Why Stay LDS (with tips for challenging, and handling challenges to your faith)
Summary of Concepts
1. I stay because my extensive (obsessive? 😉 ) research into religion and the afterword, as well as my metaphysical experiences have convinced me that religious experience in a group is a vital key to graduating to the next higher dimension after death. (see LOO 43.14-15 38.7, Oahspe 05/14.1-3 18/6.21-28 27/28.15-23 32/1.28-52 32/6.1-19 33/2-7 i030, JS. Ward, etc..)
2. I stay because I am convinced that nearly all major religions are divinely inspired to increase the likelyhood of harvest (exaltation), by placing us in a system of difficult ambiguities, opposites or paradoxes. Solving those paradoxes makes individuals and groups ready to move on to the higher dimensions after death. (which ends up advancing earth’s evolution)
3. I stay because I believe Mormonism (like most large religions) was divinely inspired in its founding (in ways more complex than one might think). I believe the negative aspects of its theology, founders and leadership are part of a plan. Much like Pharisaical Judaism or legalistic Catholicism or Islam, these issues are tools to help the group grow by learning good from evil. The organization is made to by a type or copy of the good and evil in the world and its social systems in general.
4. I stay because I believe LDS scripture and temple ritual is designed to show us the natural progression from selfishness and egotism, to unconditional love and selflessness. Paradoxically, early selfishness actually increases the power and influence the group will yield once it grows up and transmutes the bad into good.
5. I stay because LDS and Christian scripture exposes and prophesies of its current condition in incredibly sophisticated ways. This proves to me that God has intelligently designed earth’s largest religions (inc. Mormonism) as object lessons for us. And inspires me to help others through the system, not simply fight them or the system.
6. I stay because ALL religion and earthly social systems have major issues. I seek to follow Christ’s example in reforming those systems through humility, wisdom and martyrdom. By this, more progressed souls help the less progressed souls and advance the world in its evolution little by little.
7. I stay because I am convinced there are higher dimensions in the Universe which are inhabited by beings who wish to help us advance. I also am convinced of an incredibly complex system of life after death, and an even more complex system allowing distorted communication between the dimensions. I believe Mormonism is subtly influenced by these beings… who have planed for our inevitable distortion, culturalization and misunderstanding of their attempted direction. I believe they have shared incredible wisdom in their channeled messages — and we should not get hung up over the egregious cultural distortions or inevitable egotistical wickedness of their chosen channels.
First off. I hope this article doesn’t come across as patronizing. I don’t want to talk down to anyone as if my truth should be your truth, or like my perspective is more valid than yours. And I’m not here to verbally strong-arm anyone into staying in, or leaving Mormonism. But I do want to share with you my unique pluralistic perspective in hopes that it might be helpful to you or someone you know who might be struggling with certain aspects of the LDS Church or religion in general.
Like many out there, adulthood and the internet has brought me unimagined insight into Mormonism’s faith inspiring story and its nearly insurmountable issues. But perhaps more uniquely than many practicing Mormons, it’s also helped me to study much of the the world’s prominent religious works; inspiring me to realize the amazing ways that a universalist view is supported by Mormon scripture. I’m attempting to show with this site how Jewish, Christian and LDS scripture & ritual may have been intelligently designed to purposefully begin believers on a path of egocentric belief, binary thinking & fundamentalism, in order to bring them onto more nuanced beliefs respecting universal love and religious pluralism. Transforming them, as Paul in the New Testament puts it, from a “slave” of lower religion, to a “joint-heir” of the ‘gods’ themselves. (Gal 4:5–7, Rom 7, Rom 8:17, see details in my articles Is the LDS church True, and My Testimony of the LDS Church.)
My interesting spiritual experiences may also make my perspective unique to you. From the baptism of fire or burning heart, to visions and dreams of ministering beings or seeing spirits. I’ve not only had profound metaphysical experiences, but I’ve carefully analysed and written about them from both a faithful religious perspective as well as from an agnostic scientific perspective. (I’ve tried to explain these experiences as frankly as possible in one of my articles.) I’ve scoured countless religious canons, near-death experiences and channeled works to find a worldview that best harmonizes my subjective supernatural experiences with both Mormonism’s and those of countless others coming from various cultures. In addition to Joseph Smith’s visions of Deity, I’ve studied the incredibly similar subjective theophany experiences and revealed scripture of contemporary modern ‘prophets’ like Siyyid Shírází (Founder of Bahá’í Faith; 8 million adherents), Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad (Aḥmadiyya Muslims; 20 million adherents), Hong Xiuquan (prophetic icon of Chinese millennialism), Jachanan Ben Kathryn (Messianic Judaism), and others. I hope that the perspective and worldview that I attempt to share in this and my following articles might help you as they’ve helped me to find a space in the Mormon tradition that is objectively aware of both its divine destiny and beauty, as well as its contradictions and humanistic aspects while still remaining a believing active participant of the faith and its culture—even if like me you come to see its exclusive truth claims as a common example of mistaking intelligently designed symbols, shadows, types and archetypes for the unexplainable & unknowable realities they are meant to symbolize (see Col 2:16-19, Heb 10:1).
The Power of Perspective & Empathy
As I get older, I’m continually amazed at the difference perspective makes. The angle you approach a topic from, or the biases you are culturally conditioned with can mean the difference between seeing an old ugly hag or a beautiful young maiden in all the things of life (to borrow from William Hill’s famous illusion shown above). Like many youth raised in a religion, when I was young all I could see was beauty in my religious culture, doctrines and history. The untimely death of my father just before my mission prodded me to seek solace in Mormonism almost as if it were a parent to me. Like a beautiful new bride, the church and its doctrines were my model of truth and perfection. But as I got older and continued really dedicating myself to knowing the truths of religion and the afterworld — and began carefully comparing the Church’s teachings to its own history & scriptures, or to that of other religions and their holy literature, I came to see a dark side I never anticipated. Instead of just seeing the LDS church’s teachings as the pinnacle of divine truth and right-living, I came to see a more human, conflicting, contradicting and egotistical side of the church (see here for examples).
Perhaps coming to see the “shadow side” of my religion shouldn’t have come as a surprise in my life. As opposed to my literal marriage, which I fully expected would be a challenge as the infatuation glasses slowly came off—I never suspected that close scrutiny of my religion might reveal a combination of truth mixed with well meaning pretense. As the shiny ‘correlation’ clothes and the ‘hidden-history’ makeup have come off, I’ve had to make a decision of loyalty and focus. Do I choose to focus on this newly discovered ugliness to the point that I forget the divine beauty I once was in love with? Do I divorce or leave this “bride of Christ” because she made herself out to be far more divine than human? Or do I recognize her mixture of falsity and divinity as a reflection of the same conditions in my own nature, and use it as a tool for social, spiritual and personal improvement?
Through my faith journey I’ve striven for the goal to see all people, religions and concepts from an eye of unconditional love and universal understanding. I’ve been lucky enough to have dreams and visions to show me unique new ways to see how my cultural beliefs fit into the larger picture of faith and human spirituality. Maybe my experiences were my imagination—but either way, I’d like to share with you some of the concepts I’ve learned. I hope I can show how the pluralistic beliefs of powerful thinkers like Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell or even contemporary authors like Richard Rohr or Reza Aslan (interviewed by Oprah in the hour long special posted at the end of this article) can fit within the Mormon scriptural narrative. And how the Mormon scriptural narrative might be intelligently designed to fit into the global human drama. Like them, I’m trying to speak from a perspective of one who is fully aware of both the positive and the negative fruit in all religion but has overcome the true/false trap, consciously choosing to find beauty, meaning and utility in the whole of it.
The Church’s Pattern of Progression in its Historical Context
As we come to understand how culturally influenced, partial and flawed our human religions are, I think that more than anything else it’s important to come to see them as the dynamically changing and evolving social structures that they are. Like living stones in a rising temple of humanity that has, is and will go through the same Fowler’s Stages of Faith and progression as the rest of us. Although impossible to prove or disprove, the Christian and LDS scriptures (as well as many other holy texts in other cultures) seem to present the idea that a combination of deceased ancestors, higher dimensional beings, a collective unconsciousness or even our future selves are somehow involved in starting religions and then intermittently working on them through the different times & seasons like a gardener. In the cold and darkness of early spring the imaginations and subconscious of charismatic (but often egotistical) dreamers and visionaries are used to plant revolutionary religious seeds according to the pre-existing soil type or culture. Religious mystics like those I mentioned earlier will have powerful visions and channel thousands of pages of sophisticated religious literature. (ie. see here) As the creators step back to watch and see which new religious branches or sects do best they often allow rigid garden cages or strict rules and mores to be emplaced in order to hold the ‘plant’ while its young. They seem to often allow (or possibly encourage?) fanatical egotism, rampant falsity and violent struggle in the early stages to build a cohesive culture and sustainable base of cohesive believers. Eventually, they come again in early summer to remove unsuccessful starts as well as the stakes and cages on the ‘plants’ that have evolved past them and can stand on their own. Then when fully grown they use those diverse organizations to unify cultures and influence politics according to their aims. And lastly, they come to harvest the souls & new seeds before the winter comes to bring death and dissolution to the spent ‘plant’ religion or culture. (see Scattering and Gathering of Israel)
Choosing a Positive Focus Amid Negativity
It seems to be true that like early Judaism, and aspects of Catholicism, Islam and many churches before us, Mormonism currently sees itself as God’s highest and most-true, final revelation. It has a unique view of history which often puts itself squarely in the center of almost everything. Many in the church see being a faithful adherent as dependent upon a “testimony” that they are members of the only true church with the only true priesthood in the earth’s final dispensation with the only means of receiving ordinances absolutely necessary for salvation in the highest heavens. Some perceive that our church is fully in charge of single-handedly saving the entire world through our vicarious ordinances. Some view salvation as dependent upon faith in the nearly demigod status and teachings of current or founding prophets. A few see every human advancement (like democracy, airplanes and the internet) as specifically given by God to mankind JUST to help Mormonism be spread throughout the world. The almost narcissistic exclusivism inherent in these beliefs, when compared to similar beliefs in religions like radical Islam — and combined with overwhelming historical proof of our fallibility on topics like early polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, myth in scripture, or ‘prophetic’ errancy combined with the numerous historical and doctrinal contradictions like those addressed in the popular CES letter, may upset many members to the point where they want to abandon belief in divinity or the church.
Before I had really studied out the opposing arguments, I was once absolutely convinced that my powerful spiritual experiences validated the above LDS truth claims, and I can empathize with those who still feel that way. On the other hand, if my words on LDS narcissism explains part of the negativity you perceive, let me just say I get you too, and can truly empathize with you–even though I hope to show you a way to stay a positive, loving participant in the faith by showing how Mormonism might have been designed to fill a more humble role within a larger divine universalist perspective. My existing paradigms and faith were seriously challenged and entirely rebuilt, when my own spiritual experiences and research on history and other religions helped me see how complex, contradictory and difficult some of our exclusivist beliefs and traditions were to defend. (Given we simply use different words to say essentially the same things as so many others religions which we call false—and our testimonies are based on the same logic and emotional/spiritual confirmations. Watch this video for example.) My experiences growing up in the church were so positive and full of overwhelming spiritual confirmation that I never quite understood friends and family members who left. But when my desire to empathize with those I loved caused me to study enough to really see the ‘ugly old woman’ of contradiction in the same doctrines which had once given my life beauty and purpose I fully understood why many people I know would leave or feel forced out. But my advice for those just beginning this process, echoes the advice given to me in my own dark night of the soul as well as that given in Christian Scripture. That “Christ” (as an archetype of unconditional or universal love – not as a religious idol) is divinely designed to show the way to a joyful escape from the binary paradox or true/false paradigm in fundamentalist religion.
Allow me to unpack what I mean by that.
By seeing that Christian and LDS core scripture and temple ritual may be divinely written to show the progression of Israel and mankind from an essentially false, egocentric, overly-literal fundamentalist outward religion to a more true, unteachable, archetypal loving inward religion one can peacefully make that transition in their own worldview—and have a confidence that there is indeed an unseen divine working behind the scenes to guide evolution in an upward direction. All religion’s radically change over their lifespans, and I believe Christian scripture is designed not only to show you that cyclical progression—but to help you determine where you and your denomination are in that cycle. So if you’re ahead of the group in your love and awareness of contradiction and falsity; the most effective solution may be to follow Jesus’ lead of being patient and thoughtful with those who might be behind the curve. And just as there is wisdom in the idea of being a saving light in the darkness, or the salt of the earth—there is also wisdom in the idea of being a Mormon who sees through the fundamentalism and cultural mythos and yet still humbly participates in the underlying divine community in order to save or help others by your example of selflessness. Realize that like the Chinese yin and yang seeks to symbolize — that bad, falsity, egocentrism and negativity are an inseparable part of humanity’s good, truth, selflessness and positivity. Because of the binary nature of human perspective, they cannot meaningfully exist apart from each-other. Every individual, human religion, political entity or scientific organization has a healthy mixture of both across its lifespan. Realize that there might be intelligent reasons why most of the world’s largest and most influential organizations have been led by strict, narrow-minded, egocentric and sometimes even blindly fanatical individuals and power structures in the early stages of their development. As much as I hate to be machiavellian, It seems all too clear to me that without power (which tends to be dogmatic and inherently egocentric), the good one has to offer in the world is often largely irrelevant. It seems obvious to me that the good people of this world (and we might suppose divine beings in the next world), use these inherent attributes of human nature to both build influential people and organizations and turn them toward the light.
The Inevitable Idolatry of Organized Religion
As I’ve moved from the fundamentalist orthodoxy of my youth to perhaps more nuanced rational beliefs, one of the most impressive testimony builders in my view of Mormonism & Christianity has been how (like most global religions) the revealed aspects of the religion seemed to be intelligently designed to allow for opposing perspectives of interpretation. Like brilliant poetry, musical lyrics or literature which purposely use ambiguity to allow their works to mean different things to different people. It seems each generation is purposely given the opportunity to reinterpret the same scripture, and use them for good or bad, pride or humility, power, love or wisdom. And what’s more, LDS revelations seem to have hidden clues to the religion’s own inevitable falsities or lower aspects within its own doctrinal narrative (especially within its temple rituals)! As one Judaic example of this— the beginning of the Biblical narrative essentially starts with Moses coming down from the Mount with a law from God, commanding above all other things not to put human-imagined gods before the ONE incomprehensible universal god of creation who just freed these ignorant slaves. This God tells them not to kill or be unfair and especially not to make or worship human-conceived gods, religious systems or idols (and especially not to do it in the name of God!).
And what happens when Moses comes down from the heavenly Mount? His brother Aaron is already making the people an Egyptian golden calf-god to worship! So in a strange display of irony, we are told that this divine deity representing the One True Universal Reality or I AM makes that same idol-creating man and his posterity, Israel’s religious priesthood who are put in charge of executing opponents, and building and officiating in a temple and religious system that history has shown was in many respects uncannily similar to the one they just left. One which (like almost every major religion since) then goes on a rampage of supposed benevolent genocide conquering desired territory in the name of the national God (see Ex 32:19-29!).
Volumes could (and have) been written on the paradoxical irony of the amazing biblical account. An account of a universal God who is in so many ways the exact opposite of every religious system and deity of the time, within the framework of a people and priesthood who in more ways than not, behave exactly the same as every selfish and egocentric religious and political system in history. So I ask myself what might wise humans or divine beings be trying to teach us with the story of how Jewish priesthood originated? Somewhat secular books like free-masonry’s Morals and Dogma by Robert Pike lay out the conclusion of many of the most wise and influential minds of the post-medieval period. While angelically revealed books like Oahspe share a surprisingly similar message from a divine perspective. A message that I believe is clearly and cleverly hidden within eastern religions like Taoism, the LDS endowment, the writings of Paul and all Christian scripture.
Every religion is a temple that (even if founded on divine foundations) is largely built by human hands which creates an idol or image of God that by the very fallibility of man must inevitably be carved from a limited and biased human perspective. Whether you believe a prophet or scripture is divine or not should not change the inescapable truth that all men intentionally or accidentally create idols of God by projecting or mirroring their cultural biases and paradigms onto God/the divine (even in their revelations and visions of the metaphysical realms)! But part of what makes religious participation so divine is the way that simply participating in these traditions helps to unify huge groups of people, creating culture and paving the way for nation-building, democracy and global unity. Religion is a key component in driving philosophical and political thought as adherents learn to find and ‘prize the good’ by learning to differentiate the human from the divine through the trial and error of darkness. It is the practice hall or schoolmaster for political thought. The thinkers who have effectively worked their way through the gambit of these religious paradoxes rule the world and heavens, and the befuddled religious faith of today becomes the more perfect cultures, gods and political realities of tomorrow.
Keeping the Faith & Staying Mormon.
I want to offer the reader an unpressured bias to reconsider the importance of faith despite the contradictions or paradoxes you may have found. In my experience of spending a few years on Mormonthink, Reddit and other assorted webpages and facebook groups I found that although the thoughtful negativity found in those places may have helped to deconstruct the idols of cultural understanding that my mainstream Mormon upbringing may have carved in my mind— it didn’t give me many constructive ideas on how to improve myself, my culture or my spiritual understanding. It definitely didn’t bring me any profound visions of my own. I found that re-reading core LDS scripture in completely new ways and thoughtful esoteric literature such as featured on this site, did a much better job of giving me spiritual insight and heavenly visions that completely reconstructed my Mormon faith and religious views. What did bring me happiness was learning to see past the cultural bias, symbols, metaphors, memes, myths, rules and carved idols of our man-made aspects of religion— into the hidden universal truths, purposes, wisdom and communion of divine spirituality. Finding ways to steer the culture into more constructive paths instead of merely abandoning it or trying to tear it down. (see needed reformation in the church)
I believe Mormonism is built upon some pretty amazing divine religious metaphors. I’ve found it has within its scriptural theology the language and symbols to begin to reconcile some of the world’s most difficult opposing religious ideas. Issues such as polytheism versus monotheism; visionary experience versus hallucination; resurrection versus reincarnation; legalism versus antinomianism, priesthood versus protestantism, heavenly revelation versus human thought, religious infallibility versus pastoral errancy, and Christian exclusivism vs universalism. And reconciling each of these paradoxes has essential political applications to help societies prosper. Today, the church may ostracize you for challenging their one-sided views of these complex ideas. But I encourage you to follow Christ into the true baptismal grave of standing for whats right even when your religious leaders wish you were dead. In fact your debate, even if it means excommunication, is essential to the eternal progression and power of the group. I believe Christ’s central lesson was that constructive change usually comes from humble activists (even if they’re excommunicated), more than separatists and that all earthly religion is divinely designed to be continually transmuted by “Christ’s” followers (the loving martyrs) from selfishness to selflessness. I made a decision sometime ago that I would not throw away any of my relationships simply because I saw the yin when everybody else only seemed to be blindly aware of the yang. (Even if sharing my personal perspectives and truths occasionally causes conflict.) Although perhaps more people are leaving Mormonism today over the issues I cover on this site, than has ever occured in it’s history, I offer you the unpressured bias that staying with open eyes is possible and worth it—and I hope my articles give you some scripturally-based language to share perspectives differing from the often fundamentalist mainstream. I hope I can illicit your help and friendship as a new generation of Mormons begins to take the reigns of the church and steer it ever closer into line with what the subtle whispers of Spirit constantly direct for it and all mankind.
Its important to realize that the groups we immerse ourselves in, have immense implications. Although I’m asking readers to take what I’m about to say on faith, I hope you’ll believe that religious adherents (especially Mormons and Jews) have a level of psychic connection that most simply don’t understand. Some authors have referred to this connection as a “social-memory-complex”. In essence, the rituals and practices that Mormons participate in create a subconscious connection to a pool of shared intelligence which can be accessed by the entire group. This can have both advantages and disadvantages. Many of the phenomena that adept members often mistake as “being in tune with the Spirit” actually has to do with individual’s abilities to access that shared subconscious pool of information. It also has implications on the subjective afterlife state as well and the transmigration of the soul. There is a reason why Jews have been such powerful inventors and philosophers over the last 4 millennia. Although Mormonism has some repenting and purging to do, I assure you that staying close to the group (even if not an active participant–until after their cleansing) will have rich rewards to those able to draw from both the physical and metaphysical energy, intelligence & resources of the group consciousness.
I hope these articles I’ve written can help you look at LDS and Christian scripture from a new perspective that reconciles many of the issues you may have discovered.
Article 1. Re-examining what LDS scriptures say about the ‘Only True Church’ doctrine.
Article 2. A Doctrinal Look at The Universal Priesthood of God & Its Relationship to LDS exclusive truth claims.
Article 3. Re-examining the LDS adoption of the protestant fundamentalist view of the “Great Apostasy”.
Article 4. Clearing up Misunderstandings in the LDS View of the Afterlife (The 3 Degrees of Glory and their support for religious pluralism)
See Also. Needed Reformation in the LDS Church.
(if the below video does not display, open it in a new window here)