the blessing of doubt
Guest post by Emma
Doubts. They’re what we’ve been warned about since primary. Having doubts, questioning authority and pushing boundaries. All of it leads to sin, and, eventually, apostasy. They’re something we’re told to avoid, and to get over the second that we have them. But we’re all feminists here. Doubting, questioning and pushing is what we do. And, at least for me, I’ve had to find a way to make my doubts part of my faith, so I can hold onto the “Mormon” part of my feminism.
In the most recent conference, Elder Jeffery R. Holland gave a talk about Christ healing a man’s son, because the man had faith. I loved the way Elder Holland interpreted this story, that even the smallest amount of faith can work miracles. He talked about how we need to be more accepting of faith and doubt, but remember that faith is more important. While I loved the talk Elder Holland gave, I think I learned something very different from the story he told. When Christ asks the man if he has faith, the man replies, very quickly, that he does. But, when he takes just another moment to think about it, he realizes that maybe he’s not as sure about his faith as he wants to be.
My conclusion? THAT’S COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY OKAY. Christ didn’t care that the man had some doubts, maybe didn’t know how he felt about some issues (*cough cough* polygamy, gay marriage, women’s role in the church) and He was fine with that. Christ healed the man’s son anyway, and then told the man that his mustard seed of faith was enough to move mountains.
And I bet that this man didn’t doubt Christ’s power anymore.
Having unshakeable faith in every teaching of the Church isn’t a prerequisite to loving the Gospel. In fact, I think sometimes doubts are what get us the answers to prayers that we need. I had my Mormon-feminist awakening because of doubts about the Church’s idea of gender roles, the history of polygamy, gay marriage and why the women couldn’t hold the priesthood. Those doubts turned into one of the most powerful things that I can imagine: questions. The more I questioned, the more questions I had. I eventually started trying to ask these questions, and, in rare and beautiful moments, I got answers. Since then it has been my goal to ask and receive, knock and open as many doors to knowledge as I can. The more doubts I have, the more questions I ask and every time I figure out one of those questions, the faith I have in God’s ability to answer questions, even the really, really hard, painful ones increases.
Fortunately, I can ask these questions, and so can the men that God has called to lead the Church. Mormons believe in continuing revelation because we know that in these modern, or “latter,” days God is still talking to us and answering our questions. He hasn’t stopped and never will. And whether it’s revelation about not drinking coffee *sigh* or something bigger like allowing African American members to hold he priesthood, God hasn’t stopped giving us more answers to the questions that we ask. Which is why it is so crucial to our faith that we keep asking and knocking, because can’t open doors without us taking the first step.
And I’m definitely not saying that starting out with faith is a bad thing, it’s great! It’s important to be able to plant our mustard seed and start somewhere. But I think that having doubts that turn into questions lead to the answers, that idea that God is still taking to us, that make the Church so powerful and beautiful to me. Maybe one of the reasons I love Mormonism so much is that it’s a church based on the idea that asking the right questions can change the world. According to our theology, the Gospel was restored because a teenage boy (two years younger than I) walked into the woods with a mustard seed of faith and asked God the really, really hard, painful question that he needed answered. And that answer resulted in the restoration of the church, the Book of Mormon, and the moving of a lot of people across mountains to get to Zion.
I’m a Mormon because of my faith that that teenage boy, Joseph Smith, was a prophet of God who restored Christ’s doctrine to the Earth and my faith that God and Christ will always be there to heal us… but I’m a feminist because I believe that there are still questions to be asked, and, of course, answered.
6 Responses to “the blessing of doubt”
Great perspective. I liked it more than Elder Holland’s talk.
Ezra Taft Benson put it this way.
“Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand” (A Witness and a Warning, 5).
That’s why I have always loved questions and doubts because then I know where my wall of faith is.
You mentioned having doubts about polygamy. I just learned something in my institute class that was enlightening for me about the subject. If you already learned this then just disregard my comment. The first thing which I had already known, is that to marry a second wife, even in Old Testament times, you first had to be asked by God. The second thing which I did not know, is that you had to have permission from the first wife. If she said no, it was a no-go. Anyone who practiced polygamy outside of those two special circumstances, it was not ordained by God.
That’s what I thought too, originally…. but Joseph Smith married several women without Emma’s knowledge, as early as the 1830s (she didn’t find out until 1843). Personally, polygamy has always left me feeling disturbed, and I hope it is a thing of the past.
Great post Emma, especially since right now I feel like I’m swimming in a pool of doubt, but sometimes I still see the potential for faith. Asking questions should never be seen as heretical.
Because of your faith in Joseph Smith I find it completely applicable that you question. The only reason the Church is restored is because of intense questioning and skepticism. It’s healthy. Blind “faith” isn’t faith, and sometimes the great courage of belief against unanswered questions is a mighty power unto itself. The day will come when the blanks are filled in. Until then, Emma, there’s no reason to settle for other’s answers.
Emma, great post!
With young women like you in the church, I have no *doubt* that we’re headed in the right direction!