Personal Religious History (1 of 2)
[These will be very long posts and I’ll post quickly to just get them out of the way]
When writing my coming out story I skimmed quite a bit; it was long enough as is. I wrote some on my religious history a while back, and it now seems an appropriate time to explain (I’ll try to keep away from arguing the truth of any faith, but I will explain from where I’m coming and my experiences and that may cross the line again).
All through elementary school, I had Bible study taught right along with history and mathematics (in the same building even :-)). I’d no more question the number of elephants on Noah’s ark than I would the sum of one and one. Furthermore, we’d never eat a lunch or start a day without prayer. It was a great environment, and I loved it and still have great respect for the school.
Once I got old enough that anyone could say I’d chosen, I knew I was and wanted to be a Christian. In addition, I wanted to be a LDS Christian. While the majority of my family was LDS, I was raised only on the Bible, inside LDS culture in my family and neighborhood, but outside the supplemental aspects of LDS doctrine. The LDS church seemed like the next right step.
I read the first couple chapters of the Book of Mormon, as instructed, and prayed and felt the still small voice tell me that’s where truth lay, as expected. From my schooling I was already abnormally versed on Christianity for a boy of my age, so I began being taught by my neighbor about LDS doctrine in particular, and went to church with them.
Each Sunday, I’d leave my parents at home. They understood; they had been there. While they had had their testimony, their callings, their temple experiences, ‘miracles’, and eventually left the church, both sure it was not truth, they didn’t try to tell me any of that back then. I hope I was never patronizing, spiritually, but I kind of thought I was discovering something they couldn’t see, and I was sad to think they’d not reach the full blessings of the church. But they supported my conversion without questioning, and never challenged my beliefs, or claims of the supernatural. I think they knew I had to have my own experiences, realizations and work it through myself. You really can’t argue faith, it’s a personal journey, and they knew that.
After a couple months (I think. It was a long time ago) of being prepared by my neighbor, I was baptized by my grandfather, with near all my family there in witness (little did those in attendance know, least of all me, they’d all be at my union to R in the same capacity :-)). This was a very moving moment for me. I’ve been known to be brought to tears easily by strong emotion, and this was no exception. It’s one of the most memorable experiences of my young life, with all it’s solemnity and symbolism and spirituality, and family.
I attended Sunday services, religiously (ug…). Eventually I became a Deacon (I hope I’m remembering the titles correctly). I believe this took an interview or two (?). I’m remembering a couple interviews with the bishop, where, in that slow lilting voice that he’d only use for solemn chats, I was asked many questions that, frankly, shocked me. I was naive and my upbringing was abnormally sheltered.
“Have you ever stolen?” No!
“Cheated at school?” Never!
“Lied?” Honestly, couldn’t remember. Does smiling when you’re upset count? “Yes”, just in case.
“Have you had any income on which you’ve not tithed?” I’ll ask my dad…
“Have you had impure thoughts?” Not yet :-). I remember this being asked but not the particular interview; may have been later. But I really had no idea what he had meant, as, thoughts of sex didn’t hit me until puberty was in full gear.
Anyway, I passed, and began my duties conveying the sacrament and collecting fast offerings.
I was well into my place in the church; I bet I was the most enthusiastic, maybe even faithful LDS kid my age in my ward. Sometimes I’d be the only Deacon who’d remain after sacrament meeting, the rest out goofing off in the snow or something. Most were there because their parents made them, and they’d try to talk me into playing hooky, but I was there because I wanted to be and it was my faith, not my parent’s. I had a testimony and I gave it, and not just the wrote script some would give to make the parents happy; you know the one :-). Eventually, I felt I’d experienced miracles, answers to prayers in my life as well. All was going great.
Oddly enough though, it was my staying and listening to the teachings that eventually dissolved my testimony. I’ll not go into it all--it would be provocative--but the history, both actual and proposed, and the theology ate at my sense of consistency. I was months away from becoming a Teacher, and in response to my prayers the still small voice began telling me the LDS church was absolutely not true. My testimony crumbled and I began thinking I’d been deceived by old scratch away from “True Christianity”tm.
I left the church, stopped attending services abruptly, seeing them as a corrupting influence and began reading the Bible fervently and exclusively again (Yes, I was abnormally serious). Please note, that was the state of my young mind at the time. I’m sure such belief was wrong and there’s no devil behind the LDS church; huh Chick? :-) But, at the time, I had to undo it, repent. Rid myself of the habits, and get back to what I saw as real Christianity. When you have the voice of the Spirit tell you two contradictory things, you get suspicious, and I finally came to realize that my still small voice, for me, was an echo of my voice, my subconscious, my culture’s voice, my hopes, my conscience made supernatural and spiritualized. The mind really can be compartmentalized, as evidence now shows. No, I needed the certainty of the literal Bible, proofread, approved, and compiled by God Himself, undefiled by the hand of any imperfect man ;-).
Here, I think I’d best be described as Baptist by those with whom I identified, where Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit were all we should rely upon, guided by the literal word of the Bible. Thinking back, I suppose this is my religious base, there from my elementary school. By that I mean the religious reflex in me, to this day, was made by this sort of Christianity, not any of the other religions I’ve believed. It predated my LDS faith, and I think that’s an important way in which religions take priority in many people (unless you’re more of a rebellious type ;-)). In this way, I feel quite different from many around these LDS blogs. The LDS church, oddly, as my first chosen organized church and the creator of my most familiar culture, doesn’t resonate with me, as it does with most of those in the LDS church from birth, even after they leave the faith. Instead, I’m kind of split; that with which I resonate religiously is a more restrictive form of Christianity, but, culturally, it’s primarily the LDS culture.
Here's a good point to split as well. Continued in the next post [Hint: I don't remain a bible thumper ;-)]…