What’s Your Foundation?

Well, I’m in England for the summer, so that’s pretty smashing. I’ve been wandering around the Lake District the past few days and it has been absolutely beautiful. Just wonderfully lovely.

I went to Church today at a local branch (it’s a 45 minute drive or so from where I’m at) and started thinking. We were talking about the Book of Mormon in priesthood and the conversation turned into one of those, “nothing this flawless could have been made by a man,” “I’ve read many books, but only the Book of Mormon has changed the way I live,” “the fantastic organization that exists in the Church could only have come from God,” sorts, where every little facet of the Church becomes perfect and a cornerstone of belief in the saving power of Christ.

I have a problem with these sorts of ideas (especially the book one. I mean, you must have either read only terrible books or have a heart of stone because ALL good literature should promote a change in behavior, by helping us see the world differently. Ok, I just had to get that off my chest. I guess that’s what comes from being an English major, or that’s why I became an English major or something…).

I think there’s a danger to this sort of mentality (which I would relate to the idea of finding all these linguistic parallels and symbols), many of which only fully exist in a single language, which to me severely cripples the chance that it was divinely mandated (anything with ‘the Sun’ and ‘the Son,’ for instance. Sure, you can do some clever things with that in English, but if we take Lithuanian, then you have ‘saule’ and ‘sunus,’ which sound nothing alike. Shatters the whole concept, unless you believe God left those little sneak peeks for English speakers only, in which case you probably have other issues you need to work out).

Sure, if these sorts of things augment your faith and belief that’s fine. But, it seems like they are held up as scientific proofs that the Church and Gospel are undeniably true. And that is problematic for me.

We are supposed to have faith after all, a belief, not knowledge and if all we needed were the proper facts to absolutely know, then it seems like we should stress fact-finding rather than faith-building. I think searching for truth is vital, I’m not diminishing that at all. I just doubt the effectiveness of a purely, fact-gathering approach to finding religious truth.

Let’s just walk through the idea of holding on to the belief that because of the flawless organization of the Church it absolutely must be true.

What happens if you start to notice some problems in the way the Church is organized? Either you have lost faith and are seeing things that aren’t there, the person causing the organizational problems is in some form of apostasy, or the organization isn’t flawless. If the organization strategy/structure whatever is no longer flawless then you must question the assertion that was based on this observation. Is the Church still true? Why? Or why not?

It just feels like a crumbly foundation to set so much stock in. And maybe I’m misinterpreting those sorts of comments and thinking that they are saying more than they are. I think with all of our ‘knowing’ we can lose sight of what the center of our faith should be—the Savior. Everything should be like one of those web charts you make for organizing a paper, with Jesus at the center and all these lines and bubbles coming out with more lines and bubbles spreading from there. For a short time I tried to find the link to Christ in everything that I was teaching or studying, but it got difficult. And I mean, like finding a personal link or something not like “Pres. Monson said ‘Jesus’ and ‘Word of Wisdom.’ Got it.” I did something similar with the idea of “Love” and all the things that “If You Could Hie to Kolob” says there are no end to. I was successful. Some were farther removed. And that was an exercise of A=B, B=C, so A=C more than the linking back to the Savior, but similar.

We could all do with a little more Jesus in our lives, couldn’t we?

I mean, I like speculative doctrinal discussions more than most people, but the sort of speculation that breeds parallelomania is not at the foundation of my belief. God’s love is. And I believe that Christ is the best manifestation of that Love we’ve got.

Part of my discomfort is probably with the absolutist nature of the assertions. Once you have an absolute, all you need to disprove it is ONE single flaw. That’s it. If it’s got that, the absolute is destroyed. Shattered. Also, if you look at the remarkable religions and businesses and other organization that exist in the world you have to see that humanity is capable of absolutely stunning things.

And see that’s the other problem—this exclusivity. The practice seems to come from the desire to find Christ and God in all things, which is cool. I love to see the divine in literature and film particularly, regardless of whether that was intended (the author is DEAD!!!). But, for me the testifying of Christ and God that happens in everything inherently broadens the reach of the divine, instead of narrowing it to a single source.

There’s a difference between testifying of CHRIST and testifying of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christ is in all things. The Church is not. The Church is simply one of the things that Christ is in. It may be a bit more complex than that with ordinances, authority, etc., but regardless, Christ does not equal The Church. There are fallible human beings that act as intermediaries. Something is between us and the Savior.

Let’s just be careful with our claims for absolutely proving the divinity of Joseph Smith’s calling and The Church and remember what/who really matters: Jesus, my loving, snarky friend.

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4 thoughts on “What’s Your Foundation?

  1. Indeed, “the testifying of Christ and God that happens in everything inherently broadens the reach of the divine, instead of narrowing it to a single source.” Our exclusivity is often a barrier in our search for truth and goodness, our love for our fellow travelers on earth, and our love of God.

    Also, nice thoughts on staying in the church. I fielded a similar question after talking with a friend last night about my religious beliefs, and surprised myself a little with how much I love the church, regardless of (many) imperfections.

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  2. This post is just so on point in my mind. Well said. One thing I always wonder though is, why do you stay in the church? You talk about how it’s just another barrier between you and Christ, and an imperfect one at that. Is there a reason to have that mediator there when miscommunication is inevitable? I just wonder, because there are other churches that you could argue are more Christ-centered, other churches that have worship bands like you talked about in your last post and don’t care so much about what you wear, etc. Is there a specific facet of it that you don’t find in other churches that keeps you coming back, or do you think it’s the comfort of the fact that you were raised in it?

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    1. First, thanks. Always glad when others appreciate my thoughts, especially when they feel a bit rambly. That is a big question. I think having a mediator like the Church is inevitable and part of the process. “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel” by Eugene England does a beautiful job of explaining that and really shifted my thinking about the Church as an institution. So that’s part of it. But another portion is definitely that I feel at home in Mormonism, even with my quirks and outside the norm perspective. Being Mormon is a core piece of my identity and the comfort and joy that I feel living ‘Mormonly’ is something that I don’t want to give up. I feel like this is the place where I can come closest to Christ and be the best person that I can be. That’s probably a bit simplistic, but I think at least gives some answer to your question.

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