I always took this as a real insult to my intelligence. I had my own testimony that I had cultivated over years of experiences, so for someone to tell me that I put no thought into the things I was doing and the way I chose to live my life was pretty much a kick in the face.
Recently I was talking to a dear friend. A loved one of hers had left the church. Among the reasons for leaving was this very same belief-- that Mormons follow blindly. And during our conversation, for the first time, I realized that I do. But not in the way that this individual meant it.
In talking to my friend, my mind became clear and the idea of following blindly revealed itself to me in a way I had never before thought of.
I have never been blind. I have been blind-folded, I have closed my eyes, I have had a hand over my eyes. But those are all far from actually being permanently without sight. It's hard even to imagine what the world would feel like as a person without sight. But when I try to imagine it, I think that all my other senses would surely be magnified. That I would need to feel more, to touch more, to listen more, to be able to sense things without actually seeing them.
An article by Rebecca Atkinson has helped me understand a little better what it would be like. She was born with sight, but because of a degenerative eye disease, she began to lose her vision. In Reflections of Becoming Blind she tells us:
I had seen the world through my eyes. Now it was time to touch it and smell it and hear it. When you lose your vision, you have to relearn the sorts of things that will allow you to survive on the planet.
When my vision began to get worse, I bumped into everything in my path because I was still careering down the pavement at the speed of someone who could see. As my mind caught up with my eyes, I changed the way I walked, with more caution and less speed, and the perpetual bumping and tripping stopped...
Your brain grows on the inside, and things on the outside start to matter less...
...for me vision loss has made me more empathetic and more open-minded. I have to take so often that I give more freely.
...you feel what it is to be human. You wake up from the slumber of being just another idiot with an iPod because you are forced to work out the bigger questions. Or at least ask them. Why am I here? Why is this happening? You are alert to the immediacy and fragility of your life. You know that the choices of the modern age do not and cannot extend into every realm of your life... You live in the moment. You settle for your lot and love it.
In Lehi's vision, he saw the Tree of Life. Leading to it, he saw a river and a rod of iron, which people could hold on to, to guide them to the tree. In this vision, a thick fog arose and the people who were trying to find their way to the tree couldn't see. They had to cling to the rod and feel their way through until they reached the end. They followed blindly. In 1 Nephi 8:30 we read:
But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
As a person who tries to live the gospel, there's no better way to do it, than to do it blindly. By trial and error, and unable to see the end or where they lead, I have been able to choose paths that are helping me become closer to the Lord. There have been times when I have bumped into walls, fallen on my face, gotten up and tried another path. I've learned to regroup, re-evaluate, to change the way I walk. I’m learning to maneuver with more caution, less speed.
I have felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost and have learned to rely on faith-- something that isn't seen with physical eyes. I have made an effort to see things through my spiritual eyes, and it's then that I catch a glimpse of what might be. What can be. I have been able to see that things on the outside don't matter as much as what's on the inside. I have been able to sense the nearness of my Savior, without actually seeing him standing there.
Elder David B. Haight said, “...my eyesight isn't very good, but as my eyesight dims somewhat, I think my vision improves--my vision of the long road, my vision of what lies ahead.”
Do I follow blindly? You bet I do. And I can see things clearly.