As you all know, I love the Remys. They have a new podcast out which I found to be extremely interesting and moving. The theme is around changing perspectives–how we sometimes reinterpret experiences differently as we mature in life. The two main stories in this episode are:
- As some of you may know, John Remy has been on a journey of redefining his faith/belief over the past 4 years. In this episode, he discusses how he has reinterpreted a pivotal LDS-related spiritual experience he had as a young man–through his current lense.
- Few of you probably know that Jana Remy lost a leg to cancer as a young teenager (I learned this myself for the first time 2 weeks ago). Probably even fewer of you know that Jana’s story was featured in the January 2001 edition of the New Era. In this podcast, Jana discusses the deep pain and spiritual confusion she suffered when she, her family, and church community fasted, prayed and applied faith towards what would become an eventual amputation.
Aside from being deeply moved by the candor and insight behind these stories (this is Mormon Stories, after all), this podcast caused me to think more deeply about the mechanics of inspiration.
- We perform an act like a prayer, or deep contemplation.
- We experience very strong emotions (spirit motivated, most LDS would interpret).
- We then fix some type of meaning, or interpretation, to those emotions.
Most of us with LDS testimonies have experienced this pattern, some of us numerous times. For many, the most powerful of these experiences came when we were youth, or young adults. As we mature in life, it probably makes sense to reflect on past life experiences (spiritual or otherwise), and see what deeper meaning these events might have for us today.
There is obvious difficulty and even peril in this exercise. Just as some disaffected LDS criticize Joseph Smith for what they view to be the altering of his first vision story over time–we have to be careful not to discard deeply meaningful or even real spiritual experiences from the Divine. Is a reflection or a reinterpretation 15 years after the fact more or less accurate? You might have more experience, wisdom, and perspective at an advanced age. You also might be more frustrated, or confused, about how life has turned out. I expect that the answer will vary depending on the person, and the experiences. On the one hand, “blessed are the children.” On the other, “when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Tricky exercise indeed–but one worth considering, if we are to continue progressing in our respective spiritual lives. And let me be really clear–my intent or hope is not in any way that people will “interpret away” their spiritual experiences. Instead, I hope that we can all find deeper, more accurate meaning within these experiences, that will take us to better, more enlightened places in our respective journeys.
Personally, I cannot separate the deep spiritual experiences I have had from my LDS faith and tradition. For me, I imagine that they will be forever inextricably linked. I am staying in the LDS Church, come heck or high water. It is my home, and I love it (warts and all).
Still, standing water becomes stagnant, stale, and polluted. Flowing water tends to remain pure. I do believe that deeper reflection, if done in the spirit of faith and hope and love, will always lead us to purer places. Thanks to the Remys for inspiring the reflection, and the journey.