Personal Online Journal

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Truth Will Prevail

I have a friend Randy I have known in my LDS ward for several years.  I have been serving in the primary for about a year and a half.  I did not notice or did not take the time to find out when I did first notice to see why he and his family had stopped coming to church.  This week I saw a post on facebook about how he is an atheist now.  Here is a link to an audio interview he had with  His story is in part one.

I have had some friendly email exchange with him in the last few days.  He (and I hope I) have been respectful of each other’s convictions.  I do not pretend to understand why he has made such a leap in his world view in the last few years.  I did not know he was undergoing such a change.  I hope to understand more fully what has prompted this change for him.  I want to share with you my own journey with some of the hard histories of the LDS Church.  And why I continue to believe in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For Christmas 2009, I got Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.  It is a biography of Joseph Smith by a historical scholar that is a faithful member of the church.  He does, however seem to try and give the history of Joseph Smith an even hand.  He tells the facts as best they are known.  He does admit that he does approach the history from a faithful LDS perspective.  I got so much out of the book.  It is worth anyone’s reading especially if they want to understand the roots of Mormonism.  There were several parts that gave me concern but none more than the description of Joseph’s practice of polygamy.  I am not sure why or what can explain what seems to be evident.

This and other concerns even before reading this book have caused me to rethink what I do believe and why.  I went back to my childhood.  The first thing I can remember knowing for sure is that my parents love me.  I respect them and trust what they taught me.  Another experience I had was in reading the Book of Mormon in my freshmen year in high school.  I came to understand the doctrine of Christ.  The experiences of Alma the Elder, the Younger.  The teachings of King Benjamin.  They all rang true.  I came to peace and forgiveness as I practiced the teachings I learned.  As a husband I have felt the bliss and blessing of forgiveness from my wife.  She has been an incarnation of what I have read of how the Savior will and does forgive.  

I am not sure what to make of Joseph Smith.  I believe in all the doctrines we continue to teach from him.  That God the Father is a perfect, physical man.  That Jesus Christ is separate from Him and his literal, physical Son (JS-Hist).  That the Holy Ghost is also separate and that He has the power to lead to all truth.  I believe in the plan of salvation and the universal access all men have at gaining it (D&C 76).  I believe that the fall of Adam was a necessary part of that plan and that moral agency is a key to the plan (2 Ne 2).  I believe that only Christ can save us from our sins before, while and after we make our best effort to follow him (“After All We Can Do”).  I believe that God will change me as I partner with Him.  From a fallen, broken man to receive all that He has (D&C 84:33-41).

There are many, more doctrines than is easy to list here that ring true to me.  I have felt it emotionally, spiritually, and as a clarity in my mind that seems extraordinary.  As I have lived the teachings of the church, I am happy.  When I have failed, I have been miserable.  I am grateful for the practical structure of the church that helps me become who I am to become.  To cast off the base and selfish nature of my self.  To glory in the lifting of others that somehow lifts me.

How do I reconcile Joseph and the other hard histories of my church?  If I were alive in Joseph’s time and I knew what I know now, I would ask him to help me understand.  But I am in my own time.  I know that history may not paint the picture fully.  If what I have read is true, there are still some things I do not understand.  I am not being asked today to practice what is reported Joseph did.  I do know that there are many teachings from Joseph that clarify what God is like and what he wants us to become.

What I see in my church today is nothing short of miraculous.  I see women and men serving voluntarily in all sorts of capacity.  I see people being called to positions of authority that would never choose it.  And are increased because of it and those that they serve.  I see in the centuries that the church has been here, a clearing away of the branches which bring forth bitter fruit (Jacob 5:64-65).  I see the Restoration continuing until the church and its people are wholly acceptable to the Lord.

I choose to be charitable to the history of my church when I look with 21st century eyes on those in the 19th and 20th century and even now.  I believe God sends angels to prophets to declare the good news.  Those prophets in all their weakness ask us to believe their words.  We have the Holy Ghost and the fruits of the Restoration to verify their words.  The following passage rarely fails to stir my heart.

Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free. (D&C 128:22)

What do I make of Randy and the other good atheists that I know?  What do I make of the countless others with different faith or of no faith?  Those that are often better examples of a Christ-like life than my own or the members of the church I have known?

I believe truth will prevail.  Randy quoted J. Reuben Clark in one of his emails, "If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed."  Truth will prevail in more than in the factual “what is real” questions.  It will prevail in the hearts of honest women and men.  Those who wish to live by truth will continue to receive truth upon truth.  Whether that path leads them into and eventually out of atheism.  Whether that leads me out of my currently held and even most cherished beliefs.  If I am courageous enough and really want it, the truth will prevail in me.

There is a calculus that occurs in all our lives whether we want it to or not. We eventually get what we want. The trick is to choose that which will bring lasting happiness instead of only immediate pleasure.  As any person truly seeks to find and follow truth, truth is inevitable to come and that truth will make us into what only God can imagine.


Papa D said...

I really like this post, Rick, but I especially like the closing:

"We eventually get what we want. The trick is to choose that which will bring lasting happiness instead of only immediate pleasure. As any person truly seeks to find and follow truth, truth is inevitable to come and that truth will make us into what only God can imagine."

I came to realize years ago that I could construct a reasonable argument for just about anything I chose to believe. I mean that. Therefore, I made a decision to choose to pursue that which makes me happy and that which I want to be true. As a result, I am happy - and I admit openly that there are some things I believe I can say I "know" through personal experience and lots of other things I take on faith, largely because I want to believe them.

Dandi said...


Rich Alger said...

I like Papa D's approach in this post, The Vineyard Still Is Being Pruned

It seems to sensible. I love the part in Jacob 5 he brought my attention to.

Rich Alger said...

Here is a FB thread that relates to this post.

Here is one of my replies.

"I have read Rough Stone Rolling. Here is a post about that.

I have come to resolve most of the issue to a certain extent by trying to relate it to my own experience. There are many good people I have known. None of them perfect. Some of them exceptionally Christlike.

The history of our church is just as messy or more so. I like the analogy that Alma uses in chapter 32. If I allow the seed to be planted and I nurture it, the seed grows. As I continue to care and have patience, it will grow and bear fruit.

There are doctrines in the LDS church that I have found no-where else. I have tasted of the fruit and know it is good. There have been mistakes made in the church that I have seen for myself on the local level. I am sure that it occurs on a general level now and throughout the history of the church.

I believe The Restoration of the gospel continues. That will will continue to learn, line upon line and precept upon precept both collectively and individually. That the most bitter branches will be pruned away from the church according to the strength of the roots.

There are some things I have "put on a shelf". I think I am able to because I recognize that we all "see through a glass darkly".

The most important things in my life are those things that keep me close to the Lord and what I feel He wants me to do. I see Good in the LDS church. I believe that the teachings and the doctrines and the pattern of making and keeping sacred covenants draws us to Christ and the abundance He wants us to have.

As I focus on improving my walk with God and my service to his children, I am most happy. I trust all questions will have answers. I try to discern the truth about the church with as much mercy and grace that I hope the Lord will with me.

I certainly am not as naive as I have been before. One of the questions I asked myself was, "what else would I choose?" "What other way of life would be better?" It made me think of the question Jesus asked of some followers when some were offended. They said where else would go, you have the words of life.

I have come up with a similar answer. I know that the prophets are men. They are fallible, they come from a line of prophets that were also fallible. Yet I perceive truth and goodness in all the messiness.

It is like my wife did recently with some new plants. They do not yet have a stable watering system. We were not sure if they were alive. The new buds had not come out on them yet. She broke litte twig and could detect that it was not dry. It had life in it.

I feel the Spirit in the church and as I read the scriptures and follow its counsels. I know the rest will work its way out."

Anonymous said...

No one leaves Christianity or Judaism because Moses killed a man or because Israel, Abraham, David and Solomon had concubines. In most cases the concubines were the principal wife/wives handmaidens. And we know Abraham and Moses are exalted men. I think perhaps modern thinking leaves little room for allowing us to see things in a grander scheme. We don't know why Heavenly Father gave the men concubines or how that plays into the laws of chastity. In the case of Dinah her brothers killed her lover yet her brother Reuben slept with one of his father's concubines and no more mention was made of it. Perhaps when we get to the other side we will see that things aren't as they seemed. Perhaps the roll of man and woman as co-creators will be made more clear on a level we can't currently comprehend.

39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord. (D&C 132:39)

As for Joseph, when we pray to know if he is a prophet our answer will be strong and clear and no matter what actions he made we may or may not agree with, he died in good standing with The Lord.