Jun 30, 2009

Bloggernacle Niblets Awards

Cross-posting for Mormon Matters:

The opportunity to honor the unique and talented Mormon bloggers was sorely missed this year. So we decided to give you a chance to look back on 2008 and remember the great things that happened in the Bloggernacle. Mormon Matters will be hosting this event to highlight YOU and your favorite 2008 Mormon blogs, and we’ll be back again in 2009 to do the same. We are pleased to announce our collaboration with Ziff of Zelophehad’s Daughters, the mighty numbers cruncher, who will handle results presentation at the end of this event.

So without further ado, let’s announce the categories. Cut and paste this list in the comments if you would like to be part of the nominations process. As always, you are welcome to nominate yourself — isn’t that what blogging is all about?? Oh, and try to think of some other bloggers to recognize, too. Final voting will take place after the nominations are finalized.

Best big blog:
Best group blog:
Best solo blog:
Best new blog: (must have put up its first post in 2008)
Best blog layout/graphics:

Best commenter:
Most memorable comment: (please include link)
Best overall blogger:
Best humorous post: (please include link)
Best historical post: (please include link)
Best spiritual post: (please include link)
Best doctrinal post: (please include link)
Best current events post: (please include link)

Most blatant example of navel-gazing: (please include link)
Best contribution to the Bloggernacle in 2008:
Write-in category:

Thank you for your participation!

If you'd like to vote, please go here.

Jun 29, 2009

Belief vs. Faith

A quote I came across recently:

"Faith too often is reduced to belief; faith is more than cognition--it contains hope and seeds of action. It's operative power transforms, performs, creates, heals, forgives. It's generative potential is conditional upon love; if love doesn't fuel the faith, then it falls barren and sterile."

Does one have to believe in order to have faith?

Is faith without belief dead?

Jun 24, 2009

An Unexpected Visitor

Sometimes I get e-mails from random strangers who have visited my blog and were touched by something that I wrote. I received such an e-mail recently, but it wasn't from a stranger.

A few days ago I checked my e-mail to find an e-mail from my grandmother. I think my heart started to race when I read the sentence:

"(FD), I have discovered your blog, The Faithful Dissident, and have been reading your thoughts..."

I got a bit scared at what I was going to read next. But I was pleasantly surprised when I read:

"You have expressed a lot of my feelings within the Church."

First, I should tell you all a bit about my Grandma. She reads her e-mail, surfs the net (she discovered my blog through a link that my sister-in-law had posted), and even opened a Facebook account recently. I'm sure she'll eventually read this post. She still sometimes takes trips to Toronto and drives in some of Canada's heaviest traffic. A big fan of tennis, she has a huge crush on Pete Sampras. Not bad for a woman in her 80's. :)

My grandma is a very private person and doesn't like to dwell on the painful aspects of life. In some ways, she has a very different outlook on things than me. Truthfully, this has been hard for me to understand at times and, unfortunately, it has caused some tension in our family. Born and raised in London, her private, "stiff upper-lip" English mentality has at times collided with my Dr. Phil-styled "lay out all the cards, say it as it is, and get to the root of the problem" mentality. There have been fireworks, but I think I was usually the one shooting them into the air.

My grandmother has had her share of pain in life. She lived through the horrors of the German bombings in London. She also lost someone she cared about deeply to the ravages of WWII. As a young woman, she emigrated to Canada, married, and built a good life for her and her family, but not without a lot of pain and hardship.

After my mom introduced my dad to the Church, my Grandma and Grandpa joined as well. Grandpa has been inactive for as long as I can remember, but has always maintained his testimony and respect for the Church. Grandma has been semi-active for much of the time, seemingly never wanting "to get too close," but enjoys singing in the choir and attending sacrament meeting. It seems she has always kept the Church at a certain distance, which perhaps I couldn't really understand until I went through my own crisis of faith. Now it seemed that she summed up my feelings beautifully when she wrote:

"I was not raised with any religious instruction, but within a good family atmosphere. Certainly, a good moral way to live. But I have learned to accept that all human beings are created in a different way. We must love the good. We all need love, in order to reach our full potential and help our loved ones along life's path. That's our earthly mission. What else could be more important? I think our journey in this life is to reason out for ourselves, to use our free will, and thank our maker for that ability. If men did not seek, seek in life, all the discoveries in science, medical breakthroughs, etc, would not be here for our benefit. When I first came to Canada, people were being stricken with polio, living in an iron lung. Now, we don't even think of that illness. Life is a journey, in enlightenment, of discovery, in our relationships with others. It is true, man is not meant to live alone."

I've mentioned before in my blog that my view of the Church being perfect has been shattered. What hasn't been entirely shattered for me is my belief in God. I would say that my view of the Godhead is pretty much what it's always been, as well as the Plan of Salvation, although I don't take it all as literally as I used to. It's very unlikely that I will ever have what Mormons are "supposed" to have (i.e. temple marriage, children), but I've stopped caring. Why? Because I have a good husband, a life that I'm pretty happy with, and I've set my goals not on unrealistic things that would only cause me pain if I were to dwell on them too much, but rather doing the best I can to make this life better for people and animals. I truly believe that everything boils down to the Golden Rule, compassion and charity. I've learned to see the good in virtually all things -- even things that I never used to think had any good in them.

So, while I don't believe the LDS Church is "the only true church," I believe it's "good." Its core principles have blessed my life and made me a better person and I think the same can be said for most people in this world. In the 13th Article of Faith, it says:

"If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

The positive aspects of the Church fall into that category for me, along with many other things in this world. I believe that God guides the LDS Church as much as any other church, religion, or group of people with a pure heart and sincere desire to do good. Probably no more and no less.

Although my Grandma and I will probably continue to approach certain things differently, I think that we probably have more in common than either of us realized -- at least where matters of faith and religion are concerned. If life truly is "a journey, in enlightenment, of discovery, in our relationships with others," then I was certainly "enlightened" by the connection to my grandmother that I didn't even realize I had. And I think she probably feels the same.

So perhaps I am not the first generation of faithful dissidents in my family.

Jun 15, 2009

Liberalism: Mormonism's Self-Destruction?

It's no secret that the LDS Church seems to attract a lot of right-wing conservatives, particularly in America. Utah and Idaho (both of which have a high Mormon population) are perhaps the most conservative states and Mormons vote overwhelmingly Republican. Politics aside, Mormons are reknown for their socially conservative views and lifestyle, which many associate with Republican political values.

I came this statement by someone who regards himself as a liberal Mormon:

"Mormonism has a small minority of liberal leaning thinkers, leaders, apostles, but the mainstream is towards the right. If Mormonism would liberalize it would not have as many converts."

Mormon Heretic has been hosting a very interesting and enlightening interview with members of the Community of Christ on his blog. For those who aren't aware, Community of Christ (CofC) is what used to be The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (RLDS). It's been interesting to read how the RLDS evolved into what it is now, which elements of the early LDS Church it kept, and which ones it has abandoned. The CofC, which permits women to hold the priesthood, is more open-minded about the prospect of same sex marriage, and rejected polygamy from the very beginning, would seem to be an attractive alternative to Mormons who are socially liberal and/or who reject certain teachings throughout LDS Church history. Fire Tag, a CofC commenter on Mormon Heretic's blog, shared his very thought-provoking perspective. (You can read the entire thread here.) He made it clear that this was simply his personal opinion, not the church's official policy, and that the CofC was seeking to revitalize its institutions, even though he personally felt that it wasn't what God wanted them to concentrate on doing:

“Attempts to revitalize our congregations may succeed here and there for a time. Congregations have been revitalized in the past with no discernable long-term effect on the larger church’s growth. An apostolic leadership will, of course, continue to look to see how we can maintain and reinvigorate our institutions in order to try and carry out our mission. Yet, sooner than we wish, our denominational infrastructure, regardless of how desirable it might be to have, is going to disappear for most of our people; most of the people of the West have already launched our society’s future toward another course. “Evolutionary pressures” from that society are driving us toward a time of increasing individual ministerial autonomy in which church leadership cannot even monitor, let alone direct, most of what our people do in the name of Christ. And most of that work will not be carried out through congregational structures or programs.

The recently published Pew Religious Landscape Survey confirms the increasing disconnect between denominational life and religious life in the United States, with more than half of American adults either having left the denomination in which they were raised or regarding themselves as religiously unaffiliated, even though 83% of the adult population still regards itself as religious.

For our denomination to adapt the gospel faithfully in our cultural setting, and hopefully even to thrive, requires that we become a denomination that glories in sending people OUT of our denomination, to where God calls them to best serve in the culture.

So, to reiterate, I believe our continued value as a corporate entity to the work of the Lord at this point in history involves the church supporting our people in dispersing out of our “corporation” and moving wholeheartedly into participation in the multiple, cross-cutting communities that make up a modern society. This is almost like the early Christians moving into the catacombs of Rome where they could refresh themselves beneath Rome’s notice, yet continue to provide enriching ministry to their neighbors in their daily lives as God opened doors. None of the turmoil of the Empire could ever dig them out of the society once they were so dispersed, and these “meek of the earth” did inherit the Empire.

In our time, such distributed efforts will send us into fellowships with groups made up of differing Christian, non-Christian, and/or secular backgrounds. The unity or preservation of our faith community and its institutions will no longer be primary, for the time has come for many of us to expend ourselves. Should that not be enough to fulfill our part in the mission of transforming the world, then we can best hope that God will grant us the opportunity to prepare the path for the work of our successors, and perhaps even allow the youngest of us to participate in the movement of our successors.”

I think that many of us Mormons who would like to see the LDS Church become more liberal have this vision of it flourishing and people easily accepting the faith if it would just let go of what some regard as very archaic teachings and practices. But would it result in the Church's self-destruction?

Imagine next year that the priesthood is extended to women. Or five years from now same sex sealings are being performed in the temple. What would happen? Would the "God fearing, gun toting, flag waving" conservatives abandon the Church? Would it attract liberals or would they remain generally uninterested in organized religion? Does the Church need to attract conservatives in order to survive and maintain its structure?

What do you think would happen to the LDS Church if it were to become more liberal?

Jun 8, 2009

Can Mormons Be Humanists?

I noticed recently that an acquaintance of mine, who left the Church a few months ago, had joined a group on Facebook for Humanists. I had wanted to do a post on Humanism before, so I thought that it would be interesting to present a summary of Humanism.

Humanism was not something I was very familiar with in Canada, but it's quite popular in Norway, especially since those who do not identify with the state Lutheran church needed to find alternatives for the Norwegian cultural traditions of christenings and confirmations. The Humanist Association organizes "name days" and "humanist confirmations" instead of christenings and confirmations, for those who wish to maintain the cultural traditions minus the religion. They appear to be increasing in popularity, particularly among teenagers who reach confirmation age (15 years) but have no relationship to the church and therefore no desire to be affiliated with it.

I admit that my initial impression of Humanism was not favourable, as some articles and interviews with Humanists that I came across left me with an impression of militant anti-theism and utter lack of respect, such as an instance where Humanists encouraged high school students to go to a Christmas mass with earplugs in protest of the school organizing trips to the church, which no one was forced to attend anyways. (A school organizing trips to church may sound odd, but as secular as Norwegian society is, the church and state are not officially separate.)

But despite the unfortunate characteristics of some Humanists, Humanist philosophy in itself is something that I've grown to appreciate more and more, the more I've gotten to know about it. There is much that religious folk can learn from Humanism, in my opinion, and I dare say that Mormons probably have more in common with Humanists than we would like to admit. (Well, at least a left-leaning Mormon like myself. :)

My comments are in red.

"Secular humanism is a philosophy and world view which centers upon human concerns and employs rational and scientific methods to address the wide range of issues important to us all. While secular humanism is at odds with faith-based religious systems on many issues, it is dedicated to the fulfillment of the individual and humankind in general. To accomplish this end, secular humanism encourages a commitment to a set of principles which promote the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection."

"...it is dedicated to the fulfillment of the individual and humankind in general." Does Mormonism have a similar purpose? "Men are that they may have joy," for example?

"To accomplish this end, secular humanism encourages a commitment to a set of principles which promote the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection."

Doesn't that sound like the type of world you'd like to live in, albeit, with the option of a separate spiritual/religious element? Does a society which "promote(s) the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection" sound reasonable to a Mormon? Why or why not?

"Secular humanists are generally nontheists. They typically describe themselves as nonreligious. They hail from widely divergent philosophical and religious backgrounds. Secular humanism is not a dogma or a creed. There are wide differences of opinion among secular humanists on many issues. Nevertheless, there is a loose consensus with respect to several propositions. We are apprehensive that modern civilization is threatened by forces antithetical to reason, democracy, and freedom. Many religious believers will no doubt share with us a belief in many secular humanist and democratic values, and we welcome their joining with us in the defense of these ideals."

Do you feel that you could join with Humanists in defending Humanist ideals? I think that Prop 8 brought out the "Humanist" in a lot of Mormons, who may not have necessarily 100% supported gay marriage, but voted or campaigned for what they viewed as the democratic/constitutional right of homosexuals to marry in the civil realm.

"Skeptical of theories of redemption, damnation, and reincarnation, secular humanists attempt to approach the human situation in realistic terms: human beings are responsible for their own destinies. We believe that it is possible to bring about a more humane world, one based upon the methods of reason and the principles of tolerance, compromise, and the negotiations of difference."

Imagine this philosophy being applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just as an example. As someone who is deeply disturbed by cruelty towards animals and humans, I love the idea of a "more humane world." I often wish that many in the religious world spent as much time and resources towards combatting cruelty and intolerance as they do on things like fighting homosexuality, sex education, or producing propaganda criticizing other religions.

"Secular Humanism is a term which has come into use in the last thirty years to describe a world view with the following elements and principles:

*A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.

* Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions."

This sounds good in theory and in a pluralistic society, it seems reasonable to put things like reason, evidence, and science above religion -- particularly since there are so many different religions with so many varying viewpoints. However, in my opinion, Humanists are sometimes asking the impossible. To me, it's like expecting to be able to scrape melted butter entirely off a piece of toast. You can't. One of my favourite parts of The Audacity of Hope was when Obama said:

"Surely, secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. --indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history -- not only were motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue their causes. To say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public-policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it is grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values."

Continuing on about Humanism:

"* A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.

* A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.

* A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us."

Is there anything in those three points that conflicts with Mormonism?

"* A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility. * A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children."

No objections on my part.

"Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation."

Sounds similar to Mormon values of self-reliance, freedom, service, charity, and tolerance for others.

"Secular humanists are committed to moral principles, which are derived from critical intelligence and human experience, and we must pursue positive ideals. We should therefore observe the common moral decencies: integrity, humanitarianism, truthfulness, trustworthiness, fairness, and responsibility. This means caring for one another, being tolerant of differences, and striving to overcome divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, creed, or class."

Where do I sign up? :)

"Our best guide to truth is free and rational inquiry; we should therefore not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy. We should defer to no dogma - neither religious nor secular - and never be afraid to ask "How do you know?"

I've never been afraid to ask that. I just haven't always gotten an answer. :)

I thought that I would end this post with the following:

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

-11th Article of Faith

And may I add, "let them not worship at all, if they so choose."

Jun 1, 2009

Love Is Not Blind - Part III: Reconciliation

This is Part III in a series of posts about Bruce C. Hafen's talk Love Is Not Blind from 1979. If you missed the first two parts, you can read Part I here and Part II here.

Part II dealt with ambiguity, and Part III expands on that theme. I encourage you all to read the talk in its entirety, if you haven't already, but I wish to include here the parts which are most relevant to the discussion. My personal comments are in red.

"Given, then, the existence for most of us of a gap between where we stand and where we would like to be, and given that we will have at least some experiences that make us wonder, what are we to do? I believe that there are three different levels of dealing with ambiguity. There may be more, but I would like to talk in terms of three. At level one there are two typical attitudes, one of which is that we simply do not--perhaps cannot--see the problems that exist. Some seem almost consciously to filter out any perception of a gap between the real and the ideal. Those in this category are they for whom the gospel at its best is a firm handshake, an enthusiastic greeting, and a smiley button. Their mission was the best, their student ward is the best, and every new day is probably going to be the best day they ever had. These cheerful ones are happy, spontaneous, and optimistic, and they always manage to hang loose. They are able to weather many storms that would seem formidable to more pessimistic types, though one wonders if the reason is often that they have somehow missed hearing that a storm was going on."

If you're like me, these are the types of members that tend to push your buttons. They're the ones for whom church seems to be like Woodstock: everyone is happy, everyone loves everyone, everyone nods in agreement... it's perfect! They seem to have difficulty understanding why anyone would want to quit going to church or not find the counsel of leaders to make perfect sense. And while you're sitting in sacrament meeting fuming mad at the narrow-minded statements from a speaker, they're sitting there seemingly oblivious to the fact that anyone could possibly take offense.

"A second group at level one has quite a different problem with the gap between what is and what ought to be. Those in this category eliminate the frustration created as they sense a distance between the real and the ideal in their world by, in effect, erasing the inner circle of reality. They cling to the ideal so single-mindedly that they are able to avoid feeling the pain that would come from facing the truth about themselves, others, or the world around them. I recall listening to a group of students as they discussed which of the two types of people I have just described offered the most appropriate model for their emulation. They felt that they had to choose between being relaxed and happy and carefree about the gospel, or being intense perfectionists. After listening to the discussion, I felt that both of these types suffer from the same limitation. It is not much of a choice to select between a frantic concern with perfection and a forced superficial happiness. Both perspectives lack depth, and their proponents understand things too quickly and draw conclusions from their experience too easily. Neither type is very well prepared for adversity, and I fear that the first strong wind that comes along will blow both of them over. This, I believe, is primarily because their roots have not sunk deep enough into the soil of experience to establish a firm foundation. Both also reflect the thinness of philosophy untempered by common sense. In both cases, it would be helpful simply to be more realistic about life's experiences, even if that means facing some questions and limitations that leave one a bit uncomfortable. That very discomfort can be a motivation toward real growth. As someone has said, the true Church is intended not only to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable. I invite you, then, to step up to level two, where you see things for what they are; for only then can you deal with them in a meaningful and constructive way. If we are not willing to grapple with the frustration that comes from honestly and bravely facing the uncertainties we encounter, we may never develop the kind of spiritual maturity that is necessary for our ultimate preparations. It was Heber C. Kimball who once said that the Church has many close places through which it must yet pass and that those living on borrowed light will not be able to stand when those days come. Thus, we need to develop the capacity to form judgments of our own about the value of ideas, opportunities, or people who may come into our lives... ...We must develop sufficient independence of judgment and maturity of perspective that we are prepared to handle the shafts and whirlwinds of adversity and contradiction that are so likely to come along in our lives. When those times come, we cannot be living on borrowed light. We should not be deceived by the clear-cut labels some may use to describe circumstances that are, in fact, not so clear. Our encounters with reality and disappointment are in fact vital stages in the development of our maturity and understanding."

That last sentence is very interesting. Prior to the last few years, I was a "labeller." Now I hesitate to label anything -- which some could perhaps argue is just as dangerous. But I believe that a vital part of stepping up to level two, as Elder Hafen puts it, is challenging our thinking and being willing to cast aside those labels if we discover that they are not as "clear-cut" as we previously assumed. I think that homosexuality is a good example of this because I'm sure I'm not the only Mormon whose views on the subject have changed dramatically in recent years. Even just a couple of years ago, I think that I had the subject filed nice and neatly under the "labels" that I was sure they belonged. But now, after further investigation and opening my heart and mind to the reality of the situations that many gay members of the Church find themselves in -- even though I do not claim to know what is "right" or "wrong" -- I find things to be not nearly as clear as I thought they were. It's been extremely challenging to me on so many levels, but I hope that that is one of the "vital stages in the development of our maturity and understanding" that Elder Hafen speaks of.

"Despite the value of this level-two kind of awareness about which I have been talking, some serious hazards still remain. One's acceptance of the clouds of uncertainty may be so complete that the iron rod fades into the receding mist and skepticism becomes a guiding philosophy. Often, this perspective comes from erasing the outer circle representing the ideal, or what ought to be, and focusing excessively on the inner circle of reality. When I was a teacher at the BYU Law School, I noticed how common it was among our first-year students to experience great frustration as they discovered how much our legal system is characterized not by hard and fast rules but by legal principles that often appear to contradict each other. I remember, for example, one student in his first year who approached me after a class early in the semester to express the confusion he was encountering in his study of law. He said that he had what he called "a low tolerance for ambiguity" and had been wondering if part of his problem was that he had returned only weeks before from a mission, where everything was crisp and clear and where even the words he was to speak were provided for him. To feel successful, all he had to do was follow the step-by-step plan given him for each day and each task on his mission. Law school was making him feel totally at sea, as he groped for simple guidelines that would tell him what to do. His circumstance was only another example of what I have previously tried to describe as typical of college and university students early in their experience. However, by the time our law students reached their third year of study, it was not at all uncommon for them to develop such a high tolerance for ambiguity that they were skeptical about everything, including some dimensions of their religious faith. Where formerly they felt they had all the answers but just did not know what the questions were, they now seemed to have all the questions but few of the answers. I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law student that those who take too much delight in their finely honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness in the Church and elsewhere, because they become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to get involved and commit themselves." Does anyone else recognize themselves in the paragraphs above? "I have seen some of these people try out their new intellectual tools in some context like a priesthood quorum or Sunday School class. A well-meaning teacher will make a point that they think is a little silly, and they will feel an irresistible urge to leap to their feet and pop the teacher's bubble. If they are successful, they begin looking for other opportunities to point out the exception to any rule anybody can state. They begin to delight in cross-examination of the unsuspecting, just looking for somebody's bubble up there floating around so that they can pop it with their shiny new pin. And in all that, they fail to realize that when some of those bubbles pop, out goes the air; and with it goes much of the feeling of trust, loyalty, harmony, and sincerity so essential to preserving the Spirit of the Lord."

I'm not one to try out any of my new "intellectual tools" (if you can call them that) at church. I lack the confidence and ability to express myself verbally in a way that I feel I won't be misunderstood. But I'm guilty of doing so in my head. Boy, am I guilty. If my thoughts at church could be heard, I'd probably get myself thrown out. So I make mental notes and blog about it instead. It's an important outlet for me.

"If that begins to happen in your ward, in your home, or in your marriage, you might have begun to destroy the fragile fabric of trust that binds us together in all loving relationships. People in your ward may come away from some of their encounters with you wondering how you can possibly have a deep commitment to the Church and do some of the things you do. I am not suggesting that we should always just smile and nod our approval, implying that everything is wonderful and that our highest hope is that everybody have a nice day. That is level one. I am suggesting that you realize the potential for evil as well as good that may come with what a college education can do to your mind and your way of dealing with other people. The dangers of which I speak are not limited to our relations with others. They can becomes very personal, prying into our own hearts in unhealthy ways. The ability to acknowledge ambiguity is not a final form of enlightenment. Having admitted to a willingness to suspend judgment temporarily on questions that seem hard to answer, having developed greater tolerance and more patience, our basic posture toward the Church can, if we are not careful, gradually shift from being committed to being noncommittal. That is not a healthy posture. Indeed, in many ways, a Church member who moves from a stage of commitment to a stage of being tentative and non-commital is in a worse position than one who has never before experienced a basic commitment. The previously committed person who developed a high tolerance for ambiguity may too easily assume that he has already been through the "positive mental attitude" routine and "knows better" now, as he judges things. He may assume that being submissive, meek, obedient, and humble are matters with which he is already familiar, and that he has finally outgrown the need to work very hard at being that way again. Brothers and sisters, those are the assumptions of a hardened heart."

Withdrawing from participation in class discussions or activities is something that I am guilty of. I am in the "non-committal" stage and to be honest, I'm not sure how I can leave it without putting on a big act. When I resigned from my RS calling, it was because I felt uncomfortable teaching things that I didn't feel right about. I was also a bit uncomfortable with some of the tactics being used to try to reactivate certain sisters because I doubted the sincerity of certain people. I even doubted my own sincerity. If someone says something that I disagree with, I'm always afraid that my silence will be misinterpreted as being in agreement. And yet if I voice a dissenting opinion, then I definitely risk alientating myself as "the apostate." It's a catch 22. If I commit to something, I feel horribly guilty having to back out of it (which is why I grappled with the decision to resign my RS calling for well over a year before actually doing it), so my natural inclination is to just avoid committing to anything. Do I have a "hardened heart?" Absolutely. But it's not impenetrable.

There comes a point, however, when we have to decide whether we want to be in this Church or not. And if we've made the decision to stay, then we have to decide whether we're going to make it a pleasant stay or just be angry and resentful our entire lives in the Church. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but I do believe that each of us has the power to decide whether or not we will respond to offense, even when we're entirely justified in feeling offended. I don't yet know exactly how to reconcile my doubts and resentment with my desire to stay in the Church, but I am at least committed to doing my part and resist letting my heart become hardened beyond repair. I admit that it's not easy. In fact, it's incredibly difficult at times.

On occasion, I have received e-mails from people who have stumbled across my blog and wished to thank me for a particular post that really resonated with them. This happened recently when I got an e-mail from a reader who was very touched after discovering my blog and reading Love Is Not Blind. In the course of the past couple of weeks, she and I have been writing to each other and discussing many things related to our experiences in the Church. With her permission, I wish to quote directly from the blog that she has just started, Simply Me, in order to introduce her to my readers. I encourage you all to read what she has to say and to share your thoughts and experiences with her, because the connections that we make and insights that we get through blogging are things that are hard to get in your own ward -- and vice versa.

"As I am exploring the creation of my blog I keep reading other blogs and I am intrigued. Today I want to talk about what I've gleaned from one post, in particular, and how I can use the gift of ambiguity as I embark on my journey to return to church and to embrace reconciliation along the way. It is a new journey for me that draws parallels similar to my baptism. When I was 19 years old my grandpa stood in the baptismal font and guided me as I entered the waters of baptism. On one hand I knew that it was a completely personal and spiritual act and on the other it was meaningful to have my grandpa be the one to hold me as he baptized me. It was a special moment for us. On my baptismal program the verse that was shared was from 2 Nephi 31: 20. It reads: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." My baptism was a time when I had broadened my horizons. When the musings of my heart were confirmed by what I had learned regarding the eternities from the LDS church's perspective. I knew that I was on a good path. Approaching the road of reconciliation is similar to having entered the waters of baptism even though one is an ordinance and the other is not. They are both intentional. During baptism I exercised faith in simple ways. During this phase of reconciliation I plan to exercise faith using ambiguity in an attempt to make things a little simpler for me, as oxymoronic as that may sound. Thanks to the writings and examples of people who struggle in that place of ambiguity yet hold to their faith pressing on with hope, love for God and people, studying the word (in whatever form that works for you including these discussions), and staying the course."


Is reconciliation with the Church and fellow members possible even if we have "irreconcilable differences?"