I have a friend who I’ve known for a few years.  Amazing guy, I really look up to him.  Recently, though, he has revealed to me that he holds a lot of quite . . . unorthodox opinions.  Upon further discussion, he revealed that really, he views his religion now as more a cultural connection than anything that he really, sincerely, literally believes as true.  Now, to me, that’s tragic in and of itself.  But he further contends that there is a substantial amount of things in our Church’s history that proves the Church can’t be true.  Hmmm.  What do I do?  I was a missionary, I’ve dealt with a myriad of false and true seeming quagmires in Church history, and I’ve always found a way to either explain it to the point where I was satisfied with the answer, or could tolerate, for the present what really are in essence, unanswerable questions.  But he wants to show me a whole collection of things he’s sure I’m not aware of.  What do I do?  I inherently distrust the merit of looking at things whose main purpose are not to uplift, motivate, and inspire… but rather, tear down.  At the same time, though I don’t want to, in his words, ‘put my head in the sand’.  I have a real problem with that.

3 Responses

  1. Kendel,I think that there is a real struggle in maintaining a balance between these two positions. All that I have to say is that you definitely shouldn’t give in if you think that his purpose is to shake your faith. However, if he can bring up one question at a time, and give you time to think it out, it will be possible to not be pulled in a direction you don’t want to head.

  2. I think that’s good advice. Also, be sure to check out FairLds.org, either before or after talking to him.

  3. Kendel,I feel like there are some misunderstandings here. I’m hoping that when we talked, these were cleared up, but in case not, and for the benefit of Merry and Nathan who probably know me, I feel like I should say a few things.I believe that Mormonism can be a wonderful foundation for life; I wouldn’t want to try to tear down the beliefs of someone who is Mormon anymore than I would of someone who is Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu, because I think it can be damaging to try to tear down someone’s beliefs when those beliefs lie at the foundation of what gives meaning and direction to their life.Mormonism is much more to me than a cultural connection. I believe in what I feel is at the core of Mormonism: this includes 1) the values of honesty, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and trying to always do my best and be a good person, and 2) a spiritual belief that there is a loving God who is willing to give us guidance, and that there is a purpose to our life and a reason for the things that happen to us. I’m also committed to many of the more specific ideals of Mormonism, including living a chaste life and abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and harmful drugs.There are some troubling things in the history of our Church. The same is true of essentially any other religion; just about every religion has its skeletons in the closet. I never said this proves the Church can’t be true. I don’t feel it is helpful to put things in black-and-white terms like this. There are some things which are true and some things which may not be true or which we may not fully understand correctly; I don’t feel that there’s anything unorthodox about saying that, because we believe in continuing revelation, and that there are “many great and important things” yet to be revealed. Certainly, the revelation on blacks receiving the priesthood is an example where God showed us that we were dead wrong about something that for years was considered by church leaders to be an unchangable doctrine. But just because some things may not literally be true as we understand them now, to me that’s no excuse for throwing the baby out with the bathwater by saying that the whole Church is “not true”.There are some things that I have reservations about being literally true, and because some of these are at what is often thought of as the foundation of Mormonism, it would be fair to say that I’m unorthodox in my belief. But Elder Holland has said that this doesn’t make a person unacceptable as a Latter-day Saint (http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html), and has indicated that they don’t invite anyone out of the Church because of something like this. I feel like there is a place for me in the Church, and I hope you can feel the same way and not judge me for what I sincerely believe.I don’t think I made any presumptions about what you were or were not already aware of, as far as Church history goes. It has never been my intent to try to “shake your faith”; that’s why I hesitated to go into the potentially troubling issues in detail. You invited me to come by at a certain time to go into them, and my reason for doing so was to help you understand what has led me to understand things the way I do. I never said that you had to come to the same conclusions I did, or follow the same path that I’m following. I don’t think any of the documents/books that I showed you had as their purpose to “tear down” belief. It’s true that confronting historical realities may require us to rethink some things, if we’re going to be really honest with ourselves, but I think this can be a constructive process, rather than a destructive one. I don’t think I ever accused you of putting your head in the sand; rather, I’ve been impressed at your willingness to listen and learn about some of these things. If you feel so inclined, I’d invite you to think deeply about what it all means, and seek spiritual guidance about it.Sometimes people are not ready or do not feel it would be beneficial for them to really think about these kinds of things, and instead only content themselves with superficial answers that don’t really honestly address the difficulties that exist. I don’t judge people who are in this situation, because I don’t feel like I can say what’s best for them in this regard. I think everyone has to come to an understanding in their own way and at their own pace. This doesn’t mean that all beliefs are equally true or right. I just respect people’s ability to find the belief that they feel is right, and I wouldn’t want to pressure people to believe just like me, because I don’t think this is helpful, and because I may well be (and probably am) mistaken about many things.Best,Brent

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