Monday, February 16, 2015

The Duality of Doubt

Hello Everyone, glad to be able to write to you all again.  

This week I want to share my thoughts on doubts, particularly in spiritual matters.  

This week my mind has been caught up in memory of the several month period in between receiving my mission call to the New York Utica Mission, and being set apart as a full time missionary.  During this time of preparation, both in things mental, physical, and spiritual, I found myself noticing a creeping sense of doubt entering my mind.  I'd be browsing the internet and read some comment made my some person I've never met and and a question would enter into my mind about the things I held so dear.  As soon as I thought I had resolved one doubt another entered my mind.  Again and again this process would repeat itself.  A doubt would creep its way into my mind, I would resolve it as best I could, and then another would barge in and take the old doubt's place.  These doubts grew larger and larger and become more frequent as I came nearer to the time I was to be set apart.  One night I laid awake for hours wondering "Why?  Why now, and why me?"  I'm so close to throwing myself into this work head first and now is the time I get these doubts?  It didn't make any sense to me.  I had doubts about the smallest thing that seemed to almost paralyze my mind for days and I had doubts about controversial topics and about things I had believed since I was a toddler.  

The point in me telling you about my doubts is to show that I have and will continue to have doubts throughout my life.  And the point in me writing today is to testify to you of the duality of doubt.  

Just as with a fork in the road, doubt has a choice with two outcomes.  There are two choices you have the chance to make when the truth you hold dear is put under intense scrutiny or has an apparent flaw.  You can either shut down, or continue progressing.  With the time I have to write this blog post I want to make it clear why the latter choice is always the correct one.  

My talk is focused on the doubting people, but I wish to take a quick aside to talk to those people that feel they have no doubts: You will doubt, let me make that abundantly clear.  There are many men who claim that they have faith unshaken and are able to "doubt not, but be believing" (Mormon 9:27).  Every man and woman will doubt, have questions, and have their faith tried.  It is a part of this mortal life to question and to search for knowledge we don't currently have.  But a crucial part of our lives should be to work out those doubts, or to "work out our own salvation" by studying in the scriptures and pleading to the Lord in sincere and persistent prayer (Mormon 9:27). 

I return to speak to the doubters, which should include everyone now.  In the Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants we are told by the Prophet Joseph Smith that: 

"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal."

A doubt is nothing more than a question posed at truth.  I can testify that when you have that questioning mind, it is best to turn to the source of all light and truth; our Heavenly Father.  We are promised by a modern day prophet that if we will ask, we will receive knowledge and understanding so that we may know the mysteries of God so that we can have joy in this life and eternal life in the life to come.  

My first plea to all those who doubt, no matter the size or quantity of the doubts, is to seek greater knowledge.  Search in the scriptures for that knowledge that you lack.  The answers to life's greatest moral and philosophical questions are within and there is no shortage of testimonies concerning that fact.  

My second plea to those who doubt is to not give up on the faith you have.  Do not give up that ground you have fought for, for all faith is earned through trials.  A quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland summarizes my feelings on this perfectly:

"In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited...When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have,leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!"  ("Lord, I Believe", April 2013 General Conference)

My third and final plea to those who struggle in this life, which as I've said before includes all of us, is to not consider yourself a failure because you have doubts.  In a speech given by Brad Wilcox in 2011 to BYU students, Brother Wilcox shared this piece of exemplary council to those who feel they 'fall short' of what is expected of them as a member of this church or simply as a human being:

"Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace...When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness."

My testimony of doubts can be well summarized in a quote from a talk given by Truman G. Madsen in 1965 titled "The Commanding Image of Christ":

"I just can't tell you how much I enjoy my existential despair"

Doubts used to be my greatest fear.  I used to think that because I doubted that I was unfit for the Kingdom of God.  I have since come to the realization that doubts have been the cause of the greatest growth in my testimony.  Just as I've come to see how trials and afflictions are a blessing, so too have I come to see how my doubts are great blessings.  Each doubt I've had has caused me to turn to the Lord with greater purpose and with a greater need.

My final advice is this:

Don't quit.  Do not give up because you have doubts.  Do not give up because you feel you have fallen short.  And most of all do not think that you and your doubts are too far gone for the Savior's grace to uplift and help you along your way because "the Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"(D&C 122:8)

I love you all, and can't wait to write to you all again next week.  

-Elder Gailey

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