Do you ever pause to consider that the verb that Enos used to describe receiving a remission of his sins was “wrestle”? Why couldn’t it have read something a little softer like exchange, or encounter, or conversation? But even Joseph Smith uses language like “while I was laboring under the extreme difficulties” to obtain an answer to his question.
Sherri Dew gave a beautiful BYU devotional about this subject. I have to write about it because I feel this subject is so timely. She speaks of a girl who calls her up and proceeds to tell her she is losing her testimony. Sherri Dew asks her if she is willing to work for a testimony. The girl agrees and they begin digging into all of her thorny questions. Sherri describes the process: “little by little, she began to realize that just because she had questions didn’t mean she didn’t have a testimony. The scriptures are filled with accounts of prophets who had questions. And she began to recognize when the Spirit was bearing witness to her.”
Now we all can’t have gospel study with Sherri Dew to have our questions answered but God is not respecter of persons and he isn’t going to withhold answer from you because you don’t know the right people in Utah. The promise is the same to all, ASK, and you shall receive. There are no qualifiers. God rewards effort and sincerity. When He exhorts us in Moroni that we need to “ask God, with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” and then we can receive revelation.
I love how Sherri states:”None of us are entitled to revelation without effort on our part. Answers from God don’t just magically appear. If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers. “If thou shalt ask,” He promised, “thou shalt receive revelation.” Sometimes I feel like I should receive answers when I took “no thought save it were to ask” (D&C 9:7) But I love how Sherri expresses: “The Lord loves inspired questions asked in faith because they lead to knowledge, to revelation, and to greater faith.“
So what are the questions? Here is a list of a few she mentioned.
Why am I the only one in my family who struggles to believe?
Should I serve a mission if my parents don’t want me to?
Why did I spend all that time on a mission and not convert anyone?
Why can’t I find “the one?”
If I go to graduate school, will the Lord think that means I don’t want to get married? Will I be able to provide for a family today?
Will the Lord ever forgive me for breaking my covenants?
I came home early from my mission. What do I do now?
Is a prophet infallible?
Did Joseph Smith really have more than one wife?
How do I know if I’m receiving revelation?
Do I dare get serious with a guy who has struggled with pornography?
Why can’t women be ordained to the priesthood?
What if the Church’s position on gay marriage bothers me?
How do I understand the temple when I can’t ask questions about it?
I love her response to all these question, she declares, “May I answer these questions, and any questions you may have, by posing a question: Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle?”
Sometimes I try to pretend that I don’t have questions or they don’t exist. I don’t really care about knowing the answer it doesn’t change anything about me. I try and pass off weak answers like one day I will know… or this isn’t important. But my Heavenly Father created me with certain curiosities and passions and desires. And if He wanted Alma to “wrestle with God in mighty prayer” I think he would want me to do the same. There are some questions where he gently assures me that answers will come but I need more effort and sacrifice, there are questions that he tells me to keep studying and live into that answer. But more often than not he leads me to scriptures and words of prophets and leaders and even friends that help and bless my life and increase my faith and testimony. He is always inviting me to seek words of wisdom by study and by faith.
I love how Sherri describes her wrestle. “I recently engaged in a wrestle. When the policy was announced that the children of gay parents might not be eligible for baptism at age eight, I was confused. I did not question the Brethren or doubt their inspiration, but neither did I understand the doctrinal basis for the policy. So I asked the Lord to teach me. I prayed, searched the scriptures, studied the teachings of prophets, and pondered my question in the temple. This went on for several months. Then one day a colleague made a statement that sparked a new thought for me, and in that moment the Spirit illuminated the doctrine in my heart and mind. I consider that answer personal revelation and not something I should teach. Though I have wept with friends to whom this policy directly applies, the doctrine gave me peace and understanding.”
I love this struggle that she had with the Lord. I love that she didn’t tell me the answer but invited me to find out for myself… because anything that we receive that we didn’t work for you don’t really value. Some of these answers to questions that we have require the sacrifice and effort to achieve them.
President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “Why, oh, why do people think they can fathom the most complex spiritual depths without the necessary…work accompanied by compliance with the laws that govern it? Absurd it is, but you will…find popular personalities, who seem never to have lived a single law of God, discoursing…[about] religion. How ridiculous for such persons to attempt to outline for the world a way of life!…One cannot know God nor understand his works or plans unless he follows the laws which govern.”
Sherri adds, “Questions are not just good, they are vital, because the ensuing spiritual wrestle leads to answers, to knowledge, and to revelation. And it also leads to greater faith.” It leads to being built on a foundation where if men build they will not be moved. Sometimes the Lord has to bring us down to rock bottom so there is not sand, or clay or any other material on which we will establish our foundation. We will literally be built upon the rock!
Sister Dew affirms, “We are admonished to “doubt not, but be believing.” But “doubting not” does not mean understanding everything…Doubting is not synonymous with having questions. To doubt is to reject truth and faith. … we are required to have faith, live by faith, “ask in faith, nothing wavering, and “overcome by faith.””
“Questions are not just good, they are vital, because the ensuing spiritual wrestle leads to answers, to knowledge, and to revelation. And it also leads to greater faith.” (Dew, 2016)
I want to quote this next part of the talk because I find it essential and beautiful. She declares, “Thus, once the Spirit has borne witness to you that God is our Father and Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet called to restore the gospel, and that we are led by a prophet today, then you know the gospel is true because the Spirit has borne witness of the foundational truths that comprise a testimony. You have a testimony!
At that point, when questions arise or when blessings you’ve been pleading for remain unfulfilled, they are not an indication that you don’t have a testimony or that the gospel isn’t true. They are an invitation for you to grow spiritually.
I repeat, once you have received a spiritual witness of the truths that form a testimony, even your thorniest questions about our doctrine, history, positions on sensitive issues, or the aching desires of your hearts, are about personal growth. They are opportunities for you to receive personal revelation and increase your faith.
We don’t have to have answers to every question in order to receive a witness, bear witness, and stand as a witness.”
Isn’t that awesome! I add my testimony that I too have had many questions in my life. I have questioned the very nature of God and His divine role as Father in my life. I have felt loving answers come gently and lovingly into my life as I have wrestled with thorny questions. I have lived patiently into answer that the Lord had to “help thou my unbelief” and I have learned and traveled to beautiful spiritual vistas of peace and love.
I know the Lord loves you and will respond to all your questions, I know that our “questions, especially the tough ones, propel us to engage in a spiritual wrestle so that the Lord can lead us along. Without plain old spiritual work, even God can’t make us grow-or at least, He won’t.“(Dew, 2016)
Ask your questions, find answers in the right sources and love the process, wrestle and work required to live into the answers.
Are you willing to engage in the wrestle?