Disclaimer: All posts about my faith crisis, going forward, will likely have some parts that are negative about the LDS church. Also, they will be really self-centered, but that's the nature of a faith crisis. If you want to avoid these two things, please feel free to look at other posts that have pictures of our kids.
For whatever reason, mainly timing I suppose, or perhaps divine guidance, it seems like this general conference was destined to act as a big turning point in my faith crisis. I’m not sure if it will end up being so, but it has had a big effect on me in the short term. I’ve always loved conference. It is associated in my mind with being with my family on otherwise carefree weekends at beautiful times of the year. It feels familiar and warm.
It also represents my biggest concern about the church, that concern being that I want to stay in the church not because it represents truth and goodness, but because it represents the familiar and the comfortable. The greatest dilemma that I see towards me gaining a full faith again is that testimony, as it is viewed by the LDS church is so dependent on feeling, and feeling is so prone to outside influence. I feel great listening to conference. The voices and themes are familiar, motivating and substantial. I can feel the love that those speaking have for those who are listening.
The comfort isn’t so overwhelming that I don’t see the sexism inherent in having an almost exclusively male set of speakers (with any female speakers relegated to topics such as “women,” “children” or “charity). I’m also upset by all the blaming of “the world” for the problems inside the church. This “us vs them” mentality is certainly biblical, but not really helpful or uplifting. To blame “the world” for the pornography problem inside the church seems hypocritical when Utah has the highest rate of subscriptions to pornographic websites in the country. All the veiled references to homosexuals destroying marriage aren’t helping either (what other form is “Satan’s attack on marriage” taking, besides pornography?). However, I was mostly able to put those concerns aside and just enjoy the messages of men who obviously cared about making the world a better place.
I just can’t get over the feeling that if I was brainwashed, this is what brainwashing would feel like. Every six months I watch five two-hour sessions with familiar older men telling me familiar and repetitive messages. I disagree on a fundamental moral level with many of the teachings of the church. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that I have to try to depend fully on my “feelings” to know if the church is true or not, when so much of the church system is geared at influencing or manipulating those feelings, depending on how you look at it. How am I supposed to separate feelings about what I’ve been told my whole life is true and good from what I “actually” feel is true and good? For all those concerns, however, as soon as I see the slow panning images of temple square with organ music in the background, I immediately feel happy and comfortable. Of course, rather than having been brainwashed, the other obvious explanation for these feelings is that I’m feeling the Spirit.
That’s pretty much where I’m at right now. I’m vacillating between two paradigms, one of nearly full belief and one of nearly full atheism. Yesterday, I was pretty full on Mormon, today, I'm much more of an Atheist. It would be great to settle somewhere in-between, some kind of compromise, but there's not really room for that in my mind. If God exists, He might very well choose a single man or group of men to receive moral guidance for the rest of the world, because it would teach the world to humbly follow spiritual guidance. If that’s true, then my concerns about gender equality, social equity for homosexuals and all the other things pale in comparison. On the other hand, if a bunch of middle-aged white men wanted, consciously or subconsciously, to secure their elevated status in society that is increasingly questioning that privileged place, claiming divine authority for their leadership along with future godship and decrying the world as a cesspool of evil from which we all need saved and returned to the 1950s would also be a good option. Going along with this power play, donating 1/10th of my income to its cause and trying my best to get everyone else to go along with me is about the most evil thing I could do.
The hardest part is that prayer and spiritual reflection have always been my method of solving such moral dilemmas. However, when one of the sides of my dilemma is the belief that any answers I would receive through prayers are inherently biased and misleading. Sometimes I want to just dismiss it as “not that big a deal,” when of course, it is about the biggest deal there is.