I think I’m experiencing a faith crisis. This is very deeply alarming to me as I am serving my mission soon and have had a strong testimony in the past. How can I restore my faith? What do you suggest, in addition to regular prayer and study, to keep up my faith? As I am leaving soon, I’d appreciate prompt help. Thanks so much!
My experience with faith crises is that they come to those with faith (those without wish the Church “good riddance” and move along quickly). I assume that prayer and scripture study has built your testimony in the past, but that you are no longer feeling it abiding within you so powerfully. These spiritual droughts are not unusual, even if they are frustrating. Following the powerful witness from the Father of Jesus’ divine Sonship, Jesus went “into the wilderness to be with God” (JST Matthew 4:1). Fasting, and visited by the Spirit, Christ was tempted by the devil. A similar account is given of Moses and his theophany (Moses 1). Joseph Smith’s experience was reversed, with “the powers of sin assailing” before “he saw the living God” (Joseph Smith’s First Prayer). In each of these cases, relief came relatively quickly through doubling down on faith-building through scriptures (as with Jesus) and crying out to God for deliverance (as with Moses and Joseph).
These troughs are one extreme. On the other hand, it could be that the Spirit is still working with you and strengthening your faith but you don’t realize it. President Boyd K. Packer, in his talk The Candle of the Lord, helps us better understand how to recognize the Spirit and its workings within us. “I have learned,” he testified, “that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently.” Rather, the power of testimony often grows brighter like a sunrise, not a light switch. President Packer noticed the difference in perspective of someone living with the gradual growth versus an outside observer.
“Several years ago I met one of our sons in the mission field in a distant part of the world. He had been there for a year. His first question was this: ‘Dad, what can I do to grow spiritually? I have tried so hard to grow spiritually and I just haven’t made any progress.’
“That was his perception: to me it was otherwise. I could hardly believe the maturity, the spiritual growth that he had gained in just one year. He “knew it not” for it had come as growth, not as a startling spiritual experience.”
Many missionaries experience a spiritual immersion in the MTC. There’s also a spiritual outpouring in the mission field that is sometimes only recognized in hindsight. Because of this, there is a very real risk that the veteran missionary, returning home, feels again that he or she is entering a trough. This is still an opportunity to strengthen testimony and faith. The memory of a past witness can serve as a revelation of the Spirit (D&C 6:22-13). Acting on that testimony builds faith.
“Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.”
That footstep is enough to move forward.