Reining in the Analyst

By: jmb275
December 7, 2011

On August 6, 2009 I introduced myself to the bloggernacle with the introduction Unleashing the Analyst. A Personal Story. It is a story about me, my faith journey to that point, and some of the positions I had at that time. The real revelation in the story (even if only for myself) was the unboxing of the analyst that has always been inside me. I’m an engineer, so my propensity to analyze and criticize, in addition to being perhaps a personality quirk, takes on a professional role as well.

Recently, however, events have caused me to acknowledge the limitations of this powerful tool, and analyze (yes I recognize the irony) how it is not, perhaps, everything I once thought it to be. So this is the continuation of a personal story, a reigning in of the analyst.

Life seemed simpler before the events in my life caused me to question everything. Going to church was something I anticipated, and it felt like welcome relief. General Conference was a charging of my spiritual batteries, and I derived great comfort from things like the Ensign. It’s not so much that I was ignorant of the problems in the church, nor did I understand or believe every aspect of the Gospel. There were doctrinal struggles, even then. But I derived happiness from my certainty, from my feeling, from my intuition, or from the Spirit (whatever that might mean). It’s also not that I now constantly bicker with church leaders, or criticize each talk and lesson when I go to church now. Indeed, at church I usually don’t say much, but listen carefully to try and learn. It’s really about what’s going on in my mind, the nagging voice that feels the urge to constantly correct, analyze, and thoroughly dissect each idea, sentence, and thought.

In short, I no longer feel when I go to church, I only think. And that, I’m afraid, sums up the problem when the analyst is the only one who shows up. And yet, I really do want to go to church and so I continue to go and slog through the analysis. I know what is possible there. I remember the feelings, the certainty, the truth. And still, even though I know (and don’t want) that certainty anymore, even though I’m happy with my outlook on life now, I believe I can allow myself to experience the feelings that were there if I can remind myself what it’s like to feel rather than analyze them.

Like many other things in life, it seems that analysis, like feelings, are tools to be used with discretion. Sometimes I’ve pulled out the wrong tool for the job, and need to put it back and try to find the right one. Other times, it’s not quite clear what the right tool is. I believe we should apply appropriate scrutiny to claims of such a weighty nature as those discussed in the Gospel. Nevertheless, at this point in my life, I find myself less inclined to view my religion (Mormonism) as an indicator of truth, and more as an indicator of what is good for me. And why is it good for me? Because of the way it makes me feel. The big hurdle is to once again allow it make me feel good. And for that to happen, the analyst needs to go back in the toolbox.

So in the vein of reigning in the analyst, and attempting to rediscover what it is about Mormonism that makes me feel good let me remind myself (and all of you) what’s so great about Mormonism:

  • Mormonism produces great people. Sorry, no matter how you slice it, the majority of Mormons would give you the shirt of their back if you asked them. At least that’s my experience.
  • A set of paradoxical doctrines and ideals that seem to appropriately counteract each other as well as human nature. Self-reliance vs. caring for the needy, liberty vs. obedience, etc.
  • Service. Service. Service. I’m so grateful for the chance to serve each week.
  • A temple ceremony, second to none IMHO, that provides the quintessential hero’s journey.
  • Guiding suggestions/commandments that really will lead to a healthy lifestyle. I have plenty of gripes about the Word of Wisdom, but at the end of the day, you won’t go wrong by following it (especially if you actually follow D&C 89).
  • Music that makes my heart sing, and my soul rejoice.

And so I ask you, dear readers, what about Mormonism makes you feel? I’m not interested in whether or not you think Mormonism is true, I’m interested in what about it makes you feel good.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

34 Responses to Reining in the Analyst

  1. Paul on December 7, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    jmb, nice work.

    Here is a short list for me:

    1. The hymns (even sung too slow) still hold a great deal of meaning and power for me. Music is an important part of my worship.

    2. The scriptures — I enjoy reading them, learning from them, telling my kids the stories, remembering what I felt when I read a certain passage before. Those memories of key “aha’s” are a big part of my faith journey.

    3. Kindness — I have met some exceptionally generous and kind people. I know not everyone is, but the ones I know offset those who are not. I am moved and encouraged by their goodness.

    (Thanks for your thoughts about proper placement of the analyst, too. I was mulling this very thought myself this week and will blog about it tomorrow…)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  2. will on December 7, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    Andrew,

    That was excellent and it goes perfectly well with the Savior’s comment (my favorite quote) “by their fruits shall ye know them”. Living the Gospel makes bad men good and good men better. This is why he also said be ye doers of the word and not hearers only. It is when we apply these principles that we are truly converted.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  3. Will on December 7, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Sorry, that should be jmb, not Andrew. Great post.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. Heber13 on December 7, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    jmb275, GREAT post and well said.

    You and I kind of started on some of these similar paths about the same time back in late 2008 and early 2009.

    I, too, have found myself at church doing a lot of THINKING, and trying to reign in my critical thoughts on everything being said, and I try to really emphasize to myself honestly when I do FEEL something, so I remember that those experiences are able to happen for me at church also and I didn’t want to become calloused or cynical and forget when I do truly FEEL things at church. Nonetheless, most Sundays were leaving me with the feeling that the church experiences were OK, but not so fulfilling, lessons not so stimulating, comments making me roll my eyes…and back into analysis I go of whether that is worth my time, what are the reasons I’m uncomfortable, what my kids need apart from my needs, why is so much incorrect stuff being said, why does the church not correct these flaws, etc etc etc.

    As I’ve been dealing with this for months now, I have come to think that a lot of Mormonism and Church is about FEELING connected with others, be that God, my family, or my tribe. The lesson or talk can be unorganized and shallow, but if it stimulates some shared experiences…people feel good about being there. If not, brief encounters in passing in the hallways or after meetings stimulates the social experience. And so I analyzed, “Is that all church is good for…socializing?” For some, maybe, but in my opinion, that is not necessarily all it is about. It can be about more.

    “Moroni 6:5 And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.”
    “D&C 50:22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together”

    I am trying to get myself to accept that going to church may not be the place to do heavy, constant analysis and critical thinking. I can do that at home and in my personal studies.

    There can be a need met in my life by suspending that for a time, and participating with the tribe in a way that can help me feel something, something I don’t get when I stay by myself in a room with books.

    No, we gather in church to be edified, and that means connecting with people through hearts and minds. The often analogy of going to church is like eating a meal. You don’t analyze the meal…you consume it and it nourishes you. You can analyze how that happens later, or what are the best foods to consume to help you be most satisfied…but at some point, you put down the analysis and you just eat.

    That’s what I think now in my journey, but I will admit it is not always easy. I struggle to know how to balance it with personal needs and goals that I THINK about all the time. I struggle to feel that I think of the gospel differently than what I think most people think about it at church, and so I’m trying to figure out how to connect, despite feeling unique in my thoughts about the gospel and mystical things. Its a work in progress. Some weeks are better than others. But I haven’t given up yet.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  5. Jeff Spector on December 7, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Let’s face the facts:

    1. If one were to critically analyze the entire basis of any major religion based only on objective facts, we would out right reject them all.
    2. There is little historical proof. Or, should I say there are enough holes in the historical record that you have to leap over them to complete the story.
    3. Faith alone often leads to disappointment because something comes up to make us question why we have it.
    4. Other people often screw up the experience for us.

    But, using a combination of fact, faith, and hope and charity, we can enjoy a marvelous experience by not over-analyzing it and just going with the flow.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  6. jmb275 on December 7, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Re Heber13-
    Very well said. It is surely a skill to be developed, one that I don’t think I had before. That is, I surely felt at church before, but there was no analysis, no critical thinking. It was one sided. My hope is to know balance those forces.

    Re Jeff-
    Absolutely. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Joseph Campbell

    People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about.

    It’s really the experience that keeps me in the game.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  7. Jeff Spector on December 7, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    JMB,

    Love that quote. I would extend it to us as LDS that we are also preparing for the life to come, which we have been told is better.

    It’s in that preparation that we sometimes differ in the what and how.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  8. Cowboy on December 7, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    “1. If one were to critically analyze the entire basis of any major religion based only on objective facts, we would out right reject them all.”

    Now, I entirely agree with that.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  9. whome on December 7, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Willingness to “be in the moment” and let life flow allows me to feel the possible intentions of speakers rather than hearing literal context only. This enhances my “feeling” experience at meetings.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. Paul on December 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    #9 whome — great suggestion.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  11. Andrew S. on December 7, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    jmb,

    We are at the place where our posts are confused for one another’s. I like this place ;)

    I have two major comments in response:

    1) I don’t want to see “feeling” in opposition to “thinking.” I don’t want to do something that “feels” good if I think it’s wrong. (isn’t that what the church focuses on a lot…that some things that feel good are nevertheless bad.)

    2) For a lot of people, the church doesn’t even feel good. I’m thinking of things like, “I’m a Christian, unless you’re gay,” which definitely applies to a lot of Mormons, unfortunately.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  12. Jeff Spector on December 7, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Andrew S,

    “(isn’t that what the church focuses on a lot…that some things that feel good are nevertheless bad.)”

    I do not recall ever hearing or reading that? I guess it depends on how you define “feeling?” Is it mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.

    Big differences there, I think.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  13. Andrew S on December 7, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I think “feeling” is a pretty amorphous term, of course.

    I would just say that a lot of the church’s discourse on sexuality is about playing feeling (especially arousal, attraction, inclinations, desires, orientation, etc.,) against duty/responsibility (control, restraint, marital covenants, heterosexuality, family, etc.)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  14. Jeff Spector on December 7, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Andrew,

    “I would just say that a lot of the church’s discourse on sexuality is about playing feeling (especially arousal, attraction, inclinations, desires, orientation, etc.,) against duty/responsibility (control, restraint, marital covenants, heterosexuality, family, etc.)”

    I look at it differently. I see the church teaching self-mastery. Controlling ones natural impulses against commandments and covenants.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  15. Childe Jake on December 7, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I find it problematic to compartmentalize analysis and feeling the way you have above. It shouldn’t be an either/or thing. Feelings and analysis can and should inform one another. Where people get into trouble, in religion and science, is by taking one or two feelings/studies, and decreeing them to be the complete and final answer. A lot of great engineering breakthroughs probably started in the gut, but they became great through rigorous testing and analysis.

    I don’t get a good feeling when I see a discussion about Mormonism, or any religion, that seeks to limit conversation to the “good” stuff. It’s essentially saying, don’t assess this religion by what it claims to be. Don’t judge this religion by the immense and often traumatizing pressures it brings to bear on people (pressures that are only justifiable if the religion is true). Instead, you request in your last sentence that we just focus on the “good” facets. Why the limitation? Why, even in a single blog comment, should I afford Mormonism a courtesy it has never afforded me?

    Of course there are many things in Mormonism that have and continue to make me feel good. My most recent interaction with the local Bishop being an example. I felt good about him as a man and a neighbor. His kindness struck me as genuine. But put another way, the life of Mother Theresa is not a good enough reason to become, or stay, Catholic. History provides us with a deep reservoir of atrocities justified in the name of pleasing God and staying loyal to a church. And I dare say that in some cases these atrocities have been enabled by rightly-skeptical members sitting passively in the pews, only giving credence to the good feelings. In any case, a decade spent outside of the flock has demonstrated to me that all of the things I felt good about in Mormonism can be found elsewhere.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  16. jmb275 on December 7, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Re Andrew-

    We are at the place where our posts are confused for one another’s. I like this place

    Hey, I’ll take it!!

    1) I don’t want to see “feeling” in opposition to “thinking.” I don’t want to do something that “feels” good if I think it’s wrong.

    I hope I didn’t say that. I don’t think I did. This post was primarily about me, and I imagine people that might be in a similar situation. I certainly do not intend any extrapolation to a generalization to all people in all situations. I definitely think there is a balance to be had, and the point of my post is a recognition that, at least for me, that balance had shifted in a unhealthy direction.

    2) For a lot of people, the church doesn’t even feel good. I’m thinking of things like, “I’m a Christian, unless you’re gay,” which definitely applies to a lot of Mormons, unfortunately.

    I can’t speak for others, but for me this is a moot point. Why? Because if church doesn’t even feel good, they should leave! Again, I do NOT intend any generalization, so any propensity to see “principles” in my post should be repressed. In any case, you certainly know I would agree with your concern, and wouldn’t advise people to stay if they don’t feel good.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  17. jmb275 on December 7, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    Re Childe Jake-

    I find it problematic to compartmentalize analysis and feeling the way you have above. It shouldn’t be an either/or thing. Feelings and analysis can and should inform one another.

    Hmm, perhaps this is a miscommunication on my part. I don’t see where I’ve said they should be compartmentalized. Perhaps the tool analogy? But tools aren’t necessarily compartments, are they? In any case I didn’t intend that. I’ll repeat what I said to Andrew. I had NO intention of an extrapolation to a general principle that people should follow, or that anyone should follow. This was a post about me, a recognition of my current state and weaknesses. I would imagine you would know me well enough to know I wouldn’t think it was an either/or thing.

    Where people get into trouble, in religion and science, is by taking one or two feelings/studies, and decreeing them to be the complete and final answer.

    Certainly. I think this is just how I used to be.

    A lot of great engineering breakthroughs probably started in the gut, but they became great through rigorous testing and analysis.

    This is interesting on many levels. Let me make a few points:
    1. The real measuring stick of the goodness of something in engineering is how well it works. Rigorous analysis is often found after the fact. Sometimes it’s the other way around, but at the end of day it’s how well something works that defines its worth.
    2. Consider a human. Humans are not always consistent, they don’t hold up to rigorous analysis, and they are notoriously unreliable. They resist all the testing, rules, theorems, and proofs that makes engineering and science what it is. The power in science, mathematics, and engineering comes from the ability to provide guarantees. No human can live up to that. And yet, we do not toss out all our relationships with people. We choose people to be around because of the way they make us feel, not because they measure up to some standard of truth. And yet, we certainly wouldn’t hang out with Charles Manson.

    I don’t get a good feeling when I see a discussion about Mormonism, or any religion, that seeks to limit conversation to the “good” stuff. It’s essentially saying, don’t assess this religion by what it claims to be. Don’t judge this religion by the immense and often traumatizing pressures it brings to bear on people (pressures that are only justifiable if the religion is true).

    You certainly know that I agree with you. In light of my point #2 above, and the fact that I agree with you, what this boils down to then is the line at which we draw the threshold of our tolerance for the good vs. the bad. That line is different for everyone, and I don’t pretend that I have any authority to determine that line for anyone else. But to pretend that ONLY traumatizing pressures are brought onto people in Mormonism is to be blind to reality. But I don’t think you think that.

    Instead, you request in your last sentence that we just focus on the “good” facets. Why the limitation? Why, even in a single blog comment, should I afford Mormonism a courtesy it has never afforded me?

    You shouldn’t! If you don’t believe it has ever offered your that courtesy, you shouldn’t give it the same. Again, this post isn’t about what you should do, or anyone else should do, it’s about what I think I should do.

    But put another way, the life of Mother Theresa is not a good enough reason to become, or stay, Catholic.

    Certainly.

    History provides us with a deep reservoir of atrocities justified in the name of pleasing God and staying loyal to a church.

    Absolutely. And I think those back to the line which each of us must draw.

    And I dare say that in some cases these atrocities have been enabled by rightly-skeptical members sitting passively in the pews, only giving credence to the good feelings.

    Well, for me, I draw pretty strict lines for casting blame, and I’m fairly skeptical of the concept of “neglect” and “enabling” since it’s hard to understand all the nuances that lead to decisions that are made. Let’s be clear here. People committing and facilitating those atrocities are the ones to blame, not those innocently in the pews, skeptical or not. My payment of taxes is not an endorsement of the atrocities committed by our gov’t in the Middle East or the dropping of the A-bomb on Japan. My attendance at U of M is not an endorsement of crimes committed by students. This, again, goes back to the lines we each draw. If I felt the good didn’t outweigh the bad at U of M, or if there was a sufficiently horrifying atrocity committed under the guidance of administrators at U of M, I would leave, but others might stay. In either case I think it’s a pretty tenuous proposition to cast the mere act of “staying” as an endorsement of the bad. I’m reminded of many of the ridiculous claims in the political arena of what Mitt Romney must have been endorsing when he kicked off his campaign at the Ford Museum.

    In any case, a decade spent outside of the flock has demonstrated to me that all of the things I felt good about in Mormonism can be found elsewhere.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for that decision.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  18. hawkgrrrl on December 7, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    jmb275 – great post. This is very similar to how I enjoy church; participation has to be based on one’s own experiences. I also agree with Jeff’s 4 points in #5. We should quit pretending otherwise, IMO.

    ChildeJake: “Feelings and analysis can and should inform one another.” I agree with this, but the word ‘feelings’ is tricky. I perceive jmb275 to really be talking about personal experience, not just warm fuzzies. The church has a poor history of conflating sentimentality with spirit and of occasionally getting on the wrong side of science. I don’t see jmb275 advocating that.

    “I don’t get a good feeling when I see a discussion about Mormonism, or any religion, that seeks to limit conversation to the “good” stuff.” Nor do I, and nor does jmb275 I’m sure. What I’m hearing him say is that overall his experience is positive. His analysis, when on overdrive in the church setting, limits his experience.

    Phrases like “what it claims to be” and “immense and often traumatizing pressures” sound like your own experience. And you have to base your own participation on your own experience. That’s all I’m hearing in this post. In that light, your example of a kind bishop is relevant because he’s part of your personal experience. Mother Theresa is someone you will never meet, even if you become Catholic, so she’s irrelevant to your participation.

    “all of the things I felt good about in Mormonism can be found elsewhere.” Then, based on your experience, follow your own bliss.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  19. Ben S on December 8, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Excellent post. I have the same issue with taking the analyst to church. (Heck, happens with the scriptures too.)

    It reminds a lot of one of my favorite old talks, where he talks about law students transitioning into always-analysing and breaking down.
    http://lds.org/ensign/1979/08/on-dealing-with-uncertainty?lang=eng

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  20. MH on December 8, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    jmb, great post–you’ve given me food for thought, but my analyst doesn’t know quite what to do with them.

    Heber, I could really identify with a lot of what you said, because I have the same thoughts, “lessons not so stimulating, comments making me roll my eyes…and back into analysis I go of whether that is worth my time…

    This is me pretty much every week. Our stake has an indexing class for Sunday School, and I love going because I actually feel like I am doing something useful, and I don’t have to sit through another poorly prepared or thoughtless lesson.

    You said something that I haven’t considered, and still don’t know the answer to. What are the reasons I’m uncomfortable? My first answer is that I feel like I wanted to be stimulated beyond what the church gives. I want to think deeply, not superficially. But is there something else that makes me uncomfortable that I’m not grasping? Do you have any insights into what makes you uncomfortable?

    I’ll keep going to church, because like you, I think it is good fort my kids, and I am ok with providing an example that they need to go to church. But I feel like the church could do more to cause the adults to grow spiritually, and not focus solely on kids or new converts. I mean in the early days, Joseph taught the King Follett sermon to everyone–kids, adults, and new converts. Why do we need to dumb down the gospel to the basics only?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  21. Ray on December 8, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Before I read the comments, I just want to say how much I really like this post, jmb. A huge part of my peace and enlightenment at and about church has been due to my attempt to turn off my mind at certain times and in certain situations and just be in tune with my feelings.

    I love to think about lots of things, but it’s harder for me to “feel” them – so I have had to learn how to let go of my own inner analyst and just let myself feel. It’s been a wonderful experience.

    Now I’ll read the comments.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  22. Ray on December 8, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Oh, and on a picky, editing note, it’s “reining in” – not “reigning in”.

    See, I can’t always turn off the analyst. lol

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  23. Jeff Spector on December 8, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    I see, in some posts, a lack of responsibility for our own spiritual growth and knowledge. If we assume that the lessons at Church may be provided for “the least of us” and we are there to support the growth of others as well as ourselves, maybe our view of Church might be more positive.

    I tend to study the most interesting things on my own with some prompting from what I might hear at Church.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  24. Ray on December 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I apologize upfront for the length of this comment.

    I bore my testimony last Sunday and said the following:

    1) I am the oldest son in my family, and I’ve never wanted nor related to the concept of an elder brother – hence, I have a really hard time “feeling” the power of that analogy for Jesus. I don’t know how to feel about an older brother, and I just don’t care much about it intellectually.

    2) I had a wonderful, caring, humble, loving father – hence, I have no problem “feeling” the power of that title for Jesus’ God. I know how it feels to have a “heavenly father”, but I don’t care much about it intellectually.

    3) I LOVE the intellectual / philosophical / theological concept of an atonement – but I have had to work out my own intellectual understanding of it. I love how I think about the Atonement, and I care deeply about it intellectually.

    4) I’m glad our theology and my ward allows people who think and feel differently to be accepted regardless of those differences – and I’m glad I have the chance to learn things I normally wouldn’t think or feel on my own from people who think and feel differently than I do.

    That’s why I go to church – to connect with people I really do love and learn from them in some way. It works most weeks, even on days when I hear lots of things with which I disagree intellectually (and that last situation occurs quite frequently). I’ve learned not to care as much as I used to care – and I’ve learned to accept that other people think and feel in certain ways because it works for them.

    I want them to accept that I follow what works for me, so I need to accept that they will follow what works for them.

    “We love him, because he first loved us.” At church, I try really hard to be the “he” in that construct – and the proof of whether or not I’m succeeding is when I disagree the most.

    I acknowledge that it’s easier for me than for lots of other people, especially, for example, gay members – but all I have is my own life and expereinces, so it’s up to me to the best I can within those experiences.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  25. Clean Cut on December 8, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    jmb275, this post really hits home for me. In fact, I feel like I could have written your third and fourth paragraphs. Not only do I do this a lot with church in general, but even with reading scriptures. It’s become a little more analytical/thinking than feeling. And so I appreciate the reminder to “feel” a little more.

    The times I suppose I get more “good feelings” more often than just the analytical feelings are when I can connect with others and feel on the same page as them–mutual understanding and mutual appreciation–such as in an engaging class in which there’s great participation from fellow Saints and great leading of the discussion from a teacher. (Although I recognize that we often classes need the “thinkers” to jump start the lessons so that they can become more engaging in the first place).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  26. jmb275 on December 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    Re #22 Ray-
    Ah crap, you’re totally right! I just wasn’t thinking. Changing it now.

    Re #24 Ray-
    Really great testimony. I think/hope I’ve made some progress in my own ward in helping us open up to more nuance and admissions of uncertainty where it exists. We’re not quite to the same place it appears your ward is, but I think it can happen. We have a wonderful bishop.

    Re MH-
    I hear you brother. I’ve also had to think a lot about what makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s the lesson. Sometimes it’s because I’m hearing the same old stuff about obedience of following the prophet or whatever. I have had some success in attempting to see through the words that people are speaking and trying to “see” them. Doesn’t always work so be sure to bring your kindle along ;-)!

    Re Clean Cut-
    In my own life I’ve recognized the need for a better balance of these two tools. The analyst had just taken over too many things. Plus, frankly, it’s a burden to be skeptical and critical all the time!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  27. Jake on December 9, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Your post reminded me of a quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein in which he said that ‘even doubt has its limits.’ His point was that doubting, critical thought and deconstruction whilst they have their place there comes a point when you can deconstruct ad infinitum. To function in society we can’t walk about doubting everything that we encounter in life, at some point we just have to trust others and the world.

    I think at times the church is like this. Sometimes you do have to put a limit on the doubt and just trust.

    As to what I love about the church. I love the wealth of paradoxes, uncertaintys and history. There is just so much about the church and the gospel that I find fascinating and I do find the people in that are all amazing people.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  28. jmb275 on December 9, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Re Jake
    I love that sentiment. Being the nerd that I am, I often couch this kind of sentiment in the extremes of the Romuluns and Vulcans from Star Trek. It’s interesting that the Vulcans are a peaceful people, but entirely devoid of pleasure, and the Romuluns are war mongerers, always in conflict, never using any rational thought, letting their feelings carry the day.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  29. Heber13 on December 9, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    MH – I think what makes me uncomfortable is mostly the chairs they use in the back of the overflow…perhaps I should get there earlier and get a bench with padding?

    Actually, I haven’t found out why yet. Still thinking about it, because I think there are LOTS of really good people so I never go with a negative mind, but I feel like the air is mostly about affirming faith, so it is the same sanitized (correlated) stuff over and over, with no one stopping to think about what it means (or at least I don’t hear it). IOW, it is less about learning new things or deeper, and more about affirming what we’ve been taught sometimes with a new slant to make it applicable to daily life.

    I’ve posted enough on these boards for you to know I’m still a believing member, and look for the good feelings and experience at church. But the uncomfortableness often comes from feeling on the outskirts of the flock, not centered…and it doesn’t seem that is understood by others. I started for a while to think of how I can try to help strengthen the ward by providing own uniqueness to the ward, help ask questions or make comments to drive a little deeper or let others who think like me know there are actually a spectrum of ways to see things and they are not the only ones. But I sense it makes others uncomfortable, almost threatening, and I need to be careful to not stray from my objective of enhancing, not destroying, the spirit of the meetings. I’ve learned seeking approval of others is not what is important, but it is just a data point I have noticed, that there is some difference on how I view things, and that doesn’t translate to a comfortable, nourishing feeling. Maybe my uncomfortableness is coming from others not being comfortable. Don’t know for sure.

    Jeff (#23) – I agree with your statement that we can be givers, not at church to be fed by others, and I’m not sure which posts you’re referring to, but the “if you don’t like church then the problem is you” approach I hear you saying is not very insightful, and kind of shallow in my opinion. If you can hear from me, jmb, MH and others, there is a lot of effort being given to find value and meaning at church and effort to our family and members of the ward…and yet my experience is not always positive. Clearly what I feel and how I experience church and life in general goes through personal filters, so that approach applies to everything in life. To take responsibility for my own spirituality includes being responsible enough to acknowledge how I feel and identifying where the problem is, in order to address it. Believe me, I work at staying positive and preparing for church when I go, and engage with others when I can. But I’m also honest enough to just admit how I feel when I’m there. And I hope it gets better as I keep putting effort into it.

    I’m not asking people to change or do it my way at church or feed me what I want, I just want to go to church and have a good experience.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  30. Jeff Spector on December 9, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Heber13,

    “but the “if you don’t like church then the problem is you” approach I hear you saying is not very insightful, and kind of shallow in my opinion.”

    Not sure how you read that into what I said there. Our spirituality and knowledge is our own personal responsibility. The Church must cater to a very wide group in terms of level of spirituality and knowledge about the gospel. To expect a graduate level Sunday School class when the class has freshman and sophomores in it is not reasonable. And we need to be aware and sympathetic to that situation. The is what I refered to as “the least of these.” The lessons are designed to try to reach a middle ground. The teacher is going to play a big part in the way it is presented and what is presented.

    Part of it is a question of expectation. I think we can also make the situation what we wish it to be.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  31. Childe Jake on December 9, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Jmb: in reply to comment #15, you said: “I don’t see where I’ve said they should be compartmentalized.” Consider these statements from your post:

    “Sometimes I’ve pulled out the wrong tool for the job, and need to put it back…” Later in the same paragraph you say that in order to feel good again, “the analyst needs to go back in the toolbox.”

    That’s compartmentalizing. Those are statements that detail using one tool instead of another. Of course, we are talking analogy here. Analogy has limits. And certainly from our many interactions, I trust you don’t mean doing away with critical analysis. As you clarify elsewhere, your larger goal is achieving balance between different approaches. Correct?

    hawkgrrrl: Yes, as both you and jmb indicate, the post is primarily about his personal experience. However, my concern was that he deliberately and preemptively steered the conversation toward discussing just the good feelings. Again, here are jmb’s words in his final sentence:

    “I’m not interested in whether or not you think Mormonism is true, I’m interested in what about it makes you feel good.”

    I reacted strongly to that direction because, as you point out in #18, “The church has a poor history of conflating sentimentality with spirit…” (I would change the word ‘poor’ to ‘extensive and ongoing’.) And I base that on my experience as a missionary who served 2 full years, and as someone many missionaries have since tried to reactivate. In my estimation, “conflating sentimentality with spirit” is the primary tool in the LDS missionary toolbox.

    Apart from the obvious pleasure they provide, I don’t see good feelings as having inherently more worth than bad or troubling feelings. I did a poor job of separating that larger concern from what I know to be jmb’s balanced approach to intellect and feelings. And for that I apologize. Still, I think my larger concern is valid. People, myself included, often put more currency in good feelings so we can dodge facing hard truths and disconcerting facts. Granted, it’s not jmb’s responsibility to cover every contingency in a single post. But can we grant that bad feelings, which I’ll define here as feelings of doubt and worry, can be every bit as valid as good feelings?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  32. Ray on December 9, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    #31 – Jake, have you considered that your reaction and comments are a good example of what this post addresses – an inability to rein in your inner analyst and allow yourself simply to focus on what jmb275 wrote in the end?

    There is a legitimate reason to take a minute now and then and just consider one’s feelings (to “count your many blessings”, so to speak) – but it takes “reining in the analyst” sometimes to do that.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  33. hawkgrrrl on December 10, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    “People, myself included, often put more currency in good feelings so we can dodge facing hard truths and disconcerting facts.” Ditto what Ray said. To further the conflation of sentimentality and spirituality, I agree that you are right that some people mistake good feelings for logic (e.g. I feel good at church, therefore, Joseph Smith saw Angel Moroni who gave him gold plates and Thomas S. Monson literally chats with God on a regular basis). Nobody here is suggesting you should take good feelings for proof of anything, but there is value in simply enjoying going to church while setting aside the need to analyze and logic things to death (if church is in fact a pleasant experience).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  34. crazy diamond on December 26, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    Have come to this post and loved the honesty of soul of all contributors. I’ve found myself walking all of these lines over the years. I remember one powerful missionary quoting that line about one’s heart telling oneself things that one’s mind does not know when teaching my lovely husband. That was useful for him at the time, as a man who had lived up to that point the life of a scientific sceptic. He is able to allow himself to feel the goodness of, for instance, the Book of Mormon, and to allow that to strengthen his testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.

    I’ve changed my position over the years from one of being zealous to hear new and more profound examinations of scripture, to being so brokenhearted about my life’s experience that I need to lean on the comfort of the certainties of others, whilst unfortunately often feeling resentful of their certainties. How messed up is that? Kinda no win for us all…
    .
    However, my experience of scripture is that it can get pretty messy, and those of you who have related the value you find in the gospel’s paradoxes have strengthened me, as has recently reading ‘Rough Stone Rolling’.It seems the gospel was tragic in it’s consequences for Joseph, Emma and many others, and yet they were part of a process that became arguably the salvation of so many.

    Whilst I join with many of you in deploring the group hysteria that sometimes takes over our narrative of testimony,I’m aware of many who quietly continue to good, members or no. And service takes many forms-it can be holding a party or raising a child or doing your job well. I’m pretty clear in my own mind that not only mormons will be ‘saved’.

    I use church on sundays to see what’s good there inasmuch as my jaundiced eye is able,and watch out for the broken hearted such as myself. Since I am actually a psychotherapist, my inner analyst just has to keep me quiet company, qualified by an accepting eye.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: