I have been fascinated, mostly from the sidelines, by some recent debates going on in the Bloggernacle about a term, New Order Mormons, or NOM. This apparently refers to cultural Mormons who don't believe in the literal aspects of certain tenets of the church, most dealing with the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. There were a couple of these posts recently in Times & Seasons, here and here. Also, Joanna Brooks discusses in her blog about Jon Huntsman's odd statement about being LDS. (I prefer to think he was deftly promoting the Constitutional standard as in "no religious test.") And it all reminds me of a life choice I made a long time ago.
In my freshman dorm, John Hall (now a girls dorm in an apparent attempt to rehabilitate its former reputation), I ended up by fate or inspiration of the managers at Helaman Halls in a wing with a lot of Honors Program guys. I wasn't in the Honors Program (although I did marry into it!) And while never having the grades or the motivation to be a true intellectual, I still have some pretty good basic smarts. I was able to hold my own with those guys, some remaining my very good friends over a lifetime and most of the others, I would like to connect with given the time like we used to have for those late-night "bull" sessions my dad warned me about. Maybe that's what the internet is for.
Anyway, this connects up a few years later to an incident in the bowels of the Harold B. Lee Library. My roommate at the time, and one of those guys I met in my freshman dorm, had been on a mission to South Korea. He showed me how the Asian section in the basement of the library was a great place to study because it was so quiet. It was little used, and those who did use it were a lot of Asian students who were generally very respectful towards others.
My roomie (let's call him "James") and I were sitting down there studying one day when there appeared at our table, a mutual friend, also from that dorm, but he had been an older guy we looked up to (and I still do!) because he was a return-missionary and a unique individual. We had kind of followed his exploits over the years and while we were on our missions, he liberalized a little from the rather oddly dogmatic return-missionary and branch mission leader we knew before. He participated in some "Hugh B. Brown"-type student government insurrections and had friends who were writing in one of those off-campus papers that spring up in cycles every now and then in Provo.
Anyway, this older friend saw us, and knowing of our pseudo-intellectual (actually, smart-aleck) leanings, he excitedly told us about his great, new idea. He said that he and a group of friends were compiling a list of 95 things wrong with the church that they were then going to nail to the front door of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City just like Martin Luther did on the Cathedral door! He wanted to know if James and I wanted to get in on it and bring our ideas. James and I looked at each other in stunned silence and then said that we weren't really interested. Our friend then said something to the effect of: "What? You both are worried about spoiling your chance at being Stake President some day?" That was the first time that thought had ever entered my head. And James seemed as shocked as I was.
I never knew if they got up to their 95 theses. I never saw anything about it in the news where I think it would have been noted and Google doesn't have anything. I saw that friend of our several years later. Still a good guy, but our paths had gone different ways. Even today, I think he's still a good guy and I like him a lot. I can't speak for him, but here's what happened to me.
Life is complex so it's hard to summarize. but while still in college, I made the conscious decision that I was not an intellectual and unlikely ever to be one. I also made no plans to become a Stake President and so far that goal is going just fine. As I've explained elsewhere on this blog, I just don't think I quite have the smarts or the gumption to be a true intellectual. Maybe it's just lack of self-confidence. Some guys and gals do it quite well. I happen to have known a few Mormon Intellectuals in earlier periods of my life like Blake Ostler, who was once our Gospel Doctrine Teacher, and Terryl Givens, who was heading for Brazil when I was and ended up as my wife's Honor Program mentor for her graduation.
The most important thing is simply this. I chose to be faithful. I don't think there's a controversy or criticism of the church I haven't heard. Some of them I don't even have a good answer for even if Givens or Ostler might. Yet there is something about apologetics that bothers me almost as much as nailing theses on the door. Faithful I am and faithful I will stay because it is an exercise of my free will. (I even know most of the arguments someone from an Anti- or NOM viewpoint might give to that kind of position). But I can't deny what has been revealed to me by the Spirit in consequence of my feeble efforts to follow the Lord. No factual evidence has convinced me otherwise even if I don't have complete factual evidence to defend my faith. But then it wouldn't be faith, would it?