[Excerpts from the book can be found here.]
The main thing that FairMormon as an organization tries to do is to provide reasonable answers to questions and criticisms in an easily digestible format. However, there are some questions that don’t seem to have satisfying answers at this time. These are the questions that require us to have faith and keep holding on, choosing to continue believing and living the gospel while we pray and wait for answers to be revealed to us. This can be very difficult for someone going through a faith crisis or other trials, when it seems as if we have to have answers now in order to just keep going.
That is where this book fits in. It is written by a woman who has been through many trials and a crisis of faith, and has learned to trust while waiting for answers. “When I was a young adult, my unanswered gospel questions threatened to overwhelm my testimony, choking my trust in God. I begged the Lord for doctrinal answers only He could give. Instead, He wisely offered me tutorials in trust. In this book, I share those in-the-meantime answers that for me have created intellectual breathing space. These ideas help me joyfully choose faith until all the answers come” (Introduction page).
The book is written in an unusual way. There is one idea per page, with the body text appearing only on the odd-numbered pages. The alternating pages have a (usually) very brief topical title or summary. This is so that you can read a little bit at a time, and it works remarkably well.
Part 1 talks about her faith journey. It started with questions that made her “faith suddenly fragile and ill-equipped… I heard and read answers that appeased others but didn’t satisfy me… I felt at turns lonely, distrustful, foolish, numb, trapped by downward spiraling logic, and frustrated that God had not more fully resolved such important matters” (page 3). She realized that “fleeing to another Christian church wouldn’t resolve most of my doctrinal concerns since almost everything I had doubts about in Mormonism could also be seen in the Bible itself, once I looked carefully” (page 5). She also came to realize that rejecting God altogether was not an option for her, but that “Inventing my own God would cause me to lose the real One” (page 8).
One day her visiting teachers encouraged her to read the Book of Mormon and highlight references to Jesus. “The next day, I bought a new paperback copy of the Book of Mormon and started highlighting. I read intently. Not one or two chapters a day but ten or fifteen or twenty. I could not believe how many pages were totally yellow, even hundreds of pages before I reached the book of 3 Nephi. For the first time, I saw Jesus Christ, page after page, chapter after chapter. He participated in the wilderness journeys. He actively arranged affairs within the war chapters. I saw Jesus Christ protecting the innocent and offering to heal the wicked. He was the main character in every story, caring deeply about the details in people’s lives” (page 17).
This led to a series of spiritual experiences and a better understanding of the atonement. This in turn helped her to deal with her concerns about church history and the Old Testament. She then went on a mission and had some of her questions answered there, along with some new ones replacing them. She also learned to find joy and realized that she was receiving personalized answers from a God that heard her.
Part 2 – the majority of the book – has insight after insight, often in the form of analogies, of things she has learned. I found these to be thought-provoking little gems of wisdom. Like this: “I only want to worship God if He understands everything I don’t. It’s good if He does things I wouldn’t think of doing. Or does them different than I would. If I am on track in worshiping the real, all-knowing, all-powerful God, then I necessarily (and happily) find times when His purposes are utterly incomprehensible to me. He may do things I don’t like at all for reasons I don’t yet accept or can’t begin to imagine” (page 57).
God likely has many answers already beautifully packaged and on the way to me. I bet he doesn’t mind if I keep eagerly checking the mail, but I shouldn’t be accusing Him of neglecting to send the answer. Ensign writer Adam Kotter pointed out that this is essentially the difference between gospel questioning (good) and faithless doubting (bad):
Questioner: ‘There must be an answer to this question. I’ll keep obeying until I see it.’
Doubter: ‘I doubt there’s an answer to this. I’m not obeying unless/until I can see it.’
With that in mind, I want to say with other believers, ‘I have questions but no doubts.’ I also want to learn to pray, in advance, the same way I respond when someone tells me they have sent a gift in the mail: ‘Thank you so much! I’m sure it will be great’ (page 49).
And this: “If faith comes too easily or automatically, it will not be strong enough. By definition, faith requires not seeing, not understanding, often feeling confused or even trapped. So earth life has to be hard. Really hard. Every time we push past doubt and difficulty, our faith in Christ multiplies. For now, miracles have to be the rare exception. Answers have to come slowly. God constantly withholds miracles He could easily perform and answers He could easily give” (page 43).
This book fills a real need that is often overlooked in the faith building or rebuilding process. It’s the only book I’m aware of that entirely focuses on faithfully making it through our lives with their many trials as we await the answers that eventually come.