Have Doubts? Atonement and Faith Can Help, Sister Stephens Tells BYU-I Students

Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer

  • 2 March 2015

Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, during the weekly BYU–Idaho devotional on February 24.  Photo by Ryan Chase.

Article Highlights

  • Oftentimes, doubt can be caused by someone asking a simple question, such as, “Are you sure?” By learning to trust your faith, you can avoid doubts that will try to dissuade you from following promptings.

“There are times in all of our lives when distraction and fear collide with faith. This is exactly where the adversary would like us to stay—so disabled by fear that we are unable to act or refuse to act. But faith is a principle of action.” —Sister Carole M. Stephens of the general Relief Society presidency

REXBURG, IDAHO

Despite living in what the Apostle Paul called “perilous times,” people can come to a knowledge of the truth, said Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the general Relief Society presidency during the weekly BYU–Idaho devotional on February 24 in the BYU–Idaho Center.

“We receive personal revelation and knowledge of truth by the power of the Holy Ghost,” Sister Stephens noted. “The Lord said: ‘I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation … therefore, this is thy gift; apply unto it.’”

Telling a story about her family’s recent vacation to several places in the eastern United States, Sister Stephens said everyone on the trip was invited to share a memorable experience. Her granddaughter Maggie said her favorite place was the Sacred Grove. When asked why it was her favorite place, Maggie struggled for a moment but replied, “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just something I felt there.”

Sister Carole M. Stephens meets with Brigham Young University–Idaho students. Photo by Ryan Chase.

Sister Carole M. Stephens greets Brigham Young University–Idaho students. Photo by Ryan Chase.

Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, shows a clip from the movie The Polar Express during the weekly BYU–Idaho devotional on February 24. Photo by Ryan Chase.

Sister Stephens then said, “We must also learn to trust the still, small voice of the Spirit. Through the priesthood and by the laying on of hands, we have received the privilege of enjoying the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, as we remain worthy.”

The process of learning to recognize how the Spirit speaks in simple daily experiences is crucial, she said. “The accuser, even Satan, will attempt to weaken your faith. He will try to fill your mind with feelings of inadequacy and doubt, wanting to keep you from trusting and heeding the promptings from the Holy Ghost that enter your mind.”

Watching the movie The Polar Express recently with her grandson, Sister Stephens was reminded of the importance of trusting the still, small voice of the Spirit. One of the movie’s characters, a young girl, always seemed to know the right thing to do, but questions from others often led her to feel doubt.

Sharing a video clip from the movie with the audience, Sister Stephens said the young girl in the movie felt like she should take a cup of hot chocolate to a boy sitting all by himself. As she attempted to do what she thought was right, other kids expressed their opinions that leaving their seats was not allowed or against safety regulations. The young girl said, “I think I’ll be OK.” Then the question came, “Are you sure?”

“Are you sure?” said Sister Stephens. “At times, even a small, simple question can cause us to doubt ourselves and weaken our resolve.” Sometimes the doubts come from the adversary, and sometimes they come from within as people challenge in their minds what they know to be true in their hearts.

Sister Stephens showed another video clip from The Polar Express in which the young girl is found sitting in the engineer’s chair. She is joined by the boy who questioned her about the hot chocolate. She shows him confidently what all of the levers and gadgets do in the engineer’s compartment. A little later, both characters in the movie hear the engineer yelling from outside the compartment to stop the train immediately, but the boy is not sure which lever is the brake.

The young girl tells the boy which lever is the brake, but again she hears the words, “Are you sure?” She covers her eyes in fear. “The girl knew what she needed to do,” said Sister Stephens. “She had been taught. But when she was under pressure in a stressful, noisy, urgent situation, someone else’s doubt led her to doubt herself. She was so overcome with fear of making the wrong decision that she refused to act!”

Sometimes, like in the movie, a situation filled with noise, responsibilities, and doubt from others can lead people to question the things they know are true. Sister Stephens said, “There are times in all of our lives when distraction and fear collide with faith. This is exactly where the adversary would like us to stay—so disabled by fear that we are unable to act or refuse to act. But faith is a principle of action.”

From time to time, every person gets surrounded by noise and overwhelmed with responsibility and begins to sink. Sometimes that sinking might be under the weight of sin, said Sister Stephens. “We can and must learn to trust in the Savior’s strengthening, enabling, sanctifying, healing, and comforting power through His Atonement.”

Establishing habits of prayer, scripture study, and temple attendance will allow the Spirit to be a constant companion and invite the positive, faith-filled power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ into daily life and keep us safely on the path back home, said Sister Stephens. “We are blessed to know that we are beloved sons and daughters of heavenly parents, we have a divine nature and destiny, and we know we were taught before we came into this life.”

In the final excerpt from the movie The Polar Express that Sister Stephens shared, the young girl and her friends follow the sound of a bell over an icy ravine and dangerous train track. At one point while leading her friends to the sound of the bell, the familiar question is asked, “Are you sure?” This time the young girl answers, “Absolutely!”

By learning how to recognize and trust in the whisperings of the Spirit and the words of the living prophets, God will lead people back home.

“You know the truth,” said Sister Stephens. “You have felt the influence of the Spirit in your mind and in your heart. When doubting voices ask that question—‘Are you sure?’—remember President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s counsel, ‘Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.’ And confidently answer, ‘Yes! Absolutely! I am sure!’”