Thursday, October 23, 2014

Faith and Doubt

"Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time. Cast out doubt. Cultivate Faith." - President Monson Oct 2000

"Doubt not" - D&C 6:6

"Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith" - President Uchtdorf Oct 2013

I have heard similar sayings all my life. Once embroidered hanging on the wall at a friends house, now they appear against beautiful backdrops on my friends Facebook wall. Isn't it great? Actually it's not great. I can't stand these quotes. I get so annoyed whenever I see or hear them. But I can't outwardly express the anger I feel because I shouldn't be bothered by quotes from scripture and the prophets. Why don't I like these quotes about doubt and why do they bother me so much? As I have thought about why this bothers me I have found two main reasons.

         1. They don't agree with my personal understanding of the relationship between doubt and faith
         2. I identify myself as a doubter

In my first year of Seminary at Bennion Jr. High we had a class about faith. This class was memorable because we got to watch part of a movie and not just one of those cheesy church movies. We got to watch Indiana Jones. It was awesome. We watched a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In this scene Indiana is forced to go through a series of tests/traps to get to the Holy Grail, which has the power to save his recently shot father. In cinematic fashion he gets past the first two tests narrowly escaping with his life each time. He now reaches a chasm that he must cross but there is no bridge. The only instruction that he has is that he must take a leap of faith. With nothing but an endless fall in front of him, he puts his foot out and takes a leap of faith into what is most certainly his death. To Indiana's great relief he finds his foot lands on solid ground on a bridge that was invisible from the perspective of where he previously stood.

In the moment of decision, Indiana was visibly terrified. He had his reasons to doubt and be afraid. It was an endless pit he was stepping into for heaven's sake. And not the cool pits where you can fight a Balrog on the way down. He had good reason to believe he would fall to his death and he took that step anyway. That's gutsy. It was in the face of that doubt that he truly exercised faith. If the bridge was obvious, it wouldn't have been a leap of faith, right? In other words, it's because of doubt and uncertainty, that faith can exist. That is how I've understood the relationship between doubt and faith since that lesson when I was 14 and the quotes I shared earlier just didn't seem to mesh with that understanding. It seemed as if doubt was the bad guy and that those who doubted were somehow less faithful and righteous.

Which brings me to my second point. I am a doubter. Over the past few years I have faced some experiences that have made me question the core foundations of my testimony, I have witnessed some of my best friends leave the church, and I have come to realize that I simply don't know. I don't know if God exists but I hope He does and if so, I believe He loves me and you. I don't know if this is God's true church but I have found that following its core principles has helped lead me to higher forms of happiness. I don't know a good deal of many things... but that is fine. I don't need to know everything. These very statements and ideas have taken me years to personally accept and feel comfortable stating. During this time I have felt as if I was less worthy or that I was somehow different. I have feared that my testimony or lack thereof would negatively affect my relationship with my family, friends, and future love interests. It was because of the perceived negative rapport about doubt that made this faith transition harder. That is why I haven't liked these quotes. It made me feel ostracized. Well the truth is, there are more people like me than I may realized.

So is doubt a bad thing? Yes and no. What doubt does for us is it challenges us, makes us ask questions, and enables us to trust and have faith. These challenges force us to grow and the questions can direct us to truth. Doubt made Indiana realize he loved and trusted his father more than what his senses told him. After all, his father had been right up to that point. Doubt made Indiana put faith in his father.

However, doubt can do exactly the opposite. It can pose challenges and questions so daunting that we simply give up. Doubt causes us to not trust and not have faith. Indiana could have turned around. He could have not taken that step and he would have never found the holy grail and saved his father. He would have missed so much. The same goes for us. When we doubt we don't apply for that job, ask that person on a date, or we don't run that race. Doubt hinders our progression. Doubt is paralyzing. Doubt is only bad when it overcomes faith. That is why we must rely on faith. At some point we must take that step into the abyss. Of course if you doubt your parachute is not properly packed, taking that step might not be a good idea.

Doubt is a wonderful thing. I love it. It's brought me to many truths. However, I can't let doubt paralyze me. At some point I have to exercise faith in the face of doubt. I must progress. I must move past my fears and doubts and learn to trust in myself and in God so that when the grey rain curtain of this world rolls back I will see white shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

"I have sympathy for the man or woman when honest doubts enter their minds and they engage in the great conflict of resolving doubts. These doubts can be resolved, if they have an honest desire to know the truth, by exercising moral, spiritual, and mental effort. They will emerge from the conflict into a firmer, stronger, larger faith because of the struggle. They have gone from a simple trusting faith, through doubt and conflict, into a solid substantial faith which ripens into testimony." Howard W Hunter Oct 1960


  1. You are a great soul Jake. Doubt the path your doubt leads you down will bring you more happiness than the faith you have in God.

  2. Doubt can overcome faith, but hope can overcome doubt.You can hope something is true, even if you have serious doubts. This hope can them lead to positive action. So I consider hope to be more important than faith, in spite of what Alma 32:21 says - since that implies it is possible to *know* what is "true".

  3. You bring up a good point Malcolm. I was very vague with what I meant by faith and I think sometimes I mix faith and hope into one idea. In the example of Indiana Jones, it was Hope that overcame doubt. It was the hope that his father was correct and that by following his counsel would lead him to the Holy Grail and in turn to saving his father. Maybe faith is merely the action behind that hope. That gives me a lot to think about.