Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thoughts on God

I have been thinking a lot about God lately – particularly the Mormon God, the God I was taught about growing up. Let me preface these comments by saying I don’t know much about God. I doubt I ever will. Nonetheless, I have begun to change my views on the Supreme Being.

Let's recap: At this point, I have come out to everyone in my family, except my mother. Now, my mother isn’t stupid, and I’m sure she has a clue (at least I pray she does), but we haven’t had the official conversation to verify suspicions/nightmares. I’ve been waiting to tell her this information because she and my father are currently serving a Mormon mission, and I don’t want to distract them. They’re having a great time, and there’s no need to stress her out right now.

But I will have to have the conversation soon – probably in a year or so. In anticipation, I can’t help but think about the tactics I’ll want to use to calm her down. The fact of the matter is I don’t want to hurt my mom, and I know this confirmation will hurt her. I know she won’t understand and she will take it personally. She’ll blame herself, and she’ll have a very tough time coping.

It frustrates me to no end knowing that my actions affect my family members so deeply. I hate causing them pain, worries, or stress. I just want them to know that I’m happy, and I want them to be happy for me as well. I know I’m asking too much because there’s no way they’ll ever believe I’m happy (Mormons believe there’s absolutely only one way to be happy – the Mormon way). I simply don’t understand why they are so affected by my actions. That’s a lie – I do understand why. I was raised Mormon, and I know the thought processes.

But that’s what I’ve been analyzing lately – the thought processes that lead faithful Mormons to be so miserable when their loved ones choose not to continue down the Mormon path. There are many reasons for this misery. First, Mormons believe strongly that families can be together in the afterlife only if all members live faithfully. Second, there is always a sense of loss when someone leaves the group. It’s like losing a member of your club – even if you don’t like the person a ton, you still have an odd sense of sadness when you find out someone is no longer a part of the group or doesn’t want to be a part of the group.

There are other reasons as well, but I really want to focus on the first, considering that’s what all my family members have cited as the reason for their concern.

So the Celestial Kingdom (the highest of the three heavenly kingdoms in Mormondom – go here for more info) is supposed to be the grandest, most glorious place ever – completely indescribable because words do not exist to describe it. This is the place where faithful Mormons will end up, if faithful. This is why Mormons abstain from alcohol, premarital sex, black tea, rated-R movies, and coffee. This is why Mormons attend church weekly, devote countless hours to church service, bake casseroles for their neighbors, go on missions for up to two years, and avoid buying things on Sunday. This is the big Mormon goal, and it’s a glorious goal to Mormons.

However, many Mormons stress about their loved ones who may not make it to this wonderful place because of their decisions (e.g. gay Mormons). Even though they believe this place is going to be full of endless happiness and glory, they dread the thought of not having their loved ones there with them. This seems so counterintuitive to me. I’ve explained it to several of my siblings: Why worry about me and my decisions, when they will most surely be extremely happy in the Celestial kingdom – even if I’m not there.

Are they really going to be miserable and sad if I don’t end up in the same place? Is my mother going to live an eternity in misery because I didn’t make it? If so, that’s no glorious kingdom. Let’s go one step further. Mormon doctrine teaches that men and women can become Gods and Goddesses. So let’s assume my parents do that – they become a God and a Goddess together. They create their own little world and populate it with people. What happens when their children on their planet go astray? What happens when they disagree with their decisions? Do my parents feel miserable? Do they consider themselves failures? If this is the Celestial scenario, it sounds more like hell than anything. And Mormons really don't believe the Celestial kingdom will be miserable like this.

So it comes down to this: If my family members truly believe their Mormon faith, then they need to trust that God will work it out and that they will be happy in heaven. They need to trust that God really does know what he’s doing. They need to trust that the Plan, the Mormon Plan, really is as great as they profess it to be.

To me, and this might sound silly, their concerns about the afterlife show a lack of faith. Who am I to judge my family’s faith? I’m their brother and son, so I can. ;)

Perhaps my family would argue that they will be happy in the afterlife, but that they will always worry about me and my decisions while here on Earth. That’s probably true, but it’s still a lack of faith on their part. They can’t see the front to the end. They don’t know how things are going to turn out – not for me, not for themselves, not for anyone. They just need to trust in a loving, caring God who will work things out.

Ultimately, I’ve concluded that my family believes that God is a failure. God has more than six billion children on Earth, yet less than 0.2% of them are Mormon and will return to him. Let’s assume missionary work really takes off and tons of people start accepting Mormonism now and in the afterlife. Fine. Let’s say a solid 40% end up accepting Mormonism. Fine. Still, that would mean 60% of his children did NOT make it back to him and his kingdom, and I suppose that would mean God is a failure. He did not succeed in saving all his children or even a majority. Heck, even if 95% make it back, there are still 5% who won’t. Is God miserable? Is he depressed beyond belief? Does he start the day with Zoloft? Honestly!

I know that Mormons don’t believe God is miserable. They actually believe he is disappointed / saddened by those who don’t choose his path -- even God experiences sadness and emotions. Nonetheless, overall he’s happy. So, in conclusion, if that’s the case, then my family needs to focus on being happy despite my decisions and the decisions of their loved ones. God will ensure they are happy overall, I'm sure.

I really do have a problem with this whole scenario. I just don’t think God is angry and disappointed with 99.8% of his children. I think God loves them all, unconditionally – that’s what I’ve been taught, and I still believe that. I think God is understanding and loving. I think God just wants us to love each other unconditionally. I really do believe life is about love, and I hope my family can love me and be happy for me, regardless of my sexuality. I hope they can eventually look past my sexuality and start judging me on things that matter -- clothing, hair style, and shoes, for example. ;) Or maybe just stop judging me all together.

That will never happen. I’m asking too much.

7 Comments:

Blogger playasinmar said...

I've wondered about the dual paradoxes of happiness and misery in Heaven and the sorrow of a God for whom most of his children will always "stray."

Perhaps those "stray" sheep aren't responsible because they don't know any better. If so, they would have to get a chance later to accept the gospel.

I dunno. It's a big topic. My grasp of the issue isn't great.

By the way, the only people on Earth who don't judge... don't exist. :)

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Nice to hear from you again GM.

12:23 PM  
Blogger David said...

I hadn't thought of things that way. That's some great insight. I read Mark Twain's "Letters From Earth" and found it to be very thought provoking. The way humans view God, their relationship to him, and "heaven" is often incongruent.

1:50 PM  
Blogger SSA said...

I can see the dilemma. My mom blames herself for my SSA, and it is really hard for me because I know that it aggravates her depression. I have assured her that it's not her fault (although I'm not entirely convinced myself that she didn't influence it). I think this is where we all have to create our worlds to live in. We can choose to believe that something is our fault, or we can choose to just accept it as fact and move on.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an active LDS man with SSA, and I wanted to give my side of a few of your comments.

First, in no way do I believe God is a failure. His whole plan was to let each of us choose for ourselves if we wanted to go back home to Him. Therefore, even when some choose wrong, His plan is working perfectly. Even if only 5% make it back, God's plan worked perfectly. His plan was that each of us be able to choose for ourselves. It did not stipulate choosing right or wrong. He was not trying to get all 100% back. He gave all 100% the choice to come back. His love for each of us means that He will have godly sorrow for us if we choose not to return, but that is not depression in the least.

Second, Your family obviously loves you, so therefore they also mourn when you fall away. They will be 100% happy in the Celestial Kingdom. That is not the question. The real question is, where will you be? How happy will you be? Let's say for argument's sake that you end up in the firey pit of endless damnation. Do you think while on earth that your parents would not care about that? Of course they would. God is understanding, yes; but that doesn't mean he won't follow through with His promises. When He outlines a commandment then gives a punishment for disobedience, expect the punishment. Justice overpowers mercy in this case.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous socal said...

This is a little late but if you're family believes that only Mormons will make it back to God then they misunderstand Church Doctrine. The Church does not teach this at all. We all will have the opportunity whether in this life or the next to accept Christ and his atonement. In addition, while this life is the time to prepare to meet God, this life extends into the Spirit World - the time between mortality and final judgment. It bothers me when people interpret doctrine as this strict-narrow dogma where God is out there waiting to punish his children for the wrong that they do. None of us can make it back to God without Christ. It's his atonement that makes it possible to return to God not anything we do.

I don't think that your lifestyle choices make you a bad person and I hope your parents don't believe that either. I think God will take all things into account including trials, actions - both positive and negative, and will look upon one's heart and I think most of our judgment in the end will be our own based on what we know and where we feel comfortable in the afterlife.

While you and I may differ on lifestyle choices, even though some of our trials may be similar, I don't think that it is fair for anyone to label you or make you feel like you are a bad person. I think that leads to depression and ultimately a bad outcome. The Gospel should not be one of fear, fire and brimstone, but one of love and realization that Christ is there to make up for our shortcomings.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was very refreshing to see your whole perspective on how your parents as mormons should view the situation. I think it is a good way to deal with the situaion, a great way of looking at it. I think when they are willing to really let you go, not holding themselves responsible for your actions, they will be able to feel that way, but I think a lot of time parents feel like they have (or should have) more control over how their children turn out. We are certainly influenced by our parents, but each of us come to this earth with our own personality, and we have our own experiences on this earth, and our parents are not all of it. Parents can do all they can, but that does not always amount to a lot.

I hope oneday that your parents can view things the way you wish they would. I think they will find more happiness that way. Heavenly Father's love has great reach, and He understands what they cannot.

I don't think you're doomed for the telestial kingdom anyway.

5:11 PM  

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