I want you to pause for a minute and ask yourself – What questions do I have about my religious beliefs? Don’t skim past that. Let yourself think about it.
Okay, you’re probably wondering now why I had you do that. Well, I think that we all can think of at least one question we have about God, His gospel, His church, and so on. Sometimes those questions are simple enough to find answers to with a little study and prayer.
But having questions doesn’t mean that you’re flat out questioning everything you believe. And when (yes, when – I think at some point we all face this in our lives) you have that experience, you may not know how to deal with it.
Things that you based your life on suddenly seem ridiculous or unstable. Life itself seems suddenly purposeless or hopeless. And you don’t know what to think now because you no longer trust the things you once believed.
It’s scary, like falling into a lake and not knowing which way is up and which way is down.
When you find yourself in times like this, when you aren’t sure what to believe or who to trust – there are a few things you can do to find some balance and figure out what you do believe.
Here’s What to Do When You’re Questioning What You Believe:
1. Keep an Open Mind and Heart
In my experience, the first thing I want to do when I start questioning my beliefs is shut down. I don’t want to hear what anyone else has to say. I just want to figure it out myself, and until I do, I’m not willing to listen.
Do you know how much that’s helped me figure out what I believe?
Yeah, exactly. It hasn’t.
When I’m not willing to open my mind and heart, I can’t figure anything out. And I’m not talking about having my mind and heart open to anyone and anything in the world. The fact is, when you’re questioning your religious beliefs, it’s easier to listen to the people who argue against what you believe than it is to listen to the people who do hold your same beliefs.
So the first thing to do if you really want to figure out what you believe is this – do the hard thing and stay willing to listen to the beliefs you’re questioning. Accept that they might still have some value even if you aren’t sure you believe them.
Keeping an open mind and an open heart can help you see why you used to believe in the things you’re now questioning. Then you can assess if your reasons for belief seem valid or not.
Remember, when it comes to religion, belief often comes from the Holy Spirit. This can be difficult to define and accept when you’re questioning your beliefs. But if you keep your mind and heart open, you’ll be more able to receive those undeniable feelings from the Holy Spirit all over again.
In my opinion, keeping an open heart and mind will give you your best chance for determining truth from falsehoods. It’s your decision what to accept and what to reject in your beliefs, but don’t limit yourself by closing down. Allowing the beliefs I’m questioning to be possible truths has made all the difference for me.
2. Pay Attention to Where You’re Spending Time
Your beliefs should be things that bring you joy. They should be uplifting, motivating, and foundational to your character.
So when you’re questioning your beliefs, pay attention to where you’re spending your time. Do those places or activities bring you joy? Do they uplift and motivate you?
If they don’t bring you joy, or don’t uplift and motivate you, then those places and activities might not belong in your life. You might find your beliefs validated by where you feel the most joy and peace.
Another side of this – in my experience, I’ve found that spending time in church and other similar places helps me see the contrast between what is uplifting and what isn’t. I’m in a place where I can hear about my beliefs, learn more about them, and find answers to my questions without losing joy.
Even if I’m not ready to accept the things I’m questioning, I’m at least in a place where I feel good. And feeling good gives me the clarity to make better judgments about what I want in my life and what I don’t.
3. Remember that It’s Okay to Have Questions
Remember that question you came up with when you started reading this article? It isn’t something to be afraid of. Knowledge can only come by asking questions, and the more you learn, the stronger your beliefs can become.
Questions and doubts are part of living a religious life. We live in a world filled with opposing opinions, so we’re bound to be tripped up by them sometimes.
And that’s okay.
God has planned for us to use our lives figuring out what is true and what isn’t. That means asking questions. That means acknowledging doubts and it means looking for answers. God wants us to do this so we can truly decide for ourselves what we believe and what we don’t.
And if questions and doubts lead us to make mistakes, we can always turn to God and come back to Him. Never at any point are we so far gone from Him that we can’t change our minds. We can always choose to believe in Him.
4. Hold On to What You Do Believe
I’ve found that when I’m questioning my beliefs, I don’t actually question every single belief I have. It’s been helpful to realize that because now, even when I have questions, I can look at what I do believe and rely on that.
And sometimes, as we find answers to our questions, those answers can be anchors for us. We can rely on our belief in that one answer we have as we search for more answers.
I love what Elder Neil L. Andersen said:
When personal difficulty, doubt, or discouragement darken our path, or when world conditions beyond our control lead us to wonder about the future, the spiritually defining memories from our book of life are like luminous stones that help brighten the road ahead, assuring us that God knows us, loves us, and has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to help us return home.Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Spiritually Defining Memories,” April 2020
The things I know I believe have given me so much strength. One of the first things I found real belief in was that God exists and that He’s my Father. That one belief has helped me trust Him and His gospel even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to. It’s helped me find more answers and more faith in other gospel principles and doctrines.
There’s so much power in belief. Hold on to it when you can, and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn and how you can grow.
5. Get Back to the Basics
When belief is lacking, one of the best things to do is return to the basics. First, look at your actions. Before you started really questioning your beliefs, were you doing the things you claimed to believe? For example, were you praying and studying the scriptures every day? Those small, daily actions have a lot more power than you might think.
The second thing to do is look at the basic, foundational doctrines. Go through each one. Study it. Often, belief comes as you learn more about those doctrines. Your questions about your beliefs may be based on a lack of understanding of those foundational doctrines. Trying to understand those doctrines better will help you find the answers you’re looking for.
6. Recognize Faith vs. Knowledge
I think that, when you’re questioning your beliefs, it’s important to recognize that faith and knowledge are not the same things. You might feel that because you don’t know everything about your religion that you can’t believe in it.
But that isn’t how religion works. God asks us to trust Him. He hasn’t given us every bit of knowledge that exists because He wants us to learn and grow. He wants us to have the chance to say “Yes, I will follow you,” or “No, I won’t.” And we can’t have that choice without the chance to learn.
And sometimes God asks us to follow Him even when we don’t know something. When you find yourself questioning your beliefs, God is probably asking you if you’ll choose to follow Him anyway or not.
If that’s difficult for you to do, He’ll wait. He’s patient and He’s merciful, so He knows that sometimes we have to struggle with the decision before we decide. And He’ll accept us if we do choose to follow Him, no matter what our struggles looked like.
Here’s the thing to remember – faith is acting because you trust that your belief is true even if you don’t know for sure that it is true. Knowledge is an undeniable certainty that something is true based on evidence. If you have questions, then you still need faith. Knowledge may come eventually, but we’ll still need to rely on faith through our entire lives.
Questions don’t really go away. There’s always something to learn. So let yourself trust your beliefs, take action, and move forward.
7. Talk About Your Beliefs
One of the best things you can do to strengthen your beliefs is to talk about them. Even if you only believe in one thing, talk about that one thing. If you meet someone who struggles to believe in the one thing you do believe in, talk to them about it. It will strengthen you and them.
We can’t inherit belief from other people. Belief is a choice. But we can learn from each other and receive strength from each other. Plus, talking about your beliefs helps you solidify your faith in that belief.
So when you’re questioning your beliefs, don’t shy away from conversations about your beliefs. You may find that your faith is stronger than you expected as you talk about it. And the people you talk with might help you see things in a way that answers your questions. As your faith grows stronger, you’ll be able to give answers to other people as well.
8. Keep Looking for Answers
Like I said earlier, we never know everything. Sometimes you’ll seriously question your beliefs, and other times you’ll just have a question or two on your mind. Wherever you are right now, keep looking for answers.
James 1:5 says,
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.James 1:5, KJV
God will lead you to answers as you continually ask Him questions. It can take time and a lot of effort, but those answers will come.
Keep looking. The search for answers will keep you focused on what you already believe while you continue learning more.
9. Don’t Avoid God
This is probably the most important suggestion I can give you. I know, from experience, that when you’re questioning your beliefs, you don’t want to be near God. But consider this:
41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.Doctrine and Covenants 88:41
God knows everything. He is the One who gives us knowledge, guidance, and truth. If you allow God to be part of your struggles and your questions, He can give you the perfect answers that you need. He’s just waiting for you to ask.
I also included this here because my own belief that God is real and present in my life has strengthened me so much. If you have questions about God, about religion, about your beliefs – start here. Start with God, your Father in Heaven. Ask Him if He’s there, if He hears you. And I promise, if you’re willing to listen to Him, He’ll let you know that He is real, that He loves you, and that He hears you.
My relationship with my Father in Heaven has led me and strengthened me every time I’ve had questions about my beliefs. As you find and build a relationship with Him yourself, that same strength and guidance will be given to you.