I shared some thoughts yesterday on the Joseph Smith story and the personal impact it recently had on me as I read it to prepare for a lesson with the young women of my ward. It left me thinking of a few other things that I wanted to share.
I recently heard a presentation by Clayton Christensen about the idea of asking questions. He testified to the reality that God desires that we seek guidance from Him, that we go to Him with our questions.
What questions do you have in your life right now? Do you have questions about Mormonism? About whether God is real at all? Do you have vexing problems in your life that you need divine help to sort through? Are you wondering how to sift through the many opinions around you on an important topic? Do you need insight into how to help a family member or friend in need, or how to better fulfill and balance the many responsibilities in your life?
Not all questions will relate to faith like Joseph Smith’s did, but often they do. Clayton Christensen noted that many have lost faith in religion not because they are faithless people, but rather because they sense that there are false teachings around them.
Some would like to insist that Mormons don’t believe in asking questions, that we are a “blind faith” kind of people. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do believe that God gives answers to prophets on behalf of His children, that He speaks today just as He did anciently. But we also believe in a very personal God who hears and answers the heartfelt questions of His children.
Whenever I think of this topic of asking questions with regard to faith, I like to refer to a talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
“We are a question-asking people because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is the way the Church got its start—from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. …Not only can the Lord answer the questions we ask but, even more importantly, He can give us answers to questions we should have asked. Let us listen to those answers.
The missionary effort of the Church is founded upon honest investigators asking heartfelt questions. Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.
I like how President Uchtdorf reminds us also that God only asks that when we ask questions, we do so “with a sincere heart, with real intent [a willingness to follow what God gives us], having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4). When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us “by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:5).”
He urges us forward through fear and doubt.
Fear not; ask questions. Be curious, but doubt not! Always hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received. Because we see imperfectly in mortality, not everything is going to make sense right now. In fact, I should think that if everything did make sense to us, it would be evidence that it had all been made up by a mortal mind. Remember that God has said:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. …“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also reiterated this powerful counsel in our recent general conference, to hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received.”
In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. 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. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”6The 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….
When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! 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 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.
Struggles and questions may sometimes arise in our lives — sometimes with regard to our faith and sometimes just as we navigate teh trials of mortality.
I have a dear, angel friend who reminds me of what President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland so lovingly invite me to do. I sum it up in one word (a scriptural word, actually): Remember. How often my struggles are made worse because I don’t stop to remember and reflect and trust and act and build upon what God has already told me. I’ve been trying to make it a practice when I find myself in a dark place to look through my journal and/or old blog posts to remember. Because so often, the struggles I face repeat themselves. I doubt my worth; I let others’ opinions leave me doubting God’s love for me; I let fear take over where faith has already reaped glorious and sweet fruit in my life. I scramble and suffer when sometimes all I need to do is remember. So often that simple act of faith opens my heart and mind to be able to hear what the Spirit has to add to what God has already told me.
Are you struggling in a dark time right now? I invite you to try to remember. Hold fast to what you do know by trying to remember what you have felt. Even if it’s only the tiniest, vaguest memory of a time when you felt light and divine guidance and strength, call upon that memory. Write it down or rewrite it. Ponder it in light of what you are struggling with. And listen for the still, small, simple impressions that may come. This process works. (And then you can remind me that I have written that I know this is true if you ever see or hear me struggling, because I get stuck often!)