Thursday, November 3, 2011

Different Perspectives

Reading through the comments on another post-Mo's blog, people are talking about what it's like to go back to LDS services after being away for awhile.  All participants described how different it seemed after their hiatus.  More than one said they enjoyed Unitarian services so much more, because those services had no unofficial but understood "code of silence" like LDS meetings did and which prevented even the mention of doubts or differences of opinion.  Apparently at Unitarian services they felt completely accepted as they were, free of fears and freely able to say what they thought and felt.

As I read those remarks I thought of how a TBM would probably view them.  While the people who said these things feel freer and more accepted and happier to be who and what they are outside the LDS church, a TBM is more likely to think such people have abandoned the clear standard of truth and are selfishly seeking only those sources that will tell them what they want to hear.

This is an interesting difference.  Which perspective is more accurate?  I guess it depends on the standard you use to judge.

The commenters all said they'd felt frustrated, confused, disheartened, unfulfilled, and excluded by the LDS church whose teachings they had gradually realized were not true (in their opinions).  So they left and found more fulfilling spiritual solace elsewhere.  They're emphatic that their lives are better, happier, more purposeful, and more peaceful now after making the break.  Jesus said to judge things by their fruits, and so far the fruits of leaving the LDS church seem to be pretty positive for these people.

TBMs, on the other hand, would tend to consider these people deceived and selfish.  Willing to abandon divinely established, non-negotiable standards of truth and the authorized messengers who teach it, in order to try to make truth fit their personal agendas, indulging the "natural man" who is "an enemy to God" rather than submitting the "natural man" to God's requirements for salvation and exaltation.  Such a person would claim they are taking the truly long-term view and that whatever difficulties might be encountered in life as an active Mormon are worth it because such faithfulness will ultimately be rewarded.  They would probably be too polite to actually say these things to a post-Mo Unitarian, but I have no doubt they'd think this way.

So who's right?  The more I ponder, the more I realize that faith and the adoption of any religious perspective ultimately rest on a decision to believe.  Because by definition, faith is a belief in something you can't totally prove.  So you have to decide to accept and trust it regardless.  How strong that faith becomes, or how it may change, also depend on decisions.  One of them is how open the person will be to information and evidence that may conflict with their prior decisions to believe.  That in turn depends on the person's priorities.  Do they really value truth above all else?  Do they have the integrity to realize they might be wrong about something and to give good faith consideration to information that might suggest that?  Do they trust themselves sufficiently to be able to consider information from whatever credible sources they encounter? And do they have the courage to follow honest evidence and conclusions even if it means changing their personal course?  These questions apply to everyone, from the most liberal atheist or Unitarian to the most strictly conservative Mormon or Catholic.

The answers to those questions will shed light on which view of these post-Mo commenters may be more correct.  But it still ultimately comes down to a decision to believe.  If you believe beyond question that LDS authorities speak for God and the organization they run is the divinely authorized conduit for spiritual truth, then you will consider these post-Mo Unitarians to have strayed from the true path, to their own detriment.  If you don't believe that premise, you'll be more inclined to look at them as honest seekers of truth whose lives reflect decisions that work better for them and so, for them, that path is more "true" than the Mormon path is.

In the end, I think the answer will say more about the person giving it than about any ultimate objective "truth."

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