By Michael T.
Doubt in a community of faith
In a community of faith like the congregation of which I am part, it might seem that there is little understanding of, and allowance for, doubt or uncertainty. Consequently, there are those among us who wonder if they are alone in the way they are feeling as they struggle with doubt.
Admittedly, Mormons (at least many of us and our congregations) don’t typically do “doubt” or “uncertainty” very well or very publicly—making such experiences even more challenging for some.
In fact, we publicly prize not just belief, but firm knowledge and sure testimony. Our vocabulary of belief is typically one of some certainty…
- “I know that God lives…”
- “I know with every fiber of my being…”
- “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt…”
For those facing doubt, such words or phrases can seem to increase feelings of difference, failure, or frustration due to the fact that they might not describe their own spiritual knowledge or experiences.
And sometimes in our faith we can be very quick to answers—but perhaps somewhat slower to ask hard questions about our faith and belief.
Certainly, as a church and a faith, we strongly value the outcomes or results of belief, faith, and testimony. Yet we cannot shy away from—or avoid—the process of arriving there, which can often be a messy, non-linear, and challenging one.
If these are circumstances or challenges that you face, or have faced, it is important for you to realize that you are not alone. Moreover, we as your brothers and sisters sincerely hope to be more sensitive to, and supportive of, those who face such challenges of faith.
Open expression of doubt in a community of believers
Some individuals may have felt it difficult, during times of doubt, to express such feelings publicly to friends, family, or a congregation, fearing (and possibly experiencing) adverse reactions from others—in which one’s worthiness and faithfulness are brought into question.
I sincerely hope and pray that it will not be the case in our congregations. Rather, let us find the ability to accept, understand, love, and strengthen one another—regardless of where individuals are spiritually and independent of what we might think people ought to know, believe, and do.
You should be reminded that some of the greatest Christians, both in thought and in deed, are those who have faced profound and severe doubts and who endured crises of faith. Two examples come quickly to mind:
- St. Augustine, revered as one of the early Christian fathers, but who struggle to believe, overcame doubts and weakness.
- C.S. Lewis—who spoke openly of varied “moods” of belief and doubt.
You are not alone
Whatever the reason or reasons, it is important to know that you are not—even in our community of faith—alone. You are not the first to feel this way and you are certainly not the last.
We should also be reminded of Christ’s encouraging words to his spiritually toiling apostle, Peter: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32)
I am often reminded of Peter, that apostle, when reflecting on matters of faith and doubt. Why? Because, despite many great spiritual experiences, Peter was human and struggled to have faith and to know and believe.
But, as each of us ought to be, Peter was on a long-term spiritual journey and was humble throughout. The same must be true for us.
Part of the “To Those Who Doubt” series. Read the series’ other posts here: