Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Callings, Part 4

There wasn't originally going to be a part 4 to my post about callings--I thought I was basically done--but then I remembered there was one last part to the tale I'd forgotten to include.

One day last month, I checked my phone messages on Sunday morning to find a call from a member of the Elders' Quorum Presidency asking me if I'd teach the lesson in the priesthood meeting that Sunday, and requesting that I call him back to confirm. Well, he'd made the call on Friday (and apologized for its last-minute nature), but I hadn't checked my phone messages and found out about it till that morning--so it seemed pointless to call him back now. On not hearing from me, I assumed he'd have found someone else by then.

But when I got to church, the president of the Elders' Quorum came up to me and asked me if I was ready to teach the lesson. I told him, truthfully, that I hadn't gotten the message until that morning, and while I'd read through the lesson just in case I really hadn't had time to do any preparation. As it turned out, though, he hadn't even read the lesson, so he still asked me to teach it, reasoning apparently that I was still better prepared than he was.

A lot of emphasis is put on the church on teaching by the Spirit. The inspiration of the Holy Ghost is supposed to be present while you teach, and you're supposed to be guided by its promptings. Church members invariably claim to be able to sense when the Holy Ghost is present and when it isn't; "I really felt the Spirit during your talk" is a common compliment. Naturally, the gift of the Holy Ghost is only available to those who ask God for it and who are faithful and believing. Which means that, if that doctrine were true, then as an atheist (even if I hadn't admitted to it and those at church didn't know about my atheism), I definitely shouldn't have had the Holy Ghost with me, and my lesson should have been completely uninspired. The fact that people still told me afterwards what an effective lesson I'd given, and complimented me on my insight, and that not one person remarked on the absence of the Spirit that was supposed to be such an important part of the process, is then perhaps rather telling.

The president of the Elders' Quorum asked me afterwards if I'd be willing to accept a calling as a regular instructor. Well, obviously I wouldn't really feel comfortable in such a calling, given that I don't believe in what I'd be teaching--but then again, as callings go there are worse ones (after all, I'd only be "teaching" people who already believed in this, anyway, not trying to persuade people who didn't), and it seemed unlikely I'd be left long without some calling (and while I could turn it down, that would be unusual enough that it might raise too many questions), so I agreed. So far, though, for whatever reason the calling hasn't officially happened yet, so I guess maybe I'll be left without a calling after all. Although I have to say there's some amusing irony in the idea of the ward unknowingly having its priesthood lessons taught by an atheist...

(A note about the previous post: There've been a couple of replies regarding the ethical issue of coming forward with my atheism after having been Young Men's President, saying that there really isn't any ethical dilemma involved, and that regardless of the trust the parents and church leaders of the ward may have put in me when I was in that position, and although it would have been abusing that trust to use my position as Young Men's President to try to sway the kids toward atheism, now that I'm not in that position and have no official jurisdiction over them there'd be nothing unethical about coming out as an atheist even if I do still have some unofficial influence over them. I've given the matter a little further thought, and really...they're absolutely right. As I replied:

Yeah...on further thought, you're right about the ethical issue. I guess I was just kind of clinging to that as an excuse; the truth is it's less about there being any real ethical problem than about my concern that the parents and church leaders might feel like I betrayed them--but I really ought to not be so concerned about what people think of me.

Still, realizing I shouldn't be concerned about it, and actually not being concerned about it, are two different things.


In any case, in time it ought to be a moot point...I suppose the Young Men will forget about me eventually. I certainly have no recollection of who was in the Young Men's Presidency of the ward I grew up in. Still...I guess I'm just kind of grasping at excuses, when at base the main reason I'm reluctant to come out as an atheist is for fear of the reactions of the people I know at church, and of my family. As I said, I know I ought not to be so concerned about what people think of me...but it's hard not to be. I do fully intend to go public with my atheism eventually...but it may be a while before I really feel ready for that step.)

11 Comments:

At 11/26/2006 8:43 AM, Blogger Lifewish said...

Still...I guess I'm just kind of grasping at excuses, when at base the main reason I'm reluctant to come out as an atheist is for fear of the reactions of the people I know at church, and of my family.

That's a decent reason to be nervous - why be ashamed of it? If it's important enough to you then you're going to be factoring it in to your profit-loss calculations anyway. Attempting to downplay it as an element of your internal dialogue would appear to just be generating a certain amount of tangled internal web.

A more productive approach might be to see if you can work out any ways to reduce the potential for damage, or to mitigate it once it's occurred. Have you attempted to track down other apostates to study their experiences? What precisely are your goals here? What are the risks, and is there any way to quantify them? Can the scientific method be applied?

At present you're apparently making intuitive decisions off the back of a morass of unexpressed desires and fears. You can do better than that.

 
At 11/26/2006 3:00 PM, Blogger Deacon Barry said...

Please don't feel pressured to come out as an atheist. This is your life, and you must make the decision yourself when you feel the time is right. I agree with Lifewish, try and find other ex-mormons who are now atheists and get their perspective on the situation.
You've already travelled far along the road by starting this blog. Two posts in two days! Way to go!

 
At 11/27/2006 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anuminous said...

Hello again, AC. As always it is good to hear from you. As an established apostate Mormon, I would like to offer you a few encouraging words.

First of all, now in my mid-30s, I only remember one YM president, but he was also our scout master, so there was a lot going on there.

I stopped going to church fairly badly and abruptly. I lost my testimony all at once in my late teens and there was some confrontation with my parents over that, especially seeing as how I was still living with them. It blew over very quickly however. Some members of my previous ward were less than polite with me, but I never cared for them anyway. Their behavior was symptomatic of the type of person they are, and I suppose that is why I never liked them. I get a call from "my home teacher" every couple of years, despite having sent my letter to Salt Lake. Other than that, I have maintained an excellent relationship with everybody I cared to from my old ward for nearly twenty years now.

Every Christmas I go to a carol-singing party held by one of my very favorite people and one-time bishop, and we sing assorted songs of a generally religious tenor with no distress. I still get to sing the bass solo parts in The Boar's Head Carol, and when one person complained that an atheist was giving thanks to god (reddens laudes Domino), my ex-bishop told him to get a grip.

I guess the bottom line is that the people who are worth knowing will accept you as yourself regardless, so when you feel ready, come out as yourself with courage and the people who only cared about what you believed were not that worthwhile anyway.

Finally, my experience took place on the east coast, and I seem to recall you are a little deeper behind the Zion Curtain. Things may have gone differently for me if I lived on Orem, but there you have it. My deconversion process was overall an excellent thing for me, and I wish you well.

 
At 11/27/2006 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anuminous said...

Hello again, AC. As always it is good to hear from you. As an established apostate Mormon, I would like to offer you a few encouraging words.

First of all, now in my mid-30s, I only remember one YM president, but he was also our scout master, so there was a lot going on there.

I stopped going to church fairly badly and abruptly. I lost my testimony all at once in my late teens and there was some confrontation with my parents over that, especially seeing as how I was still living with them. It blew over very quickly however. Some members of my previous ward were less than polite with me, but I never cared for them anyway. Their behavior was symptomatic of the type of person they are, and I suppose that is why I never liked them. I get a call from "my home teacher" every couple of years, despite having sent my letter to Salt Lake. Other than that, I have maintained an excellent relationship with everybody I cared to from my old ward for nearly twenty years now.

Every Christmas I go to a carol-singing party held by one of my very favorite people and one-time bishop, and we sing assorted songs of a generally religious tenor with no distress. I still get to sing the bass solo parts in The Boar's Head Carol, and when one person complained that an atheist was giving thanks to god (reddens laudes Domino), my ex-bishop told him to get a grip.

I guess the bottom line is that the people who are worth knowing will accept you as yourself regardless, so when you feel ready, come out as yourself with courage and the people who only cared about what you believed were not that worthwhile anyway.

Finally, my experience took place on the east coast, and I seem to recall you are a little deeper behind the Zion Curtain. Things may have gone differently for me if I lived on Orem, but there you have it. My deconversion process was overall an excellent thing for me, and I wish you well.

 
At 11/27/2006 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anuminous said...

Hmph. Fool system kept telling my I had my verify word wrong...

 
At 11/27/2006 9:20 PM, Anonymous llewelly said...


Which means that, if that doctrine were true, then as an atheist (even if I hadn't admitted to it and those at church didn't know about my atheism), I definitely shouldn't have had the Holy Ghost with me, and my lesson should have been completely uninspired.


Don't forget, the darkness is deeper for those who once understood the message of the Holy Ghost, and then turned away. ooo, deeper darkness, ooo.

 
At 11/27/2006 11:39 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

Finally, my experience took place on the east coast, and I seem to recall you are a little deeper behind the Zion Curtain.

I'm not, actually. I've intentionally avoided stating where I live (the better to maintain my anonymity), but while my family brought me up in the LDS church I don't live in an area where the church is dominant. (Though I did just get back from visiting my brother in Utah for Thanksgiving--I'll probably make a post about that tomorrow.)

Thanks, everyone for your comments...and anuminous, thanks especially for your relation of your experiences. Even though I'm really not expecting anyone I really care about to turn away from me completely when I come out with my atheism, it's still encouraging to hear a first-hand account from someone who's gone through this already.

 
At 1/27/2007 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naturally, the gift of the Holy Ghost is only available to those who ask God for it and who are faithful and believing. Which means that, if that doctrine were true, then as an atheist ... I definitely shouldn't have had the Holy Ghost with me, and my lesson should have been completely uninspired. The fact that people still told me afterwards what an effective lesson I'd given... and that not one person remarked on the absence of the Spirit that was supposed to be such an important part of the process, is then perhaps rather telling.

Not really that telling actually because of two basic principles:

1) You're right that the full Gift of the Holy Ghost is only available to people who meet the criteria you listed above. However, the Light of Christ, which is a function of the Holy Ghost, is available to all - member, non-member, less active or atheist. A classic example of this is when missionaries identify the influence of the Holy Ghost when teaching investigators.

2) The Holy Ghost's prime role is to confirm truth. Put simply, it's more about the message than the messenger. As long as you are speaking truth then the Holy Ghost can confirm it. The speaker doesn't "channel" the Holy Ghost they can only help invite its presence by speaking truth. The fact that you don't feel you have the Spirit with you or even believe in what you're saying does not change whether it is true or not or whether the listener can recognise and have truth confirmed by the Holy Ghost.

This is standard and basic church doctrine. It seems to me that you are clutching at straws to justify your "deconversion" (great term by the way) which is apparently not as firmly based in logic as you might believe.

If peace of mind in this matter really is important to you then an honest investigation and perhaps a reevaluation of some other basic beliefs might be order. Moroni 10:4-5 would be a great place to start from. It's not called a Promise for nothing. Of course the positive aspect is usually spoken to in reagrds to this scripture, but the opposite is equally true. If you come away from a genuine application of the principles mentioned in that scripture and still don't believe then it's all good. Peace of mind will be yours.

 
At 1/28/2007 12:22 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

This is standard and basic church doctrine. It seems to me that you are clutching at straws to justify your "deconversion" (great term by the way) which is apparently not as firmly based in logic as you might believe.

I'm fully aware of "basic church doctrine", but despite what you claim above, there are other criteria for the Spirit to be present, and no, by the church's teachings about the Spirit, it would not be present with someone teaching what he doesn't believe, "truth" or not. It seems you're the one clutching at straws here. In fact, very far from "clutching at straws to justify [my] 'deconversion'", I've finally come to terms with the fact that for years I've been clutching at straws to try to justify my belief in the church.

I don't need further reasons to not believe in the church. I don't believe in the church because I have no reason to believe. And having anonymous posters quote back at me scriptures and doctrines I'm very familiar with, thanks, certainly doesn't do anything to change that.

If peace of mind in this matter really is important to you then an honest investigation and perhaps a reevaluation of some other basic beliefs might be order.

Since I finally admitted to myself that I have no reason for belief, I've had much greater peace of mind about the matter than I've ever had before. Of course, the social aspects are difficult, the worrying about how my family and friends will react when I come out as an atheist. But as far as my beliefs, I have peace of mind now, thanks. I feel like there's a great weight been lifted now that I'm no longer lying to myself about what I supposedly believe.

 
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