Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Sacrament of Penance



Many religions, throughout history, have required the confession. When a member of a the Catholic faith or LDS faith commit larger sins, they are required to confess these sins to one in authority. The person is generally male (in the LDS religion it is ALWAYS a man) and this person is supposed to act as an agent of God to work on getting the person forgiven. I am not sure how the confession process works in other religions, like Baptist or Methodist. Is there a method of confessing?


Confession is called the "Sacrament of Penance" as:
1. the recipient must be truly repentant of their sins
2. be determined to avoid these sins in the future
3. be willing to make reparations to any parties injured

I believe that confession has been used for hundreds of years as a way to protect and enforce orthodox belief and practice. And the churches today have several methods for insuring adherence to orthodox belief-- excommunications, ecclesiastical courts, public expiation...and I have been wondering this week if this is simply cultivating within us a culture of guilt.

A question I have been thinking about this week is "why confess to a man you may not know, instead of to God directly?"

And what is the purpose of confession?

Have you found that when you confess something you feel better? Is a weight lifted? Does it purge your soul?

A dear friend of mine and I have been on similar paths this year. She has fallen away from the strict rules of the LDS church as much as I have. However, we differ in VERY large ways. I don't believe in these strict rules anymore and thus, I don't believe I am sinning (and I am not even sure how I feel about the way the word sin and especially SINNER is used so commonly in religion today). While I feel completely happy in my life, she has been tormented in her soul. While I have been wondering why I don't feel riddled with guilt (as I did for much of my life any time I thought I had done anything "wrong"). She has been sobbing and beating herself up and dying a little inside each day.

So last night she decided to confess to her Bishop. I found this whole process, a process I have engaged in before, completely insane. Why does some older man I have NEVER talked to or interacted with, a man who doesn't know me or doesn't know my situation...why does he have the right to tell me whether or not I should feel good or bad about myself?

Do these spiritual leaders really have the authority to tell you your standing with God?

She is a grown woman of 31. She has made wise decisions her whole life. She has hurt no one. She is one of the most beautiful and sensitive people I know. And yet, because she isn't meeting the standards she has been taught, she has felt lower than Gregor Samsa after he turned into the bug! (sorry, I just reread The Metamorphosis). After her confession she called me crying. I don't want to go into the details of how the LDS church deals with certain things, because I feel at this point in my emotions I could only paint it in a negative light. But let's just say I was less than pleased with what she told me had transpired.

Is confession merely something created by men to exercise some form of control over the masses (do this and this and you will be granted this reward)? Does is simply play into creating a religious hierarchy (it's actually quite similar to the old feudal systems)? It was often used as a method for discovering and eradicating heresy, is it so today?

Does is have any value?

I honestly don't know. I've been raised to believe that you must confess and forsake your sins to get to heaven.


I'd like to know if any of you have thought about this?

50 comments:

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Here is what I believe. As a Christian (but not LDS, and not Catholic), I believe that Jesus died for my sins and when I accepted that I became pure in God's sight, and Jesus became the human "sacrifice" for not only my sins, but the sins of everyone who wishes to accept his free gift.

This is a Big Deal. (The biggest deal in history, in fact.) :-)

Do I need to have a special "intermediary" to talk to God? Absolutely not! In fact, in the Word, it makes it VERY clear that believers are considered "joint-heirs" WITH CHRIST in God's eyes! (What an awesome promise!)

Don't get me wrong. I'm made of flesh, and I stumble and fall regularly. But I get up, dust myself off, and go to God with my praises, thanks, requests, etc. My relationship with my Creator is central to who I am.

I have many close friends who are Catholic.... only a couple who are LDS. I love and respect them, and am very respectful of the differences between their faith and mine.

However, to answer your question, I think there is absolutely no reason for there to be an intermediary between ANYONE and God. Ever. God loves us.... and he longs to have an intimate, individual relationship with each of us. (And THAT is why we each have a little gnawing "hole" within us that no amount of "stuff" will fill up.... only a relationship with GOD (note I did not say RELIGION) will fill it up...)

That's my 2 cents.

Blake said...

I agree with all of the above!
Though you should try to obey what the bible says and all that, God is forgiving, you should confess, but confess to God, and he will forgive you. It isn't up to some stranger weather you are forgiven or not. And it is about having a personal relationship with God, as opposed to having to follow specific rule after specific rule in order for him to accept you.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Oddly enough, when I have confessed sins in the past, I felt as though I had figuratively laid a sacrice on the alter for my God.

I don't think confession has anything to do with the man in the middle.

In fact, I couldn't care less about the man in the middle, what he thinks of me or even what he says.

Except...that I think he is essential to the confession process. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it is an extremely difficult thing to publicly profess ones sins. The ability to do so is one way of proving one's contrition.

At that point in my life--when I felt I had offended my God--I just could not feel peace until I had taken the step of confession. I could not. I went a really long time thinking that it was enough just to change...or even just to say I was sorry to God. But time and time again I felt broken. I did not feel whole until I was willing to show my God that I would go the distance, no matter how difficult.

Anyway, I almost left the comment, "You don't want to hear my comment."

But you know I can't help myself. Obviously we are on polar opposites, so you probably think I am just a brainwashed lemming. But I am in a much better place now than I was then, so for me it was the right choice.

Jenn said...

I have only had good experiences with "confession" to the bishop. I have always been told during the meeting to speak directly to Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ in my prayers to ask for forgiveness and that it would be given to me. To me it is good to feel some guilt for doing wrong things, but even better to feel happy for changing what I was doing that was not right in God's eyes. We wouldn't ever change if we felt no guilt! Some people have a problem feeling no guilt and others feel extremely too much, though...it is important to find some middle ground in my opinion.

I think that God wants us to talk to the bishop for accountability reasons. It is easy as a human being to let things go(sometimes even becoming larger things) if you don't physically hold yourself personally accountable. It's not like the bishop is your forgiveness or one that forgives you, just someone who helps you get from point A to point B.

I know that the purpose of it is that it is supposed to comfort us, not control us.

Sorry your friend had such a lousy experience and I wish her the best.

D'Arcy said...

Wow! What a WONDERFUL discussion already. I am so excited to respond and to talk about this idea...and it is only an idea for me right now...one I am mulling over in my brain, one I haven't really decided on. I grew up in a religion of confession and I haven't had very many bad experiences with it. In fact, and BYU I had very positive experiences with it.

I guess now that I am starting from scratch I am seriously making EVERYTHING into a question...well, because I can, and because I haven't done so in the past.


HWHL: I can tell that you have an amazing relationship with God, your love and admiration are apparent in every kind act you do and word you speak. I love you my friend!

D'Arcy said...

Blake, thanks for visiting, you sound like a girl who knows what she is sure of. You have a moral compass that you are living by and that is admirable. Your blog is great!

D'Arcy said...

Jenn Fletcher--We need to get one thing straight here...and I have said it before, and I'll have to say it again....I would NEVER think of you as a lemming. Each of your responses shows to me a depth of soul and spirit that I admire.

And even though I am putting ideas out there that I know go against your ideas, you are still one of the main people that I want to know what you think. I push that publish button and I think....will Jenn think I am totally nuts? I mean, she already does, but will I become so crazy to her that she disowns me? (As a side note, I visited our old college roommate, the one I shared a room with and we started talking and I told her I opposed proposition 8 and and electric current of disapproval could be felt throughout the room....I still haven't the guts to tell her what I am REALLY thinking yet, and she doesn't read blogs)....anyway....

Thank you for your input. I like the idea of laying your sins on the metaphorical alter.

Do you think it is my pride that keeps me from agreeing with the tradition confession methods right now? I wonder sometimes if I am being prideful, or if I am being truthful to myself in allowing myself to ask these questions and think my thoughts. I don't mind being humbled, but I do mind having that inequality between the sexes and the fact that I would have to say difficult things to a man when I would rather, had I the desire to confess, say them to a woman....but there I go again..Please, don't disown me!! But that's just one part of it, I am still struggling with the idea of confession to someone else at all.

D'Arcy said...

Jenn--you've given me something to think about. When you say that we would never change if we didn't feel guilt. I suppose you mean change spiritually?

I see myself as changing constantly and always, hopefully, for the better. I try to learn and read and serve and help. But I guess, on the spiritual plain, if we didn't feel guilty for hurting others, then we wouldn't learn to be kind? I can see that method of thinking. So, yes, I think you are right, too little or too much might not be good.

However, I guess we feel guilt according to our own moral compass, and as those are as vast as the sands on the sea, it becomes harder to determine what merits guilt for each person. One person could feel terribly guilty for not getting the dishes done and feeding her husband a good dinner and another would not. One person could feel guilt at not helping with the local service project and the other not. I know I always feel guilt when I don't recycle (a silly comparions, I know) but it does cause me to change...

yet.....do you think there is some higher law as well? Wouldn't it be nice to act according to your own moral compass without guilt (which to me almost merits actions because of the fear of punishment or condemnation one received) then on the pure act of doing something right because it's right, not because you are worried and guilty that you will be punished, in a sense, for doing what is wrong?


This probably doesn't make any sense right now. I'm having a hard time writing just exactly what I mean.

D'Arcy said...

Oh, and my friend isn't worried by the process of confessing, she totally is fine with what went on...but it made my blood boil....but I've got issues, obviously.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

It's too late for me to be blogging. I have to get up early. Oh well.

(I am still thinking about the above-mentioned non-blogging roommate and smiling knowingly at the image of the conversation you must have had with her.)

D'Arcy, I still keep coming back to a comment you made on another post...the one when you said you don't trust God anymore.

To me, that is the crux of the whole issue. Whether or not you have too much pride, whether or not you don't mind being humbled, whether or not you feel there is inequality in the church, in my mind the ISSUE OF ALL ISSUES is that you just don't trust God (and I am quoting you on that!).

You see, I am okay with confession to a male because I believe that God put that system in place for a reason. I don't believe the system was put in place by mortal men. I believe it was divinely instituted and when I have put it to practice it has worked for me, thus reinforcing my belief. As previously discussed, I am okay with inequality in this life because I believe God created an imperfect world for a reason. If everything here were perfect, there would be no room for growth or faith. I have faith that God does things for reasons that we cannot comprehend...but are still in our long-term best interest, even if we cannot understand why.

Every question you pose always comes back to this: Is this religion created by man...or God? If you have decided it was created by man, then you will always despise it. But if you decide it was created by God and that he has the power to guide men to run it as he would (at least temporarily), then it changes things? Does it not?

Boquinha said...

Hear, hear, D'Arcy. This has been on my mind, too. I think you make excellent points.

As a PARENT, I don't understand the need for an intermediary. Our children certainly don't need an intermediary to come to us, why should we need one to talk to our heavenly parents? That just doesn't make sense to me. It's between us and God and no one else.

As for guilt, my opinion is that there are FAR better motivators. As a therapist, this is a hot button topic--believe me, it comes up a lot! And it's almost always LDS and Catholic clients and they are TORMENTED and wracked with guilt. Their self-image is nearly non-existant. They view themselves as "never good enough."

I don't think guilt is necessary for change. I think that when we know ourselves and follow our hearts, we can be in tune with what's good for us and those around us. We can feel pretty awful when we do things that aren't nice--that's different than guilt. Guilt comes from some outside expectation. Feeling awful is just feeling awful. We can learn from feeling awful and move forward as better people. Hope this makes sense . . .

Boquinha said...

P.S. Oh, and as for how confession is good for some people. I totally get that. We're all different. Organized religion with dictates and rules work very well for many people--many absolutely THRIVE in that setting. I used to. So, I don't regret it, but I think it's good to be open and recognize that it may not be the best spiritual avenue for everyone or even for the same person all the time. "It is what it is."

Boquinha said...

Also the idea that you need this intermediary automatically sets up a situation where the confessor is "less than" and "incapable" and "unworthy" . . . none of that is emotionally or spiritually healthy and none of it seems in keeping with how Jesus himself seemed to live his life. So, I don't get it.

When you read how he spoke to the Pharisees, it sometimes seems to me that organized religion=Pharisees today. And it just doesn't make sense to me. Jesus came to do away with all of that because they were missing the mark. So, why on earth would we want to be more like Pharisees than like Jesus?

Boquinha said...

Must. Stop. Typing.

All. Riled. Up.

Consider. Sleeping. Instead. :P

G said...

great post d'arcy.
I hope the confession process works out for your friend, I think some people find great value in it.

"Is confession merely something created by men to exercise some form of control over the masses "

... yeah. that's what I think.

and while I accept that there are many inspired things in the LDS church, the hierarchal male organization, and the doctrine necessitating spiritual dependency upon that hierarchy only makes sense to me as man-made. A method of control (crowd control? thought control?)

It has been beneficial at creating a large cohesive organization, but there are also a lot of harmful side effects, and the extensive guilt is one of them.

Beth said...

I have been in the position of confessing, except to God, so I cannot fully appreciate what a hard experience it can be.

However. I have seen, with family experiences, that confessing can be an extremely important part of repentance.

Now, before I "say my piece," I want to note that no Bishop, Parson, Priest, or human being, male or female, is perfect. So if LDS Bishops have, on many occasions, made mistakes or practiced unrighteous dominion, they are not in line with God's plan, purposes, or priesthood.

Ok. So I think that confession is important because it is an outward manifestation of our remorse. Just as baptism is an outward expression of our commitment. Jesus was still baptized, even though he was sinless. The process of confession is part of allowing ourselves to be healed, and can help us forgive ourselves. It gives us humility, and shows our humility before God.

I have never seen it as the Bishop acting as God and proclaiming whether you are forgiven. That is certainly between the person and God.

The Bishop knows the process that God has set forth for us to repent, and can help and offer encouragement as a fellow sinner.

Maybe that's just me, but that is how I've always seen it.

And, because of a very horrible experience with a brother in law, who's actions caused a great deal of pain to my sister, my nephew, and my entire family, I saw the Bishop's role a different way: he could see through pretenses, and know that my brother in law was not truly penitent.

At the risk of sounding to some like a brainwashed Mormon girl, I just want to end by saying that I know that everything God has set forth for us, including the repentance process, was set up for a reason, and set up to be the most conducive for our happiness.

Olivia said...

First off, I think guilt needs to be defined. I think guilt as in the feeling of doing something wrong when applied to something that is wrong is healthy. However, I've also felt the guilt mention above, of not being good enough. that kind I feel is a tool of satan. Unfortunately, most people can rationalize away guilt. If you decide to believe that murder is not wrong, you can commit murder and feel fine. It's an act of desensitizing yourself. When I was pregnant with Anjali, I had horrible nightmares, so I stopped watching scary movies completely, regardless of ratings. If it was suspenceful, I didn't watch it. Recently Fai wanted to watch a scary movie I'd seen before and didn't think was very scary. I don't think my blood preassure has ever been so high. How this relates: our personal sensitivity to our concept of right and wrong effects the way we feel guilt. Once we start feeling more responsible for our actions and their effects, it's easy to go over board (like the day over a year ago when I started crying because I raised my voice at Anjali)

Accountability can be chafing. Period. I've read the statements by the Christians on this blog, and I agree that this is the ideal, we feel Godly sorrow on our own, confess to God, and repent on our own. However, I've also seen people skip repentance all together, feel relatively no remorse, and go on with their lives feeling sure that their standing with God is whole and intact. If a law has been breached, repentance has to occur to repair the damage. I feel that being held accountable helps us. I've personally only had good experiences going to the Bishop, even on one very embarrassing occasion when I had to talk to a Bishop I did not like at all. I was pleasantly surprised by how that all turned out.

Accountablity to others is something I struggle with. When I first got married, finances were the biggest struggle. I went from a completely independant state with total control over "my" money to the world of joint finances. Fai, on the other hand, had been sharing financial responsibilities with his family for years, so it wasn't much of a change for him. I resented telling him what I spent money on, and felt that a very real freedom was gone, while he would call to ask if he could spend four dollars on fast food. Being held accountable for our actions is hard in a similar way, and I can't help but wonder if talking to a bishop about the few things we go to talk to bishops about is so hard, how it's going to feel on judgement day when we stand before a real and tangible God and have to go over the actions of a lifetime. I don't think it will compare to just praying to God for forgiveness, and I think for some it will be easy to resent being held accountable at all.

I don't view the bishop as someone who stands between me and my God. Rather, I view him as someone there to help me get through whatever I'm going through at the time, almost aside from God.

I do hope these ramblings make sense.

Jenn said...

Olivia, you make perfect sense to me. After I read one of the comments, but before yours, I got on Merriam Websters website to get a clear definition of guilt. You hit it dead on. I had not thought about relating confessing to the ultimate judgement but you are absolutely right, everything will be laid out on the table whether we like it or not...so, fully repent and forsake now, and it will be forgotten?! Thank goodness for our savior, even Jesus Christ.

Boquinha said...

I think we're talking about the difference between guilt and remorse/awareness (as people use the terms today--the dictionary uses them interchangeably). Guilt is a lousy motivator. Remorse and awareness can be very educational and lead to change. One definition is this one:

1. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
2. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

If you look at those two, the first one is useful and leads to change, the second one not so much and could cause harm. It's okay to feel rotten and change, but it can be done in a way that edifies self rather than condemns self (much like I imagine talking to clergy might be for many).

I think the differences we're expressing might come from a difference in how we view Judgement Day. I believe that we are MUCH harder on ourselves than God is on us. I believe that he is good and merciful and kind and that he gives us his grace. I believe that our "judgement" will be basically looking at our hearts--are we basically good, moral people? Have we lived deliberately? Have we been authentic with ourselves and others? I think that is where true, grueling growth happens more than whether or not we've done certain deeds or laws (though that falls under general morality, too).

"However, I've also seen people skip repentance all together, feel relatively no remorse, and go on with their lives feeling sure that their standing with God is whole and intact."

You're right. Feeling no remorse isn't good either. I think that whether or not one feels remorse may be an issue personal to the person. I'm just not sure an intermediary or the lack of one has an effect on that, since remorse is a rather personal feeling. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

I think the different views of guilt either are related to semantics or perhaps a general view of God. I used to think of God as exacting and harsh and just and sending punishments/blessings based on behavior. Over the years, and particularly dealing with depression, I've come to know God for myself as more loving and kind and merciful than not. And since this change in how I view God, I haven't felt as much guilt. Remorse, yes. Guilt, no.

I hope that helps clarify, but if not, I don't mind the friendly debate--this is a great discussion!

Olivia said...

I do view God as a loving Heavenly Father, at the same time he's given us certain guidelines for how to live, and I don't think he's just saying stuff he'll forget about later. With my daughter, when I set boundaries for her I have to stick to them too. I don't feel that I'm being overly harsh when I insist that she holds my hand everytime we're in a parking lot, even when she's throwing a tantrum about it. I feel that I'm being a good parent. God doesn't give us laws just for the sake of it, but to protect us and help us be happy, but it does follow that there needs to be consequences or else there's no point in the law to begin with.

I don't think that guilt or remorse are motivators at all, rather results. I think the motivator should be doing what's right because we want to please God. My motivator most of the time is the knowledge that in my life I've always been at my happiest when living the gospel, and the memory of how I felt about myself and my life before I knew about the gospel. I don't know if this sometimes selfish motive with be held against me in the hereafter, but I do think that God will recognize how grateful I am for all the blessings in my life that came with living the gospel. It can be easy to get over feelings of guilt and remorse if you don't want to feel them, all you have to do is become less sensitive and all that takes is exposure and time. While it's not fun to feel badly for something you done, it takes a conviction of the overall good in a certain course to make the leap from feeling badly to repenting, whether that repentence involves talking to God and a bishop or just to God.

Olivia said...

Let me just add how much I enjoy this discussion, and all of your comments, even though I don't know most of you. It's the kind of thing you don't think about often, but when you explore your own thoughts and feelings on it, you discover a wealth of deeply felt beliefs.

Also, D'Arcy, I think it's very normal when you're reevaluating your beliefs to start to question EVERYTHING related to them. A good friend of mine who is muslim did the same thing several years ago, it's an interesting process to watch and it's interesting what beliefs she ultimately held on to.

Chelle said...

I'm not really sure what to comment after so many interesting and good thoughts!

I think that whether you feel guilt or remorse for something depends on your belief system and view of the world. Like D'Arcy, I feel bad when I don't recycle, but then I feel no remorse when I have a glass of tea or wine. A lot of the talk about guilt seems to be assuming certain beliefs, which many have, but others do not. I think the feeling that you need to confess partly comes from believing that this is necessary. I understand how it can be helpful to talk to someone, but I prefer a girlfriend, or a close family member.

As I have redefined my belief system, which has become one where I don't believe in inequitable systems and people called of god to be an intermediary for me, I have found that my whole view on "sin" has changed. I don't believe in sin, in the religious way. I do think that anything we do that hurts others or ourselves is wrong. Simplifying like that has been amazingly helpful. If I hurt someone I feel badly about it and try to improve and solve the situation. I have felt a greater ability to focus on these things once I gave myself permission to do what I thought was right or wrong, not what the church told me.

I think part of guilt can also be uncertainty or ambivalence, and sometimes pressure from other places than within. A couple of my friends have talked about how they felt guilt for something, but plan on continuing in their course of action. For me at this point, it is better to figure out how I really feel about it, either do something different, or stop feeling guilty.
Which can be easier said than done.

Claire, said...

I have asked myself the same question. It's so hard to know what to think when we are taught through 'society' so many wrong things. Follow your heart, God is there.
great post well timed.

Sugar said...

In recovery, we confess our sins to one another. We can choose someone that is safe to take on our burdens in confidence. We don't need to go into a little box and hide behind a blurry screen talking to an ominous voice on the other side. We go to a friend and ask them to lift our burden of shame. Until we can let go of our hurts and sorrows, we are truly unable to be free.

It is this freedom that Christ really came to give us. Not the religions of today. So sad that many have missed that...

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
I too struggle with a response to this. I agree with Chelle that it is based on one's belief system and values so the need for confession is really based on the place of organized religion in one's life. When I was 15 my best friend killed himself and I turned to the church for comfort and guidance. I was more or less told my friend was a sinner and there and then organized religion disappeared from my life. Guilt has been a method of practice for insuring adherence, in addition to the methods you mention let us not forget the church also sold Indulgences which bought a place in heaven and therefore allowed to happily sin away knowing that parchment was safely tucked away. Like Chelle I have found my own belief system based on my view of how I want to be treated and treat others, including the Earth. A very interesting discussion D'Arcy, and I mean no offense to anyone elses beliefs. Have a lovely day.
Rangimarie,
Robb

G said...

I think chelle, and sugar both hit upon my feelings about guilt, remorse, and the value of being able to discuss (confess?) and move forward throught.

particularly I liked this:
"I feel bad when I don't recycle, but then I feel no remorse when I have a glass of tea or wine..." -chelle

and this:
"We can choose someone that is safe to take on our burdens in confidence... We go to a friend and ask them to lift our burden of shame."

yeah, the idea of going to a representive of God to confess to drinking a glass of wine so that you can get the appropriate correction is just way out there for me.

However the idea that there are things that cause us remorse, grief, guilt... and that talking about these things with others can be helpful, that I believe in.

G said...

(oh, that last quote was from sugar... sorry)

D'Arcy said...

Wow.

I know AMAZING people.


And I am going to respond. And I have tons of thoughts. Work went until 8 pm because of Parent Teacher conferences and then I went shopping for all my emergency preparedness stuff, and now I am home and going to bed because I have to wake up at 5 am to drive down to Cedar City to go see my student perform in the Shakespeare competition.

But i'll be back and Sunday and I have LOTS to say! So don't forget about this conversation until I finish putting my 2 cents in!

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

I guess I see things differently from many of the people who have commented here.

It is a tragedy that some church members grossly abuse their positions of authority (as was the case with Robb when he was told his friend was a sinner). I am aware that it is not a rare occurance, either. I am sure it breaks God's heart every time it happens.

However, I think it is unfair to generalize about these things. I don't believe organized religion is all about making people feel guilty or controlling the masses. In its purest form, organized religion aids people in learning how to come to Christ and provides an opportunity to serve, to teach, to forgive, and to learn with others, in spite of their weaknesses and shortcomings.

I have had the privilege to know countless leaders in my church who have spent their lives laboring to help others--without judging or causing guilt or grief. I am a better person because of them. I am a better person because of my religion and because of the organization thereof. And I hope, in some small measure, I can give back in return. That is the whole point, I believe.

One more thing. And I hope I do not offend anyone in saying this--I merely want to put this statement out there. I personally believe that we cannot be saved merely by accepting Christ, by merely "thinking" he is our Savior. I believe God intended for us to do our part by trying everyday to become more like Him. One aspect of our "part" has to do with making outward commitments to him that represent our inward commitments, such as baptism and, when necessary, confession to the proper authority of our sins. This, to me, is another reason why I believe organized religion is essential.

I really hope I do not offend anyone here. I just wanted to put a different opinion out on the table.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I'm not a big fan of organized religion these days. I have seen too much hypocrisy and judgement making. I believe each person has a direct connection with God and intermediaries are unneccessary, and sometimes worse.

Boquinha said...

I think that organized religion has an underlying belief that people can't do it themselves and need help. And one could argue there's an inherent emotional danger in that that could foster an inability to know and trust oneself.

Another way of looking at it--I'm reading a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer and he speaks of a spiritual mentor to many, Mother Meera of India. She has spiritually blessed so many that people have asked her if she wanted to begin a religion. She answered, "No, the divine is the sea. All religions are rivers leading to the sea. Some rivers wind a great deal. Why not go to the sea directly?" That doesn't mean that religions are "bad" things--they can be very good and helpful. But I like the idea of letting everyone do what makes sense to them, whatever river it may be or, perhaps better yet, going directly to the sea. I think that's emotionally and spiritually empowering.

G said...

I rather liked how the novel Life of PI discussed religion, the author used the analogy of a zoo and the animals in it to describe religions and their members.. and how lost (and hungry) those animal/members would be if they were kicked out of the zoo into the wild.

I do think there are many people who find great value within organized religion, and that makes sense to me. but likewise (to further the analogy), I don't think being in a zoo is the only way to go, and more importantly, there are animals that don't flourish (or even survive) at all in a zoo setting.

so what am I saying here... I guess I'm saying I try to appreciate that there are benefits to organized religion. A place of comfort, community, learning, growth, etc... But I don't recognize those religion's benefits as being an exclusive place of truth and access to God or forgiveness of sins.

Just watching conference here, (sat, second session) an Elder Laurence Carbridge (?) speaking aggressively about the teachings of Christ (and by extension the LDS Church) as being the ONLY way, any other paths being blindness and foolishness... I just kinda shook my head in bafflement at such a closed world view.

Boquinha said...

Yeah, G, when he called anything else "madness," I kind of cringed. It seemed potentially insulting to much of the people of the world. Not everyone is Christian nor are all Christians LDS, but that doesn't mean they're foolish, blind, or mad.

G said...

yeah! madness... yes he used that word too! What was going through my mind was "wow, with all the religious tension/conflict/wars going on in the world, how inspired of him to label muslims, jews, buddhists, ect (aka, anyone not like him)... as mad, foolish, and blind!"

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

I thought the whole point of Life of Pi was that it was a misconception to think that keeping animals in enclosed spaces was cruel. That the truth was the animals themselves preferred a zoo setting. In gave them a safe harbor from dangerous predators and provided a reliable food source. That said, I am still not sure that can be strictly translated over into a religious analogy, though.

Concerning general conference, I disagree and think that it is SOOOO easy to twist things and take them out of context.

Third--and on a lighter note--my husband was reading all of these comments and laughing. He said it reminded him of a "Choose Your Own Adventure Book", only in this case it would be a "Choose Your Own Belief System Book." Ya know, like, "If you believe that relativism is the way to go, turn to page 42." Or "If you believe that child pornography is a crime, but you think there is nothing wrong in indulging in a little adult pornography on the side while your wife is still asleep in the other room, then turn to page 65." Then when you turn to that page, it reads "Go to Hell."

Haha! Just thought I would share...

Greg Bean said...

Here is what the LDS Gospel Principles Manual says:

"We must confess all our sins to the Lord. In addition, we must confess serious sins, such as adultery, fornication, and robbery, which might affect our standing in the Church, to the proper priesthood authority. If we have sinned against another person, we should confess to the person we have injured. Some less serious sins involve no one but ourselves and the Lord. These may be confessed privately to the Lord."

So, here is what I think. God appoints men on earth to act for him. Even when Christ was on the earth, he appointed apostles to administer his church. The church is just like any club or organization, it has rules for membership. The rules require that people attempt to do their best and have a penitent heart. Confession aids the church in determining if people are willing to change and therefore worthy to retain their standing in the Church. This willingness is a part of repentance, but it is not like the Bishop says, "You're forgiven, you're not." God set up his rules and this is how he wants them administered.

G said...

yes, that was the point made by Piscine, that zoo's were GOOD things, BENEFICIAL to the animals within them (and that became his way of explaining why he thought religion was beneficial to the people in them.) And that was my point about religion as well.

now... I am going to just smile and not take the "Choose Your Own Belief System" anecdote and it's "Go to Hell" implication personally.
(I don't watch porn in the other room while my spouse sleeps... but what page do I get for thinking elder whats-his-bucket should have chosen his words more wisely?)

Gustav said...

D'Arcy

We are all connected directly to the Creator, and no one needs an intermediary to interact or communicate with the Lord of Lightness.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

G...Ha! No, don't take it personally! Just a joke! I would definitely have a page that said something like "Don't answer the phone when the caller ID says it is a friend you know who will ask you for a favor. Turn to page..." or ya know, a multiplicity of other things and other pages...

Just a joke. Funny?

G said...

"Just a joke. Funny?"

well, yes, I guess I get the gist of the joke. However "Go To Hell" is a rather sharp-edged punchline considering this thread. Does that make sense? It is a very real accusation that has been levied at some of us at some time or another.

So, yes, I will smile and not take the joke personally... but realize that for some that may have been very hurtful.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Oh, well...the "go to hell" was in direct reference to the pornography thing. Not to your comments and beliefs. And even that was an exaggerated line. Seriously, I don't think you are going to Hell. I don't even know you. I just like to debate these things back and forth.

Really? You didn't think it was funny? I laughed my butt off at the dinner table when my husband started going off.

You laughed, though, D'Arcy. Right?

Kimbie said...

I feel alot of times that religion gets skewed by the works of men.
For me, I believe that I have a Father who lives in Heaven, that loves me, and knows me personally and because of those things, that he wants me to be happy and to be with him again one day. I know this, because I have prayed to him, read his word and saught to serve others. I have seen my talents improved and my desire to be a better person increased.
However, there have been times when I felt farther from him due to sin. I have confessed to him through prayer- and sometimes just in coversations. In other, more serious sin, I have sought the help of my Bishop. I knew that going to my Bishop was never an attempt to replace my need to go tot he Lord but rather a help. His job was to help me - to uplift and to counsel with. He aided me in getting back on track. He was a help mate- not a dictator. Through that experience, and the experiences of my friends. I have seen good men, help many people feel loved and supported so that they could be lifted up in their time of need.
I know that not all who have seeked this type of helped have been met in the most favorable circumstances, and while I feel for you friend, I would hope that they would seek the help of the Lord to know what to do.
The Lord will answer our prayers. But I also know that there is a plan and a way that leads us back to Him. A plan which aides us and assists us to becoming more like Christ. Repentence and confession are apart of that path.
I know that for me, whenever I have felt wronged or hurt, that some of that derived form my own shame and sin. For example, for a long time I felt like I could not attend Sacrament because I was afraid others would see me not partaking of the Sacrament and would talk about me. Truth is- No one notices or cared. they loved me- but the sin that wieghed my heart tainted my point of view as to how others would see. Rather, I should have felt more concerened for how the Lord felt about me.

I know that alot of people who have written on this blog have had alot of hurt in their lives, alot of disappointements in regard to regligion and religious people. I am so sorry for whatever has happened to you . I hope that you know that those churches are not perfect, nor are the people but the Lord is. Pray to Him- seek his guidance and look for the good.

For me, I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true- it holds truths. I know because of my life.

mapelba said...

You've got quite a discussion going on here--I'm sorry I've been absent!

I was raised Catholic, so I know something about confession. Most of the time, confession is about power. You confess to some stranger who assumes the power to forgive you. Sometimes, that power goes the other way. For example, a person might confess infidelity under the pretense of wanting to come clean and be honest--but they really want to hurt the other person. Don't confess just to feel better.

Well, I've got more to say but am being interrupted. Anyway. Great topic.

D'Arcy said...

OK, I am back. And while I wish I could comment on each beautiful post individually, I don't think I will.


I have a few things to say to each of you.


First of all, I love you and appreciate you commenting and really taking these questions of mine seriously. The questions that I pose on my blog are huge for me. I often think about them for long periods of time before I ever post and I often end up going with my heart, instead of perhaps the easier route.

This is new for me as I used to have the answers memorized and set out for me.

Some of those answers are still right for me, some are not.


What I hope we can each gain from this discussion is an awareness.

Yes, an awareness that we are all different.

An awareness that we are all doing the best that we can with what we have.

Those of you who are devout LDS followers, I thank you for your convictions and your testimonies. I know that you feel the strength of your words when you say them and I know that you feel the desire to share these testimonies. It is something that the church puts great emphasis on, and I respect that and I have done it often. I understand your points of view with absolute clarity.


Those of you not belonging to a religion, or maybe creating your own communication or forging your own paths by what feels right for you. I thank you for the amount of respect and tolerance and care you have for each person. You seem to take the world into consideration and you see that there can be many different paths to the ultimate truth.

i agree.



Allow me to get existential here for a minute (I've been reading Kafka this week, so forgive this if you hate this philosophy!)


Existentialism believes there is no right or wrong, there is no fair or unfair, there is simply the path of finding what being human means to you. What does this life mean for you?

In reading "The Metamorphosis", Gregor wakes up one morning turned into a giant bug. He is immediately concerned that he won't be able to provide for his family, that he won't be able to work, that he needs to get out of bed and feel useful. Never, in this time, never does he stop and ask "Why am I a bug?"


I think this is what we are here for. I know that we all like to be right because it creates a feeling of security and unity when we find others like us. But what if there really is no right or wrong for all (and you LDS people don't think I am trying to say there is no sin...that I am advocating some eat, drink and be merry kind of life---you all know what I am talking about here!)

Maybe what is right for me, what gives me meaning, is not what gives you meaning. And maybe that is ok?


Maybe because I don't have a "testimony" of confessing my sins to a man, instead of directly to God is exactly right for me and my conscious. And maybe something else is right for you.

Maybe being in a marriage where a man holds the priesthood and "presides" over the family will never be right for me, but maybe it is right for you.


Now, I know right away that the LDS people are rolling their eyes and praying for my eternal soul because I have missed the mark of absolute truth. But instead of doing that, why don't we all look at our lives. Each of us should ask this.

Why am I the bug? I think this will help each of you realize that you are on the exact same path as I am. We are all just trying to find our truths and live authentic lives. And that's an amazing, beautiful, chaotic, blissful journey for each of us.



And Jenn, I am Switzerland! I can see both points and think that sometimes we can't quite cross over every meaning and nuance with mere symbols on a keyboard.

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D'Arcy said...

OK,

I don't want to be Swiss anymore.


I have one goal for this blog and one goal only:

I want my blog to be a place where all my friends, no matter what religion or creed can come and bare testimony and share beliefs without feeling wrong.


We have to agree to disagree here. The debate can be fun if we keep it as a debate.

Debates lose the entertainment aspect when we start to attack. Then we feel like crap.


So, G, I am calling a truce between you and Jenn because I am starting to feel like it is turning into an attack. G, I know Jenn and I absolutely, positively know that she meant no hurt or harm. I am so sorry if either of you felt hurt at all by any of the conversation.

Maybe I should just post about puppies, no one has anything bad to say about puppies. But when my mind is acting in an existentialist philosophical set, then I say things that could be misconstrued.


This is the hard thing about blogging.


What I would hate more than anything is if this blog turned into a battle ground and people received wounds and then didn't want to return.


I hope it is ok that I said this.

G said...

k,
I'm feeling really icky about my last comment. Thank you, D'arcy, for calling me out.

Jenn, I sincerely apologize. what I said crossed a line, and I am sorry. I should never let my own tenderness on the subject drive such a response.

I will be deleting that comment.

and I still extend the offer for you to email me with any questions or comments galendara at g mail dot c o m.

again, I sincerely apologize.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

No apologize necessary. Honestly. I feel silly that you felt it necessary.

And thanks for the reminder that different people are usually offended by different things. (And we all get offended from time to time.) I needed to learn that sometimes things that I think are appropriate may certainly offend others. I will try to be more careful in the future. I definitely will not tell jokes online. (I fear my brand of humor may be offensive.) :)

I apologize for offending anyone. I did not intend it.

And just to specify, I have no intention of trying to convert anyone online to the LDS faith! (How terrible would that be! I am such an erring representative of that faith!) I merely enjoy taking turns with the rest of you. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt, please!

G said...

pour some salt on me too, please!
:)

G said...

(I mean... on what I say... yuck!)