Monday, March 10, 2008

Filling in the details from yesterday

I've been trying to think of a way of summarizing what an amazing experience it was to read "His Dark Material" by Philip Pullman. I don't think I can... I tried reading a passage to my wife last night, but without the background it just lacked something.

I finished the book with some incredibly passionate feelings about it. Never has any fictional work hit me with quite the same force as this one. This may be due to the subject matter and the current state of my life, but all that aside, I think it is still an excellent literary work.

I went online this morning to look up a little more on the Author - Mr Pullman. I tried his website - He had some links on their to interviews and so I looked at those. I was hoping to get a little more insight into some of the idea's in the book, but instead I found a couple of gems of wisdom.

These quotes are from the Guardian Unlimited Website, and were part of an online Q&A he did.

I'll give you the pieces of the questions, and his answers which impressed me:

Q - What influenced your courageous and refreshing view of the church and religion?

A - My view of the church and religion was shaped simply by a reading of history. The original impulses of the great religious geniuses - in whom I include Jesus - were, as often as not, something that all of us would benefit from studying and living by. The churches and priesthoods would benefit more than most, but they dare not.

Q - Do you believe that there is no value at all in organised religion?

A - No, I wouldn't say that, because it would be silly; obviously many congregations, of many different religions, do good things such as raising money for charity. No-one could argue with that. But whenever you get a political structure, with ranks and hierarchies, you get corruption; you get people who are more interested in progressing through those ranks than in doing good. Power corrupts.

That last answer really got to me this morning. Maybe I should summarize where I used to be... In the Church with which I affiliate, my father was a pretty big deal - Most of my childhood, when he wasn't at work, he was taking care of Church business. My parents are both die hard members of this Church, so much so in fact, that if I were ever to leave it (Which based on some recent experiences, is not outside the realm of possibility) would likely cause me to be disowned, or at the very least become a great cause of shame to my extended family.

My dad has been appointed as both a bishop and a stake president at various times, the latter generally oversees about 10 congregations in a geographical area. I was pretty much headed on the same track as a kid. I kept all the commandments, obeyed all the rules, and was thouroughly versed in all the policies and whatnot. I spent some time as a missionary as well, and for a long time was labeled as the "Golden Child", of course that was until I screwed a wee something up, and then I was shunned for the remainder of my term, as a border-line apostate, but that's a whole other story, and wasn't really my fault anyway, just a wrong place at the wrong time type of thing.

I then moved over to the US and actually started working for the administration of the Church. I'll spare you the details, but after 6 years of abuse (and finally getting some sense knocked into me) I quit and got a real job. I may share the details of this my other blog... I could entitle it, "How to destroy employee morale and crush any form of achievement"

I think I'm just tired of it. The manipulation, the guilt of not being good enough, the appearances, the judgemental attitude. I made a wee mistake yesterday. On the scale of evil things I could have done, 10 being full on blasphemy, this was probably a 2, maybe not even that high. I got called on it, and apologized and carried on as best I could. The person who called me on it apologized, which I didn't think was necessary, but appreciated. An hour later, I thought everything was fine. Apparentely after I then left, it was discussed in great detail, on exactly how I had screwed up and why they had to call me on it. The person then phoned me to talk about it, and apologized again. I'm not sure why they did this - the apologizing bit. Personally I think they were following the protocol, but deep down could tell something was wrong with it. I was mildly pissed at this point. I then got another phone call later in the day from someone else, saying how the person who called me on my wee mistake, and subsequently initiated a 10 minute discussion on it with all the men attending services that day, "Had my back" and was defending me. What?!?

I'm not sure what to think - 10 years ago I would have known that I shouldn't have done what I did. I was just trying to share a wee thought that meant something to me. One thing is for certain... If I am ever invited to speak again, the response will be a polite, "No Thanks!"

So what might you be asking yourself was the great sin? I could keep you in suspense, but I'm not in the mood for games.

My topic was faith. I wanted to point out that faith is a precursor to other things. Like when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he had to think about it, and then take the thought and create the light bulb. He didn't just create the light bulb one day. And he didn't have the idea and do nothing about it. I had a couple of other pieces to the analogy as well. Apparently they liked the analogy. My mistake was pulling a wee incandescent bulb from my pocket to illustrate the point. Apparently "props" are of the devil.

Better go say a couple of Hail Mary's and then beat myself senseless with a whip, so perhaps God will forgive me for this unspeakable act. Of course now that I have critisized the powers that be as well, Salvation may be beyond my grasp.

Oh well, I'm sure I'll have plenty of company in hell!


  1. Being a terribly nosey person, I’d love you to spill what particular branch of Christianity this is – but don’t if you don’t feel comfortable.
    What really interests me is, given you appear to have doubts about the organised religion side of things if not about the existence of a “superior being” bit, why is it you continue to have anything to do with this church? Why don’t you feel you can just walk away? What is it you are still getting from your involvement? I think, and this is just my flawed human (and atheist) opinion of course, is that if you work out the answers to those questions you’ll be able to make a final decision that you are happy and can live with. I know, hell, even love, some people who are involved with organised religions. Some because they have “faith” and others because of family, social or other, possibly venal, reasons. What matters is they have their reasons and they’ve made their own peace with those reasons.
    That said, I may not agree with some of what you say over here at the Urban Koda, but you make me think about stuff and I enjoy that immensely. Good luck with the whole “moving to Mexico” thing :)
    Oh, and on the person who called you up on the prop sin thing - a good poke in the eye with a burnt stick wouldn't hurt there!

  2. Thanks Morgan! I appreciate the last part of that especially. I didn't used to think I could have a rational conversation with someone of an opposing view point, but it's amazing what I learn when I do, as long as I keep my mind open. Sure we may not agree on a few things, but I hold you and your beliefs (or lack thereof!!) in the highest regard.

    I don't mind sharing which Church I affiliate with, nor my reasons for staying, dwindling though they may be... I think I've mentioned it a couple of times in the previous blogs, and unless people are really interested, I doubt they're going to read through that whole entry and get to the comments anyway.

    Maybe let me preface it with some thoughts...

    I think the original teachings behind the religion have some really cool stuff. Sadly an organization has grown up around it that follows Mr. Pullmans idea of when religion goes bad - the establishment of a political structure and hence corruption. Rather than stick to the teachings, it has become about control and jockeying for positions, as well as a bunch of hidden agenda's and such. I worked for the organization for 6 years, and there is no amount of money that could ever make me go back. The corruption is out of control and goes right to the top.

    There are a bunch of other issues I have as well, but I'll spare you that rant (Although I may blog it later)

    The problem is, that it is a very family oriented church, and the teachings surrounding that are ingrained in you from birth. Some examples...

    They teach the principle of eternal marriage and eternal families, which I really like and think there is merit too...

    Unfortunately they teach along with that, that if you have a kid who leaves the church, you will never see them in the eternities. If your spouse isn't as faithful as they could be, that's pretty much it for your marriage (And by not as faithful, I mean not attending all the meetings, paying the tithes, or using props during talks!) Infidelity is definitely a no-no, but it almost seems like something that bad is easier to recover from, that critisizing the leadership of the Church.

    If I chose to leave, my parents would likely disown me - well in part... There would then be weekly phone calls, quoting scriptures, various leaders and tearful pleas for me to overcome my pride and sinfulness and return to the fold. These are the people who think I am took naive and trusting for my own good as well, but that's another topic entirely!!.

    There is an idea which is widely accepted, that if you leave the church having been exposed to the truth, you will degenerate into an angry sinful person who will spend the rest of you life fighting on the side of evil against the truth. I don't think thats likely to happen with me though. I'd prefer to keep the teachings and just rid myself of all the crap.

    My wife is on a similar page to me, especially after seeing how Sunday affected me, and in the last congregation we were in, they really took serious advantage of her. At this point though, I don't think she is worried about us not seeing each other in the eternities, I think she realizes that we'll still be together. She's mainly just concerned about bringing our kids up with good principles, although she too is wondering if this is really the place to get them. Ultimately I think biggest concern is about her families reaction as well. While they would not likely react as badly as mine, it will cause a lot of emotional and spiritual pain to her parents, and they are really, really good people, so I am nervous about doing that as well.

    I did speak with my wife about it on Monday, and basically indicated that if she ever wanted to leave, all she had to do was say the word. Until that time I will stand behind her as best I can, but as for my participation in the various meetings and such, I am going to be scaling it back a lot.

    So the big question is...

    What religion is this?

    It's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as The Mormons.

    I think I mentioned it a while back, but I think I would likely consider myself an agnostic mormon deist.

    As for what I get from my involvement... Right now if I could compare the relationship to a marriage... I'm the wife who keeps getting beaten up, but somehow feels obligated to the bastard husband. I'm working on fixing the last part though, so hopefully I can avoid future beatings.

  3. Hi Mouse. Hi Koda.
    Your stories about your experiences in the church bring to mind the following rom the book of Luke.
    Luke 5:29-31 "And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick."

    I think that the reason I stay in the church is that I know that I am sick and I know that I can be made whole by following Jesus Christ. I believe that this church gives me the best way to follow Jesus. I'm not there to follow Bishop Hunt or Elder's Quorum President Tate. I'm there to follow Jesus. I believe that Most of the leaders of the church are trying their best to follow him too... MOST of the time. I believe that Jesus is the head of the church and jesus is perfect but he has taught us correct principles and now we're left to govern ourselves. The problem is that we are all human and subject to all of the frailties and weaknesses of the human experience.

  4. Maybe you just need a new ward. Using a Prop does not make you a son of perdition although it might have been difficult for those who sit on the very back row (because they're afraid to sit less than 6 feet from another family) to see.

  5. Hey Ron and Jessica!

    Sadly this is the new ward! I had high hopes because it felt really good to be there the first week. I felt like I was home if that makes sense. I made the mistake in the last ward of claiming I believed in Free Agency (Which is what I thought the war in heaven was all about...) That belief conflicted with the commandment not to play XBox games and the Stake Dress Code (I only wish I was kidding about these...) The latter was typed and given to individuals in a private interview with the Bishop if they dared wear anything thing other than a white shirt to Church!

    I really like that story in Luke... I've used it for years, especially at times when people have been freaking out about dumb stuff, like a new person in Church smelling like cigarette smoke.

    Here's the thing though... I don't think you're sick. I don't know you that well, but I look at how you have dealt with the hand that life has dealt you, and how you have not only overcome any trials, but have made the world a much better place for your having been in it. I would say that this has been possible because of your divine nature. I don't think you need to attend Church every week to somehow save your soul. A Church should be a place where we can meet together to talk about ideas and beliefs and continue to lift each other up. Attendance should be a blessing and a chance to explore your spiritual nature amongst friends and neighbors.

    We humans are amazing creatures, by virtue of our creator, and it pains me everytime I hear someone put themselves down, especially when they are trying hard to be the best they can be. It would almost appear to be a slap on the face of our creator.

    My objection on Sunday, wasn't the tap on the knee and the quiet request to put the prop away. The explanation I was given was that the "no props" thing is in the General Handbook. Fair enough.

    My objection was the 10 minute discussion in priesthood about how (and the quote I was told about was) "When someone is doing something wrong like that in a meeting, the Bishop has no choice but to stop them". The fact that I was told that the Bishop "Had my back" and was defending me, makes me wonder what else was said.

    The Church culture has changed from one that celebrates our divine heritage and excellence, to one that delights in pulling each other down. That was my experience in Church employment, ranging from:
    The guilt trips for excelling and getting a decent raise only being told that by so doing I was depriving others of their raises.
    To the complaint to HR that I was working too hard, and the request from my manager to sit at my desk and play solitaire most of the day, so I didn't make others who weren't working feel uncomfortable. When you're getting paid by sacred funds from members who have sacrifices to donate them, I just didn't feel right about any of it... The playing solitaire the most. I left that position as soon as I could.

    If I could use an analogy (No props I promise). Its like this country... I love the constitution, the declaration of independence. Truly great and inspired principles. The country is however being run by a bunch of immoral, greedy, selfish scumbags, who have no interest in holding to those founding principles. I love the gospel, but the organization of the Church is no longer based on it - at least from my perspective.

  6. UK, I guess I should have known the church, you being in Utah and all – Duh.
    You’ve clearly put a lot of thought into this, and there a parts you like, and you’ve got pretty compelling reasons to stay. It would take a seriously brave person (and possibly a bit of a bastard [in the Australian use of the word ;)] to leave, when you know what it would do to your family & your wife’s family. That said, the church in question is seriously wrong in forcing people to give up their families for the “sin” of leaving the church. I can’t imagine what I’d have done if my aunts, grandmother and such were forced to give me up when I officially left the church (catholic). My grandmother prayed for me up to the end and I’ve aunts that still do. It used to offend me but I’ve mellowed. It makes them happy and it does me no harm. Which seems to be your attitude too. Don’t let the bastards grind you down, it’s quite clear they’ve not managed yet.

  7. Religeon and Politics are just wierd animals. Humans seem to get overly passionate about both of them, even to the extent of risking family and friends, which should really be far more important. I guess it helps to keep in mind that those praying and pleading for me to stay in are doing it with the best of intentions. That helps sometimes, and then sometimes it doesn't.

    I've been doing a lot of reading lately online and it seems there are a lot of people out there who are kind of in the same boat as me. They don't hate and despise the religion itself, but they aren't really happy with the structure around it. Some have left, and some endure it. It's been nice to know that I'm not alone in my feelings, and it's nice to be validated that I'm not a complete nutjob.

    Thanks for your comments!

  8. Hi Guys,
    I saw a quote from Barack Obama on that I think is really good here. It explains why you have problems at church and also why you can't let the idiots that worship along side us chase you away. I only paraphrased it slightly substituting Mormon for Black and Utah for America.

    "The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the [mormon] experience in [Utah]."

  9. Thanks Guys, That is a good way of looking at it...

    I think I see the role of a religion as more of a supportive role, rather than the object of my existence. I think sometimes it seems to become the focal point, and we get too concerned with the politics of religion and the letter of the law, rather than focussing on our personal relationship with Christ/God/The Universe and or those around us.

    It's a fine line, that's for sure...

  10. Getting too concerned with the letter of the law is always a dangerous thing. 1 minute you're obsessing over whether or not the deacon is wearing a white shirt. The next you're saying, OOOH. That guy is dirty and unkempt. I can't believe they let him in here. It snowballs until the next thing you know you're handing your God over to the government and saying I don't like him, can you please kill him for me?
    Hopefully we never again get to that point again, but that's how it happened the first time. (Between 0 and 33 A.D.)

  11. This is true... I wonder if the phrase "The devil is in the details" has any application here?

    I think far to many people miss the point. Even though they may do so with the best of intentions.

  12. Hi Ron and Jessica,

    I've been thinking about your last comment all weekend. That was very profound. Thank you!

    I hope you don't mind, but I used it as the topic for my Sunday School lesson yesterday. The lesson I was supposed to give was all about sticking to the letter of the law. I'd don't do well teaching that kind of stuff without being sarcastic.

    I think if we understand who we are and who we live among, the letter of the law is pretty much unnecessary. Things just take care of themselves.

  13. Thou shalt love the lord with all thy heart might mind and strength. And the second is like un to it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. If you do these two things you can live a perfect life without ever reading the ten commandments.

    Now I'm speaking this Sunday. My topic is "revelation and Living prophets" Any ideas?

  14. Well, I'd recommend against pulling anything out of your pocket during the talk - My little indescretion was brought up again this week in sacrament?!?

    My beliefs on revelation are somewhat different from the main stream beliefs of the Church. I'm not sure if this would apply, but in the Bible Dictionary, under Prayer, it talks about how prayer is the process by which our minds and the will of God are brought into alignment. I think that's one of the most powerful forms of revelation because it is personal and very specific to the individual.

    I used the analogy in class a few weeks back that you could consider prayer like synching an iPod with a computer. We're the iPod and God is the computer. To keep everything running nice and smoothly, you need to synch up regularly.

    Of course whipping an iPod out at this point would catch everyone's attention and help people remember the talk, but I'd go back to my initial word of caution...