In a recent meeting with an advisor, he brought up a question, “Where do I come from?” as an example of the ultimate question for historians and genealogists. Culturally and religiously, I grew up knowing the answer to that question, so I started giggling a little, but quickly went quiet as he took the question seriously. I’ve never seen anyone actually ask that question out loud before in earnest and it took me a second to realize that it was a real question for him, and extrapolated, for others.
I already knew the answer to the question and it was obvious for me. I wasn’t giggling at him for asking the question. I thought that he already knew the answer, and that he was sharing a small private joke of some sort as he studies religious history. What floored me was that he didn’t seem to know the answer. It wasn’t a hypothetical exercise for him, and this rather shocked me.
I grew up in and am an active member of the LDS Church. Part of the theology is that before mortal existence, the spirits of all people were with God as his children, learning and growing. There was a grand council in heaven regarding mortality and a war of ideas that resulted in the expulsion of Lucifer, or the devil, from heaven. I believe that Adam and Eve actually existed. Though I don’t know every aspect of their existence, I believe that there was a Fall and that mankind are the offspring of Adam and Eve. I stick with the Church because I’ve prayed asked God whether it was right and He said that it was true. The knowledge of where I came from came before I learned basic arithmetic. My initial witness from God occurred at around ten years old, and through the rest of my life I haven’t completely stopped communication with God. That said, my life hasn’t been easy, but my challenges keep me progressing.
My advisor knows my religion. He’s actually one of very few people who are not of my faith who I know where I live that are open to positive academic discussions with someone of my faith. I’ve never met someone as supportive as my advisor, and I will never be able to adequately express how grateful I am for his attitude, counsel, and training.
At the time of the conversation, I did not answer his question. He studies religious history, but I don’t know if he follows any particular doctrine. Typically I think of professors as people who eschew religion, unless they either openly study it or teach at an actively faith-based campus. That’s not to say that I would ever be against my professor learning more regarding my faith. There are some things that I’m trying to weigh in my mind and heart regarding a best approach on such a topic. Somehow I hope to be able to give him a gift for the help that he has given me. He may not agree with my answer to his question, but it’s something that I hold dear. I think that he might at least accept the basis for the answer as a gift, no strings attached.