Epiphany on the walk from St. Paul to South Kensington

 

Today was a really interesting day. I got up and was planning on going to Chinatown to see the new years celebration. This despite the fact that it was a fast Sunday and so I would not be able to eat anything I saw at all. On the way on the tube, as I took the central line I spontaneously decided to get off at the St. Paul stop and to go to a service in the cathedral. The massive building is of course visually impressive, even more so on the inside, but the feeling I got inside can hardly be described.

 

I was utterly drained of my spiritual energy. I could feel that my heavenly father was so far away from me as I sat in on the service. I took communion ( I ended up having a tiny sip of the communion wine before I realized it was wine—I am so used to sacrament water which was a further shame as a minor violation of the word of wisdom—I think  will survive) and it just felt like a hollow vessel taking away from my faith and devotion. The hymns were almost unbearable to listen to. I’d been to protestant services before that were not this excruciating. It seems, that only Catholic and Anglican (And by extension likely Greek or Russian orthodox though that deserves some investigation) manage to so thoroughly distort the feeling of church. I left feeling utterly sick to my stomach and as I went outside I had to struggle to reconnect to the lord by listening to some Mormon tabernacle devotional music. That only managed to stabalize me and I decided, having a lot of time before church, that I should keep walking down the Strand. On the way, out of curiosity, I stopped at every open church (about 4 or 5) all of which happened to be Anglican as well just to get a feeling of the vibe inside. None of them were quite as bad as at St. Pauls but none of them made me feel any level of spiritual devotion or connection. One had intense incense which brought back joyful memories of china, but that was not a replacement for the lack of feeling. I ended up walking all the way through Chinatown and through Green Park all the way to where my church is ( A walk of about 4 miles) and got there only right before services started. Today being a fast Sunday, by the time I got to church I was truly exhausted and drained. Yet, as soon as I walked near the church and stepped inside I was filled with so much solace. It was such a true and total relief. The hymns were so much better than usual even. I usually sort of tune them out somewhat, but today they filled me with so much joy

 

Today was a testimony sacrament and I got to bare a testimony that has been building within me for the past two weeks and was a combination of today’s experience and the temple visit. I spoke about what I had experienced and just how much this church means to me. It gives me so much strength and the knowledge that it is true is overpowering at times. I have never felt such spiritual joy in any other place on earth. I’ve been to holy sites across the world from every major faith and never felt the calm and elegant beauty of the temple. I imagine myself fortunate enough to experience similar things to what they ancient Israelites experienced at the Holy Temple. I am so fortunate for this opportunity to be in a church that feels so true and right and fulfills all of my spiritual needs.

 

I made a really great decision today that I think will bless me spiritually. I had originally bought tickets to a concert in the evening that I was going to attend even though I knew it was not a very edifying show ( one of the bands names is Hate Eternal). I stopped for Chinese food and decided that going to a concert would be a big mistake. I came back to my dorm and have been relaxing and watching the snow fights outside my window with great bemusement. I also saw the rest of Waltz With Bashir which is incredible and I really recommend that anyone with even a modicum of interest in the First Lebanese War, Human rights, Israel or the conflict watch it. Catching up with blogging and relaxing has been a much better use of my time than a concert that I know I would have in some ways suffered through. 

House of the Lord

I have fallen so far behind on my blogging that it’s a little ridiculous. I am going to be playing a bit of catch up though I will be condensing a lot of content into a few posts.

 

I am going to go in terms of priority rather than chronology though I will list the topics I hope to address here: Temple visit; Darwin, Evolution and LDS; Windsor visit; Tate Modern + Britain + Oliver! + Concerts and a whole grabbag of other things: Intrepid readers, buckle down, because this post in particular should be quite long.

 

Last Saturday ( 24/1/09) I ended up going to see the London temple for the first time with Victoria, Heath and a few others from church (They were the two I traveled with on the train directly). I only found out about the temple trip at around midnight the night before and I had to wake up insanely early in order to go but it was worth it. The train ride into the countryside was a great change of pace and truly gave  me a chance to appreciate how different life must be  even not all that far from a major metropolis. It was just 40 or so minutes by train but a world apart. It had been raining the night before and so the roads were flooded and ice crags formed. I a was shocked how far away the temple was from the train station ( we had to take a taxi) and even more surprised that the church was not running at least hourly or so shuttles to get there. I was so glad I went with others rather than made a trip by myself. I love temples, and this one is no exception at all. The grounds were magnificent and I have some great pictures on face book. The temple is undergoing construction on its scaffolding to insert an Angel Moroni on top, and so it was somewhat obscured. However, that really didn’t hinder the spiritual and powerful feeling it gave me. I just felt so uplifted at the temple. It really gave me this feeling of calmness and serenity. I think the temple is one of the strongest cornerstones of my faith and one of the deepest sources of my testimony.

 

I met James’s friend Cheryl who is an investigator and I thought it was really nice to get to talk to her about her struggle to look into the church. She feels intellectually torn and find logical challenges with a lot of things. I feel so fortunate that somehow pure feeling was able to, for the first time in my life, overcome by rational façade in some significant way enabling me to truly believe and have faith. It took a shattering and a rebuilding of my reason around the church rather than a match up of the church to my predefined sense of reason. Prior, I had always wanted a church to fit my needs and desires rather than truly let myself to towards truth. Because of this, I drifted towards poorly formed religion better called merely faith. It had foundation in what I wanted and then it was easy to move god out of the equation and attribute it all to my own reason. I know, that this church would have been the last I could have reasonably chosen. It is far too top down for what I would have ‘liked.’ At times, members can be too close-minded and not nearly as progressive as the ‘ideal’ faith I imagined. Yet, it comes down to the fact that it is simply true. Those criticisms don’t vanish. They have to be dealt with constantly, but they can be dealt with in confidence that, by following the wisdom of the church as a guideline to your own intelligence and vision, this is the source for the truth I have been seeking. It is that knowledge, that I CAN through this find everything I have wanted for myself more than what I already know a priori that drives me and keeps me going. Moreover, I think Humility is so fundamental for me here. I am so quick to think that I must reason better because I think more. Yet, it is very true that as Christ said, sometimes the simple mind of the child is much better than hundreds of sophistries. I really hope that Cheryl finds the strength to overcome her biases because there is so much to be gained from this church and so much good it can do for our souls. I have heard from the Missionaries that she is making great progress in terms of moving to be baptized and this makes me pretty excited.

 

I watched the Joseph Smith movie at the visitor center of the temple. I truly feel like this sanitized history may be feel good and nice but its truly dangerous for the church. I think that most missionaries even don’t have a good enough grasp of the faults of Joseph Smith. He was an unlikely prophet and I think that leads to some of his charm. Yet, he was obviously also an incredible paradox in terms of convictions but also real world ambition. His run for president in 1844 for instance belies a sense of real world ambition beyond what a normal religious figure would hold. I truly believe he was a prophet of God, but that does not at all mean I have to view him as heroic all of the time. I can still wonder about the origin of the law of celestial marriage/polygamy and whether it was used by Joseph Smith as a way to coerce women into marriage with him ( To name some of the more extreme accusations). I don’t have to doubt that there was divine inspiration or guidance to think that as an individual he might have used his inspiration in ways of self-profit. I can believe that something was divinely inspired without holding that it was perfectly executed. He is a controversial figure and church members are often blinded from the controversy and then have it overwhelm their testimony.

 

Met with the missionaries on Wed. because they had just found out I was not yet a member. I think I overwhelmed them because they didn’t realize quite how many times I have already met with missionaries or quite the amount of compulsive research I do. I can’t help but feeling missionary sickness in the sense of missing the missionaries that were my first. I really enjoyed my meetings with Elders Ames and Patton ( Later Kabbuto) and hope they are doing well. I am not sure if any of these missionaries are particularly effective, though. I am not sure if they ever really made me feel the spirit of their testimony in any meaningful way. I feel like I did most of the work myself internally and grew around them. I wonder if most people feel that way or if most cases are more shaped by the light of testimony. I feel like a lot of people go through the motions when they bear their testimony. I wish I could find more power and sincerity in what a lot of people are saying. I always make every effort in every public utterance I make to try to feel for the spirit and I wonder if that shows. I know that my fast and testimony testimonies always feel at least from the heart and I think that for me that is what counts. I love to speak and teach because I think it helps me grow. I hate that as a non-member I am not asked to give sacrament talks yet. I wish I could be, because I’d truly enjoy it.