In all honesty, having trawled through so many religions I am at the stage where I don’t, won’t, can’t believe that any religion could, would or should have more answers than any other and given the inherent levels of sexism, they are not the answers for me anyway.
I increasingly am reminded, when reading about fundamentalist or orthodox versions of Christianity how much it reminds me of the game of Bridge - a game which is in essence very simple but which, for reasons perhaps of boredom or perversity, the players have made incredibly complex if not confusing, with layers of rules, regulations and laws. In fact, this 'layering', mainly patriarchal in nature and source, can be found in all religions from what I can see. No doubt it reflects the inability of human beings to express and explain the ineffable.
Whatever the reason it has made something very simple and meaningful into something very complex and meaningless.
To me religion puts fences around God – sets conditions, and never more so than about women, despite what is said. As I know little about Mormonism you might correct me if I am wrong in my belief that the religion has males as superior in the Church – as the leaders – and men seen as heads of household. If I am wrong and women have equal opportunity and responsibility in church and home then I am happy to be corrected and grateful that the religion is more enlightened than many others.
You said:Around 75 B.C., a lawyer in the city of Ammonihah named Zeezrom got into an exchange with the prophet Amulek in which he accused him and his fellow-prophet Alma of being contrary to law because they had cried repentance to the people of that wicked city. In this exchange Amulek clarifies what is meant by the resurrection:(Alma chapter 11)
" 42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
I think I said before that all religions at core, say the same things, and all religions talk about this spiritual Self and death as being a purely material thing. So I can relate to this as something which makes sense, but it is not particular to Mormonism.
You said: 43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
This is similar to things I read or heard in Anglicanism and Catholicism. Given what I now believe I would read this symbolically and metaphorically, not literally, as in material flesh and bones being put back together like a piece of equipment – but the body existing in perfect form as spirit, not material – and ‘standing before God’ simply means awareness of our God nature – recognising our God self – and ‘bright recollection of all our guilt’ fits with ancient spiritual/religious/esoteric teachings and the experiences of NDE’s that when we pass over we ‘relive’ every moment of our lives and we see and feel all that we have done, not only for ourselves, but experiencing the feelings of others. ‘Guilt’ is from a human mind – not the mind of God – it is punitive – and the NDE experience re-inforces ancient teaching and says there is no judgement, other than our own and the fact that we feel everything we have done or caused in others. Which seems far more just to me than some God – parent figure wagging a finger and threatening punishment as so much of Christianity would have us believe.
I always found the discrepancy odd between this rather unpleasant God and the forgiving gentleness of the Jesus teachings – but of course, the former is sourced in Old Testament and the latter in New – one presumes there was some enlightenment and progress across the thousands of years.
You said: 44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil."
This fits with the scenarios described above except for the use of the judgemental words which don’t play a part in NDE’s and are not a part of much ancient esoteric knowledge. Wicked and righteous and good and evil and judge are words from a material world, not a spiritual one and words from the mouth of humans, not from the mouth of God. The son and father also puts me off immediately – sure there is a Spirit which could be feminine but she is only a ghost. I find the genderisation of God in religious dogma to be sexist if not misogynistic. I mean why can it not be Mother, Father, Child – or, as some ancient teaching sensibly had it, Mother, Father, Daughter, Son? The message would remain the same – the gist would remain the same – it just would not discriminate against women.
You said: If 'not so much as a hair of their heads shall be lost' I conclude that those organs which enable us to propagate our own kind shall also be restored to us and that if we have honoured our marital covenants in faith that we will be restored to our family relationships as well. The prophet Lorenzo Snow stated: 'As man is God once was and as God is man may become'. His sister Eliza, who was married to the Prophet Joseph Smith, wrote a poem which we still sing as a hymn and which includes the line 'truth is reason, truth eternal tells me I've a Mother there' i.e. in the eternities. So when I wrote about a Mother in Heaven I wasn't referring only to Mary but also to that divine, though unnamed being who is the mother of our spirits because of the marital covenant she honoured with Heavenly Father aeons ago on another planet. It is my thought that she has chosen to remain anonymous so as to help her spirit children focus on the all-important atonement of Christ and the way of light and truth he taught.
It smacks of a small human view of what the next world, or the real world might be about. From all I have read and from thinking about it I suspect sex is likely in the next world – As Above: so Below – but with an energy, spiritual body, not a material one – I see no reason though why that body should not look as the material body does.
The last bit can certainly work – there are many teachings in many cultures which hold that this earth was ‘seeded’ by beings from another planet. That we are spirit children.
I don’t have a fixed view on this. It makes sense, it might be possible but given that I believe our true nature is spiritual I don’t think it matters how this material world and our kind came into being.
You said: I see nothing in Christ's teachings about a need for loss of faith (at least not in anything true) but much about the need for a faith in him which will result in our being healed of all our sins and infirmities through that infinite Atonement which he accomplished at Gethsemane and on the cross. To quote Amulek once more:(Alma chapter 34)
I draw upon far more than Christ’s teachings as the basis for what I believe and I also feel that the teachings, like the bible, have been so literalised, that the true meaning has been lost or remains hidden. It simply doesn’t make sense to me that we are born sinful – we are God and I believe we are born perfect and remain perfect, but are in a process of learning and becoming through material experience. I also believe that ‘sin’ is ignorance and the only healing required is understanding we are spiritual beings and operating in this material world from and with that knowledge. It doesn’t make sense to me that humans should be born sinful and need someone – Jesus – to make it up to God for them. That sounds to me like Man, not God. More to the point, it can’t work given that millions of people have never heard of Jesus, so why should they suffer? It is not their fault. And millions are also mentally disabled so would not understand anyway – they should not be punished for their afflication – punished more for their affliction. It not only makes no sense it is unkind, unreasonable and unjust.
"13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
This sort of thing no doubt worked well in Sumeria a few thousand years ago but doesn’t make sense read literally in this day and age. Read symbolically and metaphorically one can find meaning. ‘sacrifice’ means surrendering or ‘dying’ to belief as much as any literal sacrifice – blood represents the life force and when we ignore or deny our spiritual or Godselves we ‘waste’ or ‘shed’ our life force – we are less effective. Moses is another light-worker or guide – ‘law’ is another word for teaching – so in essence, all is as it should be or as Hildegard of Bingen so famously said, one of my favourite quotes: ‘all is well and all is well and all manner of things are well.’
You said: 14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
This is a human approach – one big fix and all is set to rights. If you read it literally. If you read it symbolically and metaphorically as I would – I would read this as saying the ‘final surrender’ realising we are spiritual beings not just material means that we surrender to the truth of who and what we are – eternal beings – and what needs to be surrendered or sacrificed to do that, what needs to ‘die’ is our focussed consciousness – represented by the Masculine, the Son – so that (as Buddhists and Hindus teach) we may immerse ourselves in and know ourselves to be the source – the feminine, the Mother, the eternal One. In this way the masculine and feminine energies, through sacrifice, are united in the sacred marriage – the Hieros Gamos.
You said: 15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance."
Read literally this is thoroughly unkind and unjust – believe in Jesus and you get to be saved. Tough luck for the rest. Read symbolically it is much better – believe in the Christ energy within you, your spiritual self, and you are ‘saved’ from a purely material existence.
You said: The reason I try to be obedient to the Word of Wisdom and other teachings of Jesus is not so much fear of ill health as a desire to show faith in him and hope to receive the promised 'great treasures of knowledge'.
And I am sure that is the path for you and I respect that. I was not suggesting it was a fear of ill health, just that Smith was more preacher than herbalist or healer. He should have stuck to the day job! But I don’t believe in the sort of absolutes which all religions require – for me it is nonsensical to believe that the teachings of one person are the only way you get to be saved – actually it is nonsensical to me to believe that one even needs saving. I have lived around the world, much of it in the Third World and just as I could not believe my deeply damaged and often destructive parents were deserving of either judgement or punishment, so, when I look around me at the struggle, suffering, courage, integrity, nobility and decency of so many people who don’t, won’t or can’t believe what you suggest it is clear to me that such ‘saving’ is not from the mind of any God but from man…. Given the discrimination against women … I have to say men.
You said: Centuries later, after the destruction of the Nephites, the great prophet Moroni, son of Mormon, wrote of how the truth of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets he sends can be verified:
"1 Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites; and I would that they should know that more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ.
I realise that this represents truths for you but the fact is that I don’t hold the Bible itself to be true in any absolute sense so I would no more hold the writings of Joseph Smith, however inspired, to be true in any absolute sense. Smith is like Mohammed in many ways – a man of his times, who clearly had some sort of mystical/spiritual experience and who set about writing down a set of rules or laws or teachings sourced in his existing spiritual/religious knowledge but impacted by the values and mores of the times.
The most sense Islam makes is when the Koran is read in light of the times in which it was written. The excesses of Islam came not from Mohammad, who actually wasn’t particularly sexist for his era – his wife was older than him and had her own business – but from men tinkering, editing and propagandising later. I am not saying Smith is the same – I have read more of the Koran than Mormonism. But what you write here just looks to me like a ‘case’ for his cause. There’s nothing wrong with that but if I don’t believe the bible is very factual, then why would I believe anything else is? I wouldn’t.
You said: 2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
Well, exhort they may but I never believe everything I read – I think about it, read more, read all sides of a position and then it has to be compassionate, just and sensible before I will consider accepting it as a possible truth. Much of the bible and most religious/spiritual teachings I have read fail on all counts.
However, I could interpret this symbolically and metaphorically where it could make more sense. But there are better writings and teachings about such things anyway.
You said: 4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
Apart from the fact that Father raises my Hackles immediately I would interpret this as – open yourself to God, to all that is, in the name of your spiritual Godself, and through the power of your heart (your literal heart both thinks and feels) instead of just your brain, have faith in your Christ nature, your spiritual self and you will have access to greater truth by the power of your feminine Self. The masculine energy (in all of us) reflects focussed consciousness and is sourced in the feminine (in all of us) which represents diffuse awareness. The feminine gives birth to the masculine - the implicate order makes manifest the explicate as the physicists would have it.
You said: Roslyn, I have carried into practice this exhortation of Moroni ; I have , over many years, read, pondered and asked in faith and in Christ's name about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and can testify that many times God has indeed manifested its truth to me by the power of the Holy Ghost. Millions of my fellow Latter-day Saints can likewise so testify which is why the Book of Mormon has gone from being an almost unsaleable, completely misunderstood and vilified book to being a mighty influence for good as another testament of Christ.
Mark I think that is wonderful, I honestly do. I believe that we all have our own ways to walk in this world and this is not an easy place to be. What matters is not what someone else does but what we do as we follow our own truth – your truth is not my truth and my truth is not your truth but the God in which I believe wants each of us to only be true to ourselves that we may become to the very fullest, all that we are and all we are meant to be.
And I have no doubt that the book of Mormon, like any inspired book - for such things arise from inspiration, mystical experience, has some wisdom and truth and insight - but it also reflects the values and attitudes of the man who wrote it and no-one ever gets it all right!
I don’t believe as you do but I can also say that many times, and still, and frequently, what I call God has manifested as a reality in life and as companion, guide and friend on the path. For me this manifests both as material and spiritual – synchronicities – happenings, circumstances – material angels and spiritual angels – through daily life, dreams, meditations and through books, signs, symbols and insights. And often through the most wonderful sense of humour - important for me as I have a tendency to be quite serious, just not taking anything too seriously - which is also an Australian cultural attitude.
And that is how it is meant to be. Your way is right for you and my way is right for me. I have absolutely no problem with people choosing a religion as their spiritual structure, just as I have absolutely no problem with people who choose to be atheists or agnostics or who choose similar paths to mine. I don’t believe any of it matters. I believe we all live eternally and the only task we have is to experience this material world as spiritual beings and to grow in consciousness so that we may be more effective co-creators with what I call God.
You said: One of its most often quoted passages is the teaching of Sariah's visionary husband Lehi to his son Jacob around 580 B.C. " All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time that he may redeem the children of men from the fall." I'm sure our Mother in Heaven desires nothing so much as that as many of her spirit daughters and sons as will may be redeemed and restored to her presence to enjoy the sacred privileges she and our heavenly father enjoy. Our acceptance of Jesus and his atoning sacrifice is the key to the fulfilment of that desire.
It is good to see the feminine get a look-in. I don’t know if you have studied Gnosticism but the fact is that the feminine and the female were much more a part of Christianity in the early years. Men beavering away with quill in hand have spent centuries writing women out and writing in some of the most sexist and misogynistic teachings we have known. And not just in Christianity – Hinduism, Judaism, Islam – all have suffered from the poisonous pen of patriarchy.
You said: Whether or not any of this makes any sense to you I hope you will have come away from this conversation with an understanding that Mormons are believers in Jesus Christ and that a war against women is not one of their objectives!
Thankyou it does make sense to me as to what you believe –it doesn’t make sense to me often, as a belief. And yes, I can see that Mormons are believers in Jesus Christ but it just seems like a variation on the theme of patriarchal Christianity. I don’t believe a war against women is the objective of any religion no matter how misogynstic they may be.
What I believe is that all religions have suffered from the patriarchal age and that distorts all of their teachings. If this were not the case then women would play equal roles in all religions. They do not. The Anglicans have gone further than most and are probably the most enlightened with women priests and an active attitude of gender equality. And the Quakers were an exception but they are a small group.
From what I can see and correct me if I am wrong, Mormonism also spells out specific roles for men and women, roles which leave women subordinate if not subjugated. That to me is the sign of religious teachings which are not only out of date they are out of place in a modern, democratic and enlightened world.
However, having said that, if people find fulfilment living in such a way then that is their choice and I respect it. It is not the way I would ever choose to live and neither would it suit most people I know although there are some exceptions amongst Indian Hindu friends who are sourced in one of the most misogynistic cultures on earth.
So the really good news is that you are happy with where you are and I am happy with where I am. It is all good! And, at this stage in the process I know even more clearly why I made the decision many years ago to stick with God and forget about religion.