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.