By Ed Firmage Jr.
For Mormons, as for most Christians, religious truth is a matter of what you believe. This belief can be put in words, as Mormons do in their testimonies or in the "Thirteen Articles of Faith," the Mormon equivalent of the Creed. For Christians, and I include Mormons in this group, it is one's creed that defines one's truth.
The abundance of competing creeds, and the vehemence with which each is defended against the others, suggests that we should take our truths with a grain of salt. Rock salt, perhaps.
It's easy for outsiders, and especially for skeptical outsiders, to poke fun at the silliness of other people's beliefs, or indeed of belief of any kind. Richard Dawkins is not the first agnostic to decry the "God delusion," and won't be the last.
Speaking as a skeptic myself, however, I think the more important issue, since belief proves to be remarkably resistant to attacks from the outside, is whether this creedal kind of truth is worth talking about anyway, even among believers.
I would argue that creedal truths are the least important elements of faith. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that what Mormons assert about Joseph Smith is true. What then? What then for Mormons? Surely, it is not the knowledge that Smith was a prophet that is important, but rather what that truth does in one's life as a believer. The truth of religion, if it has any truth, must always be a truth of transformation, an existential rather than epistemological truth. The ultimate truth of Mormonism or Catholicism or Judaism is not what you believe but what you do.
This is an altogether different way of looking at truth, and of relating to each other. It avoids the usual sectarian disputes and focuses on things that can unite us in common cause. No less important, it holds up to us a standard of action that, especially in the true believer, should be the cause for self-examination and humility.
If, for example, as Mormons claim, they have a unique, saving truth, then it should be manifested in the way they live. That way of life should be correspondingly unique and saving. That was the thinking behind the biblical ideal of Zion that the early Mormon pioneers rallied around. I note the absence of such a model community here in the heartland of Mormonism. An unbeliever, I mourn for Zion.
Humanity today faces challenges greater than any in history. Climate change, for example, is a problem without precedent in our experience. Ours is therefore a time when myth, myth like that of the biblical Deluge, becomes history. These are the decades of our making or unmaking as a species. These are decades that need a saving truth, not of creeds but of faith in action, faith directed at solving the real problems of our time.
Ed Firmage, Jr. is a Salt Lake City photographer and writer.