March 26, 2013

How to Doubt

I've been feeling really stressed out lately about EVERYTHING. Graduation, my wedding, moving to New York City, feminism, gay marriage, etc. I have been asking a lot of questions about what I believe and how I can know God's will for me. 

Last night before I went to bed I read a talk from the last General Conference by the Relief Society President, Linda K. Burton. I've found that reading about Jesus Christ to reconcile these issues brings me more peace than anything else. I really loved her talk as she focused on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and asks the critical question of whether or not it is written in our hearts. One of my favorite parts of her talk was a quote from  Elder Dallin H. Oaks that says:

 “Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquility.”

I thought about that as I was falling asleep and what it means in my life. It seems to me that the fact that I am thinking about so many things that I have never thought about and doubting a few things which I have never doubted in my entire life right before I am going to go through the temple and get married (two of the most important ordinances in the Church) sucks. It's not ideal, you know? Sometimes I find myself thinking, "Why couldn't this have happened like a year or two ago? Then I could have at least talked to Abby about it. And maybe I could have resolved everything by now."

This time has been both intensely spiritual and extremely confusing. But when I read this quote I realized a few things. 

1) I NEED to be converted again. I have been converted before, but I believe conversion is a lifelong process that should happen continually throughout our lives. A change of heart is not a one time thing. I think if it was, there wouldn't be that whole "endure to the end" bit. Alma said, "...If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26)

2) My needed conversion is NOT going to be comfortable. It's not going to come through attending a testimony meeting in my singles ward. It's not going to come through watching a single Mormon Messages video. It's not going to come by just relying on my testimony from years past. Despite this I know that it will come. It will come through communion with God, and a deep commitment to Him and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Asking him sincere questions and having the faith to receive an answer. Having the faith to accept God's will for me and my family. Like Elder Oaks said it will likely be through suffering and adversity, but I have decided that if that is God's plan for me and if it's going to make me a stronger, more faithful person then so be it.

A few weeks ago I read a talk from Terryl Givens, a Mormon scholar and professor of literature and religion at University of Richmond who also wrote the book The God Who Weeps. The talk is called "Letter to a Doubter" and it was give at a fireside to a single adult stake in Palo Alto, CA. Read it. Seriously. He writes so beautifully. Here are a few quotes from it that I love, most of them are not his words but are cited in the talk.

"Finally, find solace in what I have called the fellowship of the desolate. With Mother Teresa, who said, 'I am told God lives in me and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.' … 'Heaven from every side is closed.'"

“I will tell you that I am a child of this century, a child of disbelief and doubt. I am that today and will remain so until the grave. How much terrible torture this thirst for faith has cost me and costs me even now, which is all the stronger in my soul the more arguments I can find against it. And yet, God sends me sometimes instants when I am completely calm; at those instants I love and feel loved by others, and it is at those instances that I have shaped for myself a Credo where everything is clear and sacred for me. This Credo is very simple, here it is: to believe that nothing is more beautiful, profound, sympathetic, reasonable, manly and more powerful than Christ." -Fyodor Dostoevsky

“God allows spiritual peaks to subside into (often extensive) troughs in order for ‘servants to finally become Sons,’ ‘stand[ing] up on [their] own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish… growing into the sort of creature He wants [them] to be.’” 
-C.S. Lewis

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