Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Fellowship of Doubters

Terryl L. Givens' "Letter to a Doubter" at the Mormon Interpreter is definitely worth a read, especially if you are struggling with the very normal and frequently healthy process of questioning your faith. You are not alone. In fact, if you are completely free of troubling questions and areas of doubt, perhaps you need to do a little more scripture study, a little more prayer, a little more pondering and thinking, and a lot more listening to the Spirit, because chances are a lot of what you think you know so well is actually based on weak assumptions, misunderstanding, seriously incomplete knowledge and various sources of human error, all of which could use a little updating and refreshing.

It's OK to be puzzled, to have misgivings, to have questions unanswered. and to have areas where we yearn for further light and knowledge. If that describes you, then chances are you are a pretty interesting person. And if, in spite of doubts and questions, you are able to keep your bearings and maintain your LDS membership and hopefully your basic faith as a Latter-day Saint, then chances are you are also a pretty interesting Mormon.

Nephi's poetical yearnings in the Book of Mormon reflects a soul that had encountered the divine and yet struggled with doubts and contradictions in his own soul. The weaknesses and failings of many of the prophets remind us of the realities of mortality where we struggle with darkness and only a handful of incomplete answers in a cosmos of questions, all demanding faith, patience, and steady struggling to learn more. With that in mind, read "Letter to a Doubter" and apply his perspectives to your own situation. I hope it helps.

I like the fact that Givens recognizes that there are real issues we may struggle with, issues that should not be trivialized. But they can be managed or even conquered, with the Lord's help and a lot of patience. Got doubts? That's OK. You may be part of what Givens calls the "fellowship of the desolate" that includes great prophets of the past and others in our day, including Mother Theresa, who struggled with doubt and the the coldness of the world.

I hope you'll be able to press forward in spite of doubts. In any case, stay interested, and, please, stay interesting.


Glenn Thigpen said...

"In fact, if you are completely free of troubling questions and areas of doubt, perhaps you need to do a little more scripture study, a little more prayer, a little more pondering and thinking, and a lot more listening to the Spirit, because chances are a lot of what you think you know so well is actually based on weak assumptions, misunderstanding, seriously incomplete knowledge and various sources of human error, all of which could use a little updating and refreshing."

The only doubts I have are self-doubts. I have no doubts that Jesus was a real person, and that he is the Only Begotten of our heavenly Father, that He led a perfect life, suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemanee, died on a cross on Calvary, was entombed for three days, and rose on that third day. I have no doubts that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is just that, the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
I have no doubts that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and was God's instrument in bringing forth the Book of Mormon and in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. I have no doubts that the Lord has led the Restored Church through a succession of Apostles and prophets, and that President Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet at the head of the church today. Now which of those "assumptions" do I need to think and pray about more. The only response God gives me now is, "Asked, and answered."

I really do not make any assumptions beyond my core beliefs. I don't know how old the earth is, whether Adam was literally made from the dust of this eart, how God created the life that we see all around us. All of the ideas I have on those subjects are subject to change as I gain more light and knowledge.

That really is a long winded way to say that I agree with you that even those without any serious doubts need to continue searching the scripture, pondering that which we read, and praying fervently for more light, knowledge, and faith, especially faith. Elsewise, we may just begin to forget the things that we have already learned.


Joseph Smidt said...

This is a great article. It's a must read by nearly anyone, faith crisis or not.

I especially like hoe he discusses that many problems are because we don't have all the facts before us. Facts that often make all the difference. (Like perhaps the Nephites were not alone. That can change everything)

Great stuff.

Shula said...
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Scott Hinrichs said...

I have many doubts. The more I learn the more doubts I have. But there are things I absolutely do know and which I cannot deny. As Pres. James E. Faust once said regarding doubts about the gospel, "... when you pick up a stick you pick up both ends." The things I do not know do not outweigh the things that I do know.

I especially appreciated Givens' treatment of faith based on misunderstandings and false doctrines, as well as his treatment of the humanity of prophets. There is much wisdom in his words.

Anonymous said...

Shula - please pray about my response.

Grant Palmer is blowing smoke. He talks about a current member of the First Quorum of Seventy (FQS) who was familiar with how things worked when there was only one quorum of seventy. Number of current members of the FQS who were members when there was only one quorum: 0

Based on Palmer's memorandum, certainly this mysterious GA would have been a GA before the area seventy quorums were called in April 1995, right? FQS members called before April 1995:

Carlos Amado (based in Central America)
Claudio Costa (based in Brazil)
John Dickson (based in West Africa)

So which of these three GAs, based in far flung corners of the world, is meeting with Palmer on a monthly basis? And that's before we even get to how on earth this GA would be able to discern it takes 2-3 years for a new apostle to discover the church is not true, but it took DFU a bit longer. It would be hilarious if he wasn't serious.

What a load of BS. A bit like 'An Insider's View' really.

Bushland said...

Thank you SO much!! I needed to read this today. There are many ways in which the heart of the gospel and it's teachings are inconsistent with the administration of the gospel. I cannot deny the truthfulness of the gospel yet I still feel doubt and frustration oftentimes with knowing what is doctrine vs what is culture or tradition. It's ok to explore these questions.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 5;52 AM, April 4, 2013:

I have my doubts about the authenticity of that web article that purports to be by G. Palmer. Either he is lying, or someone fraudulently posted that article under his name. There are several things wrong with it, such that one can be confident that it was made up.

That is one insidious web site too. A mixture of half-lies and complete falsehoods, with enough actual facts sprinkled in to dupe the unwary. Someone who is not familiar with the duplicitous tactics of anti-Mormons and only vaguely familiar with church history can easily be duped into thinking that the smattering of unflattering historical facts gives credence to the lies.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Shula, my policy here is not to promote anti-Mormon sites with links. Random off topic links are especially not desired here, regardless of how interesting someone thinks it is. But since it has already been discussed by others before I got to it, I'll note that the link was to a recent publication by Grant Palmer, author of a highly questionable anti-Mormon book who is now making the really absurd, even delusional claim that a current General Authority, a member of the First Quorum of 70, has come to him saying that Palmer's book has exposed Mormonism and removed his faith. So anxious is this fallen General Authority to learn from Palmer that he now meets monthly with Grant Palmer, whose skills will be needed to educate all of Mormondom once the dam of lies breaks and the top leaders of the Church finally admit publicly what they know privately: that the Church is not true. This General Authority states, according to Palmer, that all the Apostles find out that the Church isn't true and that he learned of their lack of faith with his intimate associations with them back in the days when there was only one First Quorum of the 70. That may have been one of the more serious gaps in Palmer's story.

I think this crazy story tells us a great deal about Palmer and virtually nothing about the Church.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Glenn, thanks for your thoughtful and faithful statement. To avoid misunderstanding among my readers, let me clarify that I have a similarly firm faith regarding the core principles of the Gospel. I have no doubt regarding the reality and love of God. My faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior is firm. I have strong faith in the reality of Restoration and the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. My statement about the weak assumptions and misunderstandings that may distort what we think we know was in reference to the more granular issues such as who and where the Nephites and Lamanites were, how the Creation tool place, who Adam was and when he was, the controversies of evolving policies and practices, what intelligence is and why there seems to be so little of it on the Internet, what the next life will be like, etc.

Anonymous said...

I read the whole article "Letter To A Doubter". It would be wonderful if every LDS member in the world could read it. There is a lot to be said and discussed concerning those who doubt.

I agree with Bushland and feel the same. I have doubts and frustrations about some things. I also have an intellectual and spiritual testimony of the DOCTRINE, and that God and His Son live.
People do not realize that "we don't know what we don't know". We don't have all the information or answers to everything about everything. And we never will in this mortal life.

Kerstin said...

Thanks Jeff. Often we feel we are discouraged from having, much less asking, questions. Sometimes we are made to feel "less righteous" because we have doubts. Thank you for not only your comments, but for recommending Terryl L. Givens' article as well. It makes me feel less alone in my doubts and questions.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that there are many in the church, and especially those who happen to get in leadership positions, who do more harm than good, especially when it comes to helping people with doubts or issues. We have been inactive for a few years because we just could not deal with the people anymore. ( I literally got physically ill going to church.) We are treated very poorly by members. We do not have problems with doctrine, but the ward members assume we do. So I can only imagine what happens to someone who actually dares to ask questions because they are struggling with some issues. Heaven help them. The church never has fostered a safe environment, and never will, for people who struggle, regardless of what they struggle with. And Heaven forbid someone question another with so called "authority" regardless of the abuse. The culture mind set of members and rock star attitude of the SLC leaders of never questioning anything or anyone needs to be squashed. Joseph Smith would not know the church as it is today.

MuralMama said...
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MuralMama said...

I have recently gotten very interested in LDS Apologetics. Michael Ash and Terryl Givens are the main authors I have been reading and I am fascinated by both the physical evidences in favor of our faith, and the philosophical arguments in favor of our faith. I think adding a fair amount of such apologetics into the Seminary and Institute programs could do the church a LOAD of good in the long run.

We need strong defenders, and we need solid facts and intelligent arguments to bolster our arguments with non-members or those struggling with their faith.

Many of the old beliefs, such as the Nephites were the progenitors of the American Indians, need to be put to rest; and other issues need to be confronted, like the fallibility of our leaders & prophets. Some how, people still don't get the fact that Jesus was the only perfect man to walk the earth. Our leaders are just a human as we are. That really needs to be taught.