Many of us have noticed several stories in the news lately about LDS Church members (sometimes called Mormons) who claim to be in trouble with the church for merely asking questions or having doubts. I’ve also noticed the subject coming up several times in church meetings. I don’t want to comment much on the controversial, high publicity examples, such as Ordain Women, Kate Kelly, Hannah Wheelwright, and John Dehlin. I feel like, as individuals, they have plenty of friends and supporters whether they decide to stay or leave. As news stories, I’m a bit tired of them.
I think many people are tired of these news stories, but that doesn’t mean Mormons are tired of the less visible members of the Church who are still struggling with their testimonies. I don’t think these controversial, high publicity stories represent the typical LDS Church member with questions or doubts. I feel like the typical member won’t say much about it to anyone, they’ll just quietly leave. If they do stay, they may feel sad or alone because their testimony is struggling. True, some people may feel like they can’t speak out, but I believe even more people just don’t want to be public with what they’re going through. I write this post for those people.
So, if you are someone with questions or doubts, and you feel alone, here is President Gordon B. Hinckley‘s account of his experience as a young man. Yes, Pres. Hinckley went through a period in his life when he had questions and doubts about the Church. He didn’t get stuck there forever (obviously) and he didn’t leave the Church (obviously again). It all worked out for him, and it can for you too. I hope this will help you feel less alone, and gives you hope.
(From his authorized biography, Go Forward With Faith, pages 46-47)
“Few people came through the Depression unscathed. It was a dark era, and many people became pessimistic and cynical as they struggled to survive. Traditional standards and values were questioned by even the faithful, and the political and social air reeked with insecurity and doubt. For many, life was a grim exercise in endurance.
“As Gordon worked his way through the university and made the transition from dependence upon his parents to personal responsibility, he, like many of his peers, began to question assumptions about life, the world, and even the Church. His concerns were compounded by the cynicism of the times. ‘Only those who lived through that era could really ever understand the depth of the economic catastrophe that hit the nation,’ he later explained. ‘It was a time of terrible discouragement, and it was felt strongly on campus. I felt some of it myself. I began to question some things, including perhaps in a slight measure the faith of my parents. That is not unusual for university students, but the atmosphere was particularly acute at the time.’
“Fortunately, he was able to discuss some of his concerns with his father, and together they explored the questions he had raised: the fallibility of the Brethren, why difficult things happen to people who are living the gospel, why God allows some of His children to suffer, and so on. The environment of faith that permeated Gordon’s home was vital during this period of searching, as he later explained: ‘My father and mother were absolutely solid in their faith. They didn’t try to push the gospel down my throat or compel me to participate, but they didn’t back away from expressing their feelings either. My father was wise and judicious and was not dogmatic. He had taught university students and appreciated young people along with their points of view and difficulties. He had a tolerant, understanding attitude and was willing to talk about anything I had on my mind.’
“Underneath Gordon’s questions and critical attitude lay a thread of faith that had been long in weaving. Little by little, despite his questions and doubts, he realized that he had a testimony he could not deny. And though he began to understand that there wasn’t always a clear-cut or easy answer for every difficult question, he also found that his faith in God transcended his doubts. Since that evening many years earlier when he had attended his first stake priesthood meeting, he had known that Joseph Smith was a prophet: ‘The testimony which had come to me as a boy remained with me and became as a bulwark to which I could cling during those very difficult years,’ he said.
“Gordon subsequently reflected on the key elements that pulled him through that confusing era: ‘There was for me an underlying foundation of love that came from great parents and a good family, a wonderful bishop, devoted and faithful teachers, and the scriptures to read and ponder. Although in my youth I had trouble understanding many things, there was in my heart something of a love for God and his great work that carried me above any doubts and fears. I loved the Lord and I loved good and honorable friends. From such love I drew great strength.'” (pages 46-47)
How his future wife Marjorie felt about this period in Gordon’s life from page 114:
“Early on, Marjorie told her mother that this was a young man who was going somewhere. ‘He was different from anyone else,’ she explained. ‘Everything he did, he did with a flair unique to him. And he had wonderful integrity. I never had to worry a minute about anything he told me.’ Even during his university years, she remained unworried: ‘Gordon always had a testimony. But he was very bright, and he had questions about everything. Everybody has to come to their convictions on their own, and so did he.'”
I hope this blog post helped someone out there! Have a great day!