Most all of us experience doubts from time to time. Doubts in matters of faith, doubts about the future, doubts about others, doubts about ourselves. And then we worry about those doubts as well. We worry about whether it’s okay to have doubts at all.
First off, I don’t believe that doubts are sins. I have never found a scripture that calls doubt sin. It is a weakness, to be sure, and weaknesses can (but not always will) lead us to worse things. But doubts are not sins in and of themselves.
What is doubt, anyway? I have a more positive view of doubt than some. I believe doubt is a sign that we are missing information and experience. Therefore, doubt is opportunity. It is a signpost that tells us where our efforts should be concentrated. Unattended, doubt is a vacancy sign inviting dark thoughts and dark moods to take up residency.
Here are three ways I have taken that sign down and turned doubt into a positive experience.
1. Turn each doubt into a prayer and plea for help. Instead of standing on the wobbly legs of doubt, kneel. If you have concerns about doctrine or leaders or the faithfulness of friends or the choices of your spouse, take it to the Lord and trust Him to answer you. I am reminded here of a a verse I have always loved since first I read it when I was a teenager:
Look unto the Lord in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (D&C 6:36.)
This year, our bishop asked each member of our ward to memorize Proverbs 3:5–6.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they paths.
Trusting the Lord in this way takes patience and perseverance, but I can promise you that He will help you find the answers you seek if you trust Him and look unto him in your doubts and fears.
2. Search out the information you are missing. I have found in my own experience that doubt grows when I fail to exercise my spiritual and intellectual muscles.
I remember many years ago finding a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that I did not understand. It troubled me. A lot. But I didn’t stop there. I studied the verse and its background and context. Then I took it to the Lord. Earnestly. And then I waited.
One day shortly after, I was mowing the grass in our backyard and wham! the answer came to me. I had perfect clarity on the meaning of the verse. I knew the Lord had answered my prayer by His Spirit. I trusted that He would answer me, and He did. It was an unforgettable moment.
Since that time, I have always trusted that the Lord would help me to understand anything I did not understand, and He always does. My understanding is never perfect, but the Lord is always there to help. True principles never fail. We may fail, but true principles never do.
Remember this promise from the Lord in Matthew 7:7–8?
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
As Peter said in his second epistle: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward” (2 Peter 3:9). The Lord is not slack in his promises, though sometimes we grow slack in our search for truth and then blame our lack of success on Him. If you want to climb out of the pit of doubt, you have to climb the right ladder, the ladder of trust, honest inquiry, and patience.
3. Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments. (See Mosiah 23:14.) When you are seeking answers to your questions or doubts, don’t rely on people full of doubt, negativity or criticism to answer your questions for you. Don’t seek out the Chevy report on Ford. Don’t rely on weak, spiritually sick, unforgiving or unhappy people to lift your spirits or to clear your mind of doubt. By all means offer them help, if they are willing to accept it, but don’t let them be your teacher in spiritual matters.
True teachers, men and women of Christ, will always bear the hallmark of the fruit of the Spirit:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23.)
When in doubt, search out the light and go towards it. Seek the path of peace. Those who prefer emotional turmoil or spiritual unsteadiness, who seem to want to plunge deeper into doubt than to rise above it, often use their misunderstandings to justify their secret behavior. Be kind and respectful to them, but don’t follow them. “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14.)
One other thing: the vacuum that willful transgression creates will be filled with doubt. This kind of doubt takes more time to overcome, but the same principles apply though it may require an extra dose of patience with yourself.
If doubts are pursuing you, turn around and face them with trust in God, faithful inquiry, and turning toward those who have the fruit of the Spirit to help you. If you do, I promise God will not fail to help you resolve all doubt and bring you to a clear day on the mountain top.