Now we have a world where people are confused,
If you don’t believe it, go and watch the news.
“Follow the Prophet”, Children’s Songbook
Anxiety can strike in many areas, but I want to address just two where members fall victim to this kind of stress. The first is political division (including the pandemic) that is causing so much contention in our relationships, and the second is the crisis of faith that many experience.
Both areas have the common element of confusion and lack of clarity. People want to know what is true. Can they trust the news? Can they trust their friends? Can they trust their testimony?
We used to rely unfailingly on the consistency and harmony of all three. Let’s look at the news. As a former journalist (I don’t know… do you ever stop being one?) I see a huge shift from an attempt to remain neutral and to verify every story, to what we have today: Pravda-esque unproven propaganda, biased reporting, outright lies, and no accountability (and both sides feel this way about the other side.) No wonder people don’t believe what they’re being spoon-fed.
Even medical experts disagree about the pandemic and the vaccines. They, and some politicians, turn out to have conflicts of interest. So now who can we believe? Aunt Betty? Neighbor Jim? The internet?
Quarreling escalates. Those who feel they’ve done adequate research get exasperated with those they feel have not. We all want to believe we’re in the correct camp, and it’s human nature to get even more defensive when something comes under attack that we’re not 100% sure about ourselves.
Psychologist Rollo May said, “It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.” We panic, right? So, we dash about as if increased speed will bring the answer.
In last October’s General Conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk called “Daily Restoration” and spoke of a study done at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. To test the theory that people who are lost walk in circles, they took test participants to a thick forest and told them to walk in a straight line.
GPS data showed that, despite thinking they had walked in a straight line, they had actually made loops, some as small as 20 meters in diameter. “Without reliable landmarks,” he said, “we drift off course.” It would be interesting to see if their pace increased as well.
So here we are, facing dozens of political and medical arguments, without reliable landmarks. No wonder everyone seems upset and frantic—it’s that feeling of turning in circles and not getting anywhere.
I see this with those doubting their faith, as well. And they don’t always want to talk with strong believers because they sense bias. So, sadly, they talk with nonbelievers (who are also circling) and place their trust in the worst possible area.
To help those having a faith crisis, I think we all need to embrace those with doubts and questions, instead of assuming they’re irreparably lost. We need to give them a firm footing in our love, at least. Regardless of their concerns, they are children of God and He loves them. Our efforts to help should be respectful and affirming as we share our own beliefs. If you want to convince someone you’re following Christ’s truth, you have to demonstrate it.
When someone raises an uncomfortable question in Sunday School, this is not the time for aghast expressions or lecturing tones. It’s the time to make them feel safe. We can seek for understanding and do what we can to provide honest, accurate information.
Next, the person seeking truth needs to do their part. Scriptures have told us we must pray when we want answers. This means a heartfelt conversation with our Heavenly Father, and a true abandonment of pride. Without humility and openness to listen, we cannot expect His help.
This is a time when we truly need personal revelation. We need it with the first topic as well (politics and medicine). In her book, Worth the Wrestle, author Sheri Dew says, “Personal Revelation is a powerful, persuasive antidote to uncertainty and confusion.”
When you can’t trust “experts,” newscasters, or public opinion, you need personal revelation more than ever. And when you’re doubting the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, you need it the most of all.
Elder Quentin L. Cook has said, “God is not the author of confusion, but is the author of peace.” When we take our confusion to him with a sincere desire to find truth, He will fill our hearts with peace. We’ll feel warm. Contented. Even strongly loved. But we have to be open to His answers, and open to using faith instead of fighting.
How can we get to that point, to be able to pray and receive revelation? Our dear prophet, President Russell M. Nelson offers the remedy. He says, “Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift so that when confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not.”
When we live to be worthy, as President Nelson counsels, we might need to give up some of the worldly things we embraced while on our struggling journey. There may be friends, clothes, Word of Wisdom choices, language, entertainment, and more that we’ll have to put on the altar. See it as an offering you’re giving, to show God you’re serious. Really mean it. Consecrate your time and study with earnest effort. Your sincerity will not be ignored. You will get answers.
If you feel lost in the swirl of debate about current events, or lost in the search for spiritual truth, do not despair. You need not turn in circles. Landmarks are there, given by God to guide us. Sometimes we pay a steep price for inspiration, but it does come. And then we realize it was worth every ounce of effort. Nothing shines like clarity, and nothing is more valuable than your testimony.
Hilton’s book, A Little Christmas Prayer, is the perfect Christmas gift. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website.