Spirituality based on a conscious suspending of disbelief can be a very good thing.

A mystic … Who or what is a mystic?

None of us are born a mystic in the contemporary and popular perception of mysticism itself.  However, all humans possess, I believe, the capacity to experience a mystical or intuitive sense. Such a sense is but one of many aspects of being alive and possessed of self-awareness and active thoughts.

I believe that I became aware of and began to actively tend to mysticism as a result of my religious training which included being stimulated by cultural stories of mystical events.

I would suggest that almost the entirety of LDS membership is made up of individuals who to some degree became self-informed and self-identified at an early age by taking literal the mystical cultural stories. Taking the events themselves as literally true was not so much the problem as was having to deal with the theology, dogma and doctrine that were the result of human interpretation of the storied events themselves.

These ideas bring me back to this, my most recent thematic writing: our deliberate and conscious suspension of disbelief.

In previous articles I have tried to portray the negative consequences of suspending disbelief and then emotionally and mentally entering into the mythical world about which we have suspended disbelief in order to understand and make sense of our lives as our culture portrays them.

At this time, I want to take a different tack in order to express appreciation for and discuss the value – the positives, if you will – of what can happen when a suspension of disbelief helps bring about an equalizing of our dual perceptive natures.

On the one hand, education and overall cultural tendencies within our Western society and culture for the most part emphasize scientific reasoning, cause-and-effect  absolutes, technology and a tendency to trust mostly those things we can measure, quantify and define in logical language and/or in the abstract.

This we call “objective” reality.

As valid as it may seem in very real and literal perceptual terms,  objective reality as we understand and function within it constitutes only one half of our perceptual nature.

Whether we like it or not, desire it to be so or not, we are not Vulcans as portrayed by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

It is impossible to suppress the subjective reality we experience. I suspect that the reason for our inability to be and remain “totally objective” about everything is that we attempt to suppress real feelings that are driven by mental and emotional reactions to our interpretations of things, events, words and ideas that dance across our stage of perception.

Suppressed feelings, despite any notion of living in a reality limited to objective perceptions, are not healthy nor normal. Actions based on suppressed feelings do not normally lead to “positive” outcomes regarding perceived problems, issues or challenges.

Let me attempt to express it another way.

It is my life experience and conclusion that we live an existence governed by the perceptions of our five senses. We have come to understand that our brains function from both a left and right side.

The left-brain is primarily an interpreter of facts – an encyclopedia of personally acquired knowledge and experience. The right brain, the creative and imaginative side, is the source of our music, poetry and inventions.

Both sides of our brains reside in the same cranium and it makes sense that the intent of the Creator is for the two aspects to harmonize in function. Through our senses, facts and experience are admitted into our thinking, ordered and collated on the left side of our brain. Essentially this same information may then conceptualized and experienced perceptively on the right side.

Furthermore, I’m not aware of any writing, sacred or secular, that advises us to emphasize one side at the expense of the other.

Balance and harmony of perception seems the path of our spiritual and physical evolution to wisdom and a higher spiritual plane. In a circumstance of religious and/or spiritual balance, we deal with what I have labeled “letter of the law thinking” and “spirit of the law thinking.”

Left brain thinking with its collection of facts assembled into a knowledge of the “world as it is” may – if relied upon with as much exclusivity as  possible – totally overrule the intuitive wisdom that is formed in the right brain. Right brain wisdom makes possible an ability to perceive and negotiate the “world as it ought to be; the world intended by God,” if you will.

Put another way, we are equipped to see in three dimensions: height, width and depth. Without three-dimensional vision, we see only a square instead of a box and a circle instead of a sphere.

There are in my view dimensions to our intuitive perceptiveness, our spiritual awareness so to speak.  The most commonly missing dimension of this intuitiveness seems to be a prompted wisdom that exists on the side of experience and common sense.

Let me talk about this in a context of what we do with scripture.

Knowledge of the scriptures isn’t enough in and of itself. Knowing the laws and commandments without grasping the divine or spiritual intent is not enough.

If scripture was written in an intuitive and prompted manner, then left-brain logic dictates that scripture ought to be read that same way. More to the point, left-brain logic suggests that a prompting more fully moves through the mind via the creative and imaginative side — the right brain side.

Left-brain thinking turns on the spirit receiver by its ability to read words, remember definitions, remember stories and remember personal life incidents. Right brain thinking activates the more spiritually creative aspect of thinking that senses the will and influence of ideas both higher and deeper in the mind and, very importantly, recalls FEELINGS, something the left brain cannot do except by linear definition.

To live entirely with an emphasis on left-brain thinking makes us no more human than a computer, which amasses knowledge and acts only according to facts in the database.

To live entirely with an emphasis on right brain thinking causes us to live in a world of fantasy, wishful thinking, and imaginary states where the practical application toward bringing wishes to reality is missing.

Right brain conceives the wish, but left-brain has the resources to realize the wish. It is probably the healthiest internal duality we possess.

It makes no sense that God would speak to man solely through left-side, logical, law-based thinking. Nor is it sensible that the Spirit would speak to man solely through right side thinking where ideas would remain only in a conceptual state without the will and knowledge to action.

The implication is that the Spirit speaks to man through a mind balanced with knowledge and wisdom.

Speaking in a specific religious context, I assert that the major weakness of Christianity is that while its Founder did all that He did using the Law as reference material to teach and point toward God, Christianity uses the scripture as Law first and Spirit second. It then points not at God but at the Founder and at its founding heroes instead of where the Spirit leads.

Do we lazily resort to a literal interpretation of spiritual things and then rely on left-brain-dominated blindness by acting only as the words are literally written?

Do we assume then that we have no need that sacred writings be placed in a context of spiritual feeling and understanding?

Do we lazily reside in a fantasy world with a right-brain-dominated weakness of wishful trusting that if we “believe” we are fulfilling God’s intent in giving us life and opportunity?

Do we restrict ourselves to merely looking and pointing at Jesus instead of looking where He looked and pointing where He pointed?

“Lazy” is appropriate here. Are we mostly interested in learning only that which we are commanded to “do”, that which we need to “obey” and that which we “shouldn’t do”?

I have at times in my life been a piano teacher. Worrying about jots and tittles to excess is like being able to play music only by reading notes and counting the rhythm loudly inside our heads as we try to hit the notes as dictated by our loud inner counting.

We have no true feeling for the music itself, the phrasing and the flow.

It is very unlikely, playing or listening to music in that manner, that we will be captured by the fullness of the musical piece nor carried to a higher plane as the music actually communicates its mood and feeling.

Such playing and listening, such “active participation,” if you will, is dominated by left-brain thinking. Although mechanically a player can become very skilled, not only does the music remain mechanical in sound, as if played by a computer, but it is unlikely such a player will ever successfully understand or interpret what he plays, let alone create his own music.

Left-brained musicians and composers did not create our greatest and most beautiful music.

Left-brain-dominated-humans make poor practitioners of lives fully blended by logic, wisdom, intuition and promptings.

It takes a right-brained deliberate resistance to left-brained habit of mind in order to achieve willing suspension of disbelief.

In so doing, it becomes possible to fully experience AND ENJOY a spiritual aspect of living.

 

Might be the nastiest word in 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

 

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.”

Essay: Willingness to be Prompted

Not by bread alone

The act of writing out one’s thoughts on a daily basis is a powerful means of communion with one’s inner spirit. The mind is the place where consciousness expresses itself most from the mortal home of the soul. Taking journaling one step further by setting aside time to write thoughts as they spontaneously occur without time for editing for propriety’s sake can be very revelatory.

Such writings need not be shared with anyone else, but if kept and pondered with questions such as:

“Why did I write that?”
“How come I wrote it that way?”
“Why am I so angry … so pleased … so offended … so happy?”

The effect is both healthy and instructive … a movement further along one’s own path.

Divination and Me

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines God-approved divination by lot as occurring in the choice of scapegoat by Aaron in Leviticus, in Numbers 26. Similar divination appears in Joshua 7 and Samuel’s selection of Saul as king, as well as the choice of Mathias as Judas’ replacement in Acts.

Divination by lot seems to be that which most similarly resembles popular contemporary divination methods. It began for me one day years ago when out of boredom in a book store I began reading a book entitled “A Guide to the I Ching,” by Carol Anthony.

My eye was caught by the following under a paragraph entitled “On being led” as “necessary to establish the relationship between the student and the I Ching:

A willing suspension of disbelief and a sincere effort … perseverance”

This was a tiny powerful moment. I found myself reading the definition of how I had  started on a different path while still retaining my use of scripture on my journey to the spiritual place in which I now live.

I did not buy that book then, but as I continued scanning that “New Age” shelf I came across a marvelous book by Cynthia Giles, “The Tarot: Methods, Mastery and More.”

Expecting at first a Tarot “how to” what I discovered was that Giles, who has a Ph.D. specializing in Jungian Studies, was touting the Tarot as a means of self-exploration rather than a means of telling one’s own and other’s futures.

Among other things, she wrote of divination as a means of expanding ways of knowing one’s self, of wellness and rejoining body and mind, of growth uniting body and soul.

I bought that book and read it … and reread it.

For the next 2-3 years in the 1990’s I bought a set of Runes, a Tarot deck, the I Ching book, and commenced my exploration of Gile’s proposed means of self-exploration.

I found myself amazed. In all three contexts, that which I learned as “revealed to me through divination tools” was essentially identical -the same information – in each context.

I realized then that journaling and other techniques that task the mind and imagination creatively can be a fascinating and enjoyable labor of love.

I found a means of exploring the inner self in a deliberate absence of seeking external mystical sources as portrayed by others who also used these tools. There was no concept of my being responded to by some external entity hiding in cards, runes or yarrow sticks.

I was not seeking to know the future, or encountering some sort of channeled wisdom. Carried on independent of the need for outside religious approval based on someone else’s magic or assumptions, I found myself further down my path toward a more direct communion with the reality of God than I’d ever intended or anticipated.

 

Without a sense of the mystical, Christian worship comes up short.

Alan Watts – again pre-Zen Watts – wrote something to the effect that without mysticism Christianity is left lacking. When I connected with an Episcopal parish I participated for the first time in my life in a liturgical service.

I had over my lifetime taken the Mormon communion of bread and water in a very routine way. A blessing was said on the tokens after which bread and water were passed out to the congregation where they sat every Sunday from childhood. I understood it as “passing the Sacrament.” It was just something we did as part of Sunday Service.

That first Episcopal liturgy was profound in comparison. When invited to take communion I shrugged inwardly with a sense of “yeah sure.” But as I listened very closely I understood that I would be invited to re-enacting the moment of the Last Supper.

When I went up front and knelt, the contrast between the routine sacrament of my youth and early adulthood paled in comparison to how I felt that first time with communion in a liturgical church. I understood that myth and ritual within a liturgical context touches on the mystical and without a sense of the mystical, Christian worship comes up short.

 

“Listen easy … you can hear God calling…”

If people stop challenging my thinking I’m liable to think I’ve reached the apex of smartness … and that will be right before I fall flat on my face.

I rarely sense the presence of God simultaneously in the presence of a sermon. Yet, in my experience sensing the presence of God is not something rare. The experience is much more frequent. When I read or hear something that challenges or prompts deeper thoughts inside, I don’t have to cope with sermonal droning.

It’s one of the reasons why I listen to a lot of New Age music – which is not, by the way,  connected to New Age Religion. It is usually instrumental and highly melodic and harmonized, can move slowly or quickly, in solemnity or gaiety with no intrusion of lyrics. It’s a marked contrast with contemporary rock music, exhausted elevator music or the marching forward cadence of most hymns.

The more lasting familiar music for me is Classical music with melodies that have stood the test of time.

So a lot of my writing is generated with New Age or Classical music in the background.

Now having said that, I’m going to refer to an icon of elevator music. Neil Diamond has a song that begins … “Listen easy … you can hear God calling…”

Christian Divination in the 21st Century: Prophets, Prompters and the Spirit speaking to the Church

Recently, I had occasion to call a local businessman who had started a Health Club and was offering a discount to members of all local churches regardless of denomination. His procedural approach was for our congregation to pay the member’s full rate from which he would “rebate” the discount amount back. When I asked why he was doing this he declared firmly “The Lord told me to set up this business in this way.”

Another person I know declared that the Lord had prompted her to take a specific teenage female into her home and to act as a surrogate parent on her behalf.

In the context of my social work I’ve met more than one Christian adult who faces adversity with a faith that [paraphrased] “the Lord must want me to go through this for a reason. I trust in Him and do my best.”

Guidance, prompting, faith and trust … all express the living mystical aspect to Christianity that touches far more accurately on how to life by the Spirit than all the preaching, doctrine and conformity to some sort of orthodoxy.

There are countless millions who have such a spiritual connection with a higher power – be it the Christian version of God or another Divinity. They compose a spiritual approach to life that includes taking scripture beyond the literal and letter-of-the-law adherence formula for an afterlife reward.

What I refer to as Christian divination and ought not to be confused with the assumed prophetic activity of contemporary evangelical celebrity leaders who declare directly or strongly imply that God has spoken to them personally – perhaps in the manner of the health club operator mentioned above – but in a non-sharing way.

Pat Robertson has taken the most publicly open role of prophet of our times in declaring all the things God has told him regarding national politics and American elections.

He, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham again are remembered for declaring that catastrophic events in this country are a direct statement of God’s repudiation of America for its sinfulness regarding abortion and homosexuality.

Exercising their right to free speech, these public persons – because of their influence – perhaps encourage Christians who support them to make that leap of faith to accepting such “prophetic uttering” as today’s “thus sayeth the Lord” pronouncements of the will of God.

Claiming to speak the will of God can be a risky business. To do so runs the risk of being perceived in the same vein as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and other cult leaders who essentially lead their followers to their demise.

Prophets may also face in-house challenges from loyal followers or dissenters seeking to wear that same prophetic mantle.

In September, 1830, five months after the founding of the LDS Church, Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith was forced to deal directly with one Hiram Page who had become equally caught up in the open charismatic prophetic role modeled by Smith. Hiram professed to be receiving revelations by use of his own “seer stone,” a method by which Joseph had earlier translated the Book of Mormon.

Having established a place for charisma and prophecy in the new church, Joseph had to deal with others practicing the same gifts he professed. He had to assert who receives revelations and who doesn’t. Joseph declared that he received the following revelation for Oliver Cowdery, his Book of Mormon scribe but intended for the whole church.

From the LDS Doctrine and Covenants Section 28:2, 11-13.

“ But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.

… And again, thou shalt take thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him; For, behold, these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants.”

This problem with prophecy repeats itself now more than ever, particularly with the entry of politics into Christian activism, blurring the lines between seeking goodness for the sake of goodness and seeking control for the sake of religious convictions.

Sensing God’s support and a guided influence in one’s own life is the desired departure from a biblical absolutism that turns Christian spirituality into mindless fundamentalism. It reflects the thriving mystic quality of religion that keeps God from remaining forever aloof, out there and stoically judgmental and punitive.

In an earlier article Render Unto Caesar I wrote that:

Is the very heart of our Christian way of life an understanding that Jesus, from the unseen world of spirit, is a commanding presence? Or is Jesus a presence commanding Christians what to think, when to think it and who to support?
 
A commanding presence is one of influence. Jesus is our commanding presence whose mortal pattern we as Christians consciously seek to model. That is not a pattern of blind obedience to ecclesiastical authority. His most ardent criticisms were directed toward the priestly class. Nor was the pattern one of blind obedience to secular authority. When challenged about it, he spoke wisely, Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars.
 
Jesus does not live in our spiritual lives as a kind, gentle and loving but forceful and demanding equivalent of a divine Julius Caesar. The Lord does not authorize religious leaders to speak to us for Him. Nor does he reveal to any religious leader more than to us individually His will as to our decisions concerning our religion or politics. We as a spiritual people must not ignore our own internal promptings if they are based in Christ in our own lives.
 
We do not have some Christian duty to blindly consent when someone in prominence announces that the Almighty has chosen or inspired him to lead American Christians to specific actions that impact communities, a people and a nation.

God is in our experience

My own experience has been more easily understood in the context of Paul’s writings.

God IS in our experience and as we ultimately define all things for ourselves. God will be more vividly sensed inwardly than outward. More miracles become evident from inward sources than outward interventions.

I believe that those things from which we tend to hide and cower come from how we’ve internalized external portrayals and created the fundamental temptations we face internally.

Learning to trust our own internal perceptiveness makes life – especially God – more real. It is not necessary to simply be satisfied with the limitations of outward evidence.

I come back to my old saw – the God from which we are tempted to hide and cower is someone else’s magic.

Again to literal thinking: Jehovah of the Old Testament comes across as a mean-spirited, vindictive and judgemental old guy. Easy to think it’s better to hide and cower.

The God of Compassion taught and patterned by Christ contrasts that Old Testament either-or mindset. Realizing the total implication of “the kingdom of God is within you” ought to unleash our willingness to trust the internal sense we have of God’s reality. Otherwise, we’re left to wait on extra-ordinary external events such as miracles or perceived “divine retribution events” – from which we may then say, “Aha! There is a God. Or God DOES exist.”

When we pray to God for something and that something – or some other thing equally beneficial occurs – many of us seem to be content that “God has spoken and answered our prayers.” There is a limitation to that in that we never really speak to God or feel God’s presence only through the event itself. That leaves us to conclude that God exists in the same way we concluded that Santa exists because we wanted a bicycle and found one under the tree.

If that’s all we have then all we have is a God of two dimensions – either/or – with no explorable depth.

Scripture I take literal that changed my life and informed the spirituality I call my own to this day.

I’m the child of a culture dominated by fundamentalist religious thinking.  I was born and raised within the Mormon version of reality founded as it is on the idea of chosen generations, elects of God and growing to maturity inside the “one true and living church on the face of the earth.”

In retrospect, for me the most enduring treasure of that earlier life is the spiritual sense of living that seemed to permeate every aspect of my life – a life asset that remained in place even after I had rejected the uncomfortable shackles of literalist religion and requirements of a proscribed way of living.

Sam Keene has called that sort of proscribed way of being an “automatic stance.”
The automatic stance of Mormons in general is their belief in revealed religion based on contemporary revelations from God going back to the earliest moments in Church history.

For me the spiritual sense that eventually grew with my maturation was that of a God who communes individually with human beings – who does not restrict himself to chosen “prophets” or the contemporary holy icons of LDS culture in particular and Christian culture in general.

Early on I believed those who said God would prompt if I would listen. I also believed when they said God would not prompt if I was unworthy.

When my eventual mid-life crisis of faith commenced, I was surprised that I did not feel more painfully  bereft of God’s promptings despite the fact that the LDS narrative had constantly and confidently predicted that those who fall away suffer the loss of the spirit.
What was portrayed was a God prone to pouting and who would no longer speak to me because of divine displeasure with my non-conforming attitude, behavior and overall lack of worshipful spirituality.

This portrayal was buttressed by verses from the 9th section of the  book of Doctrine and Covenants in which Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon scribe, Oliver Cowdery, is admonished because he tried and could not translate. Perceiving what I read as a formula for spiritual communion with God I was struck by the following verses from section 9:

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.
10.  Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.
11.  Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now;

There were for me powerful suggestions in those verses which later in life I came to understand as having formed a significant part of how I would habitually – almost casually once the habit became fixed  – respond to promptings with a trust in what section 9 had led me to experience.

In Christian terms, one might describe it as deeply personal interaction with God through the Holy Spirit … but an interaction free of any restriction or proscriptions of scripture. Neither God nor I needed anyone else’s permission, approval or biblical validation to define our relationship.

In non-Christian terms, the on-going communion is an interaction with the higher power or a deeper source to which I belong, from which and within which I have a personal mortal identity,

Having obtained this knowledge and experience from inside a fundamentalist portrayal of reality and religion, my early years of habit in this way of being prompted and trusting the impulses were years of internalizing ideas and recognitions which were defined in the context of LDS doctrine, theology and practice.  What I perceived as prompted was defined for me by those having religious authority over me.

I have in recent years referred to those definitions as someone else’s magic.

D&C Section 9 contained for me that two-edged sword of promise and warning

“ … you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask 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.
…  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.”

I took those verses to mean that when God prompts within, you will know it and it will feel “right” (whatever right is.) Feeling “rightness” or “truthfulness” was also the principal basis for the proselyting message the Church presented to the world regarding the Book of Mormon.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;
and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Mormons have challenged each other and all non-members willing to listen to test the promises of verses 4 and 5 above. I found personally that the process itself works. The formula gives more spiritual detail in the second half of verse 4 above, but all is consistent with the Section 9 verses.

As a young Mormon missionary, my way of coping with the strictly defined and guided life style and preaching activity in the mission field was to try to remember and apply the burning-bosom-versus-stupor-of-thought scenario in everything I did.

When I arose early in the morning for prayer and scripture study I managed to burn more of my bosom than I “stuporfied” my thinking. Such was the habit that went home to the normalcy of Rocky Mountain LDS Church life.

In priesthood practice of rite and ceremony, section 9 totally informed my life. There are multiple opportunities and requirements for active Mormon priesthood leaders to ordain, confirm, pronounce blessings and name children in rites that include through inspiration saying what Jesus would have one say.

I always took that responsibility very seriously and tried to avoid rushing through or treating as routine any rite the included personal counsel authored by the Savior himself. When giving a name to my own newborn child, confirming a newly baptized member, following up an oil-anointing with a blessing, or setting apart someone called to serve in the congregation, I would pause and wait for a prompting before beginning to speak.

This at first led to awkwardness and a need to resist any temptation to blurt the first thing that came to mind. Eventually I became comfortable with both the need for patience and a confidence that the prompting would come.

In those early years all promptings were interpreted in the context of LDS theology, doctrine, policy and procedure – someone else’s magic.

Someone else’s magic for me began to fade while I was in my mid twenties and started to realize that a pouting nit-picking punitive God with tattle tale angels writing on divine clipboards was a figment of a large percentage of Christian imaginations.

Understand now that my personal experience as a self-described prompted individual in no way means that I considered myself a puppet managed by a divine string-pulling almighty puppeteer. Rather, I saw or felt a connection with something higher than my mere mortal mind distracted by the details of daily existence.

The Mormonism of Joseph Smith had taught me that religion is more than just a way of life, it can BE life.

That I rejected the LDS version and withdrew my  membership only had to do with that particular organized way of being.

For me then Mormonism taught me the personal spiritual approaches and practices that eventually helped lead me out of the Church but with no sense of lost connection to God as a consequence. That connection eventually overrode the sense of someone else’s magic and facilitated my rebaptism in 2011.

A life that includes a willingness to be prompted – as and when promptings arise –  is very much one foundation to how I’ve lived my life now into more than 70 years.
Although having given up on the notion that God will tell another human being, a “prophet” or whoever, what I should be doing and how I should be conforming to doctrines of any group, I continue to insist that all things are connected; that we can sense that connection and find in it applications in our daily lives.

Promptings: sensing about myself that which God knows and wants me to know.

1479c-prompted

A few years ago I sat in Fast and Testimony meeting and listened as my wife, Lietta,  spoke of the workings of the spirit in her life and on promptings in general. I have spoken often with her about living by promptings.

Very early during my mission, I felt myself fitting the description Henry David Thoreau wrote about a man in a state of quiet desperation.  I had agreed to serve a  mission  without having ever experienced any sort of spiritual prompting. Not having informed the sort of missionary I felt duty-bound to become, I trembled that my desperation might not remain merely quiet.

In my particular desperation I sought The Lord and related very much to Enos, who wrote that he had been driven to aloneness with God in the wilderness because, as he expressed it, “my soul hungered.”

Enos further explained that,

“I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.”

I have always related to the power of Enos’s feelings. As a young missionary in the Language Training Mission I experienced spiritual fear that was entirely palpable. Part of my sense of self included feelings of shame and unworthiness at having agreed to become a missionary with what I considered insincerity.

The Language Training Mission was my first genuine experience with what I refer to as The Moroni Promises as they are written in the tenth chapter of his Book of Mormon writings.

The Moroni Promises became my path to understanding the role of the Spirit in my life, freeing me from youthful notions that the Spirit only worked with me on occasion; often only on a basis of worthiness. I had the mistaken idea that if I was not good, if I was not obedient, I then was not faithful sufficient for the constant companionship of the Spirit.

Being caught in an innocent assumption of God having a only a conditional relationship with me, I believed then that the Spirit of God as a Fire would only burn in my bosom when God was pleased. I had come to equate the constancy of the Spirit as a conditional circumstance based on some vague mixture of my goodness, my worthiness and my conformity to the opinions of the Church.

For the longest time, I had failed to apply the Moroni Promises to that false notion. Now in private and quiet desperation I came to my attempt to confirm Moroni’s promises.

The result was not immediate; not a flash of light in dark woods, nor a bright candle in a room darkened by spiritual unworthiness. The result was a dawning spiritual awareness that the God loves me with no conditions; Divinity never turns away from me regardless of who else is not pleased with me. The Divine Spirit is in reality the same Spirit that ignited and continued to flame my mortal life and being.

Awareness of the Spirit and of promptings was awakened in me. I do not speak of any special sense of being a recipient of special revelation or promptings not available to others. I in fact have come powerfully to understand that promptings, hunches, feelings … intuition, if you will, are the most powerful ways the Divine works with you and me.

It is not mine to doubt or discredit whatever prompting anyone else knows as experience. That is why the notion of a cookie-cutter religion is so annoying and inaccurate as a portrayal of how human beings attempt to live in harmony, avoiding discord but always possessed of a willingness to question and ask.

The Moroni Promises became my modus operandi so to speak … and for me an incredibly comfortable way to feel guided as my contrite spirit not infrequently sought to be.

Second to the Moroni Promises in importance to me was the D&C scripture regarding how best apply and test those promises. The Divine was working with a troubled young man who was then – as I was in my time – struggling to know how to be guided by the Spirit.

Oliver Cowdery it seemed had quite casually assumed that receiving revelation took no effort or focus on his part. His literal-minded interpretation of what Joseph Smith was doing in dictating verses was that simply because Joseph as Joseph, i.e. Christ’s prophet,  had merely to open his spiritual eyes and mind … and start dictating.

As we read in D&C 9, God opened Oliver’s understanding by prompting Joseph to declare not the revelations themselves, but the how-to as a manner of living prompted by The Spirit:

Here is what happened to Oliver … and please note that I have edited all scripture quotes, personalizing them as they prompted me regarding my own circumstance and feelings. It is in that manner that scriptures have been for me, a means of sensing about myself that which God knows and wants me to know.

Christ:

Surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall cask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records …  parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit. 

I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Spirit which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. 

This is the spirit of revelation. This is thy gift; apply unto it. 

Whatever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall have knowledge concerning it. 

Ask that you may know the mysteries of God that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you. 

Behold, it is I that have spoken it; and I am the same that spake unto you from the beginning. Amen.

Perhaps only partially understanding, Oliver was unable to do that which he had seen and heard Joseph doing … again because he had erroneous assumptions about what receiving revelations really meant and who can receive revelations.

Christ did not abandon Oliver but with a patient and unconditional love, explained again but in a different way.

“Because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph, I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him.”

Oliver had proven himself incapable of being prompted by The Spirit. Christ then again gave Oliver divine guidance in the only way Oliver could in that moment receive a prompting.

Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time. Behold, the work which you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph. 

It is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you. 

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. 

But, you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right (The Moroni Promises),  and if it is right I will cause that you shall feel that it is right. 

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 … you cannot speak or write that which is sacred save it be prompted you from me by The Spirit. 

Now, if you had known this you could have received prompting.Behold, it was expedient when you commenced but you doubted.

As it dawned on me back then and has repeatedly come back to my heart and thinking over the years, I remember the electrifying moment when Christ’s next words to Oliver in Section 9 leaped off the page at me and confirmed that I, as a missionary called of God, was in the right place. It was the right time for me. I was not abandoned to doubt and confusion about the coming years of my mission call.

Stand fast in the work wherewith I have called you, and a hair of your head shall not be lost, and you shall be lifted up at the last day. Amen. 

I felt, for the first of many times, something Joseph revealed in section 121, for the moment, having strengthened my weakening spirit,

 “For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be. … God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, … then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion … and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Eventually the mortal me completed a mission.

However, my life’s lessons were not to be completed in such a context. Even now I have to admit that for reasons known more to God and less understood by me, differences in my perspective on spiritual living eventually led me to a hasty decision to remove myself from the Church. Doing so was a rash act based on anger and impulse but, I must also add, such anger and impulse were the consequences of how I chose to address doubts that came up in my life.

The addressing of those doubts was not a mistake.

Eventually, wading through the religious ashes of a former life, and after having met and courted an intensely perceptive woman who could sense my spiritual wounds, I addressed my doubts. Together with Lietta, that which we sought to know opened up an incredible vision and understanding of life that otherwise would have remained hidden, lost in my literal-minded acceptance of doctrine and theology.

Literal-mindedness was the personal curse of habit that in fact hindered my previous ability to see life on anything but limited terms of organizational religious literal-thinking.

I offer no criticism of a typical way of life for Mormons that is  performance-based on the idea that grace is sufficient to salvation only after all we can do. Performance and obedience-based religious participation in which The Church keeps active members engaged in a good cause. However, as each human being is unique, such engagement in religious busy-ness does not work for me.

In a very real way, The Moroni Promises are the basis for the certainly and confidence which I place in God as I know and experience God through the same Spirit God experiences me.

My testimony … as I desire to express what testimony means to me … is that of a constant and conscious awareness of the Spirit of God in my life.

My experience is that Our Heavenly Parents and we ourselves are of the same Spirit.

There is not a separation between God’s Spirit and our Spirit …

it is one and the same …

the only way necessary for God to know our hearts and minds

… and for us to know the heart, mind and will of God.

We need no theology and no doctrine to know these things. Theology and doctrine are best utilized in lesson plans and classes for teaching.

Living with the constancy of God’s presence is more a matter of willful awareness, a contrite Spirit that humbly and always reaches out for God over a lifetime of spiritually-prompted moments.