Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Spiritual Growth

A while back I received an email form the Young Men's presidency in our ward with the following quote.
As a presidency we would like to thank everyone that participated in our youth temple trip last saturday. It was a wonderful success and I believe everyone grew spiritually from it.
Maybe I'm being difficult or maybe I've already started to forget, but what does this mean? When I was a believer, we were taught that the peaceful feelings we felt were a witness of the Spirit confirming that what we were doing was right. So, if we went to the temple and felt good about it then it confirmed that we were on the right path and strengthened out testimony of the church. For a church member, a growing confidence in the truthfulness of the church and its teachings seems to equate to spiritual growth.

I see things differently now. For one thing, I never felt good about the temple. At best I felt nothing. At worst I was completely overwhelmed with feelings that something felt wrong. It is all so foreign to everything else you experience as a church member outside of the temple. It seems to me like an "Emperor's New Clothes" kind of experience. Expectations are set, you are told what to expect to feel, and you either feel it or pretend to. If you don't, you certainly don't say anything about it. You can't really talk inside the temple and you are forbidden to talk about it outside except in the most tangential way.

I'm also disturbed by this implicit definition of spiritual growth. It seems so shallow and self-congratulatory; spirituality as a measure of how deeply you believe that you have a truth that the rest of the world lacks and that you have completely erased all doubts to achieve a level of self-assurance that is completely unjustified by facts or reason. I'm not sure exactly how I'd define spirituality, but I'm pretty sure that that isn't it or how going to the temple increases it.

Finally, how would it be possible to have an unsuccessful temple trip? I suppose if your car broke down and you never made it then that would qualify as a failure. But you go, you dress in white, and you get repeatedly baptized on behalf of deceased people. It's not that difficult so I'm not sure how you could have anything other than a successful temple trip. From a leadership standpoint I guess the point is to get the kids to drink the kool-aid and enjoy it so I guess if the kids didn't enjoy the experience then that would qualify as a failure. So success is you made it and felt good about it. I guess that if you can convince them that they "felt" the presence of the deceased then that would make it even better since it would show that you've captured their imaginations and gotten them involved in the fantasy world of religion.

It's sad how much time and effort is spent on such activities that could be spent on something more substantive and actually useful for the members.

3 comments:

Just one of many said...

I really liked the cushy carpets in the temple and wondered who I'd have to knock off to have it in my house!!

Sean said...

I liked the squishy, white slippers. They were really comfortable. Was the Spirit witnessing to me through my slippers?

Bull said...

I loved the baggy white polyester jumpsuits just because I thought they were so ludicrously funny. I'd never be caught dead in real life wearing them.