Since I disaffected from the LDS church in January 2015, I would have called myself an ex-Mormon. I had bought into the LDS leaders’ binary rhetoric of either the church is true or it’s a fraud:

“Each of us has to face the matter — either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”
—President Gordon B. Hinckley

So, on discovering the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are not literally historical documents, I thought “Well, that’s it. If leaders of the LDS church like President Hinckley say there’s no middle ground, I’m out! I’m an ex-Mormon.” But in the words of the great Lee Corso: “Not so fast my friend!”

OK, so maybe “fast” isn’t quite right. I was stuck in this black and white thinking for a few months. I know some people get to this stage and can stay there years, or even the rest of their lives. This happens to people in all religions. They discover the claims made by their religion aren’t true in a literal sense. They can become angry or bitter or disappointed when they realize the religion they had believed in so deeply and thoroughly wasn’t what they thought it was.

Paradoxes Can Be Tough…and Beautiful

I’m a software engineer, and I’m used to binary logic: computers understand 0’s and 1’s. Something is either true or false. Computer code for the question of the church’s truth claims might look like:

if (the_church_is_true)
{
    Stay_In_The_Boat();
    Endure_To_The_End();
}
else if (the_church_is_false)
{
    Jump_Out_Of_The_Boat();
    Swim_To_Somewhere_Else();
}

But what if it’s all made up…but it’s still true? I read that blog post a few weeks ago and something stirred in me. (If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll wait here until you do. The Lego Movie was already my favorite movie, and now I love it even more.) Is that kind of paradox possible? Could what I once took as literal truth be made up, but still be true? As I said in a previous post, I don’t believe there is a one true church.

So what if the LDS church isn’t literally the one true church? Neither is any other church. All churches are started and run by human beings who are imperfect and fallible, and those churches use scriptures that are imperfect and fallible, because scriptures also come from humans. The scriptures can contain inspiration, but the words won’t literally be the words of God. They are the words written by people who are tapping into something divine, but through the lens of the writers and their own time and experiences.

Does anyone read Genesis and believe Adam and Eve literally were tempted by a serpent? I guess some people do. I certainly don’t. But I look at that story and I see some really cool symbolism. I see things in that story that make me think. The same is true for Nephi. I don’t believe Nephi was an actual person. To me, it’s pretty clear the Book of Mormon isn’t historical. But what can I learn from Nephi’s story? How about when things go bad (e.g. your bow breaks), you improvise (e.g. create a new bow and some arrows to go with it) and ask your father for help. Or how about the easily recalled 2 Nephi 2:25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” There’s a paradox in a single verse: Adam wasn’t a literal person, but now that man exists (as symbolized by Adam), our purpose should be to have joy. Sounds great! I’m in.

So now I’m updating my computer code:

if (the_church_is_all_made_up AND theres_enough_good_there_to_be_beneficial)
{
    Accept_What_Works_For_Me();
    Ignore_The_Rest();
    Try_Not_To_Get_Kicked_Out_For_Being_A_Heretic();
}
Can I Make It Work?

I don’t know if the church can handle someone like me, who doesn’t take things like the scriptures or revelations literally. What the church doesn’t know is there are many like me who think the same way and keep it quiet. I’ve already been told I can’t try to recruit people to my way of thinking, which I would never do anyway. Everyone is on her own journey, and can believe what works for her. If someone needs for the gold plates to be real, I won’t try to talk him out of it. Right now I go to sacrament meeting once in a while. If I eventually venture back to Sunday School, will I have to keep my mouth shut, or can I be authentic while avoiding offending those who do take all of the scriptures literally? Only the seer stone knows. (No, not really! It’s just a rock. Stay with me now.)


Comments

Hi, My Name Is Steve and I’m an Independent Mormon! — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: Seerstone Edition! » Main Street Plaza

  2. Wonderful post, Steve! My thoughts are very much in line with yours. I converted to the LDS church as a teen from a liberal Protestant background. I soon found the authoritarian nature of the church too much to bear and left. Despite my displeasure with the controlling nature and absolutist attitude of the church, my departure left me with great sadness because I genuinely loved Mormonism! I don’t believe much of what the church teaches to be literally true, but I find Mormon theology, cosmology, and culture to be compelling if viewed liberally & figuratively. Three decades after my leaving the LDS church, I’m a member in my family’s liberal Protestant church learning how to also be an “Independent Mormon”. I read the Book of Mormon, D&C, Pearl of Great Price, etc. and incorporate Mormon thought into my personal spiritual faith & practice. Although I know the hierarchy of the church would say I’m apostate, but it works for me.

    • Cool! I like how you look at things. I wish the LDS church would make room for people who look at religion “liberally & figuratively” like you say. Good luck on your continued journey!

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