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.