Sunday, August 12, 2007
Hey Michelle, I was thinking about you the other day and I wanted to talk to you about your beliefs. I was wondering if you really found fault in the gospel of Jesus Christ, have no faith in a savior and the eternal nature of our spirits, or if you just gave up trying to follow the commandments and decided that giving it all away would be easier. I don't believe that you could really feel that the gospel of Jesus Christ as restore in this time is not the true gospel of happiness.
This is a legitimate question with an easy answer. I stopped believing in the teachings of the LDS church. Rather, I found many teachings of the early leaders (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young) that I thought were so wrong, so far off-base that I could not believe anything else they had said, and came to believe that the church had been founded on lies. It had absolutely nothing to do with any inability on my part to follow the commandments. In fact it was nearly 8 months after I officially left the church before I even tried a cup of coffee because the Word of Wisdom had been so deeply ingrained in me. It was even longer before I tried alcohol. In fact, I probably still follow many of the commandments, even today. I only left because I could not continue to associate with a church that I so strongly disagreed with.
Faith is not a cult, nor a giving up of your freedoms. Rather, it is a pathway, by your own means and works, to make the best out of your life and to find happiness and joy.
I absolutely agree with you. There are many groups, especially radical religious groups, that can be considered cults (see People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, and Heaven’s Gate). But faith itself is clearly not a cult. That is the main idea behind many eastern religions (Buddhism, Taoism, etc.). These ancient belief systems are not religions at all, but guidelines for living your life in a way that will bring you peace, happiness, and joy. In fact, the main teachings of Buddhism are called “The Eightfold Path,” a pathway, as you say, by which you make the best out of your life. My problem with the LDS church, in part, was that it did not encourage faith as “a pathway, by your own means and works.” Rather, the church lays out specific rules that you must follow so that hopefully you may make it into the
I know that our spirits are eternal, that we have always existed and always will. I don't think that you, yourself, could be able to imagine, nor would want to imagine an end to your existence.
Unfortunately, you can’t know this, you can only believe it. And believing it is fine if that gives you hope and/or a feeling of fulfillment, but it doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what happens after we die, but I’m okay with not knowing that. I think it’s true that human brains cannot understand the concept of eternity with nothing ever ending while at the same time being unable to comprehend the thought of something just ending and disappearing from existence. I do believe in the scientific truth that energy is neither created nor destroyed, so perhaps there is an energy force within us that remains after our death, but I cannot even begin to say what happens with that energy force. And I’m perfectly fine with not knowing.
The greatest thing that we have to enjoy in this life is our agency to make our own decisions. I love the fact that we are independant people who get to make our own decisions. I know that because we get to choose, we learn the most and are able to become better people. I also know that because we can always make decisions, we can always change. Just like you chose to separate yourself from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its teachings, you are always able to rejoin yourself if you so choose. It is never too late to change anything.
I would like to refer you back a few paragraphs to where I wrote about my lack of decision-making power as a woman in the LDS church. In addition to what I’ve already said on the matter, I must continue to strongly disagree with your claim that “we are independent people who get to make our own decisions.” Adults in the LDS church are not even free to decide what kind of underwear to put on in the morning, let alone being allowed to make important decisions! What if next year in the October General Conference, Gordon B. Hinckley told all American members of voting age to vote for Mitt Romney in the presidential election because this country was in need of a strong, LDS president? Would you do it? My guess is yes, not because you know anything about Romney, but because the prophet told you to. Perhaps this is an extreme example. Let me give you a different example.
I just don't want you to lose hope in life.
This was the most shocking line of your entire email! I know that we don’t know each other very well since we’ve lived apart for 8 years, but I believe anybody who knows me at all knows that this statement is far from the truth! When I told some of my friends about this line in your email, they all agreed that I’m the last person they would ever say that about. Just because I don’t believe in your church doesn’t mean that I’ve lost hope in life! It only means that I don’t believe in your church. I love life! I enjoy every day of it. In fact, I may enjoy it more than many religious people because when something is going wrong, I don’t need to blame a God that I thought was loving and caring. I don’t need to claim that “trials and tribulations” are just God’s way of “testing me” to see if I’m strong enough. I can just deal with what’s happening to me and do whatever I can to fix things myself. And when things are going well, I can bask in the goodness that surrounds me. I have many ambitions still in life and I hold out plenty of hope that I can enjoy my life and accomplish my goals by its end.
I don't want you to be under a false impression that life is all about the moment that it takes place. Life is about always, that's why we have memories of our past, the experience of the present, and the dreams of the future.
But life IS all about the moment!! How can you enjoy it otherwise? Yes, we have our memories, and we can learn from our mistakes in the past, but we can’t live in the past! We can’t change the things that have already happened. And the future, well, we can’t live there, either. We can work hard today to ensure a happy future, but you don’t know how much of a future you have, anyway! Ah, the folly of youth, to feel invincible. Yes, it’s wise to plan for your retirement, but you can’t bank on it! You don’t know if you’ll even be alive next week, let alone 60 years from now! Of course life is all about making the most out of today! I think that’s one of the saddest parts about religion, that so many people are content to live out their lives in a miserable state in the hope that they’re “storing away treasures unto heaven.” So, what happens if you get to the end and you realize that’s it – that’s the end? Or that you had it all wrong, that actually the only true religion was Islam, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Sikhism, and you wasted your life not living, because you were planning for an eternity that doesn’t exist? Why not enjoy what’s happening to you now? Why not make the most of what you have now? Why not be happy?
I love you so much as my sister and I don't want to see you take the easy road in life, that you can't gain as much from.
Do you honestly think the “easy road” was telling Mom, Dad, my bishop, my roommates, you, and our sisters that I no longer believed in the church I was raised in and could no longer be a part of it? You think that was easy for me?? On the contrary, that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There is no way that you can claim I took the “easy road” by leaving the LDS church. No, the easy thing would have been to just stay in the church and do the things I had always done, even though I really didn’t believe in it anymore. The easy road would have been to become more and more miserable as I became stuck in a church that I disagreed with, that didn’t serve my needs, and that denied me rights and status as a woman. Because at least then I wouldn’t be considered an apostate, a black sheep, a heathen, a sinner, or a disappointment by my own family.
Please don't give up hope, ever. I love you and I want to see you make good decisions and do good things in your life. I want to see you happy and I want to see a fire in your life with a deep knowledge of life.
If only you knew how happy I really am. I love my life, I love my job, and most importantly, I love myself. I’ve done great things in my life, and I plan to continue with that. I graduated from college, volunteered in Russia, moved to a new city where I knew nobody, got a job, met a fantastic man, went to graduate school, earned a Master of Education, got a teaching job that I truly love, gained the respect of my colleagues, actually helped my students learn, became team leader in my second year at work, earned enough money to rent my own apartment and buy a new car, started taking yoga, began getting involved in politics, and I’m planning to continue changing the world. I am passionate about what I do, I am deeply happy, and I have that fire in my life! And what’s more, I didn’t get that fire from any religion; I got it from myself, from what matters to me.
There are answers to the questions about the purpose of life.
I don’t have questions about the purpose of life. My purpose is to help make the world a better place and to enjoy myself along the way.
I don't want to see someone that I love give up hope and truth. Please don't give up hope and truth.
I haven’t given up hope. In fact, I’d like to say I’ve become more hopeful. I have much more confidence in myself and in my worth. I’m proud to be a woman. I have nothing to be ashamed of anymore. It no longer matters to me when people try to judge me, because they no longer have any power over me. I’m not hopeless; I’m free. I have value just because of who I am. And if I live long enough, I will change the world, whether it is through one child at a time in the classroom or one city at a time in the government. I haven’t given up on anything.
All my love,
All my love,