Or, another jumble of thoughts. I hope you can follow them!
My third great-grandfather, James Holt, was a convert to Mormonism, during the time the Saints had built the City Beautiful.
Joseph Smith’s time.
I have communicated with other Holt descendants from different lines who refer to James with the descriptor “the Mormon”. Joining this new movement had put him at odds with his family, with his dad. Eventually, however, he and his father would reconcile.
As much as Mormonism touts families are forever, it also divides them. Only with understanding can some rifts be mended, as was the case for James. He doesn’t say much in his autobiography about it but he had to have known and conversed with the “prophet”, Joseph Smith, Jr., as well as his family. James was truly converted and lived out his life faithfully, at the expense of his father’s family. I am sure he wished his father and siblings could have accepted the teachings of the Church. I think some may have eventually or, he at least had some in-laws who were members. He was not totally without family who shared his beliefs.
Thankfully I have family members, also, who no longer believe in Mormonism. Like James, we are breaking new ground into a different way of thinking than our predecessors. I think I have a better understanding of James and how he may have felt, breaking new ground and breaking familial hearts.
To us, his descendants and faithful Mormons, James is revered. To other related Holt’s, he’s James “the Mormon”. They might as well say “the deluded”. Their attitudes, at least of some of the older Holt relatives with whom I’ve communicated, insinuate such. They were polite when I told them I was Mormon, too. But I could tell what was behind their politeness.
Now I find myself apart. Like James, I think and believe in a manner different from my family. At least most family members. In 2013, while still a faithful member of the Church and with a responsible “calling”, I embarked on a course of study. As a missionary years before, I made a goal to study church history more completely and more deeply than is usually taught in church curricula.
And so I did, fulfilling my goal.
What I learned was unexpected. What I learned was the Church could not be “true”. In expressing my knowledge (as opposed to any “belief”), I fell into disfavor with my ecclesiastical leaders. I was accused of apostate behavior and asked to retract what I had said in my expressions of my current state. How could I? It would be a lie. So I politely declined.
And was excommunicated.
My wife and I do not discuss my situation. Her parents asked me once what it was that caused my disaffection and once I began, they changed their minds about wanting to know more.
With all but a very few, my conversations with family seldom touch on my disaffection. My posts on social media garner responses similar to this, “Thanks, that was interesting. But here is my testimony. I still love you.”
They don’t understand how that feels. But, let’s speak of feelings, in a different light.
Feelings. Emotions. These are demonstrably unreliable for fact-finding. For proof. And yet that’s what works, it seems, for believers. If it feels good, it is true.
I approach things more and more often with objectivity. And I am accused of empiricism as if it is a bad thing.
But am I devoid of emotion? No. Do I trust it? Sometimes. Is it valuable? Sometimes. Maybe as more of a guide.
Can feelings prove the truth of anything? No.
Ask yourself how many ideologies there are in the world? How many religions. How are they “proven”? Do adherents “feel” their chosen path is true? Are these feelings all the proof they need? Do these proofs conflict with other religions and ideologies? Indeed, they do!
Here is where my “empiricism” might be helpful. Objectivity.
There are “visionaries” in the family. Church members are encouraged to have and recognize “spiritual” experiences. So in having such, rather than empiric discovery or investigation, the answer has been taught. It was spiritual! What else could it be?
What else, indeed?
The real problem is that my family won’t look at things empirically. It’s always the eye of faith. Because that is what they have been taught. Even those who ARE knowledgeable about the things I studied maintain faith. They revere “spiritual” experiences. It’s all the proof they need. I know. I used to value them, too. I had some myself.
But I have learned there are other explanations. Natural ones. Not spiritual.
But it ends up in spite of mounting evidence from objectivity, science, empiricism; faith.
I should understand why. I was as they are. What makes me different?
I am not sure.
Whatever it is, it also makes me alone.