Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Justification of Sin vs Justification of Faith

After my recent post about the LDS history of The Word of Wisdom which I copied and pasted from a blog I read entitled Pure Mormonism a few things have come to mind that I'd like to address.

1.  Aside from the introductory 1st paragraph, I did not create/write a single word.
2.  The amount of times (phone, email, comments) I was told that my drinking of beer would lead me to hell or lose my temple recommend, etc.  Let me just say that if I were to have a temple recommend interview right now, we wouldn't even make it to the Word of Wisdom question...
3.  Why do Mormons only care about history when it matches their current life view?  Why do you ignore the past by simply claiming the authoritative interpretation of a current mouthpiece? When the views, doctrines, interpretations and positions of Mormons have changed so often, why should we take today's position as an absolute?

A few comments were made that the interpretive view of the history of the Word of Wisdom was a justification of someone who wanted to sin and partake of beer.

Well, that door swings both ways.  To steal a phrase, it is intellectually dishonest to say that someone is justifying their sins with liberal views in an interpretation of history and doctrine while at the same time ignoring history to justify their faith.

As one who has essentially lost their testimony and is back to ground zero, I ask you this:

How do you look at the growing number of coincidences, errors, and outright lies in Mormon history and continue to justify your membership and faith?   

How do you look at the history of the Church and claim that we have a direct link to God through a mouthpiece, when we have had to change our stances and beliefs given as authoritative doctrine?

How do you deal with an absolute authority while yet claiming an evolving Church?

If the Prophets are only fallible men who can be wrong, but won't lead us astray in official capacity, how can I know when they speak in official capacity?

Are they always right...except when they're wrong?  That's a nice loophole.  When they were wrong, they were just speaking as men...

So the question I want comments on is this:

How do you justify your membership in the face of history?  

And I don't want testimonies about how I'm going to burn in hell if I don't repent.  I am currently (to steal a Ross and Rachel phrase) "on a break."  I am not saying that the LDS Church is not correct or true.  I am saying that I choose not to participate right now and at some future point will make a decision on my membership.

I don't see the value in having a "current LIVING PROPHET and MOUTH PIECE OF GOD" if I (A) cannot trust what they are saying, or (B) cannot determine when they speak in official capacity.

Help me understand.  



Lisa said...

I've nothing to offer you for understanding. I keep coming up with times the Church has declared something an unequivocal sin only years later to declare it is "between that person/couple and lord"


They will say it is due to a lack of understanding, of light. I say what makes us so damned knowledgeable today?

It wouldn't be a big deal except many of these declarations have really hurt people: women and birth control, our homosexual brothers and sisters, our african-american brothers and sisters, etc.

You said "Let me just say that if I were to have a temple recommend interview right now, we wouldn't even make it to the Word of Wisdom question."

This is hard to remember. I know that once I thought "Man, if my SIL gets married, I won't be able to go. For coffee. That doesn't seem right of me to allow something so little to get in the way of that."

But I didn't break the word of wisdom until after my "testimony" and willingness to "get one" fell to the wayside. I couldn't sustain our leaders. I couldn't say I believed in Joseph Smith. I didn't pay tithing and it wasn't because I couldn't afford it (though we couldn't)--it was because we didn't care to.

In whole, even if I stopped drinking coffee and declined the cocktail, I would still be "unworthy" to enter into the temple.

And I'm okay with that, though I'm sorry I won't be able to attend weddings--but don't get me started on that.

Jodi Jean said...

tj, i don't even know what to say. i'm still in a state of shock. i knew you were struggling but i didn't know to what level. i have respect for you for putting EVERYTHING out there and letting everyone know where you stand. especially since i'm sure you'll get a LOT of crap for it.

just know that we are thinking and praying for you and your family.

regardless, i know you are a great husband and father to my sister and my neice and nephews. i love you brother.

i know you are struggling and trying to make sense of everything. i hope and pray that you come to some kind of understanding (whether it is what i believe or not) and find some peace.

Gina said...

I second Jodi's comments. I have to believe that God will reward those who diligently seek after truth, wherever it may be. Thanks for sharing, TJ.

Anonymous said...

You know TJ it is only a matter of time before we each face difficult trials and questions in this life.

I can relate to your questions of "who am I following?" If you strip away your "M-Goggles" and just go by the original book of doctrines and teachings you will likely conclude that you are justified by your faith in Christ.

You are not going to go to hell. Once you have accepted God's forgiveness through Christ by His grace you are sealed and saved. Done deal.

Sin is never justified. The wages of sin are still death. We are sinners before we are saved and we are yet sinners while we are saved. We will remain sinners in constant need of a savior until Christ's return.

Yet it is written (paraphrase)should we pursue sin so that grace may be abundant?. The answer is of course not.

Sounds like the Mormon way is often much like the old ways of the pharicees lots of impossible rules to keep, and completely missing the point.

So, question, explore, grow, and find your Christian faith.

God Bless you!

Jason Stokes said...

I don't see the value in having a "current LIVING PROPHET and MOUTH PIECE OF GOD" if I (A) cannot trust what they are saying, or (B) cannot determine when they speak in official capacity.

Help me understand.

The value of prophets is explained in your scriptures both BofM and Bible. If you believe in the scriptures you believe in prophets. There were cities of thousands that questioned like you do now. You are not alone in this quest for truth and never will be but You're answers will not be found here on this blog. Read your scriptures, pray and keep this between you and the lord. If you choose to see the light you will, if you choose to live in darkness and confusion you will.

I have been where you are, it is a sad place that I was excited to get out of.

Believe what you will believe but know that what ever your struggles you are loved by your father in heaven.

Hit those scriptures kid, there is where your answers lie but only if you truly seak them and are not searching for reasons to not believe.

Jason Stokes again said...

forgot to mention the gospel is only as complicated as you make it in your mind.

My suggestion and what helps me find answers: stop thinking with your mind and listen with your heart.

T.J. Shelby said...

Jason, I am not looking for answers to gospel truth in the blog. What I was hoping to discover is how faithful members deal with doubt.

For the longest time, I just took bits and pieces that didn't seem to fit and put them off to the side, rationalizing that someday they would fit into the puzzle.

Well the pile kept growing and I wasn't fitting them in. It wasn't a system that continued to work. It got me through for about 8 years but then I had no other methodology.

T.J. Shelby said...

Lisa, that's a valid point that will get confused by most everyone who will talk with me. "Oh, well, he just wants to justify his drinking so he makes up excuses about not agreeing with the Church."

Sorry to burst that bubble but no. Dealing with doctrine, dogma, and history are what caused my feelings. After that determination, I no longer felt bound to bind myself to certain codes of conduct.

That being said, I don't plan on having weekend cocaine binges with hookers. In other words, I won't be hanging with Robert Downey Jr...lol.

T.J. Shelby said...

Anonymous, while I appreciate the Christian sentiment and sly backhanded slap on Mormonism, to say that I find all that I need just by sticking to the Bible...


T.J. Shelby said...

Jodi, Gina, thanks.

Urban Koda said...

I'm kind of in the same place as you right now... And ironically I got here by praying, reading the scriptures and desperately seeking the truth.

My 'mistake' as those around me probably view it was looking for the whole truth. You can accept the very narrow view of LDS Church history, accept that leaders will guide you in everything that you do, but in so doing you relinquish the very free agency we were given for this earthly experience.

I figure there are two possible reasons for our existence, if you subscribe to the belief that there is a God and he has a plan for us.

Plan A - The plan is for us to learn blind obedience and to follow Church leaders with unquestioning obedience.

Plan B - The plan was for us to gain experience, to learn self sufficiency, charity and self-control.

I believe both those plans are represented in the Pre-mortal story presented by the Church. However the Church is currently trying to implement Plan A - In my opinion of course.

As for Temple Recommend interviews, they really come down to honesty and your personal standing before God. Not really any one else's business either!

Tithing was added to the questions after the Church got itself into debt and couldn't bail itself out - kind of funny when they're the ones preaching fiscal responsibility now.

And I think you covered the Word of Wisdom as it pertains to being a commandment as well.

I don't currently hold one either, and the reason is simply that I know that my Bishop is using it to determine whether I'm blindly following him and other leaders, and I have a serious problem with that. I could play the game and answer the questions the way he wants me to, but at what cost...

For me, personal integrity and truth far outweighs wanting to please my bishop and escape judgment from those around me.

Good on you for choosing the path least traveled, but the path of honesty and truth. I don't know where it leads either, but I've enjoyed the journey so far!

Personally, now that I've accepted that all around me (My family and neighbors at least) think I'm going to hell, it's actually been quite liberating!!

T.J. Shelby said...

Urban Koda, thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree more with your inference that if you are not an automaton, you're looked at like a dissident or worse...

MacWizard said...

When it comes down to it, we sustain ALL the words of the prophet:
see http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/21/4-5
D&C 21:4-5
4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

It comes down to exercising faith in the prophet (as it says "in all patience and faith").

I really seems sad that you're willing to let apostasy grow in your heart just because you lack faith. Be careful! You're basing your decisions on some assumptions that are incorrect and thus your logic is flawed. But faith isn't about logic, is it?

related reading that I recommend you read:
New Era » 1971 » November
An Open Letter to Students:
On Having Faith and Thinking for Yourself
by C. Terry Warner

Bishop Kelly

Matt Shelby said...

Alright, I was gonna stay out of this conversation....but I can't.

I have a question. Why is every question or comment answered by: you just have to have faith, or you need to pray and read the scriptures?

The man is a returned missionary. You don't think he tried that already?

Bishop Kelly-
"I really seems sad that you're willing to let apostasy grow in your heart just because you lack faith. Be careful! You're basing your decisions on some assumptions that are incorrect and thus your logic is flawed. But faith isn't about logic, is it?"

No, faith has nothing to do with logic!! Why would someone NOT let apostasy grow in their heart if they didn't have faith? Are you supposed to continue to live a lifestyle even if you seriously doubt it's the "right" way?

Lisa brought up some good points:
It wouldn't be a big deal except many of these declarations have really hurt people: women and birth control, our homosexual brothers and sisters, our african-american brothers and sisters, etc.

How come everyone that responded with a chastizement only talked about faith, scriptures or prayer? I know that's the "standard" Mormon response to everything and anything. If you do those three things, you'll always get your answers. Right? Stop with standards answers, like I said before he's a returned missionary, you don't think he did that already?......just answer the mans questions!

Urban Koda said...

President Boyd K. Packer...

"The truth is not uplifting. The truth destroys. And historians should tell only that part of the truth that is uplifting, and if it's religious history, that's faith-promoting."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks...

Balance is telling both sides. This is not the mission of the official Church literature or avowedly anti-Mormon literature. Neither has any responsibility to present both sides.


John 14:6

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

You see Bishop Kelley, the problem is that the person (Christ himself) who is supposed to be leading this Church claims to be about truth. I suspect you and I agree on that fact.

Truth is absolute, truth doesn't change, truth is eternal. I suspect you would agree with that too.

I would argue that sound logic would arrive at truth as well. If logic doesn't arrive at the truth, then it obviously cannot be sound.

However, 2 men who claim to have been picked by him, be special witnesses for him and claim to speak for him, apparently don't like the truth (Unless of course, they can use a part of it to support what they want.)

That's a problem no matter how you want to look at it.

TJ isn't allowing apostasy to grow in his heart... He, like me has reached this point because he has been seeking for truth.

If you ignore the truth, I guess based on John 14:6, then you're ignoring Christ... right?

sonnymaloy said...

To Matt and T.J. all I have to say is you are both my brothers and I love both of you and hear is how I will answer there is no justification for sin. If you think it is sin then you think it's bad. And each person has to find their own answers in this life. Stand by them and live the best you can.

T.J. Shelby said...

I've been on vacation since July 2 and unable to comment. I appreciate all the comments and look forward to responding via a new posting...especially in response to Bishop Kelly's comments.

Anonymous said...

"What I was hoping to find out is how faithful members deal with doubt."

Doubt. I’ve pondered quite a bit about that word. I think each of us have them at some point in life. If we haven’t, it just means that we are either not aware of or have our eyes closed to the inconsistencies in the world.

What to do about it? The way that I am dealing with my own doubts is to remember the times when I have known without doubt that I am on the right path. I remember what it is that I want from life - a forever family. I remember the times that I have felt the Spirit so strongly that it would be dishonest to deny those times. I look for the moments when I can set doubt aside, and feel grateful for those moments.

I try to be patient as I wait for my questions to be answered and I try to seek my own spiritual health so that when the answers come, I will hear them.

I hope this helps. I hope you will keep the faith that you have and build on it.

Jason Stokes said...

I guess everyone deals with doubt in their own way. I believe and follow what is taught simply because if it’s true I’m good and if it’s not I’m no worse off. There are many things that don’t fit and may never fit. Honestly I don’t have the time or energy to dig as deep as you have but would love to get together some time to contemplate the issue out loud with you. I see your struggle but have no immediate answer. I can’t tell if you are choosing to fall away from religion all together or not follow the guidelines of the church because of doubt or if you simply have doubt and are looking for a debate on the issue. There are too many lines for me to read between when reading, I’m a much better conversationalist. Let me know when you want to do some hiking or fishing and we can talk about whatever you want. I’ve not seen you since you moved up here anyway and I don’t think I’ve ever met your kids.

Keep in touch and let’s hook up some time.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Bishop Kelly,
You are concerned that TJ is letting apostasy grow in his heart. Is it apostasy to seek the word of God only to find that the current crop of leaders don't seem to know what the word of God is?

It isn't hard to notice that there is a surplus of counsel in the church and a shortage of actual revelations. Your interpretation of D&C 21 can be of no help to TJ because you don't seem to notice the qualifier in verse 4, "heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you AS HE RECEIVETH THEM."

It is not enough that the president of the church states an opinion, in order for a commandment to be valid, it must be something he "receiveth" directly from God.

No President of this church has the right to issue commandments on his own. He can only issue commandments if and when he is speaking as the mouthpiece of the Lord. I haven't seen that happen while the president was giving a talk in conference. The D&C shows us that when the Lord spoke through Joseph Smith, the Lord made if very clear He was speaking through the prophet. Joseph Smith didn't just start right out issuing decrees on his own.

We are to heed the prophet's words only when he "receives" revelation. We are not required to heed his opinion, his statements, his interpretations, or to heed anecdotes from a talk ghostwritten by one of his staff.