Maybe I should have titled this, “The Road Many Travel, but Most Can’t Stay On.”
It was about 6 years ago when I first started my faith crisis. Most of the details are typical, but after the initial unsettling disillusionment I found apologetics. It felt like I had found that there were answers to the tough questions. Emotionally I felt much better and I actually talked a bit about my faith crisis a bit at church and my wife knew. At that point I framed it as I HAD a faith crisis – as in past tense. Not all my questions were answered, but I felt like there were answers if I put in the time to find them. My wife was disinterested and possibly fearful of the whole subject, but was just glad that was “done.”
I was actually excited for the challenge to find the answers and rather eagerly jumped into the pursuit of finding those answers and helping others that encountered the questions. I continued to eagerly serve and had several significant callings. But my studies quickly turned into finding most of the apologetic answers unfulfilling and required quite a bit of mental contortions to swallow . I studied hard for years to, “figure this all out” because I assumed it was all just as I had been taught. After about 2 years of this I felt like I was in a hole that I couldn’t stop digging, but all the dime getting deeper and deeper. One day I asked myself, “what if this isn’t ‘true’ like I was taught?”, but this time without the safety net of, “but of course it IS” in the back of my mind. One second later I was changed. I could no longer consider myself a full believer.
I am absolutely an introvert. I am not shy and when I feel like it I can work a room. I would much rather spend some time in a small group of friends than at a big party. In big groups I very often find myself observing and reading the room. I actually enjoy being a bit of a arm-chair sociologist in a setting and observing others interact.
I have been a member all my life and very active in an area that has only a few members. This has had the affect that almost all my close friends are members. I always felt others wouldn’t be as accepting of me because of my beliefs and behaviors. All my family are members and very active at that. So when I had this change of belief, I started intently studying others that were “ahead of me” on the path I felt I was on. I was looking for how to stay in the church when I no longer believed exactly like I had before. I looked at some of the, “New Order Mormon” movement and I found it interesting, but not quite the fit I was looking for. I found some individuals to study via blogs and podcasts. I really studied them as I needed to figure out how they were able to stay and stay in a way that appeared comfortable for them. Some have used the term, “Middle Way Mormonism.” My study of this has gone on for years now.
But the conclusion I have come to is that very few individuals are able to do Middle Way Mormonism. It seems the vast majority of people that find themselves on the path I feel I am on eventually can’t do the Middle Way Mormonism. I find that this is true for myself and it makes me sad as I actually wanted to figure a way to do it. I used to be active in the StayLDS.com forum. Over the years it seems the pattern that everyone on that site follows is to try for a while, then eventually give up on it. I even glanced at the membership to look at when people joined staylds, and then when they last posted. With the exception of some folks I can count on one hand, the pattern is very clear.
One individual that was reached out to me in a period of turmoil and helped me greatly has given up on the Middle Way and is all but telling the church, “I dare you to ex me.” I fully respect his decision, but still feel sad. I can’t help but sing, “Another one bites the dust, Hey, gonna get you too.”
So I sit struggling with the question of if I can make Middle Way Mormonism work for me. Only I can answer that, but do wonder why some people can do it when so many seem to be unable to do so.
Any ideas as to why this path seems untenable in the long term for so many and why are a few able to do it?
 The commonly accepted term is “mental gymnastics”, but to me gymnastics is beautiful and I wish I could do. “Contortion” to me feels more unnatural and forced.