Looking for help

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  1. Hi. I’m a life-long LDS member outside of a break from the church from ages 14-21. I’m in my 30’s now, sealed in the temple with three young kids, and have remained very active over the last 12+ years since I came back from my “break”. I have struggled over a multi-year period on the question if God is real. The point of this post is not to try and convince anyone that God is not real, I genuinely want to believe that He is and am looking for people to help me work through this issue. The nagging question that has dominated my mind is if men have made up religion over time to help themselves feel better about, and give purpose to, life. Everyone wants to know why they are on the earth, how they got here, where they go after. I understand logically that religion provides answers to these questions and that these answers (if believed faithfully) give us peace and purpose. What I can’t get out of my head is what if all these things were made up specifically to fill those gaps but is not true. I’m not calling anyone a liar or saying anyone is pretending to believe - I absolutely believe the leaders of our church (and most members) truly do believe it all and are not trying to mislead us in any way. I desperately wish that I didn’t have these doubts, but I do. What is life is just completely random and the bad things that happen to us are not part of a plan? What if all the suffering (a child dying, losing jobs, etc.) has no silver lining and are just random happenings that will make our lives worse. I struggle to see how God could allow a lot of things that happen in the world everyday - there are so many places where people suffer and die from hunger, people are regularly beaten and raped. A family with young children loses a mom or a dad. How can that be a part of God’s plan in any way? There are other more scientific questions about the Big Bang theory, dinosaurs existing, evolution, etc. that seem to be real things and in my mind and conflict with LDS beliefs. A lot of places where the LDS answer is that “we don’t know why these things happen”, but we should believe there is a reason. One of the parts where this messes with me the most is with death (if not obvious from my examples given above). I love my wife and kids more than anything, but what if there is no afterlife? What if I’m one random act (a car crash for example) away from losing a child, and if there is no afterlife then I will never be with them again? If there is no afterlife and I die in a car crash, what happens next to me? Blackness for ever? A natural defense for someone (especially a life-long member) to know that God is real is to think back on the spiritual experiences they have had as proof that God exists. But what if these experiences were figments of our own imagination that we have convinced ourselves of and didn’t actually happen? It is easy for me to see that believing in God / religion results in a better life overall - navigating all of life’s trials and tribulations is 100x easier if we believe that it is all a part of God’s plan; if we believe that all bad things that happen in the world are for a reason and all make sense / work for the best from the perspective of an omniscient God. A few years ago I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to PROVE God was real, but I also wouldn’t be able to prove the opposite. So if I can’t take solace in any spiritual experiences I’ve had to date because I’m worried that they were made up in my head, then since it can’t be PROVEN one way or the other, it’s simply a choice of believing or not. I am trying to choose to believe but it has been difficult to not let these doubts take over. I have tried to pray for confirmation but the thought of spiritual experiences possibly being made up is probably blocking that from happening. On a separate note, I have both lived in accordance with the gospel and have done the opposite, and can say I have a strong testimony that following things like the word of wisdom, our views on family / marriage. etc. will result in a happier life while on this earth. I have not deviated from these beliefs and regardless if I think God is real, I know this is the blueprint for the most happy / successful life on earth. So that is the core of my testimony for now: 1. I am trying to choose to believe that God is real (despite the doubts I have) and that everything the LDS church teaches is true. And 2. That following the gospel way of living will continue to bring the most happiness throughout life. I know this has been a long post and a bit all over the place, so thanks for sticking with me if you have. As I said above, I wish I didn’t have these doubts, but I do, and I’m trying to figure it all out. I would be grateful for any thoughts you have that may help me as I continue to try and work through this.