Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Elder Maxwell on Doubts


Gotta love Elder Neal A. Maxwell.

The following quotes about doubts came from a section in the Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, which also cites the individual books those quotes came from:

The shouts and barbs from those in doubt are sometimes not criticism at all, but frustration at not yet having found the “iron rod”—something solid in a world of too many marshmallow men and too many chameleon causes. (A Time to Choose, p.6)

Notice at the bottom of this kind of doubt is frustration at a lack of certainty.  From my experience of having had a crisis of faith, that lack of certainty can be very painful. And from that perspective, the results of living the doctrine can seem uncertain too, cloaked, as it seems, in the mist of the future.  How much does one dare to trust it?  Will God make good on His promises?  (Yes, He does, but our faith must be tried.)

Elder Maxwell also notes that this is a world of “too many marshmallow men and too many chameleon causes.”   Acquaintance with too many of these can make us think that the kingdom of God is one of them.  Or if we leave the church for some other cause that seems more weighty, we will find to our sorrow that once we have fully weighed it, it is still found wanting, leaving our own wanting unfulfilled.

To host an if is like hosting an insect that breeds and multiplies in the sun of circumstance. Soon one is crawling with ifs and is thereby overcome. (Even As I Am, p74)

The “if” that Maxwell talks about is more like a “what if.”  I would add that when hosting an if, it may feel as if you are feeding off it, but it is feeding off you and sucking out the vitality of faith. He compares it to hosting an insect because these doubts are parasitic. They don’t add anything or help you do anything. 

There are two ways to deal with them.  1) Forget about them and get to work living the practical gospel. Acting to keep commandments builds faith.  “Tis better far for us to strive, our useless cares from us to drive.” 2) Treat them like ticks and confront them with the tweezers of faith-filled argument: write them down and then eviscerate them on paper. 

Doubters often pool their doubts by associating with like-minded individuals, each bringing his own favorite “dish” as if to a potluck dinner. (That Ye May Believe, p. 191)

Thus, even if you badly want validation when in the midst of doubts, don’t go looking for other doubters to kvetch with. That’s kind of like going to a doctor-less hospital in which sick people go around infecting each other in the name of palliative care.  Instead, you need strong, thinking believers with big hearts.   You need people willing to share their reasons for belief, and who love in such a way that you’ll see there’s room for you in the church.

By not being actively involved in the process of faith, doubters simply do not receive reinforcing rewards. They also resent the lack of sympathetic vibrations from the faithful each time doubters themselves oscillate in response to what they suppose is some “new evidence” to the contrary. (Lord, Increase Our Faith, p.89)

It seems to me that if people find themselves oscillating in response to “new evidence” they think contradicts their faith, it is time to take a careful look at what the foundations of their testimony is and whether they are keeping the commandments as given in the Beatitudes.  Testimony has to be rooted in Christ and the prophets.  It is kept strong by doing the commandments. 

24 ¶Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)