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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Remain Unafraid Amid the Rising Doubt

A few months ago, I was asked to speak in an October Conference. I was pretty shocked and stoked at the same time. I was shocked because I had been widowed for less than a year and feeling like the weakest person in the whole stake. Stoked because I actually love public speaking. Though I have been through a whole lot in my thirty years, I still almost called them the night before to say I'm the last person who should be giving this talk. The Lord knows us and what we are going through personally and knows how we can grow the best in this short time on Earth. At least, I believe that if I'm not in a doubting moment. Here's the talk- initially, there were 22 pages of my ideas, but don't worry- I dwindled it down to 5- I'm a bit of a researcher on any topic:

"Jesus answered and said unto them. verily I say unto you if ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be cast into the sea, it shall be done." Matthew 21:21

I used this scripture because of the reference to mountains. The biggest mountain I ever had the privilege to climb in my life, however, was not removed the way I thought it should be when my husband died from leukemia last year. I'm sure many of you knew Marshall somehow because he served you or inspired you as he fought the battle of his life and moved many mountains through his faith. At the time I thought, "Lord's Will Be Done" but since then I have had more, "how could THIS possibly be the Lord's will?"  thoughts- DOUBTS you may call them.

A Book, "A Future As Bright As Your Faith", reminds us that faith and doubt dispel each other. Cast out doubt. Cultivate faith. STRIVE to retain that childlike faith which can move mountains and bring heaven closer to heart and home. Mark 9:24 "And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief." Wait- he believed and unbelieved? How does that work?

To quote President Uchtdorf,
"Some might ask what about my doubts? It's natural to have questions. The acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the church who have not at one time or another wrestled with serious or sensitive questions...the church itself honors personal agency so strongly. It was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers. Respect those who honestly search for truth, honor their right to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience just as we claim the privilege of doing". Uchtdorf openly acknowledges that after 200 years of church history there are things that cause people to question.

The struggle is how do you take something infinite and convert it to something finite? (This idea came to me from a podcast of Dehlin and Prince). It's history becoming theology. We tend to get hung up on trying to hold the church to historical criteria. How can you put on paper an infinite experience? Joseph struggled with this. I even struggled with this after an experience I had when my husband died (I still have yet to write here about that experience- it seems trying to put it in some finite language would take away from it's glory- can I use Portuguese? :).

Uchtdorf says, "Sometimes questions arise because we don't have all the information and we need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn't make sense before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

One of the purposes of the church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith. Even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is the HOPE for things that are not seen, but which are true." Then his famous line, "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must not allow doubt to hold us prisoner from the divine love, peace and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

I like to use analogies. I think of DNA (science major here, sorry). The two strands that supply physical life look perfect. If you zoom in on either DNA leg though- you'll see fragments of 'garbage'. Code that was once used and vital for life now cut off, discarded, strewn aside the leg. Since that may be too technical for the kids, there's also the analogy of the Grinch. Whoville was trying SO HARD to be perfect and happy, they didn't realize all the GARBAGE they were producing. The Grinch had a different perspective up on his mountain filled with garbage they were throwing out. Until a child, Cyndi Lou-who came and you know what she said? "I myself am having some yuletide doubts." "HYPOCRITES" said the Grinch. And he was right.

Uchtdorf says, "If you define hypocrites as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he/she believes then we're all hypocrites. None of us (especially me) are as Christ-like as we know we should be, but we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and be better. "I suppose the church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings. But God works through us, his imperfect children and imperfect people make mistakes (ALL of us). And now if there are faults, they are the mistakes of men." Despite our human imperfections, there are many great souls on earth. How can we find healing to our wounded souls? Do you feel distant from heaven's embrace- less than perfect?

"Each of us will have our Fridays- those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again...But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death- Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, no matter our desperation, our grief (I would add our doubts), Sunday will come. IN THIS LIFE OR THE NEXT (thanks for the inspiration Karly Lay).

We can have that brilliant Sunday, Christmas, Life moment of light the Lord sends us. Then it can be followed by days, months, even years of darkness, gloominess, and doubt. For those experiencing spiritual and life's gloom- maybe you feel you don't fit in or that your testimony isn't strong enough, HOPE for the sun, for Christ to come. And for those basking in the Sun, Christmas, life- reach out and listen to us grinches. We are right too from our perspective alone on our mountain we just climbed. Help, ask, stay(even take a gander from our view that's much different than yours for a while), refrain from judging, and allow each person's unique process.

In Marshall's case, his DNA had 3 copies of chromosome 9 initially (more garbage and trans locations later after treatment) which ultimately led to his physical death- though his spirit was thriving (I often found him reading scriptures every minute he could get to them). Let's not allow our own imperfections or the imperfections of others or church (any organized people) to lead to our soul's death. Neal A Mawell described one of the fundamental choices of mortality: "Within the swirling global events- events from which we are not totally immune- is humanity's real and continuing struggle: whether or not, amid the cares of the world, we will really choose, in the word's of the Lord to care for the life of the soul". Let us be gentle to those who's worlds are changing and rearranging. In the case of the Grinch he realizes Christmas can still come without packages, boxes, all the garbage.

Christ will come. Christ is more than details of church policy and procedure, of world policy and procedure. He is becoming. He is the change of heart that only comes after a struggle of doubt, after a realization that the garbage isn't needed, after all the terrible mistakes and unbeknownst harm they caused. It's a messy life full of sin, doubts, imperfections. But a perfect atonement and only a broken heart that leads to Him, the Son of God.

"While Peter's eye was fixed on the Lord, the wind might toss his hair and the spray might drench his robes, but all was well. Only with wavering faith he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink...(Ensign 1992)."
...As individual people, as families, communities and nations, we could, like Peter fix our eyes on Jesus we too might walk triumphantly over the welling waves of disbelief and remain unafraid amid the rising doubt.