A few posts on MormonMatters got me thinking once about my relationship with other faith groups. For instance, a recent post on why it seems that ex-Mormons have a hard time joining other denominations. Valoel wrote a blog post on what you’d do if you found out that the Church weren’t true through some sort of revelation (from God or otherwise), however the post had the caveat: “For simplicity, the assumption for this topic is that no other church is a true alternative.”
For me, I’ve found that if, for some reason, I discovered that if the Church isn’t true, I probably would join another faith. Why?
Though it’s not very chic these days to say so, I love religion AND organized religion. I believe that there is a power in organization that simply can’t be found in a loosely-knit group of believers, and this is due to a recent visit to another faith that I will describe below. I think organized religion brings people together and makes it easier to send relief when an emergency happens. I don’t think I can believe in a “do-it-yourself” religion where you just completely pick and choose what beliefs to have. That’s why I feel that if I found out the Church isn’t true, I’d definitely go SOMEWHERE. I’ve also spent a great deal of my life studying other religions and faiths because I love to know how other people think and feel. This has led me to compile a list of possible places to go if I were to discover that the LDS faith were not the true faith.
Feel free to make your own list here! My favorite religions, in no particular order, that I would consider joining if I left Mormonism.
My parents have always been very supportive of my learning about other faiths, and my mom encouraged me to learn about Islam. I love the simplicity and beauty of Islam. I like the idea of Islam because they don’t claim to know who God is or what he looks like or what our purpose is here. The idea is that we just obey Allah, we will be blessed and have peace. In fact, the word Islam means “submission,” and the root of the word (SLM) in the language family has ties to the concept of “peace” (think “salem” in Hebrew). I like the mandatory prayers. Though repetitive, I love how they are required to take time out of their days and offer a peaceful tribute to Allah. These prayers give the faithful the time to focus their thoughts on God. It’s like a Sabbath moment, three times or more a day. Fasting during Ramadan seems like it would be a great way to be thankful for the food God has given us.
If I found out the LDS Church isn’t true, I would be tempted to try Islam. It would be my way of letting go and just trying to do what God asks me to do. I admit, I do not like the organization of Islam. The lack of any centralized authority means there are fundamentalists and extremists that put a violent spin on the Qur’an, and have become terrorists and murderers. I would have a hard time dealing with these members of my own faith, as I consider myself to be peaceful and pacifistic. Would I join the Sunni or Shi’ite sect? Actually, I would probably join the Alevi. I love the peaceful and accepting attitude of the Alevi in Turkey. Though not “mainstream” Islam, they are a peaceful group of 10 million and as part of their beliefs, they believe that we should not judge others on their beliefs. I love their ideas of trying to “perfect” yourself. There is no Original Sin and our consciousness is perfect, therefore we search through our lives to understand and embrace this perfect consciousness.
2. Eastern Orthodoxy
I have often said that if the Book of Mormon weren’t true, I’d have a hard time believing in Jesus of Nazareth. It was the Book of Mormon that led me to believe in the Bible. I wish we had books written by Jesus, or at least copies of the books about him from the original authors. The idea that we only have copies of copies leaves me a bit queasy as far as evidence goes. That having been said, if I wanted to stick with Christianity, I’d go for Eastern Orthodoxy.
I remember on my mission I got in quite a few “bashes.” This wasn’t because I sought them out, of course, but because I was in West Texas, and there were many preachers and pastors out there who were attracted to us, just so they could argue. Most of the time I feel like I did a great job of holding my own (thank you very much) but the only time I got floored, schooled, and beaten up in a bash was with a priest from an Orthodox Church. His knowledge of early Christianity amazed me. At the end of our “discussion,” I could have easily found myself saying, “Almost thou persuadest me to be an Eastern Orthodoxian.” Or whatever they’re called.
I loved the idea of authority coming from the Apostles themselves. The Orthodox Church seemed to be everything I loved in the Catholic Church without a couple of the annoying things that bother me about Catholicism (a more open canon, no pope, all Bishops are equal, less of the Church leadership is celibate, a “different” or more fluid idea of the Trinity). To me, Orthodoxy seems like a purer, more mystical form of Christianity. To find out more about Orthodoxy, read this excellent recent MormonMatters post.
Russell and I recently visited the service of a local Baha’i congregation. It was small and it was in a local “Commonality House” that can be rented by whatever groups wish to attend. I loved Baha’i because, while I was there, I truly felt loved and appreciated. The whole idea of Baha’i is the unity and brotherhood of man. They accept the teachings of Christ, Moses, Mohammed, and most other holy men. However, they also accept the teachings of Bahá’u'lláh, a prophet of the 19th Century in Persia. I love this religion because of how included I felt. There was no dogma to speak of, just love for one another. If any group truly demonstrates Christlike love for one another, I found it here at the Baha’i church. The amazing thing I found is that when my Baha’i friends came to visit me at the LDS church, they were amazingly good at interfaith discourse. They participated in lessons, they understood what was taught, and they were well-liked and loved by the people they met. They’re truly an amazing group of people to say the least.
However, the advantages of this Church, I believe are also the disadvantages. Russ and I have been putting off a full write-up of the Baha’i faith, but the thing I noticed overwhelmingly is that the faith had no teeth. There were few rules, the congregation was encouraged to be themselves, attend other churches, and find what’s right for them, and search for truths everywhere. I almost got the feeling I could be Baha’i and Mormon at the same time. The few “rules” that they DID have seemed to only be suggestions. A faith that doesn’t require any sacrifices and didn’t really teach a “way to live” seems impotent, at least to me. If there were a natural disaster in town, I’d much rather trust the Catholic Charities than the Baha’i, unfortunately. I loved all my friends from the Baha’i church, though, and would love to visit them all again sometime.
4. The Community of Christ
Ah, good old familiarity. If I wanted to join a church and still have Nephi and Moroni and Joseph and Emma, I’d join the Community of Christ. If somehow (I’m not sure how, but if somehow) the LDS Church were proven untrue in a way that still left the possibility open for Joseph Smith to be a prophet, I’d definitely visit the Community of Christ. I love the Community of Christ because I’d still have Nephi the First (one of my personal faves), and I’d still be able to believe in Priesthood and Prophets. The Community of Christ would give me a chance, not only to believe in these things, but explore them in new and interesting ways, because they are much more free-wheeling than the LDS Church. They tend to place much of the search for truth in the hands of the believers. This is easy to like, for me. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I think choosing the Community of Christ might be cheating a little.
There are many other faiths I like to read about, but I’ll leave the rest of the discussion to you.
If the LDS Church weren’t true, and you DID have to join another Church, where would YOU go?