I’ll never forget a lesson I had with a young woman on my mission.
She kept asking for physical or tangible evidence that the Book of Mormon was true. And I sat there, unsure of how to respond to her questions and accusations. I was a young, bright-eyed missionary, and all I knew was that the Book of Mormon was true. I felt discouraged because I didn’t know all the answers to her questions. But I realized, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had physical evidence to prove the Book of Mormon was true. Proof wouldn’t give her faith.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Faith will not come from the study of ancient texts as a purely academic pursuit. It will not come from archaeological digs and discoveries. It will not come from scientific experiments. It will not even come from witnessing miracles. These things may serve to confirm faith, or at times to challenge it, but they do not create faith.” 1
How easy would it be if we could show the gold plates to the whole world? Some people would definitely join the Church, but others may not, because physical evidence isn’t all that’s required to build faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. After all, as Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Faith isn’t just belief—it’s a principle of action. “Faith in Christ leads to action. It leads to sincere and lasting change.” 2 And while the world says that faith is following blindly, I’ve come to understand that faith is trusting that God will give me confirmations of truth when I act.
“Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love. It includes believing His teachings. It means believing that even though you do not understand all things, He does.” 3
We don’t have all the answers, but as we trust in our all-knowing Heavenly Father, He will lead us to what is true (see Words of Mormon 1:7).
It can feel overwhelming to hear counsel to build unshakable faith in a world that continually tries to shake us. But building unshakable faith is possible. Faith is a choice. When we consistently and deliberately choose to live by faith each day, we build a strong foundation and a bedrock testimony.
King Benjamin taught his people a recipe for creating unshakable faith: “Believe in God; … believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9).
For me, when I accept that there are things that I may never completely understand in this life and focus on what I do know, other things don’t shake my testimony of God’s love for me and the truthfulness of this Church.
I echo the words of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“I do not know all of the reasons, all of the purposes, and I do not know everything about the Lord’s timing. With Nephi, you and I can say that we ‘do not know the meaning of all things’ (1 Nephi 11:17).
“But some things I absolutely do know. I know we are spirit sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. I know the Eternal Father is the author of the plan of happiness. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.” 4
These basic principles are crucial parts of my testimony. God has revealed many great and important things; don’t get stuck on the mysteries He has not yet revealed (see Articles of Faith 1:9).
There are many things we don’t know yet. And that’s OK!
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “Of course we cannot fully comprehend all this right now! Of course we cannot know the meaning of all things right now. But we can know, right now, that God knows us and loves us individually!” 5
Many faithful members get lost when they let their doubt speak louder than their faith. Focusing on doubt may cause us to look “beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14).
The young woman I taught on my mission would only believe the Church was true if my companion and I could disprove all her accusations. But the only thing I could ever prove to her was the reality of finding answers through personal revelation. 6
I can testify of the powerful evidence of the Holy Ghost in my life. I know the Book of Mormon is true, not because I know all the answers but because the Spirit has testified to me that it is undeniably true. My witness didn’t come in a miraculous manifestation but over time, through consistent study and prayer. In other words, my testimony didn’t come because of physical evidence, but because I acted in faith and will continue to do so.
So, what do we do if we can’t find answers to our questions? Sister Camilla Kimball, wife of President Spencer W. Kimball, shared her strategy for waiting for answers to difficult questions. She had a metaphorical shelf for things she didn’t know the answers to. And as she held on to the things she knew while also studying and praying about her questions, she was able to gain greater understanding.
“I still have some questions on that shelf,” she said, “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.” 7
There have been times when I didn’t understand certain commandments. Moments when I had questions about polygamy, same-sex attraction, or other things.
But I learned a powerful lesson from the way God taught Adam and Eve.
We’re taught that “God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption” (Alma 12:32, emphasis added).
It wouldn’t surprise me if Adam and Eve had plenty of questions about the commandments they were asked to follow. But before they could understand the commandments, they first had to learn about the plan of salvation.
How well do you understand the plan of salvation? When you have questions, do you go back to the basic principles of God’s plan? As I’ve searched for answers to my questions, studying the plan of salvation has helped me receive glimpses of God’s answers.
When I focus on the basic truths I know, I’m able to stand on a firm foundation. I don’t let trivial things shake my faith. I do not know everything, but I know enough. 8
I ended our lesson with that young woman on my mission by testifying boldly of the Book of Mormon. I told her the only way she could truly find answers to all her questions was to ask Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon was true. Until she understood the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ, she could put her other questions on the shelf and revisit them later with greater understanding and faith. But honestly, doesn’t that apply to all of us? We can actually increase our faith by acting in faith.
I’ve been blessed every time I have chosen faith when facing unknowns. And as I trust Heavenly Father to reveal answers in His own time, I know I will feel happiness and joy in living the gospel—even without knowing all the answers.