Monday, January 24, 2011
LIVING AN AUTHENTIC LIFE
There's a lot to be said for knowing who you are and living your life accordingly. It seems to me that too many times, people try to conform to what they feel is "expected" of them. I know I used to do that. Being born and raised Mormon by extremely TBM parents, I tried so hard for so many years to be the perfect Mormon. To do what was expected of me. To follow the prophet without question. To be a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints. Not really thinking for myself, but rather simply accepting what I was taught. After all, they wouldn't lie to me, would they? No, the prophet knows best... right??
I guess that's what upset me so much when I finally started researching church history (at the age of 50). Discovering that I had devoted my life to a religion that is a total fabrication was a real shocker, and it hit me like a thunderbolt. When I realized that Joseph Smith was simply a shyster and a con artist who "invented" Mormonism as a way to gain power and money, I became nauseous - literally. I mean, I had stood up so many times over the years in Fast & Testimony meeting and said "I know the church is true, and I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God" - thinking that I really knew those things. So when I discovered that everything taught by the Mormon Church is based on a stack of lies, it really pulled the rug out from under me.
Of course, I had always heard that everyone needs to "gain a personal testimony" of the gospel - so having been born and raised in the church, I attempted to do that many times. And many times, I thought I had gained that "personal testimony." But in reality, I was simply adhering to the programming that had been so deeply imbedded inside me. After all, I had fasted and prayed, following what Moroni had promised in Moroni 10:4, to wit: "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
But even though I thought I had received that "burning in the bosom" that is talked about so often in the Mormon Church, once I realized just how many lies there are laced throughout Mormonism, I also realized that my "burning in the bosom" was simply part of the programming. After all, the "warm fuzzies" are not a reliable source of "confirmation" of anything. And besides, if I had admitted to myself that I had not actually received such a "confirmation," then I would have also had to admit that I must not have asked with a sincere enough heart, lacked real intent, or didn't have enough faith in Christ. In reality, isn't that what the church wants everyone to think? Don't they want people to talk themselves into believing that they really did receive that "burning in the bosom"? Because to believe otherwise would mean that there is something wrong with the Book of Mormon or that Moroni's promise is lacking. No, neither of those options were even possible. So even if the "confirmation" wasn't really received, good little Mormons profess that they did receive it. An outgrowth of the old "It's me, not them" philosophy.
Once I finally realized that the whole thing is a scam and a fraud, though, I felt as though an enormous burden had been lifted from my shoulders. For so many years, I felt as though the weight of the world was practically suffocating me - and in some respects, I didn't understand why. Many times, I blamed situational circumstances in my life, even thinking that perhaps I was simply a flawed individual who couldn't appreciate happiness. I spent so many years looking for peace of mind, but found that it eluded me constantly.
But once I came to terms with the fact that Mormonism is nothing but an enormous fraud, I also realized that the reason I had felt so discombobulated over the years was due to cognitive dissonance. Trying to rationalize out so many conflicting ideas had really done a number on me - and when I shed myself of the many years of programming, it felt as though a huge cloud lifted and the sun shone in on me for the first time.
And now, I am living an authentic life. My beliefs correspond with my thoughts and vice versa. Things that make no sense have been assigned to their proper place - not in my belief system, but rather in oblivion. The one thing that remains, though, is an occasional "return to anger," not only at the Mormon Church itself, but also at myself for allowing myself to be majorly duped for so many years. I still struggle with being angry at myself for not realizing sooner that it is simply a pile of rubbish, and that part still irks me to this very day.
But even my sporadic bouts of anger at my former "Mormonness" can't diminish the sense of peace and tranquility that has pervaded my soul. Yes, living an authentic life is quite simply a reward all its own.