Monday, July 16, 2012

believing

I need to write this down so that I don't forget it. It isn't for you, it's for me. If some kernel of it touches you, that's great, but I need to write it to remember.

I have been troubled lately by the trend of Mormonism-discussing articles. It seems like people who have had an experience with the church are using their experiences for capital. Perhaps it is the fervor surrounding what Newsweek and the New York Times last year called, "The Mormon Moment" that has sparked the interest. Perhaps there are political motivations. Regardless of the motivation, it appears that my religion has become fodder for articles and columns rather than a means to access God. Honestly, it's why I won't be voting for Mitt Romney this fall. I want my religion to stay peculiar. I want it to stay out of the mainstream. We have never been mainstream, and I am not ready to apologize for that. It has become a cultural stamp to say "I was once Mormon, and here are all of the reasons why I was wrong and I am stupid for doing it". I am tired of reading those things. I am tired of hearing the reasons why these people think I am stupid for remaining active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I understand the implications.

I have read the history, I have intimately known the racism, the sexism, the bigotry. I understand that heritage in proclaiming my love for and adherence to the church. I can see the danger in accepting that.

I am not blind in my faith.

But when it comes down to it, that is precisely what I have: faith. I often think that the only things I have are faith and an enduring hope that faith will be rewarded. I am increasingly comfortable with that. I do not know many things. I am constantly impressed to think about how little I actually KNOW for fact. It seems that there is always another modifying element that comes along to challenge my certainty in all things. I'm not just talking about churchy things here: social, emotional, academic, secular, scientific, etc. Knowledge seems to work as a manner of disproving past theorems, asserting the rightness of new ideas to replace old ones. It's the work of so much philosophy and science. I respect that, but I am not going to root myself in it as absolute truth. I spend a lot of time at church asking questions and challenging the knowingness of my fellow Mormons as well. I don't direct my frustrations with knowing at the secular world alone. I want to push to see if they really know, and if they do, how it can be so. I rely a lot on Alma to back up my challenge here. Is their belief mistaken for knowing?

I want us to become more comfortable with faith. There are so many things that we cannot know, and I am happy to accept the limitations of my capacities. I can acknowledge my weaknesses. In so doing, I also must assert that there are many who seem to know more than I do. I wear my questioning nature as a badge of faith. I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ can withstand my questions, and righteousness will reign. I believe in absolute truth. I do not know it for certain, but I believe in it. There is power in belief.

I am increasingly comfortable with not knowing. I am increasingly comfortable with relying singularly on faith. I am, herein, seeking to praise that virtue. I want to hear more people in the church stand at their pulpits on the first Sunday of the month and tell me what they BELIEVE. I am tired of hearing what they presume to KNOW. I am saying that there are limitations to what we can know, but there is not a limit to what we can believe.

I study systems of value in the history of humankind. I have seen empires fall and rise based on the certainty of particular systems, assertions of knowledge. Assertions of knowledge lead to dangerous, hateful places. In so studying, I have come to the conclusion that we are all different. We are all trying to adhere the most to the things we want the most, the things about which we are most certain, the things which congratulate us the most. We are all seeking for the best situation for ourselves and for those we love. We use logic to deduce the best possible means to accomplish our goals. I will never deny the power of logic in decision making, but I would really like to introduce and affirm the power of faith in decision making. Not in knowing, but in believing. Faith, inherently, has uncertainty built into it. That's why it's scary.

I went to the Nauvoo Pageant this past weekend. I have to insert here, that I have found a lot of ways in my life to disconnect from Mormon culture. I hadn't ever seen Saturday's Warrior. I never fell for any of the missionaries who visited the wards of my youth. I didn't own a Jody dress with an ugly pastel floral print. I didn't plan to marry until after I had graduated from college. I have friends who are homosexual, and I had stepped foot in a bar before the age of 22. I enjoy a nice Diet Coke now and again. I unapologetically pepper my language with swears. I didn't want to go to BYU, and I have never been to a Cougar's football game. I only ate at Brick Oven in Provo once (it was gross). I often forget what happened in Kirtland, and couldn't name the prophets in order for you. I sought to defy the faith of my ancestors in a lot of venues, sought to differentiate myself from them for a long time. I went to the Manti Pageant a few years back as a tongue in cheek, semi-ironc statement. I can take responsibility for those decisions I made.  I was defensive against an institution that sometimes manifests human insecurity and selfishness. I was defensive against a culture that sometimes moves in ways I think of as unholy, ungodly, monotonous and harmful. I was defensive against institutional harm that has been done to my people. I was defensive. And I accept that.

I hadn't really wanted to travel to Nauvoo with my ward in Lincoln for the utter cliche of it all. But my heart was softened while there, as a piece of the evolution of my faith. I was in conversation with a friend from the ward here who was baptized a few months back. He thinks really deeply about things, and so is interesting to talk to. He is pretty logical about most things, and it's refreshing sometimes to hear things from a Spock perspective (I function mostly as a Captain Kirk). But after we watched the pageant, he told me that he felt like his heart grew three sizes bigger, that the hair on the back of his neck stood up, and he felt overwhelmed with peace. I felt like he was witnessing to me the meeting of the head and the heart. Together, they testified to him and allowed the Spirit to teach him about the Gospel. He told me he felt like the Grinch in the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when he goes into the town and everyone shares their canned food with him. When he feels bad about them all being hungry, but still celebrating Christmas, so he gets the "roast beast" they had prepared- while he is slicing it, his heart grows too big for the frame. That part. He felt like his heart was going to burst with love.

I love that feeling.

I am also completely terrified and addicted to that feeling.

I cannot explain the logic in it, and I want to assert the power of feeling the Spirit. I want to acknowledge the courage it takes to act on faith. I want to sing praise for my pioneer grandparents whose exodus makes no logical sense. I want to give love to the polygamist sisterwives of my ancestry, who resisted based on logic, but committed because of faith. I want to thank all of them for their humility and willingness to build, what they believed, was the kingdom of God on the earth. I think I am coming to understand why there is such a focus on pioneers at church. I always hated how much of a focus there was on that... It seemed like ancestor worship that detracted from a testimony of Jesus Christ, which is the center of my faith. But I think I am coming to know the principle that is at work in those stories of which there are not a few. I am coming to see the common thread that knits my heart to theirs. I am coming to know that it is precisely that testimony, that faith to act on the mission of Jesus Christ is what provokes the focus. We liken the past unto ourselves.

I believe that faith leads to action. I am trying to resist the demand to know, and trying to be content with the power of faith.My sweet missionary baby brother directed me to this talk today. It has a lot in it that I find applicable to my assertions, queries and ideas here. The gospel is amazing. I believe it to be true.

15 comments:

Miss K$ said...

Yep. You know what I think. Faith all the way.

gavin said...

Thanks for posting. I'm glad you went to BYU so that I could be snarky with you in the back of the class. And now, I get to follow your blog with the pure force of your prose. This post especially was good for me as I have had similar feelings and didn't know how to express them. I too am OK living with questions. -Gavin

madeline said...

mm hmm. <3
love this. lets keep talking about it. also, lets pepper our language in august, together.

Jenna said...

I've spent many hours, probably days by now, defending my faith online and in person. Mostly online. And when I say "faith," I mean exactly what you mean. I don't mean it as a replacement word for religion. I mean it as exactly that -- my understanding of the Gospel(as limited as it may be) and my personal desire to believe it. I've sort of given up defending myself because I've heard too often the smug implication of, "Well, someday you'll see how blind you really were." Well, I am a little blind, and I'm OK with that. Being a Mormon makes me happy. Having faith is sometimes scary but usually awesome. And so are you (not scary, just awesome).

P.S. -- I'm glad you went to BYU so we could be roomies. Fun times.

*ehu. said...

Thank you for being you and for thinking the way you do!

Karen said...

I saw your link on fb. I am so glad I did- I am talking this Sunday on pioneer day and we have come to some of the same exact conclusions regarding it. It must be true :) Love it!

thatonegirl said...

I love this, I love the diversity you are so willing to share with others. Maybe this wasn't meant to be written for me... but really it was.

mormonandgay said...

Thank you. I too am frustrated with the attacks on the church. But as frustrating as it is, I have still been able to find peace and not let it upset me too much. That peace comes from acting on my faith and living the gospel to. Best of my ability. Good post. Thanks for writing it. :)

Skypattie79 said...

I love you my Skippy girl! This is very well said. You teach me so much & so does your baby brother. I'm reading that talk link now...

dana rose said...

amen, sista friend.

ELI said...

We don't know each other. Thank you for this post. This has been on my mind lately and I think your insights here are really valuable. And thank you for being a positive voice for the church and the gospel.

canne said...

Great, thoughtful post. I don't know you, but I'm Lauren's sister. I live in Cambridge, MA. A lot of people in my ward say I believe instead of I know. There is a lot of open questioning here that has, in my mind, led to a nurturing community operating on faith.

erin said...

Great post. The negativity in the media has gotten me down a little and this brought me right back up.

Rachel Hunt said...

I want to phone talk with you about these things (and also just in general).

I have many (mixed) feelings about all of the Mormon articles springing up. Part of me genuinely loves them, but that might just be when they are genuinely good, or thoughtful, or insightful, or truthful, but part of me feels hints of the things that you feel. For me it is further complicated because I study "Mormon Studies" at my grad school, or at least take classes in it, and some of the things that I learn are truly remarkable and even faith instilling. For Spencer, all of it is hard, and it is difficult for him to think of our faith being talked about unfaithfully, with the emphasis on the secular. (I actually think my school/professors do a good job emphasizing/respecting both.) But I understand there is a lot that is difficult about it, and bringing it into the open. I also agree that there is something appropriate about being peculiar, and something would be lost if that peculiarity were lost.

On your faith/knowledge comments, I mostly agree, and am familiar with many others who struggle with Testimony Meeting's repeated assertions of "I know. I know. I know." The one thing that has helped me see it in a different, perhaps more compassionate light is this:

http://www.patheos.com/Mormon/I-Know-James-Faulconer-06-28-2012.html

It was written by one of my favorite BYU philosophy professors. You may like it too.

Rachel Hunt said...
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