The French Philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard, in his book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge defined postmodernism as, “incredulity toward metanarratives.” A metanarrative being any all-encompassing theory that we look to for legitimation of other narratives.
The English language, as a quick example, is full of its own specific nuances (grammar, spelling, etc.). And why? Well, that’s just the way it is! Our language is legitimized by its own rules. And even when it breaks its own rules there seem to be no end to exceptions and extensions to the rules that we assume are perfectly legitimate, despite the way they are laughably arbitrary under scrutiny (i.e. i before e, except after c, yadda, yadda, yadda). The way our language perpetuates itself is ongoing.
In the past couple years since studying Lyotard and other poststructuralist writings, I have had to scrutinize the ways in which I obtain knowledge—in my spiritual life, especially. There is a lot of talk within the Mormon community about the difference between Mormonism the religion, and Mormonism the culture, and I think this is an important distinction as it begins to open one’s eyes to the metanarratives within the Mormon community people sometimes accept without a second thought, much like those arbitrary rules of the English language. The response, “that’s just the way it is,” is hardly acceptable in the pursuit of truth, especially when salvation is on the line. I believe that this kind of incredulity towards metanarratives surrounding religious topics may be part of what Moroni was talking about when he invited readers of the Book of Mormon to have a “sincere heart” and “real intent” when praying to know the truth, as it demands a similar level of authenticity.
Answers to the “questions of the soul,” as popularly called within Mormon culture, such as “where do I come from?” “why am I here?” “where am I going?” have been standardized (as well as the questions themselves) to the point of there being very rote responses for them. My preoccupation with such a practice is that sincere introspection is in some cases bypassed, with the answers to those questions incepted or dictated rather than learned. That is not to say that these specific questions or any questions like them lose their value, but that I value authenticity in the search for more light and knowledge.
I want to revisit some of these “questions of the soul” and not stop with some of the generic answers we’ve come to accept within Mormon culture, but perhaps delve deeper or approach these answers in a different way.
To put it simply, I don’t want to take anything for granted.
That being said, I feel it necessary to add the disclaimer that, when it comes to things of a spiritual nature, there are many truths that transcend the intellect and demand to be experienced with the whole soul—not just the mind. To that end, my words will often be inadequate in relating everything I believe, and the ways in which I have arrived at those beliefs. I do consider myself a mystic in that regard.
So, as a fellow Christian thinker, and a fellow spiritual warrior, I invite you to read along. I also invite you to search out the truth for yourself, and don’t take anything for granted.
Thank you for reading!