One of them is the Mormon Discussions Board (hereafter MDB)*. Having said that, I still occasionally venture back to feel degraded and worthless. I have to admit that an unintended blessing of this is humility - realising that I'm no better than others, and just as inclined to hypocrisy and pretense. As hard as it may be to bear, it's medicine for the prideful soul if the dosage isn't overdone. Other than that, it's a venue I largely avoid, because too much medicine of any kind can make one very ill. Being there, or even contemplating going there, gives one the opposite of the "burning in the bosom" feeling, more like getting ready to go to the dentist. It's not long term therapy for the soul, and can sap faith in oneself and God. Very quickly.
On avoiding dangerous venues, I'm reminded of a dream I had while I was on my mission. I dreamt that I was on a tropical island, much like the one I was born in, and I saw a jetty which led to a most appealing blue waters. My first inclination was to walk along the jetty, then dive in and enjoy the cool, crystal clear waters, as I did so many times in my native country. As I reached the end of the jetty, and just before I was about to dive in, I saw that the water below was infested with crocodiles. (This is actually a phenomenon one can experience in North Queensland and the Northern Territory, but thankfully I've never experienced it.) A dark shudder went through my soul when I realised how something so seemingly appealing can actually be fatal - and then I woke up.
There's no doubt that MDB can provide much needed therapy for some, at various stages of life and loss of faith. Indeed, I once found it helpful when I felt negative and rebellious, and also during a brief time when I was going through very likely the only time in my life I ever had a "does God exist?" stage, so I really shouldn't begrudge others who seek commiseration and justification. It's a place where you pour out your soul in anguish, a cry for help and understanding, and others who have been through similar experiences reach out to you. However, if one is not careful, it can become an exercise in self-justification, and therefore not very therapeutic. It reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” Although it was recommended but though I've never had it, I suppose "divorce therapy" is very similar, to repair souls suffering great emotional loss. These are real phenomena, whether one loses faith in one's religion, or experiences a severing of marital and family ties. The pain may continue for many, many years, if not a lifetime.
One thing I've learned, from both divorce and in times of loss of faith, is that always, there are regressive and overly negative situations that should largely be avoided (no need to tell us how absolutely awful your "ex" was, forever and a day). And there is a time of arrival (or speaking of negative message boards - departure), so to speak, a time for change, a time to "stop bitching", and move on (how many times did I hear that immediately after divorce), to look at life from more positive perspectives, instead of constantly dwelling on the negatives. Reading uplifting literature, savoring inspiring life stories, listening to inspiring music, and mixing with faith-filled people, seems like much better long term therapy for wounded souls. During the end of my regular, almost obsessive posting on MDB, I was deeply inspired by 16 year old youth solo around the world sailor Jessica Watson. Every day I followed her progress as she blogged, from the Indian Ocean (I was a latecomer), through the treacherous Southern Ocean and round the capes of Tasmania, and then her triumphant entry into Sydney Harbour. Many said she could never do it, that her parents were reckless and irresponsible, and some even went as far as saying she was as good as dead, and would never return. As the airwaves filled with gloom, doom, criticism and negativity, day by day Jessica and Ella's Pink Lady slowly sailed towards Sydney. This still inspires me so much that even now, nearly three years on, I am choked with emotion thinking about it. When I contrast those feelings with the gloom and negativity of MDB, where everything negative is directed at Mormons and Mormonism, it dawns on me that there a much larger world out there, beyond our concerns, fears, and even our losses. There are positive people fighting against enormous odds everywhere, and as the poem Desiderata so eloquently states:
"... the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism."
There is nothing heroic about constantly dwelling on our problems and misfortunes, or constantly dwelling on the perceived "evils of Mormonism" (or any ex-religion), and attacking others who disagree with us so we can feel justified. One very notable trait I saw in Jessica Watson, is that she largely ignored those who criticised and attacked her. This young lady not only had a giant of a spirit, an unconquerable spirit, but was mature way beyond her 16 years. This was no "little girl" sailing around the world to make a point to herself and others, it was an inspiring lesson in personal determination and courage. My other heroine is Joan of Arc. I suppose Joan could have written long diatribes about the evil English, and the English domination of France, but she succinctly summed up her "divine" mission with, "I am not afraid...I was born to do this." The normally witty and sardonic Mark Twain went head over heels in his unabashed admiration of Joan, and it was noted of his Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc:
The author had a personal fascination with Joan of Arc. The work has a very different feel and flow from Twain's other works. There is a distinct lack of humor, so prevalent in his other works. This is a mature Twain, writing about a subject of personal interest to him. He was first attracted to Joan of Arc in the early 1850s when he found a leaf from a biography of her and asked his brother Henry whether she was real. In addition, Twain arguably worked harder on this book than any other. In a letter to H.H. Rogers he stated, “I have never done any work before that cost so much thinking and weighing and measuring and planning and cramming…on this last third I have constantly used five French sources and five English ones, and I think no telling historical nugget in any of them has escaped me.
This can be called obsession, but it's a positive obsession, ennobling and uplifting obsession which would benefit and enhance the faith of millions of readers for more than a century. The normally cynical Twain was subdued by what he saw as true greatness, and true saintliness, and true boldness and courage. This is an example of a man being inspired to rise above cynicism and faithlessness, already so prevalent in our world.
It's fair to say that the "culture" of MDB hasn't changed, and if anything, it has become much more negative. MDB didn't change, I did. With that change came many realisations, some of them already in scripture:
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;
26 He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all. (D&C 50)
23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. (I Cor.10:23)8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
This has been my "spiritual journey", and my realisations, and I stand by my original intent and the title of this post, that "Some Venues Are Not Good for The Soul". Life must be lived looking forward, not backwards, and it must be lived with hope, nor despair.
*I'd rather not link to this board, but it can easily be found on Google.
Note: This is an edited and slightly expanded version of my original blog post at MDB: An Insider's View.