Small things can have tremendous power. Consider the humble paperclip. A Canadian man named Kyle MacDonald famously traded up from a single, red paperclip to a house. A slightly more famous man, Albert Einstein, showed us that the atomic energy stored inside a paperclip could unleash a nuclear blast larger than Hiroshima’s.
In theology, a small thing with unfathomable power is the humble question. Some of God’s greatest work has started with a question.
Example of Christ
In the gospels, Jesus asks lots of questions. About 450 of them, to be more precise. His questions range from theology (Mark 8:29) to bible interpretation (Matthew 22:43-46); they pinpoint His listeners’ motivations (Mark 11:29-30) and draw out the faith of inquirers (Mark 10:52). Jesus wielded the power of the question with masterful precision to remarkable ends.
Example of Church History
For a historical example, look no farther than the German monk, Martin Luther, who took issue with the practice of “indulgences” (a Papal fundraising program claiming to buy loved ones out of purgatory). In response, Luther posted points for public discussion about the practice – 95 of them, to be exact. What’s more, he didn’t get around to asking a question until point #82. This question, carefully prepared and amazingly incisive, set the world on fire:
Ask, for example: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from Purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.1
Example in Utah
Ira Ransom was a church planter and pastor in Utah for over 60 years; he left a great legacy of effectiveness with LDS people. Ira loved to ask incisive questions. One of his pamphlets, Ask Your Bishop, provides 100 for sincere Mormons to ask their spiritual leaders.
Here is one example – Question #19: “If Jesus was conceived of a physical union between God and Mary, how was Jesus born of a virgin?”2
This question does three things at once. First, it forces Latter-day Saints to come to grips with an unsavory LDS doctrine. Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, James Talmage, and Bruce McConkie all taught that Heavenly Father had sexual relations with Mary to “beget” Jesus. This doctrine, repeated in Ensign articles as recently as 2013, is clearly stated in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism – “He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman” (Birth of Jesus Christ, 729). Second, it touches on fundamental issues like Biblical reliability, the nature of Christ, the character of God, and more. Last, it dispels any notion that Latter-day Saints are Christians just like us.
I’ll grant that this question may not suit you. That’s ok. I would strongly suggest finding one that is memorable, touches on fundamental points of doctrine, and excites you to learn.
A simple question can lodge deep into the soul of thoughtful people. Try as they might to brush it aside, it niggles, then annoys, and finally shouts for an answer. I’ve found that vast majority of LDS people secretly harbor an unsettling question that they’re trying to ignore. Some succeed to their eternal peril (Romans 2:5-11). Others, however, say with Paul, “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4). And when they do, they’re well on their way to discovering the truth that can set them free (John 8:32). Ask away, dear Christian. There is great power in your question.