October 6, 2014

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This week mine and Sister G’s goal was to feel more like missionaries than we have our entire 9 weeks together. I’m not really sure what we did differently but we had a really good week of teaching and finding. Transfers are coming up in a couple weeks, we think I’m gonna stay in LaFollette and Sister Godlewski is gonna leave… which is sad because we are really good friends and have a lot of fun but still get work done.

For the past few weeks I’ve struggled to have time to write a good sum of my week and the mission. I have had so many people emailing me and my head is kinda spinning with all the thoughts and struggles and insight that people have given me about their testimonies. It is really quite beautiful to have access to such a variety of experiences within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to set them side by side and look at them.

There are a handful of people who have significantly altered my path in the church, both believers and nonbelievers, critical and noncritical. They have not been the deciding factor as to whether or not I stay or leave, but have helped me stay balanced in my perspective of the church, its strengths and its imperfections. One of my life goals (if I make it out of my mission alive haha) is to be one of those people, to mix up the pot. I want to help nonbelievers see that the church makes sense, and I want to help believers see that the church doesn’t make sense, and hopefully as more people see both of these things, we’ll all come to a greater understanding of each other. And more importantly, of what the Church is. What it isn’t. How it’s evolved, how it is to be understood, how it could possibly bless some and torment others.

Bishop Turley (from my BYU single’s ward) sent me an essay by Richard Bushman called "The Nature of Unbelief." Bushman uses a metaphor describing the phenomenon of seeking without balance:

"Why the certainty, why the passion, why the lack of nuance and balance? Hearing the stories of lost faith over and over again, I was reminded of the famous Punch cartoon of the lady and the hag. This is the one you see first as a beautiful lady, her face turned away and her head adorned with a sweeping hat. Then when you look again, you see a hag with a large nose and a wizened mouth. In an instant, a picture you saw one way turns into something exactly its opposite….The fundamental question in the struggle over belief [may be]: what is the nature of the Church? The doubters interpret ‘one true church’ to mean constant and complete divine guidance at every point with little room for human error. Joseph Smith could not have been misled about the nature of the Book of Abraham scrolls they would say. The Lord would not let his prophet work in ignorance on so important a point. Brigham Young would not have been allowed to let his own racial prejudices affect his position on blacks and the priesthood. There is no place for mistakes in a divinely guided church."

"This sureness has puzzled me. There is a huge Mormon intellectual establishment assembling evidence to support the Church’s claims and answering objections. Does all this count for nothing? Take the problem of Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham manuscripts, for example. Egyptologists have translated the fragments that were found in Metropolitan Museum and found they do not refer to Abraham at all; they are a funeral document of a type commonly buried with eminent Egyptians. This discovery surprised many Mormons, and disturbed not a few. But Kevin Barney, the learned Chicago attorney, has given a plausible account that considers all the scholarly findings and still leaves room for inspiration and a divinely inspired text. The Book of Abraham, Barney argues is no more a translation in the conventional sense than the Book of Mormon. The Egyptian scrolls were the occasion for a revelation. Both books were given by the gift and power of God; both resulted in truly remarkable texts. I can imagine a critical investigator disagreeing with Barney, but with such finality and certainty? Other apologetic arguments receive the same treatment. It is as if all the explanations in support of the Church are not really worthy of serious consideration."

I have a lot of questions and I have yet to fully understand the Church. I have had my fair share of both blessings and torment over things I do understand and things I don’t understand. I am grateful for General Conference and I love the Church, even being aware of its imperfections. We were encouraged to do what it takes to receive revelation throughout conference. Ultimately I know that that is what will stabilize me in my efforts to understand the Church and the Book of Mormon. We receive revelation by repenting, being pure, being humble, being teachable. By accepting the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I love you all!!

– Sister Victoria Hale

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