Archive for Mormonism

9/30/2003

Posted in Apostatejournal with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2008 by apostatejournal

This Journal entry contains a number of refrences to the Jewish High Holy Days. You can read about them here.

 

I have been studying the Jewish Holidays. Last Sunday I went to the river with my family and we performed the ceremony of Tashlikh (throwing bread upon the flowing water as a symbol of casting ours sins from us). I chronicled my reaction to this in my handwritten journal. Today I have been reading in preparation for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  At first I was disappointed because it sounded like a rather harsh holiday… all fasting and praying and attendance at the synagogue. I was also a little disappointed because at first it seemed there was little I could do to observe the holiday at home. However, as I read about it, I grew more and more convinced that it can be one of the holiest of days: a Sabbath of Sabbaths. This time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time for me to be reflecting. How will I do my own process of teshuva (Hebrew for repentance), of turning and returning my heart to God? When I read the scriptures for Tashlikh, I knew what I was going to be casting on the waters. I knew that I was casting my unbelief and growing cynicism on the waters. God has graciously provided me some time between then and Yom Kippur that I might ponder this and find a way to do it. I felt something at Tashlikh, something that I have kept myself from feeling for a while, but have longed for all the same.

 

I was moved once I understood the purpose for the chanting of the Kol Nidrei just before Yom Kippur begins. It acknowledges that none of us will keep our new years resolutions, we will all fail, but it holds out to us the hope, that in failing, we will draw nearer to our god. Maybe God made us to fail so that we would need him all the more. He has promised, that even with our broken vows, we may have a new life, a new year, as sweet as apples dipped in honey(it is customary to eat these at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new Year). The barren can become fruitful, that the knife can be stayed in mid-swing. For “God himself will redeem Israel for all of their sins.”

 

This is a message that I have needed very much. I need to understand that god “loves me when a sinner.” He seeks “me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God.”

 

If God can forgive me, then I must forgive myself. I God can love me, I must love myself. If he can seek me out when I am still a stranger, if he can feel after me and reach out to me, should I not then give myself the same gift that he strives to give me himself?  One of my teachers at school said that the main message of the New Testament is that we need to love ourselves. Did not Christ testify to this? He sought out those who needed him, the sinners, whores, thieves, apostates, and fishermen. When those not of his faith came to him he “turned them not away.” He proclaimed himself as messiah first to a broken woman at the well, a woman who had spent her life moving from one man to another and was now living in sin, a Samaritan. He told the woman caught in adultery, “neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more.” But of course she sinned. I imagine that every time she had sinned after that, when it seemed there was no hope and she closed her eyes and bowed her head in despair, there, in her minds eye was the image of Christ’s face, radiant with love, and his lips breathing forth the healing words. “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more. “

 

I have misunderstood God; I thought he wanted me to negate myself, to pretend to be something I am not. I thought that religion required conformity and a false self: an image of perfection. But now I begin to realize that this is not what God wants. Rather, he desires that I be more fully myself, that I come to know and understand my weakness and imperfection, that I serve him despite those, and he will know me, love me, and seek after me, even when I am yet a stranger to his fold. God is no respecter of persons. Yes, and when all is said and done, will he not judge me more kindly if I love my fellow man. And how can I do that if I do not love myself. I cannot give to another that which I have not. To love others I must love myself, and to forgive others, I must forgive myself. To find myself I must lose myself. Because I am not my sins, I am not my weaknesses. I am, before and after all that I do, a child of God. He will seek after me. I am “prone to wander,” but he will seek after me. Perhaps mortality is some kind of divine toddlerhood. We learn to separate and to connect, to depend while also learning to be autonomous.  I am very grateful to my Jewish heritage for teaching me such lessons.

 

On a more physical level, I want to change how I parent my children. I find myself becoming to negative and controlling. By changing my outlook and faith in God, I hope to be able to offer my children the chance for a better life as well.

 

This Sunday evening I plan to keep Yom Kippur in the best way I know how. I will play Kol Nidrei on my viola. I will fast, and refrain from bathing and comforts for the day. I would like to try and get some time off that Monday and go to the temple. This week I will study out the scriptures for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I will listen to the words of God’s living prophets, and I will meditate on my own process of teshuva. I will try to tip the balance for good during these days of Awe.  May god grant that when I am weighed in the balance I am found worthy to be inscribed in the book of life.

A Little Background

Posted in ApostateJournal with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2008 by apostatejournal

I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and came home on fire with religious fervor. I couldn’t imagine not filling every waking hour of my life with devotion to God. I loved to teach so after some reflection I decided to become a seminary teacher. I finished all the required courses (as well as the equivalent of a master’s degree in LDS institute studies). I worked five or six hours a night to prepare lessons while student teaching. I believed I had a calling from God to share his gospel as a seminary teacher and so I put everything I had into this work. I had received a revelation telling me that this was the path I was to take in life. I had similar revelations about who to marry, and other important decisions in life and following the voice of God in my mind and heart had never led me astray.

 

My student teaching position was not ideal. My mentor was burned out and unenthusiastic. He offered no help whatsoever to me and went golfing as soon as I began teaching his class. My task was to interest the kids (during the last three weeks of high school) and teach powerful compelling lessons that would both edify and enlighten the students while still passing muster with the person who would be evaluating my teaching skills. This was no simple task. I encountered huge resistance with the students. They were so used to using the class to finish homework or play computer games that the idea of having a serious lesson was anathema to them. I worked tirelessly to make the lessons fun and exciting and it ended up being a good experience. My rating from the students was a little low but my instructor, after hearing the disastrous circumstances of my placement and observing the quality of my lessons agreed to hire me for a year of part time teaching.

 

I was elated; I had never been let down when following a revelation from the Lord. Later that summer however, he called and informed me that they were not going to have as many openings as he thought and I would not get the job he had offered. He said he would like me to student teach again and that he would find me a better placement and he felt certain that I would make a good seminary teacher. He agreed to call me to set me up with another student teaching assignment. I waited… and waited… he never called.

 

I had given everything I had to this quest and I was out of energy. I suppose if I had pursued taken the time to follow up I might have been granted another chance. However, in the back of my mind, I had a suspicion that I had been denied the job because of a conflict with my name. My father had once worked for the LDS church, and had come under suspicion of apostasy. Although he was proved innocent, he was forced out of his employment and it became obvious that he was being blocked from receiving any important callings or ever working for the church again. Deep down, I sensed that my quest for this career had met a roadblock that I would not be able to conquer. It is certainly possible that I was wrong.

 

As I continued working in the field of education and music I slipped into a deep depression. I had struggled most of my life with a powerful anxiety disorder and off and on with depression. I felt my life had lost direction and I struggled to understand how God could have called me as a seminary teacher and promised me success and then have not opened the way. If I had felt that calling continuing I would have done anything to follow that path, even face repeated failures if necessary but the fire of revelation was no longer there. I began to wonder if I was not good enough, if perhaps the Lord had withdrawn his promises to me because of my own lack of strength.

 

This depression and sense of loss of direction grew even as I began to pursue new career and returned to school for a masters degree. I held important and satisfying church callings, sometimes holding up to five callings at once. I told myself that my training in education and seminary teaching was being put to good use regardless of the outcome and tried to be satisfied. However, perhaps due to depression, I felt increasingly isolated and out of touch with god.

 

It is at this point, several years after my seminary experience, that my journey begins by revisiting that event and beginning to question my own understanding of my relationship with God. My sense of separation from God and a growing sense of cynicism bothered me. As part of my Journey I realized that I had a compelling desire to revisit the faith and culture my father had come from. I began an in depth study of Jewish religion and culture.

 

What follows are entries from my personal journals as I made this journey.