I don’t know if there is a God, but I used to. I was born and raised a Mormon, and from a young age, I was taught that if I did all the right things—searching my scriptures, pondering what I learned, praying for a spiritual confirmation of truth, and keeping myself worthy all along the way—I would be able to know the “truthfulness of the gospel” just like so many Mormons before me. This knowledge would come to me via the Holy Ghost as an undeniable spiritual answer—which could mean good feelings, sudden positive thoughts, even a burning sensation.
And it did come. When I was fourteen years old, I started my own quest for truth. I read the Book of Mormon, I pondered it, and I prayed sincerely every day for over a year. I yearned to know. And one day, as I quietly listened to a church song, I felt a welling of positive emotions about Christ and the Book of Mormon and my church. I knew it was true. I had a testimony of my own.
Until college, when I started to analyze and question everything. I guess you could say that my “shelf” of questions became very heavy over the years—full of questions about things like polygamy, human suffering, blacks and the priesthood, LGBT issues, the origins and historicity of the scriptures, and the difference between the spirit vs. emotions. The more questions I asked, the more questions I found. I had often heard the strategy of figuratively “shelving” difficult religious questions, with the idea that at some future date (or future life) all would be revealed. But at some point, the weight become unbearable, and my shelf collapsed.
And so here I am. I’m still a Mormon, but I don’t know if there is a God. I don’t know if my testimony-inducing good feelings were my own or from the Holy Ghost. I don’t know the answers to life’s big questions of why I’m here, where I came from, or where I’m going. I miss the certainty that used to guide me through life. But I don’t think there’s any going back. How could there be?
I hope that there is a powerful, loving God out there. Someone who is fair and good and glorious beyond my wildest dreams.
But I don’t know anymore.
Readers, what are your experiences with “shelving” your religious questions?