A few days ago I was moved to reflection on my testimony in a post by Beck, "Can ye feel so now?" wherein he stated,Relative truth, or the "Spirit of the Law" is so much more difficult to define and comprehend than the standard answers we hear in Primary, Sunday School and most Sacrament Meeting talks. Maybe I will regain surety of knowledge when I'm kneeling at the feet of Jesus, washing the dust off with my tears. But for this life, I have chosen to step off into the vast unknown space of hope, realizing that sure knowledge comes by trial and faith, and if I'm persistent, by revelation. I do this because the perfect mold of Black & White Mormonism doesn't really fit for me. The generic faith answers don't square with the scope of my experience. And yet I know God lives, I have felt His love, and the Spirit has confirmed the validity of the Gospel in my life.
But "good" and "righteous" and "right" don't feel as "good" and "righteous" and "right" as they once did. Such words have lost their power and meaning. Why? What has changed?...Why can't my world be black-and-white clear and exact again as it once was? Will I ever have the unquestioning faith that I once had?
Or I might add, where is that straight rod of iron which leads to the Tree of Life? And if I find it, will I hold onto it?
Why should we care? Because a key tenet of our faith is latching onto truth, God's Truth, not man's truth. I wouldn't want to believe in something that maybe is true, or go through a bunch of denial only to find out it really didn't matter.
One of my poems I published early on in my blog, Prairie Wind, speaks to the struggle we have in finding and keeping the Spirit alive in our daily walk, because we shut ourselves in and don't embrace the Spirit. I labored over this poem for a couple dark years, and couldn't get it finished until I moved out of the frozen prairies of Minnesota into the light and warmth of the Arizona sun! (No offence, JG-W!) My point is, we don't usually get our answers at the first asking, and we sometimes have to move on to new perspectives to realize truth and understanding in our mortal rear-view mirror.
The fact is, we change. We experience new vistas, new sin, new doubts, and new truth as we traverse through life. I chose to answer the angst in my poem with a veiled reference to the Savior's admonition to become as little children in seeking the Kingdom of God. But even this is not an easy answer to the doubts and fears that plague us, it is simply a guide. In our quest for conviction Beck asks the thorny question of whether our religious experience at church will ever again feel "right." I don't know. What matters to me is that I must feel right with God.
Case in point: of all the things that constitute party-line rhetoric in Mormon testimony meetings that I find somewhat discomforting, it is the phrase "the only TRUE church." I have great faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ because I have felt repeatedly the gift of forgiveness; I know the Priesthood is real because I have felt and been an instrument of its power; I know we have a prophet who speaks for God because I have felt the Holy Ghost testify to me that this is so. But don't ask me to smugly recite the 'only true and living' phrase because it doesn't fit my personal experience and observation. I have too great a love and respect for people of faith practicing other world religions, and know of God's love for them, to say something that implies for me that God doesn't direct and reveal Himself to them as well. I realize our church teaches people of other faiths can be inspired, but adhering to 'the only true and living church' for me runs the risk of being condescending and doesn't match my personal faith in God's universe, therefore I don't say or believe such things. I cannot imagine God's celestial garden being only red roses, not that they aren't "true," but that the diversity and beauty of His real garden of life is simply so much more wonderful and compelling.
So how does my kind of testimony stack up? Well, I might be accused of 'relativistic morality' or 'buffet line faith.' This assessment certainly hits the fan of rigid dogma as it relates to gay lifestyles, feminism or you name it. I know we can find ourselves outside mainstream Mormonism when we start developing special cases for our situation, especially if our belief system runs counter-current to recorded teachings by apostles or prophets. However, I think a relative faith, taylored by personal revelation can cope. I realize this kind of faith causes some concern to our 'straight' brothers and sisters for our eternal salvation, but this is our problem, not theirs.
How do you think God will judge the peoples of the world's diverse belief systems? I don't think it will be by Mormon theology. I believe He will judge and reward people according to their faith and love, the desire and intent of each individual heart, and as demonstrated by personal observance, just like us.
If I think God will show latitude in judging the diverse peoples of dispensations and cultures, shouldn't I think he would do the same for me, even under the mantle of Mormonhood? If I am willing to venture in my faith where others of the church are cautious, my only constraint is this: I should deeply believe that I am "right" in light of the Holy Ghost guiding my belief, and then I must live my belief with integrity, because that will be the measure by which I will be judged. Otherwise, my self-fashioned religion is only a convenient farce.