Friday, December 9, 2011

Unrelated (but still really great!) Thoughts

I glanced this week at the new Teachings manual for George Albert Smith we'll "study" next year.  My knowledge about the man is probably superficial, although I do know and find it notable that he was the first non-polygamist president of the Church.  (I doubt that's mentioned in the actual manual.)  Crazy that the run of polygamist presidents didn't end until 1945 (although by the time Heber J. Grant actually became church president I think he was by then down to just one wife--but once a polygamist always a polygamist!)

Speaking of Heber J. Grant, I read just a few short months ago a great little piece of historical writing by Ronald Walker about Emily Wells, Grant's second wife ("A Mormon 'Widow' in Colorado: The Exile of Emily Wells Grant").  Fascinating history, but like Annie Clark Tanner's autobiography ("A Mormon Mother") it made me grateful to not have polygamy a part of my life.  (Although I guess it's still kinda a part of my life in the sense that it's a part of our Mormon history and also in the sense that I enjoy watching "Sister Wives").  :)

This week I also related to a post by jmb275 called "Reining in the Analyst".  In many ways it describes my church experience in the past couple of years:
...Life seemed simpler before the events in my life caused me to question everything. Going to church was something I anticipated, and it felt like welcome relief. General Conference was a charging of my spiritual batteries, and I derived great comfort from things like the Ensign. It’s not so much that I was ignorant of the problems in the church, nor did I understand or believe every aspect of the Gospel.  There were doctrinal struggles, even then. But I derived happiness from my certainty, from my feeling, from my intuition, or from the Spirit (whatever that might mean). It’s also not that I now constantly bicker with church leaders, or criticize each talk and lesson when I go to church. Indeed, at church I usually don’t say much, but listen carefully to try and learn. It’s really about what’s going on in my mind, the nagging voice that feels the urge to constantly correct, analyze, and thoroughly dissect each idea, sentence, and thought. 
In short, I no longer feel when I go to church, I only think. And that, I’m afraid, sums up the problem when the analyst is the only one who shows up. And yet, I really do want to go to church and so I continue to go and slog through the analysis. I know what is possible there. I remember the feelings, the certainty, the truth. And still, even though I know (and don’t want) that certainty anymore, even though I’m happy with my outlook on life now, I believe I can allow myself to experience the feelings that were there if I can remind myself what it’s like to feel rather than analyze them....

I'm learning I "feel" best at church when I focus on what I call "edifying engagement"--and Sunday teachers seem to mean it when they keep telling me how much they appreciate my questions/comments which help spark that engagement.  Naturally, thinking and feeling are not mutually exclusive, so his post resonated with me as one trying to maintain balance.

Reading more of his posts led me to some other thoughts I can relate to, such as his (and my) desire to treat each other first and foremost as an individual rather than labeling and lumping someone into a group.  Although one label he and I don't mind embracing is "buffet Mormon"; jmb275 writes:  "I am a 100%, dyed in the wool, Buffet Mormon. Yep, I pick and choose what I like, and what I don’t like. I have separated my spiritual growth from the LDS church, and view the LDS church as a tool to help me obtain that growth."

BCC's Mark Brown once pointed out that to some degree every Mormon's a cafeteria Mormon and Dave put it this way: "We're All Middle-Way Mormons".

That's all for now.


Thomas Parkin said...

I have no idea whether or not I'm a cafeteria Mormon. I certainly don't think being 100% Mormon is the goal, however that might look. When I discover that Christ has a character trait, I want that trait. When I discover something that is true, or mostly true, or even true from a certain perspective, I do my best to embrace it. I feel almost no tension about the church - I just understand that not everyone is operating under my exact set of assumptions.

I just don't think I ever was that Mormon that felt ... like a Mormon. As far as I can remember, it has always seemed unnecessary to me. There are certainly times when I feel more at home at church than at others. At times I feel very much one among the members ... quite often I feel ... well, not that, anyway.

Papa D said...

I really like this CC - and, as always, I love Thomas' comment.

I first realized I thought differently than most other members of the Church when I was about seven years old. In that way, I had the "luxury / blessing" of starting very early and naturally to the idea that it's OK to be different - and I have had almost 40 years of practice at letting my analyst roam free for most of the time I live and reining it in somewhat during church. I live very comfortably in both worlds at this point - the settlement and the wilderness, so to speak.

The best description I've ever heard is that of a kite. My mind flys all over the place, flitting around looking at lots of things and thrilling in the ride - but my heart is grounded firmly by the string that connects me to my community, my family, my "foundation". Without the kite of my mind, my heart might break - but without the string of my heart, my mind might fly off into the sun and burn.

Iow, I have "studied" things out in my heart AND my mind - and "reining in the analyst" helps keep the kite of my mind from causing too much tension and breaking free of the string of my heart.

Clean Cut said...

Thank you to both of you, Thomas and Papa D. There's something profound in each of your comments, and I appreciate you sharing.