Monday, February 17, 2014

# 26: Maybe the Church Really Is True

When I was a TBM (That’s Internet lingo for "True-Believing Mormon") I was 100 % sure that the Church was 100 % true.  It made logical sense to me.  I thought that the chiasmus in Alma chapter 36 proved the Book of Mormon true, and if the Book of Mormon was true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet.  I thought that the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph mentioned in Ezekiel chapter 37 obviously referred to the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  And the angel flying through the midst of heaven in Revelation 14: 6 - 7 was none other than the Angel Moroni.  It all made sense.

Then Al Gore invented the Internet, and then a bunch of people got on the Internet and started talking about the Church, (and Zelph and seer stones and polygamy and other forbidden topics) and then my testimony melted like a stick of butter in the summer sun. 

So, is the Church true?  I'm not sure... um... but I kind of don't think so... um...

But I don’t want to go from one extreme to the other.  I don’t want to say that I’m 100 % sure that the Church is 100 % false.  Maybe it’s mostly false, or maybe it’s mostly true. I don’t know.  The way I like to put it is this: the Church has a very high level of truthiness. 

Another way I like to put it is represented in the drawing accompanying today's blog post.  On the truth-o-meter, the Church is neither in the red "false" zone, nor in the blue "true" zone, but rather in the pink zone in the middle, labeled, "squishy realms of fog."

And what does the word “true” really mean anyway?  

One definition is, “loyal or faithful,” as in, “he was a true friend.”  Is the Church loyal or faithful?  Well, it’s been around my whole life, and for the most part it behaves in predictable patterns.  Every Sunday I go to the same building and sit in the same pew and see mostly the same people and hear the same sacrament prayers.  And the members of the Church have always been helpful and friendly and such.  So, yeah I'd call that loyal and faithful.  So... I guess that means the Church is true.  

Look, if we’re going to stay LDS without burying our heads in the sand, we need to discard the “either it's all true or it's all false” way of thinking.  Instead of insisting on a black and white reality, we need to embrace the Supreme Rainbow of the Universe.  

(Is it merely a coincidence that Joseph of the Old Testament, who is a type of Christ, wore a coat of many colors?!  I bet Joseph's brothers, who were less favored of the Lord, dressed in dreadfuly monochromatic clothes.  Is there a message here? Laugh out loud.  Let’s not get crazy.)  

Seriously, though, here’s a quote from Neil Postman’s book, The End of Education, on pages 6 - 7, that should shift our understanding of "true" and "false" when it comes to religious claims:  

We cannot do without [gods]… whatever else we may call ourselves, we are the god-making species.  Our genius lies in our capacity to make meaning through the creation of narratives that give point to our labors, exalt our history, elucidate the present, and give direction to our future.  To do their work, such narratives do not have to be “true” in a scientific sense.  There are many enduring narratives whose details include things that are false to observable fact.  The purpose of a narrative is to give meaning to the world, not to describe it scientifically.  The measure of a narrative’s “truth” or “falsity” is in its consequences: does it provide people with a sense of personal identity, a sense of community life, a basis for moral conduct, explanations of that which cannot be known?

To answer Postman's questions, yes, the LDS Church provides people with a sense of personal identity.  Yes, the LDS Church provides people with a sense of community life, a basis for moral conduct, and explanations of that which cannot be known.  

So in the sense that Postman is talking about, the LDS Church is true.  

And maybe the Church is literally true, too.  Maybe there really were Nephites and Lamanites and Jaredites and all manner of -ites.  Who knows?  The world is a crazy place.

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