I recently had the opportunity to baptize a friend back into the Church.  He had left about 25 years ago after encountering a good deal of anti-Mormon tripe.  We’ve been friends for about seven years.  Through honest careful seeking and nourishing his relationship with God he made it back.  It was a great experience.

Too bad we used a font [Not an actual picture from the baptism]

At the same time, I’ve a friend whose wife made contact with an old lover and started plunging into the same morass.  Every bad, conflicting and contrary anti-Mormon account was suddenly new, fresh and definitely true.  I knew the guy from when I was in apologetic circles.  He had tried to interest her in everything he was in love with and she had always rejected any interest — until she hooked up with her old lover.  He took it really hard that she would only show an interest in the material for her old lover and then only what he considered nothing but lies, poorly told.  After I talked him out of suicide, we had a talk about some principles that seem to have helped him.

  1. It isn’t about you.  Really, it isn’t.  It is about her journey.[1]
  2. It isn’t about her old lover.  Yes, when they argued, she always took the old lover’s side against her husband, which made him feel betrayed and rejected, but what she was really doing was taking her own side.[2]
  3. Like an alcoholic, you can’t work her program for her, you can only work your own. [3]

It isn’t about you.  It may feel like it.  After all, she had heard him bear his testimony, knew he served a mission and the implication is that she has decided his is a hypocritical liar and fraud.  It isn’t that.  What is usually up is that people have their own journeys and their own problems.  They aren’t rejecting others, they are rejecting things in themselves.

It isn’t about someone else.  Ok, sometimes it is.  Sometimes it is tied to someone becoming generally unfaithful.  But usually it is about what they are finding in themselves.  It is like arguing Thoreau.  Most people who read Thoreau don’t embrace what he actually wrote but instead embrace what they’ve found of Thoreau in themselves.  His work acts like a large Rorschach ink blot. When they defend what they have found, they are defending themselves.  Often their pain, their confusion and their own issues that they are acknowledging.

serenity

You can’t work it for them.  While there is an entire movement (Al-Anon) to teach spouses of alcoholics that that they cannot control others, as a parent or spouse it is easy to lose sight of that rule.  But you can’t fight their own internal spiritual battles for them, you can only work with yourself and love them.

suicide

Oh, and a last point Suicide is not an answer.  It isn’t.  He saw himself losing everything.  His family, his plans for retirement (he had hoped to serve missions), future church service and his wife.  He was consumed with despair.  It helped that I am older.  I’m going nowhere in the Church (hey, I’m almost sixty and an assistant ward librarian and high priests group instructor).  All I’m really good for beyond what I do is to set up chairs and do some home teaching.  But I can do that.  I can be kind and love others.  So can he. As for other things, well, there are other ways to be kind and to help and serve others.

Both my friends are doing better.  The one bore his testimony and it really made me feel good to hear it.  I’m sad his moving from DFW, but I can still follow him on Facebook.  The other seems calmer now and has some hope.  He has decided to just love his wife with kindness and patience, and without expecting it to do much more than make her life more supported.

And that is what I have to say about faith and faithlessness in the Church