Is it wrong to have questions or to be unsure about parts of the Church?
, a member of the Morgan Hill (California) Second Ward, joined the Church in 1971 after years of religious searching.
Faith is a very personal thing; we are each free to choose whether and to what degree we will place our trust in the Lord. Furthermore, people arrive at faith at different times in their lives and in different ways. The Lord blesses us with a testimony when, with an honest heart, we make a personal commitment to seek the truth and then follow the steps to gain and keep a testimony.
During our search for a testimony, and even as we try to strengthen our faith, it is likely that at one time or another we may experience a degree of uncertainty or questioning. There is nothing wrong with having questions, so long as we remain honest in heart as we continue to seek understanding. Our basic challenge is to keep our questions or doubts honest.
What is the difference between honest and dishonest questioning? Honest questioning seeks true answers. It motivates the questioner to obtain a more complete understanding of the truth. The person with honest questions is sincerely seeking and promoting knowledge. Dishonest questioning, however, seeks to perpetuate itself. Motivated by fault finding and hardness of heart, the dishonest person battles against understanding rather than for it. He soon moves from a state of uncertainty to a state of doubt, distrust, and perhaps even antagonism toward the idea or object of his uncertainty.
What is the difference? Faith. At first glance it may seem strange to think that questions, or uncertainties, show an indication of faith, since they are often thought of as opposites. We must consider, however, the nature of faith: With an attitude of faith, the honest questioner can see that there is something above and beyond his present level of understanding. He learns humility as he realizes that his own knowledge is not complete. And he develops greater faith, both in himself and in God—faith that understanding, knowledge, and testimony can and will come in time after diligent effort, questioning, and seeking.
Young Joseph Smith went to the grove with an honest heart when he was searching for answers to the questions that had unsettled his mind. He was motivated to do so after reading the words of James 1:5–6: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
We see, then, that faith is a key in honest questioning; it is necessary if the honest questioner is to have enough motivation to carry him to his goal of knowledge and testimony.
Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet, spoke of the additional struggle those who question dishonestly would have, and, in contrast, of the blessings available for the honest in heart: “He that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
“And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.” (Alma 12:10–11.)
Because uncertainty is often the result of a lack of knowledge, it is important to know how to go about getting knowledge. Alma teaches us an excellent way to learn truth. After defining faith as “not a perfect knowledge” (Alma 32:26), he compares truth to a seed which is planted within the heart, is nourished by the Spirit of the Lord, swells, sprouts, enlarges the soul, and begins to enlighten the understanding. Recognized as a good seed, it is not cast out because of unbelief, but is allowed—and encouraged—to grow and produce fruit.
“And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:34.)
The honest seeker of truth will then go to the next question—or area of imperfect knowledge—and begin the planting and nourishing process again.
What will be the result? “If ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which 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; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” (Alma 32:41–42.)
Moroni gave another description of the kind of honesty necessary to overcome uncertainty: In our search, we must “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ.” And if we “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth … by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things.” (Moro. 10:4–5.)
If we have questions from time to time about a part of the gospel, we need not fear for the health of our testimonies! We just need to admit that we don’t know everything yet; and then, with an honest heart, seek to understand whatever is unclear. We should take our questions to trusted leaders, study seriously, and pray with “a sincere [honest] heart,” with “real intent,” and “faith in Christ.” In this way, we “may know the truth of all things.”
I am thinking of donating some organs for transplantation. Am I wrong in wanting to do so?
, Dean, regional representative and physician.
Organ transplantation is one of the true medical wonders of our age. Medical science has progressed to the point that the replacement of an injured or diseased body part, such as a kidney, cornea of the eye, heart, liver, bone, bone marrow, skin, or pancreas is becoming fairly common. Most donors plan before they die to give certain organs or tissues. However, some organs—such as kidneys—can be donated to someone in need while the donor is still living.
As is the case with many other scientific developments, there are many questions about organ transplantation that have serious economic, ethical, moral, and religious implications. And, as with many other important aspects of life, we have been counseled to study the information, make decisions, and pray for wisdom about our choices. (See D&C 9:7–9; D&C 58:26–28.)
The Church has taken no official position on organ transplants. It seems obvious, however, that organ transplantation does not affect one’s resurrection, since the organ would soon have returned to the basic elements of the earth following death anyway. Whatever happens to an organ following death, we are promised that “every limb and joint shall be restored to its body, yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost.” (Alma 40:23.)
In the meantime, wonderful blessings have come to thousands of people and to their families through organ donation and replacement. Several doctors who work with transplantation have shared with me inspirational stories and letters from those who have received this special service. Families grieving from the death of a loved one have been greatly comforted by the knowledge that other lives have been saved or measurably improved after receiving a vital organ transplant. Other families have been spared serious illness or death because a living family member was able to donate an organ to a loved one.
As I work with the givers and receivers and see the selfless love that is evident in this gift of life and health, I am often reminded of what Peter and John did when they met the lame beggar as they went into the temple. The lame man asked only for alms but instead was healed. To the one in need, Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.” (Acts 3:6.)
Those who are considering donating a kidney to a loved one should be aware that only those who meet strict requirements will be considered as donors. Because of careful screening, and because of advances in transplantation techniques, donors do not face the risk they did just a few years ago. A healthy person can give a kidney, for example, and continue to live a normal life, sustained by the remaining kidney.
While the matter of vital organ transplantation remains a highly personal one, it deserves prayerful consideration.