Middle-aged Mormon Man: I am a Mormon, and I have questions
So that is my grand confession: I have questions. So what? I imagine you do, too. Are you afraid to say it? It is a little scary. Perhaps it would be better if it came from someone with more authority. Perhaps Elder John Carmack, former member of the Seventy, when he said:
"I have a whole box of unanswered questions, none of them threatening to my own testimony. New questions enter that box regularly. Others come out of that box, yielding to both study and experience." (Link here)
I was so glad to hear Elder Carmack has a box. It reenforces that it is OK to have questions. Actually, I do not see how it would be possible to make a lifelong study of the gospel, and be a faithful member of the church and NOT have any questions. But that's just me.
Do you have a box? I do. Well, it isn't actually a box of questions; mine is more of a list of questions. I call it "My List of Things to Ask God in the Next Life if I Ever Get the Chance." Some of the things on my list are deep and important, others more trivial, like, "Whatever happened to the guy that stole our minivan in California back in '94?"
One of the key points in Elder Carmack's quote is that the questions he has do not threaten his testimony. That is how I feel about my list of questions — my questions don't torment me — and not having the answers doesn't rattle me either. I just openly admit that I don't understand all of it and keep moving forward.
But ... I understand enough. Enough to build my life around what I do know. The search continues to learn more. Elder Jeffrey Holland talked about this idea last conference when he said, "Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes." (link)
That knowledge does come — through experience and revelation. The list (or box) of questions changes. Sure, there are some questions that have been gathering dust for a long time and might never be resolved in mortality, but I am OK with that. Neither will I focus on those questions so much that they become self-installed stumbling blocks. Obsessing about questions that do not have immediate answers is a toxic endeavor. It can canker a soul and diminish faith.
I am content to let my questions languish on the list. Eventually, they will all be answered. I don't feel compelled to share them with others or dwell on them.
That is where I part ways with a lot of my brothers and sisters in the church. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. To try and explain, I isolated six principles that keep me from sharing what I don't like/understand/comprehend.
1) I don't want to be responsible for spreading doubt. As I said earlier, we are all at different places in the development of our testimonies, and I don't want one of my minor questions to become someone else's major stumbling block. We are here to lift and strengthen each other, not to drag each other down. There is enough intentional toxicity out there already.
2) I have a testimony that Christ directs his church through living prophets. I love these 15 men, and have a testimony that they posses the keys to administer the priesthood, and are authorized to run the church. I truly believe that the Lord meant what he said in D&C 1:33: "Whether by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same." That is part of my core testimony.
3) I am not that smart. Especially in an eternal perspective. The prophet Jacob said, "Wherefore brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand" (Jacob 4:10). I have never considered myself smarter than God or the men who speak for him.
Even though sometimes I might not like every policy that comes out of Salt Lake, or my bishop's office, I have never presumed myself to be so wise that I would need to give the Brethren some advice — to "counsel the Lord." I know these men are called of God and have long lifetimes of experience. Who am I to question them or make suggestions on how they could do it better? Or to question what the Lord has revealed to them?
Isaiah 55:9: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
I got it.
Being a member of the church is not like having a job at Dunder-Mifflin, where you can stuff your complaints and ideas into the suggestion box mounted on the break room wall. This is God's kingdom on the earth, and the Lord runs it the way he chooses through His prophets.
4) I have faith in God, and in His servants. I have been trying to follow their counsel my entire life, and they have not led me astray. In fact, my faith in them, and the Lord, is bolstered in knowing that the times I have disregarded their counsel, I have suffered for it. Every 6 months, as I listen to their counsel in general conference, I am uplifted and guided, and my faith is bolstered. (5 days!!! Wahoo!)
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