I was recently reminded of a blog where I used to participate. While there, I wrote this, which I think is pretty good (except for the ending, which I’ve changed).
On a whole, I think that Latter-day Saints fail to appreciate the power of doubt. It may be natural; we are a movement that demands faith and demands acts that indicate our possession thereof. At the same time, we say that it is good to have questions. We seem to approach doubt as a hobby; something that we keep working on in the basement level of our mind; something which we always work on when something more important isn’t pressing; something that fundamentally only the individual is interested in and which, therefore, ought not to be widely shared; something that can always be set aside and returned to after an appropriate interval. There is much talk in and out of the church about compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance, both of which seem to accept the hobby form of doubt as the only legitimate form. People often push us to bring the doubts up from the basement; saying that there is nothing wrong with doing it. However, there is a persistent sense that, in so doing, one will become a freak, a stamp-collector or D&D player, unfit for normal company and consigned to only finding like-minded, acne-faced peers at symposia and conventions. The public airing of our hobbies risks real public consequences.
For better or for worse, another consequence of the hobby system of doubting is that, like a dream deferred, there is a chance of explosion. As we perpetually delay going through the accumulated doubts in our spiritual basement, they come to fill the shelves and floorspace. Eventually, there is no more room and the room erupts, flowing into all other aspects of our life. There is no way to contain the doubts anymore, they are too many and too powerful. Our hobby has taken over our life, like an addiction to video games. We may never leave the basement again.
This seems to often be the conclusion of the hobby/doubt system. The thing is that doubt appears to actually be necessary. In this, I don’t mean the idealized doubt of the easily satisfied, wherein one reads a single passage of scripture and is suddently convinced of the way, the truth, and the life. God’s victories are not so cheaply wrought. Instead, I mean real doubt, the kind that comes from ordinary life. Perhaps it may be the result of years of basement doubts; perhaps it is the result of one horrific event. In any case, all people, at one point or another, are brought to doubt, real doubt, not something affected. Who is this God and what does he think he is doing? Real doubt isn’t about how we approach God; it is rather about God himself, life itself, and the meaning we derive therefrom.
We may sometime find ourselves at a point where all of our life has stopped making sense; where clocks starting ticking backwards and dogs walk on their hind legs. Everything that you knew and know is wrong. In the grip of this doubt, there is no turning away or setting aside. One cannot help but make the hole where one’s life was a focus. In the midst of this doubt, we may be presented with a choice: to believe. In particular, the choice is to believe when you don’t really have any good reasons for so doing. This seems crazy, frankly, but it seems to be one of the proofs God demands of us. I used to think that I’d gone through something like this, but I’ve realized that I’d only touched the beginnings. I doubt myself with some frequency, my determination to believe, my knowledge of the truth. Nonetheless, every day I make a choice to believe. I can’t guarantee that I will do so forever; I think I will, but life is long. For now, each day, I believe. In that, I have no doubt.