My Hope Testimony

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.

17 comments:

  1. "If in the end of all this, it turns out not to be "true" ....then I don't care. It will have blessed me and my family, and that matters more to me than being "right.""

    I think that subconsciously, in most of my dealings with and explanations of my religious beliefs, this idea has been an underlying principle. I've enjoyed perusing your blog, your thoughts. It is so refreshing to hear someone acknowledge publicly that they are flawed and that there is a better way possible for all latter day saints to be a stronger community, understand each other better and be more tolerant of each others short comings. Thank You.
    -Andrea

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this!

    PS I'm Leah's sister.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am a new reader and I have to say that there is a part of me that sympathizes with your "new kind of madness." I have been there. I spent many years there. It is a trying time and is incredibly personal as no two people go through it the same way. One thing that really helped me during that point in my life was a piece from a 1989 Conference talk by Joy F. Evans:

    "We can help each other, also, on our days of unbelief. We can strengthen and lift and bless those whose faith might be weak. As Alma said, “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.” (Alma 32:27.)"

    THAT is what got me through. That as long as I WANTED to believe, even if I didn't believe at the time, that I was ok. Elder Holland's talk last month is worth a read as well, in the event that you did not hear it during conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng

    Good luck on your journey and thank you for sharing your struggles and pains with others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for that quote!

      Delete
  4. Hi Adrienne,

    Found your blog this morning! I've been reading through quite a bit of your blog posts. There are things I agree with and things I don't, but I really truly appreciate your honesty and your battle of hope. One thing I love is in your hope testimony:

    "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."

    I feel like those sentences alone can give someone so much relief. Finding faith and holding on to those things that bring you happiness. That's what it's all about. Thanks for sharing,

    Jayne Jones

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jayne! I imagine there are very few people who agree with all of my ideas, but I really appreciate those who are able to accept my honesty for what it is, without judment.

      And I totally agree. Those sentences you mentioned are the only thing that really matters to me, which is what pushes me along in my journey. Ultimately, I don't care about perceived inconsistencies in church doctrine OR in my own approach to the gospel. The happiness and well-being of my family is enough for me to sometimes just...do it.

      Delete
  5. Thank you for this amazing blog. I think more people can relate to your post than you think. The sad thing is, because of the "Mormon views," most people would never dare admit how they are feeling or openly question whether the church is true or not. I too was born and raised in the mormon church, I have never been super religious but went to church with my family growing up. I couldn't have said it better than you did in your "Hope testimony." That is exactly how I feel! I have felt so guilty for feeling this way but I now know that it's OK! I can question the church and it's OK. THANK YOU again! I look forward to following your blog in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. I'm so honored that my honesty about my struggles can help you feel so okay. Thank you so much for your supportive comments. Let's all be more honest about our faith issues so we can find each other! :)

      Delete
  6. I am a life-long Mormon, still active, still believing. I applaud you and appreciate you for sharing your views so honestly for others to read. I wish there was a figurative place for all Mormons to share their true feelings openly, whatever their true feelings might be. My current feelings are that I'm struggling to feel adequate in a ward/world full of seemingly perfect saints. Can we just stop pretending we're all perfect for once? That isn't the gospel- that we are happy and perfect and sane all the time. The gospel is that we are NOT happy and perfect and sane all the time, BUT we believe in Jesus Christ, and grace and mercy and repentance and we believe that this believe helps us be happier and perfecter and saner than we would be without it. Just my thoughts. But, whatever your struggle in the church (or out of it), church members should be some of the first people to listen, see, and accept your struggle. And I am willing to be that you are one of those wonderful people listening, seeing and accepting others struggles. Thank you for your example. I will be trying to follow it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love how you say that the gospel is about being unhappy and imperfect, but happier and more perfect because of the hope it gives us. So, so beautiful.

      Delete
  7. I love your honesty. I hope you don't care if I share my experience here. Last year I unexpectedly found myself questioning my testimony and continued with a hope testimony while I studied anything and everything and searched for an answer. I wasn't content with a hope testimony. After about six months of questioning and studying I got my answer through the Holy Ghost. It wasn't an emotion, as some people say that we Mormons bas our belief on. I'll tell you how it happened for me: I was sitting in church when a lady in our ward, who was recently baptized, was asked to share her testimony. While she testified of Joseph Smith I felt the Holy Ghost fill my body and I recognized its whisperings as a confirmation that what I was hearing was true. Like I said, it wasn't an emotion, it was almost like a soft breeze that filled my entire body, almost like getting goose bumps when I wasn't cold. Who knew, after searching for what seemed like a long time, I was able to find my answer in something so soft and gentle. I love the Holy Ghost and how it can help us recognize truth. Thanks for sharing your experience and letting me share mine with you!

    I feel wonderful these days...I feel open to any new idea being true, and open to being wrong about things I think are true. When I choose to trust the Holy Ghost, and trust my experiences with the Holy Ghost, I feel at peace, and full of love and light.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, thank you for sharing your experience! :)

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, what an interesting and inspiring story. It can be very difficult to have an interfaith marriage that involves an active Mormon, but it sounds like you have definitely found a way to cope with it and still feel fulfilled. (It probably helps that your husband isn't the pushy type!) I think that praying for peace and comfort rather than a "testimony" is such a good idea for all of us agnostics. Thanks for sharing your story.

      Delete
  9. Dear Adrianne,
    Thank you for sharing your story – we all have one – and for some of us it is not easy to share.
    I have a strong testimony of the difference between “The Church” and “The Gospel” the one talk that has helped me through the many hard times with “The Church” and members/leaders within it, is a talk given by Elder Poelman in October of 1984 - (it is on youtube in two parts – there is an Ensign version but it is edited). I believe in “The Gospel” of Jesus Christ no matter who teaches it whether it is an Agnostic Mormon Mom, Gandhi, Alma, President Monson, or the preacher down the street. I love “The Gospel” and how it has blessed my life and helped me to be a better mom and overall person. I do believe there is a God and he is Our Father. I do believe Jesus Christ is Our Savior.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Adrianne,
    I'm a 19 year old university student, and I am an agnostic Mormon. I left the church a little over a year ago because of a loss of faith, but I'm at a point in my life where I am yearning for the traditions of my childhood. I, like you, see the tremendous pragmatic benefit of the Church in both personal and family life, and I am currently struggling between what I want for my future family and what I actually believe. This blog, and this post especially, is truly inspirational. I'm not sure if I will actually ever return and be active in the Church like you have, but you have given me the comfort of knowing that it is possible, and that I am not alone. Thank you for sharing your story, it really means a lot to me.
    -Tim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim, thank you so much for your comment. I love hearing from people who have similar challenges to mine, especially when some of my ramblings can actually be helpful. Good luck in your journey. You are in a very tricky time, deciding what you want for your future, probably making decisions about dating and whatnot. I really wish you all the best. I'd love it if you kept me posted. :)

      Delete