Five Steps to Overcoming the Imprisonment of Doubt

With each new adjustment made by the church, including the recent announcement of the change in wording of temple ordinances, it seems we see more and more Saints fall away. This pattern is disheartening and a test of the faith of remaining members. How is it that those whom we have loved and who have served as fellow disciples become subject to the ways of the world or distrust spread by the adversary?

In the famous verses quoted by Joseph Smith that initiated his personal search for truth we find a compelling analogy. James 1:5-6 reads:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

I believe this imagery is fascinating and quite telling of the experience our brothers and sisters who fall away may have. The vision of a wave is seemingly consistent in its behavior of churning, billowing, tossing and washing upon the shore, yet those waves are never actually in control of themselves. Rather their motion and movement is acted upon by various elements – the time of day, the pull of the moon and its orbit, the rise of oceanic storms, gigantic tectonic plates and their own movements….

So it is when we allow ourselves to doubt.

To doubt does not mean we never have questions. Quite the opposite! The scriptures are replete with pleas for us to “prove”, “test” and “experiment upon the word”. Doubting begins when we fail to test the word and rather allow unanswered questions to fester in our minds and hearts to the point when we no longer believe we would receive a confirming witness.

Once we have obtained this state of disbelieving, we become subject to the spiritual elements that rock and eventually demolish our faith. Suddenly our believing is dependent upon testimonies and counter-testimonies, upon changes made or unmade either by the church administration or the world, upon the wiles and whims of the adversary and his followers. We are victims of doubt and are imprisoned by its will.

So how do we ensure that we do not become victims of doubt, but that instead we can “seek” and “find” the answers to our hearts’ questions?

1. We must possess a desire to know of the truth.

I would add to this that our desire to know must be greater than our desire not to know. If we are fearful that the answer may not be what we wish it to be – that the truth will require us to repent or abandon favorite sins – then we cannot ask with real intent and our desire is nullified.

2. Know how you will receive your answer.

Just as counterintuitive as it is to obtain a knowledge of gravity from someone who has never experienced it, we cannot expect to learn spiritual truth from carnal sources. We must seek it instead through personal spiritual encounters and the Holy Ghost. No other source or testimony can come close to approximating the power and endurance of our own individual witness.

3. Acquaint yourself with the nature of God.

God is unchanging. That is not perfectly reflected by the administration of the church because the church’s role is to help exalt us fallen humans. We change and because of that the church will sometimes adjust to reflect humanity’s godly progress. But those changes are always based in eternal truth of which we do not know the whole.

It’s also important to remember that God delights to answer the faithful prayers of his children. Without this hope we could hardly be compelled to pray to him with the expectation that our questions will be addressed and consequently move ourselves towards a state of doubt.

4. Repent.

Repentance is a privilege. What a blessing it is to know that we can be granted the power to improve! These desires are evidences of our own potential for godhood and are reflected even in those not of our faith who aim to be better today than they were yesterday.

As we repent, we enact the power of the Atonement in our lives and draw nearer to our Savior Jesus Christ. It is through him that all good things come, including the answers to the queries of our hearts.

5. Seek diligently.

Diligence is required because the answers we seek are unlikely to come always in our own timeframe. We must faithfully continue in our quest for truths until such a time that our seeking aligns with the Lord’s timing. But we can be assured, as taught by Elder Jeffery R Holland, “some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come” (“An High Priest of Good Things to Come”).

I add my testimony that as we apply these principles individually we will be enabled by the grace of God to overcome the imprisonment of doubt and to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost for the questions that may arise as we practice faithful discipleship.

Called, Then Qualified: Rising to the Work God Asks YOU To Perform

I believe I owe an explanation – to myself, to any current or future readers of Latter-Day Disciple, to God.

I created this platform in January 2017 as a space where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints can find uplifting, inspiring and honest messages relevant to the challenges and opportunities we find as we diligently and faithfully live our covenants and follow the Savior. This is a message I believe in. However, as you can tell from the dates of the two posts I wrote in the past year, I have not had integrity when it comes to living that belief.

In attempting to write and create meaningful content, I encountered (and still do encounter) gross opposition from the adversary. His lies echo in my mind whenever I feel a determination to put fingers to keyboard. They sound like this:

You aren’t qualified to produce this kind of material.

You don’t have the proper life experience.

No one will find value in what you write.

You are going to fail.

There isn’t space for your thoughts.

Your desires are irrelevant.

The list goes on. Satan can be remarkably creative in the ways he seeks to tear down the Kingdom of God even on the level of the individual.

It had gotten to the point where I had to exert concerted effort to combat these thoughts:

1. I started small.

I started writing for myself. It made me examine my day-to-day, seeing multiple touch-points of the Lord’s hand in my life. The more I saw, the more I believed that I may in fact have something worth writing about.

2. I went back in time with the intent to remember.

That all-important word comes up so often in the scriptures. It was to remember the Savior and the deliverance he provided, in mercy, time and again, that historical records were sought after – even when lives were at stake seeking it – and diligently kept by Kings and Prophets alike.

I remembered by reading my old journals. I have many, dating back to Junior High (those being particularly entertaining). In those journals I found not only a record of my memories but value in my life’s story. Part of why Satan’s lies stuck was an undervaluation of this very story. It’s ironic, because in the purpose of this blog I specified that EVERY saint’s story is worth telling. I believe that – and yet again I wasn’t showing integrity in that belief by failing to live like I believed it.

3. I pondered on what it is to be “qualified of the Lord”.

I recall my experience in the MTC. It was a refiner’s fire if I have ever been in one. I remember feeling that although I had been called and set apart as a missionary I was not yet one, truly. I still was in the process of being qualified.

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 4, we find the process by which God establishes his disciples:

First, there is a desire.

In the Book of Mormon, we read that God “granteth unto men according to their desire whether it be unto death or unto life…” (Alma 29:4)

I believe I must have had a desire to write from a very young age – at least my journals suggest so. Not only do I want to write, but I want to glorify God. I believe writing is a talent that He has blessed me with and I would be an unwise steward to not use the gift on His behalf. That’s nothing to be said of the fact that I love the Gospel and can think of nothing more important to voice in this world.

Second, a call is extended.

The work spoken of specifically in this section is that of missionary work. Part of the mission of the Church is to preach the gospel to the world, preparatory to the second coming of the Savior.

But is there other work that these scriptures indicate?

Each son and daughter of God was placed on this Earth for a reason. There are general purposes that are spoken of in the scriptures. We come to Earth to receive a mortal body; to be tested to see if we would choose God even being absent from him and having no memory of our time with him; and to prepare to live eternally with our Father.

But we also each have individual purposes. These are spoken of primarily through personal revelation to each of us. I personally believe that God would call me to strengthen and uplift his children as much as I am able through using the talents he has blessed me with – writing in particular.

We are, finally, qualified.

It speaks volumes that qualification is NOT listed before having a desire or being called to do God’s work. And this is what I have failed to retain in remembrance even as I have soul-sought and pondered on how to overcome the objections of the adversary.

The fact is that we need not be qualified before embarking in the service of our God.

I may not have the degrees, the prestige, the clout that others do that may establish them as more qualified to speak to topics related to the gospel.

I have not had every experience that befall faithful Saints.

I may be considered too old or too young by some in my audience, making my message seem less relevant to them.

But none of these or any other considerations matter than this:

I have the desire to service God.

He has called me to do a work among my sisters and brothers.

I have striven to develop “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5).

These are my qualifications.

My goal is to remember this more fully and to live with increased integrity by actively, regularly creating content for this blog.

Its reception is secondary. For if I can but influence one person “how great will be [my] joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:16) – and I believe that one person needs to be myself.

With all this in mind, I ask you the following:

What work has God called YOU to do that you have previously felt under qualified or inadequate to perform?

How can you strive to live with greater integrity and serve him in the capacity he requires of you?

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I pray for the continued presence of the Spirit that I may be more accountable to Heavenly Father and to myself.

A Prophet’s Legacy: Learning to Discern Between Distorted Truths and Reality

The New York Times recently published an article in response to the passing of our beloved President Thomas S. Monson. Meant to serve as an obituary, the writer proclaimed President Monson’s legacy as follows:

“Thomas S. Monson, who as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2008 enlarged the ranks of female missionaries, but rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died on Tuesday… .”

PresidentMonsonDisciples of Christ reading this feel dismayed at the utter lack of truthfulness regarding President Monson’s impact on the lives of people around the world, within and without the LDS faith. How could such a man be reduced to nothing more than what the New York Times describes him as: anti-feminist, anti-homosexuals and archaic in ideology?

The answer is simple. This rhetoric is further evidence of the opposition to President Monson and all disciples of Christ by the adversary. Only he could influence the hearts and minds of man enough to convince them that these things – which made up an incredibly small amount of his life – are what President Monson should be defined and remembered by.

As we remember President Monson and seek to gain a testimony of our new prophet, how can we be sure to discern between what looks like truth and the truth itself?

Disciples of Christ are blessed to have important keys that help us distinguish between truth and distorted truths or lies proclaimed by Satan. These include prayer, revelation through the Holy Ghost, and experimenting on the prophet’s words. But there is another indicator that we may not be turning to in our search for testimony and confirmation.

3 Nephi 14: 15-18 reads, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

We can gain and confirm our testimony of the prophet by examining the fruits of their life and determining whether those fruit are good or evil. 

Upon further investigation into the fruit of President Monson’s life, beholders cannot help but proclaim the evidence of his goodness, service, love, and dedication towards all people, such as could only be had by a Prophet of God.

  • President Monson was always focused on the one. Elaine S. Dalton has said, “For me, President Monson is like the Savior would be if He were here. His ministry, his sensitivity to the one is incredible…” (p. 443). Elder William S. Walker of the Seventy said, “President Monson is warm and attentive, with a wonderful sense of humor and a spontaneous love for people. I think as a prophet he is irresistible” (p. 494).
  • He served the humble. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said of him, “…he has always been able to see and appreciate the value and the good, the gifts in everybody, particularly those of humble circumstances” (p. 52). Said President Harold B. Lee, “As a young bishop in a ward which required much attention to needy persons, he rose to the occasion…he developed a sensitivity which has characterized his life” (p. 130).
  • He was playful and human. In his first appearance at a general priesthood meeting, President Monson performed his signature move – he wiggled his ears. This had a great impact particularly on the youth of the church as they related to the “fun” side of their priesthood leader.
  • He was dedicated to serving others through his church callings, from his very first as a deacons secretary. “Whatever his calling has been, he has devoted 100% of his energy to it”, said Lynne Cannegieter, his personal secretary (p. 86).
  • He raised a righteous family with his dear wife of 65 years, Frances Beverly Johnson. 
  • He served his country by enlisting in the Navy.
  • He was the epitome of a missionary. Said Elder Quentin L. Cook, “There is not any part of missionary work that President Monson hasn’t influenced. He served in every role in the Missionary Department during the course of his life. He’s toured most of the missions….He’s in a league by himself in terms of being a great missionary” (p. 171). 
  • He was instrumental in ministering to and sustaining the members of the Church in East Germany during the Communist reign. He developed trusting relationships with Communist leaders to the degree that when he requested missionaries be sent to East Germany – and missionaries be sent from East Germany – the totalitarian government’s response was simply, “Permission granted” (p. 334).
  • He LOVED. David A. Bednar recalled, “In a message he gave to all of the General and Area Authorities, he said that one of our responsibilities is to help the members feel the Savior’s love. That’s who he is. His whole ministry is focused on discerning the needs of an individual and offering a smile or a pat on the back – doing some simple, very gracious thing that you never would really expect the President of the Church to do” (p. 149). President Spencer W. Kimball also said of him, “As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Elder Monson is filled with the pure love of Christ, and he radiates this to others. People love him because he loves them. His witness to the world is one of love and understanding”.

*Quotes are all taken from “To The Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson” by Heidi S. Swinton

Even those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could not help but declare that such a life was surely a good one – that these fruits, what he did and who he was, were nothing short of remarkable and holy. This is his legacy. This is the legacy of all those ordained by our Savior to be His representative in the mortal sphere.

As we transition now into a new era of apostolic and prophetic leadership, may we all seek to grow our testimony of the prophets by searching the fruits of their lives and determining if any such person could be less than a divinely called Prophet of God.