On Belief

 

With the Ordain Women movement jumping up in the news again today (excommunication on the horizon, perhaps), this has brought out the opinions on my Facebook feeds. I usually steer away from debates that involve religion and politics. At least, I steer away from those more now than I used to, because people hold these things too close to their hearts. But I just wanted to say this…

I experienced shifting theological ground in my life. One I can think of right now was during a semester at BYU. Here I was, attending a church school, and I never once attended the student ward. I couldn’t even tell you where they met. I needed this semester, though. I needed it because I hadn’t found my OWN ground to stand on yet. I was still standing on others’: parents, grandmas, YW leaders, seminary teachers, and friends. The truth that I found for myself is the kind that doesn’t become nervously defensive and isn’t afraid of questions.

It hasn’t been all rose petals and glitter since then. Faith is vulnerable. Faith depends on hope. Faith can be susceptible to fact. I’ve seen this first hand in friends that have lost their faith. However, I wasn’t blind to the evidence they had unearthed, the things they learned that shook their beliefs; and my friends are my friends because they are intelligent, kind, and just good people. So why haven’t I followed their paths away from the Mormon Church? Why am I still here? Why is it that the evidence that eroded their foundations actually strengthened mine?

If you think that the answer may be that my faith, my foundation, my truth, must then be too Pollyannaish, then I simply say, don’t. I find my beliefs through honest doubt; through choosing NOT to ignore negative evidence. The difference for me is my EXPECTATIONS. My faith means that I can ask questions. That I can wonder aloud. That I allow the winds of possibility to blow.

I’m not trying to say that I am better than those unbeliever friends, that my intellectual rank is higher, or that their feelings and choices are insincere. But I do want to share this quote from a most-excellent BYU professor I had, Steve Walker: “The pattern in every loss of faith I’ve observed is not overreaching into too much learning. It is, rather, uninformed expectations. It is an insistence on perfection in anything religious that sets up overidealizing believers for inevitable disillusionment.”

I am currently teaching Gospel Doctrine in my ward. Here’s how I prepare:

  1. Open the teacher’s manual to the lesson assigned and see which scriptures we’ll be reading
  2. Open up my other bible: The Oxford Study Bible, and read the scriptures there first
  3. Turn back to the lesson manual and read through the lesson as outline by Church Education
  4. Write up an outline for our discussion
  5. Use the King James Version of the Bible in class

The reason I share this with you is to simply say that there is truth, there is God, EVERYWHERE. I find God sometimes at church. I find Him often in nature: just sitting in the backyard listening to the sound of water, pulling those drasted weeds out, watching the birds at the feeder. I find Him in the Bible (and when I find him there, it’s more amazing because the Bible is hard, it’s angry, it’s very bare with the sins and wickedness of men). I find God in books. I find Him again and again when I’m not looking or expecting and am filled with amazement each time. The spirit is good to feel. I love finding God in the real world: at work, in academics, in the mundane of every day. And if I feel like I’ve missed out on it for a while, that I have been blind to finding God everywhere for whatever reason, I know that one of the most accessible places I can go for this is the Book of Mormon. Just the act of opening it up changes my day.

Taking this back to Facebook, what I see in some of the discussions is people using this current news to either falter their own faith or give them an opportunity to present to others possible knowledge to undermine faith. Instead of fearing facts, I have learned to take doubt as an ingredient of faith. If you are to know courage, you must know fear. If you are to know faith, don’t you need to know doubt? So this discussion in the news, the comments on Facebook: they are not liabilities for my belief. They help my faith to expand.

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5 comments

  1. As a person who’s been on both sides of the fence, I feel like I can relate to some degree with you as well as the friends on the other side of faith. It seems safe to say that your friends losing their faith probably wasn’t as clear cut as finding seemingly contradictory facts that eroded an otherwise perfect relationship with the LDS church. Odds are that, for many complicated reasons, their psyche wasn’t being nourished in the same way and all they needed was an intellectual push to abandon their faith altogether. Then they made the same mistake that everyone on facebook does: they assumed that we should all ascribe the same level of meaning to everything based off of cold, hard evidence. Which is just absurd. Can you imagine going to someone’s house and mocking their seashell collection they’ve been building for the past 40 years because those particular seashells have practically no monetary value? or telling someone to get over their baby–she clearly has–at best–an average intellect and she looks like Danny Devito?

    You know, a quote came to mind as I was reading this blog…lemme see. ah.
    “You are lucky it wasn’t her heart. The heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be…persuaded.”
    That’s from Frozen (I’m a very intellectually deep person). I think that every single one of us just follows our heart and we intellectually fudge around until we find a logical narrative that explains our actions and beliefs and pretend THAT’S the real reason behind everything.

    And yup. you can’t have faith without doubt. I have faith that we’ll all have a delightful afternoon here at my house with no screaming or injuries…and it’s the contradictory evidence that reminds me that it is, indeed, faith. But I need to have it–we all do. And the fact that you’re able to tap into that sense of Awe so often is a pretty darn good indicator that you’re onto something. I hope your friends’ differing paths lead to similar results.

    Anyway…uhh..that was a bit more wordy than I’d intended. But good good post, I enjoyed it. 🙂

    Like

    1. I didn’t reply to this for such a long time and wasn’t intentionally ignoring it. You probably won’t see my reply now anyway, but just in case you do, thanks for including these thoughts. I particularly like how you offered that my friends’ different paths lead to similar results. I so agree.

      With moving to Bountiful, it has been a bit of a struggle at church because I’ve found some cultural differences that I am not a fan of. Thankfully, I’ve found a few folks in there, too, that don’t fall into the same idea of the “holier than thou” feelings. I don’t think that the people in the ward do it intentionally. I do think that they try to be good neighbors and such, but when you’re surrounded by mostly other Mormons, it’s certainly easiest to just stick with them same Mormons.

      I don’t know that I’m even making sense so I’ll just end with this.

      As my “old age” I’ve found that I search for friends that are respectful of all beliefs, backgrounds, lifestyles, races, religions, etc. Life is happier when I’m around people like this and it rubs off on me, making me a better person. I think that’s why I don’t post a lot of spiritual stuff on my blog because I don’t want to come off as preachy, missionary-like, or trying to push my beliefs on others.

      And that was a bit more wordy than I intended.

      Like

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