Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Contemplation at the shore

Descending the gritty staircase carpeted with wet maple leave, I can hear the hush of waves getting closer.
I scale wind and water smoothed logs and hoist myself onto a boulder at the edge of land and sea.
I look out into the grey fog.
Sea and sky are blurred.

With my beads, I mumble the Jesus Prayer 100 times.

Meanwhile, the ocean eternally laps at my feet.
Stones imperceptibly lose their edges as the sea pulls them closer to her.
Gulls and cormorants fade into being from the right and then the left.
Slosh and crash…Slosh and crash in stochastic eternity.
Fog horn bellows punctuate my contemplation and the waves.
I begin to climb the gritty staircase once more, the hush of waves getting dimmer.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

A Doubter's Response to President Uchtdorf

As a non-practicing person of LDS heritage, I have fallen out of the habit of watching general conference. I am still connected to Mormonism through family and friends and continue to love my Mormon heritage and the foundation it has provided in my life. Because of the Facebook flurry it generated, I decided to listen to President Dieter Uchtdorf’s talk. It was wonderful to hear a talk on doubt. Anything helps in respect to shepherding members to broaden their understanding of why people leave full participation in the LDS Church. However, I was disappointed that President Uchtdorf did not address the substance of doubt. Talks like this encourage tolerance for those of us who doubt or decide to leave the church, but there is always an underlying subtext: It is ok to doubt, so long as your doubt produces the right outcome.

Uchtdorf lovingly acknowledged that there are a host historical issues that cause some to doubt the church’s claims to truth with a capital ‘T’. However, he did not address these issues in a way that would help those who struggle to think through these issues. There is no method, no advice.  In a very euphemistic reference to “historical issues” he says: “Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history, along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events, there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.” This statement makes it seem like the issues are trivial or superficial keeping the doubter on the outside, on the fringe, rather than acknowledging that these are serious challenges to the Church’s claims. Yet, Uchtdorf acknowledges doubt as essential to seeking truth: “In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly that it was restored by a young man that had questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth.” Doubt is framed as a sort of right that we (unwisely) exercise, like our right to sin. While this talk may be a step in the right direction, Mormons must do better at acknowledging that the search for truth can sometimes lead people out of the Church. Thank you president Uchtdorf for your kind and respectful words, may the dialogue between Mormons and their doubting friends and family return to the table in love and good will.