There are quite a few reasons I have not been the best of perma-bloggers here at JI during the past six months. And, I know it has caused my fellow bloggers at least a tiny bit of grief (and perhaps even full-blown frustration?), and I do apologize. I really do.
But, as I was talking to Ben at work this morning, and finding myself a bit embarrassed at yet another good-natured question about my JI sabbatical, I felt that it would be a good time to come clean. So, here’s my confession:
Of course I do history. Of course I do research. Of course I write. But, the only thing that really interests me in all of that is simply how history affects how we understand ourselves today (see the ending of my “Asian Race” post to get a hint of what this looks like), how we live our lives, and how we can live our lives better. How to live my life better, how I understand myself. My interest, then, is rather excessively egocentric…and much more about questions and struggles and the everyday than it is about, well, really fantastically researched historical analysis.
And so, it’s not that I don’t have anything to say. It’s just that I’ve doubted whether what I did have to say would be what the other bloggers and our audience expected and wanted. I can guarantee that all the other permas here know about a Kolob’s-distance more about Mormon History than I do, and they keep abreast of every amazing forward (and sometimes backward) stride in the field. But me?….well…
::cue “One of these things is not like the other” song::
And so, I offer (with fear and trembling) a short glimpse into the questions I ask and the issues I think through…and a type of writing with no footnotes… And I won’t be offended if we decide it doesn’t really fit in here. Maybe I don’t want it to fit in. Because maybe I want to “go forward where there is no path, and leave a trail” or something like that. And you can footnote that baby with the name of our favorite American philosopher, Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Two weeks ago, I sat on an old couch in my grandparent’s basement and wept. This wasn’t crying, this was weeping. I think you must know what I mean. People cry all the time, but you always remember the times you weep.
My mother sat to my left on the love-seat and my father sat to my right, in the old rocking chair. I don’t think I have to explain everything I tried to say then. I’m not going to go through the parts that hurt the most or my year-long journey through trying to find peace and answers (and I have to an extent). There have been countless posts on it and anyone even vaguely familiar with Mormon Studies is pretty well-versed.
It was about the endowment. It was about the different wording of the sealing ceremony. Men vs. women and covenants and distinctions.
Yeah Yeah, I know that you’re thinking “Oh no, not another one.”
But my question here isn’t going to be about interpretations or placing the ceremony in historical context or freemasonry or “can you believe Temple President so-and-so told my sister that it meant such-and-such.”
My question is about choice and faith and how important they are in LDS theology. Don’t we hear from our most basic primary manuals that we came to earth so that we could learn to choose? That Christ’s plan was superior because it gave us agency? That we now can see good and evil and have a responsibility for picking the right one? That we can know truth through a confirmation of the spirit and the mind.
But…none of that talk came up in my year-long struggle trying to come to peace with taking out my endowment. Instead, I heard the rhetoric of blind faith, stepping to the darkness, trusting that we may not know the whole picture yet…but we should still do it. Because it is right. Because we know the rest is true.
Is this yet another one of Givens’ paradoxes? The emphasis of rational/spiritual/personal revelation OR the emphasis of blind, trusting obedience to an unknown ending? There are quite a few scriptural examples to back up either view.
And I believe in both. I think both work in different ways. And I have acted on both in different situations because it seemed like each separate action clearly warranted a separate response.
For example: I chose to become engaged to my particular fiance because I knew both rationally and spiritually, that it was right after having good information and confirmations to consider. On the other side, sometimes I’ve acted on impulses that made no sense at all, only to find that it put me in the right place at a perfect time to learn something or help someone.
But…what do you do when you are faced with something that requires you to choose one way of acting or the other? What happens when one choice you may make would stay true to your personal truths…but the other requires you to deny those, saying that they must be incorrect or incomplete.
Do we trust the spirit and mind God has given us or do we replace them with a faith that has no foundation except trust?
Near the end of our parent-child weep-fest I finally cried out in frustration, trying to make them both understand how soul-tearing this decision has been and is for me,
“Dad, I’m being asked to sacrifice my Isaac…and this time I’m pretty sure there will be no angel!”
He bowed his head and offered, quietly,
“But you don’t know. What if there is?”