40 Talks in 40 Days – Returning to Faith, Rosemary M. Wixom

Well, here we are.  Tomorrow is Conference.  And no, I didn’t hit 40 talks (Comic-con and Skyrim got in the way), but I feel comfortable that most members who joined the challenged didn’t hit 40 talks either.  I had hoped to take another anti-homosexual marriage talk and delve deep into the science, but never had time for that either.

Regardless, I hope having someone who isn’t enamored of the authority of the individuals taking a hard look at what they are actually saying helped you to think about what some of the subtext is said, or what is overtly said that others might find offensive, not because they are misled by Satan, but because the leaders are saying offensive, hurtful, or just plain non-sensical things.   I want to point out another item and then we’ll get to the talk.  That is that I could, and did, praise many of the talks about many of their points.  If you are a believer, I challenge you to be able to vocalize anything negative you see in any of the talks. If you cannot, please understand that the bias lies heavier in one who cannot express both sides, than someone who can.  Being able to critically evaluate a popular speaker helps to remove our natural bias and leads to a closer understanding of truth in all cases.  General Authorities are not exempt from the natural laws of the universe or basic human psychology.  I think I even pointed out in a few talks, that actually they know that, and manipulate human psychology and bias to their advantage.

And now, the final talk for this year “Returning to Faith”

Returning to Faith

Every one of us can strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ on our individual journey and find joy.

What I want most to point out is that this talk starts with the assumption that there is only one way to have faith in Christ, and that is to do what your leaders tell you. Only by following leaders can anyone get near God.  I would like you to take a pen/paper and write down 3 reasons why this is a bad idea for any organization, but the religious twist takes it to a whole new level.

  • Before you can get your lightsaber at Target, you must obey whatever the CEO says as though he were God
  • The only pathway to become Mormon is required by the President to go through a Baptist church.
  • The only way to get ice cream is through the CEO of Jenny Craig

Whenever we allow another person to stand between us and God, we give them power over us.  If someone says they can tell you God’s will, they are asking for your obedience, your devotion, and most often your money to THEM.  It is effectively setting themselves up as Gods to be worshiped instead of God.

On this Easter morning, President Monson, we are so grateful to hear the voice of our living prophet.

No idol worship here.  Easter is a time for praising the dear leader of the organization.

She loved to learn and discover truths. Her constant quest was to know why. Elder Russell M. Nelson has said, “The Lord can only teach an inquiring mind.”4 And this young woman was teachable

Ah yes, why the sun goes round the Earth can only be answered by the Lord.  We all learned that the Sky is blue and why from God so science never looked into the matter.  And also there are Quakers on the Moon, we know because God said so to His prophets.

With the spirit of inquiry, this mother continued to ask questions. But as the questions grew harder, so did the answers. And sometimes there were no answers—or no answers that brought peace.

I’m not sure why she calls it a “Spirit of Inquiry”.  My guess is to compare and contrast it to the Spirit of God.  But there is no claim that the spirit of inquiry comes from a non-corporeal being.  What she really means, is that the woman wanted to have honest answers to questions.  Questions like “Why did Joseph Smith marry 14 year olds?”.  “Why did he do it behind his wife’s back”.  And Why was William Law right when he accused Joseph Smith of taking the Lawrence girls’ inheritance and having sex with them (They would later testify to as much in the Temple Lot case, with one of the girls testifying that she had sex with Joseph more than once, but only once in a bed!).  Maybe it involves why there is no DNA evidence of Native Americans being Nephites, or the 37 years of Brigham saying that Adam was God?

Eventually, as she sought to find answers, more and more questions arose, and she began to question some of the very foundations of her faith.

And that’s logical, right?  Because her faith was based on claims and as she sought to validate those claims, and found they were invalid, so should she call into question what she believed in.

It’s like if you believe you’re going to get $1,000,0000 from a Nigerian prince because you just sent him $10,000 and he needs to get the money out of his country.  Your beliefs exist because of claims.  But as you investigate his claims, one by one, your faith beings to be shaken.  Not because belief in Princes is virtuous in itself, but because one has invested money, time, effort based on belief, and now those claims; as they fall, correctly begin to indicate one was duped.

During this confusing time, some of those around her said, “Just lean on my faith.” But she thought, “I can’t. You don’t understand; you’re not grappling with these issues.”

It’s interesting that the people around her didn’t offer comfort in the way of answers.  This indicates very few answers exist.  Instead they offered surrogate faith.  Back to our Nigerian Prince, imagine that your best friend has also sent the man $10,000; and he says “ignore what you’ve discovered about the claims, we’ll both be rich as soon as he sends us $1,000,000.  Rely on my belief”.  Of course that is silly, if anything it causes more doubt because one begins to notice how few people have actually investigated the claims.

She said, “My parents knew my heart and allowed me space. They chose to love me while I was trying to figure it out for myself.” Likewise, this young mother’s bishop often met with her and spoke of his confidence in her.

Ward members also did not hesitate to give love, and she felt included. Her ward was not a place to put on a perfect face; it was a place of nurture.

That’s good.  I’m really appreciative that she includes this in the talk and is part of why I picked it.  I think we’d all be better off in life if we could give our fellow humans space to explore, learn and even fail a bit more.

It was interesting,” she remembers. “During this time I felt a real connection to my grandparents who had died. They were pulling for me and urging me to keep trying. I felt they were saying, ‘Focus on what you know.’”

Danger! will Robinson, Danger!  She still feels connected to the spirits talking to her and feels they are saying “Focus on what you know”.  What did she know.  We haven’t been told.  It could be that she “Knew Joseph was a manipulative con-artist”.  Maybe she “Knew that the bishop had not studied the issues”.  But what is implied is that “She knew the church was true all along”.  Got that?  We are left to infer what the grand parents are saying.  Imagine that we find this mythical woman from the story and asked her “what did your parents remind you of?” and she replied “That women held the priesthood earlier, so I knew I had the priesthood now”.  Wouldn’t that be shocking.  And yet there is absolutely nothing in the story that contradicts it.  This is a sly misdirection by the speaker, Rosemary.

“I did not separate myself from the Church because of bad behavior, spiritual apathy, looking for an excuse not to live the commandments, or searching for an easy out. I felt I needed the answer to the question ‘What do I really believe?’”

Another good point.  I like that it is expressly stated that people leave for reasons other than the typical “Offended” or “Wanted to sin”.  Trying to reconcile church history, personal conviction or whatever with LDS ideology can be a tough nut and she openly admits that.  Bravo, Rosemary!

About this time she read a book of the writings of Mother Teresa, who had shared similar feelings. In a 1953 letter, Mother Teresa wrote: “Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself—for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’ Ask Our Lord to give me courage.”

I love that this is not a put-down on Catholics, but rather she is stating that all people of all faiths have a shared experience.  Everyone doubts, even the people at the top.

Archbishop Périer responded: “God guides you, dear Mother; you are not so much in the dark as you think. The path to be followed may not always be clear at once. Pray for light; do not decide too quickly, listen to what others have to say, consider their reasons. You will always find something to help you. … Guided by faith, by prayer, and by reason with a right intention, you have enough.”5

My friend thought if Mother Teresa could live her religion without all the answers and without a feeling of clarity in all things, maybe she could too.

Wait, whut?  So living on borrowed light of people around her wasn’t enough, but she instead relied on the borrowed light of Mother Theresa?  I’m not sure this is a great bit of advice.  The message seems to be “Don’t actually learn for yourself if there is a Nigerian prince, keep searching until you find someone you trust who DOES beleive”.  This is not a path to truth.  This is a path to confirming our bias.

“My testimony had become like a pile of ashes. It had all burned down. All that remained was Jesus Christ.” She continued, “But He does not leave you when you have questions. When anyone tries to keep the commandments, the door is wide open. Prayer and scripture study became incredibly important.”

And now we’re back on script, aren’t we?  Prayer, scripture study, and living the commandments (Which one might not believe have validity) will fix it all.  *Facepalm*

picard facepalm

It’s still encouraging people to ignore good questions.  It’s still avoiding the actual problem and more or less blaming the doubter.  Here, on that stand, surrounded by people who claim they speak for God they could have answered say the top 3 difficult questions.  Hell, they could have answered any of them.  But no, the myth that one should “just believe” is perpetuated.  It’s no wonder that the Book of Mormon Musical calls that out

She learned that when she came up against a statement that caused her to doubt, she “could stop, look at the whole picture, and make the gospel personal.” She said, “I would ask, ‘Is this the right path for me and my family?’ Sometimes I would ask myself, ‘What do I want for my children?’ I realized I want them to have temple marriages. That’s when belief came back to my heart.”

It’s a personal story, and so her personal answer can be hers.  But as for me and my house, I hope my children will continue to ask questions and if claims are not supported by evidence, good answers and understandable terms, I hope my family will choose to toss off that faith for one that is supported by evidence, good answers and understandable terms.




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Last edited by Mithryn on October 2, 2015 at 7:41 pm

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