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Fetishizing Doubt

While some in the Church fear or are anxious around religious doubt, I feel that in some circles the pendulum has swung too far the other way, so I thought I’d directly address what I personally consider to be some takes that I think are problematic. 

Periods of doubt are required to develop a stronger faith. 

Yes, doubt can strengthen faith once you come out the other side, but this isn’t strictly required. For me personally the aspects of the gospel that viscerally feel right remain the least doubt-ridden parts of my testimony. Of course, some beliefs may be affected by premises that are later shown to be incorrect, and a period of doubt might help “inoculate” one’s self, but again this isn’t required. There are some people with informed testimonies who just haven’t ever had a problem with doubt, and their testimonies shouldn’t be implicitly viewed as less developed than people who have passed through seasons of doubt, although people with a history of doubt could have a unique ability to minister to those that do doubt. 

Nobody can actually know the Church is true

I do think we throw the “know” verbiage around too much. My undergraduate epistemology course taught me you can spill a lot of ink on the actually not so simple concept of knowing, but to wit the validity of knowing and the surety of knowing aren’t the same thing or even necessarily connected. I can be delusional and believe the government is spying on me with the same level of certainty that I have that the sun rose this morning, but that doesn’t mean that the former is true. By the same token, people of all different faiths can have the same surety of knowledge that their truth claims are true that they have that the sun is above head. By the same token, I can grant that some people in the Church do in fact believe the Jesus is the Christ with the same level of confidence that they know anything else. 

Doubt is a final destination to rest at

I understand that there are some people who are not believers by disposition, and who will always have doubt until the hereafter. If you don’t have the gift of faith, fine, but I’m increasingly seeing rhetoric that seems to suggest that a state of doubt should be aspired to as a final state in itself. 

The problem with this is that it’s hard to continually build and develop the edifice of one’s faith if you’re continually questioning how stable the foundation is. CS Lewis’ excellent work The Great Divorce is an allegory that traces the paths of various individuals working through different stages of Heaven and Hell, and a chunk of people seem stalled on issues of doubt; they continue to debate and discuss while others are moving forward to a Celestial kingdom-type setting. Debate and discussion is fine and sometimes necessary, but it should be geared towards resolution, not as an end in itself. (This is one reason why I’m not sympathetic to the view that BYU should allow open criticism of core Latter-day Saint beliefs; the syncretization of the LDS faith and the intellect will go further if the core beliefs are intertwined with the intellect from the outset.) 

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