Guest Post by Zach Bunting
It’s certainly not an issue that Mormons alone have to confront. Any person of faith encounters questions to which there appear no adequate answers in religion. Some might say that to question or search is to open a Pandora ’s box since you could find startling or troubling answers. After all, maybe it is more comfortable to blindly accept something that you want to be true. Tennyson saw things differently: “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds,” he penned in his poem In Memoriam A.H.H.
For Latter-day Saints, the greatest witness we can receive is personal revelation, communicated to our minds and hearts by the Holy Ghost. It is personal experience that no one can refute but us. The very nature of our faith requires constant nourishment, and the Holy Ghost bears witness of truth, so it follows that as we investigate we can receive the same assurance that initially sprouted our faith. Perhaps that is why one of our Church’s leaders recently said, “As good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit,” (Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ).
Recently I was involved in a discussion that started with the Curiosity rover and morphed into science versus religion. Those tending toward the atheistic end of the spectrum fueled their argument with scientific evidence in contradiction with biblical accounts. Some of the Christians responded by questioning the validity of science. However, there were a couple of believers that work closely with science who described their personal journeys to reconcile science with religion and maintain their intellectual honesty while fortifying their faith. What distinguished these believers was that they had actively asked questions that they knew had caused others to extinguish the flame of their own faith, but in so doing sought Heaven’s aid. When they arrived at conclusions that were satisfactory to them, they found peace and that familiar assurance that at first had converted them to Christ’s gospel. I felt challenged to venture out and discover where I feel the two intersect. I cannot discard my faith that has been fortified by numerous unforgettable experiences, nor can I pretend that science is faulty and changes with the wind. Both evolve: one as God sees fit to endow us with additional understanding, and the other as man’s efforts and ability enable us to understand. But I can allow both to heavily influence how I see the world. For me, especially when life plays out contrary to my expectations (for better or worse), I can look back and see the scientific explanation for how something happened, but I look through the lens of faith to understand why.
This recent journey was one that I knew came with risks. I have seen friends cast away their faith when they dug below the surface of this issue or others. Why is it that I advocate the search for truth? Is it because modern scripture instructs us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith”? Is it because I fear to appear ignorant? For me, it is because I recognize that my faith will illuminate my understanding only inasmuch as I allow it to grow, even into the mysterious darkness. In the same poem, Tennyson also wrote:
We have but faith: we cannot know
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
As an explorer hungers to discover what lies beyond the horizon, I too find satisfaction and joy in expanding my understanding. And when I get there, I am not alone. The same familiar Spirit that at first testified to me of the truth of the Book of Mormon welcomes me to a new summit.
Learning is a magnificent process. It inspires the mind and enriches the soul. I love that Church leaders and scripture exhort us to learn constantly, because instead of shattering my faith, the process has solidified mine.