Questioning and Doubting

The recent Ensign article (Mar 2015) by Adam Kotter titled “When Doubts and Questions Arise,” has generated a lot of discussion on the Internet (see here and here).  As a big-time doubter, the article struck a nerve with me.  The basic theme of the article is:  questioning may be good (and sometimes) productive, but doubting is bad.  To get to this conclusion, Kotter creates, what for me, is an unacceptable distinction between the two.  And to characterize doubt as bad, Kotter seems to be going against some recent statements by LDS General Authorities.

After reading the Ensign article, I wish that it had been written by someone else.  Why couldn’t this article (or a counterbalance to this article) be written by someone like Richard Bushman or Terryn and Fiona Givens (the latter two did write an article on doubt for Meridian Magazine)?  Individuals with a more complex and understanding view of the angst and struggles involved with doubt.  The LDS Church has very capable writers and intellects out there who could have provided a more nuanced discussion.

Having said that, when I think of doubt, I think of Mother Teresa.  Ten years after her death in 1997, with the publication of some of her letters, the world was surprised (and shocked) to learn that she was haunted by doubts.  In one of her letters, she even admitted to doubting the existence of God.  Eventually she came to grips with her doubts; but as far as we know, she died with them.  Serious doubts and good works can coexist in the same person.

For many of us, our doubts are probably born in our genetic makeup and in our developmental history.  Having said that, Mother Teresa’s doubts don’t shock me.  Here we have a woman who dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor.  We can only image what horrors she witnessed.  If you multiply that suffering times the billions who have had to endure similar suffering, how could you not question the very roots of your belief structure?

You can’t judge Mother Teresa’ doubts as bad (and no, they were not questions).  They were her’s and they were real.  Should she be judged harshly because of her doubts?  I think not.

With the publication of her letters in 2007, I found the “new” Mother Teresa to be a more compelling and spiritual person.  And I applaud the Catholic Church for making her letters public.  Could the LDS Church do something similar?  I don’t know.  I can’t think of a similar situation in Mormondom.  It would be productive for the Ensign to publish an article on Mother Teresa and her doubts.

This entry was posted in catholicism, mormonism, mother teresa, Personalities, Religion, Social Justice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Questioning and Doubting

  1. dor says:

    Who among us knows who or what God is? To doubt, and doubt deeply, but to find the strength to act with compassion with little regard for your own comfort is evidence of faith. To doubt and, despite all social evidence to the contrary, to commit oneself to trying to restore justice to those not favored by society, is the action of faith. To doubt, but to still see the face of Jesus in others (even others we don’t like), is the essence of faith.

  2. Susan says:

    When you are raised in a structured organized religion (such as the LDS Church), doubt is difficult. I can honestly say I relied on other people’s testimonies when growing up. I had faith that they knew what they were talking about. I had faith that their convictions and knowledge of the church were true, even if I didn’t get that “burning” and “all knowing” feeling that apparently those with the true knowledge felt.

    I once had a friend who used to say, “Guilt if the gift that keeps on giving”. I would also substitute “doubt” for “guilt” with similar results. What does at 50+ woman do who begins to doubt? I wish I had an answer.

    I do know that I can no longer look at my religion in the same light as many moons ago. Doubt exists. One of the reasons for this doubt sounds so silly: I remember at a time when we didn’t have instant news. No internet and social media. We were left with the nightly news (think Walter Cronkite, etc.) and a daily or weekly hometown newspaper. We were left with the Children’s Friend, Improvement Era, and later the Ensign. Our world was the church and the leaders. It was fine. And in my world, especially as it related to religious history, there were very few questions asked.

    So now, with Ordain Women, history of the blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, and other items that we are privy to, it makes me uncomfortable and a bit of “doubt” has crept into my soul. And aren’t we only human? Can’t doubt be healthy? As you say, Roger, if Mother Teresa had doubt, who am I to “doubt” my “doubt”?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, I had few doubts. Although I did strongly disagree with LDS Church’s black priesthood ban.

      Before I went on my mission, we had to undergo one week of indoctrination. The MTC at the time was located across the street from the Salt Lake Temple. While going through by first temple ceremony, I suddenly began to doubt. The ceremony seemed so alien to by one personal beliefs. After the temple ceremony was over, I walked up to the Utah State Capitol and sat on the lawn for hours. I decided to continue with my mission anyway.

      On my mission, I read any book I could find. Some LDS, some French existentialist. The latter made a lot of sense to me. Anyway, I was on by way to some serious doubt.

      • lovannarose says:

        Hello. The LDS church does not have ban on black priesthood anymore (as of the 80’s I believe) any worthy male, no matter ethnicity, is able to hold the priesthood. Just fyi.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    Hi Lovannarose, You are right the Church no longer has the black priesthood ban, but its never been able to explain why there was a ban. They’ve said it wasn’t the curse of Cain or Ham. So why was there a ban?

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