Friday, October 7, 2011

Spiritual Desires: What I Want, What I've Got, and What's Still Missing

Yesterday I wrote a post exploring some of my reservations about even lightly reconnecting with the LDS church--the church of my youth. Despite my reservations, however, I do feel strangely drawn to that reconnection, so today I decided to make a list--yes, another list, (it is the lazy bloggers go-to after all)--exploring some of the top things I want from a faith and how my current faith and the one of my childhood compare. In doing this I hope to uncover what I feel is missing from my current practice for which my spirit is searching elsewhere. Here is what I came up with:

1) I want a faith that honors both feminine and masculine divinity equally and offers equal amount of detail about both. 

I have not yet found a faith that meets this quality fully. Paganism tends to honor Goddess over God and offers far less information about the nature of the God in general than it does about the Goddess. Mormonism acknowledges a Heavenly Mother as equal to and in partnership with a Heavenly Father, but there is little information on her or actual working veneration of her. 

2) I want a faith that acknowledges a multitude of Gods.

Both Paganism and Mormonism fit this one, though lately, with their rigorous PR campaign, the LDS church has been much more reluctant to publicly acknowledge this belief. 

3) I want a faith that demands spiritual, ethical and intellectual rigor yet is free of shame.

Paganism is, frankly, not all that demanding of this kind of rigor whereas Mormonism demands it to a point of being shaming should you fall short. In my opinion, there really should be a balance. 

4) I want a faith that honors other faiths as equally valid in accessing the Divine. 

Paganism fits this to a tee as does Mormonism. Although Mormons do regard their church as the “truest” church, they believe all spiritual roads eventually lead to the same place. 

5) I want a faith that supports the idea of eternal progression--that we continue to evolve spiritually, physically, intellectually and emotionally beyond this life on Earth.

Again, I think both faiths fit here, though I’ll admit I take my belief in eternal progression entirely from my LDS upbringing. 

6) I want a faith that sees the Gods as a higher evolution of our species, not a species unto themselves--a faith that sees Godhood as achievable by humankind.  

From the Pagan side, whether or not this one fits depends entirely on what brand of Paganism you adhere to. I favor Hellenism, which definitely embraces this idea. Once again though, I have taken the entire concept of achievable Godhood from my LDS training. 

7) I want a faith with a rich cultural heritage, compelling rituals and complex history.

My Hellenic leanings favor this one as does Mormonism. Wicca would have this too if more in the community would give up their dubious claims of unbroken lineages and embrace their own unique and compelling history beginning in the 20th century--but that’s an entirely different soap box. 

8) I want a faith that uses its tenets to actively achieve positive change in the community.

I have to avoid my soap box on this one too, but suffice it to say that Mormons have it all over Pagans on this front. It isn’t that most Pagans don’t have it in their hearts to make service to their communities a priority, they just aren’t out there in a large scale actually doing it. Pagan Pride Day is a good example. Instead of organizing a whole day around patting yourselves on the back, selling occult-y things and ranting about how you are not properly accepted in society, why not spend the day getting all the Pagans in the community to express their faith and pride by cleaning up a park, painting over graffiti, planting trees, etc. Put your values where your hands are and do something with them. Did I say I was going to stay off my soap box?

9) I want a faith that acknowledges Earth as a living organism and her cycles, along with the cycles of the heavens, as representative of the cycles of body and soul.

Now here’s one where Paganism has it all over Mormonism. Though LDS doctrine does acknowledge Earth as a living organism, it doesn’t take that to the next logical step of proper veneration or acknowledging the spiritual lessons apparent within her cycles.

10) I want a faith that demands of itself the same intelligent evolution to a higher spiritual state as it demands of its adherents. 

I think both faiths give a good amount of lip service to this without actually achieving it. 

To sum up, apparently the things I am missing in Paganism are truly equal veneration of Goddess and God; spiritual, ethical and intellectual rigor; a doctrine of eternal progression and attainable Godhood; putting beliefs into action; a true and accessible cultural heritage; and honest evolution toward better, more fluent expression of that faith. I cannot in good conscience say I could find all these missing pieces in Mormonism, nor am I willing to exchange the Pagan pieces for the LDS ones. 

So I am left with even more questions: 

What is the balance here? Am I stuck inventing my own faith or have I simply not found the right fit yet? Should I strive for a combination of my old faith with the new and my own ideals? What would the practice and doctrine of such a combination look like? If I cannot create a tenable combination, will I eventually have to compromise on my heartfelt spiritual desires in order to feel accepted within any one group? Is acceptance more important than finding a point for point fit?

As is usually the case in affairs of the spirit, questioning inevitably leads to more questions--and more blog posts. Stay tuned.

Blessed by the Mystery,


  1. I'm sure as you know paganism has a multitude of variations, many more outside of just eclectic and Wicca. You mentioned your Hellenic nature. Have you looked into any of the reconstructionalist paths? They won't answer all of your questions but my experience with them is many have much higher ethical demands, community outreach along with many of the things you describe about paganism in general.

    Of course much of this can be dependent what group you get involved with. One of paganism's strengths and its weakness, the lack of core tenets and structure.

  2. My daughter follows paganism. I probably follow more toward "The Church of What's Happening Now". I just have my own beliefs steeped in all the religions I was exposed to as an Air Force brat. The thing is...everyone, even the most primitive people have some kind of spiritual belief. Everyone is trying to get to the same place, perfect in every way. My idea of heaven, nirvana, whatever is a beautiful pasture with wild flowers, green grasses and my wonderful, but long passed dog, Patches running to greet me. You have a lot of questions and have been doing a lot of studying. You will find you place. Just keep searching.

  3. I love that you sign your posts, "Blessed by the mystery" what a beautiful thought. I am an 'active' Mormon who struggles with the patriarchal and almost anti-feminist attitude from local church members where I live. I like to think of myself as "in the ward" but not "of it". Thanks for sharing your journey. Here's to us all finding what our spirits need, and desire, from this journey here!
    P.S. There is a newly edited version of the Book of Mormon called the "Book of Morma" where all the male characters have been flipped to female--it is an absolutely lovely read!

  4. Velody--Thank you so much for your suggestions. I have looked into reconstructionist paths, but I always get hung up on the "spirit of the law" vs. "letter of the law" thing--myself being much more a spirit of the law type gal. You are right though, they are generally much more ethically and intellectually demanding. Demanding sounds like such a harsh word, doesn't it? Perhaps "challenging" is more what I'm looking for.

    Coleen--What a wonderful idea of heaven and a living spirituality that is all about being here, now. I truly appreciate your encouragement.

    Lisa--You and I seem to have a lot of the same issues with the church. I get so frustrated with a doctrine that venerates women and Goddess, but a social construct that does not. Honestly I have never considered being "in the ward" but not "of the ward." That is truly an excellent idea. I will definitely have to check out the Book of Morma. Thank you so much for that recommendation.

  5. I want to kiss this post on the mouth. I am intrigued by many of the points you bring up about Mormonism--things I'd never heard of. And I'm with you in being frustrated by the lack of guidance/structure/action in Paganism. Have you ever attended a UU church service? Lots of good stuff there, with the idea that we're all just trying to get to the Good and that social activism is one way to do so.