About

It's OK to have questions about tough gospel issues.


“Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth." (C.S. Lewis)

“Others may focus on the questions and doubts they experience. Of course, having questions and experiencing doubts are not incongruent with dedicated discipleship. Recently, the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: ‘We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding.” [1]

(Note that the Brethren's statement didn't elaborate on the consequences of asking such questions. More on that below.)

I am one of those members. For most of my adult life, I have held significant positions of responsibility in the Church at the quorum, ward, stake and even area levels. I am one of those who was expected to have the answers. I have worked alongside the Brethren, the Church's worldwide leaders.  Yet, I am nothing before God. Knowledge of my identity is inconsequential and irrelevant compared with the content of this blog.

I think it is natural for some of us who are inquisitive, and love learning, to ask SINCERE questions. Over the years, as I was given greater levels of church leadership responsibilities, I developed questions which no leaders at those levels could or would answer.

Step 1: Understand that if you have questions, research is not the answer.


On February 2, 2019, Dallin H. Oaks presided over a devotional in Chicago for young married couples (source). In one part of his talk, he said, "Some spouses wonder how to best go about researching and responding to such issues. I suggest research is not the answer." He also said, "A faithful wife submitted this question: 'My spouse has gone inactive due to doubts regarding Church history and doctrinal issues. As someone who believes in the gospel and wants to remain active, how should I go about researching and responding to these issues?' I suggest that research is not the answer" [13]

If research is not the answer, then what is? Joseph Smith wanted to know which church was true, so he did his research by going to each of them, studying and then praying. Now research is bad? 

Step #2: If you are to research, you are advised to turn to church curriculum materials.


If you do research, you are encouraged and expected to seek answers using church-approved curricula, which often either (1) muddies the waters with inaccurate information or (2) doesn’t address your question at all. Here is Elder Oaks again:

"References to the Church’s many helps to answer familiar questions, such as the Gospel Topics Essays at ChurchofJesusChrist.org, may help one who is sincerely seeking, but the best answer to any question that threatens faith is to work to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Conversion to the Lord precedes conversion to the Church. And conversion to the Lord comes through prayer and study and service, furthered by loving patience on the part of the spouse and other concerned family members." [13]

(Note that so far, Elder Oaks has said "research is not the answer" and "conversion to the Lord" includes study. Don't research, but study. Huh?)

In 2014, the Church published a number of essays on various controversial topics. Unfortunately, the church has purposely made them difficult to find on its website. They are anonymously written (raising questions about their authorship and authority) and in many cases, they are undated.

In December 2020, the church unveiled new changes to its General Handbook of Instructions. [16] These changes included a new section on reliable sources:

"In today’s world, information is easy to access and share. This can be a great blessing for those seeking to be educated and informed. However, many sources of information are unreliable and do not edify. Some sources seek to promote anger, contention, fear or baseless conspiracy theories (see 3 Nephi 11:30; Mosiah 2:32). Therefore, it is important that church members be wise as they seek truth.

Seek out and share only credible, reliable and factual sources of information. Avoid sources that are speculative or founded on rumor. The guidance of the Holy Ghost, along with careful study, can help members discern between truth and error (see Doctrine and Covenants 11:12; 45:57). In matters of doctrine and church policy, the authoritative sources are the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets and the General Handbook."

I agree with the church that people should be wise in their selection of sources, which should be unbiased and objective in their analysis. However, I strongly disagree that we should limit our sources to JUST the scriptures, church leaders and the General Handbook. The church has forgotten one extremely important source: God Himself. Very telling indeed.

Step #3: Still unsatisfied? Consult your local leaders (who often don't have the answers, either).


Members with difficult questions are asked to not directly contact General Authorities (who are expected to have the answers to difficult questions). So they are expected to consult their local leaders (who likely don’t have all the answers). 
  1. This course of action presumes the local leaders have answers to all the tough questions. They don't.
  2. Unfortunately, such members are considered "questioning," "undergoing a faith crisis" a "doubter" or just wanting to sin. And all they wanted were answers to their questions.
  3. To avoid potential conflicts, priesthood and auxiliary leaders are unofficially advised not to call on the questioning member to teach lessons, say prayers or to be called on if they have a question. This is all done under the aegis of "protecting the good name of the church."

Step #4: Local leaders without answers may go through their chain of command to get answers, which may eventually come from church-employed sources.


Local leaders may promise members to "get to the bottom of their question," often by consulting their superiors. These superiors (likely 70 level and above) may turn to church scholars.

"When I have a question that I cannot answer, I turn to those who can help me. The Church is blessed with trained scholars and those who have devoted a lifetime of study, who have come to know our history and the scriptures. These thoughtful men and women provide context and background so we can better understand our sacred past and our current practices." [2] 

Unfortunately, these scholars can't and aren't expected to provide unbiased information. As church employees, they are obligated to provide answers which are (expectedly) biased in favor of the church. 

"Friends, what we're asking you to do is difficult it is demanding is among the stiffest challenges we could give you we know you can't be credible in every circle if your seen as lacking scholarly substance and categorically defensive all the time. But neither can you afford to ever be perceived as failing to serve the larger faith oriented purposes of this church. All we can ask is that you pray and fast and strive and sweat to find your way through. And then if there be error, let it be on the side of your covenants and on the side of your faith convictions. I promise the board won't return in five years over and come down on you saying that you made a mistake." [14]

This is unacceptable, because the truth knows no bias.

Step #5: The internet -- the source of last resort


Failing that course, inquisitive members will often hop on the internet and study away. 

TRUTH NEED NOT FEAR


Pierre LaMouche once stated, "Truth bears all scrutiny. Only falsehood fears the light of day."

LaMouche was not alone. Many leaders and theologians in our church have advocated the search for truth.

It all started with Joseph Smith. Despite his unfortunate/uninspired references to "Mormonism," (which is now officially deemed a Satanic word) he stated, "One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may. ... Truth is Mormonism. God is the author of it." [3] He also said, "We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons." [4]

Other leaders have echoed and amplified their advocacy of searching for the truth:
  • “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” [5]
  • “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” [6]
  • "Doubt has a place if it can stir in one an interest to go out and find the truth for one's self. I should like to awaken in everyone a desire to investigate, to make an independent study of religion, and to know for themselves whether or not the teachings of the Mormon church are true. There are altogether too many people in the world who are willing to accept as true whatever is printed in a book or delivered from a pulpit. Their faith never goes below the surface soil of authority. We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity." [7]
  • "I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent - if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it." [8]
  • “The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one sided, but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion and criticism is worth defending.” [9]
  • “Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. . . . We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” [10]
  • “The honest investigator must be prepared to follow wherever the search of truth may lead. Truth is often found in the most unexpected places. He must, with fearless and open mind insist that facts are far more important than any cherished, mistaken beliefs, no matter how unpleasant the facts or how delightful the beliefs.” [11]
  • “… as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. . . . How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?” [12]
  • "A man in search of truth has no peculiar system to sustain, no peculiar dogma to defend or theory to uphold. He embraces all truth, and that truth, like the sun in the firmament, shines forth and spreads its effulgent rays over all creation. If men will divest themselves of bias and prejudice, and prayerfully and conscientiously search after truth, they will find it wherever they turn their attention." [15]

NO MATTER THE ANSWER, IT MUST MEET THIS CRITERIA:


"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." [17]

ABOUT THIS BLOG


Assuming that it is still within the boundaries of propriety to ask questions, this blog is a record of my observations and the resultant questions -- my SINCERE questions -- accompanying them. It is about the truth; "let it come from whence it may." Let the chips fall how they will.

As you read my posts, please do not assume that this is an anti-Mormon/anti-Brethren or even anti-Christian website. It is not. All I want is the truth.

I do not intend for this to be a static blog. It will be dynamic, and as future observations and questions arise, I will note them in the footer of each post.

If you want to contact me, feel free to use the form on the contact page, or the comments underneath each post. I will not guarantee I will respond to every comment, but if I can, I will.

It is my hope that the words here on these posts will enlighten the darkness around many people, and that together, we can learn true, unadulterated, unvarnished "Latter Day Truths."


1.     M. Russell Ballard, “Stay in the Boat and Hold On,” October 2014 General Conference
2.     M. Russell Ballard, “There is Absolutely Nothing Wrong with Asking Questions”, September 13, 2015
3.     Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 199
4.     TPJS, p.316
5.     George A. Smith, JD 14:216
6.     J. Reuben Clark, “J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years”, D. Michael Quinn. Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24
7.     Hugh B. Brown, "An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown", 1988, http://www.lds-mormon.com/brown.shtml
8.     Hugh B. Brown, counselor in First Presidency, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958
9.     James E. Talmage, The Improvement Era, Volume 23
10.     Hugh B. Brown, “An Eternal Quest—Freedom of the Mind,” BYU Speeches, May 13, 1969, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/hugh-b-brown_eternal-quest/
11.     Hugh B. Brown, October 1962 General Conference
12.     Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Worldwide Leadership Training, Feb. 2012, Church News
13.  Dallin H. Oaks, "Keeping the Faith on the Front Line," Ensign, June, 2020.
14.  Jeffrey R Holland address before the Neal A Maxwell Institute, November 10, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8copoiPTBU
15.  "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church - John Taylor," p. 216, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/35969_eng.pdf?lang=eng
16.  https://www.deseret.com/faith/2020/12/18/22187384/policies-on-racism-vaping-medical-marijuana-highlight-update-to-church-handbook-mormon
17   Galatians 1:8-9


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