Part 5: CES Letter Book of Mormon Questions [Section D]
by Sarah Allen
I originally thought I was done with the archaeology section, but while I was going through my sources to figure out which ones I wanted to use this week, I came across a presentation by Neal Rappleye from a FAIR Conference a few years ago that I’d forgotten existed. Neal Rappleye, for those who don’t know, is one of the hard-working team members at Book of Mormon Central, and his presentation is entitled “Put Away Childish Things: Learning to Read the Book of Mormon Using Mature Historical Thought”. I felt very strongly impressed that I should highlight this presentation and discuss it with you guys before moving on to the next questions in the Letter. I linked to both the video and the transcript of the presentation, so you can choose the medium that best suits your learning style.
This talk is all about grappling with and overcoming the more simplistic narratives you were taught as a child and learning to understand that history is messy and incomplete, and how new discoveries and understanding can shift your perspective if you allow it to. It’s something we all need to do as we grow older, or it can lead to problems down the line when our assumptions are challenged.
One of the main flaws in Jeremy’s perspective is that he doesn’t do this. He rigidly holds onto the idea that things have to be exactly what he thinks they are, or they can’t possibly be true. He never allows for the possibility that his assumptions about various things might be what’s wrong, rather than those things themselves. We saw that last week, in his belief that the Hill Cumorah had to be the hill in New York and couldn’t possibly have been anywhere else (which is ironic considering the upcoming Vernal Holley map section), and we’ll see it again and again and again throughout the rest of the Letter. It comes up during the Book of Mormon translation section, the section about prophetic abilities, the Book of Abraham section, etc. He refuses to allow for the possibility that his assumptions might be wrong, and seems to believe that anything that doesn’t conform to those assumptions must be proof that the Church isn’t true.
Over the years, there have been two scriptures in particular that have helped me get comfortable with the idea that we don’t know everything yet, and that that’s okay. These verses come to me often as answers when I have questions I’m praying about. I struggle with impatience, and I’m sure Heavenly Father is weary by now with trying to teach me to correct the habit, but He indulges my questions and then either helps lead me to the information I’m looking for, or reminds me about these verses.
The first verse is D&C 58:3:
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter….
The second verse is D&C 25:4:
Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come.
There is knowledge and light coming down the line that we just aren’t prepared for yet. The answers will come eventually, but they aren’t all here yet. We have to be patient and “murmur not.” It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s an important one. Not only is it to keep from overwhelming us, it’s also to teach us. Some things are withheld until we’ve proven we can handle what’s already been revealed. What we do with the knowledge we already have matters. If we treat those things casually, we aren’t showing that we’re preparing ourselves for more knowledge. If we aren’t obedient to the doctrine we already have, how can God trust us with more?
In my experience, the people who can’t accept that we don’t know everything yet, the ones who demand all the answers right now and who insist that things have to be exactly what they imagine them to be, are the ones who struggle the most with things like Church history or doctrine. The people who understand that there are holes in the records and that their own assumptions might be simplistic and naïve are the ones that end up pulling through with their testimonies intact.
In the presentation, Rappleye begins by discussing the Amarna letters, in particular the ones that mention Jerusalem:
In 1887, a cache of cuneiform tablets dated to the mid-14th century BC was discovered in Amarna, Egypt. The collection primarily consisted of letters written by Canaanite rulers petitioning the Pharaoh to aide them in their petty squabbles with neighboring cities, including six letters written by the King of Jerusalem. Based on these letters, Jerusalem at the time was a powerful regional capital, ruling over a “land” or even multiple “lands,” controlling subsidiary towns, and was even powerful enough to seize possession of the towns belonging to rival cities.
There is just one problem: there is no archaeological evidence for this Jerusalem. According to Margreet Steiner, “No trace has ever been found of any city that could have been the [Jerusalem] of the Amarna letters.” And yet, the letters are unquestionably authentic, and there is no doubt they mention Jerusalem.
From this example, it is clear that genuine historical documents are not always supported by the archaeological record. This exposes the weakness of arguments predicated on the idea that if there is no archaeological evidence for something mentioned in the Book of Mormon, then the book must be false. Such arguments rest on what I would consider a misunderstanding of both archaeology and written history, and how the two relate to each other. Such misunderstandings come naturally, based on intuitive assumptions, but can be overcome by developing what historian and psychologist Sam Wineburg calls mature historical understanding.
He then compares this to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:11 about putting away childish things as you grow older, and then elaborates on Wineburg’s research:
According to Wineburg, mature historical thinking “is neither a natural process nor something that springs automatically from psychological development.” Instead, it “actually goes against the grain of how we ordinarily think.” … In conducting several case studies with students and teachers at all levels, Wineburg found that when confronted with difficult, strange, or challenging information about the past, people have a tendency to either take it at “face value” or seek to explain it by “borrow[ing] a context from their contemporary social world.” Both of these approaches contextualize the past by importing the present—a fallacy known as presentism.
Properly contextualizing documents and events from the past is a major part of mature historical thinking, but it is not easy. Contexts are not self-existent—they must be fashioned from raw materials. Wineburg explains, “Contexts are neither ‘found’ nor ‘located,’ and words are not ‘put’ into context. Context, from the Latin contexre, means to weave together, to engage in an active process of connecting things in a pattern.” This is done by piecing together fragments of information from historical sources. When dealing with ancient history and archaeology, it involves an artifact here, a ruin there, and literally hundreds of tiny fragments of pottery—none of which are self-explanatory.
These pieces must then be brought together with the written sources—which are themselves incomplete and subjective representations of the past. … In some ways, this process is like putting together a large and complicated puzzle, where you must first understand the individual pieces and then figure out how they fit together within the larger picture. Except when it comes to historical context, you don’t have the complete picture on the box, you are missing most of the pieces, and the pieces you do have are often damaged and don’t usually fit perfectly together.
Putting that puzzle together takes time and a lot of research. You’ve seen in my previous entries just how many different sources I’m pulling from to make my points, and my understanding on these topics is far from complete as it is. I’m only scratching the surface on a lot of these subjects. But that’s the kind of work necessary to get the answers we’re looking for in many of these cases. It’s a long process and it takes a lot of time and studying to find the answers. That’s why patience is so important. That’s why we need to accept that all the answers won’t come immediately. Researching these answers for yourself takes time and it takes effort. If you don’t expend that effort, and you expect the answers to come easily and get upset when they don’t, then you’re not learning and you’re not growing. You’re not stretching yourself, and often, you’re giving up without even really trying.
A lot of these questions are complex. The explanations are long and equally complex. It’s easy to rattle off a long list of accusations like the CES Letter does. It’s a lot harder to devote the time and energy necessary to find satisfactory answers. If you aren’t willing to do that, then chances are, you’re not going to get those answers and you’re just going to give up. That’s one of the main goals of the Letter: to make you so overwhelmed and frustrated, you give up. But the answers are out there, as I hope you’re all coming to see with these posts.
When dealing with the Book of Mormon, the same process must be followed—a context for it must be fashioned by bringing together archaeological, historical, and other ancient sources to create a “better-grounded picture” of Book of Mormon history, and all of this must be done with the limitations of our sources firmly in mind.
With that said, I would now like to take us back to Jerusalem, but we are going to fast forward to the 7th century BC. This is the Jerusalem where Lehi grew up and raised his family. Nephi’s account in the Book of Mormon provides a series of direct and indirect clues about Jerusalem during this time, and there is a rich array of archaeological data from this period that allows us to test this process and see how we might create a “better grounded picture” of Lehi and his family’s life and social setting.
As Nephi describes it, Jerusalem was a “great city,” surrounded by walls, and many—including his brothers—believed it could never be destroyed. Lehi and Laban were descendants of the northern tribes that had lived their entire lives in Jerusalem, and were wealthy and powerful members of the city’s social elite. Laban was among the ranks of government or military officials, brandishing a sword of “most precious steel,” and maintaining an archive at his house of both family and official records, kept on metal plates and written with Egyptian.
Meanwhile, Lehi’s family were wealthy Jerusalem residents with some unexpected skill sets. First, we know they can write, an easy skill to overlook today, but usually a specialized skill in the ancient world. Second, they appear have metallurgical knowledge and expertise—also a specialized skill, known only to those who worked metals professionally. But metalworking in antiquity is often seen as lower-class, “blue collar” work, and you typically wouldn’t expect a metalsmith to also know how to read and write, nor a scribe to be able make tools of ore.
So, to recap, Jerusalem was a great, walled city. Lehi and his family were descendants of the northern tribes who grew up in Jerusalem, and were wealthy. They seemed to know how to work metal (as seen by Nephi’s ability to make the gold plates, among other things), and they could read and write in Egyptian. Laban was in the government or military, had a steel sword, and an archive of records in his possession. The question is, can archaeology prove these narrative details? Details that Joseph surely couldn’t have known in 1829? Yep.
Margreet Steiner explained that based on current archaeology, by the 7th century BC, “Jerusalem had become what geographers call a primate city, a city very much larger than other settlements, where all economic, political and social power is centralized.” What’s more, it was “fortified by 5–7 m. wide city walls, which had been built at the end of the eighth century [BC].” Jerusalem had, indeed, become “a great city,” and its walls no doubt provided a sense of security from external threats.
Archaeology further indicates that this transformation into “one of the major cities in the known world” was precipitated by “a huge influx of refugees from the north[ern kingdom] into Jerusalem.” An extension of the city was created to accommodate these refugees, and a recent archaeological excavation in that area revealed “an impressively large” Israelite home, with several stamp seals, leading to the conclusion that “members of Judah’s social elite,” and possibly even “of the ruling class in Judah’s capital,” lived there around the 7th century BC. Thus, descendants of northern Israelites were indeed living in the city, and were part of the upper class.
Many years ago, I was discussing the Book of Mormon with someone who had very little experience with our faith and beliefs. When I was explaining that no, we don’t believe that Native Americans belong to a new, heretofore unmentioned Lost Tribe (not one of the original 12 [or 13, if you separate Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh]), that the original group who we follow to the Americas was one extended family whose patriarch was a descendant of Manasseh living in Jerusalem in 600 BC, he asked me how that was possible when those Northern tribes were captured by the Assyrians over a hundred years before and the Bible implies that all of them were taken off to strange lands. I had never thought about it before, to be honest. It never once occurred to me to wonder or investigate why Lehi would be living where he was. So, in order to answer his question, I started researching.
I discovered that, after the Assyrian invasion of 722 BC, only about half of the members of the Northern Tribes were actually taken into captivity. The others fled, with many of them taking refuge in Jerusalem. The size of the city quadrupled following the invasion, and to accommodate the new influx of people, the grazing lands were extended out to Bethlehem and they needed a new, secure source of water, which ended up being the pool of Siloam where Christ healed the blind man. That perfectly explained why Lehi would be living in the city approximately 125 years later, wealthy and established but with no knowledge of his ancestry in a culture where ancestry and lineage were so important.
In another dig among 7th century BC homes “belonging to what may be called the elite of Jerusalem,” archaeologists found “a bronze workshop” including “pieces of bronze and iron” along with evidence of imported luxury goods in the home. Evidence from mines out in the desert near the Red Sea likewise confirm that in the early-1st millennium BC, rather than “armies of slaves engaged in back-breaking labour … specialist metalworkers are often accorded high social status.”
Skilled metalworkers at the time were working both copper and iron, and whether deliberately or not, carburizing iron into steel. Metallurgical analysis of a meter-long sword found near Jericho (about 15 miles from Jerusalem) and dated to the end of the 7th century BC indicated “that the iron was deliberately hardened into steel,” making it comparable to Laban’s sword.
He’s talking about the Vered Jericho Sword. And, as a quick note about challenging our assumptions, this paper about that sword explains that the average height of an Israeli man in 600 BC was five feet tall. So, Nephi would have been “large in stature” at 5’5″! That’s not exactly what we think of when we picture Nephi, so we need to expand our minds to allow for that new information. We can hang on to the original idea of Nephi being this 6’2″, muscled He-Man type guy, or we can decide that maybe “large in stature” meant something different in his day than it does in ours.
Archaeology also indicates an increasing number of inscriptions and texts at this time, leading many scholars to conclude that literacy was on the rise. Recent scientific analysis on writing samples from a military outpost in Judah concluded “a significant number of literate individuals can be assumed to have lived in Judah ca. 600 BCE,” and that literary awareness was had “by the lowest echelons of society.” While the actual extent of literacy remains a hotly debated subject among scholars, many do agree that at least some high-status craftsmen in Jerusalem at this time could read and write. Craftsmen who worked with materials that could be used as a writing medium—such as stonemasons, potters, and metalworkers—were particularly likely to develop some scribal skills. In fact, some of the earliest evidence for alphabetic writing in the region of Judah comes from journeymen metalsmiths, and “tangibly connects the crafts of scribe and metalworker.”
While excavating 7th century BC homes likely belonging to wealthy artisans and traders, a single home yielded 51 clay impressions of stamp seals used to seal documents, which Steiner interpreted as “the remains of an archive.” Some archaeologists have interpreted it as a “state archive,” but its domestic contexts suggest to others that it was a “private archive.” In addition, letters found at the nearby city of Lachish dating to the early 6th century BC attest to the practice of keeping records in the homes of military officials. Both of these finds should remind us of Laban and his “treasury.”
Of course, these records were not kept on metal, but many other records from the ancient Near East were—including the oldest surviving example of a biblical text. Two small silver scrolls, dated to the 6th–7th century BC, were found just outside of Jerusalem, with a version of Numbers 6:24–26 inscribed on them. These short texts are of a very different nature than the brass plates, but do nonetheless demonstrate that metallic epigraphy was practiced in Jerusalem in Lehi’s day.
Egyptian writing is also attested. Over 200 texts utilizing Egyptian hieratic have been found in the regions of Israel and Judah, including several found right in Jerusalem, and many of these are dated to 7th–6th centuries BC. Most of these are short, fragmentary texts where hieratic numerals and measurements are mixed with Hebrew, but after carefully reviewing samples from the late 7th century BC, David Calabro concluded that “the hieratic tradition in Judah lasted in fuller form than only the isolated use of numbers and units of measurement.” Calabro felt that the evidence “indicates a widespread presence of scribes educated in this Judahite variety of Egyptian script.”
Of course, the picture is not perfect, and skeptics will no doubt find the holes and seek to exploit them—but don’t forget what we learned from the Amarna letters: archaeology does not always back up every detail found in historical documents. Whatever pieces might still be missing, there is really no question that Nephi’s Jerusalem fares a whole lot better than Amarna’s, and no one questions the authenticity of those letters. The point is that once the pieces are put together, Nephi’s Jerusalem is surprisingly believable—but we have to be willing to take the time to find the pieces, sort them out, and put them in place to see that.
He goes on to say that when he uses Wineburg’s idea mature historical understanding, the process builds faith, accommodates questions, and deepens understanding of the Book of Mormon. He then builds on those three things, giving examples of what he means. He delves into evidences of Nahom, Mulek, more about Jerusalem, barley, loan-shifting (including the very surprising fact that the word most Amerindians used to describe European horses was, in fact, “dog”), cement, chariots, and others.
Next, he talks about the questioning process, and echoes some of what I was saying earlier:
It is important to keep in mind, however, that this process is not about proving the Book of Mormon, or any other historical work, is true. Rather, as quoted earlier, it is about gaining a “better grounded picture,” a process that will sometimes confirm, but other times qualify what our written record says, or at least how we interpret it. To do this, we must be able to acknowledge that our current understanding is deficient—it is hard to improve our understanding when we think we’ve already got it all figured out. We are trying to mature our understanding, and to mature is to change, to develop, to grow—and growing comes with growing pains.
Sometimes information from the past is jarring. Wineburg warns that “mature historical cognition” does not just engage the mind, but is also “an act that engages the heart.” This is all the more so with the Book of Mormon, when not only historical facts but our faith is often on the line. Persistent questions raised by apparent contradictions in the archaeological context can seem devastating.
Wineburg found that mature historical thinkers displayed patience with the unknown. They were able to call attention to apparent contradictions without immediately seeking to resolve them. This was often uncomfortable, but mature historical thinkers “sat with this discomfort” as they continued to review additional sources. As they did this, they exercised what Wineburg called the “specification of ignorance”: a practice of identifying when you do not know enough to understand something. This is then followed by “cultivating puzzlement”: being able “to stand back from first impressions, to question … quick leaps of mind, and to keep track of … questions that together pointed … in the direction of new learning.”
When approached this way, “Inconsistencies become opportunities for exploring our discontinuity with the past.” Or, as Hugh Nibley put it, “every paradox and anomaly is really a broad hint that new knowledge is awaiting us if we will only go after it.”
… Wineburg notes, “Trying to reconstruct a world we cannot completely know may be the difference between a contextualized and an anachronistic reading of the past.” Rather than letting questions drive us to anachronistic readings and immediate, premature dismissals, the patience of mature historical thought can allow us to use questions to create contexts which accommodate them and lead to greater learning.
We simply can’t expect that our assumptions are always correct when it comes to studying history and archeology. There’s so much we don’t know, and so much we’re still learning. We have to learn how to adjust our thinking to meet those new discoveries, or we’ll end up confused and lost and hurting, just like Runnells did.
Rappleye then discusses the difference between the obvious and the evidence, and how, when we assume the obvious, we overlook what the evidence is actually telling us. It was the same with the DNA section, where somebody made the assumption that the Book of Mormon says that the peoples were the ancestors of all of the Native Americans, when the book never makes any such claim, and which forced the Church to later correct that statement. Or when Runnells assumes that the Hill Cumorah from the Book of Mormon has to be the same hill as the one in New York, despite Moroni and Joseph never making that statement, and despite the fact that the Book of Mormon makes it clear that Mormon hid up all of the other records except for the Book of Mormon in the Hill Cumorah, and that Moroni wandered for some 30-odd years before burying that record.
The mention of horses and chariots together brings the image of horse-drawn chariots so naturally to our minds, it seems obvious that this must be what the text is referring to—even if the horses are never said to be pulling the chariots explicitly. … My point here is that obviousness depends on context. The past sometimes is very strange, and what might seem ludicrous to us may very well be obvious to someone living in a different time and place. To us, the idea that horse and chariot might refer to anything besides a horse-drawn, wheeled vehicle might seem absurd, yet to a Nephite living in Mesoamerica in the first century BC, the use of their terms translated as horse and chariot might appear to be a rather obvious reference to a royal litter accompanied by a dog or another animal.
This is a very different picture than what we are used to, and not everyone may be entirely comfortable with it. Yet, like I explained earlier, developing mature historical understanding will sometimes require us to “sit with our discomfort” as we learn to allow the context we fashion to change and expand our understanding.
Rappleye then talks about how these things can deepen our understanding of the scriptures, using Jacob’s allegory of the olive trees and King Benjamin’s discussion of Christ’s sacrifice as examples, along with other revelations, and elaborating on their historical and cultural context and how that knowledge of their culture deepens our own understanding of the scriptures. It’s a fascinating section that I hope everyone reads.
The one I want to highlight, though, is this:
[Mark] Wright also notes another subtle way Mesoamerican culture may be reflected in divine communication to Book of Mormon peoples. It’s important to realize that while some early Nephite prophets had seen crucifixion in vision (1 Nephi 11:33), generally speaking that is not a form of death or punishment that would have been familiar to Book of Mormon peoples. Nonetheless, “the sacrifice of a human being was the peak of Mesoamerican ritual,” and the Nephites would have been aware of such cultural practices, perhaps even participating in them during periods of apostasy.
While there were a number of different ways such sacrifices would be performed, one of the more common techniques was for a priest to “make a large incision directly below the ribcage using a knife made out of razor-sharp flint or obsidian, and while the victim was yet alive … thrust his hand into the cut and reach up under the ribcage and into the chest and rip out the victim’s still-beating heart.” Wright thus proposes, “To a people steeped in Mesoamerican culture, the sign that a person had been ritually sacrificed would have been an incision on their side—suggesting they had had their hearts removed.”
When Christ appears to Book of Mormon peoples at Bountiful, in contrast to his appearances in the Old World, “He bade them first to thrust their hands into his side, and secondarily to feel the prints in his hands and feet (3 Nephi 11:14-15).” The difference is subtle, but for his audience, it may have been significant: the wound on his side would have been the most effective way to communicate to Mesoamerican onlookers that he had been *sacrificed* on their behalf.
While considering each of these instances individually can serve to deepen ones understanding of the Book of Mormon, there is a larger point that can be made here, which is summed up by Nephi: the Lord “speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3; cf. D&C 1:24). Wright correctly argues that language and culture are intrinsically linked, and thus speaking according the understanding of one’s audience requires cultural adaptation as much as it does linguistic accommodation.
By observing how Book of Mormon modes of revelation diverge from biblical patterns and converge with Mesoamerican ones, we gain a deepened understanding of what it really means for the Lord to adapt his message to his peoples understanding, in all times and in all circumstances. This can, in turn, help us better appreciate why the Lord may have communicated with Joseph Smith in ways that seem odd or strange to us today, as well as helping us be more perceptive to how the Lord is speaking to us in the here and now.
I’ve talked a little about that before, how God speaks to us in ways that are familiar to us, and how He accommodates our strengths and weaknesses when He does so. If Joseph Smith grew up in a day when using seer stones was relatively common, and he grew up reading the King James version of the Bible, why wouldn’t God use those things to help Him communicate more effectively with Joseph?
As readers of the 21st Century, we need to put aside our assumptions that God spoke to others the same way He speaks to us. We need to recognize that things that seem bizarre to us might have been highly effective to the people He was speaking to at the time. When things aren’t exactly the way we assume they must have been, we need to learn to shift our assumptions to accommodate that new information, not shift the results to fit into our narrow assumptions or, worse still, throw them out when they don’t match. We need to accept that some of our assumptions may have been wrong, and to allow for differences we hadn’t realized were there to teach us something new.
Anyway, this post is getting so long and I’ve already quoted half the paper here, so I’m just going to wrap this bit up with a little more from Rappleye’s conclusion.
I want to acknowledge that I know all of this can seem a little overwhelming. Believe me, I understand that not everyone can become a historian or dedicate themselves full-time to studying the Book of Mormon. … First, take your time. Scriptural and gospel study is supposed to be a lifetime pursuit, and developing a mature approach to scripture study is less about how much you know and more about having the humility to know when you need to learn more, and then patiently seeking out further information.
Second, maximize the time you do have. You don’t necessarily need to study longer, but you may need to make more of an effort when you do study. Whether you have an hour or just 15 minutes each day, you can maximize that time better by doing more than staring at the words on the page. Even by just taking a few minutes of that time to read up on some background and context can make a difference in how you understand what you are reading.
Lastly, utilize tools like Book of Mormon Central. Our goal is to try to make this easy for you by bringing all the resources on the Book of Mormon into one place, summarizing and synthesizing the best of that material into our KnoWhy articles, and producing multimedia content that makes it easier to understand.
I would also personally add other resources to that list, such as FAIR, Pearl of Great Price Central, the Interpreter Foundation, the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon website, Evidence Central, the Maxwell Institute, faith-building sites run by members of our Latter-day Saint Reddit community like Latter-day Hope and Book of Mormon Notes, and, of course, the Gospel Topics Essays.
As Neal says several times in this talk, our knowledge of these things isn’t perfect even when we have abundant sources to draw from. Some of the time we’re just guessing, and sometimes, we don’t really have much idea at all, but sometimes, we can find some solid theories and evidences to go off of.
I promise that if you do continue to study these things out, and you take your time and sift through it all methodically and patiently, answers will start to come. It can be a long process, but please don’t forget to include God in your research. Pray. Ask for guidance. Ask for help finding the resources you need. Ask Him to send people your way with more knowledge about those topics than you have. Ask Him to help you know what terms to use to search the internet, or to lead you to books or talks with the information you’re looking for. Search the scriptures regularly, and put the things you’re learning to good use with that studying. Pay attention to the way things are phrased or described, or to how the evidences you’ve come across support what is being said. Challenge your assumptions. Don’t rely on someone else’s interpretation of something, especially when you discover information that contradicts it. Figure it all out for yourself. Pay attention to the way anti information is presented, and to the tactics used to destroy your faith. Learn how to spot the manipulations. Build up defenses against them. Study it all out in your mind, the way Heavenly Father encouraged Oliver Cowdery to do. Remember that this life is a journey, and studying the Gospel of Christ is a lifelong pursuit. You may not have all the answers now, but someday, whether in this life or the next, you will. Take comfort in that, and let Him lead you in your search. And over all, be patient. Don’t try to run faster than you have strength. Take it at your own speed, and take the time you need to fully understand something before moving on to something else. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to know everything right this second. Don’t let anyone dictate your testimony to you or destroy it with a single doubt bomb. Discover it for yourself, and build upon it with the knowledge you’re gathering from your research, and fortify it to withstand those attacks. Put the puzzle pieces together on your own. Don’t worry so much about the missing pieces. In time, you’ll start to see the bigger picture despite the holes.
I’ll move on to the other questions next week, but for now, I just want you all to know that wherever you are in your spiritual journey, your Father in Heaven and your Savior love you, and They want you to discover these answers for yourself. They want you to study this all out and to ask all the questions you need to build your testimony. They want you to deepen your understanding of the lessons being taught in the scriptures. They want you to seek out all of the best books and the wealth of information out there that backs up Their teachings.
The answers are there, and they will come in time. There are a whole lot of us who have asked these questions and found some of these answers, and came out the other side of that refining fire with our testimonies not only intact, but strengthened. You can do that, too. You aren’t alone.
Sources used in this entry: