Faith-Promoting Rumor

Dedicated to oddments and marginalia in Mormondom and, failing that, deep doctrinal discussion

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ambiguity comes with the territory

In a discussion with a BYU religion professor yesterday, he mentioned that he had been told by people at the Marriott School of Business that graduates from that institution are universally praised in all areas except one (I may be slightly exaggerating here). The one area in which the BYU grad is behind his fellow MBA's? Handling Ambiguity.

I wasn't terribly surprised by the revelation. I don't want to blame the "the brethren have spoken" mindset here, because I don't believe that provides sufficient explanation for this trend. The truth is that, in the church, we are conditioned to reject ambiguity. If there are no answers to our questions, we pray/study harder. If that doesn't work, we do it some more anyway. Problems are not problems, they're "tests" that we need to pass in order to resolve. Things do not just happen in the Mormon worldview. In spite of our insistance on free will, it turns out that God has carefully controlled everything in our lives so that we can learn the appropriate lessons from our challenges (if we choose to, of course).

Why do we fear the inexplicable, the contradictory, and the unmotivated? Perhaps a certain believe in a divine overseer removes fear when life becomes unpredictable and confusing. It seems hard for us to accept that some things are beyond our comprehension (perhaps because of our beliefs about intelligence and intelligences).

Perhaps I am only speaking for myself here.

In any case, it seems that we have lost our taste for mystery (in the Christian sense) in the church. We do not like to dwell on paradoxes in doctrine and faith, telling ourselves that there are no paradoxes and creating elaborate schemes to make our contradictions no longer contradict.

But the mind of God is not the mind of man and the ways of God differ from ours.

Joseph Smith once said:
"By proving contraries, the truth is made manifest"

To be honest, I have no idea what this means. It could mean that by showing that contradictions exist and that it is necessary to accept them, we approach God. Or it could mean that by examining apparent contradictions, God can help us unravel them and find the rational truth therein. I am not convinced that we have an either-or situation here. In any case, it seems that we need to pay close attention to the paradoxes in our belief. Contemplation thereof seems to be a manner of approaching God.