I thoroughly enjoyed Rosalynde’s FAIR talk, “Disenchanted Mormonism”! Thank you, Rosalynde!
I really like the way she presents doubt as something that can be a productive and legitimate place to inhabit indefinitely, even while there is an active hope for greater knowledge and confidence in the future. I also really like how she embraces what we don’t choose, including the fact that we (at least many of us) are members of the body of Christ and of the church largely independent of personal choice.
I have a question for Rosalynde, though: isn’t there still a pretty significant form of belief, and of choice, involved in the attention and observance you describe? It seems to me that while we sometimes talk about belief as though it involves a casting aside of doubt, belief can just as well, and perhaps even more legitimately should, be a form of trust exercised in the midst of doubt, trust precisely in the sense of embracing what is uncertain. This is the subtle combination I take to be reflected in “I believe; help thou my unbelief.” In this sense, by fasting, for instance, one exercises a belief that fasting is good and worthwhile, even without claiming any certainty about it. I would say that faith is active hope, hope that one invests in through the way one acts.
And in this there is choice, is there not? I agree that to a great extent we are members of the church, those of us who are, independent of our choice. Yet the choices we make from day to day either strengthen or weaken that state and relationship, and eventually can make or break it. You choose to fast on a given day or not, even if one option or the other hardly seems like a serious option. It’s not as though you are carried along independent of your will in fasting; rather, your will carries you along, even when you the alternative does not cross your mind.
I think your critique of Terryl Givens’ radical notion of choice is perceptive, Rosalynde, but I feel like you are going too far to the opposite extreme in your analysis. When you try to separate puzzlement from belief and choice, you are reacting to an unrealistic notion of belief and choice, precisely because humans are not the kinds of radically autonomous creatures you see in Terryl’s description. I would say, instead, that in your description of faithful puzzlement, manifested through active and willing attention and observance to the church and its teachings and practices, you are describing the kind of mixture of action and passion, confidence and diffidence, freedom and constraint, attention and inattention, choice and receptivity, that are really the essence of the human condition.
I am eager to hear your thoughts (especially Rosalynde’s, but everyone else’s too . . .).