Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sharing My I Don't Knowamony

I’m talking with a neighbor about forming a little book club to read some Mormon history articles. They are here at I don’t know him well but I thought he might have interest. He is well informed and engaged in the ideas he presents in church. He responded positively but took a moment to let me know where he stands with the church. He is a content happy Mormon with no interest in upsetting the apple cart. He basically said that he was ok with the getting together if I could accept that he is what he is, a solid dutiful believing Mormon. Yeah, I’m ok with that. I don’t have definitive answers but I do like to discuss ideas and I love Mormon history. And I don't need others to share my semi dis-functional approach to the church.

Here is what I wrote him back.

Thanks for letting me know where you stand. Here’s where I am Mormon wise. I am drawn to Mormon history because it is my story and my family’s story. It’s why I am here at this time and place. I grew up in an active family, enjoyed church and community, and served a happy successful mission. But that was a long ago and my strict belief default has given way to considering the church’s truth claims on the merits. Teachings and practices must make sense for acceptance. I have struggled with Mormonism for many years and regularly consider checking out but I return week after week. I guess I get enough needs met that it compensates for frustration.

I do often feel that my presence at church is a distraction to others and I wonder if I should be quiet or stay home, but I think/hope people see me as a sincere if eccentric member and take a charitable approach to my quirky participation. And there have been many comments from the brethren about welcoming all people. I suppose that includes me. I do disagree with the brethren about some things I feel my integrity requires that I deal with it, but I try do so honestly and appropriately.

While I don’t have any sort of conventional testimony neither do I know that Mormonism isn’t true. In fact, I’m not sure of what is true and what isn’t or if I am even interested in seeing the world in those terms. I mostly search for meaning and leave truth alone. I know I must sound like one who is ever searching for the truth but never able to find it, but I’m ok with that. In fact, one of the things that drives me batty in the church is the absence of and disdain for uncertainty. I mistrust people and institutions that claim to know all. I am moved by declarations of not knowing more than knowing. I think it’s harder and perhaps better for people to realize what they don’t know . As you can imagine, that makes Mormonism a challenge.

Having said all that, I am a reasonable person who enjoys exchanging ideas with a broad range of believers and non-believers and am pretty agenda free. I think getting together to read the articles will be worth the effort.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Church Ain’t Radiolab

Is anything more satisfying than a piping hot serving of Radiolab? Brainiacs Abumrad and Krulwich seldom disappoint. Whether it’s the velocity of a falling cat or the brain’s capacity to retain random numbers, they transform the esoteric into the accessible and do it with a grin. I mean come on, would I normally care about how prairie dogs communicate the approach of someone dressed in a sweater? But there is joy, yes joy, in listening to them dissect practically any topic. Radiolab is like healthy mind food. It’s tasty and low cal.

Which brings me to Mormon church meetings. How is that we church goers are content to sit though presentations largely devoid spark and wonder? Are we not co-conspirators in what passes for instruction? And why is that an institution that bills itself as God’s church can't do better than have members essentially repeat 4th grade over and over again? Is it fair to move beyond the question, is the Church true, and instead ask how a true church can be so free of interesting material?

Now I know that people experience meetings differently and that I am generalizing my experience to others. So please feel free to ascribe the above to Sanford world, but I think that my comments may be valid beyond my own experience.

Two weeks ago I attended a ward conference where the stake Sunday School Presidency gave a presentation on improving teaching. The presenter asked who in the audience remembered a great teacher and what made them so good. One person offered her father as an example. She said his technique was to ask questions she didn’t know the answer to. Another person told of a scientist in his ward who invited ward members to his home to discuss how science and Mormonism work for him. A third man said that he had a scout master who took the boys on fun and novel outings. The presenter listened to these stories and then opined that they were great teachers because they followed the spirit. I guess we all hear different things but what I heard was three people saying that their teachers were great because they gave new experiences, new information and challenged their students.

Maybe I have been watching too much CNN, but if the average Egyptians can foment change, why can’t we. Yes, the manuals are mundane and simplistic, yes, correlation dictates the shape of the curriculum, and yes, we honor and sustain our leaders, but pew sitting Mormons are also the church and we don’t need to be a bunch of enablers.

For the record, I know how egocentric and irrational I sound. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Dramatic, yes, but not necessarily wrong. Come on people, speak up.