My Mormon Encounters saga continues...
Part 1: First Meeting
Part 2: Reading the Book of Mormon
Part 3: Going to Mormon Church
Part 4: Mormon Battalion & General Conference
Part 5: The Missionary Sisters
Part 6: A Talk Among FriendsPart 7: Adam and Free Agency
Part 8: To the Investigators
Part 9: To the Missionaries
I meant to write a few post this past month but time flies whether one is having fun or not, I found. I had resettled closer to downtown San Diego with a friend, a dog, and a lot of projects. My work keeps me on the computer most of the time, though every now and then I also get to do something a bit more calorie-chewing... And we all need that especially after all the holiday feasts of November and December!
Relocating, of course, means no more Mormon visit to the Smorgabode, though I still keep in touch with a few favorite missionaries (I know I'll get into trouble with this, but then a trouble-free life would be so boring!). A couple of weeks ago Sister Begeistert and her new companion Sister Blondchen gave me another tour of the Mormon Battalion Museum when I dropped by to dump some farmers' market bounty off on them (missionaries are dead useful in helping destroying evidence when you succumbed to a bout of gluttony and bought too much food to fit in the fridge!). We got to talking religion again, of course (that's the downside of hanging with active misshies... they're always on the church's clock!).
|Mormon Battalion Memorial on top of Presidio Hill|
I'm afraid we didn't progress much. They were trying to tell me about the Mormon interpretation of the Adam & Eve story, and how god is evidently more merciful than Satan because 'he knew what Adam would do before hand but allowed him the 'free agency' to do it (disobeying and eating the forbidden fruit), whereas Satan would have forced Adam (and the rest of us) to only obey, and also in fixing it so that the result of Adam's disobedience was that man became mortal and could now 'learn' and 'progress''. It sounded rather nice and cheery (it helped that the sisters seemed genuinely uplifted by it), but being a killjoy that I can often be, I thought it over and decided that the story didn't seem to say what my patient missionaries thought it said at all.
First off, how can there be any free agency (Mormonese for 'free will') if god can unerringly know everyone's future action? If god knew that I would bring the sisters some blackberries that day, then instead I decided to live up to my moniker and smorg up all the blackberries myself, then I would have retroactively proven god wrong now, wouldn't I? So you really can't have it both way; either there is free will/agency and god doesn't know our future decisions, or there is no free will and god knows the future. The way the sisters interpreted the story didn't support the concept of free will at all, but predestination.
Sister Blondchen tried to posit that god only knows what would happen but he didn't necessarily plan the event out, so somehow free will could still be operating (Ah! The stance softens... She was now not so certain and was doing more damage control than aggressive assertion. Progress!). The question that begged, of course, was who or what, then, controls our destiny now that god isn't so in charge but is more of a bystander??? Luckily the sisters then realized that they had found themselves in a hole and prudently stopped digging... and changed the subject.
My second problem had to do with this idea that god showed wisdom and mercy in penalizing Adam's disobedience by doing him and mankind the great favor of allowing us to die and suffer (in so doing enabling us to 'learn' new things... this little nugget comes from the Book of Moses in The Pearl of Great Price, I think). I would agree that being mortal is a major plus. I shouldn't wish to live so long that I become tired and bored with living! The setting up of this so that Adam had to do a 'bad' thing of disobeying in order for good thing (mortality and spiritual progress) to become available for man bugged me, however. Why would a god purposefully set Adam up to fail and then deigned to chastise him for fulfilling god's plan when he did? And why reward bad behavior? Wouldn't it have been more moral-building to set this up so that good thing can happen only if Adam had chosen to do 'the right thing'?
Don't get me wrong, I have very little tolerance for obedience just for obedience's sake, but the way this story is told to me made it quite clear that obedience is the desirable virtue and that Adam had goofed when he ate the fruit. So... I had a hard time understanding why the Mormons should find this tale so faith-building (even though I am, by now, quite familiar with this religion's running theme of 'the end justifying the means'). It seemed to me that the morals of the story go against both the notion of free agency and the idea of a just god or the virtue of obedience!
Needless to say, this meeting didn't lead me any closer to accepting the Mormons' idea of god. Ultimately, after having asked oneself the questions 'what is god and what, if it exist, is god like?' one also has to ask, 'if there is a god but it is immoral, would I still submit myself to it?'. Do people worship an idea of god because they are afraid of what god can and will do to them if they refuse, or do they worship a god because it is worth worshiping?
A good sport as she always is, Sister Begeistert actually thanked me as we parted for 'making her think again'. Sister Blondchen was harder to read, though I thought she became more a Constanze than a Blond as our meeting came to a close. Was that an improvement? I don't know. Have a look/listen to a marvelous Constanze and see!