Wednesday, November 17, 2010

David and his concubines

I have much more to write at some point soon, but here's a quickie someone pointed out to me yesterday. I'm a little surprised I was not aware of the relationship between these particular passages of scripture, which appear very interesting when juxtaposed. D&C 132 is worth reading in its entirety, by the way. It gets good at about verse 50. Anyway, without further comment:

Doctrine & Covenants 132:38-39
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.

Jacob 1:15 (Book of Mormon)
15 And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.

Jacob 2:23-24 (Book of Mormon)
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

For anyone interested, I'm doing National Novel Writing Month again this year. I've written up a more detailed post about it on my personal LiveJournal. I'm not planning to live-blog it like I did last year, though I may be willing to share if anyone is interested, and I probably will post occasional excerpts on my LJ. It's going to be a fun November!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Follow us... or die!

I guess I'm officially a cynic. For anyone watching the LDS General Conference... Is it just me, or is there a lot of emphasis this time on trusting God and his authorized servants? I've been listening with half an ear, and it seems like I've heard at least a few speakers say this exact thing. Eyring said it about half a dozen times. Oaks's talk seemed to be all about how you can only find God and happiness through the LDS church, and anything else is Satan leading you astray. I guess I should be used to it by now, but somehow I'm still surprised by the blatant self-aggrandizing of the "LDS church versus Satan for your eternal soul" story that is recited continuously from the pulpit. Are we really supposed to believe the world is that simple, and the white guys in suits have the miracle cure?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another boring Sunday. Why bother?

Yet another boring Sunday, sitting through three hours of church. Honestly, it's gotten to where "enduring to the end" means staying awake for all three hours. Is this supposed to be inspiring? Is this supposed to pump me up or "recharge the batteries" so I can go out and make the world a better place and myself a better person? I feel the drive from within myself to do those things, but most weeks it feels like church sucks the life out of me. I'm certainly not recharging anything by going there. I'm sure someone must be getting something positive from it, but that person is not me.

I commented to my wife this morning that I think Jesus would be pretty uncomfortable in our church. He doesn't seem like the white shirt and tie kind of guy. Of course, I said this after failing to get a haircut for a couple months, failing to shave in the past week, and throwing on a green collared shirt after rolling out of bed and taking the world's quickest shower. So I guess I was looking for someone to champion the cause of the bed-headed schlub. I still contend that Jesus has got my back on this one.

A lot of Sundays, I look around and wonder what in the world I'm doing at church. For the past year or so, I've been keeping a positive attitude about church and my own participation in it. In my own mind, my main reason for doing so has been because I enjoy the community and I like being at least a little bit social.

But lately I've been asking myself, is that really true? I can't think of anyone at church I'm particularly close to, and in fact I'm not sure anyone at church even likes me very much. I obviously don't fit in, I wear brightly colored shirts, and the only time I speak up is when I feel I have something worthwhile to say. Unfortunately, that means I rarely say anything because I'm not willing to answer questions like, "What is the definition of priesthood?" Questions like that have no relevance to my life, but the call and response routine is apparently what we have been reduced to. And whenever I do speak up, I usually get blank stares as if I had said the moon is made of cheese and I just had some for lunch. Stunned silence, thinking, "Okaaaaay..."

When I joined the church, I was looking forward to having interesting discussions about deep topics in Sunday school. I was accustomed to that in the Christian churches I previously attended. But in the LDS church, there is no such discussion. It's taken me ten years, but I've finally realized there can be no such discussion in this church because everyone thinks we already know all the answers. Question about the meaning of life? Reference the chart with three circles. Question about the nature of the divine? Reference the Joseph Smith testimony in the back of your book. Question about whether it's okay to wear flip flops to church? Reference last month's General Conference talk. Seriously, we have canned answers for everything.

Because I happened to have it on my iPod, today I also read Why the Church is as True as the Gospel, a Sunstone article by Eugene England from many years ago. He makes some valid points, and I can see what he's getting at, but overall I got the feeling that the church as he experienced it doesn't really exist anymore. The church doesn't stretch me to prove contraries or help me to grow my love for others through service to needy people. It simply annoys me, week after week, as I silently listen to bold proclamations of things I find disagreeable, unsupportable, or factually incorrect.

Some people stay because it's their family, it's their tribe, it's where they feel comfortable, or whatever. I understand that, and that can be a valid motivation. But I've never felt that way about Mormonism myself, even as a believer. For my entire life since high school, I have regularly attended various churches on my own, because I wanted to be challenged and stretched. I have wanted what Eugene England wrote that we should experience in the LDS church, a deeper experience of meaning through struggling to make peace with opposition in all things.

In fact, I would say that's one of the main reasons I still attend the LDS church at all; because I tend to define my own ideas by contrasting them with other ideas that are not mine. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I sharpen my ideas by testing them in the marketplace and keeping the best ones, and for a long time as a Christian, I found that church was a good place for me to do that. So somehow I still try to do it in the LDS church. But you know, after a while being constantly beaten down with iron gets tiresome. I'm not experiencing both truths on either side of a paradox. I'm experiencing one truth, running unopposed, and I'm not sure how long I can stand it.

So what's the point? I guess I need to branch out socially. Visit other communities, go to more skeptics meetings, volunteer my time actually doing something useful. It's hard to find the time, but that's not a great excuse. Whatever I'm looking for, I'm apparently not finding it here, and I need to expand the horizons.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why wage war on certain people's genitals?

In all the heated Prop 8 arguments that seemingly exploded from every point in the universe simultaneously, there's one idea I hardly ever see mentioned, despite its crucial importance. Perhaps it's never mentioned because it's simply too obvious. I'm referring to the fact that disallowing gay marriage is legal discrimination against certain people because of their genitalia. The official reason that two men cannot be married in most states is because they both have penises. Likewise two women and their vaginas. For all the fuss and foofaraw about religious freedom, freedom of speech, rights, benefits, and tradition, it simply boils down to genitals.

And why? Why should we care so much about what kind of private parts a married couple has in their pants? Why do the parts become not-so-private when it comes to marriage? Is it society's business to inquire about such things, or even further, to ensure that every state-sanctioned blessed union comes with one snail and one oyster? If so, why?

One group of people that is profoundly affected by this policy, but also seems generally forgotten in the public discourse, is the community of people whose gender identity is ambiguous or has changed. Specifically, intersex and transgendered people. In fact, I personally have a friend who was living as a girl when I knew her in high school, but he is now living as a man and is engaged to be married (someday) to the woman he loves. He and his fiancee seem very happy together, and I am happy for them. I have not specifically asked my friend whether he now has a penis, whether he formerly had a vagina, or whether his sex organs are or were ambiguous. The reason I haven't asked is because it's none of my fucking business. Yet from what I understand, our society has taken up the mantle not only of investigating my friend's genitals, but of making it very, very difficult for a transgendered person to be married to anyone.

Again I ask, why? What useful purpose does it serve to forbid certain marriages because of sex organs? If society (somehow) benefits by hiring a bouncer to check people's underwear at the chapel door, does that outweigh the benefit of two people's pursuit of happiness and equal protection under the law?

As usual, the Onion hits this point much better than I ever could, so enjoy this video from a year or so ago:

Conservatives Warn Quick Sex Change Only Barrier Between Gays, Marriage

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just say no to laws based in religion

In case you haven't heard that Prop 8 was overturned by a federal judge two days ago, you're welcome. Facebook and the rest of the interwebs have, of course, exploded, which is great because it's been a while since I got a good dose of internet venom. Personally, I think it's much ado about nothing until the appeals climb all the way to the Supreme Court.

When Prop 8 was passed almost two years ago, it seemed clear to me that it had no real basis aside from private religious views. Maybe it's my relatively small sample size of friends, but it seems like that is still the case. Judge Vaughn Walker said this explicitly in his decision, and the Prop 8 defense lawyers apparently couldn't make a very good argument otherwise.

I almost hate to say this, because I want to think the best of people and I know there are some people who have been convinced to support Prop 8 on grounds other than religion. But for the great majority of Prop 8 supporters in my experience, it simply boils down to the idea that God, the Bible, or church leaders said so. Deep down at a bedrock level, that is the fundamental reason to support Prop 8. It really, really is.

Of course, no one ever leads by saying they object to gay marriage because of their religion. We all pay lip service to the idea that our laws need to serve some secular purpose. But I've seen too many people trot out arguments like "homosexuals can't procreate" or "homosexuals are inadequate parents" or "churches will be forced to perform gay marriages" or "marriage has always been between a man and a woman." And when each of these arguments is refuted, it usually comes down to, "Well, I believe God said it's wrong."

But private religious views cannot be the basis of law in the United States. I wish more people would realize that the separation of church and state is as much a protection for your religion as anyone else's. Just because your religious view happens to be a majority does not make it constitutional to pass discriminatory laws based on your religion. If the rise of Islam overtakes Christianity in the next century, will you fight to pass laws criminalizing graphic depiction of Muhammad? If you understand why not, you should understand that Prop 8 has been rightly struck down for the exact same reason.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made For Us

We are the custodians of life's meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
~ Carl Sagan

It's been a while since I made a Sagan Sunday post. I discovered this video today and loved it. The world could use more people like Carl Sagan. Happy Sunday.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

52,000 Nephite coins discovered in Mexico!

Okay, not really. Today, a friend elsewhere on the Interwebs pulled this exact same April Fool's prank in July. (If you're reading this, I hope you don't mind me stealing it!) He linked to an amazing article about a treasure hunter finding 52,000 Roman coins in Britain and titled the link as if someone had found Nephite coins in Mexico.

The point is that the Romans were in Britain at about the same time the Nephites are alleged to have been in the Americas. Yet while Roman artifacts are constantly unearthed in the UK, we have yet to find any coins, or any other evidence for that matter, of Book of Mormon peoples anywhere.

Frankly, I'm shocked that anyone would assume that we should find any actual archeological evidence of the Nephite and Lamanite civilizations in America, just because we find abundant evidence of ancient Romans everywhere in Britain. Hello...? That was like, totally across the ocean! Think, McFly, think!

Also, Moroni is well-known to have taken Book of Mormon evidence back to heaven in the form of brass plates. Since this is the only action he is known to have taken vis à vis BoM evidence, why would we think he would leave some evidence behind? It doesn't fit with what we know of his character.

Those senines and shiblums and amnor coins were Moroni's wishes, Moroni's dreams. And he took them back. He took them all back.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chrissy Satterfield's kind of vandals

The Friendly Atheist reports about a billboard that was recently put up along the Billy Graham Parkway by the North Carolina Secular Association. Naturally, it was vandalized within a week. I would expect no less.

Any normal person, regardless of their affiliation, would condemn vandalism and destruction of property, right? Well, apparently not everyone. Chrissy Satterfield of WorldNetDaily thinks the vandals are heroes for sticking it to the atheists. She says,

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the man or woman responsible for this vandalism. I appreciate the action you took. Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone. It took a lot of guts to do what you did – and the fact that you haven't stepped forward to take credit makes you a hero.

A hero indeed. Some heroes defend our nation on the front lines of battle, and others defend it with a can of spray paint in the middle of the night. Onward, Christian soldiers.

Chrissy Satterfield also asks, "How is this billboard not offensive to me?" And she's right. I feel really terrible that Chrissy Satterfield, along with countless other Christians in North Carolina, had to be exposed to a quote from the Pledge of Allegiance as it was originally written. This billboard went too far. Atheists have no right to make their presence known on a billboard, especially not on the Fourth of July, and especially not on a street named after Billy Graham. Do they have no respect for our country or its Christian leaders? If atheists want to exercise their freedom of expression with a billboard, they should do it on a back road somewhere where nobody can see it, and they certainly shouldn't imply that they can be patriotic Americans just like religious folks. Talk about wolves in sheep's clothing! In a way, it was every patriotic American's duty to vandalize this billboard, to make sure America stays #1.

There's a bright side, though. In the comments to the Friendly Atheist article, Ryan Tombleson wrote:
I’d hate to be the one to break it to Ms. Satterfield, but the billboard in Charlotte was repaired on the Friday before the holiday. I would also like to thank the man or woman who committed the vandalism. Because of his or her action, the billboard gained national attention and membership of CAA has exploded. We’re on pace to set a record amount of attendees at our next social meeting and will be joined by a local reporter who is covering the group. Because of someone’s ignorance, people who were stuck in the bible belt and unaware of our presence now have a place to meet other link-minded individuals. It’s a beautiful thing.

In a way, it's interesting to me that the vandalized billboard accurately reflects the Pledge of Allegiance itself: "one nation indivisible" with the words "under God" incongruously scrawled by someone who felt the need to inject their personal religion into our secular government. Thanks indeed to the Christian vandals for their clear demonstration of how the words "under God" got there in the first place.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Why America is worth defending

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

~ The original Pledge of Allegiance

American flagToday's lesson in church was all about how the United States is a choice nation blessed by God himself, how the Constitution was divinely inspired, and how true patriots should love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The instructor even got in a dig against all those silly people who want to remove God from the Pledge of Allegiance. "Chill out," I think he said. But seriously, everything that is good about America was flatly asserted to be tied to belief in God, Jesus, and specifically, the Mormon church.

I get a little tired of all the quote-mining and emotional rah-rahing that is supposed to prove that obviously this is a Christian nation and obviously God blesses us only when we believe in him and marginalize those who don't. One lady during testimony time said something like, "The more I read the New Testament, the less I understand how the Jews could reject Jesus. He's so clearly the Messiah!" Um... yes, I suppose one might get that impression by taking the Christian scriptures at face value. I don't think I've ever slapped my forehead so hard during church, and that's saying something.

Normally I tend to keep quiet because I'm not sure I have anything helpful to say, but today I needed to speak up.

I didn't bring up the fact that the Constitution does not mention God, Christ, Jesus, a Creator, or anything like that. I didn't mention that the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams in 1797, states explicitly that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". I didn't mention that the "under God" clause was only added to the Pledge of the Allegiance in 1954 at the height of McCarthy anti-communist xenophobia.

What I did share is something absolutely dear to me. I said that to me, the heart of patriotism and my love for freedom is embodied by a quote commonly attributed to Voltaire (a French philosopher, I dared to mention). "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." This is the attitude on which is based our freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association... all the basic human freedoms America claims to value and ensure.

I said that you cannot go to every country in the world and vocalize your dissatisfaction with your neighbor or your government. In some countries, you will find yourself incarcerated or even executed. I think that perhaps the most fundamental virtue of America is the fact that we have the right to disagree peaceably. I have noticed an escalating polarization, especially in our nation's politics, where we tend to demonize those we disagree with, to call them unpatriotic, not real Americans, or worse. I said that we need to recognize that we are all trying to do what is right and what is best for our country, and it does not help when we refuse to listen to those we disagree with. I expressed hope that we are not taking for granted our individual right to express ourselves, and the corresponding responsibility to hear others' expression.

Okay, that's probably not exactly what I said. But it was pretty much along those lines. My point is that flag-waving means nothing to me. It's too easy and superficial. I don't believe the USA is #1 just because we wave a giant foam finger that says so. I believe that America has fundamental strengths that many of its citizens don't fully appreciate. They are difficult strengths and rare human virtues, the kind that have to be paid for with the blood of patriots. It's not just a matter of repeating a mantra, that America is the "greatest" nation in the world, whatever that means. It's also not a matter of promoting our own religious ideology above all others. It is a matter of honoring the freedoms that our valiant dead have died for, and treasuring the exchange of ideas that our system makes possible. It's a matter of defending our right to disagree, even when it feels more natural to try to squelch the competition by shouting them down. Let's not take that greatness for granted.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bedtime conversations are the best

Sometimes my five-year old son, Alex, likes to trade beds with his younger brother. He likes to sleep in his brother's car bed and drape blankets over the openings for "privacy". But last night the darkness of the room, exaggerated by the privacy blankets, started to freak him out. He came out of his room and said he felt like there were ghosts in the bed. Frowning, he told me, "Autumn [his older sister] said ghosts aren't real. But sometimes I feel like they're real in here," pointing to his chest.

I said, "That can be scary, huh. Sometimes our feelings tell us one thing but we know it's not really true." I held him for a while and we talked some more. Finally I told him that his mom was baking cookies and that if he went back to bed, I would bring him a cookie when they were ready. I went back with him to his room, and we pulled the privacy blankets off the bed to help him feel less scared.

As he was yanking on an afghan to cover himself with it, I said, "Do you know who made this blanket?"

He said, "Mom."

I said, "Nope, not Mom..."

He guessed, "Grandma?"

I said, "Nope, not even Grandma. It was my grandma. Grandpa Thelen's mom. Her name was Florence, and she was a really nice grandma. I loved her very much, and that's why we named Anita [our baby] after her, with her middle name Florence."

He asked, "Is she still alive?"

I said, "No, she died... probably about fifteen years ago."

Then Alex took the conversation in a direction that I always find a little uncomfortable, because I'm never sure what to say. He said, "My teacher at church said that when you die, then you come back alive."

I said, "That's what some people think, huh. That's what they teach you at church."

And then he asked the salient question I knew was coming. "Is that true?"

I thought about it for a few seconds. I said, "It would sure be nice, wouldn't it? It's a nice idea, and I would really like it to be true. But I just don't know. I think sometimes you just have to say, I don't know, but I hope so."

He said, "I hope so, too."

It was a touching moment for me. I think my son is a lot like me, and he often thinks about these kinds of things. We have conversations about it every so often. Even though I'm never sure exactly what to say, I always love the feeling of helping my kids explore their ideas about this existence we find ourselves in.

Of all the things that one could hope to be true about religion, I think the idea of an afterlife is the one I would actually want to be true. I don't particularly care whether there is a god, or whether Jesus was who Christians think he was, or which church is God's One True Church. I certainly don't care about most of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity or any other religion. But to be able to prolong my own existence, and to spend time with those I love, even after death? Yeah, I could live with that one. It seems extremely unlikely, and I don't have any evidence for it, and I have no good reasons to believe it whatsoever, but I actually do hope that one is true.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Defending genocide in modern religion

Last week I was sitting through a Sunday school lesson about 1 Samuel 15, in which Saul is commanded to slaughter the Amalekites. Men, women, children, and livestock; none were to be left alive, but Saul screwed up. He brought back the king as a prisoner, and he also spared the best sheep and cattle to be sacrificed as burnt offerings. Because Saul failed to kill everyone and everything as he was commanded, the Lord was mightily pissed off.

Somehow the discussion did not center around the question of why our murderous deity would command genocide and then burn with anger when his servants fail to carry it out. Instead, the main thrust of the lesson seemed to be Samuel's words in verse 22:

But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

Ah yes, obedience. I was just thinking it had been at least seven days since I heard a lesson about that.

At some point, someone in the class did raise the question of why Saul had such a problem killing the best few cattle when he apparently had no problem killing every Amalekite man, woman, and child. And eventually, the instructor asked the class why it was necessary to obliterate every living creature in the rival civilization at all.

Various participants came up with a number of rationalizations. The Amalekites were evil and perverted. They worshiped false gods. They wanted to lead the Israelites away from their true religion or covenants or whatever. Someone said that it may have been the same reason God told Nephi to kill Laban in the Book of Mormon. I think someone said that God has his reasons, and that even if we don't understand the reasons, we just need to obey.

I'm sorry, but these ideas are crap. Not only are they pure speculation, but even if it were possible for every single person in a society to be irredeemably evil, that does not justify the murder of children. The Bible is not the only religious book that advocates slaughtering infidels in defense of the faith. We don't tend to think very highly of other religious folks that perpetrate large-scale violence in the name of their god. Why should we seek to justify genocide simply because the religious text is ours?

These kinds of stories are not what the world needs right now. This is a tale of Bronze Age warfare, not an Information Age life lesson. I hate sitting through discussions about how we can learn obedience from Old Testament war stories, and how we can try to apply it to our lives today. Can we just admit that some things in the Bible just do not apply? Can we admit that some things in the Bible are truly fucked up? Can we please admit that if this story is literally true, then God is a sadistic, twisted puppy? No, you can't say that out loud in Sunday school. So I'm saying it here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Infinity is a funny thing. When I was a kid, my mom always used to tell me that she loved me to the moon and back infinity times. Not long ago, it occurred to me that she might as well have said she loved me to the grocery store and back infinity times, or the width of a hair and back infinity times, or to the edge of the galaxy and back infinity times. It's all exactly the same distance. But I guess some infinities sound larger than others.

My kids, especially my 5-year old son, have started using the word infinity to describe everyday things, which almost always produces an amusing mental image in my head. For example, my son will say that he wants a snack and he would like infinity popsicles please, and of course I have to picture the entire known universe filled with popsicles, and then some.

A few days ago, I fixed our Nintendo Wii, which was making a horrible grinding noise, and today it started making the noise again. I told my son that it shouldn't take me very long to fix it again this time, and I should be able to fix it more permanently because I got some practice last time. He said he hoped I wouldn't be fixing the Wii for infinity days... or worse, infinity years.

Of course, infinity years is not at all worse than infinity days. I asked him, "Do you know when you could use the Wii if I had to fix it for infinity days?" He said he didn't know, and I said, "Never!" And I said the same for infinity years. Then I reassured him that it probably wouldn't take anywhere close to that. Then again, whether it takes me one hour or three days, either possibility is equally close to infinity years, which is to say, nowhere close.

My kids also don't tend to use a million or a billion to stand in for a very large number. They usually say a googol. The other day I was remarking to my wife that a googol is probably much larger than the number of atoms in the observable universe, and she wasn't convinced. I did a back of the envelope estimate and came up with about 10^80 atoms in the universe, which by sheer dumb luck turns out to be very close to the actual best estimate we have. And a googol is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times larger than that.

So ten times the observable universe is still nowhere close to a googol atoms. One billion observable universes is still about 100,000,000,000 times less. You have to take one hundred billion billion observable universes to get about one googol atoms. And that is equally distant from infinity as the number of atoms in my pinky fingernail. Infinity is a funny thing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We each have our reasons for staying or leaving

(Cross-posted at Main Street Plaza.)

I posted this elsewhere not too long ago, and it seemed to get positive feedback, so I thought I would share this experience here and get your thoughts about it.

During a conversation with my wife in the car after meeting some fantastic believing/disaffected couples for dinner last week, I realized something that has somehow completely eluded me until now. My wife and I approach the church very differently because it has fulfilled completely different needs for each of us.

I joined the church as an adult convert ten years ago. Previous to that, I had many deeply spiritual experiences as a Christian, but not in the LDS church. I did not join the LDS church because I felt anything special, or because I felt it met any particular spiritual or emotional need I had. If anything, I found the LDS style of worship definitely lacking in the profound spiritual feelings department.

Instead, I joined the LDS church because, based on my investigation, I believed it was true. Many of the beliefs made a lot of sense to me, and as I read much of the material that has been written about the LDS church, both pro and con, I believed I had found something that fulfilled prophecy and had the true gospel. Or at least something as close to such a thing as I was likely to find.

Consequently, as I have reexamined my assumptions and my beliefs over the past few years, I found it easy to disconnect from the church emotionally once I no longer believed in it intellectually. After all, I did not join for the emotional, spiritual, or social aspects of the church. I joined the LDS church because it made sense. Once it no longer made sense, I had no reason to hold onto it, and I let go almost immediately.

My wife, on the other hand, still enjoys being a part of the community and enjoys the good feelings she experiences when she goes to church. As she has learned more about the historical or doctrinal problems in the church, I have sometimes been confused as to why many things don’t seem to bother her as much as they bother me.

But last week I realized that she did not join or stay in the church primarily for intellectual reasons. It doesn’t matter as much to her whether everything makes sense in a rational way, or whether there are problems with the history or doctrine. Those are not her reasons for being there. She feels spiritually connected in the LDS church, in the same way I felt as a Christian before I joined it. That’s why I look back on those times with fondness, and that’s why she stays in the LDS church today. Whether it’s true or not has little bearing on that.

I think a lot of us disaffected folks approach the church in the same way I’ve described my own approach. We see it as failing the test of truth, and therefore try to distance ourselves from it. That’s certainly a valid way of dealing with it. But I realized that there are other reasons people might reasonably choose to stay despite the problems, and I think that’s fine too. After all, I think just about everyone needs something spiritually fulfilling (note I did not say religious or supernatural). While I personally do not find that in the LDS church, and I never have, some people do. And that’s why my wife probably will never have the same problems with the church that I do, and that’s okay.

Now if only we could get the warm fuzzies without the authoritarianism, life would be golden!