This quote by President Hinckley has probably done more to damage my testimony than anything else in my memory. I understand that by promoting this dichotomy, he was basically saying that if you have a testimony of one particular aspect of the church, then you could rely on that testimony to tell you that the whole church was true. I guess I have a more negative mindset than that though because I immediately look at the inverse. Does this mean that if I find any one thing that I believe to be untrue, then the whole church is untrue?Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing. - Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, April 2003
I would like to stay in the middle ground. I would like to choose the part that resonates as true within me and reject or ignore those things that do not. But I constantly come back to this quote and wonder about myself.
Now, I know that there is someone who will tell me that President Hinckley was just a man and was possibly just expressing his opinion. That may be, but it brings me to a different paradox in my mind. We are taught in the church that the words of the prophet are on the same level as scripture. This is cultural rather than doctrinal, but that doesn't get you very far in Sunday School class or EQ. Even our lesson manuals for the youth teach them that general conference reports are scripture because they come from the apostles and prophet. However, the prophets themselves will tell you that they are not always prophesying. So, how do we know which is which? We now teach now that many of the things that Brigham Young taught were just his opinion, but I firmly believe that the members of the church at the time didn't think so. I am sure that they believed that he was the prophet and was speaking as such. Letting the future generations decide what was prophecy and what was opinion does nothing to help those that are listening now.
So, is there really middle ground? Can I stay a faithful member in the light of President Hinckley's teachings? How do I reconcile these things in my own mind and find that place where I am comfortable and feel that I am being true to myself? These are the questions that weigh heavily on my mind.