I didn’t even believe it
I was glancing over a book review of Stephen Carter’s “What of the Night” at By Common Consent, and a line early on struck out at me (fortunately it was pretty early on, since, as I said, I was only glancing over the post):
Then he said sometimes we have to “bear testimony” as a burden—we have to bear the weight of it, bear up under the everyday struggles of life in faith. Jesus said to take up our crosses and follow.
That reminded me of an event from earlier in my life. I think it was the simplest, purest root of disbelief that I had ever had at the time.
Starting when I was in fourth grade, my family moved to Oklahoma, where I would spend the rest of my elementary school, junior high, and high school. In elementary school, no one really talked that much about religion (I mean, we were all dumb elementary school kids), but in junior high, I remember it got brought up occasionally. I wasn’t afraid to mention I was Mormon, because I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.
My peers, good evangelical Christians of the Bible Belt, tried their best to disavow me of that thought, however. And so, I got into a lot of discussions about Mormonism, whether it was Biblical or not, whether it was historically accurate or not, etc.,
I remember, after a discussion in 8th or 9th grade, thinking something that has always stayed with me. What I thought was: why do I have to defend this stuff? Why do I have to defend Mormonism when I don’t even believe it.
I hadn’t read any “anti-Mormon” tracts, or even researched Mormon history or whatever. It just seemed to me, going through Sunday School lessons, that the various events we were learning about in the scriptures seemed highly implausible. But I thought it was a big game: getting the right answers in Sunday School gave you credibility with adults, and that was always nice.
In junior high and high school, I thought Mormonism was this weight that I had to bear, but I was aware that I hadn’t chosen it, and I didn’t choose to accept it, either. I had to defend Mormonism, because that’s what Mormons do. Even if I wasn’t convinced of the explanations I was researching and presenting to others, I felt I was obligated to present anyway.
That’s why I really dislike that my father thinks that my disbelief was something I “caught” from the “liberal university” or from “philosophy” or whatever.
No, if anything, the only thing that going away for college did that I didn’t conceptualize earlier was that it allowed me to think, “Hey, what if I don’t have to carry this burden around? What if I don’t have to defend things I don’t even believe in? What if I don’t have to go every Sunday just because that’s what adults, the Bishop, my parents, etc., expect?”