thoughts on christ…

by G

(I wrote this a while ago after reading The Faithful Dissident’s wonderful post on the subject.)
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It was about a year and a half ago that I sat with the Teach My Gospel manual in my lap, and realized that I was in serious trouble in regards to my relationship to the church. I was a ward missionary preparing a new member discussion for a recent convert. Lesson number 3, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

For several years I had been struggling to hold together a crumbling belief in The Church. Usually called to teaching positions I found myself having to edit and adapt the lessons more and more to be true to my own beliefs, it was disconcerting to keep being faced with more and more topics and doctrines that I could no longer toe the line for. But there was one doctrine that I clung to with a riveting obsession and that was the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I had a gripping hope in and affinity for a savior who would be with me in the deepest pit, lending me strength beyond my own to help me up. The concept of being empowered, being cleaned because of this mortal god who bled in a sacred grove of trees under the weight of my pain was a powerful notion for me, because I had a lot of pain and felt chronically filthy.
And so I held to the church out of the strength of that belief.

But the beliefs that were changing for me had unavoidable repercussions: I was losing my belief in the literally defined precisely explained thoroughly cross referenced version of the Life and Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I was losing belief in the claims of The Church as the only organization with the real authority to speak for Christ and the only organization with the real priesthood to perform all the ordinances that make us one with Christ. And so when I opened that teacher’s manual to prepare a lesson about Jesus Christ, and realized that I didn’t believe a single thing that the manual taught…. Well it was a bit devastating. As a short term remedy I cancelled the appointment for the lesson and got released from my calling (citing ‘personal
reasons’). Then I continued to attend church and find non-doctrinal ways to participate… but I think that was the beginning of the end for me. I no longer believed what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught about Jesus Christ (finally added to that list of everything else I didn’t believe).

I still find myself riveted by the story of Jesus, this social agitator who stood for the poor and downtrodden, pissed off religious leaders, and shared meals with sinners and women. And I still have a longing for a healing presence during my low times. But I no longer hold to The Church as a way to connect to those concepts.

So, perhaps, for me as with the faithful dissident, it all boils down to Jesus. Just with different results. For her, He is the reason that she continues to pursue an uncomfortable participation in The Church. For me, He is (a good part of) the reason that I made the uncomfortable decision to take a break from The Church.

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  1. John Remy says:

    It’s endlessly fascinating to me that the the founders of religions (Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, Paul, Joseph Smith) who are transformed by their followers into foundations of orthodoxy, were all radicals, heretics, and experimenters in their day.

    This was a strength to me as well, when I realized that I was a heretic.

  2. Zenaida says:

    G, thanks for the post. I wish I had an anchor like that. Perhaps I’ve never had a personal relationship with Christ, but at the moment I feel very lost. I’m floundering in unfamiliar territory. All that was safe and familiar in the church seems untrustworthy.

  3. Caroline says:

    I too cling to Jesus. I haven’t read the Faithful Dissident’s post, but (perhaps like her) the focus on him does help me maintain my activity in the church. Of course, I wish these radical things about him were played up more, particularly his willingness to violate the social norms of the day to include everyone, even the most hated and filthy in society. I see in him an example of radical inclusion and love.

    This isn’t the Jesus that gets talked about much in Church, sadly. I wish I could muster the mental energy and fortitude to raise my hand in church and talk about this Jesus who inspires me so much.

  4. John Remy says:

    For those of you who like the Jesus as rabble rouser, I highly recommend John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. He’s a Catholic (was a priest but I think left the order when he fell in love and decided to marry) and a respected (if controversial) Jesus scholar. The biography is pretty accessible, and paints a picture of Jesus as a radical egalitarian in a very hierarchical world.

  5. Kelly Ann says:

    G thank you for your honesty. i’ve been ready a bit of your blog as well and feel comforted by how your story parallels mine. not completely in this regard, but in others. i’m just trying to get the courage to publish it – especially the transformation that has occurred over the past three months. but sometimes it is easier not to think about it. for that reason, i admire your honest.

    i really miss being an innocent believing Mormon.

  6. Seabass says:

    G-

    First off, I loved meeting you at EmilyCC’s house on Friday (I’m the dude in the blue-striped shirt). I wish that I had read some of your posts earlier.

    I think that we’re at a similar place. When I started having serious doubts about the LDS church’s claims, I tried to shore up my belief in the church by strengthening my testimony of JC. Even though my belief in JC is somewhat non-literal, I love his style, and am moved by learning about him. Knowing more about JC has, however, made it even harder to find him–and the connection to the sacred he represents to me–in (most) LDS meetings.

    Anyway, thanks for the nice post. Hope to see you next time you’re up in Phoenix.

    -Ryan

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