I’ve never really written a prayer down publicly before. But at best I am now a very unorthodox Mormon — so why not?
As I near the end of my faith transition (or “phase 1” I could say) I feel a need to do a final acknowledgement that I could be horribly mistaken. Certainly any True Believing Mormon would think that I am — that doesn’t make them right. Certainly a vast majority of the population of the world thinks I’m right in leaving or frankly has no opinion nor do they care. But that all doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s true (“the truth will set you free”), and if God exists then I’d assume He knows what is true. In other words, if God exists and cares (which are two massive assumptions), then what really matters is what He thinks. Today I turn to that.
In my personal introspection I look to the prayers I’ve offered in my lifetime and realise that for the most part there has been a certain amount of pretence about the process — perhaps a self-righteous quality. I feel that’s the case for many Mormon prayers, but I’ll leave the subject for another day. For the moment let me just make it clear that, in grand irony, though I am making this prayer “public”, in my heart I know it represents the most sincere, the most authentic feelings of my heart.
Well. Here goes.
Fair Warning: If you’re a true believing Mormon, my below prayer is probably going to make you uncomfortable. It contains questions and issues that tend to cause cognitive dissonance for believers.
A final prayer
We’ve chatted a lot in my life, or at least I like to think so. I remember that one time on my mission that I prayed eight times from 6:30 AM to 9:00AM. That was cool.
But recently things have slowed down as I’ve realised it’s actually become very painful for me to pray to you. I’m sorry about that. You know I’ve tried many times — but I’m sure that you of all people understand why it has started to hurt so much.
I’m still not even sure you exist. Certainly much of what I’ve learned over the last few months has lead me to not think so. But since you might, I’ll give you a chance to hear me out (if you want to) and tell you that I’m still listening, as carefully as I can, for your voice — and trying ever harder to drown out the noisy social biases that influence my worldview and view of you.
I’ve not been a perfect kid. I’ve made mistakes, had shortcomings and failed at stuff. At the same time of recent weeks I’ve come to realise that I’m not a bad person. I even like to think of myself as a good person. In the Bible Jesus said, when told he was good, that there is none good but God. (He deflected the compliment) I guess I’ve decided to, at least internally, call myself good. Call it supreme arrogance. Call it blasphemy. Call it self-confidence and learning to love oneself, call it whatever — I am a good person, and I know it. And I think that you’d want me to think that.
I’m going to assume here that you know my heart. I don’t even think that I have to say any more than that, but summarily I know that you know what I want (truth) and what I’m willing to put in to the truth (everything).
As you know I’m on the way out of the religion that I was brought up in. I have a couple of questions for you about that. Haha, it’s not like I haven’t asked these before but — hey, I’m still open minded and open hearted. So… here we go… (again)
Firstly, if Mormonism is indeed true, then why did you let 99.8% of the world population be born into semi-darkness and confusion? Wasn’t this your plan that we come here, learn of you and obey the commandments? Why do you let them — a vast majority of them — grow up in a paradigm where THEY think THEY have won the spiritual jackpot and luckily been born into the truth?
Further to that, why do you allow them to have spiritual experiences (some of them even transcendent, as brilliant and beautiful as any Mormon spiritual experience) that further reinforce their belief in their own belief system and paradigms? Why not just inspire them to go visit Mormon.org?? You are the creator of the universe after all, apparently with a direct line of communication to each of your children through their spirits, most of the world has access to the internet — if this truth of Mormonism were so critically important (THE MOST important thing in our lives) then why not nudge them just a bit more?
Enough about that. Sorry if I got a bit upset. This stuff touches the wire — the deepest emotions in me. Because I care. I cared a lot about missionary work — even loved it. I spent two years of my life preaching Mormonism, so of course I care whether it’s true or not. You know that. Sorry.
Secondly, if Mormonism is not true, then this becomes even more personal — why did you let ME be born and brainwashed into it? If not me, then everyone else, if not everyone else, then me. In any case, you allowed most of your children to grow up in random, weird religious paradigms that are in many instances psychologically harmful to them. That’s not very nice — and I want to understand why?? And don’t tell me Satan did it. You’re supposed to be more powerful than him. (Let me not get started on the psychological harmfulness of teaching young children that there exists an evil being that wants to, what is the phrase, “sift them as wheat”… who needs the Babadook when you have Satan to scare children)
I want to let you know that I am still willing to repent, willing to change my mind, willing to go back to church & full activity. You know that. The will is there. The spirit is willing AND the flesh is willing. But I need some questions answered… So many questions in fact that I think I’d need a miracle. Some folks still believe in those and certainly you should be able to do them so… here goes my request for a miracle.
Sigh. Where to start?? OK, how about this, I am just going to list out some of my more critical questions, and… well… hope for something? I hope this doesn’t get too long……
The Book of Mormon
Why does the book of Mormon read like a pseudo Bible? Why does it contain errors unique to the KJV of the Bible available at the time of Joseph Smith? Why does it contain entire chapters copied ditto from that Bible including the italics? Why does it match in both content and style the book “View of the Hebrews” — a fictional work created in 1823 that includes legends such as the American Indians being descendants of the middle east, a lost tribe in Israel? Well, you know who was around at the time and place. And also in style like the “Late War Between the United States and Great Britain”? Ah, I could go on… Anachronisms? DNA? Archaeology? Sigh. I guess, in short, why does the Book of Mormon look exactly like a 19th Century work of great religious imagination when investigated at great length? Please… tell me why??
Please don’t tell me it’s to “test our faith” — the same could be said for ANYTHING. “To test our faith” could be said for Santa Claus and the Toothfairy too.
The Spiritual Witness
OK, for this I will try to be brief.
- Why have I never had a direct spiritual witness in connection with my specific prayers about the truthfulness of the BOM and the Mormon church?
- What I mean is, I get spiritual feelings, but at seemingly random times and not necessarily in connection with my actual questions.
- You remember that day I prayed to you before fasting? I said, in effect, “I don’t believe in you, if I have general positive spiritual feelings while fasting today, I will take it that you don’t exit”. Sort of like a “reverse” spiritual test, I was asking you to NOT let me have spiritual feelings, but I still had “general positive” spiritual feelings. How come I can get these without even believing in you?
- Why have some of the greatest, most powerful spiritual convictions of my heart turned out to not be true in the end? Like that time I thought I was going to marry one girl, but married another (which is super awesome anyway, Annie is great, but that’s not my question).
- Why is it, when a Muslim prays to know whether Islam is true, you give them spiritual feelings that it is. And then when a Christian does, you give it to them too? Why do people get answers to their prayers when praying to Buddha?
- In short and in summary, why Macro and Micro inconsistencies?
- Why does it look exactly like random placebo psychological effects?
I don’t even know where to start, because this one does hurt. Maybe I will just pop this question in here like the difficult, emotionally tough question it is:
- Why does the Atonement doctrine look so much like a great way to keep people feeling submissive, weak, and massively, even infinitely, indebted to something? Why does it seem like both the problem and the solution? Why does it seem like the ultimate emotional manipulation?
- When someone’s parents say “but look at all we’ve done for you”, we click: “AHA, that’s emotional blackmail”. Atonement / LDS church?
- Why is it impossible to understand, just like the good old Trinity doctrine? (I feel like such a hypocrite, teasing traditional Christians about their belief in a nebulous “un-knowable” God in one breath, and preaching the Mormon Atonement in the next)
Oh God. I could really go on all day. But I won’t. The abundance of unanswered questions has added up so significantly that I cannot continue on in my old worldview — it just won’t work. I would be acting out of integrity. I would be betraying the very brain you gave me to use and think.
But darn it. I could be wrong. I could totally be wrong and I admit that. As stated earlier — I am willing to be shown wrong. Just show me.
Otherwise — I stand at the threshold of dropping all ambivalence. Speak with me, and I will listen. Really — I will.
But if you don’t speak, or if you don’t exist, at the very least this has been super cathartic. Maybe that’s all prayer is anyway? You tell me.
I think it’d be good to wrap up with some gratitude.
If you created me — thanks. Life’s had its good days and bad days, but overall it’s quite good to be alive.
If you gave me my brain, my spirit, my heart — thanks
if you gave me my family, my wife, my daughter, my son — thanks
If you gave us this world, it has its ups and downs, but thanks anyway. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous, world.
If you care for my spiritual direction — by all means, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.”
But otherwise, I don’t know how long you expect me to wait. Certainly “we don’t have all the answers” is not a satisfactory reason to keep believing in Mormonism for the rest of my life. That amount of slack could be applied to any religion favourably. The JW’s can (and do) say the same thing to convince folks to stay with them too.
Since I’m not sure about Jesus anymore…
I will just say:
This is the wrapping up of Shawn’s Odyssey.
Thank YOU Shawn! Thank you for your openness and willingness to be vulnerable (to God if God exists, and to us). One of my favorite quotes is ‘When someone opens up to you, you are standing on holy ground.’ Thank you for sharing your holy ground, this, I believe, is what life is all about!
Love you man!!!
Thanks so much Bob. Thanks for being there with me every step of the way and being a true (AKA, regardless of belief / agreement / disagreement) friend. It’s been tough, but friends like you have made it meaningful.
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