An Open Letter from One Who Doubts
I used to wonder how a person could ever struggle with their testimony.
The church seemed so clear and obvious to me.
How could anyone not believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet? How could anyone not believe that the Book of Mormon was real? Why would anyone question the actions or decisions of the church?
I would look at those who doubted, and would speculate what sins they must be committing to cloud their vision to the Spirit.
I would see those who stopped coming to church and figured they must have stopped praying and reading their scriptures, too.
I would look at how strong my testimony was and thank God that I wasn’t like them.
The idea of a person questioning their faith was so foreign and unfathomable in my mind.
Until that person was me…
That’s when everything changed.
It didn’t happen all at once. In fact it was pretty gradual. I’d see or hear something every now and then that made me pause.
I’d hear the worries and pains of family members who couldn’t get passed certain Church History facts. I watched my dear LGBTQ+ friends struggle deeply and anguish over what their place was in God’s plan. I’d see the way the church would handle current social and political issues that seemed questionable.
I’d listen as church members would gossip and talk badly about those who are “of the world.” I recognized the crushing shame that many people feel in the church over their mistakes and weaknesses, and how much we are making it worse by the way we choose to talk (or not talk) about things.
That’s when it started to happen. Thoughts started creeping into my mind.
“What if I’ve been wrong this whole time?”
“What if all of this is a lie?”
“Did Joseph Smith really do THAT?”
“This isn’t really how Christ would want things handled, is it?”
These are scary questions if you’ve never had them before.
I found myself getting really uncomfortable at church. Almost like I was a fraud for being there — afraid that people would know what was really going on inside my head.
I’d be in lessons or listen to sacrament talks that felt more like we were the people on the Rameumptom praying to God and thanking him that we were more superior than everyone else.
Someone would talk about their family member that “fell away” and everything they must have been doing wrong.
I’d hear people make comments like, “How could you not know the church is true?”
I would sink deeper into my chair, hoping that the words “Doubting Thomas” weren’t written on my forehead.
I used to say things like that, too.
It’s been a long road to get to where I am today.
I’ve come to realize that while Christ and His teachings are perfect, the church is not. Just like we, as imperfect people, have flaws and make mistakes, so it is with the church and its leaders.
I’ve learned that faith is fluid — constantly evolving based on life’s experiences and lessons.
I still don’t have all the answers. I continue to wrestle and to question certain things, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time that I do.
I have faith in the core of the gospel and Christ’s teachings. I want to believe they are true.
There is an amazing and beautiful doctrine found in the church. The fundamental teachings inspire me to be better and give me hope.
Despite all the things that are uncertain and scary and unknown, I want to choose to believe — even when it’s hard.
So, here I am.
I don’t keep coming to church because I have no doubts or questions or worries, I choose to come in spite of them.
That doesn’t mean that everyone will come to the same conclusion as me. Everyone’s journey of faith is unique and individual.
My point in sharing this, is that during all these times of struggle and doubt, I still come to church. On the surface, no one could ever guess the internal struggle I have going on underneath. No one could know the things that I wrestle with.
No one could know how hard it is for me to be there sometimes.
It’s easy to assume when you’re confident with your testimony, that everyone else around you is in the same place.
That’s simply not the case.
You can never be 100% sure where people are at.
I am certain that most people who comment in church are not trying to be malicious or intending to hurt someone by what they say. We’re all just trying our best and none of us are perfect!
However, when making comments in church, it’s important to think about the purpose behind what is being shared.
Does the comment inspire me to be better, or does it pass a judgement on my neighbor? Am I making unfair assumptions about others, or am I practicing Christlike love and forgiveness?
For example, I recently heard a comment like this:
“When people struggle to have faith in the prophets it’s because they are unwilling to change their bad habits. They don’t want to admit that what they are doing is wrong, so it’s easier to just say that what the prophet is saying isn’t true.”
There are a lot of assumptions in this comment. There are so many different reasons why someone questions or doubts. To be honest, a lot of the time their concerns are pretty valid.
Assuming that if anyone is struggling it must be because they are lacking faith, or sinning, or unwilling to change and repent is unfair and critical.
The other issue with this comment is that it doesn’t talk about what we can do to improve. It can make us feel good about ourselves because at least we’re not as bad as that guy, right? But talking about what other people are doing differently than you isn’t what the gospel is all about.
But, it’s not my problem if someone chooses to be offended by what I say, right?
True… it is someone’s choice to be offended — but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be offensive.
How do we assure that we are creating an environment in which all people in all different stages of faith feel welcome? How do we do this without compromising our values and continuing to stand up for what we believe in?
Shift the focus from talking about all the things that other people are doing wrong, and focus more and what we could be doing better.
“Religion at its best gives you an excuse to look inward to find the things you could change and improve upon. Religion at its worse gives you an excuse to judge and condemn your neighbor.” — Pete Rollins
The truth is, faith is a journey. Bumping up into uncertainties and questions is a part of building your faith! Everyone is going to be at a different place in this journey, and that’s okay.
If you’re continuing to strive to live the gospel and wonder why you’re starting to bump into questions and doubts, your faith is simply growing and developing. In fact, you’re actually moving forward with your faith (see Fowler’s stages of faith)
Because of my experiences, I will never be the same. I will never be able to look at faith in the same way.
Instead of wondering how anyone could possibly struggle with their testimony, I now feel a lot of empathy and compassion towards those that do.
One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Bruce C. Hafen’s talk, On Dealing with Uncertainty:
“If we are not willing to grapple with the frustration that comes from facing bravely the uncertainties we encounter, we may never develop the kind of spiritual maturity that is necessary for our ultimate preparations.”
It’s okay to grapple. It’s okay to wrestle. In fact, it can make your testimony even stronger!
I believe in a church where people can come together and strengthen each other — doubts and all.
I believe in a church that tells those who question to come as you are. Not come when you’re perfect or when you have everything all together. Just bring what you’ve got, I’ll bring what I’ve got, and we’ll learn and grow together.
One of Christ’s most frequently used words was simply that… “Come.”
Come all, come now, come exactly as you are.
Are the conversations and lessons we are having at church extending that same invitation?