Doubt is a noble thing. …[D]o not think that when I speak as one who knows with certainty that I do not also doubt; do not think, either, that when I doubt I am not also sensing right beside me, close enough to touch them, definite, indisputable things.
-- Czeslaw Milosz
I struggle with a lot of things.
Mormonism is built on knowing: we are not satisfied with believing what we believe; obedience and study and fasting and prayer enables us to transcend belief, to actually see and know. Christ said that the pure in heart are blessed, for they shall see God, and we take that promise literally. We are driven by the conviction that with the right amount of effort, with the proper levels of purity, we will have our own Sacred Grove experience. Faith will end, for we will know.
The problem with that is that it's exhausting, this striving for purity. It can lead to despair, when you are trying so hard to do right, to be Good, and not only are you not only seeing God; you can't even get Him to answer a prayer. This is hard work, humbling, exhausting, and soul-stretching work. Too hard, sometimes. It's tempting to just slip quietly away. (One of the things I've discovered, as I'm moved from ten years sitting on the stand to the strange anonymity of being the Former Bishop, is that you can not show up at Church, and nobody even notices. One missed meeting becomes two, becomes three: I understand how people disappear.)
It's even more tempting to fashion a faux certainty. We paper over our unkindness and intolerance and veniality with bluster, taking all of our closely held prejudices and calling them The Word of God. There's no discernible tune in the bleating of our trumpets, but we play 'em loud and with confidence. Lots of Mormons are wallowing in this goop, this mess of mangled doctrine, crackpot politics and lamebrained social criticism. They need to pull themselves out.
There was a time when I wanted a vision, a manifestation, an irrefutable proof. I didn't want light and knowledge; I wanted LIGHT! and KNOWLEDGE! personal revelation as presented by Cecil B. DeMille, with cheesy special effects and a cast of thousands. I never got it, and I'm glad.
I have learned that Milosz was right.
I do not need angels and visions to know that the Book of Mormon is true. And I do not need the voices of dissent to know that knowing that is a difficult thing. Light illuminates, but it also creates shadows. Somehow the dark spots, the uncertainties, are as important to our growth as the places where the light shines with perfect brilliance.