Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fighting False Beliefs

In my area we are experiencing a phenomenon that I don’t think is isolated.  It is that young people find facts out about Church history and such that catch them off guard and they feel “betrayed” and start to question their beliefs and then delve into a lot of misinformation or incorrectly portrayed facts about the Church…mostly published by people opposed to the LDS Faith…and these kids slowly and quietly slip away from faith and fall into apostasy.

There are tons of examples…here are a few:
  • Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, even with married women
  • There never was a revelation that Black people could not hold the priesthood
  • Women used to be able to pass the sacrament
  • Joseph Smith used a seer stone to aid in translating a large portion of the Book of Mormon
  • There are many, many others...

Kids hear about this stuff for the first time from sources other than Church and when they bring it up in a Church setting, they are shot down by adults who don’t know how to deal with the questions…and these kids feel lied too.

In my area we are swimming in this problem.

I know it is a growing problem, simply because the Church is taking notice and has started to publish articles here (If the link doesn’t work, simply go to the Church’s web site click on “Teachings” on the top bar and then select “Gospel Topics”)  On this site, you can find information on a variety of topics that are very well written and even faith affirming.  Unfortunately many people don’t know about this site (or worse, feel it is some kind of personal apostasy to delve into such things).

It is important to fight knowledge with knowledge. Our teachers and adult leaders need to be trained in dealing with these topics and how to handle questions that arise.  I don’t argue with this stance at all. (the youth can detect a fraud…and they will know if you are buffaloing them)

I do however have a concern that few people seem to be addressing and it is this: that the REAL tool to combat this misinformation are the solid spiritual experiences that occur privately through prayer and study.  No amount of knowledge can contradict the deep personal conviction that comes from a witness of the Holy Ghost.

Moroni promised:

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Moroni 10:5

The Holy Ghost bears witness to truth in a way that NO body of human knowledge can.  A witness of the spirit is the only way to really have a convincing knowledge of truth. 

It is through the Holy Ghost that a personal witness of the Book of Mormon is manifest.  If you have that knowledge that the Book of Mormon is true…then it stands to reason that Joseph Smith (Flaws, human weakness’ and ALL) was a prophet.  If he was a prophet then ALL that he revealed is true.

With that embedded testimony of the truth…you then read all this ‘stuff’ out there and are relatively unfazed by it…and you might even be strengthened by the fact that God uses flawed people to carry forward His very perfect work.  That certainly gives me hope that with all my weakness’ and failings, I can be a tool in the hands of the Lord to bring His work to pass and bless others.

Look at Alma.  He was a BAD BOY…he saw an Angel and had visions…but it wasn’t until he personally fasted and prayed that he obtained a testimony.

“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” Alma 5:46

The KNOWLEDGE he obtained by vision and angelic visitors did NOT give him a testimony…but that still small voice of the Holy Ghost that came in personal moments is where his knowledge of truth was obtained.

The opposite of this is Laman and Lemuel.  They had similar angelic visits and visions…but they failed to obtain a testimony.

Nephi writes: “And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”
1 Nephi 15:8-9

Laman and Lemuel were unwilling to pray and exercise faith and as a consequence they did not obtain a testimony.  Eventually the vacillated and fell away from the truth.

This is what I see happening around me today.  Young men and women who are unwilling or afraid to feed their faith.  What keeps them from doing this? Maybe they are not taught to do this in their home, maybe it’s peer pressure, maybe they are afraid of the answer, maybe it’s an unresolved sin, maybe they know the answer but don’t want to believe and are ‘kicking against the pricks’…or maybe they just don’t know how to do it.

To be honest, no ward activity, no youth discussion, no priesthood lesson…will “give” them a testimony.  They have to go and get it themselves.  It’s a simple formula but one that strikes fear into the hearts of people.   I saw this as a missionary.  One of the hardest things to get people to do was to read, ponder and pray.  They were so afraid to pray but when they did, miracles would happen! 

All we can hope to do as youth leaders and advisors is to provide opportunities for people to feel the spirit and then we hope and pray that they will feel that influence strongly enough to try to change the course of their lives.  To learn to trust their Heavenly Father and know that He will be there when they need Him.

Ultimately the MOST POWERFUL place to do this is in the home.  Parents, it is your most basic job to teach the gospel to your children and to help them feel and recognize the Holy Ghost. NOBODY else can replace a good parent.  Where there isn’t this kind of example in the home, Church leaders can try to compensate, but it isn’t nearly as effective…that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

So maybe we need to take a step back from trying to PROVE that things are true…and ask like Nephi “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”