Last week I walked into our bedroom and could smell the faint odor of onion. I went into the walk-in closet and the scent was a little stronger. First thing I did was to check the laundry hamper to see if I could find the source. Nothing. And it wasn’t just me, my wife told me she already looked for the source and came up empty.
The next day I came home from work and went into our room and it was even stronger. I went into the closet and found it was stronger still – a lot stronger. Again, I checked the hamper, and found nothing. We couldn’t figure it out, and we were becoming worried that it was going to make all of our clothing – and the whole house – smell like onions.
I decided to look a little more closely. First, I looked for any clothing we had recently worn when we cooked to see if maybe there was a spill. Nothing. Then I crawled around looking at the carpet. Nothing. Finally, l did that game where you try and recreate an event to find a clue.
Then I remembered something: the day before the onion smell began, we had gone out for dinner. I remembered that I had a hamburger WITH ONIONS. (Yes, it took me three days to remember that.) Flipping through my shirts that were hanging up in the closet, I tried to recall what I wore that night. I found the shirt, but there was nothing on it. Then I held it up to my nose. Onion.
I stuck my fingers in the pocket and found this:
A tiny piece of onion had fallen into my shirt pocket and had waged a smelly war against us, and our clothing, for several days.It was amazing how powerful that tiny thing was. I’m glad I found it, because at the rate it was been progressing, we would have had to burn all our clothes and sleep in the guest room.
I know you are thinking, “How in the world is he going to tie this into a spiritual message?” Well, you know me…
Our testimonies consist of a wide variety of things: Divinity of Jesus Christ; reality of the Atonement; truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; modern revelation and prophets; restoration of the true and living church, etc.) There are lots of other things we believe in and have a testimony of that aren’t quite so foundational, but still very real – and very crucial – to us: Tithing; service; Word of Wisdom, etc.
There are also things we believe and/or know about that increase our faith and help us understand the interrelated Gospel. Some of those things are kind of small – like that little piece of onion.
To better explain, I should probably tell a story. Back in ye olden days, I served a full-time mission in Chile. Chile is world-famous for their wine. At one point, we even lived with a family that owned a vineyard. Many people we taught and spoke with were baffled as to why wine was prohibited in our church. After all, Jesus made wine for a wedding and drank wine with his apostles and others, etc. How could something Jesus did be singled out as forbidden nowadays? For some it was a dealbreaker for joining the Church.
This bugged me. A lot. I thought about it, studied about it, prayed about it and even wrote my dad about it. I received some responses, but they were all variations of the same theme: The wine that Jesus was associated with was pure, unfermented grape juice.
That answer never sat well with me. Even though I appreciated the intentions, didn’t believe it. I knew that wine was commonly made to preserve grape juice for later consumption in most cultures. The scriptures also taught me that they brought out “the good stuff” that Jesus made out of water at the wedding in Cana. I knew people called Christ a “winebibber.” None of these things even hinted at regular old grape juice.
It bothered me. I thought about it, and talked about it more than I should have. My “wine question” ran through my mind even as I taught the Word of Wisdom to investigators. It became a negative in my efforts to grow spiritually, and to learn more about the gospel.
It began to stink up my testimony.
In my defense, I was a nineteen year-old with precious little life experience, and little spiritual experience. I was spiritually immature, and didn’t understand some of the nuances of the gospel and didn’t know anything about the dangers of presentism.
Thankfully, this fixation didn’t last long, and I am happy to report that now, as a much older and wiser man, I don’t even care if Jesus consumed, or enjoyed alcoholic wine. It was a simply a different era, and has zero bearing on us today. I have since learned to never get too keyed up about what Jesus did or didn’t do that I don’t understand. I realize now that using Jesus as an excuse to drink wine merely shows spiritual immaturity.
Yet, at the time, fixating on that simple question of Jesus drinking real wine managed to stink up my testimony and stink up my spiritual growth.
Elder Holland compared it to the process of a tree being rotted by a fungus:
“When this fungus attacks, the effects are not seen for some years. However, the fungus gradually rots the roots of those beautiful trees, and they begin to die. The leaves turn yellow and fall. Then the trunk and branches dry up, and the trees must be cut down.
Like the fungus that enters these trees, doubts can invade our thoughts. If we let them grow, over time they can affect our roots and rot our foundation of faith until we too may be cut down.” (link)
I have seen within myself and others, a natural tendency to let one doubt become two, and two become three. Those doubts can stink up the testimony we already possess. The Brethren sometimes use the word “infected” when discussing this process.
Being aware of this possibility is helpful. Trying to identify it as it is happening is helpful.
Often the doubt we wrestle with is not from knowing something but from not knowing something. Sometimes we may not suffer from doubt as much as we suffer from a frustration of not having more insight or information. It happens. Personally, my questions are much deeper at this stage of my life than when I was a younger man – which I never would have guessed. I accept that, and I am aware of it, and I am careful not to let the things I do not know stink up the testimony of the things I do know.
Elder Holland said it with a bit more eloquence:
“In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited…When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.” (link)
Each of us have our share of struggles. I do not believe the Lord wants us to add to those burdens by letting self-inflicted negativity, doubt, ignorance or disbelief stink up our testimonies.
Someday, that additional knowledge will come, or personal enlightenment will come via the Holy Ghost, revelation to the Lord’s servants, or we may find out answer through study and prayer. I can’t promise you that all the answers to all of our questions will be resolved in this mortal life, but I can promise you that fixating on those doubts or unanswered questions we have can infect, and eventually destroy, what we currently know.
Let’s not stink it up – it’s far too important.
Another insightful essay for me to ponder. I love the way you take everyday things and relate them to deep, spiritual stuff. I think this same way, but do not have your talent for eloquence, so I appreciate you sharing these thoughts. Beautiful, “stinky” post. 🙂
Another amazing post. Thank you so much for your insight!
… or insmell?