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A cool secular testimony

January 31, 2009

I remember I used to dislike getting up for fast and testimony meetings because I knew I was lying to myself and others, and I didn’t want that So I didn’t do it very often.

Eventually, I got to this point where I would put aside all the stuff I didn’t believe about the church (which just so happened to be the religious and spiritual stuff), and focus on the stuff I could believe in (the practical and pragmatic teachings). And so, when I read accounts of members who raise similar concerns, I smile inside. Cletus, a spouse of one of the permabloggers at Feminist Mormon Housewives, writes such an account.

Unfortunately, my problem (or I guess it’s only a problem if you see it that way) was in two things: 1) you have to believe that the pragmatic effects of the church lead to its goodness [e.g., the church is overall good, even if I don’t know it’s true] and 2) you have to believe that these good things are somehow part and parcel of the church [e.g., I gain these good effects most readily from the church]. I don’t doubt that some, these may be true (for example, Cletus himself comes to these conclusions), but for me, it was most liberating when I came to this realization that I could, if I wanted, follow what I want on my own terms. I can borrow and adopt what I like, and reject what I don’t without putting any label on it and taking upon myself everything else attached.

I think this is a merit-worthy path, because taking such a secular Mormon or “New Order Mormon” position (or whatever such labeling) still leaves you open to criticism from others you might not want to suffer…whether they be those who think your position to be illegitimate from without the church (nonmembers, anti-mormons, etc.,) or those who think your position is illegitimate from within the church (members whose faith foundation is centered on the spiritual and not pragmatic.) Jared, who has the blog “LDS Alive in Christ,” does a great example of showing what conflicts you can face even from your fellow members:

…Don’t you think it odd that all of practical aspects of the church that you enjoy rest on a foundation lies? I assume “lies” is a fair word to use, if not, help me understand.

My experience is very different from yours. The Lord for whatever reason has given me many “supernatural” experiences; visions, dreams, visitations, and etc. So I am bewildered by your post. By this I mean, I know that the church is true and good, but not perfect.

I am genuinely puzzled by members like you. It’s difficult for me to understand how anyone who has been on a mission and associated with the church for a long as it appears you have, and have not experienced the ministering of angels, encounters with satan, dreams, visions, forgiveness of sins, and frequent manifestations of the Holy Ghost.

My spiritual energy is now focused on coming into the presence of the Son of God, the second comforter.

I wasn’t “raised” in the church”, but was brought back to it when the Lord left the 99 and came for me.

…I appreciate your candid, and what appears to be, genuine testimony. I wish you the very best, but I am left wondering if you’re just spiritually lazy. Have you ever really plead with the Lord to know about things spiritual?

He’s got several “valid” points. And by valid (I hope I’m using this term correctly), I mean the logical reasoning works, but the premises’ truths are unknown. I don’t necessarily think his argument is sound (I don’t think the premises are true), but assuming one views these points as sound (because they accept a LDS/Mormon framework), what implications do his statements have?

One premise is that good ole All-Or-Nothing proposal. The church is true, or it’s not. If it isn’t true, why believe its practical claims when they are based on a house of lies? But if you believe these practical claims (and they are indeed practical), shouldn’t that verify the church? Jesus can’t just be a “good teacher,” under this idea. He’s either the Savior or a Swindler (or schizophrenic…)

Another is that One-Size-Fits all. Everyone can read the BoM and get a confirmation of it and everyone can have a spiritual experience. And if they don’t, then that is of course, their own laziness or pride, etc., and a concerned members should worry.

So then we can come to the conclusion that Cletus just didn’t try hard enough for it (like Hillary for the Presidency).

The church is clever enough to have an out. It wouldn’t just let those like Jared run rampant pushing people with different testimonies out of the church — that wouldn’t be good for the tithe coffers. Fortunately, the out is that some people, even if they don’t have the gift to know, have the gift to believe on the words of others…wow, what a great consolation prize!

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