Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dishonest with myself

A major principle in the LDS faith is that each person can recieve a testimony, or a witness that what they are taught is actually true. This is a refreshing idea, so many religions rely purely on faith, or belief, which can be problematic. There are many things I believed in that turned out not to be true at all, like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or that I could actually carry a tune. We all know now (at least those who have heard me sing) that none of these are true. But ask any 5 year old child and they will say they beleive because 1) they have been told these stories by others and 2) they have some sort of soft evidence of their existence (presents at Christmas time, pictures with Santa, books telling his story). But the reliance on others and soft evidence is obviously insufficient. Which is great for Latter Day Saints, they claim that you can know of the truthfulness of the teachings, not just beleive. In fact in the most recent General Conference Elder Dieter Uchtdorf, an apostle for the church, says that it is a "sure knowledge" and "abiding and living conviction". In fact he quotes President Hinckley, the current president and prophet of the church, as saying that "every Latter Day Saint has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God." A certainty beyond doubt, if that is what they claim was avaialable that is what I wanted.

I remember the first time I prayed about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the church, and the Joseph Smith story. I was 19 years old and I was in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT preparing to depart to my mission in Berlin, Germany. That's right, I had already committed myself to go on a mission without having ever prayed about the Book of Mormon. I finished reading the book, I knelt down and prayed asking for a conformation of its truthfulness, I truly beleived that it was true, I was sincerely asking and I was prepared to act upon my confirmation. After I prayed, I sat in my bed waiting for an answer. Nothing came, I waited longer. More nothingness. After sitting there for probably 20 minutes after I finished the prayer I started thinking that maybe this nothingness was my answer and then I began convincing myself that it was not nothingness but it was peace, and that is how the Holy Ghost was speaking to me. But deep down inside I knew that it was nothingness, not any different than if I sat for 20 minutes on my bed after just relaxing or meditating, but I wanted so bad for it to be true that I started lying to myself. I continued on and served a succesful mission, went home and attended BYU, married the greatest person I ever met in the LDS temple, and continued to read and pray. To this day I have probably read the Book of Mormon 12-15 times. And each time I have prayed about its truthfulness, and each time I received the same nothingness. Part of me was convinced that this nothingness was peace, and therefore a confirmation of previous answers, but the other part of me, the honest part, knew it for what it was, nothing. I didn't want to acknowledge that part, I wanted to beleive and continued beleiveing for years, even sometimes telling others that I "knew". But I didn't, I definitely did not have a certainty beyond doubt, I just had a belief. I was left with the feeling that it was still possible to "know", but I was doing something wrong. Why couldn't I have the same assurity that others claimed? It was frustrating.


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