This post, is mostly for my children. Someday, if any of them have a whacky brain like mine (yet to be determined) they will face a similar journey. While my personal journal records the real time pieces, it would take an effort to put it all together, sifting through volumes. I am grateful this blog affords me an opportunity to reflectively write about some of my pivotal religious experiences.
My Journey of Faith: The Way of Knowing
As I mentioned previously in a Sunday post, I feel I was born with a very believing heart. Faith comes naturally. But there is also another side to my personality which those who are close to me recognize immediately. This is the drive to learn and figure things out for myself in my mind. I like my world to make sense logically. Most notably this trait expresses itself in my voracious appetite for reading and research. And more recently my unwillingness to accept anything at face value.
Ever Studious (1995)
"But What About This Dad?"
I have a distinct memory of reading "Doctrines of Salvation" by Joseph Fielding Smith. I was probably around 12 or 13. My Dad would come into my room at night and I would just ask question after question trying to understand everything about my religion. I came to a section discussing the age of the earth. The book clearly argued the earth was young, a literal interpretation of scripture.
Tulip Time Parade With Mom and Dad. Holland Michigan about 1990-91 (Love the fluorescents!)
For the first time I felt confused. What about the dinosaurs? What about cavemen? What about all those fossils and layers of the earth? For the first time I felt my faith come head to head with my intellect. It was disturbing. My Dad gave me an answer to the effect that we cannot understand everything now, but we will someday. This gave me an inkling of hope, enough that I just tucked this little problem away in a file cabinet in my brain. And it sat dormant.
With My Dad 1992 Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado
During my years at home, faith remained my ultimate way of understanding the world around me. However, immersed in the public schools and soaking up information I started to fill my filing cabinet.
Amazingly, the greatest trial of my faith started with my attendance at Brigham Young University. You wouldn't think attending a religious University, of my own faith for that matter, would open or disturb those filing cabinets. My chosen course of study Biology, and several Church History classes, opened the file cabinets in a massive gust my last 2 years of college. I always knew without a shadow of a doubt, who I was, why I was here, where I came from, where I am going...that faith was unshakable. Founded solidly and properly. But all of my understanding of the religious doctrines of my faith did not have such a solid foundation.
You may wonder, how does a religious University teach Population Genetics, Evolutionary Biology, or Geology? The answer...directly how the textbooks have written it. This is where the meat of my concern now lies. Usually my professors would reserve a class period at the end of the semester to briefly discuss how to harmonize all this "scientific reasoning" with the gospel. Mostly the discussions centered on making the doctrine harmonize with science. Common explanations included: "There is no official doctrine on pre-adamites." "As long as you believe Adam and Eve were the first man and woman in God's image, that is enough." "God uses the laws of nature."
My way of understanding the world and my religion began to change. I knew our prophets had testified there is no conflict between true religion and true science. The true somehow got lost in the mix for me. As my intellect grew through immersion into the scientific world, I began to trust more and more in my textbooks and the certainty of "Science as a Way of Knowing."
"Science is the most powerful mechanism we have for obtaining confirmable information about the natural world." (pg 504 Science as a Way of Knowing)
The file cabinets were now in the open, grating on me quite frequently. I knew I didn't understand everything. I needed to figure out how my religion fit with scientific theory. I began to understand the creation, as working through the laws of evolution. The flood was a giant rainstorm, with which the earth was covered with rainfall at once, not that the waters rose above the highest mountains. The parting of the Red Sea was really the "Reed Sea" and there are winds and times of year when this shallow lake naturally divides. I knew the church was true. God had revealed that much to me. So I was determined to make His church fit the world and my intellectual understanding of it. How pompous. When the confusion was too overwhelming I compartmentalized for a temporary salve.
"Science deals not with the gods above but with the worlds below. It does not refute the gods; it merely ignores them in its explanations of the natural world." (pg 503 Ibid)
A couple books from my Capstone Biology class. A group of 7 students and a professor. We
hashed out everything we had learned in all our biological and physical science classes. This class
solidified my "new way of reasoning."
My BYU courses also initiated my first intense study of early Church history. I was exposed to the 3 different accounts Joseph Smith had recorded of his First Vision. I remember calling my parents "Why didn't you tell me?" I started an in-depth study of plural marriage and other confusing and controversial historical and sometimes doctrinal issues.
Some of the foibles of church leaders began to weigh on me. Professors would mention in passing their reference books written by Mormon, Ex-Mormon and Non-Mormon authors. I wrote down the titles as fast as I could and spent hours in the library hunting them down and researching. It was an interesting journey for me. The way was fraught with feelings of unsettlement, and sometimes frustration at feeling sheltered my entire life.
The First Awakening
My inquiry into Church history led to my first awakening of truly understanding the meaning of faith. Resolving my historical and doctrinal concerns was a much simpler road than the one which faced me in the Sciences. The underlying problem was the same. I missed the connection. I was able to clarify my understanding and testimony in my mind. My prayer and research led the way to increased understanding.
"I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."
2 Nephi 4:34
The problem I discovered was my tendency towards an authoritarian way of assimilating knowledge. A dangerous and tenuous road. Such a path opened me to disappointment resulting from human frailties. If I was to have true faith, authoritarian thinking was inadequate. I learned I could not put my trust in any man, only God. My testimony must be based solidly on the doctrine, both ancient and revealed through the Lords servants his prophets. No man is perfect, but I can have perfect faith in the words of a prophet of God, when he is speaking as the mouthpiece of the Lord. The Lord has always used prophets as his mouthpiece on earth.
"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken. Whether by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same." Doctrine and Covenants 1:38
Prophets are never been perfect. None has ever made such a claim. His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is perfect, it is only us the members that foul things up. Our failure to understand or to fully live our religion can bring questions and confusion. The doctrine as revealed through his servants the prophets. I don't have to share the same political, historical, financial, nutritional, or economic views as anyone else. I found profound peace with this discovery. It is unfortunate I was blind at the time to how this authoritarian view was causing the remainder of my confusion.
The Second Awakening
Unfortunately my second awakening didn't come until much later. I spent 3 years filling the minds of young impressionable teenagers all the "doctrines of men" I had come to accept as nearly infallible. Doctrines my textbooks all agreed on. Textbooks with historical characters I revered as giants. Darwin. Watson. I fearlessly taught evolution and extolled the virtues of Genetics and pounded into my students that "All good Scientists agree that manmade Global Warming is real." All the while I had a lingering discomfort I couldn't put all the pieces together with a religion I knew was true. But of course the doctrine would fit somehow.
Provo High School 2000. On the board is written "Celebration" under the agenda. I had to smile
that was my word for "test." Also, you can barely distinguish me from a student. No wonder I
always got asked for my "hall pass!"
I remember one day I started to talk to Brent about some of my concerns. We talked much less then, than now. How grateful I am we eliminated distractions in our home and inescapably deepened our relationship. I was explaining to him my version of the flood. He looked at me with disbelief and . "So you are telling me the earth was baptized by a sprinkling instead of immersion?" A light turned on inside of me. What was I thinking? Did I have so little faith in God to believe He couldn't cover the earth with water?
Books, Books and more Books
About 2 years ago, Brent and I began a serious overhaul of our world view. We began to question the stories we had been told as history. "The Biography of Ezra Taft Benson" by Sheri Dew, catapulted our quest for truth. Pres. Benson seemed to understand the world so differently than we did. We wanted to know why. We read and read. Our book list included "None Dare Call it Conspiracy," "The Naked Communist, " "The Naked Capitalist," "The Creature from Jekyll Island," "The Five Thousand Year Leap," "Free to Choose," "An Enemy Hath Done This," "Dumbing Us Down," "The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil," "The Road to Serfdom," "The Revolution" "Foundations," "The Rockefeller File," "The Fearful Master," the list goes on and on. We also began reading as many doctrinal books, and more fervently studying the scriptures. All in an attempt more deeply understand and apply our religion. The sum (ongoing I might add) of this reading has been revealing.
What we learned was the story presented in history books, and the mass media is often carefully crafted by a group of powerful individuals with an agenda. Good people, like myself, mistakenly take hold of this "doctrine of men" and teach and indoctrinate others. I learned how Scientists like Charles Darwin and James Watson were interested in using their knowledge to force a system of Eugenics on the world. Global Warming is a political and scientific fraud. The earth is cooling. The data the 2007 IPCC report on climate change, is fraught with bad science and blatant lies. Do a google search. The mass media is owned and operated by a select few individuals.
I discovered my authoritarian dependence was grossly ingrained into everything I believed. I trusted the work of men, whose intentions and characters are at best unclear, and at worst blatantly satanic. What we learned was enough to rid ourselves of television, movies, network news, and pursue homeschooling. We now search out myriad ways to interpret current events based on what we know to be true. We interpret everything we encounter in terms of God's written and revealed words.
Feeling a Bit Alone
Most of my family does not look at, or understand the world the Brent and I now do. In fact, I think their opinion is that we are off the deep end. Conspiracy nuts. But then again, they haven't looked at the other side as we have. They haven't read. So I understand and can accept their perceptions. Sometimes it feels lonely. But remembering it is a path to truth is solace.
My goodness he is a handsome brute!
Resolving my Concerns
And so finally I am able to apply what I learned so many years ago about understanding religion, to understand the physical world in which I live. I cannot trust in the authority of man. I do not think that all Science is evil. True Science testifies of Christ and is beautiful. Now I understand, someday the world may catch up to God. But probably not until the Second Coming when He spells it all out to us!
I understand what my Dad meant when he said "We don't understand it all now, but we will someday." What he forgot to add was: "We cannot put our trust in the arm of flesh. Faith is the highest way of knowing. The knowledge we seek from the world with our minds is tempered, twisted and tangled by men. Trust first in the Lord. Lean not to thine own understanding."
Does everything in the world make sense to me now? Of course not. Do I still have questions? Yes. What I understand is I must use all of my faculties to search out the truth. Read, study, pray, ponder. Ultimately though, faith in the revealed word of God, both written by his prophets and spoken from their mouths, is the way of knowing.The highest and truest way of knowing. This has brought me peace. I no longer have to compartmentalize. Instead I bide my time and wait for the world to come around and finally understand the Lords way, or for more revelation.
"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear to my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." 2 Nephi 28:30
The faith I had as a child is different from the faith I have now. How grateful I am again, that we
have the power to change.
If you made it through...thanks for taking the time to read. What is your journey of faith?