What should we do if we have questions about what we once knew to be true? This powerful Ensignarticle by Jakob R. Jones shares eight insights into how we can work through our doubts while reminding us that God doesn't love us any less when we have questions.
Read all eight tips in the March 2019 Ensign.
Many of us have had powerful moments when the Holy Ghost has borne witness to our hearts that the gospel is true, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Lord guides His Church through living prophets today. Those impressions from the Spirit are hard to ignore or forget.
Yet there are moments when the testimony we have gained through these experiences may be tested. When these tests arise, we can remember that it’s normal and okay to have sincere questions. The Lord loves us. As we learn to look to Him for answers to those questions, He can help us resolve our concerns and develop greater faith and testimony.
Amy (name has been changed) had been a faithful member of the Church her entire life and felt she had a strong testimony of the gospel. One day, she encountered statements that surprised her about early Church history and leaders. She struggled to reconcile this new information with the spiritual witnesses of truth she’d experienced in the past and began to have questions about her testimony. She felt guilty for having these questions, so she kept her concerns to herself. The sources she turned to for answers only increased her concerns.
Before long, Amy’s unaddressed questions grew into doubts that began to affect other parts of her life. She questioned the reality of God and Jesus Christ. Without the hope of Christ’s Atonement, she began to lose confidence in herself. She even began to wonder if she really wanted the life she had chosen as a wife and mother. What began as concern over unanswered questions became a daily struggle with guilt, confusion, anxiety, and fear.
You or someone you love may be struggling like Amy. What should we do if we encounter something that causes us to have questions about what we once knew to be true? How can we obtain a lasting testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored Church? How can we avoid allowing our questions to become doubts that threaten our faith? Here are eight principles I hope can help those who are struggling with sincere questions or doubt.
President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “The truth that matters most is verified only by revelation from God. Our human reason and the use of our physical senses will not be enough. We live in a time when even the wisest will be hard-pressed to distinguish truth from clever deception.”1
What Amy’s heart really longed for was the peace and personal witness of truth that can come only from God.
The Savior also gave this guidance to His disciples, knowing He would soon no longer be physically present to answer their questions:
“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things” (John 14:25–26).
A testimony of divine truth does not come from an internet search or from our own reasoning. Receiving revelation requires great effort. But that effort does not consist of just using our intellect; as we study and search for answers, we need to seek the witness of the Holy Ghost to discover truth.
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When Oliver Cowdery desired a witness of the Book of Mormon, the Lord counseled him to remember the experiences he’d already had:
“If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:22–23).
I remember sitting in a Primary room as a young boy when the Spirit bore witness to me that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. I remember reading the Book of Mormon as a young man and receiving the overwhelming witness that the people I read about were real and their stories true. I remember countless moments as a missionary teaching in people’s homes as the Holy Ghost witnessed the truth of the restored gospel. I’ve felt Jesus Christ changing me and allowing me to repent of my sins.
As Amy began to look to the Lord for answers to her questions, she too was able to recall many experiences where she’d felt the witness of the Holy Ghost. Our past experiences can serve as anchors for our faith. It’s okay to hold to them when our testimonies are tested.