On Difficult Questions
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest” (HC 6:248). To “study it out in your mind” is often a prerequisite to heavenly assistance (D&C 9:8), and communication from God may sometimes be recognized by its effect on the mind. Latter-day Saints were enjoined early to seek knowledge out of the best books (D&C 88:118) and to establish schools (see Schools of the Prophets) for instruction in both sacred and secular matters.
Richard Hinckley said the following:
Some of you struggle with certain doctrines or practices of the Church, past or present; they just don’t quite seem to fit for you. I say, so what? That’s okay. You’re still young. Be patient, but be persistent. Keep studying them, thinking about them, and praying about them. Everyone has questions. I suppose even the prophets themselves had and have some questions. But don’t throw away the jewels you do have in the meantime. Hold on to them; build on them.
Did you know that the two greatest intellectual achievements of the first half of the last century, the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, are in some points in conflict with each other? They cannot both be right in every detail. These are not my words but the words of Stephen Hawking, the great British physicist. Yet scientists rely on both of these theories every day to advance scientific knowledge, knowing that someday the differences will be understood, reconciled, and corrected.
So it is with the gospel and our testimonies, yours and mine. This is not to suggest that the gospel is imperfect, but our understanding of it sometimes is. Like the scientist who uses relativity and quantum mechanics, we do not discard the gospel or our testimony because not every piece “fits” today. Years ago a Church leader used the following metaphor: Have you ever watched a stonemason build a rock wall? He will sometimes pick up a rock that just does not fit anywhere in the niches in the wall. But does he abandon the wall and walk away? No, he simply sets the rock aside and keeps building until a niche appears where it fits and then proceeds until the wall is finished. So perhaps should we temporarily set aside questions that we continue to struggle with and that we cannot quite seem to answer today, having faith that at sometime in the future a niche will appear in the rock wall of our testimony where they fit perfectly. Don’t abandon the rock wall of your testimony because one or two rocks don’t seem to fit. (Richard Hinckley, Prophetic Priorities, BYU Devotional, May 15, 2007)
Elder Holland said this:
When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know… do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle. (Jeffrey R. Holland, Lord, I believe, April 2013 Conference)