Frau Ruster and the Cure for Cognitive Dissonance
I also learned that the Garden Tomb really wasn't the place where the Savior's body was laid to rest. I learned that it was actually Sidney Rigdon who wrote the Lectures on Faith and that some of the "doctrine" in them is rather, shall we say, Protestant, and this may explain why the lectures were eventually dropped from the Doctrine and Covenants.
But of all these publications I was reading, Dialogue and Sunstone were most informative. I learned that adultery might, in fact, not be the sin next to murder. I learned that Napoleon Dynamite's Happy Hands Club represents the female cross-brain function. I learned that Noah's flood may have submerged only the Black Sea area and may have happened about 5600 B.C. I learned that the universe might be just a small portion of a more comprehensive multiverse. And I learned that in our corner of this hypothetical multiverse lives a whole host of very unhypothetical Mormons and former Mormons and half-Mormons and quarter-Mormons and quasi-anti-neo-post-meta-counter-pseudo-Mormons who wrestle with dozens of issues and questions -- everything from Native American DNA and polygamy to priesthood equality and evolution. I learned that, spiritually speaking, some of these issues have blown people adrift and have blown others apart. I learned that many intellectuals and individualists and iconoclasts have enormous frustration and microscopic patience with the perceived inflexibility and irrationality of Church bureaucracy. I generally shook my head and rolled my eyes at this last group. They had obviously never worked at Church magazines. What did they know?
I have not been naive for many years now, but this new reading opened my mind to the struggles of individuals as they come to see inconsistencies in the Church, its history, its founder, its scriptures, and its bureaucracy -- as they shed their innocence and replace it with something that is far less comfortable for them and far less comforting. Most of the distress for thoughtful Mormons seems to revolve around Joseph Smith in one way or another. Rightly so. Richard Bushman stuck it in his title where no one could ignore it, but Joseph really was a rough stone. His life was surrounded by controversy because he was controversial -- imperfect and unconventional and incomparable. Neither his fellow Saints nor his enemies could go to the Legacy Theater to see his life portrayed with skillful editing and majestic overtones. They saw him up close and personal, both the grandeur and the blemishes. Still, he himself had it so very right when he said to his followers shortly before his death, "You don't know me." They didn't, and we certainly don't.
Some of the questions that perplex people concern the intersection of knowledge and belief. Is it really possible to know anything for certain in the field of religion? I've read essays by faithful intellectuals, rational arguments they have constructed to support their belief in the Church and their dedication to its teachings. Others try to deflect the question. "The goal of religious development," a social scientist once asserted, "might not be the serenity of certainty, an absolute acceptance on faith, but the capacity to sustain the tension of not knowing. To be able to live with uncertainty, to be able to cope with the insecurities of an exceedingly complex world in order to control it would be a higher achievement religiously, I think." In other words, we should not seek to know with certainty but should embrace our uncertainty.