There seems to be an epidemic running rampant these days that none of the news stations cover. It has taken thousands, even millions, of casualties with new losses daily. No one is immune to this disease. The carcinogen develops first in the mind and quickly spreads to the heart, primarily attacking one thing: the person’s faith. I have seen so many people fall victim – and I am baffled.
It has been difficult to put myself in the shoes of the individuals I personally know who have fallen to this fad because I know that were I to abandon my faith, I would additionally have to leave everything I know and believe about God and the universe and myself behind. These things are engrained in me. Not because of some mass brainwashing experiment or particularly convincing old men, but because I have learned for myself that these things are true, and denying it would capsize my integrity fully. And the most confusing thing is that a lot of the people whose faith has been abandoned have had that confirming witness too!
How do you commit years of your life to teaching a gospel and changing lives – not the least of which is your own – only to deny what you preached later on? How do you justify the differences you made if you will later claim them to be inconsequential in your own life? Can you answer to the people you touched and profess that you weren’t trying to mislead them when you no longer believe what you told them? How do you account for the good you were able to do and the qualities you developed and the way your own life changed through following something that you knew to be good and true at the time and no longer do? I am not trying to accuse or point fingers. My heart truly wants to empathize with the very real opposition some face and why they are not always victorious. Challenging as it has been to gain understanding, I have striven for it as a way to strengthen my own faith and possibly help others as well and I have found a pattern.
If you put faith only in the structure and history of the Church, it won’t be enough. If you even place the bulk of your faith in scriptures or your church leaders or your family, you will eventually lose it. The only way that you can hold to your faith steadily, unshakably, is if your faith is in Christ.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find faith strengtheners through these other sources because heaven knows you can and should – but the only thing worthy of true faith has to be perfection. Everything and everyone else will fall short. You will be disappointed. And it will instead become fertile grounds in which to plant and grow your doubts.
From all I have witnessed, those who fall away experience the same changes the earth underwent when it lost Christ in the flesh. They find themselves caught in “great storms, such…as never had been know”. Their lives “shake… as if they were about to divide asunder”. The “whole face” of their lives are changed, sometimes in ways that seem harmless or better, but over time they see that many places once smooth will become rough. There are “some who [are] carried away in the whirlwind; and whither they go no man knoweth”. (See The Book of Mormon, 3rd Nephi 8).
Giving in to doubt is easy. Think about it. The whole world does it. And yet we don’t admire people who come face-to-face with opposition and quickly proceed to crumple to the fetal position at the offender’s feet. No. We love a comeback story. The kind when the person faces trial after trial and won’t give up. They cling to hope and the faith they already have. Great people withstand the opposition even when giving up looks easier, even when some tell them that giving up is right.
Holding to what you do know already, especially when there is so much you do not know, is hard. Indeed, it is impossible, unless you are putting your faith in something wholly perfect, something that cannot and will not fail you – or rather Someone.
Christ doesn’t change. If you have faith in Him, then you know that His commandments will be consistent enough for you to live them wholeheartedly without fear of mistake. If you knew at one time that Christ was the head of the Church, and if your faith is in Him, then you have to believe that He would not allow anyone to lead His organization astray. He knows which policy changes to implement and which are just clever disguises of the adversary seeking godly authority. He loves us, every single person, with an immovable and unconditional and perfect love. If you have faith in that, then you will never question your worth or the worth of others.
It isn’t wrong to have questions and it is human to have doubts, but put your faith in Christ. Refuse to be acted upon by what you do not know. Refuse to abandon the gift of faith you have already received simply because of the faith you have not yet been gifted. Your person and your past deserve your integrity. And Christ will not and cannot fail you. “…remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (The Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12).