Every now and again, a line from a hymn will strike me even though I have heard it a thousand times before. This is a fairly rare occurrence, probably because we usually sing our music so slowly that by the time you get to the end of a phrase, the beginning of that phrase is difficult to remember. It’s hard to get much out of music if you are playing your 45s at 33 speed (for those of you too young to understand that analogy, there used to be these things called “records”….)
But today was one of those days. I wasn’t singing along this morning, because my iPad was locked up on an update, and I have refused to use a hymnal since my wife found a booger on one back in 2010. So I was listening for a change, while the congregation was singing “I Believe in Christ.” For a bit, I was distracted, because the meeting already was running 15 minutes over, and for some reason we were going to sing all four verses. (Actually, that song has eight verses, carefully disguised as four, because ain’t nobody got time for an eight-verse hymn. We don’t, for example, sing all of the verses of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” unless a speaker didn’t show up or the teachers forgot to bring the sacrament bread).
Anywhoo, the chances of me skipping Sunday School were looking pretty good regardless, so I wasn’t feeling too anxious about the long meeting. I just sat back and listened to the congregation sing. And in the middle of the hymn, one line actually stood up and demanded my attention: “I believe in Christ/So come what may.”
I’m not exactly sure why this line lodged itself in my head. I think it has something to do with the fact that, in order to write for this and my other blog, I read a fair number of news reports about Mormonism, many of which are as unfair as they are critical. On top of that, my blog posts themselves sometimes expose me to more direct criticism. Just this morning an angry former member of the Church who had “finally found Christ” (his words) demonstrated his superior spirituality by repeatedly calling me a “liar” and telling me to stop writing “crap” to defend Mormons. For the record, I don’t tell any lies in my posts, but that second criticism is sufficiently subjective that I probably can’t deny it. In any event, the fact is that I get a pretty steady diet of criticism of my faith.
As I have said before, one’s faith in Christ is, ultimately, a choice. The case for or against the divinity of Christ will not be closed in this life, and therefore at some point we choose either to believe that He (upper case “H”) was the Son of God or he (lower case “h”) was delusional or a fraud. Whichever choice we make comes with consequences, and we can hardly claim to have made any choice at all if we have to reevaluate our position every time we face a new consequence.
Having chosen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the literal Son of God, that He atoned for the sins of the world, and was resurrected from the dead is not without consequences. The same is true with the decision to believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and was directed through revelation to translate the Book of Mormon and restore the same church that Christ established when He was on the earth. What are those consequences? What was the “come what may” to which Elder McConkie referred in the hymn he wrote? I can think of a few:
There is the uncertainty in times of trouble, when you feel perhaps no one, not even Christ, hears your anguished cries.
There is the frustration of being mocked by arrogant critics who insist that no rational person would believe as you do.
There are the nagging doubts caused by questions that you cannot answer and might not be able to answer during this life.
There is the difficulty of abandoning the less savory aspects of your character in order to harmonize more closely to the example of your Master.
There are the feelings of self denial as you sacrifice things you want now in the hopes of receiving something better much farther down the road.
There is the loss of family or friends who cannot abide your faith, or with whom you cannot safely abide while sustaining and nurturing your commitment to Christ.
Choosing to embrace and exercise faith is not an inconsequential decision. If one’s faith is sincere, it means changing what you think, how you feel, and the way that you see the world. It means adopting not just a world view, but a universal of view of the origins and meaning of life and the nature and purpose of the afterlife. It can, and should, change everything.
While it is important to continue to study, to search, and to explore in order to enrich, nurture and deepen your faith, that does not mean that every time we encounter some new theory, new “fact,” or new idea, we reexamine our decision to believe. To do so would mean that our testimonies would be forever tentative. They would never take us anywhere, and instead we would just continue circling the board, hoping that if we land on Boardwalk, the atheists haven’t built a hotel there that is going to clean out our spiritual banks.
For those of you too young to understand that analogy, there used to be this game…