Unfulfilled Prophecy

Yes, I am that nerd that will go back and read “classic” talks (over five years old) and search through the words of ancient and modern prophets on different topics to see what else I can learn.

At some point, this search brought me to a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R Holland in 2000. In that talk, he referenced prophecies about people flocking to the church that were uttered in the early days of the modern restoration of the gospel. The true point of the talk was that we never forget the privileges we enjoy because so many people were willing to sacrifice so much and that we commit to making as much effort in our lives as they did in theirs.

I was distracted by a stray thought, and so my question is this: has that prophecy been fulfilled? Are people flocking to the church? I suppose when I adjust my expectations to fit other prophecies that clearly indicate that those who accept and truly live the gospel will be far outnumbered by those who won’t, then I can say that yes this prophecy has.

But what if I felt that the prophecy hadn’t been fulfilled? Joseph Smith himself indicated that one of the signs of a prophet of the Lord is that his prophecies come to pass. What are my options?

  1. Throw in the towel and leave the church. If I am satisfied that I have discovered evidence that fails to meet the criteria of a church that claims to be led by modern prophets, this would make a lot of sense. If the prophet isn’t really a prophet, then the church isn’t really a true church.
  2. Assume I’m mistaken and forget about it. Like my first option, this is intellectually too easy. It falls into the category of blind faith. In this option, as well as the former one, I exert very little effort.
  3. Pause, think, and investigate. To me, this fits my personal intellectual demands and falls squarely within the doctrine I believe. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded because a boy had a question.

To me, however, the hardest part is to know if I am investigating properly. Here are the guidelines I have come to use when I have gospel questions:

  • Use sound sources. It’s important to know who the author is and what their personal bias might be. That helps me filter information as I read and makes me more aware of biased language.
  • Consider what I know against what I don’t know. I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I received an unmistakable witness from the Holy Spirit that the church and its teachings are true. Since that time, I have had experiences that have confirmed the wisdom of the commandments and covenants I have been asked to keep and had spiritual impressions and insights that have taught me that God is intimately aware of me. How does that stack up against the doubts that I am encountering? How does this exercise compare and relate to the studies that I am doing?
  • Pray, and watch for answers. Personally, I rarely receive a divine answer while I’m praying or even while I’m waiting after. I’m sure it’s me and my personality. Thankfully, the Lord is willing to speak to me in other ways and at other times. While I have sometimes had to wait years for the answers I have been seeking, they have always come when I was ready and the time was perfect.

Comment below: How do you handle doubts about your faith? What experiences have helped strengthen your faith? What steps do you take to get answers to spiritual questions?