What if Christ Had Doubts?

Doubt

 

 

 

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46.) Common LDS interpretations of this scripture and the event it chronicles include: an expression of belief even in the face of great pain (Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done, Robert D. Hales, Oct. 2011) a moment where God removed himself in order to let Christ finish the Atonement alone and the great faith Christ showed in that moment of loneliness (He Lives! All Glory to His Name! Richard G. Scott, April 2010) In every discussion of Christ’s death on the cross, he is presented as a perfect example of faith.

But what if this scripture documents a moment of fear instead of a moment of faith? What if, in that moment, Christ doubted his mission, his calling as the Savior, his position as the firstborn son of God? We believe that Christ experienced everything we do; does that include doubt?

I believe there is room to interpret this scripture as an expression of doubt. To say “why hast thou forsaken me?” suggests that the speaker believes he has been abandoned. He did not ask “have you left,” but “why did you leave?” At such a pivotal moment, to feel abandoned could very easily have led to doubt not just of God’s presence but of everything he was dying for.

In my years of involvement with several Mormon feminist groups, I have been told many times that my questions and doubts were a sin. I’ve been told that “obedience is the first law of heaven,” that “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done” and if I were really following God, I wouldn’t be asking these questions. If you look at the Ordain Women Facebook page for 30 seconds, you will find comments reflecting these attitudes. Doubt is viewed as a sin by many church members. And church leaders encourage this attitude in some ways. The Aaronic Priesthood Manual contains the quote “when the Prophet speaks… the debate is over,” encouraging the youth of the church to obey blindly. In April 2009, Elder Kevin W. Pearson presented doubt and disbelief as the same thing, and he also stated that feeling doubts was a choice, implying that to question is choosing to lack faith. In short, having questions is presented as an incorrect  or sinful choice to make.

But Christ did not sin. He died sinless, allowing Him to atone for the sins of others. So if Christ doubted, it cannot be a sin. We can say we are following Christ when we have questions and reach out to God for answers. If Christ doubted, those of us who question are in good company. We are not sinning when we doubt, because Christ doubted and did not sin.

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How Should Our Community Handle Wrong Decisions Made By Our Church?

Trigger Warning: Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse.

Everyone who reads or writes for this blog has a connection to Mormonism on some level. For some it is an interest, for others it is their religious practice. And for others it is the cultural background. Some fit all these categories. On some level, we are all part of the Mormon community. So how do we as a community deal with an issue like this one that was in the news this week?

The church is being sued for covering up sexual abuse of children by a church member. This deals with cover-ups on multiple levels. First, local leaders did not protect children in their area from a sexual predator in their ward, even though they knew about his behavior. But this case goes beyond local leaders. In the indictment, the church as an organization is accused of covering up the abuse, of encouraging and in some cases threatening, members to stay silent and not report the abuse. It says

“The Church has not accepted responsibility for what it did and, equally importantly, for what it failed to do, despite being confronted with Micheal Jensen’s [the abuser] abuse on several occasions, the obvious harm caused, and its own protective and enabling hand in the events. Instead, it has continued its cover-up, sending emissaries from Salt Lake City, Utah to Martinsburg, West Virginia, who instructed fact witnesses not to talk with counsel for the Plaintiffs. Through Church leaders, it has tried to intimidate Plaintiffs from pursuing this action, and has directed fellow church members to prevail upon Plaintiffs to abandon their claims lest they run afoul of Church teachings regarding forgiveness. The Church, resultantly, not only made Michael Jensen’s conduct possible in  the first instance, but it also has multiplied the harm to its victims, with its campaign to ostracize them from their faith community and deter them from pursuing justices for their families.”

The most disturbing part of this for me is the accusations against the church. Yes, there are individual members who do terrible things. There are even individual church leaders who make horrible mistakes. There is no excuse for the actions of the individuals involved in this case. But for the church as an institution to decide to cover up the abuse of children is utterly unconscionable. It is an organization deciding to intimidate witnesses, to try to prevent a criminal from being prosecuted. I cannot conceive of a single good reason for this to happen, for the church to make such a choice.

How do we, as a Mormon community deal with this information? How do handle our relationship with the church? My decisions has been to end the relationship. I have sent a letter to have my name removed from the records of the church. My choice is not to be associated with an organization that makes these kind of choices. But that is my decision. How do you deal with this information?

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Young Women’s Program Survey

The churYWValuesch is full of individual teachings and stories. Despite attempts to correlate lessons plans and teachings, everyone has their own understanding of lessons and doctrine. It’s one of the things I love and struggle the most about the church. I’ve been taught lovely interpretations and been given uplifting lessons by individual teachers. I’ve also been taught scary things that I pray no one takes to heart but I know that they do.

This has been true for my of my experience in the church, including the Young Woman’s program. I loved many of my leaders, but was annoyed by what felt like a constant discussion of marriage. As someone who planned to go to college and have a career, I felt like my goals were not addressed. I’ve heard other women express similar feelings about their experience in Young Women’s, and other women say they never experienced that kind of push in their programs. i find the difference between individual programs and experiences interesting. Apparently, I”m not the only one. Recently, a survey was created to examine the experience of those who went through the Young Women’s program.

The thing I find most interesting about this survey is that more participants feel they were taught that marriage is their main objective than those who felt that they were taught that their main objective was to live the gospel, get an education or form a relationship with God. I find that a bit sad; finding a relationship with God is something everyone can do, whereas not everyone has the chance to get married.

This survey is fairly representative of my Young Women’s experience. But that’s just me. What about you? What is interesting to you about this survey? Does it resonate with you?

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In My Mind and In My Heart

One thing I’ve always loved about Mormon theology is the idea that we can to know in our minds and in our hearts if something is right. We can trust our feelings, but they don’t have to rule over our logic. We can trust our intelligence, but we don’t have to ignore how we feel. That balance still gives me comfort in making decisions, even though I’m in a place where much of church doctrine no longer feels right or makes sense to me. We were given brains and feelings; it makes sense that we should use both. And that is what I have done as I made the decision to support female ordination.

There have been many articles on focusing on the intellectual reasons why women should be ordained to the priesthood. There is historical precedent, scriptural sources, logical arguments, etc. I love there articles and I’ve thought through those discussions; I know in my mind that it makes sense for women to be ordained to the priesthood. But what started me on my path towards supporting female ordination was not the intellectual side of it. It was an emotional experience I had several years ago.

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July Young Women Lesson: Why are covenants important in my life? & What covenants did I make at baptism?

I teach teenagers for a living, and so my teaching preference is to let students lead a discussion, to discuss ideas rather than talk at them. So I hope this lesson can give you jumping off points to have in-depth, helpful conversations with your young women, based on their needs and the needs of your community.

It took me years to figure out what it meant when people referenced “keeping your baptismal covenants.” At age 8, I had no idea what I had promised to do, but from that point on it felt as though all my teachers and leaders assumed I knew what my baptismal covenants were without explaining them. So, drawing on my own history, I like the idea of focusing a lesson on baptismal covenants, so they know what promises they have already made. I also think that there is so much focus on future covenants that the young women miss that they have already made promises to God and have received blessings in return. They are already in a relationship with God; they don’t need to wait until they are adults to have the covenant relationship where promises are made and received.

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