A friend called me one evening while I was driving home from work, and when he asked how I was doing, all kinds of emotions bubbled to the surface. I had been feeling concerned about some questions I was having. Certain aspects of the Church didn’t seem to be adding up for me. I felt frustrated that answers to my questions hadn’t been made clear. And even though I’m not typically an angry person, I felt mad and upset. I had been wrestling with my questions for a while, and I didn’t know what to do.
As I pulled into my driveway, I spit everything out. I told him about the questions that were bothering me and how I had been feeling. After our conversation, I felt a lot better. And it wasn’t because he had all the answers for me—he didn’t. However, he was willing to just listen to me. He validated how I was feeling and helped me to know that I wasn’t the only person with questions. My questions weren’t a reflection of a lack of faith on my part, and it was OK to be unsure.
Having questions about the gospel can be a challenging and life-altering experience. And wanting to help a loved one navigate this process can be painful and confusing. They might feel like they don’t belong or like they’re the only one who has ever struggled with questions.
But you can help them and let them see that they do belong and that they’re not alone in times of uncertainty.
When friends or loved ones have questions, doubts, or struggles with faith, we want to do everything we can to help. But it can be hard to know what is actually helpful. Here are some ideas to help you help your loved ones:
Let the Spirit guide you. Pray to know how you can help and what you can say, and then rely on the Lord.
Have empathy. Ask questions about what your friend is experiencing and listen to understand. Validate that this kind of experience is challenging, and let them know that you are there to help however you can.
Just be there for the person. Perhaps all they need is for you to be a good listener and a compassionate friend who is not quick to judge.
Remember that you are not responsible to fix or resolve your friend’s struggles. You can listen and help—but this is their journey, not yours. What they decide isn’t a reflection of you or your faith.
If your loved one’s questions or concerns alarm you, try to be calm and help them feel peace when they’re with you. When someone has questions, they may feel unsettled, confused, or upset. So when you react calmly instead of sharply, you can be much more helpful.
Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. You can offer your thoughts and perspective, but it’s also OK to say, “I’m not sure about that,” or to take time to think or study before giving an answer.
Avoid immediately offering “quick fix” suggestions. People often just need someone to listen to them first before hearing suggestions.
If an answer or suggestion you give doesn’t help or isn’t resonating with them, let it go. We each have to find answers for ourselves and in our own ways, and we each receive revelation differently.
Pray and fast for your loved one. Praying on behalf of others can bring the powers of heaven into their lives. After all, Alma the Younger was led to repentance because of the prayers of his father (see Mosiah 27:14). Never underestimate what your faith can do for others!
No matter what happens, remember that you love this person. When someone we love decides to believe differently than we do or makes decisions we don’t understand, we can still choose to respect their agency and love them regardless.
Overall, keep in mind that having questions or feeling unsure about things is OK—it’s a key part of the process of growth here in mortality. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.”1
I still don’t have answers to all my questions. One of the biggest things my friend helped me to do was to realize that I don’t have to have all the answers right away. As time has passed, answers have come to me in bits and pieces. I trust that God has the answers and that He is watching out for me. I have hope that answers will come when I need them. And that’s enough for me right now.