First, I should avoid hubris and be clear that I do not imagine myself to be the very elect (Luke 24:24), but I would have never considered myself to ever doubt the Church. I have reason to suspect that few others would have imagined such. I would consider that I was stalwart, and bold, and nigh unshakable. My testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet and the impetus for Christ’s gospel restoration was adamant. As a teen, I identified with Joseph. If God could use a fourteen year old boy to be the harbinger of such a spiritual revolution, why couldn’t He use me? I was an earnest seeker of truth, I had faith, I was free from egregious sins. And The Book of Mormon? I leaned all of my testimony on that. I doubted none of it. I was raised from toddlerhood that you could read it, pray to Heavenly Father to know if it is true, and like James 1:5 exhorts, and as it exhorted Joseph Smith, could know it’s truth or falsehood. As a sixteen-year old kid, in a period of self-discovery and of alienating familiar things to understand them and myself, I refused to be a sheep that inherited my parent’s testimony, as is possible with religion; despite personally having two complete sets of scriptures, one even with my name engraved on it, I took a missionary edition of The Book of Mormon, so to not be attached, and read it. I started with a skeptical eye, but soon found the story, not even the doctrine, just the plot, enthralling. The doctrine only enhanced the experience. I found the love of God, and the power of families, and the importance in record keeping. But more importantly, I connected the dots and the synapses I had been taught since birth. I created a picture, and it fit the measurements and details I had been told were included in it. My family tradition and culture made sense. I took the challenge to kneel, and pray, and ask. My answer was unique, and not what I had expected nor heard others share: “You already know it’s true.” Unsatisfied for its simplicity and lack of drama, I continued to kneel, and asked again. No further answer was given, and thus I understood none was needed. I had mine, and I should press forward with the same clarity and boldness. And I have.
Where I doubt, is because of the aforementioned issues with historical veracity, and with the hard-and-fast concept that doctrine does not change and is eternal (which is at odds with the concept of continuing revelation), and the flawed opinions and even prophecies of prophets (research polygamy, the Adam-God theory, the much debated forbiddeness of R-rated films, and also the early leaders’ stance on African-American’s possession of the priesthood), I feel is it reasonable to question the counsel of current or any general Church leader. If these things are shakey, why would I think everything else is infallible? I must therefore question everything. But I do not make the fatal mistake of forgetting my past spiritual experiences. As a youth and teen, I felt the hand of God much in my life. As a professional missionary, which I was from ages twenty to twenty-two, I had a plethora of instances where I knew God more, and felt He truly is my Father in Heaven, and that He cared for me accordingly, as my dad, here on earth, does. I even was impressed that He has a sense of humor, enough to share inside jokes. I love my Father Etherial, and believe in Him still. But I must explore as if it were possible He doesn’t exist, so I can understand how He does exist. I have to question the authenticity of all things, in order to gain an appreciation of them. And I do not fool myself that I will come out retaining belief in the same things. A metamorphosis is in order.
A dear friend suggested, 3 Nephi 18:15, and I’m grateful for it. Many in a faith crisis would take offense at the assumption that one is not praying for deliverance from deception, but I prefer to believe in my homie’s good intentions. He cares for me, and the application is valid. I do pray for guidance, and that I will stay in the Church. But I am open to more enlightenment than I used to be.