Embodying the Mormon Cultural Turn: A personal reflection

Embodying the Mormon Cultural Turn: A personal reflection October 8, 2012

I’ve only been blogging since the beginning of the year but in that time I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of comments from readers.  On a regular basis I get messages from well meaning folk who have questions about my level of observance,  some gently call me to repent, some have  even urged me to leave and become a Unitarian (not that we have Unitarians in New Zealand).  I can often feel the head shaking, the disappointment and the confusion of some readers who have concerns about the state of my testimony.  So, for the record, and  as I pointed out in our ward testimony meeting yesterday, I love my church, but  I love other forms of worship.   I’m a religious junkie, I’m a post-modern incarnation of a new cultural Mormonism.  And here’s what I mean.

Earlier this morning while I waited for the final session of General Conference, I listened to Christian rock musician, Matt Redman’s Endless Halleluja and my spirit soared as I was reminded of Revelation 21, my scriptural talisman – the passage that I go back to as my reason for being.  With tears streaming down my face I felt renewed, full of worship. I was bought back from a place heavy with dogmas, and in a song I had a moment of clarity, anticipating a day where I will see the Lord face to face.

I have the privilege of being the adult gospel doctrine teacher and yesterday we spent 40 minutes on 10 verses in 3Nephi 17, turning every utterance of the Lord over with care and reverence.  It was a sacred time where heart felt testimonies were shared spontaneously as we pondered deeply upon the wonder of Christ and the miracle of the Book of Mormon.

Next week I’ll attend an Anglican service with the  Christchurch Cathedral community  to watch my son sing in the choir.  I expect the sermon will be thoughtful and well crafted, and the music will be flawless.  I anticipate it will provide me with a moment of deep introspection and quietness – as it characteristically does.

I’ve lately been taken with the idea of writing my prayers as practiced by emergent Christian, Phyllis Tickle.  I was so inspired by this idea after I heard it on a recent Mormon Matters podcast that I began immediately-  and it has changed my prayer life.

For some Mormons this may seem like a heresy – that something is  most assuredly amiss in my interfaith preferences.  But let me be clear  – I am not on the  verge of leaving, nor am I in a state of apostasy.  I’m a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I’ve not joined any other church, nor do I have any intention to.  I am a card carrying, serving member of our ward and have a strong commitment to my faith community.  But as a Mormon, in the cultural sense, I choose to language and story my religious experience with new words that adequately captures the breadth of my feeling.  I’ve chosen a Kandinsky instead of a Constable as the backdrop to my spiritual life.   I prefer hermeneutics and exegesis to logocentric reasoning – I just do.  I’m an inbetweener, racially, culturally, socially – a fragmented subject  who has always felt splintered in so many ways  that that garb of the unified, objective, cognitive subject has never been a good fit.

So when people ask me to front up with a language that makes sense in a Mormon orthodoxy in order to assure themselves that I belong – or not, when people question my ‘testimony’  of conventional truths, I have to be honest, I do feel a bit stuck   (try being in my TR interview).  I’m not inclined to talk in modernist terms or to use  an ‘objectivist’ language to   express some knowing , or to make specific claims of universal truth.  To those who need to get a barometer reading of my ‘testimony’ and ask me for clarification, my response is –  ‘Why do you ask?   To those who rail at me for being a Mormon and ask me ‘Why?’ – my unapologetic answer is, ‘Because I choose to’.

The beauty of this place is that it is expansive, it’s freeing and its not bowed down by a myopic discourse that makes sense only within a cultural Mormon orthodoxy.  It makes sense to me in multiple spaces and brings me into numerous conversations with extraordinary people of all faith traditions that lift and  explode through me like a thousand spiritual ecstasies.

Thus, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I choose this faith tradition as a place (notwithstanding its tensions) to practice my faith in Christ for a hundred reasons that involves a hundred miracles,  a hundred painful joys, a hundred instances of transcendence, and a hundred moments of brilliant goodness.   But I embrace  other faith traditions as another  source of wonder, from the incantations of Benedictine monks during their 4am vespers in an empty Chicago church, to  the soul wrenching wonder of thousands of charismatic Christians  who with hands held up  to touch the fingers of God, call down his spirit upon them in song. And for 10,000 reasons – I choose Christ and His gospel, above any cinderblock building, above prophets, presidents, churches, dogmas, regimes, handbooks, programmes – as my home – wherever I find Him.



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