How to Doubt Your Doubts

When in 2013 Elder Uchtdorf encouraged us to doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith, that was a call to self-awareness. If I’m doubting a gospel principle or a narrative of our sacred history, then what do I personally bring to that equation? Let’s explore things that all of us bring: assumptions, worldview, epistemology, and bias.


What assumptions do I hold, that affect my openness to gospel principles and our narratives of sacred history?

  • Do I assume that my experience of faith reflects all that is possible to experience? Do I assume that if I have not experienced something, then no one has experienced it?
  • When I talk about concepts like evidence, do I even really know what those words mean?
  • Do I assume that I have all of the best definitions for gospel concepts?
  • Do I assume that when scholars deny things like miracles, they have good reasons for doing so?
  • Do I assume that God and His servants need to conform to all of my mental models of reality?
  • Do I assume that when church leadership make a decision I disagree with, then I and my sources are right and church leadership are wrong? Do I assume that I am seeing all of the information that church leadership are seeing, and that I am evaluating information as thoroughly as they are?
  • Do I assume that some amount of mistakes or sins of church leaders disqualify them from God’s mantle of authority?
  • Do I assume that all scripture applies to me and to the church, that scripture never holds a particular meaning for a specific context in the past and not the present?
  • Do I assume that my interpretation of scripture is the only correct one?
  • Do I assume that problems in the church are the product of failures in leadership?
  • Do I always assume that my thoughts and feelings are accurate guides to reality?
  • Are my narratives of the church and sacred history anchored in assumptions that are not always reliable?


What is my worldview, and how does that affect my perception and experience of the restored gospel? Am I aware of my own -isms?

  • Do I hold the worldview of expressive individualism, common in most modern Western societies? Do I see the purpose of life in terms of “discovering my authentic self,” and do I insist that my community validate whatever that is?
  • Do I hold a worldview of positivism, and assume that if something is real, I should be able to explain it logically and scientifically, without any appeal to faith?
  • Do I hold the worldview of Marxism, and see the world in terms of systems of oppression that need to be disrupted by awakening people to an activist consciousness? Do I see criticism as the toolset to achieve an ideal vision for the church and society? Do I have a deep-seated sense that disparities equate to unfairness?
  • Is my worldview ethnocentric? Do I assume that the belief in the supernatural that is common in the majority world is the product of superstitious thinking? Do I hold the ethnocentric – and sometimes racist – view that people in places like Africa and South America are incapable of rational thinking, and that is why they are often more receptive to the gospel than wealthy Westerners?
  • Is postmodernism my worldview? Do I believe that there is no such thing as objective truth? Do I see all of human activity as motivated by desires for power?


What choices do I make in my search for truth?

  • Am I aware of my own cognitive ground rules?
  • What sources am I willing to consider, and why?
  • Are there sources I dismiss and exclude? Do I have good, thoroughly-considered reasons for doing so?
  • Are my spiritual sources of information properly discerned?
  • Have I adopted the epistemology of accusation, the idea that saying bad things about people and institutions is the best way to arrive at the truth?
  • Am I aware of what motivates my searching, and my choices in epistemology?
  • Have I even gone through the effort of seriously exploring what it means that “the church is true?”
  • Am I focused entirely on ambiguous questions of sacred history, or am I willing to ask questions about concrete realities that are observable in the church in the present day?
  • When I disregard witness testimony of church members around me, do I really have valid grounds for doing so?


What are my biases? What are the non-rational factors that are shaping my experience of faith?

  • Am I personally aware of my biases, or am I blind to them?
  • Do I have cognitive biases that limit my ability to exercise faith?
  • Am I biased toward empiricism, the idea that I have to personally experience something in order to believe it?
  • Am I biased toward a negative interpretation of events?
  • Am I willing to be biased by charity in my assessment of some people, and not others?
  • Am I biased toward occam’s razor, the idea that the simple explanation is usually the most accurate? If so, on what rational grounds do I hold to that bias?
  • Am I biased against simplicity? Do I look for complexity over simplicity, even when I don’t have rational grounds for doing so?
  • Do I have an authority bias? For example, do I assume that in questions of faith, academic credentials are a reliable guide to the truth?
  • Do I have an oppositional personality that leaves me biased against external authority? Does my oppositional personality leave me feeling allergic to basic gospel principles like sustaining and following the prophet?
  • Do I have a bandwagon bias, relying on things like “academic consensus” as a guide to what is true?
  • What are my emotional biases? Am I biased by cynicism, or grace? Am I biased by grievances? Am I emotionally biased by the negative messaging of influencers?
  • Am I angry? Am I aware of how anger warps my ability to think clearly and evaluate information? Do I understand how anger steers the human brain toward heuristic judgments – shortcuts – that limit our ability to really understand things? Do I understand how the church’s detractors have both financial and emotional reasons for feeding people narratives that keep them stuck in anger?
  • Do I have an emotional bias toward validation-seeking? Would I rather feel emotionally validated, or arrive at an accurate picture of reality that may not be emotionally validating?
  • Am I biased toward reality? Do I want to understand reality, no matter what it is? If the church truly is what we claim it to be, are there any factors in my heart and mind that are hindering my ability to perceive that reality? If that is reality, am I fully open to it, or biased against it?
  • Am I biased by disappointing personal experiences in the context of my church participation? Have other people experienced those same things and not become stuck in disappointment? What choices did they make in the processing of their experiences?
  • Am I biased by a lack of experience? Was I raised in an environment where miracles and personal experiences of God were openly shared on a regular basis, or was I raised in an environment where those dimensions of faith were disregarded or viewed with suspicion? How are my plausibility structures – my sense of what is believable – shaped by a lack of direct personal experience?
  • Do I have an emotional bias against distinctions? Do distinctions feel unfair to me, leading me toward relativism? Does my bias against distinctions lead me to make irrational and false claims like “All beliefs about God are equally valid” or “All scripture is metaphorical”?
  • Have I ever experienced any real degree of personal conversion? Have I seen and felt the results of conversion? Or has my personal experience of faith been all about meeting other people’s expectations? Does my experience of personal conversion constitute a positive bias in the direction of greater possibilities, or is it a non-factor, something I can’t relate to?
  • Do I understand how my intuitions bias my church experience and my perceptions of the gospel? Do I understand that my reasoning about the church follows my intuitions, and not the other way around?

And now for some personal factors:

  • Am I actually open-minded to the possibility that the church is what our prophets claim it to be?
  • If the church is what we claim it to be but my paradigms of reality keep me from accepting that fact, then am I willing to seriously interrogate and even jettison my paradigms?
  • Am I willing to apply critical thinking to my doubts?
  • Am I willing to put forth the immense, soul-stretching effort that it takes to seek revelation?
  • Am I willing to seriously apply myself to gain a mature understanding of the Plan of Salvation?
  • If I am pushing for the church to change in some way, am I willing to do the serious work of exploring other situations where my desired change has been tried, and what have been the results? Am I willing to ask mature questions about my own motives for wanting change?
  • Am I willing to put forward the effort to ask these questions of commentators and influencers that are sowing doubt and disillusionment in myself and among other church members?
  • Am I willing to make life changes, including changes in my relationships and social media activity, in order to gain the best possible perspective of the restored gospel?

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