I know two things for sure: I am not perfect and I do not know everything, as much as I wish I did. I am beginning to realize that this is okay.
One thing that helps me as I ponder these two truths is the fact that I belong to a Church that helps people be better than they are. And one aspect of the Church that I really enjoy is the social organization, the wards and stakes that I have belonged to. I have long wondered why this is such a social Church, why there is such an emphasis on going to Church, attending your meetings, doing your Home Teaching, etc. I consider myself a pretty smart guy, I can learn as much (if not more) by studying scripture on my own than I can from listening to someone’s rambling Sacrament meeting talk.
And then I started working tech support. This may seem like a non sequitur, but I learned a lot about Knowledge Management and Collective Knowledge as I worked for this tech support company that I find applicable to the Church organization. My team that I work for supports over 500 different products and applications. There is no way that I can memorize all of the information that I would need to answer the calls that I receive in a day, especially since much of this information is constantly changing. We have developed a Knowledge Base, a database of information that is constantly being updated and added to. Every person who works with me has the responsibility of adding to and modifying this Knowledge Base. As we learn new things on a call we add it to the Collective Knowledge. And then, when I need information I search this database and I have access to all of the knowledge of every employee who has worked and added to the Knowledge Base. I do not know everything, but I don’t need to: Together we know everything.
I can draw on the knowledge and experience of others to find the information that I need when I need it. And that is what I love about wards at Church, especially Testimony meetings. And it is especially apparent at BYU in a student ward. When we meet someone new we always introduce ourselves the same way, with the same information: Name, hometown, major. Who we are, where we’re from, and what we are studying, what our field of expertise is. We are all different, with different interests and backgrounds and experiences, but together we can learn from each other. In one ward I was in there was a guy who would always share his testimony, and relate it back to DNA and biology and all of that science-y stuff I don’t understand. The more he learned about his field, the more he saw of God, and his testimony was based in what he knew and saw. I am the same way, my testimony of the Gospel is based in German – in the German language and translation of the scriptures, in German culture, etc. That is what I know, that is what I believe. I don’t have to study biology for seven years to have the same testimony as this guy, he has already done that and I can share in his testimony when he shares it with me.
I don’t have to experience or know everything because I have a ward family that can share their knowledge and experiences with me and inspire and instruct me. I can learn from others as they, hopefully, learn from me. That is why I enjoy Testimony Meetings at Church so much. I see Collective Knowledge in action. (Yes, I know I’m a nerd!)
I have also come to realize a related point as I strive to improve myself and change who I am for the better. I have so many flaws and imperfections that are so painfully obvious to me. And it seems the more I concentrate on my problems, the more I focus on my weaknesses the more faults I find with myself, the more I realize that I am not perfect. But when I find myself helping others, teaching or preparing lessons, doing my Home Teaching, counselling with the Elder’s Quorum Presidency about members of the Quorum who need help, I find that I become more perfect, closer to God. There is the famous anecdote told by Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley about when he was feeling depressed on his mission and his father replied, “Forget yourself and go to work.” There is such a truth in that. As we forget ourselves and our problems and imperfections and strive to help others we will become more Christlike. Because, what did Christ do when He was here? “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), He served others and healed others and blessed others. If we want to be like Christ we should do what Christ did – serve others. And miraculously we find, that when we seek to bless others, God blesses us and makes us better. ” For charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” or as Joseph Smith translated it, “Charity preventeth a multitude of sins” (1 Peter4:8). As we focus on others, charity will make us better.
This gospel of Jesus Christ is all about doing things for other people that they cannot do for themselves, and that you cannot do for yourself. This is a gospel of vicarious acts. Christ vicariously suffered for our sins that we might not suffer if we repent, and in the same way that Christ brings us to the Father, we can bring our brothers and sisters to Christ. Together we know everything we need to know, together we can be saved in the way that we need to be.