TEXAS FAITH 66: The Mormon Moment
Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
This has led to a number of pieces about the so-called "Mormon moment, including one I wrote in today'sMorning News. Mormon leaders, understandably, may be wearying of that cliché. But it is true that church members have a teachable moment before them.
Specifically, they have a chance to demystify elements of their faith, which polls show is still not very well understood by many of us. In my book, this is best done through in a friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor, pew-to-pew way. That approach allows for more candid conversations and helps build bridges.
David Campbell, a Notre Dame political scientist and a Mormon, said in an interview I did with him last week that those personal bonds are especially important. They keep in check the tensions that are likely to arise in a society that has so many different faiths.
With that as the set-up, here is this week's question:
What issue would you most like to discuss with a Mormon about their religious faith?
Perhaps you already have done this, so feel free to elaborate upon that in your answer.
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
Ever journey begins not only with the destination in mind but also with the starting point. If you do not have a GPS signal the address you enter into your device will be of little use. So similarly our goal may be God, or happiness, but a proper venture cannot be taken without recognizing your current position. It is for this reason that I feel that a preliminary discussion on the metaphysics of the self, the soul, to be necessary.
We all act according to our conception of our constitutional position. How we view our existence. Do we see the body as the self? The mind? The intelligence? Or are we something completely beyond body?
In my experience if someone thinks himself to be the body and mind, then their plan for happiness will be built with purpose of satisfying the body and mind. And even if they are religious they will seek blessing from God only for their body and mind. Such as, "God please provide me my daily bread, a car, a TV, health, wealth, good family, and so on" What else is their to ask for if you are your body?
However, if you are not the body, as the Vedas claim, if you are simply a passenger in an ever changing vehicle, then satisfying the needs of the vehicle will not satisfy you, the driver of the vehicle. Just as polishing the cage does not take care of the hungry stomach of the bird, our material efforts for happiness will fail if we do not have valid understanding of the self.
As a mansion is build on a strong foundation, so similarly religion must be philosophically and intelligently supported. Starting with the topic that is closest to us, ourselves. The question and answer must put forward, "Who, or more so, what am I?" This is the dialogue that I usually pursue with my Mormon friends and other religious folks.