A comment on another LDS-related blog the other day suggested that church members are brainwashed. I chuckled and shook my head as I often do when I read such things. And I wondered why we use such absolute language when we speak of the things that are so important to us.
I suppose the fact that those things are so important is one reason. We feel the stakes are exceptionally high, so our rhetoric tends toward the absolute – Black and White, Right and Wrong, Left or Right, Up or Down. We assume that there are two ways: mine and the highway.
I think it’s a dangerous thing to be so absolute. In so saying, I’m not suggesting a lack of faith, or a lack of certitude about spiritual truths. I’m just suggesting a softening of the rhetoric around them. My father was a great example of this idea: he rarely spoke in absolutes, though his life demonstrated his own strong conviction without his having to announce it.
The scriptures contain catalogs of spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians, for instance, we learn “to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge…to another faith” (1 Corinthians 12:8-9). In modern scripture it’s even more clearly stated: “not all have every gift given unto them…to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know…to others it is given to believe” (D&C 46:11,13-14).
Knowing as we do that not all enjoy the same spiritual “knowledge”, it seems to make sense to soften our rhetoric to invite others to share understanding rather than assuming we (whoever “we” are) sit at the top of the mountain of knowledge so we can cast stones at the unknowing masses below.
My question in the title is whether I’m brainwashed. I certainly don’t think so. I’ve had my own deeply personal and deeply moving experiences with the scriptures and the teachings of Christ that have led me to my own convictions. I don’t expect others to take my word for it, but rather to seek your own experiences. Your experiences are likely to differ from mine, since we all have different gifts, but it seems if we’re all listening to the same divine influence, we ought to find some common ground, even if that effort takes some time.