Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Did You Look in the Downstairs Bathroom?

I caught a bit of Saturday Night Live recently, just enough to catch most of Louis CK's hilarious monologue that sounded to me like the kinds of questions LDS missionaries must answer all the time.  
  • "Do you guys think there’s a Heaven?" 
  • “Where’s Heaven?”
  • "How do you know [there's no God]?"
  • "'Our father, who art in Heaven.' Where’s our mother? What happened to our mom?" 

Of course, he wasn't really looking for any answers; he was using these common questions as a jumping off point for what was, in my opinion, hilarious albeit a bit irreverent.  Still, I found the questions to be good solid questions, and his theories to be worth contemplating.  I particularly enjoyed his take on faith (even if he didn't realize that's what he was discussing).  

I’m not religious. I don’t know if there’s a God. That’s all I can say, honestly, is “I don’t know.” Some people think that they know that there isn’t. That’s a weird thing to think you can know. “Yeah, there’s no God.” Are you sure? “Yeah, no, there’s no God.” How do you know? “Cause I didn’t see Him.” There’s a vast universe! You can see for about 100 yards — when there’s not a building in the way. How could you possibly… Did you look everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom? Where did you look so far? “No, I didn’t see Him yet.” I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet; it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m just waiting until it comes on cable.
(For more info and a video from this monologue, click here.)

I watched this on a Saturday night.  Yep, I know for sure, because it was Saturday Night Live.  The following Monday, the boys and I reached Alma 30 in our morning scripture study.  We met Korihor, the anti-Christ, who demanded a sign to know if there is a God.  The exchange between Alma and Korihor went like this:

And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?  And he answered, Nay.  Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ?  For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.  And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?  I say unto you that he have none, save it be your word only.  But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them?  Believest thou that these things are true?
After Korihor demands a sign "that I may be convinced there is a God," Alma responds:

Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God?  Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which more in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
I, too, believe that the earth and the galaxy and the intricate way in which each continue to perform the necessary functions to sustain life are evidence of a God.  But I also get that for the scientific minded, there may be many other explanations of how and why the universe functions.  Therefore, I cannot say that I know there is a God because of the wonders of the earth.  

I was talking to my friend Logan, a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints recently returned from his mission to Chicago.  He told me that he and his best friend Taylor like to ask people to share their conversion story - that it is a great way to get to know someone.  And so I thought about my own conversion story, the moment at which I decided to say for sure there is a God.

It went something like this.

It was in the fall of 2003, making me a newly minted 22-year-old.  I had been married for two years, and since I had gotten married in the temple, that meant I had made sacred covenants in the temple with regards to myself and my marriage.  Up until the previous year, I had never experienced anything I would have considered to be a trial of my faith, and as such I had a very young testimony.  If asked, I would have expressed my belief, but my actions over the course of a very difficult year would have testified otherwise.  

In 2003, I experienced the devastating miscarriage of a pregnancy we'd tried to achieve for a year.  Two months later, Kirk went in for the knee surgery that altered the course of our whole lives, costing him the muscles in his left thigh and us our first home together.  While we lived with Kirk's parents, I witnessed my sister-in-law become happily pregnant despite a lifestyle contrary to the principles I held dear.  I helped my husband in and out of bed so he could perform life's most basic functions like using the restroom.  I attempted to begin a career in real estate, despite my overwhelming desire to avoid people in general after losing our baby.  And Kirk and I suffered silently, each afraid to add to the other's burden.

My faith was tried.  Suddenly the principles I'd held to my whole life seemed less likely to be the principles that would bring me happiness.  I made choices contrary to the teachings of the prophets.  I put my sacred covenants in jeopardy.  And I came to a point when I realized I had to decide.

It all came down to one very big if.

IF everything I had been taught was true, there was only one way for my family to be eternal.  If I wanted the comfort of knowing the spirit of the child I lost was happy living with my Heavenly Father, then I would have to believe there was a God.  And if I believed that much, I would need to choose to live the way He would expect me to live.  

IF none of it was true, then my choices didn't matter, and I could continue to search for happiness outside the principles of the gospel.

Interestingly, my faith-affirming conversion moment came down to one simple thought, not too far from the comedic monologue with which this post began.

How could I possible know for sure it wasn't true?

My decision to right my life was based on nothing more than a hope that all I'd been taught was true.  A hope that through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, my family could be happy again.  And to that hope, I have carefully added testimony, line upon line as directed in the scriptures until now I could give a list of evidences.

Most days, I know there is a God; I know He is a loving Father who wants nothing more than for me to choose to follow His plan and receive the blessings He has in store for me.  I know it because when I follow the commandments He has given through the mouth of living prophets, I am happy. 

But some days, His hand in my life is a little harder to see.  Some days, all I have is hope. 

Maybe I can't always say "I know."  But I have faith.  As Alma says a few chapters after his experiences with Korihor:
And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

I don't have to check the downstairs bathroom.  I don't need to see God.  My faith - my hope - is the foundation of my testimony.  And that's enough for me.