16 January 2011

No, I Don't Know

Well, everybody gets writer's block once in a while. And there hasn't been much to write about lately. Work, time with kids, work. Real exciting.

Church was really nice today. Dr. King's birthday tomorrow was mentioned and I pondered his example of speaking out, his heroism in trying to correct great injustices, change hearts and minds. He is and should be an inspiration to all of us who are trying to do the same. It was good to take the sacrament and really focus on what it means, too. I have friends whose faith or lack of it is all over the map, but for me, nothing in life or the universe makes sense without God or the Savior or the atonement. Which is one of the reasons that as I write this I'm listening to "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." Sung by the Mack Wilberg era BYU Men's Chorus, of course. ;-) Seriously, it's the best rendition I've ever heard. If I ever do end up in an angel choir, I want it to sound like that.

Kids are not here this weekend, so this evening I took a long walk through the neighborhood, enjoying the evening air, the moon in the east part of the sky and the sunset in the west. As I walked, I read Apronkid's latest post and it really got me thinking. Not specifically about the post, but about how I look at life and the future, what I want, where I want to go and be.

Everybody who's even semi-active in the LDS Church ends up having at least some vague notion of how they imagine the eternities to be, and often it's much like the simplistic organization chart presented in Sunday School. No surprise there. But when I look at the scriptural basis for that picture, I realize how little is actually said about it. A handful of verses in one section of one book. Yet speculation and extrapolation has created a vast body of popular folk beliefs about what all the kingdoms are going to be like, who will be where, what everybody will be doing, etc., etc.

Coming out as a gay Mormon forces you to fracture a lot of stereotypes in your own mind, to say nothing of how it threatens the complacency of others. And one of mine that's fractured is that neatly organized clearly defined picture of the eternities. I've realized that I have virtually no clue how it all works, how it's organized, or anything. With a few historically prominent exceptions easily guessed at, I have no idea how to predict where anybody I know will end up. When I look at pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, ponder the mind-boggling distances in the universe, look at the amount of time that goes into the birth of a star or a planet like ours, it makes me laugh to hear anyone say they know anything about the ultimate destiny of any other person, let alone all of humanity. The hubris!

Now, in the performance-focused Mormon culture where "knowing with every fiber of your being" is the minimally acceptable standard for public statements of faith, admitting such a lack of knowledge is just not done. And a few years ago I wouldn't have done it. I would have clung to The Org Chart of Eternity like a barnacle.

But not anymore. And the bigger difference is this. It no longer bothers me one tiny bit that I don't know. My mom passed away 3 1/2 years ago. Where is she now? I have no idea. I have no doubt that she's somewhere, and I'd like to think that sometimes she's close and checks on me. But I don't know for sure. And that's okay. How do the eternities work? The "many mansions" scripture talks about? I have no idea, and I don't think anybody else really does either. And that's okay.

This is why I say that since coming out, I think my Christian faith and commitment have grown stronger. I no longer have the luxury of drifting along on the Mormon cultural current, content and complacent because I know my appearance makes everyone else think I'm Orthodox Boy. Any honest Mormon will know what I'm talking about and should confess that they've done that too. But now I've broken ranks on a serious issue that LDS theology is not equipped for, and it's no use keeping up appearances anymore. I've had to actually take complete and full responsibility for what I believe, what I have faith in, what I do and don't know. And what I don't know is a lot.

I love Einstein's statement: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." So true, so true. And so it doesn't bother me that I can't explain or even confidently predict anything about the future where we're all gonna end up eventually. The world and the universe are so vast and beautiful that I can only conceive of them as gifts and creations of a loving God and a Savior who taught the best way to have happy lives here and hereafter.

So many Mormons are so guilt-ridden with feelings of inadequate performance of duty threatening their exaltation later on that I think they lose the ability to savor and enjoy the delights of this life while they're here. Well, that's not me. In Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town" there's a very poignant scene where the spirit of a young mother, who's just died in childbirth, says goodbye to the town she grew up in and loved. I don't recall exact words, but it was a touching expression of how beautiful the world is, how miraculous life is, how every breath of every day is a glorious gift, and how much she was going to miss all that. I've been blessed with a wonderful life so far and, God willing, I have a lot more left to enjoy. And I plan to do just that.

Years ago, my dad told me his thoughts on this. "When I go for my final judgment," he said, "I'm going to tell the Savior I did my best with what I had. And if that's not good enough, well, so be it. But I will have done my best." I think that's a very healthy approach and I plan to do the same. And until then, live well, love life and my family and friends, never stop learning, savor the mysterious, enjoy each moment as much as possible.

And I'm very much enjoying that Colin Firth just won the Golden Globe for his performance in The King's Speech. If you could have seen that movie but haven't yet, you deserve to be hit with a nasty spell by Draco Malfoy.


Bravone said...

I love this post Rob. One of the greatest blessings of my life came out of my period away from the Church, from God, and from all things spiritual. The gift is my ability to admit that I don't know it all, that I don't have it all figured out, and that I'm okay with that. I think it actually has actually required more faith to be okay with doubt.

I also learned that truth and goodness are found in abundance all around us. I have peace in knowing that while I lack knowledge about so many things, I have a Father who is omniscient.

Questions of faith used to be my biggest source of grief and internal strife. Now what hurts me most is the difficulty of life for so many gay individuals. Maybe one day, with eternal perspective, we'll understand how it all fits in the grand scheme of things, but for now, I try to find hope for my brothers and pray for their happiness.

Clive Durham said...

Thanks for this post. The beauty of coming out in mid-life is that it actually allows us an opportunity to search and question, particularly with regard to those things we previously accepted as absolutes. The miracle of it all is that this process propels us to new discoveries and insights that in fact have the prospect of bringing us closer to God.

Beck said...

I, too, thank you for this post. It is most pertinent to my situation right here and now today.

Chris Janousek said...

Thanks for the post. In my opinion, "certainty" can be a trap. It can tempt us to disregard new information and new experiences as we go through life. That information and those experiences are especially valuable if they encourage us to refine or revise belief. In the worst cases, when certainty is viewed as sacrosanct, we may become mentally defensive, wary of learning new things because of the possibility that new ideas or perspectives may threaten the certainty of our personal beliefs. I sometimes wonder that if for some members sometimes the certainty of a testimony becomes more valuable than the subjects of the testimony itself. When we act or speak as if "losing" a testimony of the Gospel is the worst thing that could happen to us in this life, then I think we have become trapped by fear.

Quiet Song said...

I had an aha moment when I realized that when the millenium came I would still be responsible for my bills . . . . This changed my outlook on life considerably as well as my outlook on the afterlife. Therefore, I attempt to keep the internal in line with joy whenever possible. I do not expect to be relieved of all my problems in the afterlife, I do however expect to deal with them from another perspective and with better skills sets.