Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Intellectual Honesty

It has been pointed out to me by others that sometimes I just think about things too deeply. I would counter by asking something like "How deep is too deep?" And completely make their point for them. Anyway I've been giving a lot of thought to what it means to be honest.
A few weeks ago I was put into a position that would have been really easy to tell a little white lie and as long as nobody called me on it everyone would have walked away with no hard feelings. Instead I opted to do the intellectually honest thing and tell the truth. The result was some hard feelings and I left feeling like I could have avoided the bad feelings if I'd have made up something rather than tell the truth. I don't regret my decision, but in spite of what well meaning people tell you in Sunday School, sometimes it's a lot harder to be honest.
A month or so ago I started a facebook.com page. I don't remember why I did it. I think I needed one to respond to somebody else's website or something like that. Anyway, one of the options that they give you when you're filling out your profile is political views. Although libertarian fits many of my views it doesn't quite get them all. And in Atlanta if you say you're libertarian many will assume that you agree with everything that Neal Boortz spouts out. I don't. In fact, I tend to vote issue by issue and not along any party lines. So I typed in free-thinker. It just felt like a more honest way to define my political views than any of the labels in the drop down menu.
Another slot asks about religious views. Many of my LDS friends answer this slot with "Christian- Latter Day Saint". Initially I wanted to select that too. However, I have a real issue with any kind of label that paints too broadly. The majority of my religious views do fall in line with LDS theology. However, I have made peace with some of the conflicting LDS doctrines in ways that many LDS friends and family find far too uncomfortable to even talk about. So I again avoided the drop down menu and did what felt intellectually more honest and typed "Seeker of wisdom". The easier and more comfortable path would have been to simply accept the label given to me and move on. It just didn't feel right.
As a result I had one friend ask sincerely if I was ashamed of the church. That was not my intent. I fear that once again my attempt a honesty may have made others uncomfortable. Everybody I know is aware that I am LDS. I've had very deep doctrinal discussions with most of them. In fact I believe that because I am not the cookie-cutter Mormon that they are able to feel more relaxed in discussing their own questions about religion with me.
In the past few months I have had detailed discussions with Liberal Baptists about their interpretation of James; Methodists about how they can improve attendance at their meetings; a Catholic friend about the impact of the new pope; an online discussion with a bunch of skeptics about how I justify my skepticism and my LDS beliefs; and countless conversations with people explaining the difference between official LDS doctrine and that pedophilia taught by Warren Jeffs. I don't believe that any of these conversations would have happened in the same way that they did if I had portrayed myself as the stereotypical Mormon. It's not who I really am and I believe that by honestly calling myself a "seeker of wisdom" I am a better positioned for encouraging others to keep looking for truth where ever they find it.
Incidentally, I don't see "Christian- Latter Day Saint" and "Seeker of Wisdom" as mutually exclusive. Isn't seeking wisdom exactly what Joseph Smith was doing? And isn't that wisdom exactly what James encouraged us to seek?


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post and the only really weird thing that ran through my mind was an Olivia Newton-John lyric, "I honestly love you!"

    I am more of a labeler, but I suppose I lean toward multiple labels which would make me a really poor marketing person.

    I appreciate that you put so much thought into everything. I'm just sad when some don't see the sincerity behind all of the questions.

  2. [read with way to much excitement and a Calfornia surfer accent]Dude, you're on FaceBook? Will you be my friend? Thier games are aweome. Send me something for my mob wars.
    Thanks for not being typical in any way, shape, and form. It does make me feel more comfortable talking about religion and other topics with you.