Saturday, February 26, 2011

Go to God...And then go looking for WMDs.

Well, I know it's been a while, but I thought I'd be back to say hullo. It's been a crazy week with a stolen bike here and a broken car window there, and some general frustration with the world. But anything I wanted to write about regarding my petty problems has once again been overshadowed by something I saw at MollyMuses. From her post:

"The following was forwarded to me by a friend. A Facebook comment made today by Natalie Hess, a Provo-based real estate agent, read:

This is going to be bold, so be prepared. I’m so sick of hearing about lds people who are watching & reading anti-lds propaganda & then actually believing it as 100% truth. Seriously use your brains people! Don’t believe everything u watch/read. Consider the source, usually it’s begrudged people coming up w/ this crap!

Richard Dutcher, yes the Richard Dutcher who made “God’s Army” and “Brigham City”, replied:

And this is going to be unpopular. So be prepared.

You have a point, Natalie. But, as one who has studied and researched more Mormon history and doctrine than anyone I know (other than some scholars and published writer friends of mine), there is another side to that coin.

There are so very many church members who are familiar with only material published by the church/Deseret Book. And then they come into contact with something controversial from an outside source (not all outside sources are “anti-Mormon” by the way) and turn to Deseret Book or the church for an explanation and…guess what? There’s little to nothing.

And so they research a little more and find out not only that what some of these outside sources are saying is true, but that the church deliberately hid and/or lied about the information. And then they’re really confused. They’ve trusted in the church, they’ve sacrificed for the church, they’ve LIVED for the church, and then they find out that the church has lied to them, repeatedly.

It can be quite a faith shaker. In many cases, a faith destroyer.

Yes, there are anti-Mormons who lie and cheat (using partial information) and do anything they can to fight against Mormonism. But there are very many historians and scholars with no axe to grind who simply put forth material that is contrary to the church’s official story.

Some of us can manage to live with the cognitive dissonance of holding two contrary realities as somehow both true. Some of us can’t.

Be patient with those who are struggling with information that is shaking their faith. They’ll need your support. It is a hellacious ride which will most likely end in a very painful collision with reality.

It is also a painfully confusing experience to realize that the church you love and have sacrificed for is withholding information from you, while your “enemy” is telling you the truth. So very painful and confusing."

As always, I'm skeptical as to whether or not it was actually the Richard Dutcher sitting in front of the computer screen, typing away on Facebook, but I find that this makes for interesting conversation all the same. While I have great appreciation for Mr. Dutcher's courage in being so blunt and honest, the ensuing conversation was what caught my undivided attention.

A favorite highlight was the feigned surprise at 'ol Joey Smith being imperfect (an attitude that still manages to insinuate that he ultimately was) and Dutcher's clever reply of "I think if Thomas Monson sends you off on a trip and then humps your wife while you're gone you'll feel somewhat differently." (also, some poor bastard named Devin advises we "get on [our] knees and ask for it." hah!)

Humor aside, what I loathe is the attitudes and the generic "solutions". Generic is not a strong enough word. Here are the problems these people believe they are addressing:

1. People are looking at anti-mormon literature and believing it, which is stupid of them because ALL anti-mormon literature is the inflated fiction of disgruntled ex-mormons

2. People are looking for reasons to cease believing because walking away from something you've known, trusted and sacrificed for your whole life, while facing social rejection is waaaay easier than being mormon.

3. People have doubts and, being mindless sheep, have NO idea how to deal with them.

What multiple commenters advised we doubting Thomases do is go to God. As one who has "gone to God" on numerous occasions and come back with only an empty stomach and a feeling that I spent an hour in prayer, banging my head piously against the East wall, I feel like these people owe me something a little more substantial.

From a psychological perspective, here's what'll happen when you "Go to God" without being a truly objective judge: you'll get a "feeling" in favor of the church being true, because ignoring or rejecting what has more evidence but happened a long time ago is a more powerful catharsis (yeah, I'm going Freudian on your asses) than leaving the beliefs you've been socially punished for doubting, immeasurably reinforced for believing, and looking at the people closest to you and saying "I don't think I agree with your core lifestyle and beliefs anymore." Here's what I meant by that run-on: as a species, we're terrified of change. Our present status is what we know; it is cushy and comfortable to us. We adjust to the changes that are thrown at us, but to consciously invite change, specifically change that leads to unknown consequences and the possible loss of social trusts, is not something we do very naturally. More natural is to look at a conflict, like "My patriarchal blessing seems a little generic" and simply reject it. That burning you're getting in your bosom for rejecting the aforementioned statement is really your mind saying "yes, this is comfortable and safe, this does not invite change or any form of rejection from my peers. They will probably applaud me for coming to this conclusion. I like applause."

The fact is, when the leaders of the LDS church say "ask God and find out for yourselves" what I really hear is "ponder it and come to the right conclusion-*nudge*nudge*wink*wink* You know, the one we're spoon feeding you."

My response to all of this genericness is one generic word: Think. Think for yourselves, choose what is strong and sensible, not what feels fuzzy and soft, because if some one goes breaking into my proverbial house I'd rather have a Rottweiler than a Pomeranian. In other words, if I should explain why I believe the way I do, I want a solid argument that will mow an unwelcome invader into the ground. The truth is what it is, not what you feel it to be.

To close, our friend Devin also had this to say: "Isn't it great that testimonies aren't based in fact finding or knowing the exact truthful history of what actually happened?" No, Devin. That is terrifying. Basing everything that you are, everything you believe, everything you live, on something for which you haven't found facts is dangerous. People who live this way have been known to go looking for WMDs in Iraq.