This is a 4-Part Blog. At the end of each part, if you want to continue you’ll be able to click on a link that will take you to the next part.
Doctrine(s): #1) The witness we receive from the Holy Spirit is more valid than any other source.
I learned long ago that everyone has their own path to truth and joy and that they must take it. The whole purpose of agency is not about preventing people from taking paths you think they shouldn’t take. It’s about sharing what you know to be true, in love, and then letting them exercise their will to find out what’s true for themselves. This is how we all arrive at a witness of truth.
So often we think what we know, if said in the perfect way, will fix other’s issues and doubts. So often we believe that we can micromanage or even help people with the perfect paragraph of proof. We will try persuasion. Then, if that doesn’t work, we try compulsion. Then, if that doesn’t work, we move on to other ways where we try to make/force others to see what we see. And it seems so simple. It seems that it should work. But, it doesn’t. In fact, if it was that easy, then I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
There is only one source that can teach people absolute truth—the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5). That source is the Holy Ghost. And, the Holy Ghost can only teach people things if they want to be taught. If we want to believe something that is not true, or that is only partially true, the Holy Ghost will not force us to believe the actual truth. Our agency is so sacred and personal that it is like an impenetrable block in our minds and hearts that God, nor His Holy Spirit, will attempt to break—unless we invite Him to break it (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Nephi 33:1). A witness from the Holy Ghost is also so special and sacred that it can only be received when we want it and when we are willing to believe, and receive it. And, it is not a witness that comes without significant effort (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-33).
Each and every person has personality traits, psychological characteristics, life experiences, and ways of reasoning that only God knows and that only God can fix or change for those willing to follow His guidance. And only God knows what path will best lead each of us to the full measure of what blessings and truths He wishes to give us. Consequently, there is no choice that we make or path we can take that God can’t turn to our glory in our discovery of joy—if we let Him.
So, what is my goal with this blog post? My goal is to show what things I think about when I see those I care about, or who I have known well, leave the church. I can’t change them. But, I mean, let’s be real. Anytime anyone we love or respect has a crisis of faith—of any kind—it makes us question our own faith, or at least ponder and solidify it. So, here is the thought process (more or less) that I often go through when I see others struggle with their belief, their faithfulness, their activity, and who eventually make an exit from the church.
The first thing I think of is that the church doesn’t want people to accept things without asking questions or receiving their own witness of truth from the Holy Ghost. On the whole, a fundamental doctrine of Mormonism is seeking a personal witness and not only of the church being true as a whole—but a witness of each and every principle and doctrine we teach (Alma 32, St. John 7:17). That is the greatest strength of the church. We don’t live as we do and believe as we do because it’s nice, or good, or easy. Because it’s not. We don’t do it because some old men have threatened us. We rarely do it as a social thing, though some do. Even if someone has been born into the family tradition of being a Latter-day Saint we still encourage and expect them to gain their own witness.
So, in general, we are in this church because we were invited to seek a personal witness of The Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith, and of current Living Prophets and on-going revelation, of God’s specific and powerful plan for us, and of a Living Christ who is active in our lives. And, we received that witness from the Holy Ghost. That’s why we joined, and most often why we stay. The Holy Spirit said, “Yes, this is true.”
If a person’s witness from the Holy Spirit is called into question by fear, doubt, trials, offenses, mid-life crisis or other crisis of faith, or the philosophies of the world mingled with half-truths, by persuasive and well-meaning friends who don’t have our same witness, or other concerns or issues; then this is when many people leave the church or, minimally, become inactive.
I have had many times in my life where I had the opportunity to question my witnesses of truth. Whether it was a trial or struggle I was facing personally, or whether I saw others whom I respected struggling, I have had many opportunities to fear, doubt, to take offense, or to grab hold of worldly philosophies that, at the time, seemed to make much more sense and would lead me to happiness. So, why did I stay?
Well, I had one clear and unshakeable witness that held the glue together on all my other witnesses. What was that witness? That there is no more powerful witness than that which comes from the Holy Ghost. He is a member of the Godhead and as such He is omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly kind, loving, etc. He sees better than any mortal, no matter how intelligent, informed, or educated that mortal claims to be. So, if the Holy Spirit has told me something is true, then how can I let some mortal person or some worldly commentary undo it?
I have studied the doctrine (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). I have lived the gospel. And, I know the doctrine to be true in the same way I know the church itself is true. The Holy Spirit has witnessed to me that it is true. I know this independent of my own struggles, doubts, and trials. And, I have had my share.
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