Thirteen-year-old son: Mom, can I watch “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”?
son: Why not? There’s nothing bad about it.
me: I disagree.
son: Well, I disagree with you.
me: That’s okay.
son: (sighs, rolls eyes) What’s so bad about it?
me: (describes gratuitous violence as seen in the trailers, without mentioning my past acquaintance with all things AH-nold)
son: What, you think watching that will make me want to go kill somebody?
me: No. I’m not worried about the immediate effect. I’m worried about how watching that kind of show might affect you in subtle ways over a period of time.
son: I think I can handle it, Mom. I’m thirteen.
me: And I’m thirty-seven.
son: So what?
me: So I’ve been around a lot longer than you have, and I understand some things you don’t understand yet.
son: I think I understand just fine.
me: Yes. And that’s exactly why you need parents.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a post about Prop 8. Specifically, it’s about the inner tension experienced by people who want to preserve their spiritual integrity on two levels–being true to their personal beliefs/perspective as well as their church leaders’ beliefs/perspectives–and find these two in conflict regarding Prop. 8.
Like many other LDS, I have mixed feelings about the proposition, and I’ve been uncomfortable with the offical mandate to fight it. This is the first time I’ve found myself at such odds. My integrity has taken the form of a hydra with two heads, and I don’t want to chop off either one.
But recently, while reading Nate Oman’s article “A Defense of the Authority of Church Doctrine” (Dialogue 40:4) I came across this provocative idea:
To the extent that Church doctrine simply tracks my substantive beliefs there is a sense in which it is not really all that practically important to me. Furthermore, if I am willing to grant legitimacy to the claims of Church doctrine only in those cases where I already substantively agree with it, there is a sense in which it lacks any power to teach or change me. It is precisely those instances where I find myself in disagreement with the substantive content of Church doctrine that it has the real possibility of altering or changing my beliefs and behaviors.
As my mind automatically substituted “counsel” for “doctrine,” I had one of those big bright lightbulb-above-the-head moments. Up until that point, I’d been asking myself this thorny question: “Should I be more true to my leaders than to myself?” Nate’s point prompted me to reframe that question: “Should I trust my self-counsel when it directly conflicts with specific counsel from church leaders?”
An equally thorny question, to be sure. Self-doubt can be dangerous. Yet the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it’s a necessary element of spiritual progression. I don’t need to chop off the Kathy-head of the hydra–but sometimes I need to let the other head take the lead. It has much better eyesight.
I’m not here to dictate the role self-doubt should play for others as they mull over Prop. 8. Each of us must answer our own thorny questions. But as for myself, I’ve realized I’m being the spiritual equivalent of a thirteen-year-old if I don’t consider the probability that church leaders understand some things I don’t understand yet–and that that’s exactly why I need prophets.
How about you?
(Note: I’m not interested in hashing over the legal and political aspects of Prop 8. I’ll nix comments leading in that direction, as well as those I deem disrespectful in any regard. Why? Because I said so.)