Tag Archives: LDS church

TRUTH, TRUST AND TRADITION

I was having lunch with my friend, Sue, recently and we got to talking about our relationship with the LDS Church throughout our lives. We’re both Mormons in our 50’s, so our experience is long enough to make some general observations and comparisons. We’re both committed, practicing church members, but our underlying motivations differ. Or maybe they don’t. That’s what I want to talk about with you today.

Sue has been a church member all of her life, raised in the truths and traditions of the gospel. She admits that her church activity is largely based on habit, and even supposes that had she not been born into a Mormon family, she likely would not have embraced the gospel. I have many close friends, and even family members, who echo her sentiments. For them, the church is a wonderful framework for a life of ritual devotion, service to others, rich community, and protection from some of the world’s pernicious traps. I can’t find a thing wrong with this approach. But nor can I understand it.

No, I take that back. Although I am a convert to the LDS Church, I come from a long line of devoted Christians. My great-grandfather, a Methodist minister, christened me as a baby. Two of my cousins are in the clergy. I grew up attending church every Sunday, so I have strong religious habits and traditions myself. But being a Mormon is different from my family traditions. It requires a stronger commitment to religious practice. My participation in the LDS Church is entirely intentional, the result of my spirit’s instinctive search for truth. For me, and for most other converts (like Sue’s husband) church activity is far less habit and much more choice. We tend to be a little intense about our approach to gospel living because we are largely driven not by tradition, but by our visceral need to know the truth.

Truth be told, I am not actually sure that this distinction (convert or lifer) has anything to do with the differences I note in people’s religious motivations. Maybe it is simply a difference in order, or timing. Converts come to the Church because they are seeking truth, and lifelong members seek truth at some point because they are members of the Church.

So maybe the difference isn’t in how people come to be members of the  Church. Maybe some people are innately truth-seekers, due to their premortal history or their basic spiritual makeup. But not all faithful saints, whether convert or lifelong member, are interested in truth. Some of us are keenly interested in correct doctrine, in understanding how things really are — or should be — and that is a continual, driving pursuit. Others simply can’t drum up concern about such things. I know and love many faithful saints who show up, do their duty, serve the best they can, and couldn’t care less whether women are supposed to be ordained to the priesthood, or if we can progress to higher heavenly kingdoms after mortality. But some of us care deeply about finding answers to such questions.

I know it’s not as simple a dichotomy as “truth-seekers” and “trusting followers”.  All true saints care about both truth and trust. It makes me think of this favorite bit of scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 46:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every one is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

 12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

 13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

 14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

My observation is that those with the gift of knowing Jesus Christ tend to be the questioners, the ones endowed with a burning need to know divine truth. And those with the gift of believing seem to have an enviable, gentle kind of faith, a willing trust in the faithful traditions they’ve been taught. Sometimes people think that believing is not as cool a gift as knowing, but that’s not so. Both are spiritual gifts and I choose to believe that God gives us the gifts that will best bless us and consequently, those we love and serve.

I notice, too, that truth-seekers tend to be future-oriented, always looking ahead to the “improved” version of life, the expansion of knowledge. They seem to need experiential evidence of truth, but when they get it, they cannot be shaken from their knowledge of what is true. Trusters tend to look back to the past with a faith-of-our-fathers sort of approach, looking for models to emulate. They seem to be able to rely on other people’s experience as a basis for belief.

What do you think about truth, trust and tradition?. Do you have the gift of knowing or believing? Are you a convert, a lifelong member or a non-church-member? A truth-seeker or a traditionalist? And if, as I presume, you acknowledge a mix of all of these in yourself, how do you balance truth-seeking, trust and tradition? What motivates you to spiritual activity?

Kate and John

My heart won’t stop hurting. I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been summoned to church court for their activities related to the Ordain Women movement and the Mormon LGBT movement. I’m not upset because I’m an ardent supporter of either movement. I’m upset because I firmly believe that every Saint deserves to have a voice in our community. I’m upset because I am so grateful to people like Kate and John who are willing to say “dangerous” things out loud, when so many of us want to, but are too afraid to. I’m upset because of the atmosphere of fear that enters into our faith community when this sort of thing happens. What can I safely say? What causes dear to my heart will be “approved” by my respected church leaders? Do I trust my own spirit to hear and interpret the voice of the Holy Spirit, or do I leave that solely to my leaders, who I am sure listen to the same Spirit? What do I do when those spiritual interpretations collide? This sort of conundrum causes all sorts of self doubt. Some walk. Sometimes I wonder if the best of us walk, and if my choice to stay is foolish or faithful. I’ll say it right here at the start, though: despite all its man-made quirks and flaws, I love the Church and am convinced it holds the power of full salvation. So I stay. But right now, it just hurts. Continue reading

Big Ward/Little Ward: bloom where you are planted

 

My sister and I have ongoing conversations about big ward/little ward, in-Utah/outside-of-Utah church experiences. You’ve probably held similar conversations with friends and family.

Our conclusion? There are pluses and minuses everywhere.

My sister lives in San Diego in what they think is a large ward, but it’s small enough that all the Young Women meet in one class and everyone takes turns serving in time-consuming callings. Ward members treat each other like family and gather for every holiday and birthday.

 photo EI3C2671-2copy_zpsf8ee5509.jpg Continue reading

Singing With the Choir

Sitting in the middle of the church gym, my heart swelled with emotion and tears wet my cheeks. It had been too, too long, but the effect was the same. Listening to one of Morten Lauridsen’s compositions does something to me.  John Rutter, Leonard Bernstein,  likewise. I want to soak those sounds into my soul. In high school, as I prepared for auditions for state choirs I never made, I fell hard for the music selections. Those weaving, itching chords, make me bask in their intensity,  then sigh in jubilation and wonder as they resolve. Classical music, and particularly choral music, reaches me. Those transcendent sound waves ripple my listening ears, evoking layers of listening pleasure that other music just doesn’t touch for me. It’s a spiritual experience, both listening and singing.

It wasn’t always so pleasurable. When I started a new high school, my love-love relationship with music, became more dynamic. My new choir director rubbed me the wrong way. She lead grueling, seemingly endless practices- standing until my legs hurt, and holding phrases until my lungs cried uncle. That director was gifted, but brutal. She threw music stands, insulted students, yelled in our faces, and threatened us that the authorities would find her in a closet dead-drunk from Drano martinis from the depression we were sending her into, by failing to meet the expectations she had for us. Those moments made be question why I was there. But when the music came together, I knew I could put up with it a little longer–just to be one of the voices making that glorious sound. Despite her histrionics, I learned to sing well, and listen for good music.  She worked and worked our choir until we produced sounds we didn’t know ourselves capable of. Though sometimes she was mean, terrible, terrifying and diabolical,  but when she heard good music, we knew it- it transformed her.  Continue reading

Binaries, Bipartisanship, and the Mormon Moment

Right now I am waist deep in literary theory. I am at the end of my first semester of an English grad program and assembling a term paper. I’m interested in food studies, anticipate spending a lot of long nights cozying up to Claude Levi-Strauss’ The Raw and the Cooked. So, indulge my geek-out for a minute here, but I talk about binaries, as used by Levi-Strauss, the theorist, not the maker of fine denim apparel.

Binaries have fans all across the academic spectrum. There are binary numbers, binary code, binary stars and binary relationships in theory. What makes the term so popular is its articulation the relationship of two alternatives existing in opposition to one another. Levi-Strauss pointed out man:woman, raw:cooked, and young:old. The list can go on and on. As Book of Mormon scriptorians, we are all familiar with the discussion of opposition in 2 Nephi 2. Yes, there is opposition, in just about everything.

With the political high season winding down, we are all quite familiar with the binaries that separated and divided so much of the country. Many of us are downright exhausted by it, myself included. I stress and agonize over the structural lines, fissures that edge us apart and divide us into binaries. While I realize that opposition is natural, normal and sometimes useful, its not something I find productive. As I am writing and considering binary theory with my semester research, I have to ask the question, so what? It is not enough that matter and issues exist in a divided state. For me, the interest comes in the second half of binary structure, not the opposition, but the relationship between the two, or, how they then come together. Continue reading