Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Doubt Is Not a Principle of the Gospel

June 14th, 2009 by G.

Do I have your attention?

Doubt is not a principle of the gospel. It does not come from the Light of Christ or the influence of the Holy Ghost. Doubt is a negative emotion related to fear. It comes from lack of confidence in one’s self or abilities. It is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God.

From “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Saturday Afternoon Session, 179th General Conference of the Mormon Church.

Cross-posted at the Old Country.

Comments (23)
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June 14th, 2009 20:44:55

June 14, 2009

There is no faith without doubt. Otherwise it is knowledge.

June 14, 2009

Adam, I concur.

Gilgamesh, faith minus doubt does not equal knowledge. The three are separate, distinct phenomena.

To wit, I can have faith in something without knowledge (the textbook definition). Or I can doubt something without knowledge (a.k.a. skepticism). If I know something, I can still choose to believe or doubt (the classic “I don’t believe it” exclamation). Certainly I can experience faith without requiring doubt.

I can think of specific examples where I have experienced all of those variations, especially the “I can’t believe it” doubt, while staring into the face of reality (knowledge).


June 14, 2009

Lack of faith in one’s ability to make spiritual discernments leaves the veil opaque to obscure them. Which still doesn’t contradict the fact that true humility about what one humanly doesn’t know helps one not trust in the flesh but to seek these divine inklings, too.

Or maybe these things do contradict…in a way(?) The thing is, to keep trying to figure out how the premises don’t really contradict, and trying to discern what’s right and follow one’s conscience, is to do the right(?) Whereas, to wallow in negativity and despair and simply giving up on making true, moral discernements equates to sinfulness(?)

June 14, 2009

Humble meekness/true pride: I know I should endeavor my hardest to try and sense what’s right for myself, and to assist others as best I can to find their own way.

False pride/toxic shame:

1. I can’t possibly figure out what’s right for myself. Screw it.

2. I know in an instant with absolute assuredy what’s right for YOU! (In fact, I might even try and take away your agency, even in instances not involving your decisions that don’t substantially affect the entire community. Cf. Satan’s plan of forced obedience.)

June 14, 2009

“assurance” (diction)

Steve H.
June 15, 2009

I worry a bit about such a statement that doubt is not a principle of the gospel. Remember that faith is, in some sense, a gift from God, and not all people have that gift.

To insist that doubt is not a principle of the gospel seems to imply to me that there is no room for doubters among us, and that doubting reflects fear, sin, and worthlessness.

I know some who seem to have no doubt, but also who seem to be leading an un-examined life. Those who examine their faith carefully may… just may… come up with doubts. And such doubts may… just may… be removed or lessened by subsequent experience and by showing faith. However, it is the nature of some people to doubt, just as it appears to be in the nature of some people to have a complete and whole belief. Both kinds of members belong here, and both need to be respected and nourished and taught. Among other things, they need to be taught to be tolerant and kind to others who don’t see and experience the world in exactly the same way.

June 15, 2009

It depends on what your definition of “doubt” is. Is it:

a) a disbelief, or to disbelieve.

b) lack of hard knowledge or a concrete assurance.

c) lack of any assurance whatsoever.

Gilgamesh’s comment implies he’s going by definition b).
Adam’s OP implies he’s going by definition a).

Definition c) likely equates to “absence of faith”. Even the mildest degree of faith seems to have some degree of assurance, no matter how soft or ill-defined that assurance may be.

June 15, 2009

I suppose it depends on what one means by “doubt.” If it means active disbelief, I would agree. If it means lack of certainty, I do not. I call lack of certainty a measure of humility.

When we banish introspection and questioning to the dustbin in the Church, it makes more applicable the descriptor: “Sometimes in error, never in doubt.”

June 15, 2009

Without doubt there is no progress:

Columbus: I doubt the world is flat, I think I’ll go find out

J. Smith: I doubt that I can find the truth from current religion, I’ll go ask the source.

June 15, 2009

I submit that “doubt” is a state wherein you neither believe nor disbelieve. If you believe the gospel then you don’t doubt it. If you doubt it then you don’t believe it.

When someone truly believes the gospel but says that he “sometimes has doubts”, I think what he really means is that he lacks understanding as to how certain things fit together, and that lack of understanding causes him uneasiness, which he may interpret as uncertainty.

But if he were to analyze the situation he would realize that he actually believes both of the things about which he is unsure how they fit together, therefore the only uncertainty is the “fitting together”, not the revealed doctrines themselves.

There are also temptations to doubt, where you find yourself asking, “Is it *really* true? Do I *really* believe it?” But asking that question is only a temptation to disbelief. It’s not a suspension of belief, therefore it does not amount to a doubt.

Just as a temptation to lust does not amount to a sin, unless you succumb to the temptation and actually commit the sin, a temptation to disbelief is not actual doubt unless you succumb to the temptation by deciding, “I no longer believe”.

June 15, 2009

Totally agree. By faith, God created the worlds. By faith, the priesthood receives its power.
Doubt is sent by Satan, to entice us away from exercising faith, whether it is a faith in Christ, the Restored Gospel, or faith to succeed in college or business.

June 15, 2009

I agree, doubt doesn’t come from the Lord. Doubt can be part of our fallen nature and satan can influence us when we’re in that state.

The Lord’s Spirit always influences towards faith. We’re in a battle between doubt and faith.

Adam G.
June 15, 2009

Columbus: I doubt the world is flat, I think I’ll go find out

Columbus is a bad example. He was absolutely convinced the world was small and round.
one thing I’ve learned through experience is that there is such a thing as a *temptation* to doubt. I’m sure people have conundrums and puzzles and other things they would call doubt, and so have I, but I have also felt doubt as a temptation.

June 15, 2009

I’d have to read the quote in context, but from the part you’ve printed it sounds to me like he’s talking about self-doubt, which is a whole different topic.

June 16, 2009

I think it important to remember that faith is in the doing, not in the thinking.

Whether you do something because you are absolutely sure of it, or merely with the least degree of confidence, the exercise of faith is having done it.

An internal attitude may be reflected in the vigor of the action. The liveliness of the motions, and the individual’s bearing, countenance and tone of voice may all betray the individual’s degree of confidence. And those tell-tale signs may then have a bearing on the efficaciousness of the action. So there is a marriage between thought/attitude and deed.

But regardless of the thoughts and attitudes, there is no faith until there is a deed. James 2:17-20.

June 17, 2009

When I heard this talk I disagreed with the statement and felt it needed more nuance than the speaker employed. (Should I go to this movie? It looks funny but perhaps it isn’t the best choice. I feel doubt about going…)

But more directly, what about experiencing doubt about the gospel or the church? Is doubt in general a sin?

Some argue that doubt is a virtue, others that doubt is a vice. I argue, following an interesting bit I read by Richard Bushman, that doubt is neither of those things necessarily, but it is a condition that can be positive or negative. I blogged about it a while ago here, forgive the self-promotion:



June 17, 2009

This quote raises “doubts” about the intelligence and insightfullness of Kevin Pearson. It sounds as though he has put more energy into lining up behind current leadership than into actually evaluating the logical and theological validity of his talk.

Adam G.
June 17, 2009

Calling a General Authority stupid isn’t what this blog is about. Your oh-so intelligent response does raise doubts, but not of the sort you think.

June 18, 2009

If doubt of the LDS religion is doubt in yourself and your own abilities, than an LDS member could call everyone who chooses not to follow the LDS faith a person who simply lacks confidence in themselves and nothing more. I could be off track, but I find this to be small minded. If the LDS church teaches respect for all religions then why would they call non-believers self doubters? I have studied, I have prayed and many things still do not sit right with me. I believe in the basic principles, but I do not believe in many of their patriarchle practices. I’m not a man-hater, I had a very devout mormon for a grandmother and she taught me that men and women are equal in all things…so would this suggest that our Heavenly Mother deserves to be acknowledged as much as our Heavenly Father? Why can’t we celebrate her as we do him? Why can’t we worship this Heavenly family that has given us so much? That is one of the crucial parts that doesn’t sit well with me and I don’t think it makes me a self doubter, I think it makes me a LDS church doubter. Oh, also, I have been through the temple BTW; I went in with an open heart, open mind and faith…and yet I still doubt. And although I found my many experiences in the temple amazing, I have also found my own spiritual path and rituals amazing. I have found in my heart that I’m not getting everything I need spiritually from the church. Obeying the rules of the church does not make me christ-like or get me closer to him, it makes me a conformest who believes that I will perish if I do not follow their way. Now I’m ranting…sorry

Matt Evans
June 18, 2009

Utah is capital of the MLM and snake-oil juice drink worlds, and this may be why.

And this comment is true because it is comment 20, which is 40 (one of God’s preferred numbers) divided by 2, the number of humans God created from the dust. Don’t doubt me, be believing!

: )

June 19, 2009

You shift the question of whether doubting God and revealed truth is harmful to one about trusting your fellow man.

On that topic I would say that there is a lot to say for trusting even if being suspicious of people would prevent you from being ripped off so easily. Giving people the benefit of the doubt makes you happier – and for a society that is better to live in. Of course that depends on how you weigh the costs – is a high trust society worth the scourge of multi level marketing (and other vulnerabilities)?

Adam G.
June 19, 2009

Matt Evans,
rather than just doubt MLM and snake-oil juice schemes, we should actively disbelieve in them, no? 🙂
Still, i tend to prefer (1) to believe in the inspiration of the messages in conference and (2) to believe in the benefits of a healthy skepticism, so I’ve appreciated the attempts of those here who’ve tried to reconcile them.

June 20, 2009

Doubt is a game

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