Anthony Sweat is a “regular Latter-day Saint” who is trying to do his best.  He is a Church Education System educator for his career, has a PhD in Religious Theory, and is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University.  He is also a writer and speaker.  His Bachelors degree is in fine arts and he is a painter as well.

Anthony’s latest book is “Seekers Wanted”.  This is not a book to tell people what to think or to provide answers, but rather “how” to think, how to approach history, concepts and doctrine.  The purpose of the book is to help people learn skills to answer questions. “We should seek learning by study, but we need to not overlook seeking learning by faith”.  The focus of this podcast is related specifically to ambiguity.

Highlights

10:30 Embracing Ambiguity: the Lord can make things very clear.  “Joseph Smith was given a one-point plan and received little by little”.  God didn’t lay everything out for him; we are continuing to develop.  He was required to “move forward with faith” and receive little by little as the restoration happened.

15:20 How can we be the “one true church” but still have ambiguity?  The Church is “true” is more likely the Church is “authorized” for things that it does; it doesn’t mean perfection.  Section 1 of the D&C states it is a “true church” but at that time still no temple endowments, no Relief Society, etc.  We need to recognize that the Church has authority to receive guidance from God, but we don’t have anything figured out.  True does not mean complete.  True means it has the authorized keys to operate.  We do have some answers that other churches may not, and vice versa.  We have truths of salvation and exaltation.  We have revealed answers about the purpose of life, eternal families, etc.  We don’t have ALL the answers.  There is a difference between fullness of the gospel, vs the fullness of truth.  We do have the fullness of the gospel, but not all the truth.

21:35 Do we need to have a string of declarations of truth to have a testimony or is there room for ambiguity?  “I am uncertain about certain things, but I trust Jesus”.  It can be just as powerful and meaningful to hear “I trust this” versus “I know this without a doubt”.  It is less about being certain but more about the trust that comes in a relationship with God.  We may not be certain about everything but can be certain about some things: that God loves us, that Jesus is his son.  This can allow us to be certain about this trust relationship.

24:00 Definition of dogma.  We should beware of it.  Implies we are overly declarative of things that might have other possibilities.  Means we are unwilling to consider alternatives.  It is not a friend of faith or growth.

28:35 How do we begin to become comfortable with ambiguity?  Recognize it is there. “Be firm on the knowns and what God has revealed but be flexible on the unknowns.”

Avoid “overclaiming”; we shouldn’t be overly declarative on what we know.

34:35 Be comfortable saying “I don’t know”.  If there are things we don’t know, it doesn’t mean we should avoid those things.  We need to seek.

36:55 As I leader, I feel the need to be seen as knowing all the answers.  We shouldn’t say things or claim things we shouldn’t.  We need to be humble and that it’s okay to say “I don’t know”.

39:40 What is the grounding of my faith? Identifying non-negotiables.  There are things we know and we need to identify them.  Examples: Jesus ministered to people in the Book of Mormon.  Joseph translated the Book of Mormon.

Is there a failproof way to guard against false non-negotiables?  “If this doesn’t hold true does that mean the faith collapses?” One false non-negotiable: a prophet can’t be wrong; history and scripture show that prophets can make mistakes

46:15 We need to determine what our own non-negotiables are and assure that they are true and not false.  That will help us know what our faith is anchored in.

48:30 Ambiguity is present in all aspects of life.

One of the main purposes in life is to develop faith in God.  There is so much unknown and we need to do it best to walk in faith.  In retrospect you can see that the Lord was leading you.

Bro. Sweat has found how his art degree has been useful in his career as a church history professor.  He didn’t know at 23 what he would be doing at 43.  He is willing to embrace the ambiguity because he trusts God.

How has ambiguity made you a better leader?
“It has made me seek, made me reach out and trust, study, be humble, admit to not having all the answers and I don’t expect leaders and prophets to have the answers.  It has made me want to learn from more people, more dependency on God, and trust His goodness and grace.

The Restoration is not the organization of the church on the earth but it is when God’s will is done on Earth as it is in heaven.  It is a work in progress and not completed yet.  It helps him identify where he needs to adhere to the Lord’s will better.

Links

Church Doctrine, Policy, & Leadership | An Interview with Prof. Anthony Sweat
Seekers Wanted: The Skills You Need for the Faith You Want

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