Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Big Yawn About Religion

The Class Member Study Guide refers students to verses 5-10 and asks, “How was Joseph’s situation like that of people today who are searching to know the truth?” I am not sure what I think about this. Verse 5 talks about “an unusual excitement about religion”. It is hard for me to think about American society and “excitement about religion.” I guess there is some excitement between the evangelicals and the Mormons right now. Joseph Smith telling them that their creeds are an abomination haven't helped in that regard. And, there is certainly controversy between some religious and irreligious people. We can certainly hear echoes in these debates of the contention and controversy Joseph must have experienced.

Today, however, there seems to be more apathy about religion. No, apathy isn’t even the right word. There is just an overwhelming feeling of relativity. Not many people contend about whether their religious beliefs are the correct ones, because most operate from the premise that there is no absolute truth. What is true for you may not be true for me. No one is wrong. We all just have to choose our way.

It seems that there is a lot of tension and contention in the Joseph Smith story. Joseph expresses real discomfort with the battle that raged between the various religious groups in his community. The debate created a tension that got him asking questions. Who was right? How could he be saved? Which Church taught the correct way to God? Joseph fretted and struggled until he decided to ask God. I wonder if society today would have provided the tension Joseph needed to drive him the grove. Or would he have been comfortable thinking his way was good for him, and your way is nice, too?

It seems like the predominant question today is, “Is there a God or not?” Maybe that uncertainty would have led Joseph to seek God, but I have a hard time imaging a Joseph Smith in the USA in 2009 would ask which Church was true.

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