Over the last couple centuries, a lot of questions have surrounded the Book of Mormon—queries about its origins, its authenticity, and its teachings have been perpetuated by skeptic and believer alike. The book's contents are no different. From the first writings of Nephi to the dying testimony of Moroni, the Book of Mormon contains questions from an astounding 61 individuals—including prophets, missionaries, investigators, and apostates. Alma the Younger asked a grand total of 103 questions, Nephi posed 41, and the Savior Himself included 35 questions during his short ministry among the Nephites.
Luckily for us, this abundance of inquiry need not go unanswered. In their book 52 Life-Changing Questions from the Book of Mormon, authors John Hilton III and Brad Wilcox help us to not only recognize difficult questions from scriptures, but to discern the answers through true doctrine. The following is a brief sample taken from their text.
Question: Wherefore can ye doubt?
Question: Wherefore can ye doubt?
When Nephi was trying to convince his brothers to try to obtain the brass plates from Laban, he said, “Now behold ye know that [what I say] is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?” (1 Nephi 4:3). Laman and Lemuel had seen an angel—yet they still had doubts. Some people today are in a similar situation—they are in a position where they should know, but they remain unsure.
“Could I . . . uh . . .” The dark-haired elder approached his teacher at the Missionary Training Center and shifted his weight awkwardly. “I mean, I was wondering . . . if we could talk.” The teacher had just finished teaching a class, and the group was enjoying a short break.
“No problem,” the teacher assured him. They walked down the hall, away from classrooms and companions for a moment. The teacher had noticed how this elder’s enthusiasm had waned as his time in the MTC had increased.
“I feel like a terrible elder,” the missionary said. “I have so many doubts. You must think I’m wrong and weak.”
The words shocked the teacher, and he responded, “Wrong? Weak? Are doubts wrong? Are questions a sign of weakness? No. Didn’t Joseph Smith himself doubt and question as he learned?” The teacher opened his Pearl of Great Price to Joseph Smith-History and read: “In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties is right or are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith-History 1:10).
The teacher looked up from the page and said, “If doubting and questioning are wrong, then the whole missionary system of the Church is wrong, for isn’t it our invitation to the world to escape tradition’s chains and test present beliefs against revealed truth? Don’t we openly invite people to doubt and question?”
All of us have doubts—doubts about the future, doubts about decisions we have made or will make, doubts of a thousand kinds. But these doubts do not need to destroy us—answers will come. One woman spent long hours pondering struggles she was having with her testimony. As she weighed the assurances she had previously felt with the doubts she was currently encountering, she felt prompted to turn to the scriptures. As she did so, her scriptures fell open to Doctrine and Covenants 6, and she read these words: “If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22-23). She felt the Spirit wash over her, and her doubts were replaced by faith.
Sometimes our doubts are quickly resolved and sometimes we have to put them “on the shelf” for a time. But one thing is certain: the Lord has done great things for us and our ancestors and He will continue to do great things in the future. As Nephi said, “Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers” (1 Nephi 4:3). Even though there may be things we do not fully understand, we can move forward as Nephi did, trusting in the God who has always stood by us.