Truth Is Concrete but We Are Fools

I didn’t leave the church because it was difficult.  I left because I found out it isn’t true.

Truth . . . paradoxically everyone has their own definition.  Here’s mine:

Truth is the way things really are.  It does not depend on me; my perception of it doesn’t validate or invalidate it.  It was there – a pillar – for eons before me, and it will be there for eons after.  Before gravity was understood it was already in force: pulling all things inward.  Before galaxies were imagined they were present; we were part of one in ignorance.  With each new piece of knowledge we are only discovering something that was already there.

But that discovery is seen through shaded glass.  Who I am, the way I think, is the result of every action taken by me and around me since I was born.  I was trained to see things in a certain way.  As an American raised in the 90’s I carry a certain set of glasses with me everywhere I go which are very different from a monk of the 1400’s.  Truth remains the same, but no one sees it clearly; the pillar is covered with moss, its real shape obscured.  The truth seeker’s attempt is to lessen, to the greatest extent possible, the effects of prejudice, while humbly recognizing their inability to fully do so.

If you say there is an afterlife and I say there isn’t, one of us or both of us is wrong.  Yet seeing things in black and white has been the cause of more division, war, and barbed words than anything else in history.  One person, thinking their position better than yours, uses it as a bludgeon to prove your idiocy and their worth, taking advantage of every logical misstep, until you grow cold and distant or worse.  The waters are muddy.  Truth unclear.  Relationships strained.

So enters the relativist who says, “Well, God is true to me.”  In the face of conflict and confusion they reach for tolerance and clarity by saying all truths can be coexistent.  They’ve only confused the definition of a simple concept.

Because truth is essential and falsehood prevalent, and judgements are a part of our day to day life.  The man who claims he’s been sent by god and I need to give him all my fortune doesn’t need to be taken seriously, respected, and given the holy shawl of truth just because we don’t want to commit to the idea that he’s wrong.  The woman who makes excuses for her children and continually bails them out when they run out of money is doing more damage by believing them than she would by doubting.  The fraudster who presents a fake check and a compelling story doesn’t deserve to be believed just because he’s clever.  Marxism vs capitalism, republican vs democrat, to go to war or to ignore the conflict, creationism vs evolution . . . there are consequences to blending truth and falsehood; granting everyone who speaks with the accolade of “truth” is foolish.

There is another way to be respectful and tolerant while maintaining the allegiance to truth as something solid and pure.  It is through the recognition of your own bias, and the admission that you could be wrong, and that you most likely are, to some degree, on every topic.  While truth stands as a pillar 5 feet away, our understanding of that pillar will change over time.  Hopefully our view of it will improve and truth will be understood with more and more clarity and the positions we hold now will be seen as obsolete and unbalanced.  Therefore we are all wrong, about almost everything, but can only do the best we can with the evidence we have available to us now.  This enables us to sift out the truth from the falsehood and progress to better government, better relationships, and better thinking.

I say this to complete the framework for this blog – even though my father is gay, I loved him, and believed I had a mission to save him from suffering, that strain did not cause me to leave the LDS church.  I didn’t leave because my beliefs were emotionally difficult.  Since truth doesn’t depend on what I want, it doesn’t matter if it is hard.  If the evangelicals are right and everyone who doesn’t accept Christ (even children in some far away tribe with zero chance to know of him) will actually suffer in hell for eternity then it doesn’t matter how unjust I feel that belief is: if it is true, it is true, and that’s that.  That was my mindset – others in my family have left because they were sensitive and couldn’t believe harsh doctrines about loved ones, and I think that’s a completely valid reason to change belief as well, but that wasn’t my motivation.

The impact of the relationship with my father was a more open mind.  I couldn’t accept the generic answers the church gave because they didn’t make sense.  Why would my father choose immorality and carnality flippantly and leave behind everything he had built?  It was obviously a very difficult choice for him . . . and I needed to understand why he would go through that pain.  This also, however, wasn’t the only thing that caused me to look at doctrines in depth which most people just passed over and accepted.  It may not have even been the primary influence in opening my mind.  I was raised by a woman who loved and respected other people and taught me to see things from their point of view, and there were many other aspects of my childhood that caused me to look more closely.

My search for truth, for awhile, led me to greater faith in the LDS church, but over time led to me conclude that the LDS church is false.  (And later Christianity and Theism in general, but lets take this one step at a time :P).

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A Mormon Boy’s Mission to Save His Father

A mormon's mission to save his father

I was told my father was gay when I was 10 years old.  My mom wanted to tell me and my brother before spending a few weeks with my dad and his side of the family to make sure we didn’t overhear anyone and be taken off guard.  How does a mother explain that to a 10 and 13 year old?  I shrugged my shoulders and my brother asked how it could happen to our dad, and my mom did the best she could.

When I was 14 I connected with something in religion.  I had gone to church like everyone else until this point, but there was something about deep study of the scriptures that felt so good and invigorating.  I had a desire to be obedient, fulfill everything god had sent me here to do, and a hunger for learning new things.  I set out to study the Old Testament in depth using one of the church’s manuals; I still remember the moment vividly . . .

Sitting on my couch in the front room of our house on Dover Street, my Bible on the coffee table before me, I read a passage describing the despair of hell.  There are times when a concept you’ve heard about your whole life leaves the realm of thought and enters experience; when you don’t just understand something with your head, but feel it on a new level.

The passage described the darkness, depth of agony, and endless despair people in hell will suffer.  I went there; in my mind I left the earth and went out into space, into the most lonely place imaginable: no light, no other people, just me left to my thoughts.  Left to ponder on the selfish decisions I made in life, and wishing I had acted differently.  Wishing someone had reached me before it was too late.  When I opened my eyes I was crying, my mind turned towards my dad.  My dad . . . not just some stranger I could write off.  I didn’t know him very well; my parents were divorced when I was one.  But I knew I didn’t want him to suffer for eternity like that, and if there was anything I could do to help him wake up before it was too late I was going to do it.

I latched onto that thought like a drowning man in a squall.  I felt a peace, a confidence, that God wasn’t going to let him suffer.  I felt a conviction that God loved him and He knew this was going to happen.

That’s why I was born.

Hopefully none of you know the exact date of your conception; most parents wouldn’t be able to tell you even if they wanted to.  But I know mine . . . because my parent’s relationship was almost at its end: intimacy wasn’t happening.  But one night my mom had a dream: one of the vivid ones left un-muddled by sleep, still very alive when you awaken.  In that dream a tall, blonde man came to her and asked, “Will you let me come?”  She fought against it because it didn’t make sense, but decided to follow the dream anyways, and when she found out she was pregnant she knew it was a boy without a doubt.  I was told this story from a very young age; my mom loved me and wanted me to know how precious I was to her.  How important I was to her.

“Why?  Why was it important,” I thought, “that I be born to this family?”   In the front room of our Kaysville house, at age 14, the reason was made clear.  I was to be an instrument in God’s hands to bring my father back to the Gospel.  I was promised by God that if I was faithful my father would have another solid chance at returning.  Others in the family were to be important in this as well, but this was my mission.

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I was sitting across from him at grandparent’s house in their sun room.  I was a bold boy of 17 and needed to talk to him alone, so I asked if we could chat for a second.  The others in the room left to give us privacy and I went to grab the Book of Mormon I had marked for him.  I had fasted and prayed to be guided, but had no clue what to say.  I told him I was thinking about him, that we had never talked about why he left and that I’d like to know.  He told me he “didn’t want to hurt me,” and he had promised my mother he wouldn’t try to sway us, so he couldn’t go into the specifics.  He mentioned that it was not easy, that there was a lot he found in the history of the church that was very troubling, and eventually he didn’t believe it anymore.  I bore my testimony and gave him the Book of Mormon I had prepared, and asked him to read what I had marked on his flight home.  My brother, Nate, was so proud of me, so proud of how bold I was, and said he was going to talk more openly with Dad again, like he had in the past.

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Hot water flowed through my hair and over my face, I looked up, the morning light glowing through the shower’s translucent window, and thought about where I was.  “Normal Illinois, the first area of my 2 year mission.”  It was finally here, my preordained mission to take the joy of the gospel to many others.  It was like waking up in the MTC after my first night of sleep: it was hard to believe.  I had planned for this my whole life.  Do you ever think about what your loved ones are doing right now?  Right at this moment?  Whether your girlfriend is looking at the same moon, even though you’re separated by thousands of miles?  I thought of my dad, thought “maybe he’s showering right now too.”  I felt a loneliness for him: certainly his life must be shallow and non-fulfilling.  Surface-level happiness, the kind that comes with the “eat, drink, and be merry” life . . . he probably had that.  But true joy like I had . . . he couldn’t have it without Christ.

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Elder Minnesota and I were teaching Anneliese, who had been investigating the church for a few months.  She was atheist, her husband was Jewish, her children were taught about everything, and she had a deep love of people.  During the conversation she became quiet and when asked about it she said she had a serious concern; she had many gay friends, great people who loved each other even more than her straight friends, and she just couldn’t see that it was a bad thing.  Elder Minnesota, the senior companion, tried to take the lead but didn’t know what to say.  So I opened up, told her about my dad, and immediately started crying uncontrollably.  I hate how my mouth turns upside down when I start to cry . . . it makes it impossible to talk like a normal person.  This was the first time I told anyone who wasn’t extremely close to me about my dad.  It was therapeutic; obviously I needed to talk about it.  She asked me, a concerned look on her face, “Why do you think your dad can’t be happy because he’s gay?”  That was the first time anyone had asked me that.

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I now, for the first time in my life, have a close relationship with my father.  The conversation has changed because I no longer have it in the back of my mind that he needs to change.  My questions changed from “Why did you leave?” to “What was it like?

And that makes all the difference.