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Deepen gospel understanding with like-minded learners

Event attendees
Attendees at the “Questions Worth Exploring” event on Friday, August 25.

What are your big gospel questions? The ones you don’t ask out loud during Sunday School. The ones you fast and pray to understand. The ones you ponder while you study the scriptures, noting in the margins as, line upon line, the answers come. I have my list. If you have one too, you’re not alone in your desire to know more.

Behind the scenes, these kinds of big gospel questions are at the heart of planning for Deseret Book’s Questions Worth Exploring sessions. Erin Ellis, content specialist for the series, shared, “The speakers have talked with so many people who have been wrestling with [these types of questions] that they know it’s something that is a need. … We also think through what are the most compelling questions that we see at Deseret Book.”

The third installment of the 2023 Questions Worth Exploring sessions took place on a clear, warm evening in late August. As someone who misses being in school when September rolls around, this event helped fill my learning bucket. Barbara Morgan Gardner, Adam S. Miller, and Reyna Aburto—with Laurel Day, president of Deseret Book, who served as moderator—were the speakers for the evening. Their remarks were full of wisdom, challenged me to deepen my knowledge, and stretched my understanding of the gospel. Gardner addressed how to access power through temple covenants, Aburto spoke about overcoming imposter syndrome by finding purpose in divine identity, and Miller expounded on understanding love as a commandment, not a reward. I left feeling like I had been in the best kind of classroom, one where the teacher is excited to share information and the students are open, ready to learn.

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come Join with Us,” general conference, October 2013

For Elaine, who had been preparing a talk on priesthood power, Gardner’s words helped crystallize her thoughts, her eyes lighting up as she described her experience. “President Nelson is all about our obtaining heavenly power through covenants, so it was a little gratifying because we had been reading all of these quotes [in our personal study] and [Barbara’s] stringing them together in such a neat way.” Elaine came with questions and was not only prepared to learn—she expected to learn.

Jamie attended the event with her young adult daughter, London. Each looked forward to the session for different reasons. “We attended because London loves Reyna Aburto. She loves listening to people of different cultures and backgrounds expound on the gospel. I feel like Adam Miller helps put the gospel in a perspective that it should be. I think the world looks through religion backwards and more emphasis should be placed on a loving God and specifically His character.” I saw Jamie and London talking with Sister Aburto afterward, and she embraced them both before they left. By the end of the night, I felt like I was part of an intimate gathering of gospel friends.

While it made me smile to see couples turn the evening into what looked like a date night, I watched several attendees who, like me, walked in alone but with a spirit wanting to learn with the group. Elle said, “I’m there for the content, and I knew I liked the speakers. I liked going alone. I knew Reyna Aburto was going to talk about imposter syndrome, so I was already kind of in that headspace gathering my thoughts on it, how have I been affected by this. People want to be there.”

QWE audience members.png
Attendees chat before the event begins.

The common thread throughout the evening, from both speakers and attendees, was a spirit of engagement in learning. This series is about strengthening faith by wrestling with big questions. Mauli Junior Bonner, who spoke on how to reconcile difficult Church history topics at session one, said it this way: “We get to explore difficult questions. Questions that you have in your mind, that you share with your loved one, sometimes they make it to the dinner table. Now we have a huge, global dinner table to have tough questions and real thoughtful, deep answers as we explore them all.”

This idea of exploring aptly illustrates the depth of study that goes into the presentations. Speakers ask these questions themselves months in advance, then pray, ponder, and study to be able to share a message that not only explores and helps answer the questions but also extends an invitation for further study. As an attendee, I felt like I was being invited to explore for answers while being taught.

Working with the speakers has given Ellis a unique perspective on how much each does to prepare. “The [speakers] have such vast life experiences and research that they’ve done. [I’ve seen] how much they care and how much they’ve probably wrestled with [the topics] themselves and how much they want other people to hear the messages they’ve put so much time and effort into answering for themselves. It’s really meaningful.”

Presenters talk backstage before the event.
Presenters and Deseret Book staff talk backstage before the event begins.

As with the previous events in the series, the last part of the night was devoted to audience questions submitted throughout the evening. Some topics addressed were divorce, obedience and love, Heavenly Mother, grace, and staying hopeful when a loved one steps away from the Church. Day moderated the questions and ended with the same one that has closed out the other events: What one truth do you cling to? While the answers were as unique as each speaker, the thread linking them was the love of God. What would be your response?

Winston, who also attended the previous two 2023 Questions Worth Exploring sessions, summed up this August evening in a way that articulated my feelings and probably those of many other attendees. “It’s wonderful to go someplace where people talk about the gospel with such certainty. In a world where things are so gray, where so much that’s sacred is not considered sacred, it’s lovely to come to someplace where they speak with certainty and with a wonderful depth. The topics are simple. The gospel is simple, but it actually fills the universe.”

Day shared that she hopes Deseret Book is able to bring the Questions Worth Exploring sessions to many different locations in the future. Video downloads of the three 2023 gatherings so far are available. One more Questions Worth Exploring session is scheduled for this year, on November 4. Whatever your questions and wherever you’re at in finding answers, you'll find like-minded friends of faith alongside you there.

Session 4: coming November 4, 2023

  • Steve Young: How do I love as God loves?
  • Alexis Bradley and Chante Stutznegger: How do I build bridges of connection as a disciple of Christ?
  • Richard E. Turley Jr.: What is the right balance between the spiritual and intellectual?
  • Camille Fronk Olson: How do we manage unmet expectations?
  • Sheri Dew: TBD

Session 1

  • Mauli Bonner: How can I reconcile topics in Church history that are difficult for me?
  • Terryl Givens: Should I be worried? Faith in a time of high anxiety
  • Jenny Reeder: What can the women of the early Restoration teach us today?

Session 2

  • Melinda Wheelright Brown: Why life? What Eve and Adam teach us about our mortal experience
  • Patrick Q. Mason: How can I be a peacemaker in a time of conflict?
  • Ronell Hugh: How can we create communities of belonging?

Session 3: available soon at

  • Reyna I. Aburto: How do I let go of imposter syndrome? Finding purpose through our divine identity
  • Adam S. Miller: What if we understood love as a divine commandment and not as a reward?
  • Barbara Morgan Gardner: How do I access power through temple covenants?
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