This is the first post in a series how several of us have dealt with a crisis in faith.
My parents joined the church when I was five years old. Actually, it was just before the Saskatoon Saskatchewan District became a stake, so for the first couple of months of my Mormon experience, I attended a branch.
I grew up in the church. I was a pretty average member for most of that time. While I had siblings who blatantly rejected the church, the closest I came was a bout of apathy.
I met and dated a recent convert whose enthusiasm for the gospel rubbed off on me and changed my outlook toward the church. In fact, I believe she was directly responsible for my serving a mission.
About a year before I left on my mission, I requested that the bishop call me as a Primary teacher. He was more than willing, and I was assigned to teach the children turning eight. It was a good experience; it solidified basic gospel ideas in my mind, supplemented my own scripture study, and gave me many opportunities to attend baptisms.
The temple endowment was an interesting experience. In fact, I wrote in my journal that night that the Lord likes keeping me on my toes. It was foreshadowing in a way.
I was with my first companion for two weeks before he was transferred to be a zone leader somewhere. My next companion was an amateur scholar. He had a subscription to Sunstone and told me stories about him correcting his seminary teacher in class. Going to discussions was a treat with him.
I learned many things from him that I had never heard previously. Things like Jesus speaking as if He were God. This companion whetted my appetite for the unknown; he set me on the road for a new stage of gospel understanding.
Throughout my mission, I speculated with other missionaries on concepts and principles, using scriptures and publications to support my ideas. It was a good experience and I learned a lot.
I never served in leadership positions on my mission, but I felt it was still a successful accomplishment. It was a faith-strengthening experience and helped me develop patience.
Things were great following my mission as well. I was able to go to the temple regularly (including being able to perform ordinance on behalf of my maternal grandfather), I was married within six months, and I was called to the elders quorum presidency within the year.
Serving in the elders quorum presidency (two years as president) was an amazing spiritual experience. Many of the brethren came to me — despite my being the youngest in the quorum — for advice and blessings. I grew spiritually in that time.
About two years after my mission, I was introduced to the Internet and subsequently the LDS world of cyberspace. I found mailing lists like Scripture-L, JOSEPH, LDS-Phil, Eyring-L and others. A whole new world opened up to me, and I found many paradigms shifting.
Then I had an unusual and foreign experience. Several years ago, I found myself in a difficult situation. As a result, I was praying frequently and fervently for the Lord’s intervention. I prayed several times every day and was fasting every Sunday. Some weeks I fasted Sunday and Monday. I was extremely desperate for the Lord to intervene in this situation because I could find no way to take care of the situation myself.
After several weeks of not seeing any change in the situation, I began questioning why I was not receiving an answer to my prayer. I took inventory of my life thinking that perhaps I was living unworthily and that my sins were holding back the mercy of God. I could not find anything in my life that would have been significant for the Lord to withhold blessings.
As I kept searching for answers, a question came to my mind that I honestly never thought ever would. I started to wonder if perhaps the reason I wasn’t receiving an answer from God was because God did not exist.
My entire life was filled with teachings that told me if I ever needed anything from God, I simply had to ask. Here I was, having asked every day for several weeks, even unusually fasting frequently, and those promised answers had not come.
It was ironic in a way. I had been exposed to all sorts of odd practices, teachings and historical happenings in the early church and none of them had every prompted me to question the Church. In fact, even at this point, it was not the church I was questioning.
As my questioning of God’s existence continued, I started questioning the futility of attending church, or reading scriptures, or even praying.
One of the hardest things I ever had to do was tell Mary of what was going on in my mind. She was supportive and never critical. She encouraged me to keep going.
At the time, we were attending an Institute class. We had a good instructor, and we were discussing church history. Actually, we were specifically studying Liberty Jail. In the course of the class, we discussed D&C 121:1–2.
O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
My ears perked up. Joseph Smith — the first prophet of the restoration, one who had seen God, one who had been ministered by angels — was asking the same question I had: where was God.
Immediately to my mind came Matt 27:46:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
And now even Jesus, the saviour of the world, was asking the same question that had entered my mind several times. The progenitor of our faith and the source of our faith both put forth the same question to God. Both felt alone. And both came through triumphant.
At that point, the Spirit entered into me with such a force that I knew I had never felt such a thing in my entire life. My heart was touched and enlightenment came to my mind. I knew that if Joseph Smith, who underwent many trials and tribulations, and Jesus, who descended below all men, could feel alone and abandoned then I was in good company. And if they could come out triumphant, then so could I.
The situation didn’t improve for a long time, but I managed to find resources to help me manage through it. It was a very hard time and a very difficult experience. Sometimes it seemed as if I barely made it through.
It was turning point in my life. My faith was restored and actually strengthened to the point where it was likely stronger than at any other point in my life.
If I had to do it again, I would. It was a tough experience, but I came out of it with a better understanding where one’s faith must lie. The gospel seems so fundamental now.