On one occasion Jesus came upon a group arguing vehemently with His disciples. When the Savior inquired as to the cause of this contention, the father of an afflicted child stepped forward, saying he had approached Jesus’s disciples for a blessing for his son, but they were not able to provide it. With the boy still gnashing his teeth, foaming from the mouth, and thrashing on the ground in front of them, the father appealed to Jesus with what must have been last-resort desperation in his voice:
“If thou canst do any thing,” he said, “have compassion on us, and help us.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
–Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe”
It’s been a dark couple of months. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t written on this blog since I left New York, which has basically been the result of feeling like I haven’t really had the words to say what has been happening lately.
Since about April of this year, I’ve been going through a “faith transition” of sorts. All my life I unquestioningly believed everything I was taught about the LDS church and its doctrine, and then this spring, around the time when the gay marriage debate started to really heat up in Utah, I realized I actually had no idea whether I believed any of it. A lot of my questions circled around social issues that the church has taken a stand on, essentially gender roles, LGBT issues, reproductive rights, etc. I was really struggling with figuring out my place in the church as a woman who is very career-driven, unmarried and had no real desire to marry immediately and be a full-time mom. Although I know a lot of great women who work outside the home, don’t have children, don’t marry until later, etc, it’s definitely not popular to admit that you don’t necessarily want the “cookie-cutter Mormon life.”
In my feminist circles I know a lot of women (and men) who have chosen to leave the church because of sexist and hurtful things that have been done by church leaders, in church doctrine (or what they perceive as doctrine), or mainstream Mormon culture. I definitely do not condemn them for this choice. I’ve heard a lot of well-intentioned members say things like “if they really had a testimony of the gospel, that wouldn’t bother them.” I can see where that statement comes from, but it is nonetheless very hurtful. Having doubts or going through periods where being a part of the church is painful does not mean you do not believe the gospel is true or that you never had a testimony of it. Everyone struggles with some aspect of their faith at some point in their life. If you haven’t, you’re lying to yourself or haven’t really evaluated your testimony. It’s a part of the human experience to grow and change and re-evaluate what you believe. I know this, but for some reason, I have had a really hard time forgiving myself for having doubts, allowing myself to be human, allowing myself to take my questions to the Lord.
In my darkest moments, there were times when I contemplated leaving the church altogether. Some issues I have been wrestling with seemed to be unresolvable from a gospel lens. However, through all of it, I want to believe. I want to stay. I want the gospel to be a part of my life.
For a long time, I sat in the dark. I refused to take my questions to the Lord, refused to go to the temple, refused to really allow the atonement to heal me. The thing about darkness, though, is that there isn’t a way out until you decide to take a step in the dark back toward the light, and so I decided that I wanted the light again in my life. I wanted to believe.
This man’s initial conviction, by his own admission, is limited. But he has an urgent, emphatic desire . . . We are told that is good enough for a beginning. “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe,” Alma declares, “let this desire work in you, even until ye believe.”
So I’m trying, I’m working. I’m allowing the Savior to heal me and to carry me through when I don’t have enough faith on my own. Because that’s the whole purpose of the atonement. We do what we can, and He makes up the rest.
When facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: “Lord, I believe.” I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.
I know my doubts and questions won’t immediately go away because I decided that I wanted to Lord’s help. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to the end; I may always have these questions, but fortunately, I don’t have to know everything right now, as much as I want to.
Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.