Defending Examining Faith

It’s been some time since I posted anything, but I hope to be more regular this year in writing, so here we go. I have several thoughts and ideas in the works, hopefully to be polished and ready soon.
I’ve been thinking recently about some close and not as close friends and their departures from Mormonism. Some, given my politics, skepticism and unorthodoxy, would suggest that I may be better off joining them. Yet, I can’t. I am deeply Mormon and love Mormonism. I too have faced and continue to face different struggles and issues with the Church, yet those problems aren’t ultimately destructive for me. They can be and I feel that my faith’s resilience is in large part due to my tendency to question and examine my faith.
This tendency is central to my defining and focus within Mormonism and is a common thread throughout much of my commentary. Here’s just a brief justification for living in such a way that you examine your faith.
Two main analogies serve within the Church to form the cultural view of Faith- the armor of God (with faith as the shield), and Alma’s discourse about the seed (which has been erroneously applied to faith, even though for Alma, the seed is the Word).
1.     The Shield of Faith. I’ve enjoyed this idea for a while. A tangential anecdote to illustrate. As a missionary, we were asked to think of ways to build our faith daily and to send our thoughts and ideas to the Assistant’s. I have never really enjoyed this sort of thing and what it degenerates to (pray, imagine the person behind the door saying ‘yes,’ picture everyone dressed in white, etc. Those ideas may work for some people, but not for me and my somewhat jaded, snarky, skeptical self). So, I suggested somewhat seriously, but with my tongue pretty firmly planted in my cheek- to create a shield of faith to include in our planners to block disheartening and otherwise discouraging thoughts. For good measure, I went ahead and drew a shield, with some highly quotable scripture (something like 2 Timothy 4:7 with Paul’s deathbed words), ghetto-laminated it and placed it in the front of my planner. Of course, the AP’s loved the idea and I grew somewhat attached to my shield, and would create a new one every transfer. I also added a Sword of Truth to my divine armory (one time I drew a lightsaber, since truth is light, and what is a lightsaber if not a Sword of Light?). Anyway, if faith is really the shield that protects us from spiritual danger, we better examine it and find the weak points or we’ll end up like Smaug, with a glaring weak spot that some dark arrow will fly into, leading to our terrible death. In the examination, we may realize that we’ve got to rebuild our shield, with it taking on a different shape. Maybe, we don’t have any problems or weak points and we can focus on adding additional layers of strength and nuance to our shield, finding connections between different topics.
2.     The Seed. The moral here is the same. If faith is a seed, then we need to nourish and care for it, always checking for disease or other issues. There is much more on the individual here in the actual building of the faith than with the shield. Maybe the seed grows fine, until there is some issue as a full-grown tree and you need to prune off whole branches. Again, if faith is neglected, like a seed, it’ll die. You can think it’s fine, until someone goes to grab an apple and the tree is withered and dead. Or maybe you thought it grew into a tree, but haven’t checked in awhile, so you go back and then turns out your poor, unexamined faith-tree is malnourished and you basically need to start over from the ground up.

I’m not trying to imply that all those that leave the Church do so because they had not sufficiently examined their faith from a younger age. That may be true in some cases and for others, the act of examining may have sparked the thoughts that led to the departure. Yet, I believe that an individual is better off living a life with an examined, thoroughly questioned faith. One where they know why they believe what they believe. It can be a hard road, when no one else seems to care, but a road worth walking.
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