Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Truth? (ALL Truth?)

Are we, as a people, becoming more insular in our search for truth? More content with authoritarian pronouncements? Too satisfied with the status quo of ranking? Too skeptical/rejecting of truths in other faiths and domains? Too convinced we do not need to think for ourselves—to seek our own personal witness? Here are a few reminders of how truth was framed in our early days.

Brigham Young
Our religion descends to the whole life of man, although some, sometimes, say, there is divine law, there is human law, and there are principles which pertain to our religion and there are principles which pertain to the philosophy of the world. But let me here say to you, that the philosophy of the religion of heaven incorporates every truth that there is in heaven, on earth, or in hell. 15:125 (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 8.)

John Taylor
In regard to our religion, I will say that it embraces every principle of truth and intelligence pertaining to us as moral, intellectual, mortal and immortal beings, pertaining to this world and the world that is to come. We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word "all," comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity. And it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or preconceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 16:369, February 1, 1874)

John Taylor
If there is anything good and praiseworthy in morals, religion, science, or anything calculated to exalt and ennoble man, we are after it. But with all our getting, we want to get understanding, and that understanding which flows from God. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 20:48, August 4, 1878)

B.H. Roberts
To pay attention to and give reasonable credence to [scientific] research is to link the church of God with the highest increase of human thought and effort. (B.H. Roberts, The Truth, the Way and the Light, p.364)

Joseph F. Smith
We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Reports, p. 7, April, 1909)

Monday, July 19, 2010

“Yes” & “No”

Several years ago, during a particularly stressful, confusing, demanding time of life, my good bishop arrived to ask if I would teach early-morning seminary.1 The request was stunning and overwhelming for in truth and full disclosure, I confess that I was never a “teenager” and had never particularly enjoyed teenagers, even when I was in the age category. Somehow, I missed all the “teen” years—always too serious;2 too inquiring; too prone to pursuing order, clarity, justice,3 and rationality.

However, I had been raised in a church culture of “yes.” I had never said “no” to a church calling before and almost always the “yes” was given within minutes of being asked to serve, as seemed the expectation (and sometimes the necessity). I was not always comfortable with the “speed” of how and when callings were issued, but had accepted and served in numerous capacities in both ward and stake. But this calling was such a sucker-punch to my psyche, that I mustered the strength to put my bishop on hold for the night. I had to ask God how much He thought I could/should endure.

For several hours I poured out my distresses (as if He needed to hear/re-hear the litany), but in the end I said “Thy will be done. If this is required, I will do it—but I will require immeasurable divine help.”

Finally, I fell asleep, but within short hours awoke with the clear impression that having said “yes” to God, I could/should say “no” to the bishop. In this instance, I had done all that was required.

I have often wondered since if we endure unnecessary sufferings in service when we skip the spiritual, personal confirmation of our callings. Of course, that confirmation may come even before the calling and sometimes at the moment of calling, but what if a confirming peace has not presented itself? Why should we feel pressured to say “yes” when we don’t have our own personal witness? Is that what God really expects?—every time? Or does He, first and foremost, desire that we say “yes” to Him, so He can then instruct us what to say to His stewards? Is that not the law of witnesses—that we be amongst the requisite witnesses to establish the truth of a call to service? How does the Spirit tutor us if we perpetually rely on another’s inspiration without asking our own questions?—getting our own answers?

Was my bishop inspired to issue this call, to force me into a tutoring, sacrificial moment—when distressed and overwhelmed, I still said “yes” to God? And was there (even before my bishop asked) some better, more loving, inspiring “teacher in the thicket” somewhere?

And for those who might think that opening this “Pandora’s box” of yes and no is an easy cop-out for refusing church service, I say, “Yes, there is that risk,” but is there not also risk and “cop-out” when we, like the wandering Israelites, refuse to approach God and insist that a “Moses” (or “Moses-substitute”) be our communicator.4 Is that what God wants?

How can we expect spiritual transformation unless we accept the contraries,5 paradoxes, ironies, and responsibilities inherent in life, in gospel teaching/service, and in the “yes’s” and “no’s” of spiritual guidance?
1. An approximate 1-hour, 5 day-a-week, religious instruction time for teenagers (ages 16-18) before their secular school day begins. The required readings and preparation time for instructors consume hours of each day outside of class time.
2. For my grade 12 graduation, I did not want a grad dress. I would wear my sister’s from the previous grad year. I wanted the equivalence in money to buy books. I got $30.00, a princely sum in 1967.
3. I eventually got a law degree, but found the practice more the pursuit of money than of justice.
4. And they [the people] said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. (Old Testament Exodus 20:19 - 21)
5. See posting about contraries/contradictions at http://dejavu-timestwo.blogspot.com/2009/09/agony-of-contradictions.html