Before I dive in, I want you, my dear friends reading this, to know that the purpose behind this post is to encourage faith. Please choose faith, and Christ, before choosing doubt, because it is a choice! And let me also add that, no, it is not wrong or bad or shameful to have doubts…. What are you going to do with them? Now more than ever are strong, faithful (men) and women needed! So do me a favor and really ask yourself, “Do I doubt this to be true, or do I have questions surrounding it?” Whatever IT is, I promise you that you can find truth if you put in the effort.
Questions vs. doubts has been quite the topic since President Nelson gave his talk, “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains,” in the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference (April 2021). His talk focused on having faith, “Everything good in life – every potential blessing of eternal significance – begins with faith,” and that, “The Lord does not require perfect faith for us to have access to His perfect power. But He does ask us to believe.” How amazing is that?! We don’t need to be perfect, he knows we are human and will fall short, but we do need to try. He challenged members of The Church of Jesus Christ to increase their faith and that if they do it can move mountains in their lives. He suggested five ways to do this: 1), study, 2) believe, 3) act in faith, 4) partake of sacred ordinances, and 5) ask for help.
When talking about his second point, believing, he said, “If you have doubts about God the Father and His Beloved Son or the validity of the Restoration or the veracity of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as a prophet, choose to believe and stay faithful. Take your questions to the Lord and to other faithful sources. Study with the desire to believe rather than with the hope that you can find a flaw in the fabric of a prophet’s life or a discrepancy in the scriptures. Stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters. Allow the Lord to lead you on your journey of spiritual discovery.”
Did he say having doubts are bad? No. He said CHOOSE to believe and stay faithful. He said take your questions to the source of TRUTH and other FAITHFUL sources. It’s ok if you have doubts, but what you do with them is key. What are you going to do with yours? Is it a coincidence that our sweet Prophet has been encouraging us to know how to receive revelation? He has told us that we need the Holy Ghost to survive these last days. We need to use that gift to discern between right and wrong, truth and deceit, good and bad, etc.
And now I’m going to add a few key points that I think are crucial in this journey in deciding between choosing faith or doubt. Almost all the quotes I added to emphasize these points can be found here.
I want to start with this, “Remember, however, that the term question is not synonymous with the term doubt. Faith and doubt are not different sides of a coin. The Lord and His prophets do not encourage doubt – quite the opposite. Doubt is not spoken of in a positive light in the scriptures. President Thomas S. Monson taught, ‘Doubt never inspires faith.’ That is why the Lord is so adamant that we ‘doubt not.’ He knows that doubting can affect our faith in Him. The Savior taught, ‘And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words.’ Speaking to those who did not believe in Christ, Moroni admonished, ‘Doubt not, but believing.'”
I recently posed the question, “Are doubts and questions the same thing?” on Instagram and over 97% of the people who responded said no. And when I asked why not, these are some of the responses I got:
- Questions are open minded, doubts are biased. With a doubt the individual has already partially made up their mind about what ever the topic/issue is. With a question the individual is equally open to understand no matter what responses they’re given. – Jenna
- Questions imply open-mindedness and wanting to change whereas doubts feel more stubborn, resistant, and close minded. – Sara
- Questions = curiosity. Doubts = uncertainty and feelings like fear, and leaning towards disbelief. – Sarah
- Doubt is more definitive and can get you stuck. Questions offer a way forward. – Madi
- One ends in a period and the other with a question mark. In other words, questions are open-ended. They also seek light via further knowledge. Example: I don’t think God loves me. vs. Does God love me? We can also question our fears, What evidence do I have that God doesn’t love me? – David
- Questions invite learning. Doubts look for discrediting. – Sydnee
- Sometimes doubting is just a feeling, not a specific thing you’re questioning. To have a doubt is a FEELING of uncertainty. You may not be able to nail down specifics as to what’s causing the feeling, you just know that you’re feeling it. It means you’re not sure if something is true but you still believe it could be. Questioning, to me, is more of an ACTION and usually more specific. When questioning you’re looking for an answer. When doubting you’re not always looking for an answer. – Casie
- Questions lead to answers. Doubts cause confusion and can be fueled by other factors. – Alyssa
- I personally feel like doubting means looking for evidence that it ISN’T true, whereas questioning implies seeking more knowledge in faith that it IS. Doubt sits and festers, whereas questioning means actively seeking and waiting until answers come. – Lauren
Sheri Dew said, “My dear friends, questions are good. Questions are good if they are inspired questions, asked in faith, and asked of credible sources where the Spirit will direct and confirm the answer.” She wrote a whole book, “Worth the Wrestle,” about how she has wrestled with questions. Here is a talk she gave that has snippets included in her book.
So where are we taking our questions? Where do we seek answers? Who are we getting answers from? Who do we ask important questions to?
“The Apostle Paul also taught that our faith ‘should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’ The Apostle James explained how to get answers to questions. He counseled those who seek truth to recognize that there can be a trial of faith, to be patient, and to ‘ask of God.’ We seek answers from a divine source ‘in faith, nothing wavering.’ In other words, we are to start with a positive expectation, filled with hope, rather than with a negative disposition filled with doubt, cynicism, and skepticism.”
Sheri Dew also said, “But doubters and pundits never tell the whole story, because they don’t know the whole story-and don’t want to know. They opt for clever sound bites, hoping no one digs deeper than they have.”
Joseph Smith once taught, “It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them.”
President Spencer W. Kimball, “Why, oh, why do people think they can fathom the most complex spiritual depths without the necessary experimental and laboratory work accompanied by compliance with the laws that govern it? Absurd it is, but you will frequently find popular personalities, who seem never to have lived a single law of God, discoursing in interviews on religion. How ridiculous for such persons to attempt to outline for the world a way of life!” (Said in his BYU Speech: Absolute Truth. Also an excellent read. President Kimball addresses his talk to a disbeliever who wrote to him.)
I try to be cautious about where I am going, and to whom I am looking for answers. Remember where the source of truth and light comes from. As I mentioned above, studying was one of the suggestions President Nelson gave to increase our faith. What, where, and whose words are we studying?
Speaking of President Nelson, he is also one of the sources of truth. D & C 1:38 says, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Elder M. Russell Ballard promised, “We might well ask, ‘Is there one clear, unpolluted, unbiased voice that we can always count on? Is there a voice that will always give us clear directions to find our way in today’s troubled world?’ The answer is yes. That voice is the voice of the living prophet and apostles. I make you a promise. It’s a simple one, but it is true. If you will listen to the living prophet and the apostles and heed our counsel, you will not go astray.”
The prophet and apostles are amazing men! Look at the things they have accomplished in their lives! They are men of great knowledge and faith. I’ve seen and heard people say that we are listening to and esteeming a bunch of old men, but these “old men” commune with God. I trust them because God does. Are they perfect? No, they are human and their motives and hearts are pure.
“An essential skill for gospel learning is to be able to identify reliable and authoritative sources and to assess the motives of those who prepared the sources. We would be unwise to consider all sources to be equally reliable and trustworthy, particularly those which are on the internet. We should question the motives and intent as well as the knowledge of those who are encouraging doubt. We should also consider the tone of their statements and the outcome they hope to achieve. Is it to build faith or weaken it? Remember, ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’ Unfortunately, some people teach things that are not true or present them in a way that seems plausible but that is actually false. Korihor was deceived by the devil and confessed, ‘I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth.'” Beware of flattery!
My dear friend, Kay, sent me Sheri Dew’s keynote address from the 2021 BYU Women’s Conference and she said, “Social media inflames divisions by dishing up snippets of facts that rarely represent the whole truth and providing a forum for one of Satan’s most insidious tactics: flattery. How diabolical is flattery? Look at any anti-Christ in The Book of Mormon or anyone seeking followers for themselves. They are always masters of flattery… Flattery is telling people what they want to hear and it designed for just one purpose, to get followers for yourself. It is the impetus for fake news and one of the reasons too many influencers celebrate rather than denounce wickedness.”
Who are you following on social media? Who is “influencing” you? I would encourage you to take a look at who shows up in your feed and the feelings/impressions you get when reading their posts. Is it positive? Do they encourage and inspire faith? Are they telling the WHOLE truth?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “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!” In the talk this quote comes from (Lord, I Believe another excellent read), he shares the example of the father with an afflicted child who says, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” This sweet father expresses faith FIRST and then realizes that maybe his faith insufficient and pleads for help. That is exactly what our Heavenly Father, Prophet, and Elder Holland are encouraging us to do. Choose faith first, and then ask for help (President Nelson’s fifth suggestion to increasing our faith) when we need it. This is why we have The Atonement, prayer, scriptures, general conference, the spirit, etc. because Heavenly Father knew we couldn’t do this without Him, our Savior, and The Holy Ghost.
I feel that maybe we think we are doubting when we are actually not. This is why it has been encouraged from the beginning to always look at what you do know first. Elder Holland says, “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 have and the truth you already know.” And if we really are doubting, then do we have a desire to believe? Do we desire to overcome our doubts? Elder Holland says, “The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of ‘real intent,’ pursued ‘with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.’ I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief.”
Of course, not all of our questions are going to be answered. I know this firsthand. But that is where faith comes in. And trusting that we don’t need all the answers is important as well. Besides this, God doesn’t give us everything at once, but on His time table when He sees fit so that we can learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” I believe He is trying to teach us not to jump to conclusions, but be patient and have faith!
Center your life on Christ and His Gospel! He is what matters and He will never lead us astray. Please dig for your faith, it is needed, YOU are needed, and it will be worth the effort.
President Nelson said, “Why do we need such resilient faith? Because difficult days are ahead. Rarely will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. Each of us will be tested. The Apostle Paul warned that in the latter days, those who diligently follow the Lord ‘shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). That very persecution can either crush you into silent weakness or motivate you to be more exemplary and courageous in your daily lives.” I am choosing to be more courageous in sharing my faith.