Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is Doubt Okay?

"Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But...don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle."1 
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
       I think many of us believe it would be ideal to live our religious lives free of problems. We long for a picture-perfect world in which being a Mormon is a no-brainer. In this imaginary world there is not the tiniest reason to doubt. There are no confusing issues in Church history, nothing weird is ever said in testimony meeting, and at general conference time the streets are full of picketers carrying signs like "I Mormons," and "Joseph Smith Rocks!" 

       But that is not the world we live in. Sometimes the Mormon experience is anything but easy. Maybe your friend leaves the Church. Maybe you stumble upon a confusing issue in Church history. Maybe you just go through a really hard experience and it makes you question God's love or even His existence. Whatever it is, it probably causes you to doubt, if only for a moment. I think a lot of us tend to feel guilty in these moments. We beat ourselves up for being "weak" enough to doubt our testimonies. After all, there is no room for doubt in God's church. Others take the opposite approach. When they find out there are problems in the Church (maybe even big problems), their faith comes tumbling down. After all, how could the Church be true if there is so much room for doubt? Either way, it seems doubt has no place in a faithful person's life. But is that true? Doubt has its virtues, after all. It's a good defense mechanism. Doubt protects you from fanatics, phony politicians, and door-to-door salesmen trying to sell you watered-down cleaning solution for $39.99 a bottle. When you doubt it proves you can think critically. But not all doubt is good. Some people become so enamored with doubt that it robs them of the faith that has sustained them in times past and often leaves them bitter as a result. So is doubt okay, or isn't it? Well...maybe that's the wrong question. I think the real question is, how do you keep doubt in proper balance? How do you doubt enough to keep from being gullible, but at the same time allow yourself room for faith and a testimony? Here are a few thoughts to help answer this question.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"What's All This About a Stone In a Hat?"

"And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light" (Alma 37:23).
       Recently, when the Church released new photos of the seer stone Joseph Smith used in the translation of the Book of Mormon,1 some members were excited, but others were confused. “Wait,” they said. “Seer stone? All I ever heard of was the Urim and Thummim. What’s this about a stone in a hat?” Knowledge of the seer stones has been around for a long time (it was talked about several times in the Ensign alone), but it’s natural that people would still have questions. Seer stones are not brought up often in Sunday school and neither the seer stones nor the Urim and Thummim are depicted in official Church films. If you want an in-depth look at seer stones, the Ensign will feature an article about them in October, and there are some excellent sources available online and in print. But if you'd like to learn more about Urim and Thummim and seer stones in a quick, learn-what-you-want-and-then-keep-on-browsing format, then read on. Here is a Cliff Notes-style guide on the ancient spectacles and the stone in the hat.