For the Zoramites, prayer was a self-centered, routine practice that happened only once a week. It consisted of standing where all could see and repeating vain, self-satisfied words. Perhaps worse, the Zoramites lacked faith in Jesus Christ—even denied His existence—and persecuted the poor (see Alma 31:9–25). By contrast, Alma and Amulek boldly taught that prayer has more to do with what happens in our hearts than on a public platform. And if it doesn’t lead to compassion toward those in need, it is “vain, and availeth … nothing” (Alma 34:28). Most important, it is an expression of faith in Jesus Christ, who offers redemption through His “infinite and eternal sacrifice” (Alma 34:10). Such faith, Alma explained, is born of humility and a “desire to believe” (Alma 32:27). It grows gradually, like a tree, and requires constant nourishment. As you read Alma 32–35, you might consider your own faith and prayers; do you ever feel any Zoramite-like attitudes creeping in? How will you nourish your faith in Jesus Christ so it will become “a tree springing up unto everlasting life”? (Alma 32:41).
Here is Rachelle’s full talk. It’s so beautiful.
“Faith is not Blind” Talk
To help with my talk today, I will be using some quotes from a book by Elder Bruce C. Hafen titled, “Faith is not Blind.” In speaking of our life experiences and the process of maturing our faith, he says:
“When we are young, we tend to think in terms of black or white–there is very little gray in our perspective.
As time goes on, however, our experience with real life often introduces a new dimension–a growing awareness of a gap between the real and the ideal, between what is and what ought to be. Let’s call the distance between where we are and where we want to be “the gap.” We first see the gap when we realize that some things about ourselves or about other people are not what we thought they were. …We might run across information we haven’t heard before about [the Church]. Or maybe we encounter something posted on the internet that raises religious questions we don’t know how to answer. …We might find ourselves becoming a little skeptical, or we may begin to ask questions that haven’t occurred to us before. Not everyone will encounter these things in the same way, but as we grow and increase in our awareness, most of us do run into some uncertainty and opposition.
So life is full of ambiguity, and learning to manage the gap between the ideal and the real is one purpose of the mortal plan.”
Elder Hafen then addresses how to deal with these uncertainties. He suggests a three-stage model:
“Stage One is simplicity on this side of complexity, innocent and untested. Stage Two is complexity, the gap between the real and the ideal, where we struggle with conflicts and uncertainty. Stage Three is the simplicity beyond complexity, a settled and informed perspective that has been tempered and tested by time and experience.”
When I became a mother, I entered stage two complexity and today I am going to share with you the tools that helped me progress my faith from stage two complexity, to stage three: Simplicity Beyond Complexity.
After entering motherhood my world was turned upside down. I suddenly found myself struggling with depression which I had never experienced before in my life. I also felt a huge imbalance in gender roles and didn’t understand why God made male and female roles the way that He did. These feelings led to me asking a lot of hard questions about God and His Church. I went through what I used to call a faith crisis that lasted almost 4 years. I have now learned that while it felt like a spiritual free-fall at the time, it was actually just my faith progressing through these necessary stages that Elder Hafen has taught us about. I stand in front of you today able to confidently testify that God is real and that this is His Church, but coming to that reality has been a process over the last 4 years. During this progression of my faith, every time I encountered a new question, I followed a 3 step process. This process consisted of: 1) Praying, 2) Studying, and 3) Waiting.
Let’s discuss the first step, PRAYING. Even when I started to question if God was real, I knew it was important to keep my communication open with Him in case He was. Praying in itself is an act of faith. When we pray, we are showing that we have faith that He is there, and that He will answer us. While I was questioning God’s reality the scripture in Alma 32:27 would often come to mind. It reads:
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
I had a desire to believe that God was real, so I decided to experiment upon His words. One night, when I was depressed I had a very heartfelt and sincere prayer. I told God that while I wanted to believe He was there, I didn’t and I was feeling like everything leading up to this point in my life had been a lie. I was raising my children in the Gospel, but for what? If He was real, I needed an answer and the rest of my life and my family’s life depended on it. The next morning, I took my boys to the park right behind our apartment where we used to live. I was pushing my son in a swing when a girl came and sat at a picnic table and opened up a notebook and started to write. She then began to sob, loud and heavy sobs. Immediately I heard a voice just like if I were talking to someone on the phone. He said, “Talk to her.” In my mind I responded to the voice, “I feel so awkward, what would I even say?” Then the voice said so clearly, “Tell her that I see her, she is noticed, and I love her.” I hesitantly and awkwardly walked over to the girl and said, “Are you ok?” She loudly sobbed that she wasn’t. And then I told her what God told me to tell her. I said, “I just want you to know that God is telling me to tell you that He sees you. He notices you. And He loves you.” She then began to sob even harder and told me that that is exactly what she needed to hear. We ended up talking for a bit and I learned that her name was Destiny. I invited her to our home for dinner and after we ate and she had calmed down she said she was ready to go back home. When I dropped her off she said, “You were my angel today. When you approached me, I was writing my suicide letter and was about to jump in front of the train. I was feeling so invisible and like no one even cared about me anymore.” That experience was exactly what I needed to know that God was real. That day he answered two prayers simultaneously: mine, and Destiny’s. I will never be able to forget or deny that experience, especially because I know Destiny witnessed it and felt Him that day too.
The second step in this process is to STUDY. When I began my journey of asking what I call, “the hard questions,” I made a commitment to myself that I would only look for answers in the doctrine of The Church. I have learned that there is some confusion among members of the Church about what is actually considered doctrine so I am going to define it because it is important and I have had many friends leave the Church over things that weren’t doctrine that in their minds, was. The doctrine of The Church is really quite simple. It consists of: 1) The Standard works, 2) The Living Christ and The Family: A Proclamation to the World), and 3) The Articles of Faith. If we are seeking to know if this is indeed the Lord’s Church and His Gospel, we should start by knowing what His gospel is. The year I became a mom, I read the entire Standard Works. I am not exaggerating when I say doing that saved my life. Like I said, I was battling severe PPD at the time and reading the scriptures literally saved me. I kept a tiny notebook of the scriptures that spoke to me. It is one of my most prized possessions to this day. There were days I was just praying I would make it to see another day. I felt so weak and inadequate and not fit for the life I had been given. Each morning I would say my prayers and tell God I needed his help getting through one more day. And each day, as I opened my scriptures, he answered me with the most incredible scriptures. The first page of my notebook has scriptures like, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid..with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.” (2 Chronicles 32:17) And then there was Esther 4:14 which reads: “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?” And Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Every day I would write down whatever new scripture spoke to me and put it on the bathroom mirror where I would see it often. I would repeat the scripture to myself over and over again throughout the day or week or however long I needed to. That year I gained a real and tangible testimony of the power of the scriptures as each day I felt an actual physical strength come to me from these verses as I repeated them to myself throughout each day.
The third step to receiving answers, and to me, the one that is the most underrated, is to WAIT. When starting this journey I knew it wouldn’t be fair to give the Lord a timetable. I committed that I would search for answers in the right places and wait until Kingdom Come if I had to. Waiting means taking time to ponder and allowing the Lord to speak to you. This waiting period is crucial in receiving answers. It took me almost 4 years of waiting for some of my answers and those answers are priceless to me now. And to be honest, some answers still haven’t come yet. But my journey throughout this process has deepened my understanding of God and His Church and has left me with such a trust in Him that I know I will receive answers to the questions that matter to me someday. There is a popular quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk, “Good Things to Come” where he says, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.” I have found that exchanging the word “blessings” in this quote for the word “answers” is also true. So it reads, “Some [answers] come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”
As we are faced with the complexities of life and enter stage two of our faith journey, it is my prayer that we do not stop there. The Lord has so many answers in store for those who diligently seek through 1) PRAYER 2) STUDY, and 3) WAITING. By following this process, I know you can be lead to see the simplicity beyond the complexity.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
There was a last section that I didn’t get to that included this talk. Also amazing. Take a listen.