What if I’m wrong about myself? What if I’m wrong, in fundamental ways, about who and what I am? What if—beyond the limits of whatever kinds of willful self-deception surely warp my self-understanding—there are structural and perspectival constraints that simply prevent me from ever seeing enough of me to grasp myself accurately? Or, more, what if my own self-understanding is so irreparably local that, from a God’s-eye-view, it will never be more than a gross misrepresentation?
For my part, all of the above seems not only possible but practically inevitable.
I will have been wrong about myself.
But if I’m wrong about myself—even fundamentally wrong about myself—does this automatically mean that my life won’t have been worth living?
I think the answer to this is no.
In fact, I think this is one way to frame what’s at stake in a genuinely good life: a life is only good when its goodness does not hinge on the accuracy of its self-understanding.
Can a life be good and also be accurate in its self-understanding? Sure. It may even be better. (Though this is complicated by the gesture of self-forgetting that love often requires.) But, again, I think we’d be wrong to claim that its goodness would depend on its successful self-apprehension.
I think the same, too, is true with respect to Mormonism.
What if Mormonism is wrong, even in fundamental ways, about what Mormonism is? What if, like all kinds of self-understanding, Mormonism’s account of itself is also hamstrung by structural constraints or even self-deception?
The same test applies.
It may certainly be true that Mormonism is totally right about itself—Mormonism may be exactly and precisely what it thinks it is, nothing more, nothing less—but I think it would be a mistake to think that it must be right about itself in order to be worth doing. Accurate self-understanding is not a decisive measure of any life’s (or any religion’s) goodness.
Now, again, Mormonism may well be fundamentally right about itself. But even if it is, it will still only have been worth doing if that worth does not depend on the accuracy of its self-understanding. Good things are good, regardless of whether they’re right about the nature of their own goodness.
Here, then, is a possible test of (any) religious tradition. Ask: even if this tradition isn’t what it thinks it is, is it still worth doing?
Mormonism, it seems to me, is certainly worth doing.