Monday, October 4, 2010

The Shelf List

This question was posed on a discussion board and since its bloggable, I'm copying and pasting my answer to it here:

What have you shelved? (anything?)

And why have you shelved it? If we are entitled to personal revelation, why would we not get answers about these things? At least personal assurances to whatever degree?

I'm at a period of my life where I'm taking things off that shelf and trying to figure out if through examining them I can come to an understanding of them. I really am testing the boundaries of what I can learn through revelation for myself.

My list of things I've shelved in the past:
the mysteries of the gospel mentioned in the scriptures, what are those?
What does God really expect of homosexuals and us in showing compassion to them?
to what extent does evolution play a part in the creation of the world and the human specie?
why were women granted the power to give blessings, then limited, and then ultimately taken away?
Why the harshness of the law in the Old Testament?
what is the rightful place of Heavenly Mother in our worship?
where do the ideas of other world religions intersect with the fullness of the gospel?
where is the truth that can be found in other religions?

I'm sort of studying all these things right now because I feel like my base of reading materials has expanded. Obviously, these answers aren't in the scriptures though guidance and insight into the answers may be. Once I gave myself permission to study the scriptures by relying on outside sources (Sunstone magazine, Dialogue journal, other Mormon scholarship like FAIR and FARMS) and academic religious studies, I felt like the world was open up to me and I could meaningfully study and ponder these questions. I was so heartened to see that other Mormons have been pondering, writing and publishing their studies for the benefit of others.

I've had to give myself a certain freedom to speculate and try on new ideas without accepting them as truth. I try to brainstorm the possibilities, knowing that one may true, many may be true in different ways or none of them are true and being okay with not knowing. But I enjoy the process and the insights I can gain through it. Sometimes I come to a conclusion that I feel may be as close to the truth as I can get and I will guardedly accept it, pray about it and keep it to myself by trying to remember that it is not my place to openly share experiences such as it with others since it hasn't been revealed to the church and that I must wait patiently to discover if my hunch is right knowing full well that it may not come in this life and I'll have to wait until the afterlife to find out. And I'm okay with that. Most of the time.

Its actually these questions that led me to start this blog and why I state in the header "my ponderings to know the difference." The way I got into the LDS church was through the process I described above. In order to change my beliefs and accept something that I previously thought was impossible or improbable, I had to be willing to suspend my disbelief and see what it was like believing it might actually be true. Giving myself permission to "try ideas on for size" allowed my mind and my heart to be open enough to accept the truth. After joining the church, I found that sort of inquiry wasn't specifically endorsed or encouraged so it wasn't until recently that I gave myself permission to try the same strategy in other areas of the gospel, specifically those not addressed by revelation.

I have to admit that I love speculation and I've considering starting a series on my blog about my speculations on gospel doctrine. I even adapted a song for it which of course I can't remember now. I know that speculation must be done with caution and needs to be checked against revealed truth and policy. So understandably, I'm cautious in publicly sharing my ideas. Perhaps a disclaimer is needed: "You cannot take my writing here to be an indication of what I actually believe to be true. I'm pondering, I'm shaping my understanding through a somewhat messy process called stream of consciousness writing. Its how I process my thoughts and receive useful feedback from others that I exploit as sounding boards. So please know when you read my blog, that is what you are. I welcome your comments and responses but please remember I have good intentions of learning and growing as a child of God and if I am mistaken or leaving out crucial information, please inform me respectfully. I'm open to critiques of my ideas, as long as it is done respectfully and with compassion."

In fact, maybe I ought to paste at the end of every post or add it as a comment policy.


cc said...

I really like this post. It seems that a lot of things and people and intentions need clarifying these days.

Your "shelf" has pretty much the same content as mine. You're looking in the right places for answers I think. I believe God wants us to use our mental capacity and time to learn what we can on these subjects - if S/He gave us the answers it wouldn't mean as much, and perhaps it wouldn't even work. There is something amazing about learning and struggling to understand, and then coming to a conclusion from all your effort that helps you to own the answer - especially if it's not always the one you wanted to hear.

The only other thing I would do, which I have done, is go to the sources for some of these subjects outside of Mormon scholarship as well. I've found that in understanding scripture or old testament times, studying Hebrew and anthropology helps for my perspective. Or, for me, the questions of evolution and other science topics that clash with faith, are best understood from a perspective of science - through a lens of faith. And mostly, accepting that some things are just unfathomable from an earthly POV.

I'm not sure I'm saying what I want to say - just that, reading what others have learned is important, but so is looking at how they got their answers on subjects that we are capable of understanding. Sometimes, just praying to know that someone else's work reveals truth is enough, but sometimes I think it isn't. That's a hard answer though, because we can't all be scholars - and I certainly am not;)

(how's that for stream of consciousness?)

Jenne said...

CC, those are great suggestions. Can you point me to some good reference materials to start with on Hebrew and anthropology?

I had a conversation the other day with my husband that at this point, I'm not able to be a scholar of the gospel, which makes me really appreciate the scholars who do the work to present their studies to others.

I'm definitely looking for articles, studies and books along the lines of the questions I ask in this post. I'm open to those suggestions as well.

And as you'll get to know, I'm open to pretty much anything. I'll listen and consider it at the least.