I don’t quite know where this is going so I hope it makes sense by the time I’m done typing. Are there questions which you simply refuse to entertain? If so, why? I will tell you that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormons. I have a firm belief that the core doctrines embraced in canonical scripture are true and I strive to live them. That being said, as I age, I have realized there were many things which I simply heard, accepted, and embraced.
Occasionally I used the popular safety net of “Well, if the church is true, then this must be.” I never really put doctrines, beliefs, practices, and traditions through an individual, case-by-case mental process of acceptance. In my first 22 years I became the perfect spiritually-educated Mormon robot. I knew the standard appeasing answers to 99.9% of the questions that would come up, disregarding worldly evidences that demanded intelligent thought and analysis. And sorry, but no, bearing testimony is not an acceptable counter-argument. Testimony sharing has a rightful place but in an exploration of evidences between like-minded individuals who already share the common denominator of faith, it doesn’t hold water. In fact, it comes off rather ignorant. To be fair, I do not completely believe that it is the goal of Mormonism to create unquestioning, loyal robots but it seems to be an unfortunate side effect of the system in place.
The last decade for me has been a process of mental education and spiritual reconciliation. Having a solid foundation in my own faith, it does not mean that I have all the answers to all of my questions and yet I don’t believe it lessens my convictions regarding my chosen faith. I believe I have strengthened my faith through secular studies. I do not believe that there are questions which should never be asked. If one of the purposes of this life is to learn and grow, why would any religion tell us NOT to ask questions and just have faith? Sorry, that doesn’t fly with me. That does not mean to say that there are not ridiculous questions but if one becomes afraid to entertain thought, I need to wonder why?
Every religion will have their own set of questions that get the faithful riled up, so I’ll give a few that I have seen ruffle some Mormon feathers. Why get so hot under the collar when one wants to discuss the age of the earth, evolution, or science in general? Why get so offended when someone brings up archaeological evidences (or the lack thereof) regarding the Book of Mormon? Why get flustered when people question the validity of Joseph Smith’s status as prophet, seer, and revelator? And this one applies to every religion I have ever encountered, when there is a question which one cannot answer, why does the phrase “mysteries of God” always enter the conversation?
I don’t even care if people will look at the questions and come up with answers that fit their current belief system. I think I do that at times…I think I have to. At least then, individuals are mentally processing the quandary and coming up with a solution that will allow them to continue forward with their faith. I have friends who are sick of religious institutions because of the way the various sects lead their loyally blind sheep through methodical fear tactics. Mormons are not immune from this activity either. I can vividly recall many instances from my teenage years when these methods were implemented on me.
Coming back to the thoughts that originally inspired this posting, I have two great unknowns. One, how bad is Hell? Two, how good is Heaven? Those familiar with the Mormon faith will know that we don’t believe in a two-pronged eternity. For the sake of this argument, we’ll leave it at Heaven and Hell. I started thinking about this a few nights ago when I began to introspectively analyze the motives behind my behaviors. In other words, do I strive to live by the strict standards of my religion because of my fear of eternal punishment or because of my desire for Eternal Life? And if I ever stopped fearing Hell, is Heaven motivation enough?
I don’t have an answer for that yet…guess it’s just one of the mysteries of God.