Lately I’ve been wondering how people would react if I got up in church and said I didn’t know it was true.
In the LDS church, the first Sunday of every month is set apart as Fast and Testimony Meeting. Members fast (go without food or water) for 24 hours as a means to grow closer to God spiritually, pray for specific important blessings, (such as healing for a loved one or for oneself, or guidance to make a big life decision), and donate for the poor the money they would have spent on the two meals they skip (or even more generous donations). All members—men, women, children, the elderly—also have the opportunity on this Sunday to voluntarily go up to the pulpit and share their testimony of the truthfulness of the church and of any other spiritual topic. You will often hear this phrase during such testimonies: “I know this church is true”.
I never share my testimony during this meeting. Being an honest and genuine person is something that is really important to me, and to say those words would make me feel like a liar (and of course lying is against the commandments, after all). I’ve never received a spiritual witness from God that this church is true. I don’t know why. Just like almost every other member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have prayed since my early youth to know whether or not this was God’s one completely true church. I’ve studied my scriptures and prayed every day. I’ve lived the gospel and kept the commandments in my own imperfect, yet striving-to-be-obedient way. There is a promise in the Book of Mormon, and it has been echoed by prophets and apostles and members throughout the history of the church—read the Book of Mormon, live the gospel, and sincerely ask God, and He will let you know through the power of the Holy Ghost. But the Spirit has never let me know.
But for me, not knowing is not a reason to leave the church. Even if I don’t know whether or not it is God’s only completely true church, I know that the teachings make me and everyone who lives them happier. I know my life goes better when I keep the commandments, and when I serve other people through the various assignments and callings I am asked to do. This isn’t a bad place to be while I wait for God’s personal revelation to me.
Sometimes I do get frustrated and begin to wonder whether the answer will ever come. Sometimes I have been tempted to stop going to church. Sometimes I think “If it hasn’t come after more than a decade of sincere prayer, maybe it is never coming.” I don’t know why my answer hasn’t come yet. It seems like something so important, and I don’t understand why God wouldn’t bless me with this vital piece of information, which, if given, would help me serve Him even better.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, one of the apostles of the church, gave a talk in General Conference in April 2010 about patience. He talked about many people in the scriptures who had to wait, like the Children of Israel who had to wait in the wilderness for 40 years before God decided they were ready to enter the Promised land. Then he said:
“In each case, Heavenly Father had a purpose in requiring that His children wait. Every one of us is called to wait in our own way. We wait for answers to prayers. We wait for things which at the time may appear so right and so good to us that we can’t possibly imagine why Heavenly Father would delay the answer…God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways….I know for sure that the promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.”
Right now I am trying to have faith that there is a purpose in God requiring me to wait for my answer of whether or not this is His church. I am trying to trust that there is a lesson for me to learn through this experience. When I get frustrated or hopeless, I try to remember the fact that I am happier when I do participate fully in the church, I try to remember what President Uchtdorf said, and I remind myself of something that another apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, said in a 1999 General Conference address:
“Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”.
If you want to read some other good talks about this subject of doubts and testimony here are two recent ones from these two apostles that were really helpful for me: