To Some It Is Given
I was introduced recently to the work of up-and-coming Tel Aviv street artist, Know Hope. I don’t know that much about street art but I was deeply touched by his simple and profound messages of hope and love, especially in a city that knows so little of both. But it was his name that stopped me short; know and hope are two words that don’t naturally fit together for me.
The verb “know” means to be certain of the truth or factuality of a subject. “Hope” means to desire with anticipation. Perhaps it is because of my Mormon education that I see these two words as a contradiction.
When I think of the word “know”, I think of fast and testimony meeting: “I know the church is true…with every fiber of my being…without a shadow of a doubt.”
When I think of “hope”, I think of Alma 32:21: “And now as I said concerning faith–faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”
The distinction is important to me. I have always been a little embarrassed of my lack of knowledge. In a church that places so much importance on personal revelation and truth, my seeming inability to get either has been deeply troubling. Despite my sincere efforts, the hours of fasting and scripture study, the strict obedience and the tearful pleadings with the Lord, I have never received a personal witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, or of Joseph Smith or of the Book of Mormon. I never even got an answer to whether mr. mraynes was the right man to marry. (I hope I made the right choice.)
Instead, my mind is often drawn to D&C 46: 13-14: “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.”
I do know that Jesus Christ is my Savior so I extend these verses to the answers I don’t have. I have accepted that for the time being, it is not for me to know. I believe that my belief is a spiritual gift. In fact, I believe that the with-holding of answers has been a tender mercy. My heavenly parents know me well enough to know that I could not and can not understand a dogmatic god and so I have not been allowed to be dogmatic myself. I am comfortable in Mormonism and if I knew, really knew, that the church was true I’m not sure that my eyes would be open to the things that could make it better. Not knowing has allowed me to be more charitable with those who struggle with their faith…to see shades of grey and interpret the gospel in a way that strengthens my relationship with God.
In not taking for granted that all choices by fallible men are divinely inspired, I have been allowed to ask questions that are scary and painful and viewed by some as “not useful.” I have asked why God allows horrible things to happen to innocent people. Why do the strong prey upon the weak? I have asked why God allows half of humanity to be routinely oppressed, violated and silenced. If women are equal to men, why can’t they have the priesthood or preside? I ask why God would allow His church to sanction polygamy, racism and homophobia. And seriously, God, who’s idea was it to make the entrance age for nursery 18 months?
…I haven’t received any answers. But I continue to keep my covenants, fulfill my callings, attend church every week and go to the temple. I teach my children about God and maintain my relationship with my heavenly parents. I try not to let the wound of unanswered questions fester. I do all of this because I love God, because I am stubborn and because I have theories and ideas that work for me. That I can believe in. That I can hope for.
All of this is a long way of saying that just because some of us have questions it doesn’t mean that we are hostile to the church…or to the prophet…or to those who are generally satisfied and know that all of it is true. We just haven’t received the same answers. And that can be a blessing in and of itself. It can be the way that each of us knows hope.