A friend of mine recently posted a series of bullet points showcasing some of the rich paradoxes found within LDS church history. Many of these paradoxes, and others still similar, outline the details of early Mormonism’s theological evolution, internal conflicts among revered church leaders, retroactive changes in church doctrine, and other potentially uncomfortable facts, which for the image-conscious, contemporary Mormon may find surprising, if not too revealing.
As I have followed the historical narrative to the best of my understanding, while equally reflecting upon those friends of mine who have left the church, I have learned something about myself and about my convictions that I never expected would, in fact, keep me religious. That is, I have maintained faith in a dynamic religion in which I do not set the bar very high. This is a euphemism for saying that my leaders have become more and more human than previously understood, and that the dynamism of my faith is based on this struggle that I happily fight: to accept my religious community as led by fallible humans who yet struggle to respond to the divine with which they’ve been touched.
Skeptics will simplify this struggle as an appalling load of strain, or perhaps the great effort it takes for the religious to affirm the incredible. Personally, I do not choose to remove myself from religious paradox or religious exasperation because it is hard or illogical. I choose to grapple with religious paradoxes because they are profoundly meaningful, profoundly becoming. To wrestle with alien mythology has, for me, allowed for a special kind of humility to enter my life in positive, transforming ways.
If the single determination of this post has done nothing more than suggest what atheists knew all along—that is, that religion is nothing more than a human invention—then each of us (myself included) have overlooked the nature and significance of the force which once held our world together, and which is now losing its grip—the force of religion.
My belief in this force is informed by my belief in human betterment, human improvement, human fulfilled potential. When religion is looked at in these terms, rather than in terms that distance us from our own inherent power and awesomeness, then the question that some seek to prove or disprove will no longer be about whether God exists or does not exist. The question will be on whether we’re immortal, and as immortals, what we’d do in an ever-ongoing process of perfecting the very best of what we know and find joy in.