I love to read. I read a lot. I read a fairly wide range of books. But I try to make sure that sprinkled in among the (mainly) fiction and the wide assortment of children's books I read that I also read some LDS books. Most are very good and a few stay with me for long after and really help me gain new insights or gain a new perspective.
I just started a new LDS book today by Sheri Dew called Worth the Wrestle. There is something about the way Sheri Dew writes and speaks that always touches me. She is definitely a personal favorite and has been for years..ever since she served in the General Relief Society Presidency quite a few years ago. So far this book has been no different. It's a book that is making me think and that I want to underline every other paragraph and remember forever.
Here are some of the thoughts running through my head:
*Sometimes I wonder why a testimony comes so easily to me. It seems I have always believed. At times, I've even wondered if there were something wrong with me that I don't seem to struggle with doubts the way many people seem to. But reading this has been comforting. Because I DO have questions, but I think I have been blessed to be able to approach my questions through a lens of faith. I think that is probably a spiritual gift I have been given. And interestingly, this book has brought to mind a few times when I was filled with questions and even some doubts and how study and prayer helped me to find answers or at least peace.
*One question that it has brought to my mind that I haven't thought about in a long time was my worries and unease after my parents divorced. I had always been taught about the eternal nature of families and of marriage. But now my parents were divorced and I was trying to figure out what that meant for me, for my sisters, for my family. Were any of the things I had been taught still valid for us? Did the dissolution of my parents' marriage mean that the chain of ancestors I was linked to was now broken? If my parents were no longer married, who would I live with eternally? What could I do to try to prevent the same mistakes from taking place in my life in the future? Would things ever feel peaceful and happy again? I had a lot of questions. I began to study. Some of my questions were answered quickly but some of them took a long time to find answers to. Probably there are still aspects of these issues that I don't fully understand. But doing all of that study helped me to understand these issues much better and more fully than I would have if I hadn't had so many questions.
*Some other topics I can think of that I have had questions about or just an interest in and have studied and tried to learn more: angels, grace/the enabling power of the Atonement, the Holy Ghost and to to recognize and act on promptings, ministering, hastening the work of salvation, and humility. Not that I am an expert on any of those topics. But they are all topics that sometime in the past five years I have felt a need/desire to learn more about and have studied.
*I love to learn. I love to get immersed in a topic and find out as much as I can about it. I love to know a little bit about a lot of things. I find learning energizing. Today in Sunday School our lesson was on seeking learning, "even by study and also by faith." Our teacher said if he could be paid to be a professional student, he would be...ME TOO! We had a great discussion...and I probably contributed more than I should...probably I should have been quiet and let other people talk. But this is a topic that I love and feel passionately about...and it is a topic that I had a lot of thoughts about as I had been reading this book this morning. And actually, I had a lot of thoughts that I DIDN'T share. (Hopefully I didn't monopolize too much of the discussion.) Because Sister Dew talks about learning by study and by faith.
*There's a lot more I can personally do to seek learning by study and by faith.
Now here are some of the insights I've gained so far from what I've read:
In her introduction, she begins by sharing a couple of experiences with facing difficult questions and some incredible growth opportunities and what she learned as result: "I learned that the Lord will respond to sincere questions. I learned that the humility that accompanies the asking of questions mirrors, though in small measure, the humility demonstrated by the Savior again and again. And I learned that, although there are some answers we don't have, there is no question or issue or problem that the Lord doesn't understand completely, omnipotently....questions are good--and that questions asked against a backdrop of faith and with an earnest desire to learn always lead to spiritual growth and a stronger testimony." (page 5) First, I am struck by the fact that she points out the need for humility. That is something that I have studied and feel like I consistently need to work on. And it was also something brought up in our discussion during Sunday School. Second, I love that promise...questions asked against a backdrop of faith ALWAYS lead to spiritual growth. That's quite a remarkable promise!!
She tells of 2 young adults she knew at the same time. One came to her with a bunch of gospel questions and said she was unsure if she still had a testimony. Sister Dew asked if she wanted to have a testimony and if she was willing to work for it. The young woman was and they studied and learned and sought answers to her questions together. Slowly, her testimony grew...and eventually the young woman entered the temple. Another young woman contacted her to let her know that she had had questions. Her questions made her doubt her testimony and beliefs. She figured if she didn't believe the church was true, then she didn't need to live the commandments. She had made some choices that were not in harmony with gospel teaching. Sister Dew asked her if she would like to have a testimony and her response was no, not now. Our questions can lead us to become a "seeker of truth" or to justify incorrect choices and lead us away from the covenants we have made. "Asking inspired questions leads to knowledge. It leads to revelation. It leads to greater faith. And it leads to peace. Not asking questions, on the other hand, closes off revelation, growth, learning, progression, and the ministering of the Holy Ghost." (page 12) She didn't quote this scripture but I keep thinking about it over the last few weeks: John 7:17: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or I speak of myself."
Part of the difference between the two young adults' results/experiences was that the first chose to continue to live the gospel despite her doubts and questions and she really desired to know if the doctrine and teachings came from God or not. Our desires, as well as our actions, are so important.
"The Lord wants us to ask every probing question we can muster because not asking questions can be far more dangerous than asking them." (page 13) (See for example these scriptural examples she refers to: Alma 12:11, 1 Nephi 11:1 versus 1 Nephi 15:8-9)
"The most effective leaders ask great questions, and they typically ask a lot of them. This is because the best leaders, regardless of the nature of their leadership, crave truth. They want to know what is real. They want to know how the members of their ward or branch really are, or what the children in their family really need, or how customers in their business really experience the service they receive. They aren't afraid of the answers to tough questions-including answers that may implicate them or spotlight their own weaknesses." (page 15) She also shared that President Hinckley was always asking people questions...every one he met...he'd ask about their professions, their lives, always gathering as much information as he could. He could talk to people about any subject which helped him learn and develop relationships. (Man, I want to be more like that! I tend to get so nervous in social situations, especially with people I don't know well, that I literally often feel my brain freeze up...I literally sit there thinking, "I should ask a question but I can't think of a single question to ask." I really have to work at it.)
*"When we have unresolved questions, our challenge does not lie in what we think we know. It lies in what we don't YET know." Elder Neal A. Maxwell said it this way: "We should not assume...that just because something is unexplainable by us it is unexplainable." (page 23)
*"When we are willing to wrestle spiritually, we're in a better position to help others-but we are always the ones who benefit most." (page 26-27)
Love this book so far!