08 October 2008

From Black & White to Mostly Gray. And I'm Glad.

When I was a kid I had this idea of the Church and the gospel as monolithic, fixed, settled, and fully defined (I suppose children need to think in such simplistic, black & white terms because it makes them feel secure). As I grew up, though, I learned from my own and others' experiences that in fact the opposite is true. We believe God will reveal many great and important things in the future. We have no fixed creed like other Christian sects do, and the canon of LDS scripture is open-ended, not closed. The organizational structure of the Church changes all the time. The more I study, the more I see in LDS doctrine that is open-ended and subject to a wide variety of individual perspectives. Though there is much about the Church as an organization (and about Mormon culture) that drives me nuts, I really like this characteristic of the restored gospel. We consider it not only a virtue but an obligation to be continuously learning, studying, exploring, asking questions. Most revelation comes as an answer to a question. God didn't suddenly whack Joseph Smith on the head one day and say “OK kid, you're it, time to start it up again!” Joseph had to think things through for a long time and reach a point where he wanted an answer as much as he wanted the air he breathed. And that's when he got it, not before.

This tells me that God wants us to use our brains to figure out as much as we can on our own. How else will we learn to think for ourselves, to analyze, examine evidence, prioritize, make accurate judgments, arrive at conclusions, yet keep our minds open to new evidence and new knowledge? It's a skill like any other. I think that's why the Savior said He wasn't pleased with those who need to be commanded in all things. The celestial mansions aren't going to be populated with a lot of uncritical slugs who spent their whole lives doing nothing but what they were told. They'll be filled with those who learned through study and experience how to act independently to “bring to pass much righteousness.”

I think I would be bored silly in any other church that didn't have this perspective. It means I am not only free to have my own opinions but that I'm expected to question, to ask “how” and “why.” How does the Atonement work? How do I recognize real inspiration? How to explain some of the conundrums in Church history? How do SGA Saints fit into the plan of salvation? Many in the Church may not like this approach and discourage any questioning or doubts or disagreements. I disagree. I think it's not only healthy, but obligatory for all of us to actively question and search and try to learn all the time. I'm no genius and there are lots of people much smarter than me. But where we're at isn't as important as the direction we're heading. We can be faithful to as much of the gospel as we understand and know to be true while still having questions and even doubts about other things. It's not a monolith. It's a path, with lots of markers on the way. We all have a long way to go. I love the journey, and I love sharing it with so many.


Z i n j said...

I'm keeping this thought..If you don't mind. It has a Huge B. Brown feel to it.

Alan said...

Hugh Brown is one of my personal heroes so that is one of the nicest things you could have said. I'm flattered by the compliment and glad you found the post helpful!