Saturday, June 17, 2006

Depth of Conversion

"Conversion" has nice rhetorical relevance to this blog, given the name. It's about change. And while changing sexual orientation has been on my mind quite a bit of late, the evidence is pretty weighted against that. Conversion to greater satisfaction with hetero sex may be more likely. Hell, that's already happened, come to think of it. But I'm not ruling out the possibility of full flung conversion--there's anecdotal evidence it is possible however improbable.

But the conversion I'm pondering tonight is conversion to the gospel. Testimony is having a knowledge of the truth, conversion is putting it into practice. I once asked my seminary teacher, "Why wouldn't someone who knows something put it into practice? Why would they just act differently?" He pointed out that that's the whole point of life. We must learn to act on things we know... and part of that is avoiding doing what we know is wrong. And as we do that, I guess, we get converted.

"Depth" of conversion is another matter. I remember when I was a kid, my Mom was a doomsday 2nd coming buff. She loved to talk about it, and most of the time scared the crap out of me. But one of the interesting things we talked about was how many in the church would fall away before the 2nd coming. I thought this was ridiculous. I mean, if it's actually part of the prophecy that part of the people would fall away, then why wouldn't people guard against it? Why wouldn't they figure out a way to side-step the risks? Why wouldn't they actually see it happening, realize that it was exactly what was predicted, and then pull their butts back to being faithful? What sort of depth of conversion is necessary to survive?

I have no answers even now. As I see friends and relatives leave the church, I'm struck with amazement as I watch the inexplicable fulfillment of those childhood lessons. People seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons, but (as predicted) most of them can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds. I realize this indictment of mine can be offensive to those choosing to leave the church, but it still seems to fit well as a rule. And I'm amazed.

So, how does one like me get the "depth" of conversion necessary to make it through? How can I be one of those virgins with the spare oil? I appeal to your collective wisdom.

19 comments:

Samantha said...

Good thoughts, good points, good questions.

I don't know anything profound about the internal workings of those who are converted. I only know this: In my life, no matter how much I'm tempted, no matter how good the other side looks, no matter how hard it is to stay the course--I won't be moved. And it really has nothing to do with conventional knowledge of the gospel. It has to do with my personal feelings for God and Christ. Do I believe the LDS church is the right place for me to be? Yes. Do I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Yes. But what motivates me to remain true to those things, isn't KNOWING that they're true, but my love of my Savior, and my knowledge of His love for me.

Simplistic? Perhaps. But throughout all of history, more motivation has come from love than from knowledge. And in the end, I just don't see how I can go wrong, loving and following the Savior of all mankind.

Chris (hurricane) said...

People seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons, but (as predicted) most of them can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds.

That's a great way to stop the conversation with someone like me before it even starts. But I don't know -- maybe you're not really interested in the conversation.

-L- said...

Many apologies, Hurc. Naturally I worried about how you might take that point, and whether you would think I was implying anything about my views on you personally. But I eventually decided to say what I had to say and not tiptoe around hoping not to hurt anyone's feelings. I hope you always feel welcome to join the conversation because I value your insights.

Chris (hurricane) said...

I find it increasingly difficult to engage in conversation about difficult issues when my interlocutor is convinced that God is on his side and that his way is the only way since, of course, it's God's way. It is exhausting to talk with people who think the only reasons someone would leave the LDS Church are sin or pride or self justification. The implication seems to be that I know what is right but am choosing to go against it. I am knowingly choosing to do something that I know to be wrong.

It's maddening.

While I don't often think of you as dogmatic, L, comments like this one make me wonder.

-L- said...

I never said "only reasons". I said most are motivated by sin or pride, and that's what my experience has been. I could give you examples.

I said it is the rule, and that implies there are exceptions. My wife and I in a recent Sunday School lesson on apostasy rocked the boat a bit by suggesting that people may leave the church with good and virtuous intents. It's the difference between leaving the church because of a lousy cup of cream and leaving because after long and careful consideration one is not convinced of its veracity. However, I imagine most folks who give the church long and careful consideration and find it uncompelling never join. Which leaves, in my opinion, the majority of those leaving motivated by personal weaknesses.

Not dogmatic, Hurc. And although I'm sorry you were bothered by the concepts here, I don't apologize for presenting them. Can you see how a person like me would want to bolster my convictions and Christ-like behavior? How does one go about doing that?

Kim Mack said...

I don't know how to get the "depth" of conversion, either, since it seems I've always had it. I often think I'm really one of the weak ones because anytime I'd ever come close to questioning my testimony, something huge would happen, like meeting the prophet alone, by accident. Weird. And life-changing. I have so many deep experiences that keep my conversion deep. Things I absolutely can't deny, and would be afraid to do so.

Sorry I'm no help, either, on how to get to that "depth" through steps or our own work - other than being open to those experiences, or open to the messages that are unmistakeable. Do you dare pray for that!?

Ron said...

You can't bolster your conviction and Christ-like behavior by judging the motives of others. Religion and spirituality serve the function of bringing us together, not drawing us apart. In the end, you're just taking subtle pride in your remaining in the church, and holding those who don't as "other." There is no "other."

Janet M. Kincaid said...

You said: People seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons, but (as predicted) most of them can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds.

You're right. We do leave for a wide variety of reasons.

But who has committed the greater sin of pridefulness here? Those of us who have left, for whatever wide variety of reasons? Or those of us who stay behind and pat ourselves on the back for staying?

Sometimes, the brave step is leaving.

Sometimes, we leave because we've had a conversion to truth that has been just as strongly manifested to us by the spirit as our original conversion to the thing we're leaving was. (Which, sometimes, is called progress.)

Who gets to say what is or isn't pride and sin? Who gets to say that my choice is wrong and yours is right? Certainly, I would hope, you don't. But I suppose that would be a sin and prideful of me to suggest that you are sinning and being prideful in suggesting the rest of us are sinning and being prideful...

Further, you imply that those of us who leave the church do so out of personal weakness.

I think at this point, I'll leave. I wouldn't want my sin, pride, and personal weakness to get in the way of your righteousness and supremacy.

Oh, but wait, my disengaging from your rightness must mean I'm full of sin, pride, and weakness...

Damned if we do, damned if we don't....

Mormon Lesbian said...

Perhaps you might have posited your statement this way:

It is my observation that people seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons. Most of those reasons, it seems, can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds.

Or, you might have asked it as a question:

People seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons. Is it possible that most of those reasons can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds?

You can still believe whatever it is you like, but this way you open the door for a dialogue rather than slamming it in prideful self-righteousness.

tbirdguy58 said...

"People seem to leave for a wide variety of reasons, but (as predicted) most of them can be traced back to pride and sin of various kinds."

A growing number of LDS are leaving due to the wealth of information available on the internet. Much "anti-mormon" material is the church's own historical documents. Many things, including supposedly divine ordinances, have been whitewashed and altered over time. The church of 1830 bears little resemblance to the corporation it has become. Warren Jeffs' cult is more representative of what the original church was like.

LDS apologists provide implausible explanations and excuses on dozens of subjects that just don't hold up to scrutiny. I could list them, but they're readily available.

Facing the facts about my lifetime religion is extremely difficult. My world has been turned upside down; some days I feel devastated and nauseous. But I can't go back and pretend I don't know better. Now it's a matter of making peace with things and moving on. Ultimately, facts trump faith.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Can you see how a person like me would want to bolster my convictions and Christ-like behavior? How does one go about doing that?

Love God. Love your neighbor.

Samantha said...

What was the original question??? It seems that the focus turned to semantics rather than content...

And while everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and feelings, I think it's pertinent to point out that there WAS a question posed.

The dialogue presented here reminds me of when I ask my 12-year-old son why he didn't take his dirty clothes down to the laundry and he points out to me that there's a scratch on his wall that needs to be repainted. Side-stepping the issue, focusing on turns of phrase, or expressing offense doesn't really address what was asked in the first place.

And just as some have expressed their rights and needs to leave the church, others will feel the same strong feelings of needing to stay--in this case, allowing their faith to trump the "facts". No facts seemed to support Noah's need to build an ark...but perhaps that's only a rhetorical parable.

Chris (hurricane) said...

samantha stevens,

Actually, I did (finally) answer the question, in the post above your most recent.

Also, you said: ...others will feel the same strong feelings of needing to stay--in this case, allowing their faith to trump the "facts".

Which takes us right back to the attitude that some of us find troubling. You seem to assume that faith leads only one way. In fact, my faith has led me out of the Church every bit as much as the facts.

Samantha said...

Chris/Hurricane

In truth, the question you answered was one posed in the dialogue between you and "L". The original question was: "So, how does one like me get the "depth" of conversion necessary to make it through? How can I be one of those virgins with the spare oil? I appeal to your collective wisdom."

As for facts and faith--those can lead in any direction chosen. I simply ask to be able to stay with my own choice without others making judgment or taking offense--and I allow you the same privilege, and wish you peace. An argument between you and I would never be resolved because we would both stand by the strength of our convictions, which are in direct conflict. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate your experience and wisdom, nor does it mean that I wish to impose my way on you, regardless of how you choose to interpret my words.

It was never my intention to imply that faith only exists within the church--simply that my decision to stay there, in spite of my sexual preferences/feelings, in spite of acceptance or lack thereof, stems from faith over facts. And I've never had a problem choosing faith.

Apparently you haven't either.

Chris (hurricane) said...

samantha stevens,

My answer to the original question about depth of conversion is the same: Love God. Love your neighbor.

Thanks for you thoughtful response.

Beck said...

The "depth of my conversion" increases when I am involved in other's lives and serving to the fullest extent possible. It is when I am willing to risk the hurt to love others, and to be myself, giving all that I have for them.

Something magical happens when I serve. I stop thinking so much about me, and engage in others. Then the Spirit communicates to my spirit-- and a foundation of understanding is built. I am more full of joy, and as a result, more converted.

Samantha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Samantha said...

Beck:
"It is when I am willing to risk the hurt to love others..."

I DO this, but it's really hard. Does it get easier? Or is is something that comes easily to YOU?

-L- said...

Since writing this post I got some great advice that follows along the lines of Sam's and Beck's comments. The advice was how to foster communication with the Holy Spirit. Receptivity, I was told, is most significant when two conditions are met: 1) I have a great desire to serve another person, and 2) I have need of God's inspiration to help me do so. This is probably a terrible paraphrase, but I found it to be wonderfully inspiring and desirable.