Celestial Kingdom or Bust

26 Jul

This isn’t about sex, per se. It’s about the way we live our lives versus how we practice our faith.

The core of our doctrine is that we are saved by the atoning grace of Jesus Christ after all we can do. This puts some of the onus on us to do the best we can, which I feel is right and proper. It meets the conditions of both justice and mercy, dealt to us by a deity who knows our hearts, our struggles, our souls.

A major complaint amongst evangelical types about our way of practicing our faith is that we believe we are saved by works alone. Now, the “alone” part is hyperbole on their part because they really don’t want to look too closely at our truth; they’re comfortable in their hatred and lies, so let’s leave them to it. (Justice=leaving them to wallow in their comforting poison; mercy=leaving them to wallow in their poisonous comfort.) We use words to fight this perception constantly. We are saved by grace! we protest. We do believe in the atoning sacrifice of the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’re just like you! (mostly) (except for that Trinity business) (and the burning lake of fire).

But our actions…? Our actions make liars of us all.

To watch us is to know, with rightful certainty, that we don’t believe in grace at all. We live with the fear that there is no room for error, no forgiveness, no mercy.

You may either be perfect or you may fail. There is no in between.

Pass/fail.

Exaltation/damnation.

A+/F.

We talk about repentance, but don’t talk about being forgiven.

I’ll not rehash some of the disastrous/dangerous statements made in the past that make this binary explicit because they are, well, disastrous and dangerous and, I think, the brethren are trying to correct that. I also largely feel that this binary of perfection/failure is endemic to the American spirit and came with the Puritans, so this isn’t about Mormons per se. There are aphorisms aplenty out there that demonstrate this amply enough:

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

“Second place is just first loser.”

“When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win!”

Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Then there are the ones about trial and failure:

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.”

“Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.”

“Line upon line; precept upon precept.”

When contrasted, the subtext isn’t about perfection or failure, the first set is about being perfect at all times in order to become perfect where the second set is more pragmatic in that it acknowledges that failure is inevitable.

And the way we Mormons do this is by casting trial and error as a permanently damning failure, and pretending that failure does not happen, cannot happen, if we simply do not acknowledge the very possibility of failure. If we do acknowledge it, we have opened the door to the inevitability of failure.

To wit: In my post The Talk, I enumerated a way of dealing with the subject of premarital sex that is both pragmatic and discouraging of the practice. However, this comment:

You’re trying to push your values about sex onto your child. That’s what’ parents do all the time, intentional or unintentional. Since you portray yourself as a true Latter-day Saint the appropriate question to ask is whether you are exposing your child to your own values or God’s values. You get one or the other. The only way it gets to be “both” is if you have already aligned your values with the Lord’s.

perfectly illustrates my point.

The Lord’s value as we see it is to be chaste until marriage. But why must we pretend that the possibility cannot exist if we simply do not speak of it?

Now, think about that for a moment.

We believe that our entire reason for existence here on earth is to learn. How does one learn? By failing. Thus, failure is inevitable. It’s our entire purpose. We knew, when we chose this course, that there would be no perfection. Perfection is a quest, a destination. It cannot also be, by definition, the journey.

Making it the journey is crippling.

I, personally, don’t believe that a loving Heavenly Father would ask us to fail only to damn us for doing that very thing. He can’t have, if we also believe in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

So…why do we act like he did?

8 Responses to “Celestial Kingdom or Bust”

  1. KaralynZ July 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    I feel this exemplifies a lot of the trouble I have with the Church in general these days. The culture of the Church is very all or nothing. Either you believe and follow every iota or you’re an apostate for doubting. If I say that I take issue with the church’s unhelpful stance on transgender individuals, well then I’m going against the Proclamation on the Family which is THE WORD OF GOD AS GIVEN TO HIS PROPHETS and I might as well go get a tattoo and start preaching against the church.

    For those of us who are struggling with our faith this all or nothing attitude is extremely unhelpful because we feel that since we’re never going to achieve all because of “X” we might as well just give up – there’s no place for us.

  2. LucyW. July 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    For those of us who are struggling with our faith this all or nothing attitude is extremely unhelpful because we feel that since we’re never going to achieve all because of “X” we might as well just give up – there’s no place for us.

    Exactly. Why begin an endeavor with the sure knowledge that you will fail and be damned for it?

  3. handle with care July 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    As a child of a lone parent I’ve grown up with cognitive dissonance. I now see these church teachings as aspirational-sealed parents bearing righteous children who will be in their turn sealed. The statistics can’t be good.

    I choose to believe that there is space for all of us, and refuse to accept that someone other than my Heavenly Father is the arbiter of this. I choose to believe in his love and acceptance of our flawed and broken humanity, otherwise what would be the point of such a desperately won redemption?

    I don’t believe we were put here to fail, but to experience failure as part of the process of becoming able to experience the compassion of the Creator of all experience. I think failure is the begetter of wisdom.

    And I think this includes our sexuality. Sometimes it works,sometimes it doesn’t. If it always has worked up ’till now, at some point it won’t. That’s when our love and devotion to the other is tested-are we big enough to work this out? Consciously chosen loving behaviour can start to reveal to us the god within.

  4. Strong Man July 31, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Jesus proclaimed, “Be Ye Perfect, Even as I, or your father in heaven is perfect,” Yet he also said, “The well have no need of a physician” and spent most of his time with the downtrodden, sinners, physically ill and maimed. He loved them, helped them, and seemed to genuinely enjoy teaching them.

    Surely there is a way to elevate an ideal of perfection as a goal, and yet also realize we all fall short and we can help each other through the normal difficulties of life? We can be loving and understand human weakness without abandoning the ideal completely.

  5. The Franchise September 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    This is something I’ve had cognitive dissonance about as long as I can recall; in my case I can love others (absolutely including the flaws) with ease, but cannot bear my own mistakes, shortcomings, and weaknesses.

    I know the commandment to forgive all men includes myself, but I can’t. I remember mistakes from half my age and feel them keenly. Some so unimportant that when I apologized to the person I wronged, they couldn’t even remember it.

    I’m not sure how much of that is cultural falsehoods I internalized and how much is a manifestation of OCD.

  6. Moriah Jovan (@MoriahJovan) October 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Franchise, you and I are in the same boat there.

  7. DM March 21, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    What happened to this excellent blog? No articles since last July??

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  1. It's OK to Grill Obama on HIS Religion, Why No Queries into Romney's? | The Liberal Grouch - August 20, 2012

    […] Celestial Kingdom or Bust […]

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