This may be hard for some, but I start with a premise. And the premise is there is a God, and He wants you to have knowledge. He wants to give you answers. He wants you to be completely clear on everything.
I think you need to start here. If you don’t know if there is a God, or at least hope there is a God, that is fine too. As long as you give space for the possibility. If you’ve come to the conclusion that there is no God then that requires a completely different conversation.
But let’s start in the place that we hope there is a God and that God wants you to have knowledge.
My wife is a therapist and taught me this principle. And it is extraordinarily helpful.
The Lord wants you to know the truth of all things. So, if you have a question about the practice of plural marriage, or the doctrine’s taught by Brigham Young, or whether Joseph was a charismatic product of his superstitious backwoods community, or about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Every single question you have has an answer. Every one. There are no exceptions.
But how do we get there? Are you angry that members of the church don’t share your concern for the truth of these things? Are you angry that the church is more concerned about soft-lit-marketing of happy families than exploring head strong into the hardest questions? Are you concerned that the church authorities don’t seem to have answers themselves?
My response is, who cares? Seriously. It doesn’t matter about who thinks what, and how the church has responded. We will address that later. The question is, do your questions have actual answers? Can you really know the truth? Clear the table. Get rid of your bitterness. Let go of the anger. You have to live above this. And be open and allow the Lord to guide your learning.
Because the answer is, yes. Absolutely. Independent of other people, the body of the church, or even leadership, you can have answers.
The challenge is this. The questions you have most likely have a lot of a lot of prerequisite building blocks necessary to get to the point where your answer is available.
In other words, if you want to know the truth about plural marriage, there may be five, or ten, or one hundred things you need to first learn about before you can get to that answer.
And if the heavens are closed to you, it is most likely because you are asking the wrong question (or the right question at the wrong time).
The ABC’s of Learning the Gospel
In order to learn “C”, you first need to be taught “A” and “B”. This is the ABC’s of learning the gospel.
Maybe your question is a “K” level question. Which means you first need to learn A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J first, before you are prepared to learn about “K”.
You have to learn the preparatory things in order to get your answers. But what is wonderful about this process is that each step opens up a new level of understanding and knowledge that is deeply rewarding. Often the process of getting an answer to a question provides so much knowledge you never anticipated you could know. You will feel blessed beyond measure.
But this process takes humility. Because often we are upset and confused and sometimes feel betrayed, and then we become deeply distrusting of everything, and our cognitive dissonance paints our whole religious view of the world.
But if we choose to be humble and patient (the truth always requires this) and learn to ask the right questions – the first questions – the Lord will teach us as fast as we are capacitated to receive. He doesn’t play games or enjoy our floundering and anguishing. He wants us to be full of understanding and free from lies and falsehood.
Let me give an example. First, meditate on what is the most important, most pressing question that hangs over you. Let’s say it is plural marriage.
In this case my suggestion is you go to the Lord and first clear the table. Put yourself into a position of being completely open to how the Lord is going to teach you. And remove your hurdles and conditions from God. Come with an open canvas.
And ask this question: What is the first thing I need to learn to get my answer? What is my first step?
If you are sincere, and if you are willing to pay the price for knowledge, the Lord will give you a step. He will lead or inspire or prompt you. He will provide a unique path.
You may feel to start reading a random book. (On one occasion, I was led to read Tony Robbins, of whom I am not a fan, but it was remarkable how this helped me on a question I was working on.)
You may be led to study things that seem completely irrelevant. Or, you may not feel that you have received a prompting at all, but someone suggests you read an article. Or someone challenges you to pray more, or to read scripture, or a Dr. Seuss book, or study ancient motifs of the creation archetype in different religions. I don’t know what it will be because your path will be unique to you and to how God is going to teach you.
Your path may also at times have nothing to do with study. It will include a repentance process (be careful not to assume a traditional view of repentance here – keep reading). You may feel a need to be more kind to your spouse, or more honest at work, or to give up a favorite indulgence. I guarantee that your path will require these types of promptings as well. It won’t be all about studying. It will be about all of the things you need to do to get knowledge. It may require you to stop blaming someone or taking offense.
It may require you to honestly love the people in your ward that you think are victims of the problems with which you struggle. Or to really forgive and love with your whole heart a church leader that is prideful or even dangerously ignorant.
It will require you to face your own self-honesty. You may have to confront in painful ways the duplicity in your own heart.
It may require you giving up your politics. Are you ready for that? Is that part of the cost you are willing to pay?
Whatever the prompting, whatever the impression, whatever the sacrifice, you must act on it. You must exercise faith in the entire process.
It may sound weird, but the Lord may require you to reconcile with a parent or someone you had a falling out with before you can learn about anachronisms in the Book of Mormon.
You may have to give up sugar, learn to fast, and study eastern philosophy and read the entire Journal of Discourses as part of your path.
You may need to go on anti-depressants, start exercising, stop looking at pornography, and read the Book of Mormon every day for a year before you get your next step.
But it will come. You have to trust the process and understand that the Lord will fill you with truth, but your whole heart and mind has to be prepared to receive it. He will prepare you in a unique way.
Have you read so much church history that in your mind you think there is no possible way that someone can convince you otherwise? This is a massive stumbling block. This will require the humility to have what you think you know completely vulnerable to being reworked, or even knocked down. You have to be completely open to this possibility.
Start where you are, and just start asking the question. What do I need to learn first? What do I need to do first? Write down any prompting. Follow the inclinations that come to you.
Whatever it is, take the promptings and things that God puts in your way. You do not know how much time or how many steps need to be completed before he can answer your questions, but you need to be committed to the path, no matter what it looks like. And no matter what it produces.
What if the Lord needs to completely rework your understanding of the restored Gospel? What if there is there are things in your tradition that are completely false, and the Lord needs to to teach you the truth about it without putting you into a complete existential tailspin? You don’t know what you don’t know. So trust in the process and be prepared for your reality to be reorganized.
Learning about something like plural marriage may be a process that takes you two weeks. It may seriously take you five years. But he will teach you if you are committed to learning every preparatory principle and teaching.
And this doesn’t assume plural marriage is a true principle. It doesn’t assume it is false, either. It assumes that you don’t know anything about anything. And that for us to learn the truth of the matter, a lot of gaps need to be filled in by a source that we can trust. And that is God. And He is going to change you along the way. He cares as much about you as he does the collective body of members of the church.
You are not only going to learn something in this process, you are going to be transformed.
If you are a true seeker of him, and are willing to follow truth at any sacrifice, he will open up to you. And he will enlighten and transform you.