Friday, April 15, 2011

I dreamed a dream

I had a dream last night where I was in a room surrounded by close relatives and friends and everyone was engaged in making comments about me. No one was really talking directly to me, but they were all making veiled jabs at my disbelief to one extent or another. Some of them were quite hurtful and made me very sad. I awoke and made some observations about what transpired in the dream. The first one was that even though everyone in the room was aware of my disbelief, no one bothered to ask the obvious question, "Chris, Why don't you believe in the church anymore?", let alone listen to my thoughtful and sincere answers. In fact, no one even bothered to ask me any questions at all to attempt to understand where I might be coming from. Everyone just assumed that what they heard (or assumed based on their understanding of what causes people to fall away from the church) about me was true.

Another observation I made was that everyone was very condescending in their attitude towards me. They would seek affirmation from others in the group in various ways (to confirm their beliefs), but their comments were designed to either put me down or make light of my situation so that it did not have to be dealt with in any meaningful way. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about my situation, but they had no interest in finding out about my situation from the person who was in the situation. I found this very frustrating. I woke up at the most frustrating point of the scenario.

When I woke up I also began to formulate a question I wish I could have posed to everyone present at that time. Of course, it was a long question that needed a lot of foundation to be established, but now that I think about it, since no one seemed to be interested in actually learning about why I am where I am at, I don't know why they would even attempt to listen to a question posed to them in the most sincere and thoughtful manner possible. I started to feel like I was the only one capable of listening and actually processing what was being said by people without applying an automatic bias to what was being said. I felt like I was a scapegoat for everyone to unload all their fears and insecurities (disguised as convictions) on. Anyway, here is the question I began to formulate to ask my relatives and friends present in my dream;

We know from the bible it is taught that God giveth to ALL men liberally and upbraideth not when we ask Him for something (James 1:5). We also know that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). We also know that Jesus taught that God desires to give us exactly what we need because since we know how to give good gifts to our children, God most certainly knows how to give the best gifts to us (Matt 7:9-11). To me these scriptural teachings mean that everyone is entitled to answers to prayers and, at a minimum, to feel the spirit when those things that are taught contain God's truth for mankind. The feeling of the spirit should be inseparably interconnected with God's truth when it is uttered.

Based on these teachings, what I continue to fail to understand is two things:

1) Why is it that if two people who both earnestly seek for the feeling of the spirit to confirm the same truths that have been confirmed to others, that one person will claim to have received that divine guidance and the other will not? Why does Heavenly Father do that to anyone?

2) Why is it that when truths are taught that we may claim to have felt the spirit about when they were originally taught don't cause us to feel the spirit the next time the very same thing is taught at a different time or under different circumstances?

Both of these questions have to do with consistency. Is it too much to ask that the things of God that are manifest actually be consistent with the teachings in who is able to receive them and that we consistently feel God's spirit when the things of God are taught even though the circumstances of hearing the truths may be different?

The problem is that the response of believers to these questions is to blame the person who is never able to receive the hoped for answers or feeling that they are seeking. They will give some variation of; the person who does not receive the feeling of the spirit must not be in tune to feeling the spirit at that time. They will then cite a litany of possible reasons for their unworthiness of being able to feel the spirit which all boil down to, regardless of how sincere the person is or how hard they try to achieve that worthiness, they are just still failing on some level. It is always the fault of the person who isn't feeling the spirit and there is always some additional requirement that can be heaped on as a prerequisite before the person will be "worthy" of feeling the spirit.

The problem is the list of requirements never ends and is also literally impossible to completely fulfill. Once you are doing everything you are supposed to do, what will inevitably happen is you will fail in being diligent with one of the other requirements. For example, I can't possibly do everything the church teaches and not falter in some other area. I can't possibly attend all my meetings and do all my genealogy and attend the temple with the diligence that is required in all those areas. It is also a case where no matter how much a person does, if they claim to not be able to feel the spirit, there must just be something more they are missing or maybe it is some sin they are committing that is making them an unclean vessel. Since nothing can be entirely isolated as the reason, the assumption is that it must just be something more that everyone is not aware of, but it is still the person's fault who is not feeling the spirit. It is never possible to consider that God might be the one to blame, because no one can ever assume He might ever be wrong.

This type of blame the victim mentality is just sickening to those who are on the receiving end of it. It is just like if a woman is raped and then she is blamed for it. It is just heinous to think about when that happens. Of course, I realize that there are probably still circles where this is an acceptable reaction towards the woman who is raped (i.e. to blame them for it), and this makes my heart sink and go out to those poor women who are blamed for something they are absolutely not responsible for in any way shape or form. (Of course, I understand that the line between consensual and non-consensual is sometimes very blurry, but in conditions where force is evident, I believe we should always err on the side of compassion towards the one who is claiming to have been raped, since they are truly the victim in such cases).

This causes me to wonder if it is even possible for some to ever see the hurt, pain and loneliness the judgments that are cast on others result in? I know the pain I have felt has been immense at so many times, but the response of believers seems to be, "Well, you deserve to feel pain you stupid, unrighteous apostate! If you just had faith and conformed to the truth of God all your pain would go away." How can people be so presumptuously callous? How can people who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus (who taught that we should love our neighbor as ourselves) be so extreme on the opposite end of that spectrum by despising those that simply don't understand why there are inconsistencies. People are condemned for thinking that they might possibly have a more likely explanation for it all? In essence I am asking here, why can't we all just get along? Why can't believers not treat those disaffected members of the church so harsh and abrasively? Why can't they try to understand the disaffected members viewpoint and actually consider some of the points they try to convey?

Unfortunately, I have to conclude that it is in our very nature to be judgmental and ostracize people who do not belong to our perceived group. Maybe we cannot ever fully overcome this tendency and there will always be pain and suffering and division amongst those who are separate from, or outside of, religious groups everywhere. I just wish people would think a little more about how the things they say may be hurtful to others who may not agree with their view or see things differently for some reason. I believe that, while I am not perfect in this, I do try to see things from the perspective of others a lot more now than I used to. The difficulty comes when my sympathy is directed towards those who have historically been the one to blame for their woes.

Shouldn't a church that claims to have all the truth of God in it's doctrinal canon have, as a result of its influence, the means to help people be able to see things better from others' perspectives, instead of bringing people up to shun and be critical of others outside the group so quickly? Why is this not the case - especially in God's only true and living church on the earth today? Unfortunately, nobody who needs to hear these things is still listening to me at this point.

My dream is that the pain that comes from the critical comments and ostracism caused by believing members of the church towards those who do not believe, for whatever reason, will cease. I also wish that we could all work to understand things better from the perspective of others without automatically assuming they are sinning (or applying any other unsubstantiated bias until the situation is fully understood). Stephen Covey said it best, I think, when he said that one of the habits of a highly effective person is to seek first to understand, then to be understood.

If anyone is listening, I am not in pain because I have sinned. I am not in pain because I deserve it. I am in pain because I have been judged and cast out by those that I continue to love without due consideration of my viewpoint. My viewpoint has only been arrived at through thoughtful criticism of what I was taught should be considered the most important questions in life. Unfortunately the answers I have arrived at are now different than what I was taught. And if you ever want to know exactly what those things are, I'll be more than happy to explain. All you have to do is ask.

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  1. Unless you're already involved, there's a private facebook group that discusses these very issues with like-minded, disaffected people, just like you and me. It's validating. Theraputic. And you'll have respectful, open-minded conversations to help you be able to deal with family and friends who won't listen.

    Do you have an email so I can give you more information about how to join the group if you're interested? I really think it will help you.

  2. Fanny, I added an email address to my profile. It is Thanks for the invite! I look forward to it.

  3. I sent you an email. Just waiting for your reply to it.