On Agnosticism, Atheism and Mormon Weirdness

This past week, a girl I work with was talking to me. She was born and raised Mormon, but has since become agnostic. Now, I’ve got no problem with that. If that’s the way she wants to live her life, all power to her. But she kept asking me questions. Like how come if Jesus ever lived the only records of him were in the Bible? There’s no birth certificate or journal entries or anything.  And Joseph Smith was never actually told to form a church—just that the ones that existed already weren’t true. With all that, she wasn’t sure she could believe in God.

I’ve never been good at answering those kinds of things. That’s part of the reason I’m not going to go on a mission. I just answered as well as I could.

How do we know there are no other records of Christ? They didn’t exactly keep birth certificates back then. And journal entries could be destroyed. With most of the Jews getting into spitting fits at the time whenever Christ was mentioned, is it so hard to believe they destroyed some of the evidence?

As for Joseph Smith—that one stumped me. She asked it in Sunday School and stumped the teacher, too. I read the Joseph Smith History we have in our scriptures just to be sure I had the whole story. And no, in that piece of it, God never explicitly says, “Give me a church with a side of weirdness, hold the coffee.” I also browsed around the Doctrine and Covenants (our record of modern—back in the 19th century—revelations). After a few minutes there, I found Section 18, which speaks a bit of how the church should be built on the scriptures, basically. After a quick search I found that in Section 115,  God gives name of the church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So, when I see this girl, I guess I’ll have to offer that to her, for all it’s worth.

This girl has a way of putting me and my beliefs on the spot. Some days, it seems she wants to be Mormon again. Others, it’s like she’s criticizing. But I find it sad that she’s not sure she can believe in God. It’s been so central to my entire life that it’s hard to think about what it must be like not to believe. I have been told from birth that God is there, the same way others are told that Paris and London are real. And when I see what could be interpreted as divine intervention and a higher purpose in my life every single day, it’s hard not to know He’s real.

I could never bring myself to be agnostic or atheist. I definitely believe in God—because the alternative is too horrible to think about. If there is no God, then what is our purpose in life? What is the point of anything, good or bad? If we’re just some accident of science, what’s the point of even getting out of bed in the morning? If we have no higher purpose, what’s the point of progression? Because we’re just going to die, and that’s it—lights out, close the book. If we don’t feel that we can talk to anyone about our problems, then we are truly alone. And even when people will listen to us, they’re still judging. They still don’t totally understand, because we don’t really understand, ourselves. And that’s it. We’re alone. Some of us, nobody must even love us.

Personally, I decline that. God is there. He is the great writer, scientist, mathematician, artist. Everything testifies of Him. He knows and understands us better than we do, ourselves. He loves us and wants us to be happy. And He will always listen, with that perfect understanding. The best friend to loners everywhere.

Some people will say I’m stupid, blindly following all these rules, believing in a higher power that died and came back from the dead, and let’s not even get started on Kolob. And yes, some of the things I do and believe are weird. But you know what? That weirdness is worth it, for all the comfort and courage my faith has given me over the years.

So, yes, I am a Mormon. I will always be a Mormon. Weird is part of the job!

Soften Your Heart and Know God

A replica of the Christus statue, on display at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
A replica of the Christus statue, on display at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

With the semester starting up, that means Institute for us so-inclined Mormon people of college age. I’m taking two classes—one about the New Testament, the other focusing on the Book of Mormon (the weird Mormon bible). So, this means that I might be posting more religious stuff now and again.

Last week’s lesson in the Book of Mormon class focused a lot on how a hardness of heart meant receiving a lesser portion of the truth (aka, being deluded by pride, self-righteousness, etc). So, in order to know more of God and be open to His will, knowledge and so on, we should pray for our hearts to be softened. My teacher asked us to think about that for a minute.

In church on Sunday, we had a lesson on our personal relationships with God. After all, He is our literal father. The source of all knowledge. Why do we never just ask Him for answers? Do we ever listen to Him when He speaks to us? Who is He? The fire-and-brimstone God to be feared? Or the loving Father and Lord who cares about the silly things like our latest crush?

I know God is there. It’s never been much of a doubt in my mind. The only doubt has been in myself. I know, today, that He loves and cares about each one of us. He knows us personally, better than we know ourselves. He may not always give us what we want, but He gives us what we need. He wants us to be happy. And He wants us to know Him. And I can’t wait to see Him again face-to-face–this being of flesh and blood who loved all us idiots so much that He allowed His perfect son to suffer unimaginable agony for us.

I’m not a very good person, in my heart. I’ve never been tempted by sex or drugs (although I love rock’n’roll!). My pride is my greatest enemy. I judge others harshly, undeservingly. And when I’m proven wrong, I have never once asked for forgiveness. In my heart, I have few good things to say about my sister and mother. Because wrath is better than the forgiveness that would leave me open to mockery.

So,  for me, having a squishy heart might be nice sometimes—for the benefits of the fuller portion of the word—knowing and understanding more. But. . . I can’t allow that softness. It’s what I’ve fought against for too long.

Having a softer heart didn’t help anything! Love didn’t keep Mom from throwing a VCR at my head. It didn’t stop my sister from trying to beat me senseless. Sharing scriptures didn’t keep the house clean. Forgiveness didn’t make my sister choose a higher path. Crying never stopped the fighting. In my family, all you can get for those valiant efforts is labeled the fragile snowflake—the sensitive, whiny crybaby.

I separated myself from that girl. Yeah, she’s still there inside me, but I dosed her with chloroform, beat her half to death, and tied her in a corner. She won’t be making an appearance. I can’t let her. She’d ruin everything I’ve worked so hard for. Me. Mac. The shell of a girl-woman who is sadistic, twisted, sarcastic, antisocial, blunt, and confident.

And thus we see the dilemma—defeating Pride and becoming that version of me that I hate the most. Oh, what to do. I’ll sort it out eventually.

Classic Favorites: The Lord of the Rings

Poster

The first LOTR poster I ever saw.

For me, Lord of the Rings can be more commonly referred to as The One That Started It All. Before that, books meant little to me. Mostly because I was reading Babysitter’s Club at the time (and the Amish books that my mother sanctioned for me). But when the movie of Fellowship of the Ring came out, my dad fanboyed enough that he convinced my sister to go see it with him, first. And then he took me. It was love at first scene.

So, my daddy got me to read the books, and I had them all finished by the same time the next year, when Two Towers came out.

Lord of the Rings was my first obsession. I drew it, I acted it with my stuffed animals, I wrote it all over my dresser. Why? Unlike Harry Potter, which I got into shortly after, my sister and my mother didn’t like it. It was a Me And Daddy thing. It opened up a huge door for my imagination. A gateway to a new, previously inconceivable world of magic and adventure. It was dreaming about Lord of the Rings characters that got me to start writing in the first place.

Through my love of Lord of the Rings, I started to eventually expand my horizons. Other fantasy. Dragonlance. The Belgariad. Turning anywhere for a new source of this fantasy world my mother was so certain was evil.

Eventually, I developed other obsessions. Harry Potter. The Belgariad and Dragonlance. Dean Koontz. And Lord of the Rings—the original—faded into the background. My obsession with it was too much—too intense. For, when it came to Lord of the Rings, I would have to sit and watch the movies without allowing anything to interrupt. And after it was over, I’d be lost in the thought of it. Maybe because I was reminded of my original, childish obsession with it. Or maybe because it’s still–and will always be–the One Fandom To Rule Them All.

So, I usually studiously avoid it, lest I once more be pulled into that black hole of fandom worship. But it’s hard, sometimes. Like with the Hobbit movies being in theaters. After watching An Unexpected Journey (midnight showing, of course), I spent the entire next day moping around in an obsessive haze. The same with Desolation of Smaug, just a few weeks ago. And now, here I am, watching Fellowship of the Ring again with my roommate who’s never seen them. And what am I doing? Not working on my own writing. Just writing about my deep and abiding love of Lord of the Rings.

And I’m falling in love all over again.

It’s My Story

“This is my story. It’ll go the way I want, or I’ll end it here.”

—Tidus, Final Fantasy X

My story. My life.

All our lives are stories, and God is the great author of it all. Want to know what’s funny about it? Writers love to torture their characters. You think your life’s going crappy? Well, God is up there, fanboying about how cute you are when you’re in trouble. Look at Job!

As an aspiring writer, and long time fan of many story mediums, I have made plentiful studies of stories and tropes that within them fall. I know how the story’s supposed to go.

But what happens when it doesn’t go that way? When the heroine of the story isn’t the one to rescue anyone from the villain, but just Hostage #38? The hopeless girl who’s head-over-heels for the hero? The background character?

That thought bothers me. It always has. This is my story. I’m the heroine, aren’t I? I should be saving people! I am not to be upstaged by some jerk in a cape!

This logic has led me to shun my wallflower nature, and do some surprising things. I’ve confessed to my somewhat uncomfortably older (and emotionally withdrawn) former colleague my huge hero-worship crush on him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.

But, among my two best friends (namely, my sister and my best friend), I am not, nor will I ever be, the hero. I am the antihero. The brooding loner who’s so awesome it hurts. My sister’s the hero. Our friend is the sidekick.

Well, this story is a work in progress. And the author isn’t nearly done getting His torture in. So, days go by. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable in my protagonist role, and be rescuing people from villains right and left. But, my friends, it is not this day. This day, you can find me stuck in my comfortable complacence, dreaming, but too lazy to fulfill those dreams.

I guess I’m just waiting for The Call To Adventure. So, my goal for this year? Live a life that makes a better story!

Happy National Hangover Day, everyone!