Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching up, meeting Stake President, more Missionary lessons, more Sundays

For whatever reason I took it into my head that we were 'fast tracking' towards baptism, I was leaning forward eager to get through the steps and reach conclusion.  It was an impression I formed based on information given me in various exposures to this church experience, and perhaps with the information given me I formed my own sense of time lines (too long perhaps working in a bureacracy where timelines meant by this time these steps will have been taken toward conclusive goal).  

Now, a mere three weeks later (honestly, it feels like it's been two months), I'm starting to realize that it will be when it will be and all my endeavors to get and grasp as much information and knowledge as I can is not going to hurry the process.  Therein lying the operative word -- process.   Not the language of the LDS church, rather language more familiar to me I take a breath and slow down a bit reminding myself that a process is, in fact, a process, not always linear, not always with a timeline.

Since last post, we have had meeting/interview with the Stake President (last Sunday), two more lessons with the Missionaries and another Sunday 3 hour meeting block including a Linger Longer potluck afterwards.  My  continued question which I now state with personal amusement 'Where are the Women' has been taken seriously by the young missionaries and the last lesson a woman from the Ward was at the lesson with us.  You have to love the earnestness of those young missionaries!   Bless their hearts.   It wasn't quite what I had in mind, yet it does show some degree of appreciation for what I am asking as well as some degree of accommodation.

In the interim between lessons, and Sunday block meetings, we have been voraciously consuming information available on internet, audio podcasts in the Mormon Stories series, hosted by John Dehlin, reading, discussing, and audio mp3 of self assigned chapters of the Book of Mormon.  Arthur assigned the homework for us =  3rd Nephi and the King Benjamen part of Mosiah.  Plus the Book of Moroni, which Arthur read aloud the first week of lessons.   And the ongoing daily dialogue he and I share, have shared throughout our marriage.

It has been a whirlwind type experience as in moving quickly while I attempt to adapt my experiential belief set to this LDS belief set.  Wishing to bump up the pace a bit, we requested the missionaries suspend the usual introductory type lessons and permit us to get into more hefty aspects of the doctrines. They have been most accommodating and I appreciate their efforts more and more each time we meet with them.  Arthur shares stories of his time as a young missionary, then we'll hit some piece of knotty doctrine and I thoroughly appreciate how the young missionaries allow for either or both of us to express our opinions, while they find ways to incorporate those concerns into the lessons without dismissing our concerns as irrelevant.

I still find a goodly number of doctrinal concepts that I strongly disagree with while simultaneously trying to understand how those concepts were structured by looking at the scaffolding that built those belief sets.  The people I have met thus far have been sincere in their outreach, and it will take time (process) to build communication blocks that permit a flow of understanding the symbology, meanings, and power of words.  For now it more resembles elements of tower of babble to me in that I am speaking a language perhaps foreign to them and they are speaking a language foreign to me.  I truly do not wish to have the vocabulary I do use fall by the wayside in adapting/adopting a vocabulary more familiar to their comfort level.

Small example, the assurances that continue to come at me that I will feel the spirit, be filled with the Holy Ghost, feel the fire, grasp the understanding, develop the appreciation for the Book of Mormon, for Joseph Smith, and more such like codified terminology understood amongst themselves.  Sometimes I listen politely, sometimes I attempt to inject my viewpoint, sometimes I strive for mutual appreciation of what I am trying to convey, sometimes I shrug and say to myself another day and will try again.   Today one such concept was shared with me, as told by a great grandfather, about the fire of the Holy Ghost after not feeling it for long period after baptism and conversion, and when he did...........

While this is meant as encouragement, to my ears this is what I am hearing;   you don't yet have the Holy Ghost, you don't yet have the fire, you aren't yet converted and can't have these experiences until you are converted.    I'm fairly sure this is not the message they mean to give me, more that they are enthusiastic in sharing what I might expect or could expect, their enthusiasm for sharing their version of the 'good news' with me and that I am interested.  What I have not been able to convey is that I don't come to this church less the Holy Ghost, less the Holy Spirit, less my own personal close connection and walk with Jesus, and I do not have a desire or wish to convert or be converted.  I wish to understand, I wish to respect and appreciate but I am not without my own internal resources, and spiritual experience, values, ethics and morals, that make up who and what I am as a person, as a child, a daughter, a beloved of God.

I'm not of the belief that there is a prescribed way to experience the experience of spiritual connection to Creator, nor necessarily a set of behaviors that define Godliness.  On the other hand, I'm fully cognizant that for people to share in community there needs to be some standards of behaviors that promote valued morals and ethics that elevate the human spirit to desire to walk the path that elevates others' humanity.

What is highly significant thus far about this experience is the warm receptiveness of the people connected to us (families), and the new family of which we are seeking to become a part.  I do indeed understand this as the honeymoon phase in any new relationship, but in all honesty, I have to say the people have been very genuine is their outreach and skeptic that I am as in it's that early love bomb stage, somehow I don't think that is the case.  Time will tell, time will show, and meanwhile I trust firmly in the guidance of spirit that has served me well over my many years.  The Mormons like to say repetitiously to read the Book of Mormon, and pray about it.  I doubt that reading the Book of Mormon is going to cause me to feel any more spiritually connected than I currently do, and in fact, at this point, I'm more annoyed and angry with how Joseph Smith used the Book of Mormon to set in motion....but I digress.  As to praying, that is typically useful advice and sharing among people, and among different cultures there assuredly are different ways to pray.

I can live with the concept of calling out that a young Joseph Smith, derived from the religious atmosphere of his time a unique way to cope with or initiate another way to look at the scriptures (as in the bible, not the books he developed after).  I can live with the concept that in this regard Joseph Smith was considered a prophet of his time, many others were as well.  I can live with the concept that Joseph Smith introduced a revelatory church in that more revelation had come and was to come.  In the personal experience of revelation, it is not so unusual to experience a sustained strong spiritual connection as to feel that revelation is indeed happening uniquely to you while perhaps not fully appreciating that this is a more often than less commonality of experience among people.

My hurdle for this time being though is that the testimonies I hear point more to the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith than they do to the life, example of Jesus Christ (and not the Jesus Christ of the Book of Mormon --- that portrayal is too righteous, dry and a bit of a two dimensional character imprint that belies the fullness of my own experience of Jesus the Christ).  Each prayer and testimony ends with in the name of Jesus Christ, and that seems to be as much attention as is given to Jesus Christ.  While there is a strong emotional sharing of belief of the Atonement, it is still as if this is the backdrop from which Joseph Smith is then elevated along with the books he caused to be created as revelatory scripture.

I think perhaps for some, perhaps many, the means of expression so deeply personal and real to them is better met in the codified language which seems to be understood as the common language of sharing.  Thus saying such things as I have a testimony of  (fill in the blank ---- Book of Mormon as true, Joseph Smith as a prophet, Jesus Christ died for our salvation) that it has deeper commonality meaning of sharing emotional, spiritual experience than perhaps my ears are hearing at this time.  Ah, but you know this is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is not called nor imho should it be called The Church of Jospeh Smith of the Latter Day Saints, nor should Joseph Smith nor the subsequent books he brought forth be elevated above the due to be given to Jesus Christ.  Just a humble opinion, but it's mine and one I hold dear.

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