What if No Answer Resonates?

[ 23 ] Comments

by MSKeller

What do you do with doctrinal questions you struggle with, but no answer seems satisfactory?

I am a faithful member and plan to continue as one, but there are some principles or practices that I still can’t get my logical mind around. How do you handle those things while remaining faith-filled?

About MSKeller

Marsha Steed Keller (Th'Muse) "When I get a little money, I buy books, if there is any left, I buy food and clothes." --Desiderius Erasmus. This defines a part of Marsha's psychology and intent fairly well. When she was a child she says that people asked what super-power she would desire. She replied, "To know what is true, always." It hasn't changed much since then. Marsha cares more about intent than result; more about understanding than agreement and more about good questions than finding all the answers. She defines her best blessings as people (Family and Friends), ideas and beauty. She is highly visual, teaches voice and piano and enjoys her Life/Relationship coaching immensely. She has a BA in Psychology and an AA in Ballroom Dance. Life is an adventure to be lived in the moment and shared with the world. She considers being asked to write with this amazing group a high honor.

23 Responses to What if No Answer Resonates?

  1. Paul says:

    I wait.

    I don’t mean that answer to sound flippant. There are twin principles that are important to me in such an instance.

    First, I strive to do what Moroni teaches in Moroni 10:3 — I try to remember the mercy that God has shown me. I try to remember the things I do know, the testimony that I do have, the tender mercies of the Lord in my life. Against the backdrop of my years of positive experience and gospel growth, the questions I have change in proportion and magnitude.

    Second, I try to remember that God has answered my questions before, but often not on my timetable (in fact, rarely on my timetable). I have a good friend who used to be my stake president. He set a wonderful example for me of one who waits upon the Lord — literally waits until he has an answer before proceeding. When we served together, it sometimes frustrated me because I felt like things sometimes moved too slowly. But he taught me that it is never to slow to be on the Lord’s timetable. And so, in matters of questions I can’t seem to resolve, I wait and I watch. i try to do my part and study and learn what I can, but I wait as patiently as I can for the Lord to answer when He is (and I am) ready.

    • MSKeller says:

      I expect that is what I do too Paul. I call mine the “Simeon Principle” – I put things back on my mental library shelf to revisit now and again to see if they, or I have changed. I’m still very curious what others do. Those who don’t remain faithful, seem to question and then discard the whole. . . is waiting the only answer?

  2. Heather says:

    Waiting is what I do too. At least when it comes to matters of understanding doctrine or principles. I can look at the root of my testimony and know that because A and B are true, then W must be too. In the past, I have not understood things that now are clear and simple to me. So I know from experience as well, that when something does not make sense to me that in time it probably will. My perspectives have changed over the years as I mature and my knowledge increases. These have helped to season my understanding of things.

    I should probably add that during that period of “waiting” I am also seeking the answer. Sometimes I am activily seeking, other times it is more passive. But generally, over the long haul of years, I have the question/concern in the back of my mind and am seeking an answer as I attend my meetings, and read scriptures, and pray, and learn about it any other forms that I can. It rarely is a sudden ah-hah moment for me. It is a slow understanding that I receive, bit by bit.

    • Marsha Keller says:

      I think that is the crux of it Heather. ” I can look at the root of my testimony and know that because A and B are true, then W must be too. In the past, I have not understood things that now are clear and simple to me. ” – Perhaps that is what I feel too, but don’t necessarily vocalize.

  3. Bonnie says:

    I’m not very good at waiting, but I’ve learned to appreciate its value. A comment about Mary has intrigued me all my life: that she “kept these things and pondered them in her heart.” I’ve always been quick to speak, quick to debate, quick to advocate, … and quick to be wrong. It’s been a mighty struggle to me to learn to wait, to consider, to ponder, and to withhold judgment (on issues even more than on people.) To say, “I’m still forming an opinion on that,” has been a challenging change. More and more, however, I find myself searching for Elder Scott’s “is there more?” It has been mind-opening.

    A lot of people are offended by the idea of “the shelf,” as if it means that anyone who questions is not capable of pondering or patience, and anyone who doesn’t question is a keeper of the status quo. I search. Often deeply and with profound feeling. I don’t very often make my questioning public, unless I’m looking for more information, inviting feedback that will stimulate further thought. And I’m really concerned about how easily offended we all are. Those who search publicly are castigated, those who don’t question publicly are castigated, and we seem so easily offended by things that “aren’t right” or people who say that things aren’t right. I like the idea of waiting, like bread rising, conditioning the dough, improving its texture. I like the idea of turning something over and over in my mind, not offended by it, and not offended by continuing to consider it.

    • Marsha Keller says:

      Excellent comments all Bonnie, can I just say, “Amen”?

      “Continue to consider” – “I’ve not made my mind up on that yet”. Both excellent ways to contemplate what we don’t yet understand. Thank you.

  4. Becky L. Rose says:

    You put it on the shelf and wait with faith. You pray for understanding knowing that maybe it won’t come in this life, but it will come.

    • Marsha Keller says:

      What about those that that waiting doesn’t work for Becky? What would you tell them?

      • Anne says:

        One thing that I have found that helps me is to have someone whom I really trust, a good friend, perhaps one I “look up to” in the gospel and can ask them questions, maybe ask their opinion on the subject or for their testimony on the matter. Then for me, if I am sincerely seeking an answer or guidance, I can build on that or accept that for a time, if you will. I think maybe, at least for me again, it falls into the category of believing “on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” (D&C 46:14) If I can believe on their words, then it allows me to continue on, fatih intact, untroubled, until I find my own footing and conviction.

  5. Liz C says:

    I’m also in the “waiting” camp. In my everyday life, I deal with historical research. There are a lot of aspects that seem like oddities or outliers when I first encounter them. If I allowed myself to get flustered when something doesn’t immediately fit with my expectations, I’d spend a lot of time running in circles being upset. But the oddities and outliers get set in side-area of my brain and notes, and I just let them be for awhile. I add other oddities and outliers to the stack, and soon enough, I can start categorizing and summarizing and deciding, based on a whole new stack of variables and experiences.

    Same thing for me, theologically. I’m not a patient person by nature, so waiting involves a lot of self-discipline that I *do* have to work on (both professionally and spiritually.) It gets easier, and the waiting varies between active and passive… I decide to not decide just now.

    I think it’s important to keep asking, to come back around to those “on the shelf” concepts now and then, and see if I’ve learned anything new that helps resolve those questions. But, having questions doesn’t have to prevent me from living the basics of gospel life in the meantime. It doesn’t really *matter* if waiting doesn’t “work” for me… it may still be required for me to really “get it” later.

    • MSKeller says:

      Maybe it isn’t really waiting as much as ‘gathering further data’? That, I think works for me better than just ‘waiting’. It seems more pro-active I guess. Sort of like studies that take 10 years to accomplish, the satiation don’t expect an answer before all the data they are seeking comes together. I like what you said about expectations. So true.

  6. Ray says:

    I accept that we see through a glass, darkly, and I value faith (the substance of things HOPED for but not seen) every bit as much as knowledge.

    I also accept that I need to be an “agent unto myself” and, therefore, that I can “worship Almighty God according to the dictates of (my) own conscience” by valuing what I experience in my “heart AND in my mind”. If something doesn’t resonate with me, I ponder (mind) and pray (heart) about it and go with what makes the most sense to me – understanding, again, that my sight through a glass, darkly, frees me to come to a new understanding as “further light and knowledge” come to me.

    In other words, I value continuing revelation and have found peace in knowing what I know, believing what I believe and having faith in what I have faith – even if it doesn’t match others knowledge, belief and faith – even if those others include my wife, children, religious leaders, friends, co-workers, etc. I have found comfort in my own faith, in and of itself – but I have spent 40 years outside the mainstream around me in many ways, so I’ve had lots of time to reach where I am now.

    In that regard, I too have learned to wait.

    I also have learned to be still (in a very literal sense), and know that He is God.

    • MSKeller says:

      “Frees me.” – “Allows me to be open to continued revelation.” (sorta quoted) – I love that Ray. It is like it is a wonderful blessing instead of a stumbling stone. That was the feeling I got on the other question about Joseph, but you just put it into words. Questions open up doors so that we can have our own personal and direct experiences with revelation. How wonderful is that?

  7. Jendoop says:

    The thing about all this waiting is that it isn’t really only waiting. It’s having the humility to accept God’s way of unfolding the answer. Truly there are many answers we aren’t prepared for. Have you ever asked your spouse a question and not liked the answer even when it was true? “Do I look fat in this dress?” I’ve learned that often God is being merciful to me by not giving me an answer which I’m not capable of or ready to obey. We’ve seen this in the church with the Word of Wisdom. It’s not that there’s not an answer, it’s that we’re not able to bear it, or maybe even understand it currently.

    In another way I think those answers are withheld until we demonstrate an active faith that will act on answers. Why would God tell us how to improve our relationship with a loved one if we haven’t already taken the first step by calling or visiting them?

    Other times I think we don’t need an answer, we’re looking beyond the mark, or seeking after the answer for the wrong reasons (to prove someone wrong, to display our intelligence, etc.).

    Besides, faith is not to have a perfect knowledge, or so I’ve heard. If God doles out answers like gum balls where’s the faith?

  8. Paul says:

    I’ve been thinking about this some more and realize that i do not only wait. Sometimes, I simply accept that I don’t have an answer and move on. Waiting for me implies that I am still actively looking and waiting. Sometimes I decide that it’s not important enough to slow me down. Some questions don’t even make it to my shelf.

    But some do. And sometimes I feel urgency to get my question resolved. And that’s where humility through prayer has been helpful for me. As I’ve gone humbly to the Lord with what I perceive to be urgent questions, sometimes my “answer” is to be more patient, to focus on other matters, or simply to wait.

    Learning to shift my focus when what *I* want is looming so large has not been easy for me. But it does bring me more peace.

    • MSKeller says:

      A shift of focus. Hummmm. Not really waiting, but perhaps asking a different question? Perhaps realizing that the question we were struggling with, wasn’t even really the question we were hungering for the answer to at all? Interesting thought, very.

  9. william wiltfong says:

    Perhaps it’s a variation on waiting – but I consider it “seeking further light and knowledge.” I still question – perhaps other questions parallel to the original concern – but waiting as non-action/thought/activity is foreign to the Peace I find within the Gospel.


  10. Wes says:

    I just came across these quotes from Institute and it reminded me of this post:

    “Revelations from God – the teachings and directions of the Spirit – are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality.” Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Mar 1997, p. 14

    “It is not wise to wrestle with the revelations with such insistence as to demand immediate answers or blessings to your liking. You cannot force spiritual things. Such words as compel, coerce, constrain, pressure, demand, do not describe our privileges with the Spirit. You can no more force the Spirit to respond than you can force a bean to sprout, or an egg to hatch before its time. You can create a climate to foster growth, nourish, and protect; but you cannot force or compel: you must await the growth. Do not be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge. Let it grow, help it grow, but do not force it or you will open the way to be misled.” Packer, Jan 1983, “Candle of the Lord,” p. 53

    “Put difficult questions in the back of your minds and go about your lives. Ponder and pray quietly and persistently about them. The answer may not come as a lightning bolt. It may come as a little inspiration here and a little there, ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ (D&C 98:12). Some answers will come from reading the scriptures, some from hearing speakers. And, occasionally, when it is important, some will come by very direct and powerful inspiration.” Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov 1979, p. 21

    • MSKeller says:

      Those are wonderful! Thank you. I really loved where it says to ‘go on about your lives’. I expect that is what I generally do. “and occasionally, when it is important” – Essential to remember. Thank you for sharing Wes.

  11. Stephanie says:

    This answer may be a tangent, but when I find myself grappling with an unanswered question, I function with this mantra: I won’t let what I don’t know cancel out what I already know. I try to keep a focus on what I know and have felt to be true, and even though I do wait until an answer comes, I do a lot of studying in the meantime. It takes courage to approach a question in a completely faith-filled way and not turn to what the “critics” say about it. When I limit my research to resources that I already know are intrinsically connected to the Holy Spirit–like scriptures and teachings of living prophets–I usually get a lot of line-upon-line clarity along the way. That way, even when I don’t get full answers, I tend to get an increase of peace about things, and often that’s enough.

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