Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(Richard) Poll's (Faith) Pillars

The following is an excerpt of a talk by Richard Poll entitled "Pillars of my faith", which I transcribed while listening to it on Mormon Stories. I've become something of a fan of his lately. Yesterday when I joined the Mormon History Association I noticed his name as a former president, and I was reminded at how much I enjoyed these remarks:

For me faith is what an earlier Paul said it is. The substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. It transcends empirical knowledge. And because what humanity learns by reason and experience is both finite and fallible, it may even contradict such knowledge. [Where this happens,] I feel no compulsion to choose between them, unless it becomes necessary to act. [Many issues that have strained relationships between Latter-day Saints] do not require resolution. For pragmatic and doctrinal reasons I believe in suspending judgment in such cases.

I am, in short, a Latter-day Saint who believes the gospel is true, but who has an imperfect and evolving understanding of what the gospel is.

My testimony will, I suppose, be of most interest to people like me. People for whom neither dogmatic fundamentalism nor dogmatic humanism provides convincing answers to life’s most basic questions.

The pillars of my faith are two. Two articles of faith defined by the prophet and founder of my church and an interpretive principle provided by one of the founding fathers of my country….first: ”we believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost". The 9th article affirms “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God”

James Madison cautioned: “When the Almighty Himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, His meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.”

Because I believe, with Madison, that everyone, including Paul and the other prophets, saw eternity, or sees eternity through a glass darkly, prophetic infallibility, scriptural inerrancy, and unquestioning obedience are not elements in my faith.

I believe in Heavenly parents who care about me, but who will not, perhaps cannot, compel me to obey. I have hope in Christ. And I have drawn strength from the comforter of which he spoke.

I see history in terms of human strivings to discover divine realities and follow divine principles. Flashes of prophetic insight have elevated those efforts, and Jesus of Nazareth in his life, death, and resurrection uniquely embodied those realities.

Joseph Smith, a prophet like Moses, Peter, and Alma, gave inspiration and momentum to the gospel dispensation in which, as I've written earlier, I find answers to enough important questions to live purposefully without answers to the rest.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have found ideas, opportunities and challenges around which I have organized my life. Next to my family, my church is the most important component of that life. I am proud of its contributions to bettering the human condition and grateful to its contributions to my own. If I were in charge of the church I would make some changes. Since I am not, I must be patient, but I need not be passive.

As a historian, I know that changes have occurred and the 9th article of faith assures me that they will yet occur...


DavidH said...

Thanks for sharing. His testimony resonates with me.

Papa D said...

I really like this. I probably will be linking to it in the future on my own blog.

Brian said...

Do you have a link or a reference for these remarks?

Clean Cut said...

Brian, I updated the OP to link to "Pillars of my faith". I'll also include the html here. Click on the 2nd link of "Bonus--2 Mormon Mavericks" to either listen or download.

Clean Cut said...

It's really a delight to listen to him. But here are some more remarks I had transcribed months ago but in much more rough form:

"Currently I teach the high priests along with a sweet spirited and knowledgeable retiree from the BYU religion faculty. The class members seem to find his scripture based answers and my scripture based questions equally engaging."

“If the hours devoted to [all my church service and activities] both my income and my time have been tithed. I begrudge neither offering.”

..."As my brothers and sisters [speaking of church leaders], they are entitled to my sympathy, support, and suggestions."

"History tells me that leading any organized religion is more of a priestly rather than a prophetic function."

"…I belong to a church whose structure, programs, policies and doctrinal interpretations are in constant flux as the concept of continual revelation require that they be…"

"...While our prophet leaders confront the daunting task of separating traditions and customs from gospel universals, they remodel organizations, policies, programs and even priesthood quorums, in ways that suggest both inspiration and flexibility…"

"...aware of our own spiritual nakedness, help create a better royal wardrobe rather than abandon the court and the kingdom. Reinforcing my resolve to carry on is the conviction that among our dedicated and prayerful prophet leaders there must be a growing awareness that the present bureaucratic approach to us Mormon mavericks is not only counterproductive, but morally questionable."

Mormon Heretic said...

Since your a member of MHA, does that mean you might come to St George in May?

Clean Cut said...

Forgot to include the following link when I found it to be the source of the quotes above (and I could have saved myself a lot of time transcribing).

Clean Cut said...

And Mormon Heretic, I totally forgot (obviously) to respond to your question about MHA.

I wasn't able to make it out to Utah in May but I'd be crazy not to make it to the MHA conference this June 2014. It's being held right here in San Antonio (where I live) and I look forward to it.