Over the years I’ve come across a similar story from many who have left the LDS Church, and it goes something like this:
I really wanted to know if the Church was true, if the Book of Mormon was true, and if Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I went to church, studied the Book of Mormon, and prayed asking to know, and I never got an answer.
In a few instances I’ve been able to engage these people in discussion and I’ve asked “What if you didn’t pray long enough? What if God was waiting to see if you’d go for five years without an answer before he’d give you one, and you only went four?”
Almost universally my question has caused offense and defensiveness. I suspect the reason why is because those who leave the Church do so as a matter of faith, that is, they hope for something that is “not seen” or which they do not have absolute knowledge of, namely they hope the Church is not true. If they still hoped the Church were true would they not stay active in it, or at least not be opposed to it?
What surprises me is how quickly people give up. If I express this sentiment we get into a debate over what a “long time” is, as though there is an objective measure for such a thing. The attitude seems to be one of “Of course if God were real and the Church were true then I would get an answer after four years of praying about it. How could God could expect me to go longer than that?”
But the Book of Mormon, and bear in mind we’re speaking of those who profess to have believed the Book of Mormon at one point in time, teaches “that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6)
What is this trial of our faith? Evidently it is some measure by which we are tested, prior to receiving confirmation of our faith, or evidence from God that what we have believed in, without hard evidence, is true. Who can judge whether we have passed the trial or not? It would seem perhaps only God can. And now the pertinent question, how long might it take for one to pass this trial? There would seem to be no answer, although it would seem that time is not the dominant factor, although it might be a contributing one. Simply put–when one passes the trial, then God will give them the evidence they need, which may or may not be exactly the evidence they desire. Is there any reason to believe this couldn’t take one’s entire life, and the evidence they desire might only be revealed to them after they pass from this life to the next? What about 10 years, 20, 50, or 80?
Yes, it can seem unfair when a 4-year old child gets up in a testimony meeting and states “I know the Church is true…” and here you are, a 25-year old sitting there not being able to say such a thing. I can see how that would lead a 25-year old to say “If I don’t know after all these years and with my intellectual abilities, there’s no way a 4-year old can know,” and then come to the conclusion that the 4-year old must not know, and that it’s all a sham. But this seems to me to be a short-sighted and prideful response, rather than one based on logic, reason, and humility. Perhaps the 4-year old has passed a trial of faith you haven’t, or perhaps the bar is set lower for that 4-year old than it is for you because that 4-year old has different needs than you have. Perhaps you were given missions in life that require that your faith be tested more thoroughly, or in different ways than other people. Perhaps you are being prepared for something and your trials are a necessary part of your training. If you want the Church to be true, then you will persevere. If you do not want the Church to be true, then you will find a reason to leave it.
Have a different take on things? Let me know.