Terryl and Fiona Givens on Doubt (and Questions)

In a recent article for Meridian Magazine, Terryl and Fiona Givens make the claim that “doubt doesn’t have to be dangerous.”  Their article seems timed to provide a rejoinder to a similar article in the Ensign (Mar 2015) by Adam Kotter which vilified doubt.

While I found Kotter’s article disappointing, I found the Givens’ article to be strangely unsatisfying.  I don’t think either the Givens or Kotter totally understand the depths of some of our angst.  According to the Givens:  “Doubt can have a crucial role in the life of the disciple, but is not the end for which we strive.”  To which I respond:  “Why can’t it be the end?”  Is our end goal predetermined?  If we have serious doubts, why isn’t it okay to die with them?  Using the example of Mother Teresa, she apparently died with her doubts.

Doubt may be merited in any number of circumstances on the path to decision-making; but glorying in doubt as an achievement or a final state of mind is to relinquish that which makes us more than logic machines, and arrest a process humans are uniquely constituted to see to completion.

Why isn’t it okay for some of us to come to the realization that some questions are unanswerable?  That is where I’m at.  I’m in a perpetual state of DOUBT.  I don’t glory in my doubt, and I don’t think I wear it as a badge of honor like a “self-styled sophisticate.”  But, I don’t see an avenue or a serious need to resolve my doubts.  They don’t affect the way I want to live the remainder of my life.

We do not need to succumb to perpetual indecision, or be paralyzed into a stance of non-commitment.

I don’t feel paralyzed; and a belief that my doubts may not be resolvable in this life is certainly a defensible position.

We might see doubt as an essential point of transition between honest assessment of evidence, and moving forward with a purpose.

For me, my doubts are more than a speed bump, they are more than a “way station.”  But they don’t keep me from “moving forward with a purpose.”  We all have different genetic material and a different intellectual and spiritual environment.  To expect us all to have the same unwavering faith is unrealistic.

Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas

So the $64,000-question for me (and other serious doubters) is:  Should I stay in the LDS Church or should I go?  (Or from the perspective of Church leaders, is the Church tent big enough for serious doubters?)

For me, that is a tough question.  I was raised Mormon, and I see nothing better out there at the moment.  As for Church leaders, it is up to them to decide how big the tent is.

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2 Responses to Terryl and Fiona Givens on Doubt (and Questions)

  1. Jess says:

    thanks for writing this. i have been thinking about this a lot lately.
    i am often taught, in church, about striving to find belief & testimony. what if i have doubts, & i am okay with that? is it a problem that i need to be actively trying to solve? or can it just be okay that way? i have had experiences that did build my testimony of certain concepts, not because i was looking, but because it just happened. i like it that way.

    when i was a kid (raised mormon), i remember mom talking to me about her “testimony.” she told me that she questioned some things about our church. but she did not see any reason to turn away from it because of her doubts. she felt that the benefits of the church were many. she was taught many good things, & unless she felt like it was leading her to make bad decisions or feel bad about herself, there was no harm in continuing. like you say, she saw no better options for her. she did have a testimony of many things, & she enjoyed church. i appreciated her honesty.

    i guess that is where i am at in my life now. i don’t feel obligated to leave because my testimony is not as “perfect” as others. i like the “big tent” analogy, & i hope it is true. the church does benefit me & my family, so for the time being, i am in. some of the church leaders’ statements about social issues have made me cringe, but they are imperfect humans, just like i am. it’s the recent ex-communications have left a really bad taste in my mouth.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Jess, I don’t think you want to be too hard on yourself or overthink the issue of “doubt.” My father, despite trying hard, was never able to develop a “testimony.” My mother and father never bore their “testimonies.” Both though were active in their own sort of way. Their sons had a similar problem with “doubt,” two of which have pretty much left the Church. So I wonder what affect genetics and environment might have on a person’s “testimony.” All of us come with different genes and from a different home life. So all of us will have different forms of “doubt.” And in my case, the doubt is unlikely to be resolved in this lifetime.

      I’m not trying to use genetics as an excuse (or am I?). But I’ve been at point for quite some time where I’m prepared to live with the “doubts” that I have. No two Mormons believe the same identical thing. That is what makes the Church interesting.

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