I asked a lot of questions about the church growing up. I would ask my parents, my seminary teacher, my young women’s leaders, etc. If my question was one of those to which we don’t have answers, or falls in the “gray area”, most often the answers I received were something like this: “if Heavenly Father answered every question we had, we wouldn’t need faith”.
So I just put all my questions up “on the shelf” and didn’t think about them too much over the years . . . until this past year when I learned my son was gay. This brought up SO MANY questions – big ones, little ones, everyday ones, long-term ones. My LGBT-related gospel questions soon became a myriad of other gospel questions. It was like opening Pandora’s Box. All of these questions would chase themselves around in my head like hamsters in a wheel. It became hard to shut them off, even to sleep at night.
No one could answer them for me. And I noticed something else. My questions were making people uncomfortable. The worst part about having all of these questions is the response I would get when I gave voice to them. I’ve heard things like:
– You’re losing your testimony.
– You’re on the slippery slope to apostasy.
– Asking questions shows your lack of faith.
– You’re not supporting or sustaining the leaders of the church.
– Once the Brethren have spoken, the discussion is over.
– You’re not being a good example to your children.
– What will other people think if they could hear these faithless questions?
Is it not okay to have questions, to want to learn more, to truly understand the religion I’m investing so much of my life into? If our religion can’t handle some probing and scrutiny, what substance is there to it? Truth should be able to withstand any amount of searching, and cannot be undone by questions.
Children learn by asking a near constant stream of questions. Anyone with little kids knows this first hand. As adults, do we have all the answers and never need to ask another question?
Truth is not offended at scrutiny—truth welcomes scrutiny. Truth welcomes thoughtful, provocative questions that seek to deepen our knowledge and understanding of what we’re hearing. For truth has nothing to hide—and it is through scrutiny and questioning that the veracity of any position becomes known to us all.
Asking questions doesn’t show a lack of faith. It’s just the opposite. It shows a deep desire to know more about what we really believe in.
Let us remember that this Church was restored because a 14-year old boy did not accept what he had been taught by the religions of his day. So he asked a question – a question that most people at the time thought of as outlandish, even blasphemous. He actively sought for further light and knowledge. We have an entire book of scripture that was given mostly in answer to questions – The Doctrine & Covenants. Missionaries routinely teach discussions and then invite their investigators to pray about what they have just learned and ASK if it is true. Most of our own personal revelation comes to us in answer to our prayerful questions.
If we think about the invitation of Christ, it was just that—an invitation: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened unto you.” What Christ’s gospel is not, is a mandate—at no time during Christ’s ministry did he demand we follow him blindly—he offered us a choice.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know, but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?”
I will not deny that in this past year, my testimony and faith in the Church have taken a vicious beating. I have been shaken to my very depths. Searching for a way to reconcile my son’s homosexuality with the Church’s teachings have been in vain. Daily I have struggled, wrestled, studied, cried, prayed, read, searched, and cried some more – all in an attempt to hold my fragmented faith together.
There have come into my life this year some people that have become my soft place to fall, my refuge from the storm. They have listened as I voiced my grief and gave me the space I needed to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions. There was never judgment there, only love and a safe place for me to be. How grateful I am for these rays of sunshine! And through all of this I have found my own truth, and the core of my beliefs.
These are the reasons why I stay:
– Heavenly Father is real. He is the Father of my spirit and knows me better than I know my own children. Heavenly Mother is real. She is the Mother of my spirit and knows me better than I know my own children. This is the only scenario that makes sense to me about where I came from.
– Jesus Christ is who He says He is. He lived a life that is a constant example to me of unconditional love, acceptance and inclusion. He suffered greatly to provide me with a way to get back to Him and my Heavenly Parents. I love Him and think of Him as my Friend and my Brother. I hope He is proud of the way I live. When I think of the moment I will see Him again and can hug Him and thank Him for what He has done for me – that moment is how I imagine pure joy. I can’t wait for it. I hope I will be able to look Him in the eye, and not feel the need to look down in shame because I didn’t love the way He showed me.
– The Book of Mormon is a beautiful, inspired book that brings me peace and feels right when I read it. There are many heroic and amazing people in that book whom I also can’t wait to meet and embrace.
– My family is eternal. I believe that my children, husband and I will always be together. I can’t imagine a loving Heavenly Father not allowing this to be so.
– I choose to live my life on the side of loving mercy, rather than harsh justice; and more in line with ‘the spirit of the law’ rather than ‘the letter of the law’. This was Christ’s mission and message. It reminds me of the saying: “It is better to be kind, than to be right.”
I have traveled a long and thorny road to get to the place where I could state these things with certainty. Asking deep questions and searching out answers is HARD work. It’s scary, uncomfortable, unfamiliar. But it is also what builds rock solid, unshakable faith. It is refining and purifying. My testimony has gone from something that felt more abstract and ‘in theory’ to something that is real, tangible and concrete. This has been one of the immense blessings that have come with the trials of this year. I am so grateful.
I still have questions. I probably always will. I look forward to the day when I can sit down with my Savior and have them answered.
In the meantime, may I offer a suggestion to those of you who may be approached by a friend or a loved one with a difficult question? Please listen to them with love and an open heart. Do not pass judgment on them. The fact that they are coming to you shows that they deeply trust you. Allow them to voice their concerns without making them feel uncomfortable, wrong or faithless. Encourage an open dialogue and take their concerns seriously. You will gain a friend for life if you can help them weather their crisis of faith. And regardless of where they end up in the end – inside of the Church or out – love them unconditionally. JUST LOVE THEM.