The first principles and ordinances in my life, borne of my experiences and observations, are these:
- Exposure, which leads to awareness, or, in other words, the knowledge of good and evil
- Awareness, which leads to gratitude and wonder
- Wonder, which leads to vision and discipline
- Discipline, which leads to understanding and becoming
- Understanding, which leads to humility and perspective
- Becoming and perspective, which lead to joy, which is sustainable happiness
- Sustainable happiness, which is the purpose of life
They aren’t as concise as the 4th Article of Faith, but they work for me. Also, they are a work in progress. There are missing pieces. For example, you see that there’s nothing in there about our relationships with others — nothing about love, kindness, family, or friendship. Those are deeply important to me, but I’m not sure how they fit into the structure I have here. As I make more sense of the life, things, and the world, my first principles and ordinances will change.
That said, I’m pretty confident in putting “exposure” at the root of the tree. It is the base ordinance (or principle or virtue…I’m not quite consistent in distinguishing between those three terms yet.) Without exposure to foreign ideas and experiences, we will never have the perspective necessary to judge the useful from the less useful, the “happifying” (to take a word from Brigham Young) from the merely “contentifying”. I believe that is the lesson of 2 Nephi chapter 2, Lehi’s great treatise on opposition and experience: it is worthwhile — necessary, in fact — to understand the merits of the positions we disagree with in order to make a fair judgment of the positions we already agree with.
Since Steve Jobs’ passing yesterday, the quote I’ve seen most associated with him is: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” I agree with that entirely, and I believe that exposure is the first step toward living one’s own life.
This doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting your initial beliefs, though your personal experiences and testing of those beliefs will likely involve reorienting and even rejecting some of them. As a result, however, you come to own the beliefs that prove valuable as your own rather than as “borrowed light”. As Bruce R. McConkie said, “In speaking of these wondrous things I will use my own words. Though you might think these are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and Prophets, true it is that they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine.” He took ownership of their words, not through plagiarism but through wholesale embodiment borne of lived experience.
Is it difficult? Yes. It’s hard to challenge the beliefs we are comfortable with. It’s hard to admit that we might be wrong in our understanding of things. And it’s hard to deal with the fallout of change.
Is it dangerous? Perhaps, but not so much as it is just difficult. Truth doesn’t need to be coddled or handled with kid gloves. Truth can handle examination, questioning, and comparison. It can take a pounding, for it is by the pounding that its truthfulness is revealed.