How Questioning Strengthened My Faith Instead of My Doubts
I’ve been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all my life. I received a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel before I can remember. As I grew and learned more, I recognized more light and truth. I never doubted, until …
Stories began surfacing about the embellishments of events in Church history: things I didn’t know about the faults and foibles of Joseph Smith, historical facts that had been distorted, written accounts that differed from each other and the public narrative. The more I read, the more I questioned.
I wasn’t sure prayer would be helpful. I was afraid I’d receive the same sort of answers I always did because I’d been raised in the Church. I wanted to figure it out on my own. But the more I questioned, on an intellectual level, the worse I felt. Doubts led to internal contention and consternation, without resolution.
Then, an LDS friend asked me to lunch one day. I trusted her and was able to speak openly. She responded in love and empathy. After we’d discussed my concerns, she asked, “What do you know?”
“What do I know about what?”
“Tell me what you know. Not what you question, but what you know to be true.”
That’s when the Spirit struck with great force and tenderness. A powerful yet quiet assurance. What I truly knew did not come from intellectual knowledge. Absolute truth and light cannot be found simply by reading accounts by man. Rather, they come through studying and meditating upon the word of God.
I answered my friend. “I know Jesus Christ is my Savior and He atoned for my sins. I know I have Heavenly Parents who love me. I know Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates and that we have a living prophet today.” My response came from deep within, dating back before I came to earth and existing far beyond this life.
Alma, the Book of Mormon prophet, reminds us that true knowledge can only be gained by planting the seed of faith, then nourishing it as it sprouts and grows into a tree that eventually yields perfect knowledge—a tree with fruit that is “most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure” (Alma 32:42).
I’d been planting the seed of doubt, nourishing it as it grew into what was becoming a misshapen, gnarled tree of earthly facts and confusion. Its fruit was not good—rather, quite bitter to the taste, causing me great distress of heart, might, mind, and soul.
I’d love to say I never doubted again. Then came November of 2015 and the news of the Church’s policy changes regarding same-sex couples and their children. New questions arose for me, and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I let everything stew for a time, until I finally decided to shelve it all.
Thankfully, not long afterward, Sheri Dew came out with a book entitled Worth the Wrestle, in which she discusses the very issue I’d struggled with. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even Sheri Dew had questions.
She describes feelings similar to mine: “When the policy was announced that the children of gay parents might not be eligible for baptism at the traditional age of eight, I was confused. I did not question the Brethren or doubt their inspiration, but neither did I understand the doctrinal basis for the policy. And my heart went out to friends with children or grandchildren in this situation.”
She continues: “So I asked the Lord to teach me. I prayed, searched the scriptures, studied the teachings of prophets, and pondered this question in the temple. This went on for months. Then one day a colleague made a statement as part of a presentation that sparked a new thought for me, and in that moment the Spirit illuminated at least part of the doctrine in my heart and mind. I consider that answer personal revelation and not something I should repeat” (Worth the Wrestle , 22–23).
At first I was disappointed she didn’t provide the answer. Then I realized Sheri Dew’s answer would not be the same as mine. We all understand in different ways, and the Lord responds accordingly. “For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).
I was helped immensely by realizing that wrestling with questions is good. It doesn’t necessarily lead away from gospel truths; rather, it can help us gain greater insight and understanding. The process can be strengthening rather than weakening. Sister Dew puts it succinctly: “When we have unresolved questions, our challenge does not lie in what we think we know. It lies in what we don’t YET know” (Worth the Wrestle, 23).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell also provides valuable insight into questioning: “We should not assume … that just because something is unexplainable by us it is unexplainable” (Not My Will, but Thine , 124).
The desire to ask questions and seek further knowledge is a divine attribute. It’s what led a young boy into a grove of trees to ask about which church was right. And as we search for answers, it’s important to remember the eternal truths we have already gained testimony of.
I’m sure more questions will arise for me. I am becoming equally certain that if I wrestle long enough, I’ll find the answers. If not in this life, then the next.
Laurie Campbell has quite the collection of life experiences, challenges, and mistakes. She has lived a life outside the gospel and within, having now determined, with absolute certainty, she likes it better within.