What Causes Doubt and How Can I Overcome It? (To Those Who Doubt, Part 4)

By Michael T.

The causes or circumstances of spiritual doubt can be many and often differ from person to person.  For example:

  • You may have gone through busy or challenging periods of life, a consequence of which might be that you don’t feel particularly close to God or the Church or the gospel.
  • There may be uncertainties and unknowns in your life and you may feel that you lack God’s direction.
  • You may have faced adversity, disappointment, and trials through which you’ve sought God’s help, but feel that your prayers and desires have yet to be answered.
  • You may feel that your previous, and possibly more simple, beliefs in God and the gospel have been challenged by new knowledge or experience.
  • You may recall the spiritual experiences of your youth, but now wonder if they were just hormones, emotions, or your desires at the time to conform or fit in.
  • You may feel that you lack tangible or empirical validation—a consistent or systematic proof—of the existence of a Supreme or Divine Being.
  • You may feel like you don’t “fit” in the Church or naturally belong in an often somewhat homogeneous Mormon congregation.
  • You may feel that you or the course of your life may depart from the “norm” or the “ideal” in the Church—or that you’re not a likely candidate for an Ensign Magazine cover shoot.
  • You may have concerns about elements of early, or possibly recent, Church history.
  • You may question the seeming contradictions of a Church leader’s behavior, or doubt whether his/her calling to serve was, for some reason, inspired or desirable.
  • You may doubt the origin or authenticity of scripture or revelation.
  • You may have unresolved questions related to important areas of Church doctrine.
  • You may have been offended by someone’s actions—a member or a leader—or you may have possibly been abused by someone in a position of trust.
  • You may have had an unexpected and unpleasant mission or temple experience.
  • You may have sinned or distanced yourself in ways that make it more difficult to feel that you would be worthy of God’s help and appreciate the importance of laws and commandments.

There could be many reasons behind your doubts—and even several at once.

When you struggle with doubt and uncertainty: thoughts and counsel

We live in an age of knowledge, progress, and significant intellectual discovery.  The frontiers of all areas of knowledge have been, and continue to be, pushed outward.  The information and knowledge that are instantly available to us can be both a benefit and a hindrance to our search for belief and testimony.  We must be both open minded and discriminating.  We must still focus on choosing to believe, exercising faith, and cultivating spiritual confirmation of truth and knowledge.

We must remember that:

  • As God taught in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • While God is anxious for us to come to greater knowledge and understanding of him and his truths, we must not assume that we are—by any means philosophical, scientific, or religious—so intelligent as to not be beholden to him to better know of his existence.
  • Though we live in an age of knowledge, we must still admit the limits of human understanding.  And just as we can be enlightened, so can we be deceived.
  • Empiricism and other approaches to knowledge all have their biases and limitations—as does every way of knowing or justifying belief.  Over-reliance on any one approach can limit us.
  • If one wants to know and understand divine or spiritual things, then one must accept that it is an endeavor that differs from other types of knowledge and other ways of knowing.
  • We must also accept that our prescribed timeframe for coming to greater knowledge and testimony may not be God’s timeframe—nor may our terms be his terms.  We must be humble in seeking his guidance and revelation.
  • If God is the source of truth, then we have to concede that we can only know it on his terms. But he, in his infinite knowledge and wisdom, is able to tailor that learning process to our needs.

Part of the “To Those Who Doubt” series. Read the series’ other posts here:

Part 1: Do Believers Doubt?

Part 2: What is Faith?

Part 3: How can I Know What is True?

Part 5: How do Believers Remain Faithful While Having Doubts?

Part 6: Does God Help Those Who Doubt?

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