This week in our sacrament meeting one of the speakers (a fairly recent convert to the church) shared her conversion story. She then suggested that all of us whether we are converts or lifelong members of the church will have to go through our own conversion story. She urged us to think on our own conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week as I have been pondering on her challenge several of my dear friends have been facing a clear and difficult challenge to their own testimonies and conversion. I don't pretend to have an answer to their questions or doubts. They are serious and difficult and my heart breaks seeing those I care about feeling so troubled.
With this in mind I wanted to share my own conversion story and some thoughts that have come to me this week.
My own testimony has progressed gradually over the course of my life. I was born in the church and raised by two wonderful parents who encouraged me to develop my own testimony. They stressed that real truth can withstand any question. Search out your answers, don't be afraid to ask questions was the theme of my gospel upbringing.
In spite of that, I rarely had any real questions. I was surrounded by faith and and love and had no real challenges. When I began attending the university things shifted a bit. As I biochemistry major I was surrounded by students and professors who scoffed at the idea of a God. At one point it seemed that every lecture I attended all day long was aimed at disproving His existence. As I was bombarded with arguments from every angle trying to tear down my testimony I tried to face those questions head on. I wasn't afraid of questions. The gospel can handle them.
Eventually though the constant barrage of questions began to wear me down. I couldn't logically argue against all of the points they were making. I didn't have time to deal with each one individually. Instinct said to fall back on the peace of the spirit to confirm the truth of the gospel in my heart. But that very feeling of peace was also being called into question. Could I trust it? Was it just what I wanted to feel?
I felt exhausted and sad. I didn't know what to do. My mind was troubled and a pondered on my doubts constantly. I am a logical person by nature and I couldn't leave logic behind in this quest.
Then one day, as I sat studying for my organic chemistry class, The light broke through.
I had let my mind wander once again to my doubts. I was on the verge of tears unsure what I believed. And like a flash of clear light the thought came into my mind “If they are right, and there is no God, then Jesus Christ is not my loving friend and Savior.” And my feet found solid ground. I knew that Christ was there for me. I knew it. He has been my closest friend. I have felt his hand in my life and his arms around me comforting me. Christ is real.
It didn't resolve my questions but it gave me a solid foundation to stand on while I considered them. By finding what I knew and standing on that I could once again consider my doubts without fear.
12. And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
Faith is the first principle of the gospel. This is an important point. We will not understand everything in this life. We walk by faith. In Alma 32: 17-18 Alma talks about the desire to have all doubt removed. he asks “Is this faith?” Then answers his own question “Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.”
That doesn't mean to push your doubts under the rug. He spends much of the rest of the chapter discussing how to reach a perfect knowledge. What it does mean is that the presence of doubt in you mind does not mean there is something wrong with the gospel or with the church. People will have doubts and questions. That is why we start with faith.
You have to find your rock. What do you know? Then stand firm on that rock while you search for answers and understanding.
In April 2014 Jeffery R. Holland gave a beautiful talk on this topic. He said
“When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.... Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!”
There is pain and misunderstanding often in this life. Members of the church, even leaders, may make mistakes. I'm not here to justify or make any judgments at all. I can't see into the hearts of any other person. I just want to share my testimony that people make mistakes and bad calls. That does not change the gospel. Faith comes first. I don't have a magic formula to get rid of all doubt. Just stand on your rock and don't be afraid of the storm.