I Know.

Faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was young, I felt everything with absolute certainty. I knew my father was the smartest, my mother was the sweetest, and my sisters were the meanest. I knew that school was the way, that college was the plan, and that the church was the truest thing ever.

I told Heavenly Father so in my prayers, and I stood up before my congregations to share what I knew, as we all did. Even as I grew older and less certain, I thought that if I spoke loudly enough, if I declared my knowledge often enough, that the absolute certainty would someday return.

But it hasn’t. Certainty has retreated from me, in all things. Certainly my father is smart, but he’s more hard-working. My mother can be sweet, but she’s also tough. My sisters are not mean; actually, I think they’re pretty awesome.

College was, and still is, the plan. And college also taught me the value of acknowledging what I don’t know.

My mother told me a story once, of a teacher, cast as a villain, who insisted that his students answer questions correctly, or else declare “I am ignorant.” Harsh, and certainly unnecessary. I thought then that the word itself was an insult.

But now, today, acknowledging my ignorance is how I propel myself forward. In my 30s, I am certain of my own ignorance and shortcomings, and I find that to be empowering. I don’t know X thing, but I can know it, if I choose to spend time on it.

I didn’t understand coding. I was ignorant, and so I learned.

I am ignorant of so many things. It’s okay to say and acknowledge that. And it’s important for me not to conflate knowledge with belief. I know things that I have learned and been taught thoroughly, have evidence to support, and understand.

I know. Except when I don’t.

I don’t know that the church is the truest thing ever. But I believe that there is good in it. I know that the church has done me some good. I also know that I’ve been hurt there, and continue to be hurt by policies espoused.

It hurt deeply when I realized that what I thought was knowledge was actually belief. I felt like I had been misinformed, led, directed to overstate the truth. This made me very uncomfortable – I felt like I had been lying.

I am very careful in my statements. I work hard to avoid being misunderstood, to make sure that my meaning and intentions are clear. Frankly, that’s a big reason why I’m good at my job.

I want to make sure that my truth is clear, so let me say this: there is a lot that I don’t know. There’s plenty that I believe. I have evidence that aspects of the church have been beneficial to the forming of my character, and I am grateful for that. I can’t, and won’t say that I know or believe everything fully. I won’t overstate my position. I have a testimony of some things, but not all things. And I know now that, for me, testimony is things a choose to believe, not things that I know. And that’s okay.

Kalliope

Kalliope is the youngest of four sisters. She loves baking, travelling, coding, reading, and learning new languages.

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10 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    A post that echos my thoughts. I have used sacrament talks to express this too. I believe we use the word “know” way too much in the Church in testimonies. And yes, I did it too. And used “without a shadow of doubt”. But the truth is, I don’t know and there will always be doubt.

    I believe. I have faith and I have hope, lots of hope, that the Church is true and that be following its precepts and leaders I will be blessed with all that I have earned for an Eternal gift.

    • kalliope4exponent says:

      Thank you, Andrew. We are definitely in agreement. I don’t know. I believe, and (more empowering for me) I *choose* to believe. Faith is a choice I make every day. Testimony is not something that magically happened to me. It’s conscious and deliberate.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I always had a testimony – I just grew up with one. I remember having a conversation with the man who had been the Branch President when I was baptised. This was later when he and his wife were on holiday at our house. He was a stake president then, but not mine. I was about 15 or so. I remember that I told him I had always had a testimony, I just knew the church was true.
        He said, “one day you will have that testimony tested”. I waited, and I waited, but it never happened. Even 19 years ago when we found out the baby my wife was carrying couldn’t live much past birth, I still believed. When he was stillborn I still believed. But in the last year or so (at 50+) I have needed faith and hope more than ever. Not because I don’t believe any more, or have any real desire to not continue, but because enduring to the end seems so much harder than it ever did before.
        Maybe it’s not true, maybe I’m fooling myself, maybe those who have left the Church and live happy fulfilled lives are right?
        What I actually know is so much more limited now.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Andrew. I also have hope. I have more hope than faith actually. I hope that some of the things I learned growing up and the things I have chosen to have faith in now, are actually true.

      I am so grateful to know that others feel the same way. That helps me to feel that I am doing okay, and doing the best I can at this moment.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I definitely think that knowing is not as common as people claim it is. On that note, I seriously cringe every time I hear people say, “I know the church is true.” I may be over analyzing things a bit, but the CHURCH is certainly NOT true. The GOSPEL of Christ is true. The church is not the gospel and the gospel is not the church. If you’re going to KNOW one of them is true, please choose carefully.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Rebecca,

      I think that some of that is semantics. I agree with you, but it would be no different if people said they “believe the church is true”. The Church contains the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is a vehicle for providing the ordinances of the Doctrine of Christ.

      Unfortunately in a world where tense, conjugation and grammar are no longer used correctly more often than not, I would not expect a change any time soon.

      • kalliope4exponent says:

        Ahhh, semantics. I’m a linguist, so I love conversations about semantics. I think in this context, there as been a divergence in meaning. For some people “the church” means the gospel, and for other people “the church” means the culture.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Absolutely. And for me church sometimes just means the members of the Church. For my wife, although she does understand the universal nature of the Church, it usually means the local unit. Church here is better, or worse, than somewhere else.

  3. Ziff says:

    This is great, Kalliope. I particularly like how you describe your experience as the retreat of certainty. I’ve experienced this too. I’ve found it difficult, and I love how you’ve embraced your not-knowing. It’s a good model to follow.

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