July 21, 2013

Some search the web and find faith

*My thoughts after reading Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt by Laurie Goodstein of the NY Times. Goodstein recently interviewed a former prominent LDS church leader in Sweden who's now questioning his faith. I met the leader on my mission, and shared a Christmas with him and his family.


First a personal story...

My teenage world was rocked. I had just read this in The Book of Mormon:

"And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?"

"And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood."source

Flesh and blood. 

When was this written again?

Centuries before Jesus got flesh and blood.

I don't know if I started sweating, but I strongly recall the floor falling out.

This book is as true as they come. Could something so right be so chronologically wrong?

I prayed.

God help me! I don't want to throw away what I know and love because of one stupid verse. 

Nothing major happened. But I felt impressed to read on. When I did, I felt like I'd dropped the middle 'm' in Mormon. M. O. R. O. N.

Just a few verses later...

 "Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh."source

That was not the first and definitely not the last time I have felt like an idiot for jumping to conclusions. However, I'm beginning to go through a healthier thought process when I read something I don't expect in scripture or history or the crapshoot called the internet.

Different. Weird. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Slightly. Uncomfortable.

My first wave of thoughts still isn't much more than knee-jerk emotion. However, my knee's gone a little numb after years of surprises. I'm not flipping out at the slightest sight of cognitive dissonance. Now, it's even a bit of a welcome guest. It reminds me how much I have to learn.

When I'm feeling ambitious, a more critical wave of thoughts hits.

Am I reading this right? Understanding this right? Is this true or false or somewhere else on the scatter plot? Who wrote this again? Can I trust this? What does anyone gain by me believing this? What else can I read about this? 

There's another wave. I'll get there soon.

It feels like nowadays it's tempting to not even get past the first wave of emotional response. We like, dislike, furrow our eyebrows, shed a tear, LOL, ROFL, and get on with our lives. Sometimes not having learned a thing. Sometimes that's totally fine. Sometimes that's not. In important matters of faith, that's definitely not.

If you really want to understand a religion (Mormon or other), no casual reading of an article or glance at a meme or view of a YouTube video will get you far.

I recently read an article in the New York Times about someone I met while I lived in Sweden. In fact, I spent a Christmas with the Mattsson's. A delightful family. The article says Hans Mattsson has some doubts about his faith. He's read some things from Mormon history he didn't know about before. He's unsure what to make of it. That's fair.

But what isn't fair is how the article lacks a balance of perspective. If it were an editorial or a blog, fine. But not as news.

While "some Mormons search the web and find doubt," there are others who search the web and find faith. Why not interview one of those folks too? There are plenty to choose from. Interview my brother, interview countless of my good friends, interview me.

We've heard concerns like those mentioned in that article time and time again and we still believe what we believe. Let at least one of us share how the internet has helped our faith.

Okay, I gladly volunteer.

First thing that comes to mind based on the types of questions in the NY Times article: FairLDS.org
Substance without glam, a gold mine of non-emotionally charged perspective on the top things people tend to complain about. There's a whole heap of history and herstory out there. Some things are more accurate than others. When concerns are real, there's usually more to theirstory. Don't assume you're the first person to ask the question.

I won't attempt to address every question. You really need to check out that site. However, I'll take up a common theme. It has to do with perceived imperfections of Mormon leaders past and present.

Let me ask you a question.

Which would you prefer...

A world where no one makes mistakes because everyone is micromanaged by a control freak?

Or, a world that allows freedom of choice and where everyone makes mistakes, even prophets?

The Mormon belief is we thankfully live in the latter. It's a great but messy place. We all need grace. There is only one poster child for Christianity and that's Jesus. One of my favorite speakers describes humanity this way:

"We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents."

"Now... compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers."source  

No exceptions.

A messenger doesn't need to be perfect for a message to be from God.

Second thing: LDS.org
Did you know you can search official church websites for any doctrine? Scour a huge database of talks by modern-day prophets and apostles and in entirety all canonized Mormon scripture in dozens of languages? Amazing. All you have to do is give us your email address, invite the missionaries over, or pay a small fee. Of course I'm kidding. Everyone gets the same access, no strings attached. You can also find when and where you can attend church the world over (which by the way, any curious George or skeptical Sally is totally welcome to do). Amazing when traveling or moving. I belong to a worldwide church family and the internet reminds me of that. Yay!

Third thing: BYU Speeches
Golly, golly, golly. Yes, it deserves a triple-golly. If you're Christian and you haven't heard talks like this, you're sorely missing out. Dozens of other gems for honest seekers of truth.

Fourth thing: Mormon Messages
For a quick pick-you-upper. Pretty inspiring. You can't help but be a better dad after watching things like this.

The list goes on.

All and all the internet has helped my faith. I've read many things that felt aimed at attacking my faith, but after further consideration, I've thankfully been able to sort things out enough to not let what I don't fully understand keep me from enjoying what I hold dear.

This leads me to the third wave of thoughts that comes when my world view is brought in to question.

What does God think of this? And how can I know?

Part of the answer has always been prayer. God knows everything, so why not ask Him? I get answers. You can too. I still have questions. But I try to remember this...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."source

I am content to take some questions to the grave. I don't need to know or understand everything right now. For the questions of faith that really matter, right here and now, I feel the Mormon faith is giving me what I need.

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5 comments:

  1. What wonderful insights. Loved reading this and the little comic interjections kept my mind focused!

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  2. Adam Balinski IS THE MAN!!! and he has a beautiful wife and children.

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  3. Thanks very much for the post. I especially like your insight about "knee jerk reactions."

    One of my favorite thoughts whenever I tell myself to keep perspective and be patient with my own understanding...

    When I was in seminary, we used to watch a video called "From the Mouths of Babes. (Think the Mormon version of "Kids Say the Darndest Things.") In one segment, the interviewer is asking a little boy about how God can hear our prayers:
    Interviewer: "How can He be way over in Heaven and hear you? How does that work?"
    Little Boy: "Fine."

    Sometimes when I see something in church history or doctrine, and the question arises, "How does that work?" most often, the appropriate answer is, "Fine."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=7hi8ZrfeRbU&t=176

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  4. David, thanks for that video. Kids are so totally awesome. Our own have taught us a bucketload.

    Hard to argue with 'fine'!

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