14 June 2009

Insightful Analysis, and No, Not From Me

I actually do have a pretty full life outside this blog and what tends to be its most recurring topic. Part of that life includes regularly skimming some of the better blogs in the larger Bloggernacle for new knowledge and fresh perspectives. And I just found a comment so insightful, so good, that I had to share. It arose in the context of discussing Alma 32 and how "the seed test" actually plays out so differently for different people, whereas in the orthodox Mormon view, it ought to work the same for everyone, isn't that right? Well maybe it's not that simple.

I was impressed by the comment not just because it applied so insightfully to matters of faith in general, but because it also perfectly captured the conundrum so many Mormons face when confronted with a family member who is gay. From what they've told me, several of my friends in other places face precisely this reaction from their families. I would be interested in others' thoughts on this comment, in whatever context you choose:

I agree with Andrew S that Alma 32 or Moroni’s challenge can only lead to someone learning subjective truths: I felt good about the BoM, I feel good about JS, etc. But while many other belief systems are happy to say, “this works for me, so I do it,” Mormons use their experiences to say, “this is true, and it works for everyone, it is an objective truth.”

The church teaches this. The church teaches this is the ONLY true religion and the ONLY way to happiness and the ONLY way to salvation. Sure, you can accept it in this life or the next but it MUST be accepted for you to be saved. Frankly, this style has pros and cons. It makes missionary efforts much more succesful because it ingrains in members the need to share with everyone. We have all heard the story of, what if in the next life my friend says, “you had the truth, why didn’t you share it with me?” Jared has shared his testimony on this site several times and said something to the effect of, I must share what God has blessed me with. This is quite common among members.

The cons are that this alienates other christian religions and rubs some people the wrong way. It can be frustrating to be told that “you really aren’t happy, you just think you are, because you don’t have the full truth.” And going back to Alma 32, it can be frustrating to say, “I tried to put the seed in my heart and it didn’t grow so I am throwing it out,” and have your loved ones look at you like, but you just threw out the ONLY seed that will make you happy. It works. You need it back in your heart a little longer (meaning, until you do like it and it does grow).

This is what I find to be frustrating with Alma 32 and the church as a whole. The test isn’t about seeing if it works for the individual. The test is about seeing if the individual accepts what is already defined as the ONLY thing that works.

Now don’t get me wrong, if one believes this is the ONLY way back, of course you will be desperate that your family partake of the delicious fruit. But one problem I see is this desire for others to appreciate the fruit is so strong, that members don’t allow their children to truly TEST it for themselves. It is already defined as the only way. One can’t simply conclude that it doesn’t work for them without being looked upon as weak or faithless. This is especially frustrating at times because the church stresses free agency so often, but it seems to be lacking in practice in some ways. But, to clarify, I am not accusing people on this site of that, or all members, but I think it is sad that many members never feel that they truly had a choice in the matter that didn’t involve serious pressure from loved ones. But, like I said, it is a natural consequence. Parents love their children and want them to be happy. Parents who believe the church is the only way to be saved and the only way to truly be happy aren’t going to be able to let go of an issue like this very easily. So, I do not see a solution. It seems like a catch 22. If the parents strongly believe the church to be true, it is difficult to back off and let their kids decide on their own as if the kids are deciding between playing soccer or football. If the parents don’t believe strongly, the majority of kids won’t view it as an important decision and may not think about it that hard. Simply put, if the parents have such vested interests, it’s hard to let go enough to let the kids truly test it for themselves.

That is about as compelling and accurate an assessment of this whole approach as I have ever read, both as to missionary work and the Church's whole approach to the issue of homosexuality. You can read the original post and the full discussion here.

1 comment:

Bravone said...

Thanks for the post Alan. An excellent article. As a parent, it has been a challenge to respect my children's agency and yet instill beliefs that I feel will be in their best interest. It becomes easier as they grow and mature. I think a parent has the obligation to teach values and set standards, but as some point, we need to back off a bit and allow them to stretch their wings and fly, even if not in the direction we would wish.

Because I was raised thinking this was the ONLY true church, when I had a crises of faith, it was easier to throw out all spirituality because if the ONLY true church wasn't true, no church was. For several years, I became an atheist.

I am now grateful for that experience because it made me reassess my entire belief system. It made me realize that goodness can be found almost everywhere, and made me appreciate others beliefs in a way that I wasn't able before.

I can now watch people make choices that I may not agree with and not condemn. Their decisions might be exactly what is right for them.