“I Believe.” Powerful words that signal assent or faith or desire. Words that for me are far more comfortable for my current faith and religious experience than that of “knowledge” for epistemological and personal reasons (mainly that I am unconvinced of the possibility of knowing anything, but you know, just a minor detail). This has led to immense discomfort, as I felt less than my fellow Saints who could stand and say that they “knew.” I would stand and also declare my knowledge because I had feelings, I wanted to testify, and the only language available to me was language of knowing. Yet, each time I did, I felt a sting of dishonesty.
I thought, maybe, this isn’t true.
I didn’t know.
But I didn’t disbelief. I didn’t know something else. I didn’t want something else. I wanted this.
Eventually, a couple years after my mission I embraced my like of knowledge and my belief. Largely because of two passages of scripture: Mark 9: 17-27 and Doctrine & Covenants 46:13-14. Particularly verse 24 of Mark:
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
I love this passage. The idea of belief being sufficient and that belief for this father is coupled, inextricably with unbelief. That’s how I feel. I believe and I call to God for help with my unbelief. This passage is short, but powerful.
The Doctrine and Covenants’ verses were perspective altering as well:
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”
Here, belief is reframed as a spiritual gift. Not only is it ok to not know, it is a gift. I find this liberating and encouraging and empowering. It equalizes belief and knowledge, highlighting that both come from God. That both are powerful and salvific. But even with all of that, what does belief really mean?
I continue to wrestle with this question. There’s much of Mormonism that I may not believe. Or at least that I don’t believe comes from God. And then there’s loads that I believe or I want to believe, but not necessarily in a literal way. But maybe that too?
And here’s where the Gods and Space Doctrine come in.
Some progressives are prone to wishing for a Mormonism that is stripped of much of its peculiarities and that is more or less in line with standard Christianity (if there even is such a thing). I on the other hand want Mormonism to be as peculiar as possible. I love the weirdness, the wild, the wacky, the sci-fi, the bizarre—the space stuff.
I was reading the creation account in Abraham and found myself loving the use of “Gods” to refer to the Creator(s). I was wandering down the hypotheticals and other questions of what this means for Mormon cosmology and thinking about what I believe about this. I love the basic idea of God being a plural being, meaning Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother—hence my use of He/She/They as God’s pronoun—and this feels like a somewhat natural extension of that, building on some of the theology from the King Follett sermon. The idea of a pantheon of Mormon Gods and Goddesses chilling up around Kolob carrying out creation is awesome to me. It tastes like Greek or Roman or Norse mythology. It feels larger than life. It feels exciting. Invigorating. Filled with possibility.
It’s weird. And complicated. And polytheistic. And challenging.
But I love it. I believe it. I think. The narrative potential is so rich. It’s like this weird mix of science fiction and mythology, old and new worlds colliding—Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Thor and Hercules and The Fifth Element all hanging out together in my theological and cosmological playground. I’m pumped about that.
It almost essentially humanizes God too. If God is part of this Council of Gods [and Goddesses], then God can’t be all-powerful, right? Like, what’s the point of a committee of all-powerful beings? What do multiple all-powerful people do together? Can’t just one of them do it all alone?
Anyway, we don’t have near the effort devoted to explicating these passages of scripture that I’d like to see given how narratively rich I think they are. But that’s mostly immaterial. I love this stuff. I find it fascinating. Compelling. Enriching. I believe it.
Does that mean that I think that floating around some planet far-off near the center of everything there’s some special gathering of exalted, transcendent beings that plan and orchestrate and interact with us lowly humans? Not really.
I don’t know. I believe it, but my belief is not tied to the literal nature of the story. I believe it in that it speaks to me. I believe it in that it resonates with something inside me. I believe it in that I find it good. I believe it in that I return to it over and over. I believe it in that it enriches my life. I believe it in that it feels true.
Maybe that doesn’t make sense and maybe that distinction is meaningless. Perhaps it’s problematic. But I think belief shouldn’t be tied to some sort of literal or factual or historically verifiable set of data points. Belief can be much more than that. Belief fuels imagination. Belief fuels hope. Belief saves me.
Is there some council of Gods and Goddesses that watch over us and helped plan the Creation? Are there loads of planets filled with people, reading scripture that speaks of an alien in a galaxy far far away dying for their sins? Were Adam and Eve already exalted people from another world brought to start ours after already living through mortality? Did the Earth literally fall through space to inhabit its current, “Telestial” place? Does the sealing ordinance somehow literally bind families together in a tangible way manifest after we die?
I don’t know. Maybe not.
But I’d like to hope so (at least some of these things). I, along with Elder Price, believe.