William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lessons I've Learned Which Have Contributed To Changes In My Beliefs Since Childhood

The comment was made:

"A friend just called me and asked me if I would pose a question here to believers. He said, "I would do it, but you have some credibility there." After I stopped laughing, I told I'm I'd post it.

Here it is:

How have your beliefs about the church changed since you were, say, 8, or 16, or 25? What has motivated your beliefs to change?

Have at it."

To which I responded:

As a small child and until puberty, I think I had absolute faith in the Church. I knew nothing about the history of polygamy or the blacks and the priesthood issue, nor did I have any understanding of human physiology and how it conflicted with the Church's puritannical brand of chastity. As I grew older, I began to understand certain critical concepts, including:

Church leaders are fallible, even prophets, and make mistakes both in personal choices and doctrinal pronouncements.

Parents are not perfect, and children have no duty to submit to abusive parents.

Coercion in religious matters is one of the worst things parents can do with their children.

Empirical data strongly suggests that at least some people are irreparably predisposed to homosexual tendencies.

The history of Christianity's doctrinal pronouncements governing sexuality strongly suggests that such doctrines were announced in ignorance of the facts about human sexuality and physiology, and in an environment where chauvenism and erotophobia reigned.

People lie about their beliefs and their behavior in order to fit in, giving others the false impression they are abnormal or shameful, thereby perpetuating the tendency for more lies and pretentions.

Joseph Smith's life history is not always complimentary to the quasi-infallible status conferred upon him by the Church.

Few if any of us actually know; most of us just believe and say we know, either because it makes us feel better, look more self-assured in the eyes of our peers, or because we have not been sufficiently confronted with experience and contemplation to make us humble enough to realize that what we really have is belief, noble as it may be.

In general, but with exceptions, life experience, study, honest contemplation, and a sincere desire to do the right thing better qualify us for discovering truth than living "worthily" according to present church standards. In fact, efforts devoted to complying with church standards and teachings can actually taint our honest inquiry and unduly influence our perception to make it more likely that we will find in favor of church teachings.

Prayer sometimes works.

The fairytale ending view of temple marriage is highly damaging to the church's youth and likely contributes to many failed marriages. Rather than focusing on whether our youth have a "temple marriage," we should focus on them having a happy marriage, disabusing our youth of the notion that, if they just live righteously, they will have a blissful marriage. It is also unrealistic to pretend that somehow our sexuality can be turned on and off like a switch- you can turn it off before marriage, and flip it on once you're married to have perfection.

At least 98% of men and 80% of women in a relationship, whether married or not, regularly have sexual fantasies about someone other than their spouse. Normally constituted human beings are capable of (and usually do) differentiate between fantasy and reality so that, although they privately entertain fantasies in their minds, they refrain from acting out those fantasies with other people and are thus able to maintain fidelity within a marriage. The focus should therefore not be on preventing the fantasies, but rather helping people who have problems to distinguish fantasy from reality.

The emphasis on the family, while important, should not obscure the true principle that each person has a God-given right to reasonably seek their own happiness, constrained only by the duty to try to serve others within reason and treat the rest of the world with kindness and love.

Joseph Smith never preached that the priesthood should be denied to blacks.

Joseph Smith was fallible and made many mistakes in his prophetic pronouncements, but was still a prophet of God.

No records exist of Joseph Smith having ever condemned masturbation, although it was a topic of significance in his day.

Church leaders in the late 1800s and the early 1900s likely believed that masturbation cause physical ailments.

Brigham Young did not condition missionary service on a lack of history of fornication.

Faith generally should not conflict with logic and reason, but faith can reasonably subsist where logic an reason do not seem to provide a likely answer to a question.

People in the Church so often are bearing their internal crosses silently.

Because it is forbidden to openly criticize church doctrines, there is often a disconnect between what people actually believe and what they profess to believe. The church would be a whole lot better off if some things could be discussed and debated more openly instead of on anonymous boards like this.

A great many men in the Church are quietly depressed and sad about their sexless marriages, and Church doctrine is of little help.

The maxim of "when in doubt, select the choice which is the most selfless" is wrong and highly damaging. Although it is true that we have to be very careful not to become too selfish at the expense of others, how are we to love our neighbor if we do not also love ourselves?

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