Saturday, July 11, 2015

Asking Better Questions

We watched Thor (again) the other night.  There's a scene where Erik Selvig is talking to Thor in a bar, he says, "It's not a bad thing finding out that you don't have all the answers.  You start asking the right questions."  To allow yourself to start asking the right questions is such an enlightening opportunity, but one that few people take advantage of.  I'm so happy that I did!  The reason that line resonated with me is, it's similar to a sentence that I wrote to my brother in an email a few months ago, that resulted in a nice little conversation.  My second to oldest brother had sent out a group email with a link to the John Batchelor Show in which he interviews Amir Aczel, a scientist/author who wrote a book called, Why Science Does Not Disprove God.  In the podcast Amir Aczel says ..."we just don't know very much at all and there is joy in not knowing."  I really liked that quote and decided to respond to the email.  (My brothers are devout Mormon and they don't know about my disaffection from the church).  I haven't told them because it's easier...and I'm a coward.  Some what of a coward anyway, also, if they think you are believing, you can get away with saying more then you can otherwise. So here's my email that I sent back in response to the interview:

Very interesting.  I agree that we just don't know very much at all and there is joy in not knowing.  I've learned to ask better questions, and that a good answer may not be as important as a good question.  I have learned to question literalist's claims.  Especially in light of the church's essays, many things that I was taught as literally true in seminary, in Sunday school, and even by our church leaders, have now been shown to not be true, through the church's essays.  Such as the reasons for the priesthood ban on the blacks, the translation of the book of Abraham, the way the Book of Mormon was translated, and many other issues including polygamy. I believe in a loving God, and that learning to love is at the essence of all our experiences. I have believed for a long time that God is going to save all of his children, I came to that conclusion through the scriptures.  I have learned that as we open our mind to possibilities and new ways of thinking, that God fills our mind with greater insights.  And if we stay thinking and believing as we always have, that's okay too, God allows us to grow and learn at our own pace, it's our journey.  It's all very fascinating this wonderful world that we live in, so many people with experiences and things to teach us and share with us.  So much to learn and grasp from one another. Here's an interesting thing, I don't know if God cares if someone is an atheist. I was listening to a woman's NDE, she was an atheist, and died.  She saw her grandmother, who had passed away, she said I knew I had to be dead, because I'm talking with my grandmother who was dead. Then she saw Christ, she said to him,  "I don't even believe in you, I'm an atheist," he said, "that's okay, that was just a belief, this is real." 

So when I hear something like her NDE, it allows me to think in different ways.  It helps me to be less judgmental and literal in my viewpoints.  These are just my observations, like I said I don't think we know very much, and I certainly don't, but there is joy in not knowing!

(Like I said, this response was to a group email, consisting of my 3 brothers and their wives, who all are devout Mormon's, so I had to choose my wording carefully.  Especially about atheists, whom I completely respect.)   

So in my email I'm laying out quite a bit of stuff, and in typical Mormon fashion (or any strongly held belief, where you are exposing some difficulties with their doctrine) I was ignored.  No response from my middle brother who originated the email, or my youngest brother, nothing from my sisters-in -law, only a response from my courageous oldest brother.  Here's his reply:

Deb, nice comment...I'm not sure what you mean by save all his children, do you mean like Celestial Kingdom type of save?  And all his children...meaning Satan and his followers as well or just all the children born into physical bodies?  What about those considered to be son's of perdition?

This is an opened minded query from my brother.  I was on vacation at the time, so I sent him a short email:

Those are good questions that you have, when I get home I'll try to answer them for you :) this is off the subject of what you asked, but I thought I should explain my agreeing with him that there is joy in not knowing. That's kind of contradictory to the way we normally think.  But I have found there is joy in not thinking you have the correct answer to something.  It allows for understanding of others, it allows you to be less judgmental, and it allows you to learn and grow as God enlightens your mind.  Thus finding joy! When I began to think of God in terms of love.  Plain and simple, God is love.  I began to see my relationship to him in a new way, not so much about laws and judgment or condemnation, or confessing Christ, or salvation for that matter, but just a relationship of love, and learning to love.

When I got home I went on to have a very long email exchange with my brother.  We discussed many things.  It was nice.  He listened to me and I listened to him.  There is so much we can learn from others. 

I live in a small gold rush town in Northern California.  I have a small internet business, and I get to walk through this darling town almost every day to the post office.  I was walking there the other day with a handful of packages, when I passed a man on the sidewalk.  "Beautiful day at the office," he said.  "You're not in the office" I teasingly said in response.  "I know, that's why it's a beautiful day and also I choose to look at things that way" he said.  "I'm actually in the office--see I'm on my way to the post office," I said.  "I see that" he said, "you know I have traveled all around this world and I get the most joy from visiting post offices and churches."  I laughed at his comment, "why post offices?" I asked.  "I see them as a country's way of trying to help others and do it with the most proficiency that they know how... they are not all perfect, but mostly they are trying," he explained to me.  "Oh, that's an interesting way to look at it...what about the churches...what do you see in them?"  I asked.  "Well mostly I see beauty and peace.  I have felt many things in those churches... have had some very significant feelings of peace, even though at the time I wasn't a believer," he said.  "Are you a believer now?" I asked.  "Yes"  he responded.  "What do you believe?" I asked. "In doing good." And then he vanished around the corner, as I stood starring at where he had been.  Sometimes someone will pop into your life with a golden nugget, just like this man did in mine, and if we ask a few questions they will give us a gift of wisdom.  It's not that "doing good" is a new concept for me, its just the way he told it to me, and the simpleness of it, do good, that's enough.  Why wouldn't it be enough?  This chance encounter was impactful enough to me, that when I got home, I grabbed a paper and wrote down our conversation while I could still remember it.   


  1. Nice thoughts Debbie. Perhaps you're planting some seeds - or at least establishing boundaries. I also embrace uncertainty. It's liberating.

  2. Thanks Donna, yeah who knew, right? In the church we were always taught that there was peace and happiness in having the answers to life's questions. And I guess there was, of course the problem is finding out those answers are false, there's little peace and happiness when you discover that. The other problem is, "having answers" leaves a person stifled and unwilling to ask questions, or hear anything that conflicts with their "answers". Just like, no one but my one brother would even comment on the email. They are trained so well.