Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Am I ashamed of Mormonism?

My earlier post about being proud of the Episcopal Church begs the opposite question, whether or not I'm ashamed of Mormonism.  I don’t know how to answer that question simply, but I think I’d on the whole say no.  There are many things about Mormonism that are hurtful, painful, and frequently simply and demonstrably not true.  That being said, Mormonism has gone through many many improvements and I’d say is undeniably a much more Christlike religion now than when it was created.  I expect it will continue to go through such improvements.  I don’t see that as the result of any special revelatory providence such as the church claims.  I believe that if the church has such a profound endowment of revelation as it claims many of the problems that supposedly resulted from revelation in the first place simply wouldn’t have existed and Mormonism would have been created as a religion notable for its uniquely thorough institutional Christlike behavior.  But I do think the progress in Mormonism happens I think it is because God loves all people and works to grow love and understanding in the lives of all people- so as generation and generation of people try to seek for better understanding and divine direction many things can become better over time.  In many ways that is no different from any other church.  I’m fairly certain just about any church out there also has its history of traditional abusive behaviors, its traditional beliefs that are at many times demonstrably not true, and its own history that hopefully includes institutional and personal self improvement in the quest to love both God and neighbor.  On the other hand, any church can resist the spirit.  Any church can hold to the negative parts of their traditions and assumptions- certain that the previous generation understood God’s will perfectly.  Any one and any organization can be motivated by their fear more than their love.

When Mormonism was created it was intensely innovative and speculative- ready to assume that all before them had been wrong and that some new idea of their leaders might be the eternal truth.  This was an immense advantage in some ways- negative things found in some religious traditions could be ignored and dispensed with readily and with no real sense of loss.  Nevertheless, the ability to be spectacularly right about some things also creates the ability to be spectacularly wrong.  Unfortunately, the self-confidence of Mormon theology is a weakness when dealing with the issues when the religion is spectacularly wrong.  This I think is tragic and leads to a profound inability to say, “I’m sorry” or “We were wrong.”  Even the smallest admissions of the most obvious things seem to institutionally be like pulling teeth.  Recently I’d say the speed at which old rotten teeth are being ripped out is increasing.  This is both institutionally healthy and excruciatingly painful.  Both for people like me who find themselves outside of the church and for the church body as a whole that doesn’t necessarily know what to do with all the change that is happening to it.  This is no reason to be ashamed of Mormonism.  Mormonism has a rich and vibrant tradition and culture in many ways and will continue to be emotionally healthy for many people in many ways.  Unfortunately, that no longer includes me.  We teetered on the edge of whether we wanted to be in or out for quite some time.  By the end, things had reached the point where I was semi routinely discretely getting up and leaving the Sunday School or Priesthood because I just couldn't deal with the things I was hearing anymore.  There was so much that was unchristlike about ideas that were openly embraced in church that I had never noticed before and suddenly I was noticing a ton of them all at once in part because I was studying the issues like crazy trying to drive the sickness out of my soul that such unchristlike attitudes produce and in part because I was in the cross hairs of the leadership who didn’t like anybody to even look different.

Despite all that pain and some specific areas where I vehemently disagree with the LDS church, I don’t think I’d ever say I was ashamed of the church as a whole.  Mormonism is just another group of humans wandering this existence trying to figure out what it means to be human and what it means to love.  There’s nothing easy about that.

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