Saturday, June 18, 2016

Twists on the Journey

This is the third installment of my story. The previous installments are:

As I mentioned in those posts, my search for truth was not the ordinary one. I was not motivated for any noble purpose of truth for truth's sake, but more to find out if I really needed to continue enduring the pain I was experiencing in life. I had talked with pastors, priests, and other leaders of every Judeo-Christian tradition that I knew about. None had been able to give me acceptable answers to any of my questions. All seemed to teach of a totally incomprehensible God, founded more in the pronouncements of Greek philosophy than in the most direct reading of the actual words of the Bible. As a result, I had given up on Christianity. Then I met a Mormon. My girlfriend, a baptist preacher's daughter told me that Mormons weren't Christian, so I decided to look into the teachings of that church.

The Mormon I met was not actively participating in the Mormon Church, but he introduced me to a few of his friends. Some of those friends were members of the Anderson family. I owe much of my current happiness and success in life to things I learned in the Anderson home. When my girlfriend told me Mormons weren't Christians, I called the Andersons to maybe find someone I could talk to about their theology. The only person home when I called was their 15-year-old daughter, Donna (now Donna Williams), but I told her what my girlfriend said. Donna said, "Well that's not true, we do believe in Christ, our Church is 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'" That taught me something important: never, I mean NEVER listen to someone outside a religion about that religion. I should have already known that, based on my experiences learning about other religions, but it was good to get confirmation.

I told Donna that I was a little disappointed to hear the Mormons were Christian, because I had pretty much decided that all Christian churches suffered from some fatal flaws in their teachings. She asked me what teachings those were, so I unloaded the hardest question on her, one that not one of the religious leaders had been able to answer: how can a loving God individual create the vast majority of people to just burn in hell? Instead of not knowing what to say, and having to talk to someone about it, she explained what the Mormons call "The Plan of Salvation" to me. She taught me about the pre-mortal existence and that God is not creating spirits with each birth. She also taught me that those who don't hear about the Gospel in this life will have the opportunity to hear about it in the spirit world. She taught me how heaven was a much more complex concept than the Greek concepts that got incorporated into the official creeds of Christendom.

I was astounded. I had asked these questions to some very learned religionists, professional priests and preachers, that had no clue how to answer me with any kind of coherence. For more than 4 years I had not found anyone who had as clear an answer as this 15-year-old girl. Although, just because she had answers, I realized that those answers may not be objectively true, that would require verification. However that may be, it was important to me that the true Gospel teach truths that hung together as well as these did, it was also important that all the members of the religion have access to such important concepts. I had never seen that in any other religion, so all this was very impressive. But it was very inconvenient to me. All of a sudden, I came to realize that there was a group of people who taught of a believable God with a reasonable plan, with good answers to the tough philosophical questions. I had to respond. My well-established agnosticism made it hard to accept that a god actually existed, but I was coming to realize that I felt that way because I had made the very childish assumption that there was no god because the tradition I had grown up with was false and the traditions that the majority of people accepted were either wrong or useless in the grand scheme of things. That was nearly as bad as basing agnosticism on a faulty understanding of a religion.

In any event, I had new information, and that caused new questions to come up, but their answers were not to be found in doctrines:
1) What difference can/will these teachings mean in my life?
2) How do I determine if these things are true?
3) What will I do if I find out they are true?
4) Do I really want to know the answer to these questions?

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