Sister Mendel is a Saint for sure. This fact must be grasped or nothing else I say makes sense. She came from Germany to the United States shortly after WW II with her newly converted husband. She has the remarkable ability to reveal to everyone that they are loved. She is a saint already celestial in character. Of this simple truth there is little doubt. Yet Sister Mendel couldn’t formulate a coherent doctrine on any issue if her life depended on it. She admits that she doesn’t understand doctrine very well and she even admits that she is just not bright regarding that kind of thing.
Yet it dawns on me that if Sister Mendel isn’t eloquent about doctrine, then it probably isn’t at all important in the entire scheme of things. I’m quite certain she’ll enter the celestial kingdom before I will — and yet I am taken with propounding doctrine in a persuasive and inspiring way. I’m a quantum leap better at knowing the scriptures and doctrine than she is. Yet knowing (Latin sapere) the doctrine and truth isn’t important it seems; rather, what is important is knowing (Latin conoscere) God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.
I should have listened to Joe McConkie. I had a religion class from him in which he spent an entire class period berating philosophy and its role in the apostasy. He was aware that I was (at that time) the only philosophy major on campus. At the end of the hour he said: “So brother Ostler, what do you think about that?” I answered: “Well brother McC, that is an interesting philosophy.” You see, everything is philosophy to me. There is no escaping it — at least if you were to live in my skin (aren’t you glad that you don’t?).
When I was young I was convinced that God’s Godness was because of his knowledge of everything. I believed that we could be saved no faster than we gain knowledge of an entire realm of truth. I believed that the glory of God is intelligence — and that includes at least being aware of what I believe and how it aligns with the way things really are.
Now I’m convinced none of that really matters and what matters is a matter of heart. Spending three years as the nursery leader in my ward does that to me I think. I’m quite sure they wanted to isolate me and get me out of any meeting where a discussion about “doctrine” might ensue because … well, because I scare people according the Bishop. Some of the good people in my ward felt intimidated. So they stuck me in the nursery and the intimidation factor went way down. The Bishop and Stake President walked into our nursery on day and said: “See that brother on the floor playing with toys with Grahm cracker stains on his suit? He can read eight languages.” They laughed. (True story). Being made the nursery leader was a good move for both of us. It dawned on me that being able to speak languages wasn’t what qualified me to be nursery leader — since many of the kids couldn’t speak yet.
So should I hang up my philosopher’s robes and concentrate on Grahm crackers and sharing time? If the glory of God is intelligence, shouldn’t I be intelligent enough to get it and forget philosophy and scholarship altogether?