10 Answers to Life’s Tough Questions

Hinckley Center in the Spring

From recounting adventures like spelunking and white-water rafting to heartbreaking moments like miscarriages and financial difficulties, this semester’s devotional speakers shared experiences that strengthened their testimony and showed them God’s hand in their lives. Their speeches include answers to some of life’s tough questions. We’ve provided some here as a springboard for your own study.

How can I communicate better?
How can I identify truth in a post-truth world?
How can I find continued motivation to endure to the end?
How can I overcome self-criticism and insecurity?
How can I be financially stable?
How can I see my weaknesses but not become incapacitated by them?
What does “daily repentance” really mean?
How can I be better at discerning and making accurate judgments?
How can I find strength to wait on the Lord when there are answers that I desperately need?
How can doubt strengthen my testimony?

How can I communicate better?

We should learn how to listen more closely and pay more attention to what is being said, even if that means putting away our cell phones. . . .

Second, we should make sure that we are considerate of those who are communicating with us and of the impact our words and expressions have on them. . . .

. . . Personal communication is best accomplished in an environment in which both participants feel they are in a private, safe place—one in which thoughts and opinions can be expressed without hostile responses.

(Peggy Worthen, “A Safe Place,” 10 January 2017)

How can I identify truth in a post-truth world?

First, when you receive new information, consider the source. Some sources are more reliable than others. In the digital age, everyone has a platform. That has some upside, as it allows voices that were previously unheard to participate in the conversation that is part of the pursuit of truth. At the same time, it allows almost anyone to claim almost anything without the same fact-checking filter that has existed for many mainstream sources in the past. If the information comes from a source with which you are not familiar, both the source and the information might require more in-depth scrutiny. . . .

Second, consider the context in which the information arose and is presented. A statement may be accurately reported but still be untrue because it is taken out of context. . . .

Third, be patient, both with yourself and with the process. It is important to understand and remember that one purpose of our mortal experience is to learn to operate by faith—to discern truth without perfect knowledge. Thus, in this life there will never be ready answers to all our questions, despite what modern technology may cause us to think. . . .

Fourth, and most important, if you want to understand truth, draw closer to Him who is the source of all truth and light, who declared Himself—even Jesus Christ—to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Every single point I have made—the existence of truth, the definition of truth, the importance of truth, and the role of study and faith in pursuing the truth—rises or falls with Jesus Christ. If you have doubts about Him, that is where you need to begin the process.

(Kevin J Worthen, “The Pursuit of All Truth,” 10 January 2017)

How can I find continued motivation to endure to the end?

Every process needs fuel to keep it going, and this one is no different. In this case, the word of God provides the fuel. The light of the word ignites our faith and then continues to increase our faith as we feast on and obey it. Speaking of our journey on this path, Nephi testified, “Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ”; we need to “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ” if we are to endure to the end (2 Nephi 31:19–20). Like fuel in our vehicles or carbohydrates in our bodies, we need constant nourishment by the word of God—the iron rod—to move us along the path. . . .

Because the word brings faith and because we need ever-increasing faith for this journey, daily feasting on the words of the scriptures and the living prophets as well as following the personal whisperings of the Holy Ghost are essential to successfully navigating this path. Elder Richard G. Scott understood this when he said, “Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media.”

(Douglas D. Holmes, “The Doctrine of Christ: Our Daily Walk,” 17 January 2017)

How can I overcome self-criticism and insecurity?

The law of occupied space . . . states that an object can only occupy one place at a time. As it applies to the mind, both faith and fear, self-belief and self-doubt, or simply positive and negative thoughts cannot occupy the mind at the same time.

Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21 states:

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. [Emphasis added]

I interpret this to mean that any law that is discovered by a man or a woman was originally created by the Lord, and obtaining any blessings—such as winning a tennis match or building a loving relationship with a spouse—requires obedience to that law.

I love this law and have received tremendous blessings from learning how to apply it. When I was a student at BYU, I realized that I needed to think more positively. I started working on this, and every time I caught myself thinking or talking to myself in negative, reactive ways, saying, “Your backhand stinks” or “Don’t miss that backhand,” I would stop that thought and immediately replace it with thoughts such as “I love my backhand” or “I am going to rip it down the line.” And instead of saying to myself, “School is tough; BYU is too hard for me,” I started telling myself, “I’ve got this; I can get good grades.” At some point I realized that I would always say to myself, “Don’t forget this” or “You’d better not forget this for the exam,” so one of my favorite phrases became “I will remember this.” . . .

What is potentially the greatest lesson the Lord has taught me is that faith begins with how you talk to yourself.

(Craig Manning, “The Power of Your Words,” 31 January 2017)

How can I be financially stable?

Most of you are on the verge of that period of life in which financial matters and the choices you make about them are exceedingly important. A familiar scripture found in Alma 36:30—and similarly in many other places in the Book of Mormon—has two parts. It reads, “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.” The second part reads, “Inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.” It is clear that having the blessing of the Holy Spirit is a principal element of prospering in the land.

Along with having the Spirit, sacred teachings of the Church establish having sufficient for our needs as the best measure of temporal prosperity. Lucifer’s paradigm shift here is to elevate the seeking of great wealth and the acquisition of highly visible luxury products. Some seem absolutely driven to achieve the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Excess wealth is not promised to faithful members, nor does it usually bring happiness.

As a people, the Latter-day Saints have indeed prospered. Some achieve wealth as the result of very worthwhile and appropriate pursuits and use that wealth to bless mankind and further the Lord’s purposes.

Wise financial principles include seeking the kingdom of God first; working, planning, and spending wisely; planning for the future; and using wealth to build up the kingdom of God.

(Quentin L. Cook, “A Banquet of Consequences: The Cumulative Result of All Choices,” 7 February 2017)

How can I see my weaknesses but not become incapacitated by them?

Living perfectly is not the plan. Repentance is the plan. Jesus Christ is the plan. I think we erroneously equate perfection with living a perfect life, with never failing or falling short, but Jesus Christ is the only one who ever did or ever will do that. Perfection for us, then, must be about something else. . . . Perfection, for us, is not about being flawless; it is about being finished.

Artists who practice the Japanese art form kintsugi repair broken pottery by filling the cracks with a lacquer made from gold, silver, or platinum, restoring the damaged piece to something beautiful and whole. Kintsugi teaches that scars are not something to hide; rather, they are to be celebrated for the unique beauty they exhibit. The scars themselves are considered precious and therefore are mended with precious metals to honor their value. The finished piece is even more beautiful than the unbroken original.

Similarly, we honor the scars of our Savior, for He has graven us on the palms of His hands (see Isaiah 49:16). He is not ashamed of His scars. On the contrary, He has given us this invitation:

Arise and come forth . . . that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am . . . the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. [3 Nephi 11:14]

When we turn our broken pieces over to the Savior, our gaps are filled with Him—with His perfection—and we are made complete; we are finished by the Great Creator through the restorative power of “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We come to know the Savior not just by recognizing and reverencing His scars but by recognizing and reverencing our own. We are bound to the Savior through our mutual scars, “and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; see also verse 4).”

(Cassy Budd, “On Failing and Finishing,” 14 February 2017)

What does “daily repentance” really mean?

Every time we turn more to Christ, we are repenting—we are following Him. When we sincerely pray to the Father, in a very real sense we are repenting. When we read the scriptures and ponder them, we are repenting. As we make changes because of what we are learning about Christ and His gospel, we are repenting. When we do things that make us better, kinder, gentler, more sensitive, more spiritual, more virtuous, and truer, we are repenting. Whenever we choose the better path, we are repenting. Though we all repent of things that are sinful in our lives, most of our repenting comes from hearing His words and doing them—from turning to Him. This builds our foundation, and we want that foundation to be as big and as wide and as deep and as sturdy as possible.

(Weatherford T. Clayton, “The Rock of Our Redeemer,” 14 March 2017)

How can I be better at discerning and making accurate judgments?

Another of Satan’s tools is his ability to convince us that certain correlations are actually causations. . . .  How often do we observe others struggling with faith crises and conclude that the causes of their struggles are based on behaviors or information that we observe and that appear to be correlated? Or perhaps, in contrast, do we observe friends who seem to be living a life without trials and conclude that they must be spiritually superior because their paths seem clearer when compared to the many obstacles we see in our own lives? The Lord exhorted us to “judge not” (Matthew 7:1), but the allure of observable correlations can be challenging to ignore. The best response in many cases is to not draw causal conclusions based solely on correlated information.

Related to his correlation tool, Satan works to confound and confuse us through unobserved or omitted information. . . . In many cases we will never be given all of the information to determine causality, and what we do not observe may be a key driver of the outcome. Just as before, our best conclusion may be to draw no inference, realizing that we just don’t have all of the information. However, Satan lures us into the need to try to explain all behavior, and his offered conclusions lead us away from seeing others as God does.

(Keith Vorkink, “Real Causes and Real Effects,” 28 March 2017)

How can I find strength to wait on the Lord when there are answers I desperately need?

One of my first major bouts with uncertainty began when I was in my early twenties. My husband, Chris, and I were recently married and were hoping to have children. As months passed, and then years passed, we discovered that it would not be easy for us to get pregnant. So we waited. . . .

This uncertainty and waiting invited me to regularly turn to God for answers. I was discovering the first principle of waiting upon the Lord: I had to actively seek God in order to find Him. To seek Him, I studied the scriptures. I studied teachings of prophets. I attended ward meetings. I went to the temple. I magnified my calling. I prayed fervently. Despite my seeking, the answers did not come swiftly.

I remember sitting with my ward in Newark, Delaware, on a day when I felt like the heavens were particularly silent. (Remember that scripture in which Isaiah referred to the Lord hiding His face?) One of our congregational hymns that Sunday was “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” We sang these words:

But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.

[Hymns, 2002, no. 270]

Those lyrics represented my uncertainty—those “paths that I do not know”—and through the other lyrics of that hymn, I began to receive an answer to my prayers. In the midst of my uncertainty and longing to know, I had to put my hand in the Lord’s hand. I had to let Him lead me.

(Erin Holmes, “Waiting upon the Lord: The Antidote to Uncertainty,” 4 April 2017)

How can doubt strengthen my testimony?

As you consider the condition of your own testimony, do not overlook the importance of doubt. Doubt causes you to question; it causes you to study. It causes you to seek reassurance from loved ones and your leaders. Most important, it causes you to approach the Lord for guidance. Rather than a sign of rebellion, I believe it to be an essential part of the testimony-building process. As we read in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” “Upbraideth not” means the Lord will not find offense in your questions. Rather, he wants to guide us toward the answers. Doctrine and Covenants section 9, verse 8, suggests, “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”

While many of his initial questions were answered by the events of the First Vision, the uncertainty that Joseph Smith faced would remain with him for years. Like an effective design thinker, he had to stay curious and open while undertaking a new experiment. He had to embrace uncertainty as both an opportunity and a motivating force, and maintain sufficient faith to proceed.

(Eric Gillett, “Testimony and Other ‘Wicked’ Problems,” 11 April 2017)

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