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Friday, October 4, 2013

Asking Questions in Zion

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

I recently read a blog post titled I am Mormon, and I Have Questions on the blog Middle-Aged Mormon Man, and I would like to respond. I believe the post was written with wisdom and love. I hope to add to that post, to perhaps make it more complete, hopefully with wisdom and love as well.

Like the post's author, I also believe all of the fundamental principles put forward in the post. I have a firm testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Restoration, and that the Church is led by the Savior through His servants. I have faith in those servants, I believe in stewardship and line of authority, and I am grateful.

Stumbling Blocks or Inspiration?

The author mentions a box of questions, questions that the he did not want to open to others. And I like this reason: "We are here to lift and strengthen each other, not to drag each other down. There is enough intentional toxicity out there already." I agree with that sentiment completely. I would add that we covenanted to bear one another's burdens that they may be light (see Mosiah 18:8-10). I would hate to feel that I had made someone else's burden heavier instead of making it lighter.

That being said, I don't think the author of the post wants all of us to keep all of our questions stored away in personal boxes. While some questions can be safely put in a box and set aside as an act of patient faith, what if some questions persist? And what if those questions are actually inspired? And what if sharing those questions was actually helpful, inspired and constructive?

Of course none of us would have told Joseph Smith to just put his questions in a box, to just read the Bible, and to trust that eventually everything would be fine. Could it be that some of us are inspired in our questions? We are told to be anxiously engaged in a good cause (D&C 58:21) and to seek the Lord's face (D&C 101:38 and Luke 21:19). Could some of those difficult questions be inspired, causes that we are inspired to be engaged in, and ways for us to seek and see the Lord's face?

What If?

So let's jump right to a difficult question. Imagine if you were a woman and it just did not seem right to you that you could not put your hands on your child's head, with your husband, to give your sick infant a blessing. Imagine if you felt that the men of your ward were truly inspired, wonderful men, but you also felt that they would make better decisions and get more inspiration if women played a larger part in the decision-making process. Imagine if you were such a woman and you read the new introduction to the Official Declaration 2. The declaration is about how the priesthood is extended to all worthy men, and the scripture cited in the new introduction says "The Book of Mormon teaches that 'all are alike unto God,' including 'black and white, bond and free, male and female'." All of this may raise for you very difficult questions about women and the priesthood.

So, if you felt that way, how might the original post strike you? It could feel like an accusation that you did not have faith, did not trust Church leaders, or that you were not grateful enough. Maybe you would feel like you had to keep your question and concern hidden away. You might feel very worried that expressing your question and inspiration would be a stumbling block to others, and you would not want to be responsible for that.

What a terrible burden it would be for the sister imagined above! What a terrible weight! What a terrible load it would be to have a question and feel afraid to share it. She would have to carry this burden alone, perhaps feeling ashamed of even having it.

Asking Questions in Zion

That does not really sound like Zion to me. How can we be of one heart and one mind with her if she were too afraid to share with us what weighs so heavily on her heart and mind (see Moses 7:18)?  How could we make her burden light if we did not even know about it?

I agree that we should not create stumbling blocks for others. But we should also not create barriers. Questions that are specifically meant to twist or to overwhelm or to tear down others are not part of Zion. Such questions are not loving. But Zion should also be a courageous place, a place where some questions can come out of the box. Taking those questions out can help us to not feel so alone. Taking them out can take away some of the fear and even shame that might collect on them. And in taking them out we might actually find others who have struggled and wrestled and done the work of study and faith and have arrived at some pretty wonderful answers. If nothing else, lovingly taking them out might help us feel the wonderful relief that comes when we feel others carry and lighten our burden.

Asking questions, even difficult ones, with faith and love and hope and gratitude and not as a stumbling block can help us share one another's burdens, lift and support one another, and develop the strong, courageous hearts and minds that I believe God wants of His people.

Note: Deseret News featured the original post a few days ago.

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