I put a lot of thought and prayer into what I might say. I didn't write my talk down because I'm more of a bullet-point person, but I felt like it came out coherently. At least people seemed to look like they were understanding...
Anyway, I thought I would share my thoughts via blog. In more words or less, this is basically how it went...
About 5 years ago, I was contemplating serving a mission. After months of careful deliberation and prayer, I was almost positive this was something I should do. But there was one major hang up: I felt like I didn't know enough. I doubted my knowledge of church doctrine. I was intimidated by the scriptures. The thought of having to explain these things to strangers was frightening.
With this dilemma on my mind, I settled down one morning to watch the October 2008 General Conference. A relatively new (to me) general authority named Elder Neil L. Anderson gave a poignant talk conveniently entitled "You Know Enough." That was as strong an answer I could ever hope to receive. I put in my papers shortly thereafter and left on a mission to Romania the following July. Since that moment 5 years ago Elder Anderson's words--"You don't know everything, but you know enough"--have served as a constant source of encouragement.
Before I go on, there is something you must know about Mormons. Mormons LOVE conversion stories. We love finding out what possibly convinced someone to join this church. Whether that someone had lifelong exposure to the church, or whether they had been investigating only a few short months, they obviously did not have a perfect knowledge of the intricacies of the gospel before being baptized. But they knew enough to be compelled to make that sacred covenant and take upon them the name of Christ.
When my mom joined the Church 30+ years ago, she actually hadn't "investigated" at all. I wouldn't say she was anti-Mormon, but she had been known to disseminate anti-Mormon literature...She was living in Salzburg, Austria at the time. One of her best friends lived in Italy, so she occasionally would make the not-too-distant journey to visit him. On one such visit, her friend announced to her that he had joined the Mormon church. You can imagine her utter shock at this news. She told him he was crazy; he's throwing away his life; Mormonism is a cult; he has no idea was he's getting himself into. But he made her promise to contact the missionaries when she returned to Salzburg. Out of respect for her friend, she did.
When she called the missionaries, it was mainly just to argue with him. They somehow convinced her that arguing in person would be better than over the phone, so she met them at the chapel. There, they showed her a slide show presentation of the story of Joseph Smith. Something to note about this particular slide show: the slide projector was malfunctioning or something, because it was out of sync with the recorded narration. So each slide was one off from the recording. "I can't believe this," she thought. "This is crazy. These boys don't even know how to work a slide projector. What on earth am I doing here?" But she remained seated for the duration, and thank goodness for that because the next moments that ensued changed my mom's life forever. The presentation came to the First Vision, when Joseph Smith prayed in the Sacred Grove to know which church to join, and God and Jesus Christ appeared to him. She was struck. An overwhelming feeling came over her, rendering her unable to deny that whatever feeling this was came from God. She knew it was true. She knew Joseph Smith really did see what he says he saw. "If this is true," she thought, "then so is everything else." She was baptized less than a week later. My mom certainly didn't know everything. In fact, she knew almost nothing. But she knew enough. And that faith has developed into a strong and shakeless testimony over the years of her membership in the Church.
How does this same principle apply during times of struggle and personal hardship? More often than not, the Lord's response in the midst of our trials is "you don't know everything, but you know enough." I was talking with a good friend of mine who has recently experienced a trial that highlights this concept beautifully. She allowed me to share it with you:
I recently had the opportunity to take a job that seemed as if it would be the perfect fit for me in the long run. In fact, it was the most ideal situation given what I had studied [in college] and what my ultimate career goals were. However, a part of me felt very strongly that I should reject the offer. God never told me outright that I needed to reject the offer, but through prayer, fasting and reading the scriptures I came to understand that it was not the thing that I should do. After I made the decision, it was subsequently confirmed to me after I got in a car accident and it took me out of commission for the next two months. I probably could not have accepted the job anyway, given that I needed that time to recuperate. I asked God a lot of times why this had to happen to me-- Why I shouldn't take the job, why I should leave... I asked him and I actually received somewhat of a feeling reassuring me of the reason why I could not take it, but I never received any more specifics after that. I knew enough. I knew that I wasn't supposed to take the job... I knew my next steps for the next few months--and that was enough. Truly, it was enough. Sometimes I doubt that though. Why could't I know more? Didn't I need more information to make such a tremendous leap of faith? Nope, I only needed what I needed in that moment. God would take care of the rest. Some days I very much struggle with the will of the Lord, but as of right now I know enough. It is still hard though but I have a measure of hope in the future, because the Lord never forsakes us.
Mark 5:36: "Be not afraid, only believe."
In his aforementioned talk, Elder Anderson said, "There are days when we feel inadequate and unprepared. When doubt and confusion enter our spirits. When we have difficulty finding out spiritual footing. Part of our victory as disciples of Christ is what we do when these feelings come."
This room is filled with very intelligent people who I'm sure have the answers to an array of complex mathematical, scientific, sociological, and financial questions. But when it comes to religious questions, especially trying to reconcile spiritual convictions with moral, social and political controversies, I don't think I'm the only one here who's been faced with significant doubt and confusion.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in his most recent General Conference address, said this: "Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history, there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question. Sometimes questions arise because we simply don't have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn't make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction."
We WILL be faced with doubt. That is okay. That is normal.
He went on to say: "There are few members of the Church who at one time or another have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith." So please, doubt! I encourage it because I feel that is leads to a stronger, deeper conversion. But when you find your doubts and confusions begin to overshadow and overpower your faith, do as President Uchtdorf advised and "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."
We have moments of profound spiritual inspiration. Moments when we feel the Holy Ghost testifying the eternal truthfulness of a certain gospel principle. Remember those moments. Sink them deep into your soul. Make them a part of who you are. Draw on them in times when you need reminding that you don't know everything, but you know enough.
|A legitimately candid photo taken after I opened my mission call.|