As I considered the idea of becoming a little more humble and a little less proud this week, I thought back on other things I have contemplated and about which I have written over the last few years. I want to focus today on something I believe strongly - that we often focus so much on knowledge and knowing that we devalue what, in a way, is the pure heart of humility. Sometimes we focus so much on knowing that we forget about the real power and, I believe, enduring need for faith.
“Faith” is not “knowledge”. It is the substance of things “hoped for” - the evidence of things “not seen”. Faith is based on “hope” - a desire for something that cannot be seen or understood fully. “Certainty” is the perceived end of faith - the desired outcome most people envision. It is to be sure of something to such a degree that it is expressed most often in terms of knowledge. “I know this” and “I am certain of this” are seen generally as saying the same thing, especially within religious communities.
One exercises faith when one is uncertain; one does NOT exercise faith when one is certain. When someone is absolutely certain, he stops seeking greater understanding. Such a condition leads the person who is certain to stop exercising faith, since she believes there is nothing with regard to that particular concept she doesn't "see" - that she has sufficient "evidence" to be certain and not need "further light and knowledge". If even a prophet (Paul) could write that he saw "through a glass, darkly" . . .
I get more than a little bit frustrated by the insistence that everyone can know everything, since even our own sciptures say that some have the gift to know while others have the gift to believe those who know. (I think there is another category of people - those who never feel like they know and can't believe those who believe they know. I admire DEEPLY those who find themselves in that situation and still manage to exercise faith [hope in what they can't see] despite their inability to actively believe.) My biggest concern is the idea that faith and uncertainty cannot co-exist - that if I am uncertain of something, then I lack faith. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of faith.
I would posit that we all must, by definition, exercise faith until we are certain - and then hold onto that previous faith again if we lose certainty. Since none of us can be certain about everything imaginable, every one of us needs faith in something all our lives. I believe each of us can be certain of some things, but I also believe we can be certain of many things and still be incorrect - at least partially. If we are certain of everything, I believe we either are ignorant or delusional. If we never reach an acceptable level of certainty, then we need to accept a life of searching ("seeking after these things") - following whatever principles and people and politics and religion we feel provide us with the highest degree of certainty we can obtain OR the particular vision in which we want to have faith.
Finally, there were at least two times when I think it is safe to say that Jesus struggled mightily - because He didn’t understand and didn't want to accept something. (In the Garden, where He asked if the cup could be taken from Him and on the cross when he cried out and asked why His Father had forsaken Him.) In these cases, he seems to have been uncertain about some aspect of the Atonement and had to exercise faith: specifically, that He would be able to do it and then that He would be able to do it alone at the very end.
If the Savior and Redeemer of the world didn't understand some things right up until the end of his life - if even he had to exercise faith in at least two instances, I believe it is important for each of us to accept that we also need to accept uncertainty and not assume our visions and views and beliefs are objective truth that need no more light and knowledge.
I think nearly everyone would agree with that, in theory, but there are SO many times when we forget it in reality - when we allow ourselves to be proud and miss amazing opportunities for spiritual growth and enlightenment by being absolutely certain.
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