Sunday, July 7, 2013

Doubts and Questions


In my church, members of the congregation provide the sermons (what we call "talks") during the main hour of church (what we call "sacrament meeting"). Last week, I had an opportunity to give a talk during sacrament meeting. My instruction from the members of the Bishopric was to read the General Conference talk "Lord, I Believe" by Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland and share my feelings in regards to that topic. The following is the talk I presented to my congregation (what we call a "ward").

When you break down the scriptures, the contents fall into categories. Some of the scriptures are historical accounts of the happenings of the Lord’s people. And a lot of the scriptures could be described as answers—answers to questions. This is most obvious in the Doctrine and Covenants, where we have recorded what Joseph Smith’s questions were along with the revelations he received in response to those questions.

Our scriptures would be a lot shorter if the prophets, and other Disciples of Christ throughout time, never had any questions.

Questions are how we learn and grow.

The Apostle Matthew quoted Jesus as having said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7)

Do you understand what the Lord promises us there? If we ask, then we will be given answers. Along with that, you could then also understand that if we don’t ask, then we will not receive answers. As in, we will only learn what we ask about. You could also derive that it is okay to ask questions, because the Lord just told us to, and it is a great way to learn!

Questions are healthy. They show an active, seeking mind. Question askers are not someone who is content floating through life with little knowledge, but someone who earnestly looks to learn more.

We currently live in a very exciting time for learning. Never before has so much information been so available. Unfortunately, it can at times be difficult (and sometimes it may feel impossible) to determine what information is truth and what is falsehood.

In the midst of this ocean of information, our simple, earnest questions can lead us to information that turn our questions into doubt.

Questions can lead us to the Lord.

But doubts lead us further away. Doubts are dangerous, because inherently, they begin with an element of disbelief.

With a question, you might go to the Lord in prayer, or to your scriptures, or to lds.org or mormon.org, or to a church leader or friend, and inquire, “This is what I already know. I’ve been wondering about this. Do you know more?”

But with a doubt, you do not begin from the sure foundation of what you know. You begin to be unsure whether anything you thought you knew was true. Instead of moving forward, you push backward against truths you have already received.

Elder Holland, in the most recent General Conference, said, “In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won. . . . 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. . . . The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do not have and the truth you already know.” 

In the last few years, someone close to me has discarded his faith and events have unfolded in my life that have caused me to question and doubt things that I never had problems with and that had never before bothered me.

Prior to this, any questions or doubts were resolved in one of two ways: I received an answer that satisfied me or I accepted that the answer was not necessary for me to know for my salvation and just left it alone.

But now I was in that dangerous, shaky territory. Was I going to let philosophical musings undermine every revelation I had received prior in my life? Was I going to forget every time the Spirit has spoken quietly to my mind and heart what I needed to know? Was I going to ignore my spiritual foundation of a lifetime because of the issues that were brought up? It seems so ridiculous when phrasing it like this, but it was a truly difficult time for me. There is so much information available on the Internet now, and it is easy to get tangled up in it.

The only way I have discovered to stay safe and in the realm of earnestly seeking for more faith is by allowing the Spirit to be my guide. I have overcome my doubt by reminding myself of past witnesses of the Spirit and by striving to continually live worthy of future witnesses of the Spirit.

The following is what I wrote in my journal after coming to that realization.

I have questioned whether there is a God in heaven, a plan for my life, or any purpose at all.

I have searched the scriptures, earnestly desiring to find hope, advice, and counsel.

I have knelt by my bedside, confused and heartsick, desperate for a response, a feeling, an answer.

I have learned that there is reason to hope, to love, to flourish.

I believe in God, and I dedicate my life to His gospel and the precepts shared with me by His son, Jesus Christ, and His prophets throughout the ages.

I rejoice in the peace and comfort I feel and the calm I can experience as I follow His path.

I have searched.
I have found.
I believe.

What I live by now is that nothing someone tells me can change what I have felt. Nothing that someone else believes to be true can alter the answers I have received from the Holy Ghost. I will allow nothing to undermine the fact that my life is a testament to what I believe; the fruits of the gospel are evident in my life, and they are sweet.

So when questions and doubts arrive in your life, I hope that you can learn from my hard earned lesson, and be wary of what source you go to for answers.

Do you take your problems to the Lord, like the father of an afflicted son in the book of Mark? (Mark 9:14–24)That father took his problem to Jesus, and Jesus told him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” To that, the father responded, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:23–24)

Acknowledge what you believe, keep the ground you’ve gained, and then honestly, humbly recognize where you still have room to grow, and ask the Lord to help you in your growth.

As Elder Holland reminded us in this past General Conference, “in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.” We are not meant during this earthly existence to have a perfect knowledge of all things.

If we already had all of the answers, then the ninth Article of Faith would not state, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” We admit that we don’t know everything, but we don’t need to know everything. We rely on what we have already learned, and we trust in the Spirit in guiding us toward what we do need to know.

Remember this counsel from the Prophet Nephi: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)

If you do not continue to seek wisdom and strive to keep the Spirit in your life, then you will lose what you have, and your foundation will not be strong enough to withstand any questions or doubts that may arise. Be aware of how important it is to continue to attend church, to make time for the temple, to take the sacrament, to share the gospel with your family and friends, to pray, to read the scriptures, and to engage in all the activities that strengthen your testimony, because in this information age, you will definitely need your testimony.

I especially loved when Elder Holland said this: “Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will.” 

Remember to walk in faith. Remember that we do not know everything right now. Remember that we know enough. Remember to take your questions to Him who knows all Truth. Remember that the Spirit is the way to discern between truth and falsehood. Remember that it is okay to not know yet and have a desire to believe. We are all at different stages of our mortal existence, and it’s not over until we are safely dead.

Elder Holland concluded his talk by saying, “Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.” If you spend significantly more time researching your concerns than you do strengthening your testimony, how can you expect to create an atmosphere where the Spirit can speak to you? The Lord can only answer questions you ask Him. Due to our agency, nothing can be forced upon us. So when you are confused, make sure that you go to the right source for truth.

Elder Holland explained it like this: “Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith that you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”

I have seen faith work miracles in my life. I have felt it supporting me during the hardest moments of my life. I am grateful for the resources the Church has made available for learning and growth, and I am very appreciative of the Holy Ghost and its presence in my life, leading me and guiding me through this tricky modern world we live in.

I commit myself to remembering the past occasions when the Spirit has spoken to my soul, and I promise myself that I will strive to live worthy of receiving future occasions of the Spirit speaking to my soul, because I know that I need the gift of the Holy Ghost to make it through this life.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Here is a talk that may interest you: Learning and Latter-day Saints

Image credit: http://freebiblestudiesonline.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/free-bible-studies-online-one-thing-before-all-things1.jpg

7 comments:

  1. My greatest treasure, is my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for sharing your talk and witness of the spirit and it's blessings in your life.

    Doubts have been my companions since my early youth; they are old and familiar friends with whom I have grown comfortable. They have given me rich perspective which I valued and they are a part of why I am today so incredibly grateful for the gospel in my life. I treasure the gospel.

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  2. Great talk Mimi!! I love that this subject applies to everyone. We all have doubts at times. When I heard this talk in Conference, I felt so much comfort knowing that it is okay to have doubts, but that they should have a place in our lives and not BE our whole lives.

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  3. Well said, Meems. I wish I could have been there to watch you give it!

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  4. I wish you were giving this in our ward! This talk was incredible. I miss you

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  5. Not Trying to Be MeanAugust 7, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I like this, never question stuff you already believe. That's brilliant! If people had thought that way in the past we would all still believe the earth was flat. Luckily it occured to somebody to question something they already knew to be true, and it payed off!

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    1. I looked back through my post, and I can't find where I wrote to never question things you already believe. I did a search and find for the word "never" and the word "question" and don't see it. Perhaps you can point it out to me? Tell me which paragraph to find that in.

      I do remember writing that questions are how you learn and grow.

      I do believe though that you cannot keep questioning something you have already learned to be true. You have to move forward at some point. Science could have never moved forward if scientists were still testing things they had already discovered/learned to be true.

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    2. Although, after thinking about your comment longer, I feel as though I should expand further.

      Often question stuff you assume or have been told to believe.

      Rarely question what you have already learned to be true.

      So, "never question stuff you already believe" could be true, depending on how you came to believe it. Did you read it in a tabloid? Get told it by your great-grandfather? Conduct a scientific experiment? Pray earnestly and receive a spiritual witness?

      "Never" and "always" are pretty strong words.

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