Help for Life Challenges

Nervous about responding to delicate questions? Find confidence with these 4 steps found in scripture

Screenshot (403).png
A teenager asked me how she will be connected to her divorced parents in the next life. To answer her, I followed a pattern set by Alma the Younger.
Getty Images

I was recently at a leadership session of stake conference, and the presiding General Authority opened the meeting to questions. He was asked several questions that did not have direct answers that could be found in the scriptures or teachings of living prophets. To each of these questions, he answered, “I don’t know.”

As I watched this Q&A unfold, I was filled with admiration. There are lots of things that I don’t know, and that worries me sometimes. But here I was seeing a senior church leader frankly admit he didn’t know. And he if didn’t know, that makes room for you and me not to know.

I began studying people in the scriptures who didn’t have all the answers, and I learned that many individuals were comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” This is helpful for us, as we all deal with ambiguity and wrestle with doctrinal questions that we’re uncertain about.

One individual who particularly exemplifies not knowing is Alma the Younger. From Alma we can learn at least four lessons for when we don’t have the answers: (1) Acknowledge that you don’t know everything, (2) Testify of what you do know (3) Emphasize that God does know, and (4) Continue to study and learn.

Acknowledge You Don’t Know Everything

In Alma 7:8, Alma is talking about Jesus Christ coming to the earth and says, “I do not say that he will come among us at the time of his dwelling in his mortal tabernacle…Now as to this thing I do not know…” (Alma 7:8). Later, when talking with Corianton, Alma says, “There is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows” (Alma 40:4). Alma seems comfortable with the fact that he doesn’t have all the answers and frankly saying, “I don’t know.”

President Joseph F. Smith taught, “It is no discredit to our intelligence or to our integrity to say frankly in the face of a hundred speculative questions, ‘I do not know.’”1 And President Harold B. Lee said, “It would be far better to say [‘I do not know’] than to indulge in faulty speculation.”2 Alma didn’t know everything and you and I don’t need to either.

Testify of What You Do Know

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “When there is something you do not know, testify of what you do know.”3 Alma put this principle into action when he said to the people of Gideon, “Now as to this thing I do not know; but this much I do know, that the Lord God hath power to do all things which are according to his word” (Alma 7:8).

We will sometimes face difficult questions. A teenager recently asked me how she will be connected to each of her parents (who are divorced) in the next life. My answer was, “I don’t know exactly how those relationships will work, but I do know that God will wipe away all tears from your eyes, and that everything will work out” (see Revelation 21:4).

When there is something you do not know, testify of what you do know.

Emphasize that God Does Know

When Alma talked with Corianton he said, “There is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows; but God knoweth the time which is appointed” (Alma 40:4).

Even though Alma didn’t know the answer, he knew that God knows, and that gave Alma the peace he needed. It reminds me of King Benjamin’s words: “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9).

Continue to Study

Sometimes our questions are unanswerable, and we must trust that God knows the answers. On the other hand, there are things we can study and learn. Alma explained to Corianton, “What becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection? … Concerning this space of time … is the thing which I have inquired diligently of the Lord to know; and this is the thing of which I do know. (Alma 40:7, 9). Some questions do have answers—as we continue to diligently study, we may find the answers we seek.

We can follow Alma’s pattern in our own lives. There are going to be questions we don’t have answers to. When this happens, we can acknowledge that we don’t know the answer, we can testify of what we do know, we can trust that God knows all things, and we can continue to study, ultimately trusting in God for things we do not understand.

▶ You may also like: Sariah shows us how to answer the delicate question: What if I don’t ‘know’?

When Church Is Hard

In When Church Is Hard by Tyler Johnson, you’ll find empathy and understanding about challenges you may face as you navigate life in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the context of current-day issues. You’ll also discover how the decision to stay can be not only reasonable but a powerful commitment to furthering the common good—including the good of marginalized members.

If you are struggling with questions and seeking to square your intuitive sense of the good found in the Church with questions about its history, doctrine, culture, or practices, this book is for you. Available at Deseret Book and


1. Joseph Fielding Smith. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 9.

2. Harold B. Lee, “Place of the Church Educational System,” address to CES religious educators, June 15, 1954, in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Summer School Talks, 1954 and 1958 (unpublished collection), 4; see also Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 9. Footnotes 3 and 4 were quoted by President Eyring in footnote 2.

3. Jeffrey R. Holland, “Our Consuming Mission” (address to CES religious educators, Salt Lake Tabernacle, February 5, 1999).

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content