Saturday, August 18, 2007

Can ye feel so now?

This week I had the privilege of taking a newly baptized member of the Church along with my teenage son (who is actively questioning the validity of Joseph Smith) to Temple Square to see the Joseph Smith movie. My son and I had seen it before, but this was the first time for this new member. I hoped that the interaction of a newly excited member with my doubting son might spark some thoughts and eventually some action on his part to find out for himself whether this Joseph Smith story is just that - a fabulous, incredible story, fabricated by an ingenious youth or whether it was simply true and that was that.

I must admit that whenever I see a graphic visualization of such key indescribable events involving Divinity being portrayed in a cinematic manner - such as the First Vision, the visits from Moroni, or the restoration of the Priesthood from angelic messengers - I get wigged out. I don't like the representation, no matter how professional the images and media have become. It makes it feel fake, sacrilegious surreal, even hokey. (Is this just me, or do others feel this way?) Yet, the overall portrayal of the Prophet was spot on! The ending messages that "we don't need to see him to know he's a prophet" and "shall we not go on in so great a cause?" (D&C 128:22) are powerful enough to overcome any such shortcomings, and in the end the spirit was clearly there to retestify to me that he IS a prophet and that I should be going on in this great cause!

Yet, there I was somewhat nervous about my son's and the new member's reactions. Was this a wigged-out experience or a spiritual one testifying of truth? Was I feeling embarrassed or even apologetic for the incredibility of the story? Were my own doubts being made self-evident by even feeling such an overwhelming sensation that this WAS such an unbelievable story to swallow!

I was pleased to find that both my companions that night left reassured that this was more than just an incredible story. I asked the new member if it didn't seem too incredible to believe. The response was amazing: "The spirit has told me it is true. I don't need to worry about or doubt such things. I've made up my mind and now I don't need to constantly ask myself if I was right. I've chosen this path and that's all there is to it." My son was very struck by this commitment. Overall, it was a good experience for all.

My point? Well, I'm not sure that it's coming across very well... I guess it is this: I never ever doubted these things (the Church's origins and restoration) ever from when I was a child and first remember hearing them. I never doubted them through high school and seminary, nor as a missionary, nor as an adult leader in this Church. But, ever since my world was turned upside down and I came to terms with my attraction issues head on and all that came with that truth-seeking encounter so late in life of who I was and why I continue to have these feelings of attraction, I have exposed myself to doubting things that should have been resolved and put to bed long ago. Clarity, black-and-white, absolutes... they all have become much more fuzzy, grey, and theoretical.

Here I am still being the "good soldier", the "righteous father" and doing the "right thing". But "good" and "righteous" and "right" don't feel as "good" and "righteous" and "right" as they once did. Such words have lost their power and meaning. Why? What has changed?

I am reminded of Alma's question:

"And now, behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26).

Why can't my world be black-and-white clear and exact again as it once was? Will I ever have the unquestioning faith that I once had? Why have I allowed this "issue" to tear apart my world and beliefs of all things (not just things regarding being gay) and make me re-examine things that should have been resolved long ago? How many times do I have to have the Spirit remind me of what I've already learned in spiritual convictions of the past?

Don't get me wrong... Count me as a believer! The spirit has witnessed to me enough times to not doubt... and yet, it's still pretty stormy and grey out there...


n/a said...

I agree with you about the first vision. I also struggle with questioning the basic principles and doctrines but I have done it all my life. So whats the solution? beats me but I think I'm going to go watch the Joseph Smith movie again...

iwonder said...

I was about to write a comment, but then realised that it would be too long. So I blogged about it.

J said...

I had to chuckle a little bit reading how what was supposed to be a faith promoting excursion ended up backfiring a little bit. I also agree that a theatrical production of such a sacred event usually ends up being a bit on the cheesy side. In my case, faith has never been a static thing--there have been times when I've had a lot, and times when I've had horrifyingly little. For me, the best kind of faith is when I can think, yeah, that is a really crazy story, but I still believe it because the Spirit has confirmed to me that it is true.

Anonymous said...


I just wanted to type this as part of my ongoing . . . life. Mission, married, out to wife and even some friends and family. Not Mormon anymore, (thank god for that!) But still bound up in having been one and all that goes with it.

I wanted to just add my voice here, to this community, and tell you all that what you are doing is really important.

Being queer is just that, queer. It's odd, outside the "norm" different. For me, I've come to embrace the word queer over gay or SSA or bi or any of that because it seems most accurate. I'm different, odd, funny, queer.

There are lots of queer people out there. And not just sexually. People are funny, different and strange in lots of ways.

In her own way, my wife is also queer. Not in her sexuality, but in other ways. She understands what it's like to be different. And she has always loved me, not inspite of my difference, but in a slightly perverse way, because of it.

And I love her for the same reasons. We're a good fit for this life together. And honestly, we both take comfort that maybe death is the end, maybe this is all there is, and that's O.K.. Neither one of us is so in love with ourselves to care. We like being here now, together.

So I salute your bravery and obession. These interlinked blogs are a wonderful thing.


GeckoMan said...

You said, "But "good" and "righteous" and "right" don't feel as "good" and "righteous" and "right" as they once did. Such words have lost their power and meaning. Why? What has changed?"

Beck, you have such an adept ability to identify and articulate what our shared experience is...thanks!

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the answer is, "You have changed." And not just you: WE have fundamentally changed in how we view ourselves and this impacts how we view our relationship with God and hence the Church. I think it revolves around the honest appraisal of where we're at, what is our truth and experience with God, and requiring ourselves to be accountable to that truth, rather than the well-rehearsed party rhetoric of well-intending church leaders. Is this apostate? I'm not sure, it's something I struggle with. I'll want to talk about this in a future post.

J G-W said...

Beck - It wasn't clear to me from reading your post whether your struggles coming to terms with your sexual orientation have caused you to doubt Joseph Smith and your overall testimony of the gospel, or whether your doubts had more specifically to do with your commitment to your marriage (or maybe both)?

I went through a long period of doubt and denial in relation to Joseph Smith and the Church. One of the greatest sources of joy in my life now has been having my testimony resurrected from the dead. My faith in the Restoration of the Gospel has become such a rock and foundation in my life through everything else that potentially discourages me or drives me crazy...

My reaction to the way the Church typically presents the Joseph Smith story is similar to your experience. I am always thinking, "Yes, but the full story is much, much more interesting (and disturbing)." But, like for you, this doesn't change for me the fundamental truth of the story. My testimony now is stronger now than ever before in my life -- I am convinced because of all of the heartache and struggle I have been through, and because of the intense struggles I've had with my testimony.

If things seem wobbly now, maybe it's because you are testing them, and that is the only way for your testimony and your commitments to ultimately get stronger.

santorio said...

anonymous: thanks for the post. it's great when both members of a marriage (mom or straight) have a common "spiritual" outlook. much more important than whether their sexual orientation matches--but then again, if you both like men, isn't that a match?

Crow's View said...

"we don't need to see him to know he's a prophet" and "shall we not go on in so great a cause?" (D&C 128:22)

I think you answered your own question.

Thank you.

As for the film thing. I think it really depends on the mood you are in. I really didn't like the new film, the first time I saw it and it grew on me after a while. I was thinking about this and than I realized what mood I was in when I saw it each time.

And yeah, I'm still a little embarrassed by the way my friend and I acted when we saw "The Book of Mormon Movie" in the theatre. I think the older couple in the front row will never forgive us. I had build the film up in my mind and half way through it when I burst into uncontrollable giggles, and looked at my friend who apparently was suppressing them also. Well we lost it. Apparently half the theatre felt the same way. It was bad really bad.

Anyways thanks for sharing the story. I hope your son is doing better. You sound like a great dad.

Beck said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. This post has triggered a lot of "first timers" (N/A, Iwonder, anonymous, Crow's View) to my comment log. I appreciate that. I hope that you will comment more and that we can know each other better.

I don't think I articulated very well where I was going with this post and have left some confused, including myself... This may deserve a Part II. We'll see.

Excelsior said...

I really liked your post. I've felt a lot of similar feelings over the past four or five years. For most of those years it felt like my belief was a bucking bronco trying to throw me off. I think in the last year my questioning has nearly come to a standstill. Not because I'm all out of questions but because I've finally learned how to have faith. I think I have a lot to learn about faith but I do have an assurance and a peace about the gospel. The black and white world you speak of was never really there to begin with I think maybe you just didn't have to see that yet, at least that's how it was for me. I didn't meet this ssa challenge head on until I was ready to deal with it. I think God kept it in the background and once I got strong enough I got to start to come to terms with it. At any rate, question but don't doubt because how often have you had assurances that its all true?

gentlefriend said...

Anyone who has read all the different accounts of the First Vision knows that the view we are given depends on where Joseph Smith was in his life when he was sharing the experience. Our understanding of any experience changes over time and maturity. The same is with our own "first visions". The more I see of life, the more greys I recognize. Life just isn't black and white. The more I know, the more questions I have. Maybe the secret to progress in this life is not knowing the right stuff, but asking the right questions.

Forester said...

I too have never liked the portrayals of Joseph Smith in the church films. I do attribute this to the way these films are produced, their purpose and goals. I think a film about the Joseph Smith story produced by Hollywood would be better. The church version is always sterile and missing something.