I Doubt It

By B. Very Chill

For the second time in my entire life, I didn’t watch General Conference.  Of course, there’s always that well-meaning person who contacts me to let me know that they were watching Conference and heard a great talk that made them think of me.  Last April it was Elder Holland’s address to the doubters in the kingdom entitled, “Lord, I Believe.”  This time, a friend of mine thought of me when she heard President Uchtdorf’s talk (does it even have a title yet?) inviting those who have left the fold to come back. 

Let me just say, first of all, that it was nice that he acknowledged that the reasons why so many people like me are leaving the church are not just the old stereotypes of being lazy or wanting to sin. It was wonderful that he encouraged members to treat us with respect and honor our right to worship according to the dictates of our consciences. But it was hard listening to his entreaties to come back, because no one knows more than we, the “lost sheep,” know how dearly we wished we could. No one who hasn’t gone through the loss of their testimony knows how wrenching and painful it is to make the decision to walk away. Giving up our social network, risking the abandonment of family members and friends, losing our entire foundational understanding of who we are and why we are here is very difficult.

But the fact is, we can’t just come back, no matter how much we want to. The church is not a social club or a support group or even a family.

The church is an ultimatum.

Either you believe that Joseph really saw God and Jesus Christ or you don’t. Either the Book of Mormon is a record written by ancient Americans who descended from Hebrews, or it is a piece of historical fiction. Either this is the only true church on the earth, with authority given by God to act in his name, or it is just one of many belief systems that lead people (for the most part) to do good things and live good lives. There is no room in this church for people who believe the latter. It doesn’t work. So out of our desire to be true to ourselves and live with integrity, we are forced to walk away. It is a huge test not only of our integrity, but of the relationships that we have built over our lifetimes. It is sad to discover that very few relationships, even in our own families, were really strong enough to withstand this. For that reason, I’m very glad that Elder Uchtdorf encouraged respect and understanding.

However, it seems to me that most of the members of the church did not make that respect their major takeaway. Instead, my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with memes of his catchy phrase, “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”

Believe me. I tried that over and over again. My brain did that automatically. I really did not want to entertain for a moment that this church could possibly not be what it professed to be. It took a personal crisis to make me even willing to look at information that could possibly damage my testimony. And if you talk to other recent Ex-Mormons, you will find almost across the board the same story. We doubted our doubts over and over again in a desperate and instinctual effort to maintain homeostasis.

But then, there was something else within us that believed that if the church is true, it could withstand scrutiny. And if, God forbid, it isn’t true, that we ought to be willing to accept that new, albeit painful truth. What I found is that doubt or reason is not a human weakness, as I was always taught. Rather, doubt is one of the great assets of the human mind. Here are a few catchy quotes that refute Elder Uchtdorf’s catchy quote outright.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. — Ambrose Bierce

In examining the facts that have disillusioned so many, I found that they weren’t just minor mistakes or errors of judgement as President Uchtdorf implied. My faith could have easily withstood learning about Joseph’s polygamy or the Kirtland banking scandal or even Brigham Young’s racism.  Those could have been honest mistakes or errors of imperfect men. But what I learned were facts that touch every major doctrine and claim of truth. They were not just examples of imperfect men who made mistakes. They were evidences that would stand up in any courtroom that what we believe happened in that grove of trees did not happen. That Joseph really couldn’t translate anything. That the Book of Mormon is a nice story, but fundamentally fiction and mostly plagiarized from contemporary sources.

As much as I hated it, as much as it made me sick to my stomach, I had to admit that all my wonderful feelings and confirmations of the Spirit had an alternate explanation. My emotions were confirming to me what I believed was true. And that is why my Catholic friends “know” that Mother Mary helps them find things. And why my Baptist friends “know” that Jesus has entered their heart and that they are saved. I have no doubt that Muslims rely on those same feelings to confirm to them that Mohammed did indeed see an angel of light and that the Koran is the word of God. I have continued to feel those feelings, even since I have left the church.

So at the end of the day, I felt like Elder Uchtdorf’s catchy phrase sounded really nice, but that it was fundamentally flawed and that I wouldn’t apply it anywhere else in my life or to anyone else. I mean, didn’t I spend a year and a half as a missionary in the Netherlands trying to convince other people to doubt THEIR faith and consider that ours might be true? Why was I not willing to be skeptical of my own faith? What a double standard!

Ya know, I’m sad that so many people watched Elder Uchtdorf’s talk and grieved over me. I hate to be the cause of pain to anyone and I wish that everyone could look at me and feel okay. Because I feel okay. I guess I can’t own their pain. It’s pain that is caused by a belief system that I can’t change for them.

But if I could talk to them right now, I would say, “I’m sorry that you bear that burden. I know you love me, and you hope I will return someday.  It is what all believers hope for those that leave. But I’ve discovered a new and wonderful world of doubt.  And I doubt I could ever go back to a world where I thought I knew so much.”

Robert Weston, a Unitarian Universalist minister said, “Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the attendant of truth. Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery.  A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error, for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief. Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid which eats away the false. Let no one fear for the truth, that doubt may consume it; for doubt is a testing of belief. The truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by the testing; For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure. Those that would silence doubt are filled with fear; their houses are built on shifting sands. But those who fear not doubt, and know its use; are founded on rock. They shall walk in the light of growing knowledge; the work of their hands shall endure. Therefore let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help: It is to the wise as a staff to the blind; doubt is the attendant of truth.”

Doubt isn’t so bad.  In fact, I’ve found that allowing myself to doubt has changed me for the better.  It has opened me up to new people, new ideas, and new ways of living my life.  I’m less likely to judge others and to cling to damaging dogmas.  In fact, my new mantra nowadays is, “I could be wrong.”  Is it possible that someday I will discover new information that will change my mind on this?  Certainly! I could be wrong.  But I doubt it.

Men’s Rolls

For those of you that follow the happenings of religion that I left behind (but just can’t leave alone!) You have heard about the Ordain Women movement. To agitate their case to the Lord and leaders of the religion, hundreds showed up to the entrance of the priesthood session this last rollsweekend. Of course as was expected they were not allowed to enter. Even the Lion House that sells rolls to the men before and after conference refused to sell to the ladies, fearful that there wouldn’t be enough for the men.

So now you see my fellow frigidarians exactly what happens when women try to take over men’s rolls…

 

 

 

Questioning Authority

After sipping a chilled beverage that the Fridge provided today I began to ponder the concept of authority. What is authority and where does it come from?

Some authority is simply granted, some is taken, some is enforced by coercion, some is acquired by knowledge and study. All should be questioned!

grain-of-salt
A HUGE grain of salt

Why should it be questioned? For one simple reason. They might be wrong. How often do you hear about ‘they?They say this and they say that. They are an authority on pretty much everything. They even make the rules. If a person quotes ‘they’ as their authority on the matter I, the self proclaimed profet of Fridge would tell you to take it with a huge grain of salt from the pantry. (the pantry is a disciple of the fridge as it stores food for the betterment of mankind and offers salt by which to determine the truth of things)

If a person claims truth or rule by an authority naming a person (not ‘they’) then you are a step closer to the truth of the matter. Still though you should question. A smart man by the name of J. Reuben Clark  once said “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” This is clear advice that if it is a true thing it can stand the questioning. If it really isn’t true, then what is the point of following that particular train of thought? If truth sets you free then falsehoods will surely limit your progress.

Authority that is granted, taken, or enforced by coercion is simply opinion, it could be completely right and it could be completely wrong.  It could be any mixture of the two but one thing you can be reasonably sure about is that it hasn’t been tested. So if it is granted authority, by the board of education, the president of the nation, Zues, Yaweh or even the Fridge you should be quick to question the ‘truth’ that you are receiving.

Authority acquired by knowledge and study is stronger than granted authority. However that alone doesn’t guarantee anything. It only increases the odds that they might be right. This type of authority is based often on experiment and test. If you can repeat the experiment you can be sure of the truth yourself. The scientific method is based on testing results independently and it used to be pretty easy to check claims of authority out for yourself. When newton figured out the law of gravity, it was a theory that we could all test it in our back yards. But should you want to test the theory of relativity that Einstein churned out, your back yard just isn’t gonna cut it.

So what is a truth seeker to do? Well you have one more tool, consensus. The nature of scientific endeavors is to publish your results and allow others to repeat your experiments, you must open yourself up to being proven wrong. If the authority isn’t willing to have his or her conclusions tested independently, you ought to seriously question the assertion being made.

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”
Thomas Paine

Error can not, nor should it, survive inquiry. Far to often we don’t want to know so we don’t actually inquire. My last bit of advice as my drink begins to warm and inspiration fades is this:

If you aren’t willing to question your own assumptions then you are nothing but marketing fodder for the world at large. Anyone of these authorities can make a great commercial and spin a great yarn especially if they have a PR budget. The last authority you should question is your own.

The Fridge giveth light to all that open it, this is the truth. I give you my word as an Ice Profet! Hopefully you question it though and go open the door yourself!

ref:
J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn (1983). The Church Years, p 24. Provo (UT): Brigham Young University Press

 

 

Hating Sin

‘Love the sinner hate the sin’.

It’s a common phrase, often attributed to Jesus who didn’t actually say it. It’s a phrase that I hear a lot these days. The way it comes up is usually in reference to a person being gay, or to a person leaving the church. It is often followed by another assertion along the lines of:

‘It’s not my place to judge’

Do these two sayings really go together? Does it make sense that they belong in the same paragraph? Open your fridge and ponder with me for a moment. What is sin? I hear it isn’t a sin to be gay, just to act on it. I hear it isn’t a sin to not believe in the church, just to tell others you don’t and proclaim why. Some would say it is a sin to be gay, some would say to fridge ponderingact on it is a sin, other don’t think it is sinful at all. Sin is subject to personal definition. You have to exercise judgment as to it fitting the definition.

Sin is basically doing something wrong by comparison to some standard. If you think a person is a sinner are you not judging them in your heart to not be up to your standard?

I guess you could always claim you aren’t the one calling them a sinner, God is. You can say he defines sin, but how do you know for sure? One church calls the same thing a sin that another church does not. Even within a single religion the definition of sin often varies at a personal level. Ergo the judgement is personal.

One can’t help but realize that if you think someone is a sinner deep inside, you are going to treat them differently. You are going to think they are sick and need treatment when they tell you they feel just fine. You are going to pray for them because you don’t want their sinful soul to be lost for all eternity. You really are judging them because your judgment affects your actions.

Personally I think it is disingenuous to say you aren’t judging a person when you think they are bitter for nothing more than telling you why they don’t believe the same as you anymore. If you assign motives to a person (especially if they are contrary to what that person says) then you are judging them.

So if you hate sin (however you define sin) that is fine with me, hate it all you want and love the sinner all you want. But realize that by stating that you are implicitly judging a person to be a sinner. Own it and admit to the judgment you just made in thinking that person a sinner.

Be responsible for those thoughts and actions that you take towards those sinners you claim to love. Don’t they deserve a little honesty?

Endless Loop

Skeptic,
Here is a bit of history or doctrine that doesn’t make sense to me.

Believer,
That can’t be true you are looking at lies or misunderstanding.

Skeptic,
Here is the documentation of what I am talking about.

Believer,
Well that doesn’t matter because I trust my feelings.

Skeptic,
Feelings can’t always be trusted. Here’s why.

Believer,
I just know what I know, and besides, even if I’m wrong its a good way to live.

Skeptic,
So you don’t know now?

Believer,
No not that, I know, but it is spiritual.

Skeptic,
Like the same type of spiritual that the other religion that isn’t yours ‘know’?

Believer,
No not that way, they are mistaken.

Skeptic,
How do you know you are not mistaken?

Believer,
I just know! And besides you are negative toward me, why would you fight with me if I wasn’t right, persecution proves I’m right.

Skeptic,
What? You are not making any sense.

Believer,
I just know.

Skeptic,
Contrary to this and this and this documented fact as well and contrary to this and this previous statements you just made.

Believer,
han fridgeI just know, and hey I’m fallible, prophets are fallible, we all make mistakes. Memory isn’t always right, people can be confused, but on this one thing I AM NOT fallible, because my feelings tell me this is true no matter what so called ‘facts’ you quote.

Skeptic,
How can I argue with that?

Believer,
Exactly!

The believer wins because the circle of logic is complete.

 

 

Slivers

 

sliver

As I was helping my daughter get a sliver out of her toe, I realized there is a life lesson in slivers. You can leave it in, enduring a small amount of pain for a long time, left there, it could fester and even make you sick after a while.

OR

 

You can deal with it, likely experiencing a lot more pain for a shorter time, but in the long run get it out and let things heal.

I think we often carry around emotional ‘slivers’ far far longer than physical ones. We could learn a lot from a sliver.

[subscribe2]