An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Leaving the Raft

The Buddha told a story of a man who comes to a river on a journey. There is no bridge, so he builds a raft on which to cross. When he reaches the other shore, he does not pick the raft up and carry it the rest of the way. It has served his purpose and he no longer needs it to continue.  “In the same way, all truths should be used to cross over; they should not be held on to once you have arrived.  Let go of even the most profound insight.” (The Enlightened Mind, ed. Stephen Mitchell)

I love this simple story. It explains my relationship to the church of my birth. I thank my Mormon upbringing for teaching me to love God and his creations, for teaching me the value of work, kindness, generosity, and learning. I especially valued the fellowship of Mormonism when we moved from Utah as young newlyweds. But, somewhere along the bumpy road of of life, I met problems that couldn’t be resolved by faith, prayer, and trying harder. Some things, and most people, cannot be changed no matter how long I fast or how many temple sessions I attend.

Carrying my raft of Mormonism became burdensome and frustrating. Discovering Buddhist philosophy of acceptance helped me to accept things I can’t change and spend my energies where I can make a difference.

Now, I’m not saying Buddhism is the answer for everyone. I know Buddhists who have messed up their lives–and I know people whose lives have been improved by converting to Mormonism. What I am saying is that we all have different rivers to cross and any philosophy or belief system that helps us get across is good. Still, we don’t have to marry our ideas or beliefs. It is no more inconsistent to adopt new thoughts that meet our current needs than it is to trade in our raft for hiking boots once we reach dry land.

Religious beliefs are tied to values, but they are not values themselves. I have kept my basic Mormon values of family, work, learning, and caring for others while finding a philosophy that currently helps me apply these values in my life.  

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Comments on: "Leaving the Raft" (5)

  1. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your last paragraph, and if so I apologize. “Basic Mormon values” are not “Mormon”. They are shared by all religions. In fact, my experience with the LDS Church is that many of their policies often cause great harm to families. Caring for others is certainly not unique to Mormons as has been demonstrated many times in our home during the last difficult month.

    I have heard many times comments such as “If you don’t believe in God you have no moral compass”, or other similarly ridiculous statements. Ugh. I believe a moral compass comes mainly from parents, friends and studies. Yes, you hear about morals and values at church but it is also where people learn to judge others who do not believe in the same way.

    I so enjoy reading your blog and have learned much from it. Again, I am sorry if I misread this post.

  2. Nujmi,

    I’m sorry my last paragraph wasn’t very clear. When I referred to my “Basic Mormon values,” I did not mean to imply that only Mormons have these values nor that I didn’t also learn these values from family and school. For me, Church did reinforce these basic values. I find it sad that the values of work, kindness, and honestly seem to be less emphasized in current Mormon discourse. Morality currently seems to be limited to sexual purity.

  3. That was beautiful. I only wish my parents could hear that message. All they can see is that I’m rejecting everything they taught me (‘though I’m really not) and therefore somehow rejecting them. Sigh. (And I’m not even changing to a different religion, only rejecting all the truth claims of the LDS church.)

    (And I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve commented. I’ve been grappling with life.)

    • Megan,

      Many thanks. I think Church leadership is moving to a more inclusive approach to member beliefs, but it always takes a generation for change to reach the ward pews.

      I hope you’ve grappled successfully and are now enjoying one of those brief moments of tranqauility which life offers.

      • I feel at peace with my life and the direction it’s going, but I’m still the elephant in the room when I get together with my family. I’m trying to get to a place of peace, knowing that that situation is never going to change.

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