What should I do if I don't understand something about the Church?
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out” (“Chapter 22,” below). Thus, when studying Church history, doctrine, or practice, we will often encounter things we don’t immediately understand. When this happens, we can follow prophetic counsel to continue studying out the matter while remembering to “hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” (“Lord, I Believe,” below, italics removed).
Because some answers don’t come immediately, we may eventually need to focus our efforts on other things as we continue to study what we don’t understand. This could be called “putting things on the shelf,” as described by Sister Camilla Kimball, wife of President Spencer W. Kimball:
I like to follow through and study things out. I learned early to put aside those gospel questions that I couldn’t answer. I had a shelf of things I didn’t understand, but as I’ve grown older and studied and prayed and thought about each problem, one by one I’ve been able to better understand them. . . I still have some questions on that shelf, but I’ve come to understand so many other things in my life that I’m willing to bide my time for the rest of the answers.
(In Lavina Fielding, “Camilla Kimball: Lady of Constant Learning,” Ensign, October 1975.)
This does not mean we ignore or overlook these issues—Sister Kimball continued to study and pray and think about each “thing on the shelf.” It does mean we acknowledge that we cannot know everything immediately and that all revelation is given in the Lord’s own due time (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:62). We can also trust the Lord’s promise that eventually “he shall reveal all things—things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:32–33).
For more information, consider studying the following:
- Robert L. Millet, “Making the Crucial Decision—Now,” Latter-day Saint Scholars Testify, FAIR
- Geret Giles and Steve Densley Jr., “Barriers to Belief: Mental Distress and Disaffection from the Church,” 2018 FairMormon Conference
- “Answering Gospel Questions,” Gospel Topics in Gospel Library
- “Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith
- Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” April 2013 general conference