In my last post, I was wondering what you do when you face an intellectual challenge, specifically an apparent contradiction between your faith and the evidence of science (or your own heart). One option is to decide to stick with the doctrine and take it at face value, whether that conflicts with the secular world’s current understanding or not. In the case of evolution, I can see no real harm in that choice. I mean, if you want to be creationist, then who are you really hurting? With some other issues, that type of conservative, blind-faith thinking may have more of an impact on your quality of life or the lives of those around you, but still, I think some prefer this “safe-bet” choice, rationalizing that even if the scientists turn out to be right, or if their choice is unpopular or actually even has negative effects on others, no one can be blamed for having chosen to follow God’s teachings to the best of their understanding. Even if that understanding was a literal interpretation of something God intended to be symbolic, if literal was the best that person could do at that time, then God accepts that understanding as obedience. (I’m not claiming that he does, but let’s assume so for the sake of that side of the argument.)
In principle, I agree with the idea that no one can be blamed for following God’s teachings to the best of their understanding. But this is based on a (clearly faulty) assumption that those who believe in some sort of God will share my general idea of the kinds of things God approves and disapproves of (think of suicide bombers for example). But getting back to issues such as human evolution, stem cell research, and the legal definition of marriage, here is an interesting question for any believer: what actually constitutes “the best of our understanding?” With an issue like evolution, maybe it doesn’t really matter if you figure out a way to reconcile the sticky biological details with the doctrinal account of man’s origins, as long as you hold to the belief that we are children of God and that Adam is “the primal parent of our race.” (This quote comes from a series of First Presidency statements on the church’s non-position on evolution.) But with other issues, such as homosexuality and the definition of marriage, it may matter quite a lot whether we can achieve some kind of understanding. My point is, when we come up against questions that are probably irreconcilable (at least in this life), to what extent are we responsible for obtaining the best understanding that we can?
Is it okay to be “lazy” and opt for blind faith or putting off any attempts at reconciliation until we get to that Great Information Booth in the Sky? Or is it better for us to work on these ideas, even those we know we can’t solve in this life, and try continually to improve our understanding? How much work is enough? Which issues should we work on, just the ones that personally bother us, or are some more critical than others?