Thursday, June 9, 2016

How the CES Letter Strengthened My Testimony

For the past month or so I have been on an intense search for truth in regards to the validity of the LDS faith and its claim that it is the one and only true church. This search brought me to start researching in depth church history and I happened to stumble upon an anti-Mormon piece of literature commonly referred to as the CES Letter. Anti-Mormon literature generally doesn't bother me, but surprisingly, after reading this, my testimony came crashing down own me. It was devastating.

After reading the CES Letter, I tried desperately to research articles, journals, documentaries, etc... that supported the translations of the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, I tried to find explanations for Polyandry, The First Vision accounts, and several other issues that the document addresses. I found nothing. In fact, I found a lot of things that supported the CES Letter and little to none to support the church. How could this be? How could the church that I once found to be true be seem to be so unmistakably false? How did that affect how I believed in God? Would I ever be the same after reading this? Is my life going to change forever?

After two months of crushing doubt and confusion, a thought finally shot through my head. Not just any thought though, it was like somebody else injected the thought into my head, because it didn't correlate with how my brain tends to process thought. For that reason, I concluded that it was a distinct prompting, a cryptic message from God, someone that I don't hear talk to me very much.

"By their fruits ye shall know [if they are true]." Matthew 7:20.

At first I thought, "What does that even mean?" And I was frustrated because that prompting seemed so clear, but it was so cryptic. Over time it started to make more sense as I looked around at my family and fellow peers who live and love the gospel. You can see a light in their eyes. For the most part they lead their lives in a way that is firm in morals and has little to no regret. These are the fruits of them living the gospel. Not only this, but the foundational church principles and doctrines are to love our neighbor, love God, and to serve whenever we can. These fruits are good and they lead people to do good things. Those things are eternal truths.

Though I believe that organized religion is inherently flawed and selfish in the sense that it pretty much bribes its followers with salvation if they are good... is that actually a bad thing? Sure there are going to be people who are always going to do good regardless, but religion provides a way for more people to do good,  more people to have a purpose, and more people to have genuine concern for mankind. Is organized religion inherently bad for doing that? No. Absolutely not. But do you have to have organized religion to be a good person? No. Absolutely not.

That being said, members are imperfect. Our leaders are imperfect. They are going to make imperfect decisions. In church history there are many many examples of our leaders and members making terrible mistakes that impacted the lives of people for generations, even to the present day. These are hard things to deal with even for myself. But do the mistakes and untruths completely invalidate the truths and right decisions that the church possesses? I don't believe so. The church still teaches to love God, to love our neighbor, and to serve others. Those are eternally and unequivocally true.

So what does all this have to do with the CES Letter strengthening my testimony? Despite all the bad, mistakes, and untruths in the church, I believe that the good outweighs the bad. The truths outweighs the untruths. The fruits of the gospel that I have seen are good and continue to be good.

I can't necessarily say that I believe that the LDS church is the one and only true church. That is not the basis of my testimony, and my testimony in that sense has not been strengthened. But my testimony in God has strengthened substantially because he loved me enough that even through my doubt and confusion, he was a voice a reason. A beacon of light in the darkness. My testimony in the principles of loving my neighbor, serving others, and prayer have been strengthened because those are eternal truths that I can rely on that will always be true. There are many things that have been brought to question about my testimony that I still am searching for answers, but because of my strengthened testimony in God, I know that answers will come. And I know that because He answers my prayers.

Monday, May 9, 2016

I Understand You, Tyler Glenn

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been sort of inactive on social media due to a smorgasbord of personal issues, one of those being the biggest faith crisis I have ever experienced. After the policy change and Elder Bednar's remarks on homosexuality in the church, I haven't really been the same.

About a month ago (just before I stopped attending church) was when my emotions started to reach a climax. My mental health was completely off-kilter. I would vacillate from being happy, to debilitatingly depressed, to peaceful, to angry, and then even to a state of psychosis. Thoughts of suicide ravaged my brain because all I could think was, "Well, if I stay in the church, I'll feel guilty for pursuing relationships in men. If I leave, I'll feel guilty about not living God's standards. If I stay and not date men I'll forever be alone and without a companion. What's the point? If I die, I'll finally feel the happiness that God promises us. I'll no longer have this pain of living."

In one of these bouts of emotional stress I wrote a poem in reaction to the hymn "Be Still my Soul" as I was searching fruitlessly for comfort:

My soul isn't still.
The hour is hastening on,
When fire and brimstone
Will consume my flesh at last.

Disappointment, grief, and fear,
Sorrows are there.
Love's purest joys are lost.

My soul isn't still.
When change and tears are past,
I'll be long gone,
Cursed, forgotten, and lost.

My soul isn't still.
God guides the future as he has the past,
His servants receiving salvation,
While butchering His black sheep.

My soul isn't still.
But my Brother and friend understands,
I hope He will
Lead me to joy in the end.

As I read it now that my emotions have settled and I'm much healthier, I realize how distorted my perception of reality became. Though this may not seem very morbid or even necessarily that angry, it was and is for me. But I love it because it's my raw emotion.

For this reason, my taste of suicidal, bitter anger, I understand the feelings that Tyler Glenn displays in his new music video "Trash"(I will post a link below). The Mormon community has been up in arms about the disrespect and anger that he displays in that video, which I personally agree with. It was disrespectful and angry. But wasn't that exactly what he was going for?

I think that because Tyler Glenn is a celebrity, there is a disconnect to reality that the audience (Mormons) feels. The audience (Mormons) feel that it's disrespectful and angry, but they don't realize the raw emotion and the humanity of it until they hear these same angry emotions from a person they really know. A friend. A person that used to sit next to you in class. Someone you would run into on the street and recognize. I've felt those emotions that Tyler Glenn shows. Imagine how hurt he is to feel so angry. That is a very real feeling. And many LGBTQ Mormons feel that. Many feel so desperate emotionally that they have to lash out because they hurt so bad.

For this reason, I don't blame Tyler Glenn or think any less of him because of  the video. I've felt that same thing, and because of that, I am no better or worse than he is. I hope that we all can search for a greater sense of empathy towards him and other LGBTQ people that feel the same emotions. We are a community of people that are hurting right now. And we need love now even more than before.

Tyler Glenn's "Trash":