Monday, December 2, 2013

Miracles - the "fruits" of other religions

One thing about asking people outside of Mormonism about their spiritual experiences is that you end up hearing about a lot of spiritual experiences that can't take credit for and can't incorporate. I ran into this frequently on my mission. I would try to establish an understanding of someone's spirituality only to find they had stories of blessings and miracles and visions and visitations and practices that I would then have to work with in my attempt to explain how the more Mormon-like parts were integral to the Mormon god's plan for them and how the crazy parts (read "non-Mormon-like) were maybe less significant than they thought. That's what you do, right? You find the common ground and build on it.

"She totally would have died had we not been there... and had she not received medical treatment."

My doubts came about because I knew my approach wasn't honest. I wasn't letting these people own their personal, family, and faith tradition's miracles they way I expected them to believe and respect mine. Was what I was doing ethical? It felt more manipulative than anything.

"I should be dead right now, but I was protected!"

Another doubt soon followed. Why were all of the miracles and answers to prayers I was hearing about so familiar to things like the First Vision story, any number of personal conversion stories, and Mormon healing stories? Why weren't they experiencing stupors of thought instead of enlightenment? Why were they being healed through priestcraft instead of the Priesthood? Why were they seeing heavenly beings when they weren't even praying to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ? How were they getting clear messages from beyond the veil that were leading them to incredibly un-Mormon-like beliefs?

"He came from beyond and spoke to me..."

It was as though they were working from the same narrative template as we Mormons, but only to confirm the efficacy of non-Mormon beliefs. Could we all - Mormons and non-Mormons alike - be making this crap up? Are we all delusional? Are we all simply finding ways to confirm what we want to believe? I had to wonder. Were my stories any more credible or convincing than theirs?

"My guy has powers. You gotta check him out!"

Things only got weirder when people would pray about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, receive an answer that it was true only to incorporate Joe and his book as part of their belief system instead of abandoning their incomplete knowledge and embracing Mormonism fully. What do you do when they pull the rug out from under you by ignoring what the answer to a prayer about the Book of Mormon is supposed to mean?

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