Plan B Theatre in Salt Lake has extended the sold-out run of Eric Samuelson’s play, Borderlands until April 17. For those interested in exploring religion, honesty, and tolerance, this play is well worth your time and money.
The inhabitants of Borderlands are four Mormons of varying degrees of faith and activity expressing hidden doubts and fears within the security of an “honesty car” on a used car lot. In the powerful concluding scene, the gay teen gives a blessing to a distraught, dying woman who has grievously injured him. Assisted by a woman and an excommunicated Mormon, the boy voices a heartfelt and painfully honest prayer. By this act of faith and love, the characters redeem themselves.
Maybe the reason I found this scene so moving is that I have a hard time believing anyone else can redeem us. I think everyone must atone for his or her own sins—most likely by learning not to be attached to the self that is so willing to sacrifice others in order to achieve its own ends.
Since I saw this play Sunday afternoon during the final General Conference session, the audience presumably was not made up of devout Mormons. At the QA session with director, playwright and cast, no anti-Mormon rhetoric was expressed. Several people thought the topics of doubt, hypocrisy, and intolerance applied to any religion.
This play offers a window through which audience members can examine the depths of their own religious and moral commitment. I hope Eric Samuelson takes care of his health and continues to write plays that look beneath the surface of Mormonism. I’m glad Plan B Theatre exists to produce these kinds of plays.
Krista Tippets’ NPR program “Speaking of Faith” interviewed two Jesuit astronomers last week. One of the Jesuits interviewed made the comment that the opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certitude. By that definition, I wonder how many Mormons have faith. A principle of Mormonism is that we can “know” the Church is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. If we know these things, what room is there in our theology for faith?
Since the first principle of the gospel is faith, shouldn’t we be nurturing it rather than drying it up by turning it into “knowledge?” In all my years of church membership, I’ve heard only one member use the term, “I have a very strong belief” rather than “I know” when bearing his testimony. And his statement jarred. In Mormon culture, a testimony is knowledge, not belief.
The hubris of Mormon certitude certainly antagonizes nonmembers—giving rise to jokes about St. Peter initiating new candidates into heaven with a caution. “Hush! Mormons are in that room and they think they’re the only ones here.” I suspect certitude also has a chilling effect on members who study, fast, and pray for sure knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel and don’t receive it. Are they less worthy than members who “know” or are they just more honest about the strength of the impression they receive?
My grandchildren, ages 3-10, all say they “know” the church is true. What they mean is they have faith in their parents and Primary teachers who have told them the church is true. Faith is a beautiful concept—related to love, trust and confidence. Faith in one’s self, in other people, and in God provides strength to move ahead into an unsure future. People who can act only upon full knowledge miss opportunities to learn and grow. Doubt is faith’s partner, not its enemy.