The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. But sometimes the questions we have about it are not.
If you’ve learned about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you probably have questions. Perhaps you have questions about why traditional marriage matters in our Church, about the priesthood, or about the plausibility of God and Jesus Christ really talking to a farm boy in New York.
And trust me, you’re not alone. People within and outside of the Church have faced various kinds of questions. I’m a lifetime member of the Church and I still have questions.
Since I believe that God wants His children to seek knowledge, let me make three suggestions for how you can find answers to your most difficult gospel questions.
1. Use Trusted Resources: This is number one on my list for a reason. Many people, when searching for answers about the Church of Jesus Christ, will turn to whatever sources they can find. Google is usually the most popular. While Google can bring up some helpful information, there is also no credibility filter. As long as someone has figured out the intricacies of search engine optimization, they can get their information out their in front of the public. This makes search engines a questionable place to seek spiritual knowledge.
In reference to God’s admonition in James 1:5, Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “God did not say, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him Google!’” [M. Russell Ballard, “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century,” 26 February 2016]
If you are seeking answers to life’s most important questions, it is important to use only the best and most trusted resources. So what are these resources? Well, it’s different depending on what your question is. If you’re trying to find out if the Book of Mormon is true, one of the best places to find that out is by engaging with the Book of Mormon. Read it. See what it feels like as you prayerfully study it. Does it draw you closer to Christ? Does it make you want to be a better person?
What if your question is about living prophets? Read and listen to their words. What type of counsel do they give? Does it align with what you know God’s prophets have said in the past [in Biblical times]? Do the words of modern-day prophets make you want to be better and draw closer to God?
If you have a question about Church history, go to a reputable source. The Church has multiple essays and resources, and there are many faithful scholars who might be able to help shed light on this. You can also search through historical records and witnesses who lived during the time that you are concerned about. However, searching a random blog will likely not provide the best answers you can find, nor will searching “anti-Mormon” literature.
Find information from the most reliable sources you can and then go to the ultimate Source — God — for the final answer on what is true and what is not. He is a Source you can absolutely rely on.
2. Go Back to the Basics: One of the things that people find most unbelievable about the Church of Jesus Christ is that God and Jesus Christ would really appear to a farm boy in New York. When friends ask me about this, I don’t testify to them about Joseph Smith. Instead, I like to answer the root of their question, which is really about ongoing revelation and the nature of God.
● Is God the same yesterday, today, and forever? Yes.
● Has God revealed himself to humble servants in the past? Yes.
● Does God love His children and reveal His gospel to them? Yes.
If I believe and understand those things, then it is easier for me to accept the account of Joseph Smith seeing God and Jesus Christ. It will still require prayer for me to know if it really happened, but getting to the root of the question helps me settle some of the concerns I might feel about even considering it.
This is true for almost any question you can ask. If you are concerned about the Church’s policies then you should get to the root of that question, which might look like considering the following: Does God lead the Church through a living prophet who speaks His word? Asking why bad things happen to good people may be more a question of whether God is real and has a plan for each our lives and if He has made provisions for the difficulties and tragedies of life. (He has through His Son, Jesus Christ!)
Over time, as you continue asking questions, you will find that most of them may boil down to just a few root questions:
1. Is God real?
2. Does He have a plan for His children?
3. Is the Atonement of Jesus Christ real?
4. Does God still speak to His children through prophets?
5. Do prophets have the authority to speak in God’s name?
I have come to know that almost every single question I have about the Church can be answered by revisiting the answers I have received to those five root questions. Perhaps the same can be true for you.
3. Hold On To What You Do Know: If you come upon a new question about the Church that you can’t find an answer to, don’t give up what you already know simply because you don’t understand everything right now. Do you believe that Jesus is real? Hold onto that! Do you believe in God and that He can answer your prayers? Hold onto that! There are so many in the world who don’t believe those things, who can’t say that they know or even believe that God and Jesus Christ are real. So hold onto what you know and realize that you can know even more.
If God chose to reveal to you His reality and the reality of His Son, then He can reveal much, much more. It may take time–it probably will take time. But this is a quest to know things of eternal value, so it is worth it. Wait patiently until further light comes and hold on tightly to what you already know.
I can personally testify of the value of seeking for spiritual knowledge. I have spent a lifetime earnestly seeking to know if the Church of Jesus Christ is true. I have asked so many questions, and have found the answers for myself. I know God will answer your questions, if you seek him diligently and if you truly want an answer, He will speak to you.
Postscript: Some references you can read that relate to the three points above.
- Is God the same yesterday, today, and forever?
● Does God love His children and reveal His gospel to them?
● Is God real?: https://www.comeuntochrist.org/beliefs/god/is-god-real
● Does He have a plan for His children? https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/topics/plan-of-salvation/earth-life?lang=eng&old=true
● Does God still speak to His children through prophets? https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-9-prophets-of-god?lang=eng
● Do prophets have the authority to speak in God’s name? https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-9-prophets-of-god?lang=en
● Hold Onto What You Know: “Lord, I Believe” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng; “You Know Enough” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2008/10/you-know-enough?lang=eng
● Closing testimony in the Book of Mormon about God’s ability to answer prayer: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/moro/10