Saturday, February 13, 2016

I'm a decaf-drinking temple-attending Mormon...which means "Judge not" doesn't seem to apply

ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε

You know those orthodox folk who subscribe to "avoiding the appearance of evil"? Translation discrepancies are a beautiful thing, not just in the New Testament. For instance, I'm still working through Plato's Parmenides, but the elegance of Reginald Allen's translation blows the socks off of the Benjamin Jowett I've primarily worked with until this last week. And yes, to counter what I'm about to say about the misinterpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22, I prefer the graceful style of Allen rather than the fairly straightforward rendition of Jowett. 

"from every form of evil abstain"

Or, without mincing Pauline words, "Don't sin."

And all I have to say: "Well, yeah. That sounds about accurate."

I admit openly, freely, often that I read a lot, and often things that most people don't, and perhaps some feel I shouldn't. I remember one Sunday School a few years ago when I brought up Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling. That comment immediately won me a couple of unexpected new friends, and the critical glances of a few others. (Our shower aide picked up one of our two copies this last week in curiosity. If she's Mormon, she's not active. Mr. PNU and I talked about her interest, and I think we both think she'd benefit from reading the fair and faithful portrayal in Bushman's biography. We'll probably lend her my paperback.)

More recently, I've referred to the 2010 Church Handbook if necessary. (Because I drink decaf, because once a child is born into the covenant no "re-sealing" is necessary even if his/her parents divorce or if their sealing is cancelled, because I needed to know if we'd have to wait a year to have B— sealed to us once his adoption is complete, because I was curious about sperm donation.) The Handbook is such a hot topic lately, I'm wondering why more people haven't read the wikileak copy sooner. It's been available for years.

And I read internet published accounts of other religious practices, both LDS and otherwise, that some might find controversial. 

Ten years ago, when I first got into investigating written material of this sort some of the stuff I found threw me into a faith-crisis maelstrom—polygamous marriage records, switch-er-oo Church policies, doubtable sources of scripture, contradictory scripture, etc. I remember swimming in cognitive dissonance, confronting others in my congregation or family with the information, and begin scolded for reading anti-Mormon tract, when I knew the sources were legitimate. 

"We have to reconcile ourselves with these facts and their implications!" I'd exclaim. 

And most often these cries were met with, "The Church is true." And other dogmatic exhalations that demonstrated a kind of resistance to any challenge of previously held perspectives of the LDS faith. 

I understand this reaction. It was confusing enough for me that I had to start building faith from the ground up, and along the way I gained insights I wouldn't have had otherwise. But expanding my perspective was frightening, because it meant uncertainty during a period of authentic growth, and authentic growth is never comfortable. These perspectives allow me to tread the borderlands, knowing I'm faithful, hanging with the doubters or unbelievers without needing to criticize and with greater compassion for their struggle to adjust to their own ever-shifting world views and experiences. In the end, I feel what I read, learned, confronted and assimilated made me stronger to subsequent waves of doubt and instances of "damning contrary evidence" or "uncovered proof to discredit LDS truth claims."

I'm not always on the same page as other faithful members who haven't wrangled these points, but I'm working on enlarging my patience and charity across the board. If my new groundwork is solid it should help support close association with others of my faith the way it does my association and friendships with non-believers.

So I do. I hang out in coffeeshops and cafes. I drink hazelnut decaf, because I like how it tastes, that it offers an alternative to high fat and calorie hot chocolates, and 

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