Monday, November 12, 2012

Being a Mormon and a Liberal

Obviously, I have not posted in awhile - for various reasons, but mainly because the social aspects of religion have been beyond frustrating. I have quite a few drafts written up, and have considered publishing them - but at the end of the day, had decided against it - for fear that rather provoking interesting conversation, it would only ignite hot headed debates.

So I leave my theological ponderings to discussions with my best friend, who with a more fundamental Christian upbringing, always adds the best perspectives and thoughts to our discussions.

A few evenings ago, we were discussing politics and religion - I know, the evil two you should never discuss should one want to keep their friends, yet we can do this and not kill one another in the process. We each were discussing our younger selves and how haughty we had been within our religion - I had laughed and said, "I was LDS and if you didn't like it, I didn't care. And I was actually appalled when members of my ward were not Democrats!" This gave her pause and she asked me why on Earth I would feel that Mormons would be liberals (something - my LDS readers - I still strongly believe).

From an outsiders perspective - Mormonism is one of the most conservative religions of the Christian religion (if you don't like that I consider them Christians get over yourself - I don't care, nor will I debate that with anyone). But you have to remember, what is conservative is the culture of Mormonism, not the fundamental theology of the Church itself.

1. Agency: The very basic foundation of the LDS church is the concept of agency. For those unfamiliar with either LDS theology I will explain. There are three levels of existence - the pre-existence in which we all resided with Heavenly Father (God), we were all children of God - brothers and sisters. Yes, this is where the theology that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers comes into play. From there, we have the state we are in now - living here on Earth, and then comes after - in heaven. Heavenly Father had gathered us around and shared that we would move to the next level of existence - each level is to learn and grow, and that in the pre-existence, we had learned all that we could. Yet, He knew that we would fall and that we would need a way to return to Him. Lucifer stepped forward and explained that he would make us all return to Heavenly Father, that we would not be able to fall, and therefor could return. Jesus stepped forward and said that he would live and die for us, allowing us a way back to the Father through him. Jesus' plan was accepted, Lucifer's was rejected. Lucifer and a third of the hosts of heaven fell - and were no longer considered children of God (hence - NOT Jesus' brother anymore).

Agency - the freedom to choose. This is the core foundation of the LDS church. Heavenly Father lost His children because agency was so important to Him, Jesus died for us so we may have agency - free will. The core of any Democrat or liberal ideals are free will - that we have the ability to choose for ourselves and not have others make our choices for us. Heavenly Father did not draw a line in the sand and say, "Free will except on these issues". This includes things we may not like or deem fair. So many people were angry when the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the "God Hates Fags" protests - I don't like them either - but we do not get to pick and choose who is protected by the 1st Amendment and who is not, based solely upon their message.

2. Polygamy: Yes - I know it hasn't been practiced in what - 120 years? I'm not saying that the LDS church practices polygamy. Simmer down. What I am going to say is that the early LDS church was not known for it's conservative practices. Everything about the founding of the Church is progressive and liberal. A young boy - uneducated in theology - goes into the woods and asks God which church to choose is then visited by God Himself and His Son - Jesus. This boy was later visited by the Angel Moroni. There were plenty of educated theologians, already wise and experienced who could have been selected. Even today, you won't see someone Joseph Smith's age leading the LDS church will you? Everyone moved to one area to be together (granted some of this was to escape persecution) - selling all they had, packing what they could carry, and moving away from the homes they knew, their friends, and their family. The Church started their own bank in which all their members invested. The Church began polygamy - to protect the women and children who had lost their husbands and fathers to the mobs that chased and killed them. The early church, in comparison to the Mainstream Christian churches and even the culture of that days - was progressive, it was liberal - it was not the norm - nor was it meant to be. Joseph Smith bestowed the priesthood upon African Americans - treated them as equals, again another liberal thought. Why? Because Smith understood the value of each person as a person - not by the color of their skin, their beliefs, or anything else - but rather the individual they were and valued that. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't hold Brigham Young as a prophet - who really changed the culture and the theology of the church itself.

3. Jesus and the Early Church: Jesus - the most liberal of them all. Jesus, the one who kept company with tax collectors, prostitutes, and the poor. Jesus, who did not care for social faux paus and allowed a prostitute to wash his feet during a meal. Jesus who forgave a woman of adultery - a crime punishable by death. Jesus, who accepted women as leaders within His ministry; who worked on the Sabbath; who loved and served people just where they were, and not where He required them to be. Let's not forget, the Original Apostles who carried on His ministry after the Resurrection, who engaged in a socialist society and those who did not adhere - by selling all they had and giving it to the apostles - were instantly struck down by God. Jesus and His apostles were liberals who served people, not were served by people.

For me, on a basic theological level - Christians, especially LDS, should be liberals. Unfortunately, "church culture" has so many people confused and blinded to the basic foundations of belief. And that saddens me. For years, I never understood why people disliked "organized religion" - the body of Christ is needed to lift up one another and sharpen one another. But I get it. It's a mob mentality. I can remember when my husband came home from our block meetings and shared that the President and Prophet of our Church had sent a letter to be read in every ward - to vote against same sex marriage and if it wasn't on our ballots to call our state legislature and representatives and express our views on it. I can remember when visiting a Non-Denominational Evangelical church when I was in high-school and outside they had people gathering names for a petition to keep same sex marriage off the ballots that year - I was livid and gave them an earful. When I heard about that announcement, I couldn't stop myself from being reminded of that Non-Denominational church or how their members were outraged that I'd stand up for those "gays going to hell".

Years later, while my testimony keeps me grounded in the faith I have and the theology I believe, it is the mob mentality that keeps me away from churches. I won't go - and I've raised my kids to always ask WHY people believe what they believe and expect a well thought out answer. Culture has become tradition and tradition has replaced the foundational truths found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon: God loved us so much, He not only gave His Son for us, but He lost a third of His children as well. He loved us so much - He allowed us agency - the freedom to choose. I imagine His great disappointment as those who have the most truth, who know of the great cost of agency, still work diligently to take it away from others.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apostates and Assumptions . . .

In the last two years, I've really learned to hold my tongue on Facebook regarding political and religious discussions (unless in the R&P group). However, yesterday I read something that really bugged me, I'm not sure why I thought the OP could be reasoned with (love her, but she never can be). So I'm sharing my thoughts with you, think of it as a cleansing.

"Looking back, I can say that I have never met anyone who left the Church for doctrinal or theological reasons-they leave because of hurt or misunderstandings, or because they are attracted by the zeal for God they see in many non-Catholics..." - Jeff Cavins
When I read the above quote, I took a day to chew on it. I asked myself if I really wanted to say anything, what could possibly be gained by saying anything - I mean why ruin my religious silence on Facebook for something so obviously close minded, inaccurate, and most likely not even proveable. Then I recalled my own experiences while leaving the LDS church: would it not have been nice if someone had objected to a statement like that regarding apostates?

I do not need to repeat the conversation here, but suffice it to say, here is how it went:

Yep, it went that well. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, let me do a brief recap. I was born and raised LDS, became inactive in my early teens, and returned to the church when I was 21. I was active for several years, templed endowed with my husband, and became very interested in apologetics to defend my faith. In 2006ish, I began participating in online religious forum discussions and became very interested in world religions and expanding my perspective. In 2008, my husband and I took a "break" from the LDS church - we felt, specifically our ward, was extemely legalistic and really began dreading Sundays. We began attending a Protestant Non-Denom church in Vegas, it was a nice experience, and we ended up leaving the LDS church and attending GP full time. I felt at the time, there were doctrinal issues that I could not line up and agree with. Fast forward to now, my husband still attends a non-denom church, and every now and then I'll go to observe. To be clear: after two years to chew on it, my theology lies with the LDS church - I do not believe in the Trinity, or that the Bible is the only Word of God. That's me, I'll not debate with you about it, if you believe otherwise, good for you. The experiences of the last few years have really left an after taste in my mouth, I am very cautious of getting involved in organized religion.

By this I mean, I do not mind attending small groups - they are a great outlet for my desire to talk religion with other people and I do keep my mouth on a leash so as not to offend others. I do not mind helping out with my husband's church, feeding the Elders (if they'd ever come over to dinner), or assisting my local ward. However, becoming immersed in the culture, people, or groups is a whole other story. Organized religion (for me) = group think mentality and I really am ill equipped to deal with that. And this blog is going to explain just one reason why I really am intolerable to these mindsets.

Getting back to the topic at hand - all people "leave" a church, group, etc. due to (1) hurt feelings, (2) theological misunderstandings, or (3) the zeal they see in people outside their belief group and never for sound theological reasoning.

First, no one person can claim to know the minds and hearts of all people, of any one religion, let alone one with a world member count of 1.18 billion (USA Today, 2011).  With a 32% apostate rate, that's a lot of people to know exactly why they left the Catholic church. Regardless, it's the statement itself and the believers' willful ignorance to seek out it's accuracy that I want to address.

In organized religion, it seems generally acceptable for someone to make statements without logic, reasoning, or even substational proof. This alone does not bug me, until people start shaping their ideas, actions, behaviors, around this quip someone shared. If someone were to say, "the sky is red" - I would hope you would at the very least, look outside to check to see if it is indeed red. Instead, I've sat through sermons where pastors have:

- Stated Jesus "never" waivered in His mission (see Garden of Gethsamine), never became angry (He drove people out of the temple, called the Pharisees "vipers", and told mothers to fear for themselves as He walked with His cross).
- That Song of Solomons is about dreaming about God ... Um, no. It's about sex, and if you understand the entire context and language at that time, it was pretty bold too.
- That Mormons believe (insert here since there's just too much to cover)
- That Catholics believe (insert here since again too much to cover)
- Relief Society teachers trying to teach about "apostate Protestants" (Don't get me started)
- Bishops read letters from the 1st Presidency instructing members to vote against same sex marriage rights (or you know - civil liberties...)

The list goes on. And guess what? People take it as fact. I remember when I lived in Vegas, someone from my non-denom church came over and began discussing a mutual friend who is LDS. This lady began sharing all these, "Did you know Mormons believe ...." statements until finally I said, "No, that's not true,"

How do you think she responded? "Yes it is, I spoke with Pastor so-so and he really knows a lot about Mormonism and what they believe..." Appalling. Just because someone says it's true, does not mean it IS true. Take the time to look it up, take the time to review your sources. If all your sources come from your church and other resources like-minded with your church, you need different resources. The best resource? Go to the source. Want to know what a Mormon or Catholic or Jehovah Wittness believes? Go to a service, make an appointment with a Bishop, Parish Priest, or Pastor and sit down and ask them. Go to their websites, then make a decision based upon the facts you are presented with, not just the assumptions and second hand knowledge other people give you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Could someone tell what you believed based soley upon your actions? On Facebook, I see common words such as, The Word, Jesus, Believer, Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Mary, Holy, Muslim, Islam, Secular, Atheist, Humanism, etc. etc. a whole bunch!

I began to wonder: if you never told anyone that you were a Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, or Athiest - would they know? Could you go 24 hours without saying words specific to your personal beliefs? Could you rely only upon your actions and interactions with other people for the message of your personal beliefs to shine through? If the answer is no - why not?

This does of course include Facebook: posting links, articles, Youtube videos - etc. Could you go a whole 24 hour period without specifically mentioning your personal faith beliefs and relying only upon how people percieve you? Personally, I think more faith and belief is required to be a representative of your faith based upon actions alone.

If you take this challenge, I'll be interested to hear your feedback.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's the best way to gladly make others glad in Jesus

Recently on Facebook, someone asked the question, "What's the best way to gladly make others glad in Jesus?" - which of course, made me think of some memorable pictures and events. Of course, in answer to this very question was a perfect example of Ghandi's quote, ""I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." If you've never taken the time to read as to why Ghandi felt this way, I encourage you to do so.

Without getting myself involved in a lengthy, time consuming, and potentially frustrating debate on the "right" or "wrong" way to be a "Christian" - I wanted to get my thoughts and personal testimony out on paper.

First, I think it is incredibly important to remember that all people and situations are unique - the way in which one person might be inspired is not the same way another person might be inspired. Second, I think it is important to remember that Christ was a servant. Finally, just a friendly reminder - it was the religious people that were called a "brood of vipers" and literally chased out of the temples with a whip (Matthew 12:34).

With those reminders stated - here are my suggestions for how to make other's glad in Jesus.

1. Service: You don't have to spend money to serve others, but rather by using your time to serve others, you make an impact. Sure, there are needy families who may need material things to conform to society's secular expression of Christmas (and I'm not discouraging anyone from doing this) - and it's super awesome when we use our money to contribute to other people's happiness and well being. However, if we look - there are service opportunities everyday. I challenge you to find one opportunity a day and silently fill it. Remember the Pharisee who proclaimed his good deeds during prayer and the humble publican who simply asked for forgiveness. Take silent joy in service, don't whack the person recieving the service up the head with the "love of Jesus".

2. Forgive: While it's great to make ammends and forgive those in our lives, how apart showing forgiveness to people we don't know at all? Forgiving that person who cut in line at the checkout counter, forgiving the person who stole your parking spot, forgiving the person who ignored your feelings on a topic, forgiving the person who flaked on you, and so forth. Practice forgiveness and patience.

3. Be a Light: Yes, we hear this all the time - "be a light in a dark world" (insert Bible verse here with dramatic silence). But what I mean is be different - make that choice everyday to be different than those around you. This takes observance. And I'm not saying come into work with bright purple hair.

4. Listen: We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. Too many times, we wait for our turn to talk, listen to what others are saying - even if you think they're crazy.

5. Don't beat people up with your religion: In my blog I have shared plenty of times how the constant "sharing" of how my family was going to hell from my brother and sister in law, pretty much pushed us apart. Beating people up with their evil deeds, telling them how you don't approve of their lives and choices, and then saying, "I'm not saying it, the Bible says it.." simply creates a terrible taste in the mouth for the Bible. Practice unconditional love for others and be a solution not a problem. I remember when my in-laws attended our reception after my family was sealed in the Las Vegas temple for time and eternity how much of a statement that made. Sure, they didn't really talk to anyone, but the fact that they attended an event they clearly felt was damnation for us was a huge statement of their love for our family.

That's it - Maggie Mormon's top 5 suggestions for how to share Jesus with others. I'll wrap up by saying, the most powerful statement my family has ever encountered has been the Sager family. I've written about them in blogs before - but their home is a resting place for the Holy Spirit - they are just that amazing. Did this family always agree with what I said or my husband believed? Nope. But they served others - invited them into their home every week, fed them spiritually and physically, and were genuine friends. This family has forever reminded me that Christ can inspire people to live as He taught, these people are rare - but treasures when you find them.

Be a treasure this season. And only if needed - use words.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shutting Down

I have been maintaining four blog sites - two MySpace profiles (because my original one was BANNED from the R&P!), a Blogger account, and a Wordpress account.

Therefore, I will no longer be updating three of my blogging accounts - this being one of them.

However, I am on Facebook (see my profile here) and will regularly update my Wordpress account. Thank you to everyone who has been reading along and I hope that you'll continue to read along on Wordpress (or Facebook since it automatically updates from my Wordpress acount).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Link between Education and Religion (or lack of)

At the very good advice of a fellow Rav poster (thank you Gwlana!) I have ordered Marcus Borg's book, Reading the Bible for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally in hopes of finding some more understanding of various understandings of the Bible. As a student, I wonder - do we only take the Bible so literally because we are not properly educated and can distinctively separate faith and fact? One study regarding religion and education stated, "But across religious groups or denominations, church attendance declines with education" (Glaeser and Sacerdote, 2002). The forty page study reviews the connection between education, social skills, and religion citing Episcopalians as the "most educated" denomination and Baptists as the "least educated". The authors observe that, "many Christian ideas explicitly downplay the value of secular success, and as a result people who come from higher belief denominations invest less in secular education" (Glaeser and Sacredote, 1002).

When I think back to my various church experiences - it is within the LDS church that education is stressed. From Enrichment Activities meant to further educate the women of the Church in various ways, to Institute which educates in the official and applicable theology of the Church, to finally the consistent encouragement to receive a higher education (meaning college). If those who are more educated are less likely to be involved in religion, specifically Christian religions, why would this one particular church encourage their members to have a "house of learning" ( Doctrine and Covenants, 109:8) ?

I know that a few of you probably think I am a "fence sitter" - never making a decision if I want to be LDS, a Protestant, or something else altogether. To be perfectly honest, I see no logical reason to believe in Christianity. There is no proof behind the flawed system, there is little unity in the believers, and the application varies from one extreme of openly homosexual leaders to homosexual members being excommunicated (to borrow from LDS language but not point towards them) from their churches. The whole system is frustrating and honestly, I would be perfectly happy to walk away from the whole thing. However, to be an atheist - really and truly, one cannot believe in God. And I do. I do believe in God, even if I do not believe in everything else everyone is preaching.

It's an age old question that probably everyone who really considers their faith and where it leads them in life, considers. Where would God have me and honestly, can I stomach it when I would much rather be a spiritual hobo than connected to all the whining bloggers about Obama? It's a question that Joseph Smith asked and we know what Jesus said:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.” (Joseph Smith History, 1:19)

Currently I am working on a paper regarding historical Christianity, which I believe has over the years become exactly what Jesus says above, having a form of godliness yet who deny the real power of God. I want to do an in depth study of historical Christianity for my essay and see if this changes my stance at all. Finally, I feel quite honestly embarrassed that I left the LDS church only to a year later was ready to return. While I feel that the journey has certainly grown me in many ways, I also feel that I lost quite a bit in the journey as well. I am not going to embark on a new journey without sufficient cause and am quite content to remain where I am until I have come to a well thought out, logical, conclusion.

I believe that the LDS church is the ONE and TRUE church (still leaving room for other Christians of course within the body of believers) but I want to explore this belief before I truly commit to it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

School and the New Project

Currently I am enrolled in Distance Education to complete my Bachelor's degree and have just finished the first round of classes, of course being that the courses are all back to back, I have also just started my next round of courses as well.

I stressed for weeks over my final projects in each class and submitted them this past weekend. Like an obsessed nut job, I have been checking my grades for these projects several times a day. Tonight, I recieved my first project grade back and screamed when I saw it. I earned 100% on the project, which in itself was very rewarding, but was furthered rewarded by the compliments the professor left for me. She stated that my project was the best one she had recieved and wanted to use it for future courses as an example.

During these classes, professors have the students turn in checkpoints to show their progression on the project; this is my first week in a new class and had to choose the topic for my next (final) project. This class is an essay writing class and I will be writing an expository essay on a topic of my choosing. To be honest, I am not entirely sure how excited I am to be writing a paper on religion; I write enough blogs on religion that one would think I would be sick of writing about it. However, the specific topic I have chosen to write about will actually help me in my journey to understand Christianity.

I'm including my "essay" explaining my topic for the final below.

The Controversy of Historical Christianity
By: Amanda Hommel

In 2005 National Public Radio (NPR) did a piece on scholar and New Testament historian, Bart Ehrman and his new bestselling book, Misquoting Jesus: the Story behind Who Changed the Bible (Terry Gross, 2005). I have long held interest in early Christianity, the New Testament, and the impacts that this movement has created in culture and society. Promptly I ordered Ehrman's book from my local library and dove right in. The book was everything NPR had stated it would and I became a fan this New Testament historian.

For my expository essay I would like to address the controversy of historical Christianity. Darrick T. Evenson states in his book, The Gainsayers, that early Christians were considered a cult. From the very birth of the movement, it has been controversial. The questions are - what impact has this had on surrounding culture, politics, and society? How has the history of this "in the world, but of it" movement danced with the world? Ehrman states that many of the New Testament manuscripts were intentionally altered to support political theology of the times, for example, three passages are called into question regarding the Trinity - a staple of many Christian denominations. How did Christians move from persecuted cultists, blamed by Nero in 64 AD for setting fire to Rome to the time of open embrace of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD? How has their history of persecution framed the Christian movement?

Finally, what - if any, evidence stands that this movement is any more than an overgrown weed of a rumor by a few devastated disciples who could not accept the death of their prophet?