A few years ago I was at the Deseret Industries looking through their selection of books, and I was pulling out a hug stack of LDS books that I was excited to purchase and to look into. While looking through their selection, I was approached by a nice little lady who happened to work there. We began discussing LDS books, but the women then expressed a concern that she felt. She seemed to indicate that we need to be extremely careful with what we read, and that we probably should not really read anything that was not written by a general authority. I was very friendly to this woman, but I feel that this perspective is extremely short sighted. For one I believe that we need to be careful with everything we read, included works from General authorities, but also if we choose to ignore that written from individuals who are outside of church leadership I believe we will miss out on a great deal of truth that perhaps God wants us to discover.
This is the point that I think B.H. Roberts was sharing when he said “I believe it is good to investigate and prove all principles that come before me. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good, and reject that which is evil, no matter what guise it may come in. I think if we, as “Mormons,” hold principles that cannot be sustained by the Scriptures and by good sound reason and philosophy, the quicker we part with them the better, no matter who believes in them or who does not. In every principle presented to us, our first inquiry should be, “Is it true?” “Does it emanate from God?” If He is its Author it can be sustained just as much as any other truth in natural philosophy; if false it should be opposed and exposed just as much as any other error. Hence upon all such matters we wish to go back to first principles.”
A while ago in testimony meeting, a missionary stood up and spoke about a conversation he had with an individual on the street. He spoke about the concerns and doubts that this man had addressed, and expressed that they came to an impasse and were no longer able to communicate with each other as it had devolved into a contentious argument. Although I disagree with the way this missionary responded, since he claimed that the man had doubts due to selfishness and sin, I do agree with him that our attitude and approach can be vital in helping us come to healthier understandings of the difficult issues of our history, as well as our ways of understanding the gospel in general.
Elder Uchtdorf once said “Doubt your doubts,” but I believe that this can be overly simplified. I think instead of interpreting this to say that we should simply dismiss any questions we may have, I see it as a need for a different approach. The great thinker William James once said something that demonstrates the approach that I have found to be the most valuable in my life. He said “I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather I fear to lose truth by the pretension to possess it already wholly.”
I believe that extreme value can come from gaining this perspective where we are not merely seeking doubt, but instead are attempting to avoid the problems that can come from ignoring it. I believe that instead oversimplifying, and attacking those we may disagree it may be better to attempt to see where people are coming from.
“Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet, Follow the Prophet He knows the way” is a song that we sing with and teach to our children in primary. I do not particularly mind the song, and actually I have very fond memories that centralize around it. I believe that these kinds of messages are good at helping us understand a prophet’s role, and to help us develop trust in God. However I feel that it is extremely important to be clear with our children what this does not mean.
I believe that many of our problems in our culture is by lazily interpreting the messages of our leaders, which often leads to us believing that they have made claims that they have not made. I have seen many take these types of messages to suggest, although not in these terms, that we should turn off our brains and simply do what we are told. Not only do I believe this is a wrong interpretation of what we should be doing, but I feel that taking leaders counsel without pondering and seeking confirmation from God can be a dangerous practice.
Hugh B. Brown gives wonderful counsel in this regard to help us better understand our role as we seek to follow our leaders. He said “While all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile.”
This is a long quote and thus I will not say much about it, but I strongly love and appreciate this message. I feel that there is so much need for a contemplative and ponderous approach to the gospel. I strongly believe that we should not fear learning, and instead we should approach it with a fiery zeal.
Hugh B. Brown provides one of my favorite quotes about the importance of what he calls the freedom of the mind. He says “We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration.
One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking. More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings.
We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.”
I love food… perhaps way too much. There is something about taste that is so powerful. For example we have the power to associate tastes, as well as other senses to the places in which we have eaten something. Whenever I eat passion fruit, I am reminded of Brazil which brings various wonderful memories to my mind. We can also easily recognize when something has a taste that we like.
Taste is thus a wonderful analogy for recognizing truth, which is illustrated when Joseph Smith said “This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. . . . [W]hen I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more.
Have you ever smelt a bottle of milk and recognized that it was not right for you, even though it was perfectly fine a few days earlier. This can be true for ideas in the church as well. I used to for example be obsessed with the idea of certainty, and now this idea of knowing everything does not only feel unrealistic, but also undesirable to me. It no longer tastes good. However even though my tastes may have changed a little I still recognize that there is so much that tastes amazing in this church, This is the reason for this podcast, to highlight the incredible flavors that are available to us as we seek to continue to learn and grow and become better people.
A few testimony meetings ago, a kind and well intentioned women in my ward stood up to share her testimony. It was obvious that something in her family had been troubling her in tremendous ways. She shared with us that a family member had begun to struggle with their faith. This family member had come into conflict with complex and difficult information causing them to feel the need to leave the church. This woman attempted to engage the person but expressed a darkness that she felt as the family member expressed their concerns.
I would never want to make light of the difficulties and pain this women was feeling, but she followed this up by expressing a concern about the internet, and she stated that there are many who are attempting to attack truth and desperately want to destroy it. She stated that the information shared on these websites was simply full of lies, but we need to be careful because they are venomous and extremely dangerous. Her remedy for this information was to avoid it like the plague. She even said that if you have loved ones who are struggling with these things, do not even engage them as their doubt can be infectious.
Again with all the respect I can muster, I simply disagree with this approach. I believe that this avoidance can cause more harm than good, and most of the time when people are struggling, they just want to be validated, supported and loved. Instead I share the opinion of President J. Reuben Clark who said “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” I feel that we strongly need to move forward with faith, as we are taught “Do what is right let the consequence follow.”
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.