Mormons place a high value on "testimony". They really like being able to say, "I know the Church is true. I know God lives. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet." You know how it goes. And you also know that the defining quality of agnosticism is the idea that I can't ever actually know these things. This puts me in a bit of a pickle, you see?
Obviously I can't say any of those things. I said them for many, many years, and I said them sincerely (and oh my gosh, I said them to strangers for 18 months, trying to convince them to say the same things!) But I don't say them anymore. Not surprisingly, this has been my biggest roadblock to activity in the Church. As many of you know, Mormons tend to have kind of an "all or nothing" attitude about...well, everything. I really felt for many years that if I didn't have a "testimony" of the basic tenets of Mormonism, then I couldn't honestly participate in the Church. After all, I felt dishonest and insincere singing hymns, reading scriptures, praying. It felt like a strange use of time and energy to invest in this thing if I didn't even believe it.
Well, I've figured out a way around knowing. So brace yourselves for the worst testimony ever. Here goes.
I don't know this church is true. I don't even believe that it is. In fact, I think there's a very strong possibility that it is NOT true.
But I hope it's true. Because who wouldn't? I hope there is a God who knows and loves me. That idea is reassuring and really nice. I hope that He hears my prayers. I hope He has a plan for me. I hope that Jesus Christ lived, that he was the son of God, and that he died to atone for my sins. Goodness knows I am falling short in every area of my life and I make mistakes all day long. Please let there be a plan to make all of that right. Please let there be something to fill in the gaps of my imperfect mothering. Please let there be something to heal my marriage after every squabble. Please let there be a resurrection and a life after this one where I will be with my little son and my dad again. I hope that the plan of salvation is real. I hope that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that he was telling the truth, because I love this church that he started and I would love for it to be founded upon a true story. I really, really would. I hope that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. I would love it if God were communicating directly with someone on the earth today.
What I do know is that participating in the church makes me happy. It makes me a better person, it enriches my life, and it strengthens my family. If, in the end of all this, it turns out not to be "true" (and I suspect it is not), then I don't care. It will have blessed me and my family, and that matters more to me than being "right."
I call this my "hope testimony," and it's all I've got. But it is enough to allow me to participate in the Church while still being honest with myself. I can sing hymns if I'm hoping that the words are true. I can pray if I'm hoping that God is listening. I can even teach my kids the gospel if I'm hoping that it's true.
And this, my friends, has been the key to my new Mormonism.