This was originally posted on Adrienne’s blog at http://agnosticmormonmom.blogspot.com/
I Bore My Testimony?
Jacob 2:19–“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them.” Not after you obtain knowledge, but after you obtain hope.
Ether 12:4–“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” Hope seems to be sufficient to anchor the soul, which then leads to all this other stuff.
Moroni 8:26–“and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” I like this one because we tend to view the Holy Ghost as a means to obtaining knowledge, but this is saying that his job is to fill us with hope and love, which appears to be sufficient.
13th Article of Faith: “We believe all things, we hope all things…” There is no claim that we know all things. We admit here, and indeed in all the other Articles of Faith as well, that we believe this stuff–we hope it.
I think it’s interesting that our church–or at least the culture of it–places such a premium on knowing. We see kids being trained to say it from the very beginning. (“I’d like to bear my testimony. I know this church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet.” Yadah, yadah, yadah.) Why do we do this? The scriptures don’t seem to indicate that knowledge is the stuff of righteousness or salvation. Faith is. Hope is. I mean, as Alma does go on to say, hope should compel us to “experiment upon the word”, which means living the principles of the gospel, testing them to see if they do indeed bring us the happiness they promise. But I’m just not getting the message here that knowledge is the requirement, or even the goal.
I know you’re probably thinking all of this is obvious, and wondering how I could have missed it all my life. Well, I did hear/read these scriptures over and over, and I did have a million lessons on Alma 32. Indeed, I delivered many of them myself. But they always seemed to end in the possibility of obtaining knowledge. You know, if you’re righteous enough you might obtain that. And I’m sure that a lot of my faith problems have to do with my personality, with the way I processed this stuff. But I’m clearly not alone. For goodness’ sake, in ONE ward, at least TEN people APPROACHED me! Who knows how many people feel the same way but didn’t approach me? And who knows how many people there are in all the other wards? And how many other people weren’t attending any ward at all yesterday BECAUSE they have these issues?
I blame “Moroni’s promise” (Moroni 10:4-5). “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere hear, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
Or rather, I blame our emphasis on Moroni’s promise. We teach kids to seek this. As missionaries, our entire purpose is teaching investigators to seek this. We largely define a “testimony” as having received this witness. But what about all the people who never get this? Or what about those of us who think we have, but later realize maybe we haven’t? This emphasis on knowledge and bearing “testimony” of knowledge makes the church a really hard place to be for people whose minds just don’t work like this.
How about teaching people to hope for these things? Maybe for their entire lives. Maybe it’s okay to just hope and experiment until you die. That’s probably what I’ll be doing. But I think Alma says it’s enough in Alma 32:43–“Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffereing, wating for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.”
We are rewarded for faith and diligence, not for knowledge.
I have a dream–a hope, if you will–that one day, in LDS congregations all over the world, people will honestly acknowledge their doubts. They will feel safe to say that they don’tknow. The church will be a place where people come because they’re experimenting upon the word, they’re hoping for something, together. They’re helping each other sustain that hope and test the principles of the gospel in their lives. THAT is what I believe the church should be for. It shouldn’t be a club for knowers. It should be a support group for hopers.
For what it’s worth, I think I blame Enlightenment epistemology imbibed into Mormonism (from various sources, from fundamentalist Protestants to poorly-understood science) for the obsession with “knowledge.” 🙂
I really like this. I am finally coming to understand this for myself as well. I am also one who just has hope and sometimes faith in the gospel, and I am at last starting to see that that is enough.
Thanks Adrienne, for your words of encouragement AND hope!
Thanks Adrienne. This last comment really resonated with me.
“I have a dream–a hope, if you will–that one day, in LDS congregations all over the world, people will honestly acknowledge their doubts. They will feel safe to say that they don’tknow. The church will be a place where people come because they’re experimenting upon the word, they’re hoping for something, together. They’re helping each other sustain that hope and test the principles of the gospel in their lives. THAT is what I believe the church should be for. It shouldn’t be a club for knowers. It should be a support group for hopers.”
Thank you, Adrienne, for this post.
I recently read about the early Christians who, when they were baptized, were not asked if they ‘believed’ in God, but ‘credo’ rather meant ‘I will follow’ or ‘I commit to engage myself’ before God. Faith, in those days, “was purely a matter of commitment and practical living.” It was only over time that Western Christianity took it to mean ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ as we now use the word in our church. I think this is a helpful ways of looking at faith: rather than having to believe in something that maybe we have difficulty believing in, perhaps faith is more a commitment to follow God and to live accordingly.
This is beautiful and perfect. Perfect brightness of hope. I add my thanks to the many others who appreciate your willingness to share your testimony.
I know a few things. For sure. And I admit- these few things have grounded me in Truth in times of doubt. This is one of the reasons I loved Elder Holland’s talk because I’ve “held the ground I’d already won” hoping to believe whatever else is necessary to make me a good disciple of Christ. It’s a beautiful principle and it’s refreshing to hear it preached in General Conference.
God bless in your faith journey. Great post.
Thank you for sharing your hope and your faith. I would like to present something for others to think about. In 1 Cor. is the list of spiritual gifts–also found in the Doctrine and Covenants. Among those gifts are two that apply to this post. One is the gift of KNOWING and the other is the gift of BELIEVING on the knowledge of the first. It doesn’t say that one is better than the other or that we should seek one or the other exclusively. I am also reminded of the story of Thomas and that the Savior taught him it was ok to believe. Also in the Savior’s Intercessory Prayer, He says that He is praying not only for those that are with Him but for all those who will BELIEVE on His words.
But we also need to have those that KNOW so that they can strengthen those that believe. If we didn’t have the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12, who do KNOW, where would the rest of us glean the doctrine on which we lean, hope and believe?
And some of us have been blessed with a witness of the spirit that is sure enough that we can say we know. Not by physical, mortal evidence but by communication of spirit to spirit. Those, too, are given that we might continue on in hope and belief.
I am grateful that we can be honest enough to share–both that which we hope/believe and that which we know. Both are a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and both have been declared as spiritual gifts given from the Master to help us on our way. Who I am to denigrate someone’s hope or claim superiority because our gifts are different. The Savior taught both were gifts from Him. Should we not rejoice in the gift and express gratitude and appreciation to the GIVER of the gift? I would hope that the day will come when all can feel a part of this wonderful gospel.