I have loads of questions, which probably isn’t surprising to most of you (especially given my skeptical and curious nature, questions are kind of my life-blood). Sometimes people don’t know how to respond to this, since they associate questions with this negatively connoted idea of a house about to fall or straws being placed on a camel’s back until it breaks. Then they usually offer up some well-intentioned, but ultimately (for me) unhelpful analogy, largely because they misunderstood what I meant by saying I had lots of questions.
Examples include: putting all the questions in a box, or on a shelf, or that the Gospel is like a puzzle or brick wall- just because we don’t understand how it fits together right now doesn’t mean that it won’t fit together at some point in the future- just put those pieces/bricks that don’t seem to fit now off to the side until the right time comes along.
I think that any of the approaches advocated by any of these analogies is flawed. First, I don’t think that trying to sweep our questions away until a better time is really the best way to address them. Second, I think that questions can lead to revelation and a better knowledge of the truth.
I think that addressing questions head on is the best strategy to find new insights and to feel better overall about what’s going down. The danger in setting questions aside is that if they are real, deep questions, they’ll always be lurking around the back of your mind. The more questions that you add, the more likely it becomes that you will be overwhelmed and crushed with questions.
However, if you embrace the idea of questions and face them head on you can receive new revelation and insight. You may not find answers to your questions (I know that I rarely receive final answers, but frequently gain new perspectives and insights, occasionally leading to more questions. I love having questions though, it gives me a sense of comfort.). Not everyone is as comfortable with questions and ambiguity as I am and that’s fine. But if you have questions hopefully this can help provide some comfort to your situation.
A couple of approaches to questions can be useful. One is questions and innovation, largely focused around three types of questions, why, what if, and how. I was also reminded of a talk by Bruce C Hafen, “On Dealing with Uncertainty.” He discusses three levels of dealing with life. The first ignores reality imagining an ideal, the second erases the ideal focusing on reality, and the third strives to push reality towards the ideal.
In both of these scenarios, the purpose of action and questions is to help push reality to a better place. I think that if the approach of questioning is to gain a better understanding of the truth and doctrine, then ask away. If you ask questions just to get a rise out of people or to show your superior intelligence (which is a temptation of mine that I strive to resist, carefully phrasing my questions and thoughts as alternatives, not inherently better or superior frameworks for understanding the world).
For me, the asking of questions is more meaningful and enlightening than finding the answers. My understanding of the Gospel is deepened and my perspective broadens becoming more nuanced and applicable. The search may lead to some temporary answers, but those generally give me more questions. Part of that is my struggle with the idea of ‘knowing’ things, so I choose to believe, even if I don’t know. Questioning is my way of showing that I value the Gospel and consider it worthy of examination, thought, pondering, etc. I don’t question to pick it apart, but to gain a better understanding, to try and learn how everything fits together and creates a comprehensive whole (or soul, perhaps).