I am Mormon. This is the only religion I am intimately familiar with, so my thoughts center around this religion. I would be interested to know how this topic is addressed in other religions, as well as what my Mormon friends think. Feel free to share your feelings in the comments.
What do you do if you are asked to do something by a spiritual leader but don't feel good about it? What do you do if you hear something taught at church that doesn't feel quite right? Or what if it all sounds okay, but you want to know for sure?
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we believe in continuing revelation. We believe God will communicate to each of us individually if we seek it and listen.
And yet, there is often a judgment that occurs if someone questions something. This is not doctrine. This is not taught in our church. But is it practiced by many in the society of our church. And it hasn't been uncommon in my life to find people so sure about what is right and what is wrong simply based on what is socially acceptable within the church but with no doctrinal basis -- and judging others based on those standards.
Questioning is often associated with apostasy. If someone doesn't believe everything that is taught, if someone seeks for themselves, they are often seen as falling away. And I can speak from my life's experience and say that questioning is sometimes a part of personal apostasy (probably most of the time, but my experience is limited and I don't want to make a broad judgment).
But questioning also leads to further light and knowledge. It leads to a stronger testimony. Questioning is what led to Joseph Smith's first vision which started the whole restoration of the gospel.
Where is the line?
And beyond questioning doctrine, what about questioning leaders? We have often been counseled in our church to avoid evil speaking of the Lord's anointed. I have heard this to be interpreted many times as "never say anything negative about anyone in a calling of leadership."
Well, I looked up evil speaking on the church website. It is defined as "saying things that are wrong, hurtful, and wicked."
The commonly accepted definition, never say anything negative, would allow evil to thrive. Abuse of all kinds would be allowed to continue for fear of evil speaking of the Lord's anointed. In fact, it has in the past. In our church as well as others. Certainly we should be able to see that keeping our mouths shut when something doesn't feel right is not a wise choice. And speaking up is not a sin.
So where is the line between disagreeing with a leader's decisions and saying so and challenging their stewardship and authority?
Many people in my life have expressed attitudes that support blind obedience. I absolutely do not support it and don't believe God does either. God wants people who will study it out with their minds and hearts and choose to follow Him. He wants enlightened obedience.
He wants people to have the freedom to think for themselves and not be judged or excluded because of it. He wants people to hunger and thirst after righteousness and further knowledge. He wants people who draw near to Him, seeking answers and/or confirmation.
We each make mistakes or hurt people in our various callings at one time or another, even our leaders. We are not expected to be perfect. But hopefully we grow and become better. Sometimes this requires the honest feedback of someone who doesn't think what we are doing is right.
Talking behind someone's back about all the things we think they are doing wrong isn't kind and won't solve anything (we shouldn't do it about anyone). But I believe sometimes we need to talk things out with a friend to see things clearly. Not all talk about what we don't like that someone else does is gossip or back-biting. Sometimes it's problem solving. An honest seeking for truth.
But I do believe all questioning in the church needs to involve God. I believe we need to pour our hearts out to Him and seek His guidance and answers, with or without consulting friends or the handbook or scriptures.
And we need to quit judging others and allow the honest questions and struggles of a true heart.