Healthy vs. Unhealthy Faith

I believe that there is a healthy type of faith and an unhealthy type of faith.  As a teenager, I possessed an unhealthy type of faith.

In Church, I was taught that faith is “believing.”  It’s not to possess a “perfect knowledge.”  It makes sense. When I turn on the light switch it is because I have faith that the light will turn on. I don’t know it will because perhaps the light bulb has burned out.

I feel that some Sunday School lessons communicated to me an unhealthy type of Faith.  I was taught that if I possessed doubt or fear that I did not have faith.  Peter walked on the water and he started to sink because he doubted.  Jesus rebuked him for having little faith.  However, if faith is not a perfect knowledge than there was room for Peter to doubt. He could have been thinking, I believe I can do this but I might sink. He showed “faith” by stepping outside the boat but it wasn’t rewarded because the possibility was present in his mind that he could sink.  Now you can interpret this story different than I did but this is the confusing message I got as a teenager.

These lesson communicated to me that I needed to take the Book of Mormon on faith.  I could ask if it were true. If I got an answer, I knew. But if I didn’t, I shouldn’t doubt. I should keep on trying to get a testimony.

I came to a healthier perspective ironically listening to Truman G. Madsen.  He talked about the story of doubting Thomas.  Thomas wanted to see Christ to believe that Christ rose from the dead. Christ appears to him and rebukes him for his little faith.  Again it seems that Christ wants people who really don’t know that he is real to squash any doubts about it.  However, I understood Madsen as saying that Thomas’ sin was not necessarily his doubts but his desire to see Christ to know that he existed. Madsen then said that one could know through the Holy Ghost of the reality of Christ.  And if someone knows it, then there is no possibility that he or she is wrong. Therefore he should not doubt.

Meditating on what Madsen said, I came to understand a diffirence between my faith and my testimony.  My faith is what I believed.  I came to believe that I should always be open about my faith. I could be wrong about it. However, I would act based on my faith. My testimony was what I knew.  That would never change.

This understanding grounded me in Mormonism.  Eventually, I recognized that I “knew” that the Church was true. 

During my mission, I didn’t want to “know” that the Church was true.  I came to realize that I didn’t and eventually I lost even my “faith” in it.

Today I am guided by “faith.”  I believe that the light will turn on when I turn on the light switch.  I don’t know it; it might be burned out. That’s “faith.”  But I think it’s a healthy “faith.” I no longer feel like I have to squash the possibility that I’m wrong about something and that has set me free.


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