Room For Doubt Respects Agency

Sep 15, 2014
3 min read

I recently started the Book of Mormon over again in audio form while I’m at work. Chapter 6 of 1 Nephi caught my attention and led to some significant thoughts about agency.

And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.

For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.

Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men. (1 Nephi 6:3-6)

The limited resources Nephi had forced him to focus on what was most important. He desired to record “the things of God” over things that were pleasing unto the world; think about that. What types of things would be pleasing to the world? What did Nephi deliberately leave out of his record? How is what he did record pleasing to God and “those who are not of the world?”

If he gave that commandment, I wonder how strictly his instructions were followed, particularly by Mormon and Moroni. If they saw our day and the skepticism of people who would not take their record seriously, perhaps they could have put in some deliberate evidences that would please the natural man and leave no room for doubt?

Perhaps God wanted to leave room for doubt because he seems to have intentionally selected weak people to put the Book of Mormon together, weak people who doubted even themselves.

“And I [Moroni] said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;

And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.

Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words. (Moroni 8:23-25)

God seems to be fine with leaving room for doubt as well as providing reasons for faith, but why? LDS authors Terryl and Fiona Givens had an interesting take on this:

“There must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice and there fore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads…

For most of us, at least, there is neither a choir or heavenly heralds proving God exists, nor a laboratory of science equipment proving He doesn’t. Rather, we find a persuasive body of evidence on both sides of life’s competing propositions. Only in the case of use mortals, there is something to tip the scale. There is something to predispose us to a life of faith or a life of disbelief. There is a heart that, in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally ‘enticed by one or he other,’ is truly free to choose belief or skepticism, faith or faithlessness.

The call to faith, in this light, is not some test of a coy god, waiting to see if we ‘get it right.’ it is the only summons, issued under the only conditions, which can allow us fully to reveal who we are, what we most love, and what we most devoutly desire. Without constraint, without any form of mental compulsion, the act of belief becomes the freest possible projection of what resides in our hearts.” (The God Who Weeps, pgs. 4-5)

What do you think?

  • What role does doubt play in your life, currently?
  • What types of doubts trouble you the most?
  • What doubts have been replaced with knowledge and surety?
  • What was the turning point where doubt was replaced by surety?
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6 years ago

It’s not easy, but I try to thank the Lord every day for doubt. It creates a “holding place” for us to receive truth when we qualify for it. Without doubt there could be no faith, and without faith we would never earn Eternal Life. Similarly without despair, we could not know hope. Without justice there could be no opportunity for mercy and charity. It really all goes back to 2 Nephi 2. All of us will have challenges in our lives that are meant to try and test us – “For behold, this life is the time for men… Read more »

6 years ago
Reply to  oneclimbs

I appreciate your reply. I guess what I was trying to express was my gratitude for the existence of doubt, the fact that it is allowed to exist in the first place. Even though it sounds backwards, I’m grateful for the existence of evil itself. Certainly not because I like evil or I want to choose anything which is evil, (I do my best do abhor all that is evil), but if evil could not exist we would never know goodness. I guess you are correct in your point that I am certainly not grateful for evil, but grateful for… Read more »

6 years ago
Reply to  oneclimbs

I agree. You know it’s funny, I’ve been praying about our conversation this week, and especially how it’s difficult to express what I feel in words. I’m like the Nephites in that many times I don’t feel “mighty in writing.” I was thinking about what I said in my posts, like, the fact that I appreciate the existence of evil. And then I got to thinking – do I really believe that? On one hand evil scares the living daylight out of me. And along with that, it pains me from life experience that so many people, (even family and… Read more »

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