This week, I had the chance to sit down with a friend with whom I don’t often get to have long conversations. We are both personality types that are driven and busy, so connecting can be a feat. Having over an hour to chat was a special treat and something that I relish because I always come away with at least one challenging thought to ponder.
This time, we were discussing religion, and how doubts and questions seem to be a part of it. I assured her that everyone has doubts, because we are all living by faith, and then confessed that there are still times I wonder if I’ve even come close to getting this religion thing right. She asked me if I hadn’t had enough spiritual experiences to know that there is something out there that’s real, and the truthful answer is not 100%. That got me to thinking about what really holds me to the church, what I really do know, and if I need to publicly correct things that I have said in the past when I have said “I know” without any qualifications.
What Holds me to the Church?
This was probably the most fundamental question I considered, even if it didn’t become a crisis of my faith. I quickly recognized that I have one of those minds that can see multiple perspectives on almost anything. I can understand why those who choose to believe that this life is all we have can see things that way — it is impossible to measure, weigh, or even really quantify that things that God asks us to place faith in.
On the other hand, I see that there is far too much order in the earth to place faith in the idea that a random explosion occurred and everything I see and experience is a product of chance and natural selection. I can see where the galaxies moving farther and faster apart could be evidence of their being in orbits around something even bigger, rather than evidence of the Big Bang. I see that nature, left completely to it’s own, tends toward a random chaos, even if it does possess a certain beauty.
I see two sides to the human nature theory. On one hand, people are vicious. Left completely to their own devices, it seems that the majority of humankind will stop at nothing to achieve what they personally want, all the while giving no thought to the consequences and injustices they inflict on others. Then, I see people who defy this trend and spend part (and sometimes nearly all) of their lives trying right the wrongs and help the helpless. Is this also part of random chance?
In the end, the things that hold me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its beliefs are the answers that make logical sense and my personal experiences.
What Do I Really Know?
After over 25 years as a member of the LDS church, I feel confident that I have been exposed to pretty much all of the teachings of the church. The gospel, as restored by Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon that he translated through the gift and power of God answer more questions in a logical manner with fewer places to doubt than anything else I have experienced.
For instance, the LDS church can answer why God bothered to create an earth and the people on it. We know why Satan was even allowed into the garden of Eden and what the purpose of Adam and Eve having a choice was. We understand the delicate balance of works and faith, even as we recognize that works have no power in and of themselves to save anyone. We have a deeper understanding of how the Savior knows our hurts and can individually lift and guide us through the pains and trials of mortal life. The LDS version of heaven is much more exciting and appealing to me than anything I learned growing up as a protestant/evangelical Christian.
However, logic isn’t enough for me to say, “I know.” Logical proof would rightly be prefaced with “I think.” Knowledge comes from applying logical paradigms.
These things I do know —
- Living the principles of the gospel as taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has changed me for the good. I am a better, kinder, stronger woman than I could have ever become trying to get through life on my own.
- On many occasions, I have felt something that goes deeper than wishful thinking. At one extremely low point in my life, I felt an unseen presence put an arm around me to comfort me. On another, I felt an unseen presence confirming to me to do what was right even though it was really the last thing that I wanted to do.
- I have been healed physically and comforted mentally, spiritually, and emotionally through priesthood blessings. Sometimes even when the man pronouncing the blessing had very little knowledge of what the problem was, he has been able to speak directly and specifically to what was going on and give me correct direction and counsel.
- I have received clear answers to my prayers that follow the patterns described in modern and ancient scripture.
- I know that the things taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are good, and that they lift my mind to dwell on higher and nobler things that bring me a deeper and more lasting sense of peace and happiness than I have ever found in doing things “like everybody else.”
I’m sure there are more, but that’s a pretty good overview of what I know from my experiences.
Do I Need to Revise my Public Statements?
In short, I am convinced the answer is no.
In the United States, the civil court standard for a ruling is “preponderance of the evidence.” My study, contemplation, and personal experience tell me that the best and most compelling evidence lies with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Even if I go to the stricter standard of the U.S. criminal courts and hold to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” my faith stacks up. I have found a system for living life that not only is better than anything else, it works exactly the way it says it should — even right down to receiving personal direction for my daily life. Following my doubts would leave me wandering and creating my own system from my own limited knowledge, and that system has never worked as smoothly or as well. My doubts simply aren’t reasonable.
And, in the end, I have felt and received messages from the Holy Spirit, and those messages come with a “signature” that is unmistakable and unique. These witnesses are the most powerful evidence of all.
So, while I cannot truthfully say that I know everything there is to know about God and eternity, I know enough. And, while I may not know 100%, I know enough. There is a God in heaven, His Son, Jesus Christ, is my Savior and Redeemer, and I serve my Father and my Savior willingly — not to try to earn my way back home, but to show my depth of love and gratitude.
That, truly, IS enough.