Since launching this site a couple of months ago, I have been inspired by hundreds of emails from others going through similar experiences, sharing their stories, support, and appreciation through the contact form. As I have read your accounts, my heart has reached out to you during these difficult and painful periods of faith transition and truth awakening. One of the most frequently asked questions in these emails is something along the lines of “where do I go from here?” or “what is the real truth?” or “what do I believe now?” We will explore this important question in the following post.
What Is Truth?
One of the most frequently asked questions by those who discover the truth about the church is: “Now that I’ve discovered that the church is false, what is true? What should I believe now?” Sometimes the question is phrased in the words of Pilate of old: “What is truth?” (John 18:38) We are reminded of the loving declaration made by Jesus: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
As Mormons, most of us have become so accustomed to the idea of “the one true church” that when we begin to realize that our church is not it, we naturally wonder which church is. We come from a culture of “knowing.” As true-blue Mormons, we “knew” everything. Now, after discovering that the church is not true, we begin to wonder what to believe.
What Do I Believe Now?
It is certainly uncomfortable not knowing what to believe, but the good news is that once we recognize that we do not “know” everything, we can actually begin to learn truth. Recall the movie scene when Thor laments, “You know, I had it all backwards. I had it all wrong. … For the first time in my life, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.” His friend Erik Selvig wisely responds: “It’s not a bad thing finding out that you don’t have all the answers. You start asking the right questions. … Anyone who’s ever going to find his way in this world has to start by admitting he doesn’t know where … he is.”
As Mormons, we have been accustomed to having all “the answers” given to us, and all that was required of us was to accept them and to obey. Now, finding the real answers is up to you and me. We are responsible for our own beliefs. Of course it is more difficult to make all those moral and philosophical decisions for ourselves rather than having them handed to us by authoritative leaders. But this is a noble part of being a thriving human being. Immense growth and fulfillment come from accepting this responsibility, and in doing so we find the joy that life always had in store for us, but that was waiting for us to take the opportunity to discover the truth and grow for ourselves.
Refocus Your Principles
As Mormons, we were taught certain principles and virtues that are noble and desirable, while at the same time being taught error and falsity that became so thoroughly mixed with the truth that it became difficult to discern what was truth and what was error. For example, we might hear a conference talk which extols love and service (truth), but then advocates temple rituals or missionary proselyting as the way to serve mankind (error), when in reality these activities deflect real service from those who truly need it. We may hear an inspiring address regarding the benefits of prayer and meditation (truth), but then the speaker may use this to advocate the Book of Mormon (error). Or we may hear a conference talk which extols the greatness of women (truth), but then emphasizes that women are under temple covenants to obey their husbands (error). There are talks which emphasize the importance of the family (truth), but then cause division within families by condemning marriage equality (error). Thus, we may find it confusing to separate what is good and right from that which is false and untrue. (For an illustrative satirical example of truth mixed with error, see this link.)
May I therefore recommend that we take a new and thoughtful look at our values and principles? We may wish to make a list of that which we personally believe in, keeping that which is good and honorable, and “sifting out” the errors that were introduced through Mormonism. Perhaps your personal list might contain some of the following examples:
- Accountability: I am accountable for all action, reaction, and inaction. I give no excuses. I am a problem solver, not a problem keeper.
- Adventure: I create fun life experiences and lasting memories as often as possible.
- Amends: I will humbly make amends when I’ve harmed anyone intentionally or otherwise.
- Authenticity: I am genuine and real with others.
- Balance: I am moderate. I avoid overindulgence. I look for harmonious outcomes.
- Change: I welcome it, seek it, and embrace it.
- Community: I am a productive, supportive, and contributing member of the community.
- Courage: I am respectfully willing to face fear and take a stand, even though the fear remains real. I bravely confront pain, danger, or attempts of intimidation. I embrace the truth, and let the consequence follow.
- Empathy: I am a good, kind listener, and do my best to put myself in other’s shoes.
- Family: I show unconditional love to my family members and understand that this love is what creates the ultimate growth.
- Forgiveness: I don’t hold grudges, and I extend the same kind of mercy that I would like given to me.
- Generosity: I am generous with my time and resources. I am willing to serve alone, or linking arms with anyone regardless of differences, without expectation for acknowledgement or recompense.
- Gratitude: I appreciate, adore, and receive all the good that others have to offer.
- Honesty: I think, live and inspire the truth (see also: Inspiring Thoughts on Honesty).
- Humility: I am teachable in every moment and will admit when I have been wrong.
- Humor: I love a good healthy laugh.
- Integrity: I am true to all my core values, even if I fear the consequences. In so doing, I limit harm caused to others.
- Joy: I choose to create moments of joy and happiness each day.
- Knowledge: I always question, seek, and do my best to incorporate what I find to be true.
- Love: I love even though there isn’t any guarantee of being loved back. I am compassionate, kind, and help those who are suffering. I deeply value personal connection.
- Patience: I am flexible to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting bent out of shape.
- Persistence: I am persistent, and willing to do whatever it takes to finish.
- Presence: I am in living in this moment. I am “here” now.
- Proactivity: I make things happen, instead of always reacting.
- Respect: I will be a friend regardless of differences. I will respect myself and my health.
- Restraint: I will protect, honor, and respect reproductive capability and bonding.
- Talent: I will develop and share my talents often, for my own benefit and for the benefit of others.
- Trustworthiness: I keep promises to others and myself. I am a safe place for the confidences of others.
- Work: I enjoy hard work.
- (List derived from this thread)
In my experience, redetermining one’s core values and separating them from error is a very important step toward building a life based upon truth. It is also a very healthy exercise that leads to personal growth and continued progression.
Importance of Love
The principle of love is, of course, an absolutely essential core value. Love is something we can always believe in—even when we don’t know what else to believe. Love is a very real power and a universal principle that transcends error and untruth and allows us to move forward with courage and integrity. Love is what ultimately makes the world a better place when all else seems meaningless and insignificant. As one person thoughtfully pointed out in a personal message: “I discovered that love is the real truth.” While there are some things we may never know for certain, one constant certainty is that there are many people who need our compassion, kindness, and love right now.
Take Time to Discover
Many people feel the acute need to “know” all the answers once they discover that the church isn’t true, and this is perfectly natural. But the journey of truth discovery is just that: a journey. Take the time to allow your soul to recover and rewire itself. Spend time doing meaningful activities that you enjoy. Seek to benefit the world around you and the people in your life. Develop your core values. In the coming weeks, months, and years, you will find greater clarity and purpose as the clouds of error eventually disperse and you are better able to find meaning within yourself. As Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you.”
Definitions of Truth
There are some things we simply don’t know. Perhaps they are yet to be discovered, or perhaps we are simply not meant to know them. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson has observed: “There is no shame in not knowing all the answers. The only shame is to believe that you do know all the answers.” Questioning, exploring, learning, and discovering are all beautiful parts of the human experience. In reality, the more we know, the more we realize how much we do not know. “The larger our circle of knowledge, the wider our perimeter of ignorance.” And it is through recognizing that we do not know that we eventually come to know. There is a certain grandeur and wonder to be found in the unknown.
Remember that by discovering reality regarding the church, you did not lose your testimony of the truth. Instead, you actually began your testimony of the truth. You did not apostatize (fall away) from the truth. Rather, you awakened to the truth. You did not abandon the word of God in favor of the philosophies of men. Rather, you abandoned the philosophies of men in favor of the truths of eternity. You did not relinquish your standards and values. Rather, you gained the ability to define these core values based on your own inherent goodness. And you did not become a bitter enemy of the truth. Rather, you marked the beginning of a journey of truth discovery that ultimately brings true joy and will, as Jesus said, “set you free.”
See also: How to Deal with Doubt
See also: Four Essentials for Accepting Truth
Related: Part 5 of Gentle Awakening Presentations