i am that annoying student with my hand always in the air.

1. This has become a Church Blog. Nine times out of ten, I dislike all- Church- all the- time blogs. But I don't like talking about my job, (too risky,) or most aspects of my personal life (none of your business,) so Church blog it is. Until I sew something (sorry, non-crafters,) or read another Jack Weyland novel.

2. A few days ago, I inadvertently annoyed one of my family members with my posts on a Conference talk. She asked "why can't we just be happy that a General
Authority is trying to address issues that matter to us even if it is not exactly what you wanted?"

Which led to me saying something snarky and mean. Which led me to apologize for saying something snarky and mean. So while I hope she doesn't mind me talking about this (I spoke with her in person, so I think yes,) her post caused me to seriously wonder about my need to rehash, analyze, and yes, question, most of the things I learned growing up.

One could perhaps blame it on my experience as an History major/English minor. Why is that event important? What was the result? Why did that poet use personification in that stanza? But not all the others?

In school, it was never enough simply to read the poem, read the book, fill-in-the-blanks. The assignment was not to just be happy that the book exists, the assignment was to question.

Or, maybe my questioning nature comes from my job? Why is that kid struggling? What do I do? Did that lesson work? How do I make it better? Should I just be happy that the students are in class?

Or maybe that is just who I am. You get what you get, and don't throw a fit.

Here is the thing about questioning the paradigm you grew up in: It is uncomfortable. It is painful. Sometimes it is so uncomfortable, and so painful, that it dissipates to those around you. And if they do not choose to question, that nuclear fallout can be seen as an unkind invasion.

I chose to openly question, I chose to drop that bomb. But I cannot choose who gets annoyed, upset, or hurt by the results. I don't get to decide who will retreat into their concrete shelters because of what I say.

Or is it not a bomb? Is it as simple as turning on the lights in a dark room, thus annoying the sleeping inhabitant, who then must squint and rub their eyes as they adjust to the light?

I don't know.

What I do know, is that poetry becomes more meaningful when I question. Events in history stand out, clear in my memory because I studied them, learned their faces, and remember their names.

The first time I had an honest-to-goodness faith shattering crisis, I found myself at the U of U Institute Building, listening to this talk: LINK

Later, during another crisis, my friend sent it to me again.

"My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people. We have always been, because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is how the Church got its start, from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn’t come in response to a question. ...

Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a precursor of growth.
God commands us to seek answers to our questions and asks only that we seek with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ. When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifest to us by the power of the Holy Ghost. Fear not. Ask questions. Be curious. "

Or, as my good friend Walt Whitman said, (I consider any poet I studied in college my friend,)

"Be curious, not judgemental."


Brits said...

And one of my favorite quotes:

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." - Galileo

MJ said...

Amen and AMEN. I have to say, it's refreshing to have someone else voice the same things I'm thinking. I think it's more a turning on the light and annoying the sleeping peeps, whether they realize it or not.

I find it increasing frustrating that there is not enough focus put on the fact that we are supposed to question, to think for ourselves, to follow the Spirit, even if the neighbors aren't doing the same thing. And I despise it when I hear someone telling either me or someone else that bad things are happining because of their lack of faith.

What about that scripture that says that the sun shines and it rains on EVERYONE, regardless of their level of good or evil???

Keep searching, keep questioning. I love you and your honesty, and I might not always agree with you, but I still appreciate your insight.

Stephanie said...

@ MJ

See, that is the point! We don't always agree, but we work and question and figure out what works for us.

I think that is what my family member didn't quite get: we don't have to agree, but we shouldn't assume the other person is less faithful.

And amen to the bit about people telling someone that the bad things that happen are a result of faithlessness. Grrrrr...

@Brits, I love that quote.

Natalie | The Bobby Pin said...

Love this.

I blogged about women leadership in the church and a had a few people email me and tell me that I need to take my feelings to God and go to the temple. THEN I would realize I was in the wrong.

But you know, I think I was made to question. I think that is my brain. That's what makes me who I am. I am not complacent. That's what I'm supposed to be.

Janet Stevens said...

Absolutely brilliant!

Katrina said...

love the turning on the light analogy. i think you nailed it.

Stephanie said...

Stephanie, thank you for this awesome post! This is an issue that I've thought a lot about as well, and I felt like you expressed my feelings perfectly. It inspired me to write my own blog post sharing some of my other favorite quotes on this issue. I'd post them in this comment, but I don't think it would fit, so feel free to check out the post if you'd like. ( Thank for always writing with such honesty and sincerity!

Ruthie said...

I love your blog. An LDS Young Women- RuthieTootieWishes also, a new follower

Colt said...

It's funny that we are supposed to be converted by reading and questioning the things in the BOM, but critical thinking questions posed of modern day leaders is so often met with a backlash.

At least that is what William Wordsworth told me over a beer once.

Xan said...

Can we be best friends?

Once upon a time, President Hinckley was interviewed for an article in Newsweek. I love that he said this:

"I think the Lord expects us to think," President Gordon B. Hinckley, the incumbent prophet who Mormons believe leads the church through divine revelation, told NEWSWEEK. "That which comes easily departs easily. That which comes of struggle remains."

When we question, think, challenge we grow. And our growth lasts, we are not quick to leave something we have worked for.

Keep questioning. :)

NIKOL said...

THINKING is never something for which you need to apologize. Thinking and questioning is the only way we make progress. And isn't that essentially the whole Plan? Eternal progression?

Rachel_Hradecky_Portfolio said...

Wowee, what an awesome post. I think this is a universal issue- spanning not just religion, but every human institution that we belong to. Questioning is the basis of growth. I think it all depends on what you do with the answers to your questions. Do you decide to change? Do you decide that the answer is sufficient? Thanks for getting me thinking on this boring Monday afternoon.

meagan said...

I think you've hit on what I like best about your blog. I love that it gives me the opportunity to assess and reevaluate my own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. I think it's always, ALWAYS beneficial question, discover, and learn for ourselves.

However, I must take issue with your turning on the lights metaphor. Your phrasing (and perhaps it is just that, rather than the essence of the idea) suggests that acceptance of your light is something that is not a choice but a mandatory requirement that others who are sleeping in darkness simply because they haven't had the same question must "adjust to [your] light."

I don't feel that just because I didn't ask your questions I had to adjust from darkness to a light you turned on because you did ask them, but it doesn't annoy me that you turned on the light because I wasn't sleeping. I like to think I'm as fully active in my beliefs as I believe you are.

Perhaps that precludes me from this metaphor and this is an irrelevant exercise.

I realize that you're addressing mostly responses you receive to your questions, and that those at times are regrettably naive, crass, insensitive or even offensive, but I do think that though the delivery may be lacking, someone's lack of questioning an area that you question, even if their reasoning is a simple "I choose to believe what I hear over the pulpit" does not mean that they aren't asking other questions of their own.

I appreciate that you ask the questions because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on my own beliefs, but I am not lacking in light just because I haven't had your question.

Again, it's probably just semantics, but I'd just like to voice the truth that for a large percentage -- even perhaps a majority -- of those of us reading but not often agreeing with your blog is that we aren't curious about some of these issues.

But we're also not judgemental that you are.

Stephanie said...


With all due respect, to your opinions and to your friendship, sometimes I feel like you consistently assume the worst of me.

"Do you mean we all have to believe like you do? Are you suggesting we censor ourselves to make other people feel better? I think you want everyone to agree with you all the time! I'm scared to comment because I think you'll be mean"

Did my hunt for my beloved argyle scar you that badly? :)

Where is the benefit of the doubt that I don't mean the worst possible thing with my mixed metaphor?

Of course I do not believe that everyone has to accept my ideas. My metaphor of turning on the light did not refer to having people accept my ideas, simply because I offered them.

Like I am some goddess leading the heathens out of purgatory.

It means (or I intended it to mean,) that sometimes discovering that some people see the gospel differently can be disconcerting for a few seconds. Then your eyes adjust, and while you may not agree with the other person's perspective, you can coexist in the same room (or church.)

I added that to temper my other metaphor of dropping a bomb. Some people see a different perspective as dangerous and bad. The light metaphor refers to those who see a different perspective as maybe jarring at first, but still accept the person and the idea, thought they may not agree.

Stephanie said...

addendum: or, they are willing to accept that someone else questions something, even if they don't question that thing.

Maybe unncecessary clarification, but just in case.

erintopia said...

New to your blog, via my sister's suggestion. I think I might like you an awful lot! Looking forward to internet stalking your words now and again. ;-)

Julie said...

Its better to have bombed and hurt [someone] then to have never bombed at all, I say.

Emily said...

loved it.

LC said...

I've been thinking about your blog quite a bit. It's been eye-opening in that I hadn't really considered that the church might not come easily for everyone.

I don't like math. I don't understand much of it, and it's the reason I studied journalism in college. Still, I know that despite the fact I don't comprehend nearly as much as my husband, for instance, I know math is important and has its place. Meanwhile, all I ask is that people who get it treat me respectfully while I struggle to understand essentials beyond how to balance my checkbook.

I think that maybe like my feelings toward mathematics, you also understand the church has its place. And you just want others to be patient while you work through it. You've made me grateful that the gospel has come easily for me. It's not an area where I would care to struggle.

I would urge you to extend the same patience with others who say dumb things. You can't fix stupid, and sometimes you just have to brush off a few ignorant remarks.

Thanks for making me think. It's been good for me.

LostInTranslation said...

This is a great post.. It is one of the things that has bothered me most lately.. why are people so afraid of asking questions. I thought we'd all kinda agreed that none of us are perfect.. knowing that, I would say it is important to question and think critically. I am meeting with my bishop this Sunday to do that very thing.. ask a few questions.. we'll see how it goes.

Andrea said...

Great post, thank you. I love the Walt Whitman quote. I've found a lot of beauty in the questioning and the struggle. I look forward to reading more from you.

I Heart Salt Lake said...

Jack Weyland, now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time.

Loved the turning on the lights analogy.

UK Yankee said...

Blogger ate my comment, and I couldn't find an email for you, so here goes again:

I think the people who question and think critically are the ones who (generalizing ahead) have a stronger and longer-lasting testimony, and I envy people like you.

I take most (ok, 99%) of what I learn in church on faith if I don't understand it. But not taking the time to question and learn means that when I'm challenged, I get frustrated when I don't have the answer. My brother is a questioner like you. He needs to understand before he can fully embrace or accept, but I think that's a better way, honestly. It's frustrating for me when I can't answer his questions, but I see his testimony growing slowly, but very sturdily, and that makes me proud.

(This isn't written nearly as well as the first time, sorry!) What I'm trying to say is that you need to keep questioning, keep reading, praying, and learning, and keep writing! And thank you for encouraging me, as well!

Lady Elaine said...

Great post!

Meliss said...

I think you question things because you have good critical thinking skills.

Dawn said...

my friends and husband and I were talking about this just the other day!
and i totally agree.