"Pictured is one of my favorite paintings. It's "The Doubting of Thomas" by Caravaggio. I have used this painting one time when I was asked to teach priesthood. I explained to the other members that I am not Peter, with the always undying faith, but rather I am Thomas. Unless I see with my eyes and feel with my hands, I won't believe. In Caravaggio's painting, not only is Thomas feeling the wound in the side but Christ has grabbed Thomas' hand and thrust it into the wound.
Like many, my testimony is hard to define. I can't just believe. I find it hard to understand many of my family and friends that say they have never doubted and get up in church and say "I know." I went from being a true believer to an athiest to agnostic. I stopped going to church but there was a void. I tried to fill the void with humanitarian and social justice work but that didn't work. My adviser in my post graduate studies (Anthropology) is a Jewish Cantor. He explained two things to me that became important concepts to me in coming back to church. The first was that people who are religious from childhood into adulthood have a hard time leaving religion behind. There are spaces inside the person that can only be filled by religion and not being religious leaves a void. The second thing he explained was the difference between orthopraxy and orthodoxy. Orthodoxy literally means "right thinking." Orthopraxy means "right doing." He said one Jew will never ask another Jew what he believes. It's irrelevant. What matters is what you do. Judaism is not based on what you believe but on what you do. So I became an orthopraxic Mormon.
I guess what I am saying is the Thomases of the world have to work things out differently from the Peters and in Mormon culture, especially Utah Mormon culture where we are expected to be Peters. On other sites I have found, you have to be anti or pro and they leave no room for those of us who have to feel the prints in the hands and the wound in the side."
Some Christians like to attack Mormons for their emphasis on works instead of grace. One could argue that within Christianity, Mormons are a very orthopraxic people (emphasizing working out our own salvation). But within Mormonism itself, I've found that we're not very accepting of those who are orthopraxic rather than orthodox. Not "knowing" is considered a weakness and expressing doubt about the Church, the prophet, the doctrines, teachings, or anything -- even if you are doing everything "right" (i.e. going to church, keeping the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, paying tithing, service, etc.) -- is not likely to be well-received or understood.
It's been said that faith without works is dead. What about works without faith?
Thanks, Joel, for sharing this with me. To you, and to all my readers, best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and Year 2010.