Friday, March 23, 2012

Father-son dialogue, Part 1: Mormon NDEs

Begun on March 23, 2012;
Updated: Apr 2, 2012   (An on-going conversation)

Eugene and Nick Kovalenko in 2007

My very dear son Nick,

As I approach the end of my 70s, hardly a day goes by that I don't question my sanity, let alone yours in your middle 50s, our family's in general, the current political presidential contest and--not least of all--the Mormon tradition into which we both were born and reared.

A few weeks ago I read Kenneth Ring's Lessons from the Light, what we can learn from the Near-death Experience, which has given me a remarkable new hold on sanity and which I referred to you. Since you also became animated and wondered about who else in our tradition might also have had such experiences, I proposed a dialogue about it that we might offer to those of our birth tradition who also are earnestly seeking truth.

The audiences I have in mind are: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought; Sunstone:Mormon Experience, Scholarship, Issues and Art; and Mormon Stories.

I suggest we approach this subject by beginning with our own experiences. Perhaps you can take the lead by first describing your "DCE", which seems to me very similar to an NDE? I urge you to describe it first, before analyzing or defending it. This might encourage others to "come out of the closet."

It's a beginning…..

Love, Dad

Cell phone text exchanges on Mar 23:
NEK: It will take me a long time to describe my DCE on paper. I've attempted it many times and I always run out of gas and get frustrated…

ENK: Good beginning!!

NEK: OK. FYI, it would be easier to make a special effects film out of it.

ENK: That approach is ideal for Mormon Stories, not Dialogue or Sunstone. Let's keep talking about it.

NEK: OK. BTW, "Lessons from the Light" was very encouraging and vindicating because several of the people used the same terminology to describe the nature of portions of their experience. In fact it might be worth having a conversation with that Mellen-Thomas Benedict dude and Beverly Brodsky because significant components of their stories are identical to mine.

ENK: I suggest you extract those sections and send them to me.

NEK: Okay, I'll just go through the whole book and abstract the corroborating testimony.

ENK: That will be terrific!

On Saturday, 24 Mar 12, we had these exchanges: 
ENK: Seen my father-son dialogue blog yet?

NEK: I looked at it yesterday and am not sure why we would want to "advertise" our conversation. Why do u want to do this?

ENK: To invite LDS NDErs to participate--come out of the closet.

NEK: Hmmmm. For some reason I seem to doubt people would b inclined to locate and read such a conversation in a stranger's blog. I like the idea of approaching directly thru Dialogue, Sunstone and MS; especially MS.

On Monday, 26 Mar 12, I text-ed: 
ENK: OK. I'll redirect this conversation to Mormon Stories for now. We may want to come back to this blog thread later if others find us and want to participate...

NEK: Okay sounds good.

On Mar 26 I sent an email to John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories and included this link. MS is an extremely robust site and Dehlin must be super busy trying to keep up with it.

On Wednesday, 28 Mar 12, Nick and I text-ed:
ENK: U gonna send excerpts?

NEK: Yeah, I got stuck but am still working on it.

ENK: Good! I'd like to be ready w/info if and when he replies.

NEK: If and when who replies?

ENK: MS founder John Dehlin. But he might be too busy, since this MS project has really taken off. I don't know what kind of support staff he/they have.

NEK: Oh. okay.

On Friday, Mar 30, Nick text-ed:
NEK: There is too much in the whole book to include and for me to comment on or to clarify, so I'm just going to concentrate on the chapter "Journeys to the Source", which has several stories with similar and appropriate content..

ENK: Sounds like good place to focus on....don't try to do too much at this point.

On Sunday, Apr 1, Nick wrote:
NEK: Almost done; couldn't do anything today; will send excerpts and comments from journey to the source since it is closest to my own experience. BTW, I can't imagine anyone having an authentic NDE, BTL (beyond the light), or DCOE (divine conduit opening event) and hiding in the closet, maintaining their membership and activity in the Mormon Church. It just wouldn't be possible.

On Monday, Apr 2, I responded:
Mormon Stories is not about maintaining membership and/or activity in the Mormon ecclesiastical institution. It's about sharing the Mormon experience--experiences of people with a Mormon upbringing or background despite the institution. These "people because of the book" nevertheless have a unique common language in terms of images, metaphors, practices, challenges, etc. I know that many have had and are continuing to have profound spiritual experiences, which they can't share within the establishment church, for reasons you clearly understand. That's the main purpose of our father-son dialogue in my view.

Nick replied:
Oh yeah. For some reason I was thinking you were referring to mainstream members when suggesting some were "in the closet" with regard to having experienced profound spiritual events. Yes, I would hope and expect there might be MS people who might feel safer and willing to share if they know there are others...

I'll look at your draft [for 2012 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium on the theme: Mormons and Mormonism as a Political Force] and get back to you. 

Later, Nick continues (re draft):
I don't know what I can contribute except for my opinion that the Mormon subculture is dangerous to the extent it is so delusionary and self-righteous, and pervasive throughout government, military, law enforcement and the intelligence community, it cannot be contained.
ENK replies: 
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment if by "subculture" you are alluding to unconscious elements of the corporate LDS Church hierarchy and general Church priesthood membership. Or is it broader than that? That is precisely the reason we are communicating in this blog, my dear honest-to-a-fault son. I need your most rigorous and compassionate responses to the issues here. Do you remember the meaning of the Russian word prelest? I think this word applies to virtually all ecclesiastical enterprises and is at the root of so many conflicting sects and religious institutions world-wide.
However, when you say "it cannot be contained", I do not agree. That is because I believe a Higher Power, beyond what the LDS (or any other institution and its respective subculture) lay claim to, is in ultimate control of this world and everything in it. Do you not believe this? Is this not the fundamental message of the NDErs, i.e., that each human being has an individual purpose and is tasked to become conscious of it? This is to say nothing about any other living thing on the planet--INCLUDING TICKS?!  Can you not see that our conversation can be an effective part of this collective purpose? 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if your siblings would join us? But they may fear to become involved for lack of respect or trust to even consider it. I dearly wish and pray this were not so...

Nick again: Based on my "DCOE" of August 2001 I have lots of things to say, clarify and extend on about the following and more: ....

ENK: Wow! Nick, this is huge! And clearly too much for this particular post. I'll post it in Part 2.

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