I am a psychology major and I absolutely love science. To me we live in this exciting time where scientific development is growing at incredible rates and yet there is so much that we simply do not understand. I love studying brain research as well as looking into the complex social mechanics that we all engage in. Often my pervious assumptions are challenged and I am forced to change my mind, but that is exactly what I love about science.
Growing up in the church I happened to be raised in a family that had strong hesitations about science, and felt that whenever a scientific experiment and a religious assumption came into conflict we should abandoned the experiment as it must obviously be flawed. As I have become better acquainted with the scientific process I now see that approach as strongly problematic, and unnecessary.
Hugh B. Brown puts it extremely well when he says “We are at home with the most advanced truths discovered by scientists and with all competent philosophic thought—with truth wherever found—because our religion enjoins in us a love of knowledge and education, encourages us to seek understanding through the broadening of our vision and the deepening of our insight.
I think many of us come to misunderstandings of science and how we should engage with it as faithful members of the church honestly. I am so grateful for leaders like Hugh B. Brown who are able to push us beyond our assumptions and show us that we can play an important role in the scientific arena. We do not need to fear truth.
I believe that tension is a beautiful aspect of life, and is extremely important in a faithful journey within Mormonism. I strongly feel that often with an intense desire to follow truth, and to defend ourselves against the struggles that come from education, we can tend to create a false dichotomy where we must make a choice. Either we can have faith in our prior ideas or we can trust this new piece of information. I feel that it is sometimes difficult to recognize that changing our minds is not always a bad thing. Learning new facts that we were previously unaware of does not need to destroy faith, and can actually be a vital part of spiritual development.
Lowell L. Bennion once shared a thought that I feel is important to ponder as we think about this relationship between faith and reason. “Faith is the sphere of the possible. It is an hypothesis, suggested by the existence of some facts, but projecting beyond these to the realm of what might be or could be. . . . Faith is adventurous and creative. It not only is the sphere of the possible, but is also the power which often makes the possible come into being. . . . The student should not feel compelled to choose between faith and knowledge. [G]ain and use knowledge where it is available. [W]alk by faith where knowledge is not available.”
Mormonism can teach us to follow the evidence and to follow knowledge wherever it may lead us. Faith is a powerful gift, but we should not use it as an excuse to ignore important news revelations.
There is something about a search that can cause great excitement and desire to move forward to find that which you are looking for. There are many of us, attempting to follow the advice of alma in seeking even a mere desire to believe, and yet it can be difficult to always know the very best ways to better understand our faith, especially when we are struggling.
I believe that the advice given by David O. McKay is extremely applicable and demonstrates a great way for each of us to move forward. “That is what a testimony means. To know God, and Jesus Christ, is to have life eternal . . . But the question arises—How may I know? . . . There is a definite answer—a clear-cut statement for our young people seeking a testimony: If ye will do the will [of God], ye shall know. . . . What is God’s will? . . . Jesus said the first fundamental law is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all they strength. . . . And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
My hope is that as we seek to better understand the will of God, and our place within this faith, we can seek with a diligent willingness to love.
About six years ago I started to go through my faith Crisis/transition. As it felt like everything I believed in was crashing down around me I felt a great amount of fear. I remember thinking “maybe I should just stop learning about these troubling things and just remain blissfully unaware of the problems and complexities that exist in my faith.” I felt that this was a compelling answer to my struggles, and yet there was something about doing so that felt so wrong. I thought that if we really believe that the church has the truth that I felt it did, why should I fear? I did not want fear to guide my life, thus I decided to simply move forward with faith.
One day I felt extremely supported about my decision to follow the evidence and to let it lead me where I need to be. I read a quote from Obert C. Tanner indicating that we must not fear truth. He said “There is nothing to fear now, unless it be a faith that is so weak it fears honest inquiry. Only those not certain of the Gospel’s eternal truths are afraid of questions, and doubts, and seekers of truth. Those with a testimony of the Gospel’s great and noble standards revealed from God will never have but love and encouragement in their hearts for others who would pioneer for new truths or struggle to comprehend old truths.
“I know this church is true without even a shadow of a doubt” is a phrase often heard as we share our testimonies together in church meetings. Although these testimonies are sincere, and often beautiful, and I would not want to challenge the certainty of those who share something so important to them, some of us sit back wondering what it is that we are doing wrong. Some of us struggle with everything we have to gain a sure knowledge, and yet fail as we recognize question after question that demands faith instead of knowledge.
Recognizing the difficulties involved with this desire for absolute certainty, B. H. Roberts once asked “Would absolute certainty be desirable? “Know ye not that we walk by faith, not by sight,” is Paul’s statement. From which I infer that this very uncertainty in the midst of which we walk by faith, is the very means of our education. What mere automatons [people] would become if they found truth machine-made, of cast-iron stiffness, and limited, that is to say, finite, instead of being as we now find it, infinite and elusive . . .”
This thought experiment is important to help us see that there is beauty in this journey of uncertainty, and perhaps that is exactly something God intends to be a large part of our journey.
About 6 years ago I began going through a Faith transition. It radically transformed my approach to Mormonism. I was able to discover ways to move forward past much of the pain and struggles that this process caused, in productive and empowering ways. Throughout the years I have been blest to be familiar with a large amount of incredible and thoughtful people who share our tradition, and through strong spiritual seeking I have come to the conclusion that Mormonism is where God wants me to be. I am grateful for those who have helped me become more familiar with those areas of our religion that are more expansive and inclusive than I had previously been aware of.
This is the purpose of this project for me. I believe that a problem that we have in our church and in our culture is that we want to make God too simple and small, by placing him in a nice clean little box. We want to protect individuals from harm, and often do this by creating a more exclusive atmosphere, and even try to get people to do what is “right” but showering them with shame and guilt. Sometimes we do not want to imagine the complexities and to struggle with difficult issues out of fear. We want everything in the church to be perfect, and precise, when this is not the way things really work in this world.
However it is my argument that this is only a small part of our culture. I believe in big tent Mormonism, and I believe this is because Mormonism is, or at least can be that way. We are so lucky to have had such incredible leaders and members of our church who promoted incredible theology and inclusive universal messages, but because of fear, their messages are often ignored. Thus in this project I will be promoting their voices. I will share a quote in each episode along with a thought of my own. These episodes will normally be about 1-5 minutes long. If there are ever context issues or points that you disagree with me on, please feel free to comment in the show notes as I would be happy to hear your thoughts. I am so excited to begin this project and to explore some of the amazing thoughts that have been shared from our leaders with you.