolescent ditties.

Such is the constancy of that hemorrhage of disillusioned believers that more than likely will continue to grow until the core of remaining church membership will barely facilitate Mormonism’s ongoing decline into the same mediocrity of traditional main-line religions that have little or no influence on the lives of its youngest adult generations.

We owe our fellow saints our maturity.

We have no obligation to reward spiritual and emotional immaturity.

If relationships are that fragile and conditional, someone needs to be the adult. It is unreasonable and makes no sense to be in a relationship where one soul is responsible for the contentment of everyone else.

I propose that what we have left in terms of churchiness is the very real fact of “It’s Okay.”

It’s possible to belong and be active … and not have the Celestial Kingdom as your objective.

It’s perfectly okay to go to church only when you feel like it

… only for social occasions
… only for supporting family or loved ones in a religious life event important to the family
… only to enjoy the sociality and friendship of the culture

It’s perfectly okay to go to church only when you feel like it

… to be a friend of the church
… yet keep it’s demands and requirements at arms length
… to accept no calling unless you feel like it
… and never fear the religious ill-will of the master and commander who supposedly leads the Church

It’s perfectly okay to go to church only when you feel like it

… and not go when you don’t feel like it
… to participate whenever you desire for your own reasons
… and have no intention or goal of arriving in the Celestial Kingdom.

It’s okay my friends.

If friends and family want a conditional relationship with you

… are we not obligated to pray with them

… pray for them

… pray that God will ask them to grow up?

… and leave the mechanics and verbiage of that to God?

Essay: There is a Mormon Alternative to the True-Churchiness of it All

reform mormonism

If Reform Mormons ever form a Mormon Congregation in this area, I’ll go.

Here’s why.

The comparative below includes quotes from the Reform Mormonism website

Regarding Literalism

LDS narrative tends to teach and utilize scripture in a literal way that is not that different from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy beloved of most Evangelical Literalists. The Church encourages members to take a literal approach to scripture, religious history, sociology, and theological concepts.

Reform Mormonism does not take a literal approach to scripture, myth, or theological concepts. Our belief is that literalism tends to make continued exploration more difficult, thereby slowing progression. We examine scripture, myth and theological concepts for knowledge that can enhance our progression through life, and understanding of our lives.”

Regarding Authority

LDS narrative insists that authority is necessary, sanctioned by Heavenly Father and instituted by Jesus Christ. Authority is something that must be passed on formally by calling, ordination and setting apart. In addition, “keys” are connected to authority and separately defined as an additional complexity in the authority structure system of the Church. Keys seem to be one of the principal echelon-separation concepts that creates hierarchy within the Church.

Reform Mormonism take a more Gnostic approach to authority; that authority already rests within the individual, and that authority as it is instituted in the hierarchies of religious organizations is for the purposes of the organization, not the purposes of God. In Reform Mormonism, ordination is used as a ritual to aide in mutual understanding of a role. No one ‘gives’ you authority from God – you already have it. Reform Mormons tend to be skeptical of people who claim they have more authority than another. ”

Regarding Obedience

LDS narrative functions with obedience as the “first law of the gospel.” God and Christ are emotionally portrayed and perceived not unlike “Masters and Commanders” who equate obedience to righteousness as realities.

The narrative functions entirely on an equation that looks like this:
Obedience + Worthiness = LDS Spirituality and leads to —–> blessings.

This sort of obedience is typical of the notion of performance-based religion. 

Obedience literally is tied to specific laws, policies and ritually-driven covenants/promises. Rewards (blessings) are predicated on obedience and the LDS version of Divinity makes no bones about having no promise if obedience is lacking. Obedience includes an unquestioning fealty to the declarations made by Church leaders (see Authority)

Reform Mormonism does not accept the concept that God has instituted or administers a law/reward system, and views the existing systems as man-made attempts to guide people into better ways of living (although, in many cases, the arbitrary nature of the selected laws can create living conditions much worse than intended or would have naturally resulted.) In most cases where laws, rules, sin, and absolution are involved in religious teachings, we often find that the purpose is to create followers and maintain a power structure.”

Regarding Morality and Accountability

LDS narrative seems obsessed on “morality” and has come up with its own definition of things its members should do in order to be seen within the Church and by Divinity as “righteous” (another word for “moral.”)

More rashly and invasively, the LDS seem to see morality as including a rigid and judgmental sexual more with its own specific “laws,” procedures and policies regarding what is to be done about broken sexual mores.

How good (moral) must LDS members be?

Reform Mormonism believe in living moral and accountable lives, but does not subscribe to the idea of “morality” as merely a sexual code. To Reform Mormons, moral behavior is when an individual acts in harmony with their moral construct; the building of one’s moral construct is one of the purposes of life, and is different for each individual, based upon their progression. Reform Mormons also believe in living accountably; that is, we accept the consequences of our actions. We don’t believe in offloading the consequences of our behaviors on other people.”

Regarding Revelation

LDS narrative proposes a God who reveals stuff to Church and members. Lip service is given to personal revelation from God via the Holy Ghost (and based mostly on personal worthiness as a prerequisite) directly to an individual. God only talks to worthy mortals based on each mortal’s life. In addition, if the mortal has accepted a calling within true-churchiness there is a promise of personal revelation specifically limited to the individual’s areas of responsibility as defined by True-Churchiness.

Then there is revelation from The Lord Jesus Christ to the authority-validated leadership of the Church. This is the revelation that is more implied than actually occurs, is seen or publicized. In the olden days, the Lord Jesus Christ was perceived as essentially in constant revelatory and commanding contact with Joseph Smith. Nowadays there is not too much prophesying, seeing and revelating. The standard as proposed and propounded by the True-Church Hierarchy is that revelation to Church and members is mostly a matter of warm or  positive feelings that contrast with a stupor of thought that might be a sign of the Adversary’s influence.

Another way to express the chain of spiritual connection between an individual member and God is implied to look like this:

God
|
Presidency
|
Apostles
|
Seventy
|
Area Presidents
|
Stake Presidents
|
Bishops
|
Members

Reform Mormonism believes in revelation as the opportunity to commune with God, and for most Reform Mormons, this is an internal endeavor. It can occur in a variety of ways. It is highly personal, and is initiated, understood, and improved throughout one’s life by the knowledge one acquires by making decisions and dealing with the consequences. Revelation is not limited or restricted based on a hierarchy or concepts such as “worthiness.” The goal of this communion is increased wisdom. ”

God
|
Reform Mormons

 

On History and Tradition

LDS narratives lay claim to its modern history and offers a narrative consistent with the literal-mindedness of its true-church claim. True-Churchiness then quite casually co-opts membership historical narratives and personal stories as emblematic of the true-churchiness-of-it-all. Anyone who has visited, for example, Martin’s Cove, will be presented with an official Church version of an actual historical event – complete with all the faith-born implications. There is a pointed avoidance of any sense of leadership revelation and decision-making as contributory to human suffering and tragedy.

The more famous LDS tragedies in Missouri and Illinois are treated in a proprietary way that tolerates very little objective research and assessment of all that happened. The narratives almost by definition must support the true-church claims even in the face of recorded and journaled history. True-churchiness proposes the idea that intellectual/academic inquiry ought to be discouraged in that it may be “non-faith affirming” activity which lies outside the purview of control or how it might be managed  “Authority.”

Reform Mormonism shares the modern history of Mormonism. Though not as socially structured as the LDS church, we have our own routines and myths. Our rituals are designed for personal edification and progression, built upon Mormon tradition, and are not compulsory or viewed as required insofar as God or our progression are concerned. We view all historical and intellectual inquiry as desirable and welcome. We believe faith is enhanced by a full exploration of truths from all sources. We believe that all facts and theories are valuable, and deserving of examination.”

Regarding Salvation and Exaltation

Theology is more or less mortal speculation about imagined realities and natural events that are based on nothing but imaginative interpretation of physical and mystical manifestations.

LDS narratives insists on literal acceptance of its theology, claiming, for example that God has instituted a grand design – a Plan of Salvation, if  you will.  The plan is a concoction of vague ideas and notions that have little basis in reality and a lot of basis in imaginative mortal guesswork. By its own vagueness, the Plan of Salvation is as complex as one would like it to be; full of ecclesiastical and theological guesswork in order to create a useable platform  for the array of shallow platitudes  presented in the Church’s correlated lesson manuals.

As the Reform Mormon website puts it,

“The Plan (of Salvation) includes the concept of eternal progression, which is the idea that there is a part of human beings that has always existed and will continue to exist forever (beyond time.) Most LDS adherence to laws is based upon the concept that while ‘salvation’ (existence beyond this life) is granted to everyone, ‘exaltation’ (the opportunity to become as God is now) is granted only to those who have obeyed a variety of laws. Ultimately, there are six different places one could wind up in the afterlife.”

Reform Mormonism believes in the concepts of eternity (beyond time) and eternal progression (we have always existed, and we will always exist.) We believe that there are several purposes for existence on this earth, and that one of the primary purposes is to gain knowledge; we value the idea of knowledge acquisition because we believe it enhances our current experience and our attempts to progress, and that the process of learning is training ground for further progression after this life. We believe that many people squander their opportunity to gather knowledge in this life, to their detriment. We believe that progression is an unstoppable force, but that many things in life can slow it down, so we try to avoid those things. We don’t believe in convoluted progression systems with multiple heavens, viewing the various ones that exist as people’s attempts to reconcile a variety of scripture taken too literally.”

Regarding Family

LDS narratives have formally and publicly come out in support of the fundamentalist and politically right wing American religious view. The formal alignment is portrayed in the true church’s Proclamation on the Family.

Families are prioritized and valued in the true church, but with fundamentalist definitions rigidly implied as being the only way God respects family relationship. In addition, true-churchiness does not hesitate to propose that efforts to promote feminism, homosexuality and gay marriage are not appreciated or valued highly by God because the are considered destructive to the ideal true-church family.

Church narrative reveal as little as possible to talk about expending church funds on political processes designed to oppose family relationships that fall outside the “divine” injunction of the Proclamation on the Family.

In addition LDS authorities insist that all the families created but who lack the promise and covenant of eternal marriage as sealed by Authority, will not endure beyond mortal life. This circumstance is in fact considered to be the way God wants it: no eternally authorized marriage = no surviving relationship after death. That’s all there is.

Reform Mormonism considers the family to be the basic building-block of society. We view non-traditional families with the same importance as traditional ones, and within our rituals consecrate a wide variety of familiar structures. We do not view feminism and homosexuality as anathema to families; indeed, most families already contain these elements, and failure to recognize this creates hatred and animosity where none need exist. We view political activity by religious institutions valid insofar as their attempts to remain viable and legitimate within society are concerned; we do not condone or support Church-based political activity designed to influence laws outside of this concern. We view most political activity of the LDS church designed to influence discrimination against women and homosexuals as extremely misguided and damaging to families and society.”

Regarding Truth

“Truth” is the founding fatherhood of true-churchiness.

LDS narratives teach or implies that “We have ALL the truth. We are the one true church on the face of the Earth. Every other church has some truth and good people therein but they don’t have ALL the truth which we alone have.”

Frequently (on a monthly basis in Testimony meeting) with an almost unconscious casualness, you will hear a well-meaning soul stand and publicly express feeling sorry for those in other churches (or merely other humans unchurched or otherwise) who do not have the truth that exists in the true church. Awareness of the ignorant arrogance of such a statement (which I’ve heard repeatedly made in the presence of non-members and/or “investigators”) seems to be beyond the sensitivity of the earnest bearer of testimony in that moment.

The true-church calling of God to carry that truth throughout the world assumes that eventually the entire world and the entire dead world will have heard of the true-church Plan of Salvation and that once accomplished, everything will be “fair and balanced.” Then Jesus can come back to judge the righteous and the wicked – dead or alive.

Reform Mormonism considers truth to be an assessment of things as they are at a given moment in time. Truth is individually understood, not provided from a Church, and as such, declaration of another individual’s religious pursuits as invalid, incomplete, or untrue, is ridiculous. Diversity within religious pursuit offers a variety of individual progression opportunities (new knowledge) that exist only due to that diversity; conversion of all individuals to a singular religious view and approach would suggest the ultimate destruction or elimination of other views, and as such, acts as a barrier to knowledge acquisition.

We value all of the religions of the world, including the LDS, and seek to explore and learn from the mysteries and knowledge they each contain, but we do not view any one church as completely true or more true than another. We do not seek the conversion of everyone to our point of view. Therefore, we do not conduct proxy ordinances for the deceased (although we do repeat ritual in the interest of the personal edification of the living.) We tend to be skeptical of anyone or anything that claims to have a greater understanding of the truth than anyone else.”

Regarding Membership in Good Standing

LDS narratives do not separate theology, doctrine and ordinance as superior to  policy and procedure. That is to say, the true church does not contain within its walls the true gospel. The true church IS part and parcel of the true gospel. They are not separate in any important sense. Fealty to the true church is the same as obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Non-fealty to the true church is the same as disobedience to God in the form of not living the gospel.

In that regard with all that hierarchy of command, control and correlation, there can be little toleration in the true church of dissent, disagreement and conflict in any public venue. Such are punishable offenses. Disciplinary action is possible whenever public discourse is offered about doctrines or theology not approved by the true church. Speaker-outers are at risk for some form of rebuke or censure that revolves mostly around the temporary suspension of disfellowshipment or the castigation of being purged or cast out through excommunication.

Church discipline is the sword held over the heads of members as a principal part of micro-management of church-perceived errant member behavior or out and out threats to church integrity and narrative. The emotional reaction to drastic discipline may very well be internal trauma about being cut-off from not only the Church, but from exaltation, and connection to God.

Reform Mormonism views the Church as an entity distinct from one’s philosophy and theology. While the LDS organization is very “top-down,” similar to a business organizational chart, the Reform Mormon approach is “bottom-up,” with no controlling hierarchy. We believe any church organization should be organized for the specific purpose of supporting the individual in their quest for progression enhancement; as such, Reform Mormonism does not posses the ability (or desire) to conduct disciplinary actions. One leaves Reform Mormonism when one chooses to leave it; it is not up to the Church to make this decision. One’s connection to God is influenced by each individual’s progression; separation from God is illusory; control of one’s destiny is not in the hands of an organization, and we encourage everyone to resist mentally handing it over to an organization of any kind.”

LDS narratives emphasize a spoken or implied  proselyting challenge:

“Once you have heard our message, we challenge you to pray and ask God if it is true. God will make the truth known to you and you will feel it inside.”

Not a bad challenge if limited to the single act described above. However, True-Churchiness takes the position that if you prayed to God and God made you to know something other than the truth the true-church espouses, then you didn’t receive it from God, but from some other source. In other words, the true church has the only truth that God will reveal to anybody.

 

As I grew older and began to dissent, one of the admonishments I received was that I should refrain from questioning the true church version of the  gospel of Christ. By questioning, I might be influencing others of less spiritual strength and causing them to lose their faith.

This never made sense to me as my own spiritual strength was something given me from God, not loaned to me by someone else inside or outside any church. It is also important that I do not portray myself as a wiser authority on God than anyone else.

The idea that I have power in and of myself to overrule God’s influence in the life of someone else belittles God. As persons of faith, perhaps our faith is most tested when we are tempted to not trust God’s processes.

Like overbearing and over-protective parents, do we hover around someone else thinking we know more about what is spiritually best for them than God?

Are we then failing to trust that God is at the helm?

This is not license to move about testing God by presuming to speak for Him and insert ourselves in between God and another soul. It also is not license to willfully decry the spirituality of anyone else as not equal to our own – AND – if we are not persons of faith, it is not license to go about tearing down religious attitudes in others.

For if we are not persons of faith, then why would we struggle to attack something we ourselves do not believe exists?

There are many Christians who are quite content to live in the simplest arenas of belief – who feel no need for deeper spiritual and mystical experience and have no hunger to come any closer to God than they are right now.

There are others who are so secure and established in a fixed and unchanging spiritual mode, that they truly are afraid of really exploring and testing what they really believe. In some cases, people like this will be critical if they encounter explorers, questioners and testers who are on a quest to come to know God as God knows them – in a highly personal and spiritual context.

Traditional formulas full of shoulds and should-nots are like paved roads.

There is much to see from the road, but you never know what meadows and mountains exist if you do not step off the road and make your own trail into a wilderness of opportunity.

Call me a Reform Mormon

 

On Repair and Reconcile

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The Price of Harmony

Pain cracks the shell  you have smugly constructed
to guard understanding by which you’ve conducted
your life, with pretending you’re safe and serene —
secure in belief that you’ve already seen

what’s important in life that you must needs retain
so to gather yourself back to heaven again.
But pain is your signal — there’s more to be known
and the harvest continues of all that’s been sown.

Awareness in thinking there’s something askew
that leaves balance unsettled — so having no clue
your discomfort drives words from your lips seeking sound
because silence is agony when doubt hangs around.

A doubt buzzes round tuning into the rot
on the hairline that wedges your armor of thought.
You cease to feel peaceful, secure and content
while serenity’s curtain has cruelly been rent.

No longer is confidence led by conviction
cause doubt brings up worry to find where a fiction
has laid undiscovered but thought to be real
til conflict comes forth with a challenge so real.

A soul you have treasured has failed to agree
with your mighty conclusions of all life must be.
The failure of harmony shakes where you stand
on the putrified pedestal built by your hand

with a naive assumption you’ve nourished so well
that all that’s important is just yours to tell.
When hearing is called for temptation is great
to ignore what’s to hear cause your pride won’t abate

and to shut up your voice feels like humbling pie
with the crack in your armour expanding the lie
that you’ve carried so long it’s become more your king
than the honor of wisdom with which you might sing.

Resist the temptation to speak if you will
and I promise you’ll climb higher up on the hill
where the view is harmonious and lovely to share
with the loved ones whose spirit was willing to dare

to confront your opinion with one of their own
that reveals what your smugness could never have known.
Pain cracks the shell of what you thought you knew,
to preserve all the goodness that stays in your view

of yourself as a being of worth and regard
when a time of revealing is shaming and hard
to accept with a feeling that all is still right
and you’ll sleep with contentment when on comes the night.

©Arthur Ruger, 2007

 

Might be the nastiest word in the Church


“Brother Brown, at this time you are unworthy to baptize your son.”

“Sister Scarlett, you are unworthy to remain in your calling.”

“Brother and Sister you are unworthy right now to have a temple recommend.”

And the worst … “Bishop, I consider myself unworthy to …”

“A Worthy Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church member who obeys the commandments of God to the best of his or her ability, and meets a minimum acceptable standard outlined by Church leaders.

A “worthy” member of the Church is worthy to hold a Temple Recommend. In order to obtain a Temple Recommend, one must be interviewed and found worthy by one’s bishop and stake president. The interview for a temple recommend is guided by questions composed by the First Presidency of the Church. The questions are standard and universal. The first and overriding question is, “Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?”

Worthy Church members are expected to be honest in their dealings with their fellowmen, to pay an honest tithe (10% of one’s “increase”), to deal kindly and lovingly with family members, to be morally clean, to live the Word of Wisdom (the health code of the Church), to have repented of past sins, to be willing to attend church services and serve in callings, and to uphold the doctrines of the Church.” – mormonwiki.com

“Worthy” might very well be the signature self-esteem word in the Church.

“Unworthy” might very well be the nastiest word in the Church.

Ours is – regardless of objections – a performance-based religion. Ours is also an authoritarian religion that insists on worthiness as the principle criteria for Divine recognition and performance of ordinances and blessings.

Ours is a merit-based religion that fully preaches to itself that there is a “worthy” key that must constantly be inserted and in place before the blessings of Heaven pour.

And now this word from Moroni, both to the missionaries and to the converts:

“See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Morm. 9:29).

But we do it to ourselves when we buy into that idea, rate others or rate our own standing in the eyes of others.

… because “worthiness” as the LDS preach and portray it is a false and invalid idea.
Today I’ve invited a few outsiders to offer thoughts along with my own about how worthy we have to be in order to be human; in order to be recognized, respected and reverenced by Higher Power[s].

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat: “God don’t make trash.”

Our own human experience has taught us the value of positive reinforcement and its impact on encouraging self-motivated change. Meaningful change is more likely to come to pass as we understand that whatever is Divine in our lives does not consider humanity as something unworthy or evil.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”― Siddhārtha Gautama

Therefore, let’s discuss the use and meaning of the words “worthy” and worthiness” in the Church.

Could we not say with certainty that the imagery portrayed in the Church and by Church leaders is that of a God whose angels record our every flaw and mistake?

Do we not believe – or act as if it is so – that these behavioral and mortal flaws are tucked away in a book of life from which we will then be held accountable – if we fail to cleanse ourselves via repentance – by the God of the Doctrine and Covenants “who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?”

It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is no one special, only other mere human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we are who insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves in worthiness terms.

 “As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.”― Nic Sheff

Does the Church in such a manner openly declare that God is in fact a “respecter of persons” who requires worthiness before his outpourings of love occur?

 “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”― Mark Twain

Does not the Church teach that God’s outpourings are conditional rather than unconditional?

In addition, we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we then strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell. -Apostle David Bednar

Does not the Church deliberately instruct us that the God of Compassion is obsessed with morality as the foundation of defining Goodness – and also suggests that therefore we too should obsess on sin?

 The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.

Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us. …” Apostle David Bednar

Why would such men and women insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners, as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state?

This notion of unworthiness moves rapidly across the line of credibility more powerfully when within the official context of Church policy we begin to believe that unless we are “temple-worthy” we find ourselves in a one-down or less-than circumstance.

Do we not assume that members are not routinely called to leadership positions unless temple-worthy?
Are we not fearful then of not being able to give the scripted answers to recommend questions because so much self-validation as worthy rides on those answers?

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”― Marilyn Monroe 

Temple-worthy is also a status you cannot obtain unless you buy it through your voluntary payment of tithing. In this regard purchasing LDS temple-worthiness through tithing looks like a first cousin to the old fashioned indulgences the Roman priesthood used to sell.

When it comes to exacting payment, unworthiness is the principle leverage for completing the deal through the priesthood brokers.

In other words, Mormons inflict upon themselves unfair comparisons with each other based on the notion of worthiness.

Congregations are full of mark-missers, not unworthy sinners. Many have missed the mark big time. Those who – in interviews with others – insist that mark-missing is sin may then feel authorized and justified in labeling others “unworthy” and calling them to repentance.

Literally, in the Church, take it to the bank that “unworthy” indicates that you might have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any degree of you-also-know-what.

We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die at younger ages and often with high blood pressure, but also that they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonabole demands on themselves.

They also tend to be highly intolerant of flawed-ness and imperfection in others.

Perfectionists who are called to lead feel themselves empowered to use the sin-based definitions of worthiness and are much more numerous on a local and stake level than in the general quorums leading out of headquarters.

Such persons substitute their value judgments for the more meaningful pastoral skills that take more work to acquire.

As leaders they make absolutely terrible ministers.

Why then would we need to believe in a Supreme Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful and therefore too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?

 “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”~ Judy Garland

We do it to ourselves. It is done almost in knee-jerk fashion often in families where family members are perceived according to two standards.

Who are the “unworthy” among us and why do we label them that way?

 “It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for something you are not.”~ Andre Gide

It becomes easy to accept the idea that the monarchical God is offended because when we are not worthy we have something evil or inadequate about ourselves.

 “If you don’t run your own life, somebody else will.” ~ John Atkinson

One might conclude that when the phrase “unworthy” is internalized, the horrific “evil” is just around the bend. If we see ourselves as evil we more easily perceive God as offended or withholding blessings. Because of unacceptable behavior on our part, we force God into a role of a deity who loves us only conditionally.

“Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”~ Les Brown

If we relate to our Heavenly Parents as Divines who must be pleased by us in order to bless us, aren’t we placing our lives at risk for the next logical step: believing ourselves subject to approved exclusion or discriminatory thinking. Does that not mock the idea of divine unconditional love?

Do we not become part of a group-thinking involving of “haves” and “have-nots” in which the “unworthy” somehow have failed while the “worthy” remain acceptable to Go?

 “I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”~ Anna Freud

Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point when we decide that “unworthy” is now “less-than.”

Since we feel uncomfortable in the presence of sin and/or sinners and we exclude by condemnation, social avoidance, shunning, excommunication or something worse. Terribly, we suddenly feel very uncomfortable in our own presence. We risk then discriminating against ourselves before someone “in authority” does it to us.

 “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We don’t have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual “shoulds” is to discern not only “sin” but whoever has sinned and is by gospel extensions “unworthy.”

If we believe in Heavenly Parents who deal with us conditionally based on worthiness, we also become dupes of a second falsehood that always makes sense so long as Jesus Christ is viewed and believed in as the Master and Commander.

We come to believe that under the direction of the Father, Jesus is assisted by the Holy Ghost who carries out another form of divine retribution by ignoring us. And we are left to figure out how The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are a trinity whose relationship with humanity becomes conditional rather than its eternal opposite.

At the same time, the individual is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that this gift and its companion blessing entitles the recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian … so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift.

Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, is obtained only after baptism. “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man,” he said, “if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 314). mormonwiki.com

 

A person is expected to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of scripture, and of the words of the living prophets before baptism. The full outpouring of the Spirit does not come, however, until the person has complied with the command to be baptized.

Only after baptism can the gift be conferred by one in authority, and even then the Holy Ghost cannot be received by someone who is not worthy of it, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in the heart of an unrighteous person. Thus, the actual companionship of the Holy Ghost may be received immediately after baptism or at a subsequent time, when the one receiving the promise becomes a fit companion for that holy being. Should the individual cease thereafter to be clean and obedient, the Holy Ghost will withdraw (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). – mormonwiki.com 

The idea of worthiness as a condition for the Spirit of God to assert its influence seriously distorts – but reinforces – every authoritarian religion that portrays itself as the agent of an autocratic God.

The autocratic God is a co-dependent God relied upon by His self-appointed authoritarians. These authoritarians invest most of their energy attempting to micro-manage the very thoughts of believers. Such is a false god who would judge you for what you think and believe more than what you do.

The autocratic micro-managing false god of commandments lies at the heart of most guilt complexes all over the world. Believers then tend not to be authentic, not they’re real selves.

“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.

Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing.
You get to love your pretense.

It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks.
They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison

If you choose to believe that as a parent you are justified – at the most critical moment in your child’s life – in refusing to speak to that child because that child did not “obey” you, the truth then is that you literally do not deserve to be a parent.

If you choose to believe that your Heavenly Parents will refuse to “be there for you” if you have become “unworthy” of their conditional requirements for blessings and comfort, I tell you that such Heavenly Parents are not worthy of your reverence.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free