Read the Book & Pray Better

While I never heard from Elder Fox and Elder the Short one with Glasses again my information had been entered into the cell phone which was handed along to the new “Elders” who were assigned missionary duty in my area. About nine months after my initial encounter with Elders Fox & TSOWG, new missionaries arrived on my doorstep, clearly not having been forewarned about my breakup with God.

I did my best to be up front with them: I’m an agnostic/atheist now, I explained, I’m not going to convert to Mormonism, not now, and not ever, but I am a polite person (sometimes) and I don’t want to slam the door on your faces. I enjoy theological discussions. Even if I think the premise you’re coming from is COMPLETELY WRONG, I still understand the language you use, and you are on a mission to talk to non-believers, I qualify, and I’m happy to talk to you. I also make cookies.

The new Elders, I’ll call them L and M to preserve their privacy (and because I’ve forgotten their names), seemed slightly shocked that I’d become an atheist after reading the Bible. Usually it has the opposite effect on people, one of them noted with out a trace of irony.

As they tried to explain away the Vengeful Old Testament God they were somewhat taken aback at the obscure passages I was cited. I’d done my reading, I’d looked at the context, I went to Sunday School for seventeen years (the first two or three years I was in childcare, but after that Sunday School all the way), I took a few bible courses in college, I listened to comparative religion podcasts, in short, I was not the average person who was willing to talk with them.

Then they started back peddling, the Bible is only true insofar as it was translated by men (and it has been translated by a lot of them with many different agendas). Fair point, I made it myself earlier as well. Instead I should read the Book of Mormon (and not just the cliffs-notes version, ideally the whole thing, but if not, a few specific verses in Alma should suffice), it has only been translated once, and then I should pray about it. Have I tried praying? Am I aware of how God speaks to me?

Am I aware of how God speaks to me?

Really?

God is the “still small voice” from 1 Kings:

1 Kings 19:11-12 – King James Version (KJV)

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

God also sends Angels to talk to me:

ANGELS.   God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality. S&H glossary

Why yes, I do know how God “speaks” to me. Does God speak to me? That’s open for debate. Am I willing to take things “on Faith alone?” No. Do I really want to “read the book” and “pray to know the Truth?” No.

At this point they seemed to forget that we didn’t believe in the same God, and I was on the fence about God’s existence entirely.

Instead of giving them a crash course on Christian Science, which is based on “reading the book/article/pamphlet” and “praying” about it, we made exchanged pleasantries, they recommended a few passages to read and “pray about” and made a hurried exit.

I have done my share of reading and praying in the past. If only I read and prayed more the stress would stop/the healing would come/I would achieve some sort of greater understanding. In the end, I decided if I read and prayed less I would have more time to get all the things I needed to get done accomplished and the stress would take care itself.

It wasn’t quite that easy, but when I stopped stressing over physical healings/”demonstrations” that were simply not happening, things got better, I also started taking practical steps to combat the issues. Instead of simply praying about the headaches I was having at work, I talked to my supervisor and got my desk moved away from the florescent light which was flickering at a different rate than the CRT display I was using. Instead of only praying about the horrendous menstrual cramps I was having, I took some ibuprofen and went for a walk.

I stopped feeling like a failure for not praying hard enough, or well enough. Yes, I need glasses; yes, I occasionally need some dental work; yes, I sometimes take an ibuprofen; yes, I needed a massive medical intervention so I didn’t die from pregnancy complications. No, that does not mean I’m some horrible person or that I’m not praying hard enough, it means I’m using the tools available to me here in this existence to try and better my situation (and to some extent, the situation for those around me).

I still read and pray, I just no longer read exclusively Christian Science literature, and my prayers tend to be more in line with what MBE has termed “desire is prayer.” Although I no longer consider myself to be a Christian Scientist (or even Christian) still find the language and process of CS to be comforting in times of need. I’m not sure if I agree this “divine Mind” is the same God that is talked about it the Bible, but no harm can come from desiring to “better ourselves or to benefit others.”

Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.

What are the motives for prayer? Do we pray to make ourselves better or to benefit those who hear us, to enlighten the infinite or to be heard of men? Are we benefited by praying? Yes, the desire which goes forth hungering after righteousness is blessed of our Father, and it does not return unto us void. S&H chapter on Prayer

I have no issues with prayer, I do have issues with the “radical reliance” of prayer exclusively to solve all problems, particularly physical healing. At the time Ms. Eddy lived visiting the doctor was just as likely (if not more likely) to kill you than was doing nothing, or praying. Quacks and snake-oil salesmen ran rampant, and while yes, we should remain cautious and vigilant in our health care choices, modern western medicine has come a long way since the 1800s.

I also have issues with being told to “pray about it” so that God will “show me” the Truth, in this case that Mormonism is the One True Religion. I don’t think that any one religion has a monopoly on Truth. I think that many have much to offer and that people should find their own paths to whatever religion (or lack of religion) fits their needs on their path to spiritual growth (if there is such a thing).

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One thought on “Read the Book & Pray Better

  1. Catherine I. says:

    My mom always told me that MBE says to do what we can handle, I guess that is a rough generalization but her intent was to let me know it was ok if I couldn’t pray it away, that I could ask for medical help when I needed it. I was mostly raised in the non-CS world, though, at least for the first ten years, so it was easier for me to take medicine than it was to pray something away. I don’t know what quote or idea she was referring to when she told me this as a kid, since I haven’t come across something like it since, but I’ve always felt comfort in the idea that we don’t have to feel bad about taking what some might see as the “easy” way out. It is important to know when we can’t solve the problems on our own (or with assistance from God).

    Using the tools that work for you is the most important thing. For me, praying never really solved anything bigger than a stomach ache (unless it was a mental/emotional issue, those were easier to solve than the physical). I always felt like a bad CS because I didn’t have the power or patience to heal myself. However, I never felt that judgment from anyone but myself and (the judgment i imagined would come from) other CSers, not my mom or people who actually cared about me. Now I don’t care if I’m a bad CS because I’m not really a CS anymore.

    My point is that I hope you find the tools you need, medical or whatever, and you don’t feel judged for using them. The people who truly care about your well-being will not judge you on how you achieve that well-being. Maybe they will make it known that they disapprove of your tactics, but in their hearts they must be satisfied that you are taking care of yourself. And if they aren’t, well…that’s their problem and they aren’t really practicing CS and loving you as you are and not only as what you do.

    I read all your posts and I am looking forward to reading more. Your breakup with CS was a lot more violent than mine, as mine was more of a waning interest in spending my life praying about every problem or feeling bad about taking the medical route. It’s interesting to see the difference and I especially was interested in your post about the Bible and God, because I hadn’t ever really read the Bible except what was required of me. Or when I was really really really bored. :p

    Thanks, keep up the good work and good luck in your endeavors to find what it is you truly believe in.

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