Monday, January 12, 2009

Tensions in Testimony

I think that tension is ultimately a good thing. It causes us to stretch and re-evaluate our presumptions, both true and false. It helps us re-evaluate our faith paradigms. Tension causes some discomfort, but serves as impetus for growth and productivity. Some people deny it, can't see it, or feel it, and others are pre-occupied or burdened by it. Yet tensions exist within Mormonism.

I suppose some would prefer not to discuss these kinds of "testimony tensions" at all--they fear it would be like opening a can of worms. But is it really taboo to talk about reality? I feel it is healthy and therapeutic. I have no fear in talking about how people reconcile and accommodate tensions within their faith.

My faith is such a huge part of my life, so it's only natural that I spend time blogging about it. My biggest hope is that it gets portrayed fairly, in its proper context. There are challenges to this "fairness", both from within the Church and from without. From within, there is sometimes to tendency to gloss over reality in favor of "looking good", as if we're selling a product and we want to be seen in the best light possible. From without there are challenges from those who are very informed but want to put the Church in the worst light possible. Then there are all kinds of light shades in between.

I try to take a more middle of the road approach to living, learning, and sharing the gospel. I stubbornly desire to remain open minded yet filled with faith at the same time. I appreciate what apostle and member of the First Presidency Hugh B. Brown said: "Some say that the open-minded leave room for doubt. But I believe we should doubt some of the things we hear. Doubt has a place if it can stir in one an interest to go out and find the truth for one's self" ("An Abundant Life").

I like the advice of the late Richard Poll, at the end of his Confronting the Skeletons essay: "Don't gild the lily but don't spotlight the swamp". And I love the quote by Dr. Henry Eyring: "In this Church you have only to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is."

I love the truths of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not pushy about my beliefs, but once people ask I usually have to restrain myself or they'll wonder why I won't shut up. I always try to be very conscientious in learning about the Church and the Gospel. Naturally, I have gradually become aware of some of the tensions that exist. Sometimes those tensions drive me crazy, sometimes I just find them fascinating, and generally I find them to be healthy. It's important not to let those tensions harm those who aren't prepared to confront them, but it's also important not to give off the impression that I'm being disingenuous about the tensions which exist. It's an perplexing balance, and sometimes I wish we could talk more openly about these tensions, despite of, or perhaps because of the wide variety of reactions which result in people.

I believe all tensions within Mormonism can be channeled productively. When dealt with responsibly, appropriately, and with patience for that which we cannot fully comprehend, encountering tension can help us become better prepared and equipped with more understanding. How have you assimilated the tensions you encounter in your religious experience?


NM said...

This is a fantastic, open and honest description of what exists within Mormonism.

I thank God - full of mercy, who when I walked away from Christianity those years ago - toward atheistic existentialism that He came in and brought some sense back into my life =) There was one point in my obsession with Sartre and Camus when I entertained the idea that no one existed. Ouch.

I really appreciate our dialogue over at my neck o' the woods Clean Cut.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks NM. It's always an interesting balance with figuring out how much to say and how to say it, depending on the audience. Even just writing this post caused a personal "tension" in regards to being balanced between being honest but also fair. An interesting post by "The Faithful Dissident" provides a "case in point" about this particular "tension" on her post: Tough Questions...Tough Answers.