My awesome friend Adrienne has just started a blog about her experiences coming back to the Mormon church in a unique way. http://agnosticmormonmom.blogspot.com/
Her thoughts about creating a ‘hope testimony’ made me think about how I have reconciled the same issues for myself. I love that she has found a happy solution in her life and am totally inspired by her efforts, and it made think about me and my own unique internal struggle to believe.
I suppose it is easy to think on such things when tragedy strikes as it did today in Boston. My friend Tracy, frequent commenter on this blog, was racing and even though I don’t know her well I felt great concern for her safety. It just made it all feel more real to know someone there. It also struck home because I participate in group sporting events all the time. Each time I enter a masters meet or a marathon swim I put my trust in strangers. I hope that goodness and a spirit of friendly competition will prevail and thankfully it always has.
Anyway, back to my own reconciliation of faith. Here’s how I feel. There are some things I know in my mind and some things I know in my heart. I know that 2+2=4 in my mind. That is a truth. I know that my name is Rachel Wagner and that my parents are John and Jane. I know any number of facts and data. I also know that gravity is a true principle. I know that being a good listener is important to relationships. There are a lot of things I know in my mind and many more things that I need to learn.
Then there are things I know in my heart. I know my parents love me because I have felt it in my heart. I know that good and evil exist because I have felt the presence of both in my soul or heart. I know when something is just and also unjust. I can’t explain it but I know. I know that my Heavenly Father lives and loves me because I have felt it in my heart.
Do I have any proof of this? Yes, the proof is in my heart. That is not proof I can transfer to another individual easily but it is nevertheless truth (why the righteous virgins could not give their lamp oil to another. They could just as easily rip out their hearts). That is the reason I can say I ‘know the church is true’. Not because of data or statistics. It’s because I know it in my heart. I have felt it again and again and living its principles has always left me with a confirmation in my heart.
Do I blame people for not believing? No. I think they all can have this same confirmation, but it takes a sincere and willing heart coupled with the correct timing of God. As Moroni says “ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. ” He is not talking about a worldly manifestation. Such data and facts are not the kind of thing that can stabilize a life. They can often be disproven and explained away with the next passing fad. Knowledge in your heart is a different story.
It can be a concept that is is hard to explain. All I can say is I know the gospel is true in my heart. I got a witness when I was a young girl and it has never steered me wrong or abandoned me. It has always been in my pocket for hard times. I know in my heart that President Monson is a prophet and that God reveals his promises to all of his children in all eras. I know in my heart that families can be eternal and that covenants are real. I know in my heart that the priesthood is real and direct authority from Christ.
That’s what makes sense to me. So you can tell me all kinds of data about Joseph Smith, Church history, or the Book of Mormon and it does not matter because such data is not what my testimony is about. (and yes I’ve heard it ALL before). The Book of Mormon could be based on a cartoon and I wouldn’t care. My testimony is not about any of the data. Its a truth from the heart.
I believe this is even true for God. He knows how weak and frail we are. He has all that data of every moment that we reject Him; yet His heart loves anyway. This is why I have always thought of a testimony as a relationship with God. Just as relationships with humans ebb and flow so does our relationship with God. Relationships are not based on data but on the heart. Data also has finite limits; whereas, a relationship can always be better, stronger, more in-depth and close.
I would challenge all of you to think about how you know or do not know and how life makes sense for you? Have the integrity to write it out and share it. There is no judgment here- Merely a process of figuring out this crazy thing called mortality. Maybe I can learn something from you, and you learn something from me? Maybe we can learn something in our minds and hearts?
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love” Ephesians 3:17.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Collossians 3:15
PS. I think it goes without saying that my thoughts and prayers go out to the city of Boston, all the runners and all affected by the tragedy.
Some of my other religious posts
5 thoughts on “Knowing in Your Heart”
“Just as relationships with humans ebb and flow so does our relationship with God. Relationships are not based on data but on the heart. Data also has finite limits; whereas, a relationship can always be better, stronger, more in-depth and close.” I really like this. I think this is a great way for me to think about my relationship with the gospel. In my marriage, sometimes we are so burning mad at each other–it can get intense. But we always stick around. We always “show up”, so it’s helpful for me to think about church attendance in a similar way–to keep showing up, even when things in my relationship with it are going terribly. Because the interesting thing about all these years of marriage is that I can look back and feel very, very thankful that we’ve stuck together. We never gave up, and if we had, we would have missed out on the all the experiences we’ve had since, as well as the increasing depth of our relationship–the connection, the security, the sense of fulfillment, etc.
Thanks for the comment and for inspiring this post Adrienne. I agree that marriage is a good metaphor for our relationship with God. Just as strong marriages can take many different forms, so can our relationship with God. We have basic commandments that are the same but how we live them can appear quite different. It’s a unique relationship that is built, tested and made strong.
Beautifully written post! I would caution, be careful about the “Do I blame people for not believing? No. I think they all can have this same confirmation, but it takes a sincere and willing heart coupled with the correct timing of God. ”
It’s easy, as someone who has lost my faith, to feel like the assumption is always made that I didn’t pray hard enough, want it hard enough, wasn’t sincere enough. I feel like I could not have done those things more, so I guess the only part out of my control is the “correct timing of God”. God hasn’t yet felt it was time to reveal a witness of the truth to me, so what do I do in the meantime? All I have are my spiritual experiences and the historical facts I can find, and neither of those point me towards faith.
So anyways, I love that the gospel works for you, that you have had that witness. Just be careful when talking about those who don’t currently believe that you don’t make any assumptions about how hard they tried, how sincere they were, how much they wanted it. I’m not saying you are (you very clearly said you aren’t placing blame, so thanks), and I’ll admit I’m overly defensive. It hurts, knowing that I’ve never gotten the witness I was promised…
I once thought I didn’t need a spiritual witness or prompting because I KNEW it was all true, but the things I based that knowledge on (worldly facts) ended up being… incomplete. And yet, I still have a great relationship with God- as a matter of fact, it feels stronger, even though I now must admit I have no idea who/what he is or what his relationship to me is. He just doesn’t seem to want to confirm the Mormon truth to me at this time, he’s led my mind and heart another direction.
Thanks for your thoughtfulness and openness.
thank you for your comment. I agree with all you’ve said. I do believe that answers are possible for everyone with one big caveat- the timing of the lord. Just as a worthy couple may not be able to have the blessing of children, some who want the blessing of a testimony don’t get it and we just don’t know the mind of God and why this is.
Judging others who are on a different journey is never right whether that be an acceptance of a particular faith or not. I was just trying to explain how all the facts that are thrown at me by some who do want to throw me off track have no effect because that’s not what my testimony is based on. Its based on a knowledge of the heart which can feel just as real to me as any other knowledge.
Frequently I hear terms like brainwashing thrown around at people like me (not you at all) and I resent that. I have thought deeply about things and gained a witness in my heart. my point was just that there are a lot of things we all know in our hearts, like what is wrong and right or when we feel love. That can be as palatable and life changing as any collection of data and yet its not treated by some as valuable knowledge.
Anyway we are all trying to follow our hearts and thats what’s most important. Thanks for helping me clarify that. Good luck. Keep in touch.
also in my life I’m surrounded by people with your life experience and sometimes the judgment can be harsh as if I’m a simpleton and they are more thoughtful than me. I guess the defensiveness and feeling of judgment can go both ways. We just all need to try our best to understand and be empathetic. We have more in common than not