I used to feel that blog postings without pictures were dull and I rarely took the opportunity to read through them entirely. But my feelings about blogs are constantly evolving and now I find that some of my favorite blog experiences have come from the emotions created by fellow bloggers who share thoughtful and sincere ideas. In particular I have admired a high school friend who expresses honest and borderline “taboo” questions and opinions on her blog. Her postings have really caused me to think about things, and that is what brings me to this post today.
The questions my friend raised related to conforming to the status quo of church culture and developing our own testimonies of specific gospel principles. In addition to these thoughts I had my own questions, one in particular. I mentioned the interview I listened to about the church earlier. One of the issues Tippets questioned Millet about was Joseph Smith’s translation of the book of Abraham. Apparently recent study seems to contradict what Joseph claimed. I hadn’t heard of this so I asked Richard about it. That led into a discussion about science and the gospel and Richard told me about people who have left the church over such contradictions. Let me say that this issue didn’t cause any doubt in my testimony but I did wonder “Why do scientific discoveries seem to refute the restoration of the gospel?”
The seed that bore fruit of a wealth of knowledge and testimony for me was Dallin H. Oaks talk this last conference. I could quote the entire talk here because it was so insightful to me but I’ll try to limit my references. He answered my question about scientific knowledge plain and clear. He says ” The idea that all important knowledge is based on scientific evidence is simply untrue…scientific methods will not yield spiritual knowledge.” (See 1 Corinthians 2:11) He talks about how we learn spiritual truth through the power of the Holy Ghost, he then says “When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of knowledge they have acquired…” This idea filled me with a sense of power and confidence. I don’t need to be intimidated by intellectuals who have gained scientific knowledge and use it to try to destroy my faith. As Elder Oaks says “Anyone can disagree with our personal testimony, but no one can refute it.”
Moving on, I have thought a lot lately about the gospel of Jesus Christ as it relates to Mormon culture. What parts of LDS living are doctrine and what things are just part of the culture. For example, the great debate of caffeinated beverages. I won’t get into what I learned and felt because it is personal, but I do want to share my journey. Over the past 10 years I have sat on the fence about drinking Dr. Pepper. After reading this talk I have learned that I can use the principles discussed to form my own “testimony” about that choice. Elder Oaks says “We should remember that acquiring a testimony is not a passive thing but a process in which we are expected to do something. ” (See John 7:17) This applies not only to a testimony of the gospel in general but to each individual commandment or principle. This is another empowering truth I’ve learned lately. I can personally study and pray about anything relating to the gospel and receive my own witness. That was probably obvious to most of you but I’ve felt lately that when I have doubts or I am unsure I can be blessed with personal revelation. If something I want to do or something I feel doesn’t fit the mold of LDS culture I can pray to know if my feelings or desires are righteous and in line with the teachings of the Savior.
So it goes with each of us with all of the teachings of the gospel. Elder Oaks again: “A personal testimony is fundamental to our faith. Consequently the things we must do to acquire, strengthen and retain a testimony are vital to our spiritual life.” Another thing I have felt strongly lately is how individual all these choices are. The best advice I have had lately is to totally avoid comparing myself with others. When I compare myself to the people around me I feel either discouraged or self-righteous. When I look at the strengths and success of other women I feel inadequate and pathetic. When I look at the weaknesses and shortcomings of other women I feel conceited and superior. But when I refrain from comparison I find their strengths are something to admire, not envy and their weaknesses something to ignore, not magnify. Sadly it seems that blogs are another medium for comparison, and I fight those feelings constantly. But hopefully they can be a medium for inspiration as well.
Which brings me to the question “Why am I sharing my thoughts and personal feelings on cyberspace?” The answer (again Elder Oaks) “There has never been a greater need for us to profess our faith, privately and publicly.” I have a testimony of the gospel. That doesn’t mean I never have questions, but my testimony is strong enough to keep me going to church every Sunday and living “in the right as God gives [me] to see the right” (Abraham Lincoln). As I plug along and seek spritiual knowledge I know I will be blessed with confirmations of doctrine and my testimony will grow.