Ep 161 – Worthiness

Listener Essay

Posted March 8th, 2015

Tom is joined by Kim, Randy, and Heather to discuss Kim’s listener essay “Worthiness.”

  • Rio

    Anita Moorjani, in her New York Times best-selling book, Dying to be Me, says the following about worthiness:

    “I want you to know that every part of you is magnificent—your ego, intellect, body, and spirit. It’s who you are: a beautiful product of this Universe’s creation. Every aspect of you is perfect. There’s nothing to let go, nothing to forgive, nothing to attain. You already are everything you need to be. It can seem so complicated, but it’s not.

    “If a religion makes you feel lesser than its deities, then you’ve either misinterpreted it or it’s not doing a good job of teaching you the truth. If a guru, teacher, or master makes you feel that you aren’t “yet” enlightened and still have more to “learn,” “release,” or “let go of” before getting there, then they’re not doing a good job of teaching you who you truly are, or you’re misunderstanding them.

    “Remind everyone close to you to be themselves, and tell them that you love them just the way they are! They’re perfect and so are you. There’s nothing not to love. Most suffering stems from feeling “less than.” You aren’t less than anything or anyone! You are complete. The only thing you need to learn is that you already are what you’re seeking to attain. Just express your uniqueness fearlessly, with abandon! That’s why you’re made the way you are, and that’s why you’re here in the physical world.”

    • Craig Keeling

      I’ve always laughed whenever a character in a movie talks themselves up in the mirror, motivates themselves in a “crazy” appearing way, but maybe we laugh because it’s true? We need to remind ourselves that we’re doing ok. Things are good. Live in the moment and appreciate it. I’m not a hippie, but I think I’m starting to get it. 😀

      • Randy_Snyder

        Like Stewart Smalley? 😉

        • Craig Keeling

          Exactly! It’s absurd. It’s humorous. But it turns out that’s OK because the fact that we even exist and can communicate it with each other is absurd, when you actually think about it.

      • Allison

        There’s nothing wrong with being a hippie, Craig. Embrace it! 😉

  • Craig Keeling

    The “Imposter Complex” is fascinating. I’ve felt that way in many instances. Like any mention of my accomplishments is bragging. Even after hearing things like, “this design is so good the client is going to touch himself” or “this looks good enough to put my genitals on.” [the advertising industry is very sex-focused]

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, “after all we can do” & “obedience above all” are complete mind fucks.

    • Wendy

      Here’s a great post about a woman with Imposter Syndrome:

      http://thebloggess.com/2013/09/is-it-just-me/

      It’s one of the 500 reasons why I’ll never live in Utah: the big hair and boobs and SUVs and McMansions. It’s hard enough to develop a healthy sense of self without all of that noise.

      • Kim

        Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy what I’ve read of the bloggess.

        Craig, exactly, the “after all you can do” is the root of my stuff, because honestly I do a lot of things half-ass (or at least feel like I do).

  • Audrey Pietrucha

    Thank you for this important discussion. There is one other important worthiness interview in Mormondom – the one that leads to the ecclesiastical endorsement students need in order to even apply to church schools and then are subject to every year in order to continue their university education.

    It was this interview which led to my family leaving the church. My son is a very smart kid (he’s currently pursuing a Master’s in philosophy) and was being actively recruited by BYU after they received his SAT scores. He was invited to a university-financed weekend on campus and for the first time in his life met cool, smart Mormon kids (The branch where we live is very small, very old and very weird). He was excited to apply but then the Stake presidency member who interviewed him would not give him an ecclesiastical endorsement.

    My son was mortified but I became more and more angry. Here was a kid who was going over the cliff but hanging on to the church by his fingernails. He was a good kid and a good student but apparently had a couple of issues common to teenage boys. He was also extremely hard on himself when it came to his behavior (I now believe he is mildly Scrupulous because he does suffer from anxiety and some mild OCD) and had a tendency to over-confess. He took it all very seriously and though we never stressed sin and guilt in our home he must have gotten a lot of such talk in his priesthood meetings. He really needed someone to say “It’s ok, God loves you, we love you and want you in the church” and I think they would have had him for life but instead they stomped on his fingers and he fell into the ravine.

    That incident allowed me to examine the doubts that had been accumulating in my own mind. This, of course, sent me to the internet and you know the rest of the story.

    Two years later my daughter attended a Christian college and all she needed to include with her application was a letter from a church leader or teacher attesting to her character. No one asked a thing about her personal habits or beliefs. Imagine that.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Thanks for sharing that story Audrey. The church can’t get out of it’s own way sometimes for myriad reasons. Loyalty tests gone amuck has created a culture that can crush some of the best souls and what will they be left with in 50 years? 100 years?

      • Audrey Pietrucha

        Kind of the opposite result from the stories we always heard about the one mission convert who then has a faithful family and they have faithful families and so on and so on, huh? It works the other way, too.

        • Audrey Pietrucha

          Thanks for reading, Kim. I sometimes wish none of it had happened and I could crawl back into that warm, safe cocoon of belief. It has been extremely painful for the entire family.

          tt’s interesting that I cannot tell this story to most TBMs because then I am accused of having been offended. Even my reasons for looking at my doubts would be deemed unworthy!

    • Kim

      Audrey, so glad you shared! I never went to a church school, so I didn’t even consider that interview and worthiness definition. But what a mess that is, having to be “worthy” to go to college. I wonder how many people have to lie so they can just finish their education.

      I’m so sorry that this happened to your son. What an awful experience. And what a stupid, stupid loss for the church. But I’m glad it helped your family find their way out.

      • Malachi the Pika

        I didn’t know there were worthiness interviews for church schools either. Messed up. I almost went to BYU Idaho. Reading Audrey’s story made me very grateful I ended up going somewhere else. A desire to learn is all that should be required.

    • Malachi the Pika

      Powerful imagery! I’m sorry your son had to go through that. It looks like he is excelling academically and that’s great. He wasn’t stuck in any ravine for long 😀

  • Matthew Vernon

    great episode – Randy you hit it right on the head; I know I wound never have found any semblance of happiness in Mormonism without first discovering Stephen Robinson’s mormo-semiuniversalist-protestantism. I first read ‘Believing Christ’ on my mission (actually listened to the audiobook; as we all know this is not on this list of 5 approved missionary books) and the ensuing paradigm shift kept me in the church for another 10 years. Without the reassurance that “all I can do” has some wiggleroom, I would never have even bothered trying to keep up with the worthiness thing.

    • Kim

      When I first was leaving the church, the self esteem/worthiness issues were the safest ones to share with my family as my reasons (since I didn’t want to get into history, my atheism, etc). My aunt’s response was to give me Believing Christ (she didn’t know I already had read it several times). I agree that there are some nice messages in there that probably help a lot of people be easier on themselves, but when I read it as a teen, the self doubt was too ingrained to be challenged then even as a believer.

  • Katherine

    This episode was very interesting to hear as a Catholic who often jokes about the infamous “Catholic guilt.”

    When I was “investigating” the LDS church, I asked the missionaries about the temple worthiness interview and they stated that one of the question was whether or not the individual believed they were worthy to attend. I laughed and asked if it was a trick question, because worthiness is only found in the abasement of self through humility. I thought that maybe the right answer to the question was “no” to acknowledge the need for mercy and grace, and that if someone answered that they were worthy it was a sign of pride, and therefore unworthiness. I was shocked to find out that one is expected to declare themselves worthy. It’s an endless fodder for both shame and pride.

    • Sean

      It’s true that in LDS theology we are taught we are never good enough (unprofitable servants) but then asked to be good enough (king of the slaves?). The challenge is that testimony and belief are doctrinally leveraged on worthiness so members end up in an endless cycle of thinking “if only i was more worthy I could believe more.” I remember thinking on my mission at one point that I was not baptizing people because I had masterbated and viewed pornography prior to my mission and God would not want an unclean servant (even though at this point, about 10 months in, I hadn’t been familiar with my membership since a couple weeks prior to the MTC and had followed the prescribed repentance process delineated by my mission president…an I was also placed on a clothing optional stretch of beach for my area at the time…so as a chaste 19 year old was showing a fair bit of self restraint). It’s a brilliant business model really: “so the product isn’t working? You just need to use more and use it better.” When I came out as a non-beleiver I got similar feedback; “you just need to pray and study the scriptures more” to which I responded “how is your faith in the Muslim
      beleif system coming along?…sorry to hear…perhaps if you read the Koran more earnestly and showed more rigour in your prayer schedule you could fix that then”

      • Katherine

        This is fascinating. And also where I think the LDS faith and worthiness paradigms fail. Because there isn’t a clear and systematic integration of faith and reason, members can’t fall back on reason when their faith comes up short. It reminds me of the story of Mother Teresa, who claimed she did not sense the presence of God for the last 20 years of her life in India, but she persevered because she knew her faith wasn’t about feeling God.

        • Sean

          Also, the idea of “worthiness” as an exterior construct is really heavily rooted in an epistemological view that knowledge is constant and eternal and an ontological assumption that there is one reality. This goes against my current organization of these concepts. There are a number of contradictions where authors of the scriptures or accepted docterines within LDS’dom fail to differentiate. For example, the woman offering two copper coins being deemed more “worthy” by Jesus as she gave based on what she had. This hints at a relativist epistemology and ontology where there is no line to cross for all but rather an individual moving target, However, the positivism of a correlated LDS church approaches this with a line drawn in the sand; one reality. Sure 10% tithes applies accross spectrums, but the lesson in the scripture IMO was less in regards to amount as it was in regards to capacity. For example, how someone else, from a different family history and with a different chemical response to addiction approaches substances takes a different energy than me. Line upon line doesn’t give room for this though.

          • Katherine

            Great point, especially the distinction between the spiritual disposition of the woman (her intent) and the discrete value of what was given (her actions, the product). Worthiness is separated from the disposition of the heart (desire to express love, generosity, humility, etc.) and reduced to a monetary transaction.

          • Kim

            Katherine and Sean, I enjoyed this exchange.

          • hetaira

            I did too, but I’m also enjoying a mental picture of Sean as a missionary tracting with his companion on a nude beach. Please do a listener essay, Sean!

  • Matthew Bryde

    That was an awesome episode. I have a TBM wife and I have been dying to share selected podcasts with her, without coming on too strong. This episode covered many touch points that I wanted to cover from the other podcasts. Excellent work. I’ll be downloading and sharing (after I cut out the 4 or 5 F words. She could forgive the odd one or two, but she’d give up thereafter).

    Anyway – excellent essay and commentary. I’ve given you guys a 5 star rating!!! 🙂

    • Kim

      So glad it can be an episode to share within a mixed-faith relationship! Sorry my essay had a few swears as well. Hopefully you can edit those out if need be. Come back and report on how it was received. I’d love to know if any of it resonated with her.

  • Orrin Dayne

    Amen, Randy! Look ’em right in the eye. Show no weakness. That’s the key to successful worthiness interviews. Body language will trump the “Spirit of Discernment” every time.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Exactly!

  • rugratwes

    Loved it. It is helpful to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. One of my favorites by far.

    • Kim

      Thanks!

  • Dave in Taiwan

    Another excellent episode.

    Going back to the slight hijack in the discussion, there are conflicting questions as to who will judge us in the end.

    The BoM has it as Jesus: 3 Nephi 26:16 “And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.”

    Brigham Young taught that people of this dispensation will be judged by Joseph Smith.

    “Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days. I can tell our beloved brother Christians who have slain the Prophets and butchered and otherwise caused the death of thousands of Latter-day Saints, the priests who have thanked God in their prayers and thanksgiving from the pulpit that we have been plundered, driven, and slain, and the deacons under the pulpit, and their brethren and sisters in their closets, who have thanked God, thinking that the Latter-day Saints were wasted away, something that no doubt will mortify them—something that, to say the least, is a matter of deep regret to them—namely that no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are—I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation—the keys to rule in the spirit-world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit world. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. Many will exclaim—”Oh, that is very disagreeable! It is preposterous! We cannot bear the thought!” But it is true.”

    The D&C has Jesus as an advocate with God judging, see 45:3-5.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Yes I was basing my declaration of doctrine on the D&C verse (and lesson manuals I taught from) but I confess your Mormon nerd cred surpasses mine.

    • Malachi the Pika

      Shout out to fellow Taiwan-dweller. I thought I was the only IOT fan in Taiwan. Cheers, Dave!

  • Sean

    The canonized metaphore that always stuck with me was that of the “unprofitable servant” (Luke 17:7-10). In my work as a mental health clinician with children one of the amazing young people I was lucky enough to spend time with was this petit 14 year old girl slotted in somewhere on the autism spectrum. She was brilliant and, likely owing in large part to the neurological and beahvioural patterns now grouped as autism, held no punches socially. She had a friend who was “the gay kid” in the rural outdoorsy community we were living in. His parents were religious and publicly viewed his “condition” as a trial to be overcome (and they weren;t even Mormon where this high calorie religious shame is tube fed to you). She came into my office one day and said “can you help me write a book? Here’s what I want to do: I want to go through the bible, find every dick thing he [God] does and create a character who does all these things and see how people respond if its not their God doing them. He’d be a psycho.” It was a fuinny talk and I think it would be great book. The unprophitable servant to me is one of those things. We are servants (slaves…cause slavery is totally cool according to the bible). I would hope most pew members of the church would say that slavery is wrong and yet when we are taught to view ourselves as slaves to a God and thats OK.

    • Kim

      I like this girl, her observations, honesty, and bluntness. Hope she is thriving out in life.