What if Christ Had Doubts?

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Belief, women | 9 comments

Doubt

 

 

 

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46.) Common LDS interpretations of this scripture and the event it chronicles include: an expression of belief even in the face of great pain (Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done, Robert D. Hales, Oct. 2011) a moment where God removed himself in order to let Christ finish the Atonement alone and the great faith Christ showed in that moment of loneliness (He Lives! All Glory to His Name! Richard G. Scott, April 2010) In every discussion of Christ’s death on the cross, he is presented as a perfect example of faith.

But what if this scripture documents a moment of fear instead of a moment of faith? What if, in that moment, Christ doubted his mission, his calling as the Savior, his position as the firstborn son of God? We believe that Christ experienced everything we do; does that include doubt?

I believe there is room to interpret this scripture as an expression of doubt. To say “why hast thou forsaken me?” suggests that the speaker believes he has been abandoned. He did not ask “have you left,” but “why did you leave?” At such a pivotal moment, to feel abandoned could very easily have led to doubt not just of God’s presence but of everything he was dying for.

In my years of involvement with several Mormon feminist groups, I have been told many times that my questions and doubts were a sin. I’ve been told that “obedience is the first law of heaven,” that “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done” and if I were really following God, I wouldn’t be asking these questions. If you look at the Ordain Women Facebook page for 30 seconds, you will find comments reflecting these attitudes. Doubt is viewed as a sin by many church members. And church leaders encourage this attitude in some ways. The Aaronic Priesthood Manual contains the quote “when the Prophet speaks… the debate is over,” encouraging the youth of the church to obey blindly. In April 2009, Elder Kevin W. Pearson presented doubt and disbelief as the same thing, and he also stated that feeling doubts was a choice, implying that to question is choosing to lack faith. In short, having questions is presented as an incorrect  or sinful choice to make.

But Christ did not sin. He died sinless, allowing Him to atone for the sins of others. So if Christ doubted, it cannot be a sin. We can say we are following Christ when we have questions and reach out to God for answers. If Christ doubted, those of us who question are in good company. We are not sinning when we doubt, because Christ doubted and did not sin.

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9 Comments

  1. In my view, the question Christ asks is proof that he has no doubt. If he had doubt, he would have asked “are you really there?”. What he did ask was basically “Why have you left me?”

    Asking someone a question about their actions is much different than asking about their existence.

    I believe Christ did feel abandoned. Abandoned by the Father he knew for certain did in fact exist.

    • That is the common interpretation. That is the interesting thing about scripture; there are so many ways for it to go. I find more comfort in a Christ that understands my feelings than in one who never asked questions.

    • this makes no sense. So what if Christ didn’t doubt God’s actual existence? If felt abandoned by God, then he doubted God’s honesty, integrity and assurances of comfort.

      That’s still doubt.

  2. I like how you mention that Christ was possibly doubting His whole mission in life. I never thought about it that way, but it makes Him and His life more real to me. I can definitely relate to that feeling of doubting what I feel is my calling in life, and it is nice to think that Christ understands that feeling perfectly. I also think it is possible to have a very strong faith and still have doubts. As you have shown beautifully here, Christ did have a strong faith, even through His doubts. Thank you.

  3. Ha! I cannot believe that the “when the prophet speaks the debate is over” is still prevalent.

    Here is George A. Smith’s response in 1945 to that:
    http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/when-the-prophet-speaks-is-the-thinking-done

  4. I love that part of the Jesus story too, where he asks why God has forsaken him. I can connect to that Jesus, as I can to the Jesus who asks God to take the cup from him. It’s harder for me to connect to the non-human Jesus.

    Thanks for these thoughts, Defy Gravity. I like your reading of this moment as one in which Christ doubts.

  5. Jesus had no doubt. You and I do….but not Him. Jesus was in real pain and anguish, He could release His spirit at any time, He had power over death, He had no doubt. He would not die until the Father said it was done. He hung there probably much longer than He thought, His cry of being forsaken was a testament to His fortitude and endurance….exactly the opposite of doubt.

    • That is certainly one way to look at this story. It is not the only one, nor is it more correct just because it is what you happen to believe.

  6. I’ve never thought about this before, and I’m so glad to be pondering it now. It seems to me that the one who “hath descended below them all” and “was in all points tempted like as we are” would have to experience doubt. Thank you, thank you for writing about it.

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