Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Fall From Grace: Part 4 - The Promise Moroni Broke

"I've been searchin' every which-a-way yeah yeah" - The Coasters

I say disinterested agnostic for two reasons. First, I hadn't given up on the idea that there was a god of sorts up there, or that there was a true path, I just realized that the Catholicism my family practiced and whom they practiced it with was not a path that seemed right to me. Second, lots of other things were going on in my life at the time, and I honestly didn't devote a lot of time to my faith or any thought towards spirituality. That's not to say it didn't stumble on me from time to time.

Total side note: In a very demented and sadistic way, it is incredibly humorous to bring a Protestant to a Catholic mass, and watch what happens as the Lord's Prayer ends. For those that aren't familiar, the Catholics seem to cut short the "Our Father" where as Episcopals and others continue the prayer with the line, "For thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever." Bit of debate and a lot of history as to why there exists this difference. But it can be a fun prank, given that the portion of mass following the "Our Father" is silent for a moment or two, so when the unsuspecting Protestant continues on their prayer, they expose themselves rather readily. Personal experience? Me? Naaaaaahhhhh... ;-) Actually less about inflicting that, and more about having it happen before I knew about the little add-on, and me feeling bad and amused at the same time. Gotta love life.

Late high school and early college were pretty much the same ol' same ol'. Can't say I really stumbled on much of anything, but I didn't go out of my way to look either.

Wasn't until I was out of college, living on my own, having already moved to Seattle that I encountered something different. A tale that definitely changed the way I look at a lot of things.

Lets put it this way: beautiful young Mormon woman in a dead-end marriage, poor judgment on both our parts. That pretty well sums it up.

But so many different things came out of that experience including my opportunity to define polyamory in my life, a taste of things to come with regards to disaster preparedness, and a dip into the sea that is being a Latter Day Saint.

Mormons love pre-made converts. As a once-Catholic, I got treated almost like royalty. I already knew most of the theological teachings. I knew how to parrot them as much then as I did when I was younger. And boy could I be convincing.

I think somewhere along the line, I hadn't really planned to go headlong into this. I did it because young Mormon woman in question was in search of a better leader of her little family, and this was the only way she knew how to do it. I fell deeply and madly, and in spite of the poor choices that started it, we pushed forward in hopes of making things work. They didn't, of course, but that didn't stop us from trying.

In the process I learned that the 80% of the theology I knew was no match for the 20% I was going to learn. Tales of natives in a far away land from that of Jesus and his disciples. Prophets and Masonic Rituals and other non-Christian beliefs.

If you've ever gone through the Missionary's teachings, one of the things they ask you to do is to pray on these teachings. The angel Moroni promised that the Holy Spirit will send you a sign. A burning or warming of the breast if you pray upon these, and these teachings are true. Missionaries swear by it as the litmus test of their faith.

I did my best as a convert with good intention. I prayed and read.. and prayed some more. No burning. I stood up and proclaimed my testimony. And I prayed yet some more. No burning, save that one time with the really crappy pizza. :-P

Not a good way to start.

As a side note, looking at various interviews and accounts of both born-in Mormons and converts alike, very few ever experienced this burning or anything resembling a filling of the spirit when praying specifically towards the intention of Moroni's Promise.

Being told, "it will happen some day", I kept plugging away, balancing my new role as a Mormon in my life.

There were various things that happened. Details of prayer meetings, and things I read in the Book of Mormon and other holy documents that made me skeptical.

But the moment that sealed the deal for me, and allowed the entire house of cards to collapse was as a result of an evening I spent with my Ward during a couple's Valentine's Day gathering. In spite of the fact that things had gone south in the not-so-good way with my favorite Mormon, and I was flying alone that year, they invited me out anyway to spend some time with people and enjoy myself. It wasn't too bad all things considered. But as I settled in and enjoyed the food and company, I began to feel the other couples. I've always had a way about sensing people. Hard to describe other than to say that either I'm exceptionally good at picking up on non-verbal queues, or something because I can read people fairly well. And what I read for most of the couples in that room was that there was little passion there. Sure, they loved their spouses and families and would have it no other way, but I could sense that many had given up a part of themselves to do it. And while it was willful, it was not necessarily happily.

That's not to say there weren't couples who were obviously passionate and in love. And age or length of marriage had nothing to do with the distinction. But I understood partly why my "friend" was so willing to turn her back on her marriage and find someone who might bring some light and joy to her life where none existed now. That passion she had was part of why I fell for her, and to think that I might, as a matter of course through my beliefs, choose to give up finding that with someone bothered me greatly.

Things were never the same after that, and there was a final straw involving a doubting investigator whom was of African descent. He was dismayed to learn, during the course of his induction, how the early church treated people of color, and both the missionary's responses and how it all ended up being handled really painted quite a picture for me. The gist of which was that apparently God changed his mind and that it was ok for black folk to be eligible to be among the chosen.

That's been an ongoing issue for me. The idea that a book-based theology is allowed to change. Governmental systems have amendments. The word of God is supposed to be infallible. People argue that the people doing the writing are to blame, but if you were a supreme being with the power to do anything and everything at will, wouldn't you ensure that your supreme and holy word got put down in the way you intended? We have enough religions and theologies based on the visitation of a spirit or other entity to an individual who was moved to dictate what was spoken to him, even if the individual could not comprehend the text. Seems like there shouldn't be too much wiggle room on that. And yet, there is.

Could it be that the words are written fine, but it's the humans that can't understand them? Sure. A big part of any religion is interpretation. I don't have a huge problem with that unless things are so ambiguous that it causes huge reversals of position.

Then again, lets talk about how the interpretation of God changed just from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Can't even find consistency in the same book, much less anything else.

So yeah. These experiences contributed to this web of mystery that continued to thicken and thicken to the point where I was left tangled in pieces of this reality which conflicted with other pieces and left me confused and dismayed. And pardon the expression, but heaven forbid somebody try and explain why this happens or why the inconsistencies aren't really wrong, but are a "test of my faith".

That's about the time where Occam's Razor stepped in, and I took a big step backward and decided that all this convolution passing for dogma was not only not God, but that God wasn't god. And if THAT God wasn't god, then how could I know if ANY gods were god?

It was an inevitable yet still heartbreaking realization.

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