The following is an excerpt from Episode 12 of the churchistrue Faith Crisis and Reconstruction series: Lived Experience. You can listen here. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/church-is-true-lds-mormon/id1516616452 I got my second one star review today. But don’t worry. I only the hate motivate.
To emphasize some of the lived experience aspects, I’m going to highlight David Ostler’s great book Bridges that came out last year. Bridges, Ministering to Those Who Question. David Ostler was a former mission president who came home from his mission. And he was assigned as a service missionary in his stake. In the stake, there were a thousand single adults and 80% of them were not active. He went out ministering to them and he started getting a similar kind of view from a lot of these people. And he recognized that there was a serious problem that he wanted to address.
He put up a survey to try to get some data. This is not a statistically valid survey. It’s a self selected survey, but we find some very valuable insights. And these observations go right in line with my observations, with what I’ve seen in my 10 years of doing this and the last five years of doing this very actively and interacting with a lot of people who have been through faith crisis and reconstruction.
He divided the issues into three categories and came up with the hypothesis that if the church could positively address these three areas, that these people that have been through faith crisis and a deep night of the soul faith crisis. When I read these stories they are a lot like mine. That they could remain active in the church and remain positively engaged in the church, if the church could meet their needs in three areas. Those three areas are trust, belonging, and meaning. Let’s get into some detail on that.
First is trust. Do I trust the church in my church leaders, even with the limitations of church members and leaders, I have confidence that the church and its leaders will help me find spiritual purpose and guidance?
I trust leaders and other members to help me as I make choices for my own spiritual growth. One woman responded: “Trust. I have a very hard time trusting the church because of the many times I was lied to about church history.”
I think the church is getting better. We’ve talked about this, the gospel topics essays, and we’ve moved a little bit, but I think there’s a lot more we can do.
In this study, David Ostler got both people that have gone through faith crisis and then also he had a dataset of local leaders asking them these same questions. So local leaders were asked the question, how important do you think it is to address faith crisis in these settings? 98% answered very important or important that the church address these issues in the church, generally in the stake, and at the ward level.
And then we take the data from those in faith crisis. The question was asked, “The church as a whole provides adequate information for leaders to help people who are in faith crisis.” Less than 1% answered strongly agree or agree.
So there’s a major disconnect that our local leaders are recognizing this is important. And people that have gone through faith crisis are overwhelmingly saying, this is not being addressed. This is really difficult. Because faith crisis is catchy.
Let’s say in a ward you had 10 people that had a real burning question about the Book of Abraham. And you had a fireside about the Book of Abraham and, you were able to present the issue in a way that it would satisfy 80% of the people. So out of your 10, eight out of 10 are fine. Two out of 10 still are troubled.
But then, by presenting the problem, now everyone in the board now is aware of the problem. They’re going home. They’re googling Book of Abraham problems. They’re reading the CES letter. You might’ve lost the 20% in that other larger group that never even questioned. So the church has a really difficult time. How do we inoculate? How do we teach these issues without spreading the problem to everyone else who isn’t? Who doesn’t have a faith crisis on their horizon right now.
And I think this is really tough to face, but I think it’s time that we just all faced it as a church. So many of our young people are going through this. So many of our young people are being faced with CES Letter issues, and the answers are not adequate right now. And I think every fact and issue that I brought up in this 12 episode podcast series, we could integrate into our curriculum somehow through seminary, institute, Sunday School lessons.
I don’t know how, but I think it’s time that the church thought about how to integrate all of these issues. The Gospel Topics Essays were a good first start, but we need to do more. We need to go deeper and we need to integrate this all through our curriculum. Maybe even we need a message from the prophet that says it’s okay to view the Book of Mormon as not historical. It’s okay to believe in evolution. It’s okay to believe that polygamy was never ordained of God. There’s a lot of questions that we’re just not sure about. It’s okay to have these alternate ideas. Is that going to cause that big of a problem?
If we just made a short statement like that, the prophet could say, we believe the Book of Mormon is historical. We believe that polygamy was ordained of God. That’s our official position. We believe that Adam and Eve were real people and that the garden of Eden is a literal event. But we understand that a lot of people are starting to view these things metaphorically.
We want them to stay in the church. We want them to feel comfortable. Could the prophet do that? I think if you ran the numbers and thought about what the downside of that is and what the upside of that is and how you can keep people in the church. I don’t think it’s that risky. I think we can pull it off.
Ostler suggestion for leaders on this is to listen, listen, listen, don’t get defensive or try to rebut or argue, or even always try to give answers. Don’t judge, don’t label the doubters as apostates or doubters. Take steps to address their concerns. That’s the hard part but be careful about apologetics.
Apologetics are not always going to convince everyone. And so you can give the apologetics kind of as a first line of defense, but if that’s not working or if there’s too much defensiveness, then, then don’t keep doubling down on apologetics and maybe look for broader answers.
This is something I think a lot about of how the church can implement these kinds of things. And here’s an idea.
What if every steak had a faith crisis class. And it was team taught by maybe someone who was more of a FairMormon Apologist, and then maybe someone who views things more like me. What if these people team taught a stake level faith crisis class, and they covered all the issues like this 12 hour podcast series and even more.
And they each gave their take. They gave the traditional FairMormon take that preserves a literal testimony and LDS exclusivity. And it preserves the traditional LDS testimony. And then to give this more metaphorical take acknowledging that maybe some of this is not what we think, but there’s a different way to think about it.
I think maybe a class that’s team taught like that, that gave both perspectives is something that could work. I don’t know if that could work or not, but that’s an idea I had.
Okay. Now I’m going to turn the tables. David Ostler wrote this book and his audience was other church leaders. And that’s good. And I appreciate that.
As being someone that’s considered the doubter in this equation, I appreciate someone like David Ostler. Who’s a former mission president. Who’s looking out for me and who’s representing me and trying to give other church leaders ideas of how to help me. But as a doubter or as the person in faith reconstruction, I believe I have a responsibility also.
I understand that I have a testimony that’s different than the mainstream. I want to stay in this church. I have the largest part of the responsibility. I’m hoping that the church can make space for me and other members of my ward can make space for me. But I believe I have the larger job to fit myself into something that we can all get along.
And so I’m going to be a little preachy here to my people, to people who are in my shoes, what we can do in this area of trust.
We can give the benefit of the doubt to general authorities. When we hear a general conference talk, we can hear a lot of things that we don’t like and a lot of negative things, and we can look for the bad. We can imagine them as controlling. We can imagine them as a manipulating, we can be very critical.
Or we can give our leaders the benefit of the doubt and we can try to be more empathetic and sympathetic to them. They have a tough job. They’re trying to manage a church. On one side of the church, they have super conservative people. And then on the other side of the church, they have super liberal people.
They have a real challenge in keeping this together because I think we have something good. We have something important to do as a church. How are we going to keep everybody together in order to accomplish this good?
So I can be generous with the general authorities. I can assume good intentions. And also for the people in my ward and my bishop, I can assume good intentions.
“ It’s okay to believe in evolution.”
IOW I need the Brethren to confirm for me that 2+2 actually equals 4.
Excuse me while I grab something heavy and throw it across the room.
I like some of the ideas presented here that seem so superior to LDS apologetics. But I don’t think we’ll see these ideas come to fruition. Why? Because I don’t think the leaders at the top have the confidence to execute these kinds of ideas. It’s more safe to hold tightly to the traditional narratives until absolutely forced to loosen the grip. You see some of that creeping in via the essays, etc. But it’s rare.
There’s a calculation in play too: better to cater the the hardline TBMs and alienate the progressives than to cater to the ever-growing progressives and alienate the TBMs. The TBMs pay the bills so-to-speak. This may change as the progressive members increase as a percentage of the total. But we aren’t there yet.
To be fair, evolution is no longer considered heretical by the vast majority of the Church. There are stragglers, but on the whole, progmos have won that particular battle.
I think your basic thesis is sound. The Church, at this point, really has no other choice but to confront all these issues head-on. We’re getting there, albeit too slowly for my liking.
Sometimes the odious “faith crisis” is just “more information” or “better information” i.e., TRUTH in slightly different packaging. For instance the day I discovered that forbidden green tea was actually good for me as opposed to poisonous but approved Mountain Dew, the sun burst through the clouds igniting the heavens – which would certainly have made a better graphic than the lachrymose disaster you posted here.
Faith crisis is belief crisis. If faith is dependent upon beliefs, then sometimes beliefs have to be negotiated to preserve faith. Faith and belief are not the same thing. Better if we called the problem “Belief Crisis.”
If doctrine is confused with belief, and belief confused with faith, we get to a place where faith and doctrine and belief converge to confusion. Traumatic territory.
“What if every steak had a faith crisis class”
All the teachers and attenders of the class would end up leaving the church. The leaders have no good answers that are going to satisfy those with the so-called “faith crises.” The church’s tactic is to have authorless essays written and published on their website that they bury deep in the many, many different gospel topics which they never ask members to read or feature in any manual or conference talk. These essays are there simply so the leaders can say that they’re not hiding anything if someone brings it up. The church’s modus operandi is to ignore these issues as much as they possibly can. Shed a tiny bit of distorted light on them through a faithful lens and then appeal to how nobody’s perfect and how we need to give Brother Joseph a break ad nauseum and say, “see, there’s nothing to worry about, now stop asking questions.”
John W. I’m not so sure. Maybe some will. We might go through a massive break where 20% leave the church all within a few years, but at least at that point we’ll stabilize. Right now, we’re losing some every year, and every year it increases exponentially, with no relief in sight. Also, “steak” haha. I put through a transcription service and then edited, but I missed that. I’ll fix it now.
Travis. I’m not exactly sure what you mean. But I think it was smart. And I think I agree.
Scrap beliefs and doctrine is left. Faith in doctrine, not faith in beliefs.
What is doctrine? For me, doctrine is exposition of ordinance (Doctrine explains and teaches about ordinance; “doctrines” were traditionally illuminations of liturgy). What is ordinance? Ordinance is the symbol or gesture for representing or communing covenant. Therefore…
Covenant informs ordinance;
Ordinance informs doctrine;
Doctrine informs faith.
Where there is no ordinance, there is no doctrine. Any belief that cannot be linked to the chain of doctrine-ordinance-covenant-revelation is false. By this reasoning, it could be said that the institution that manages the Restored Gospel promotes many false beliefs. It does.
By dismantling beliefs, I am better able to reconstruct my faith: my faith is informed by doctrine, which is informed by ordinance, which informed by covenant, which is informed by revelation.
This is a good and timely post. I think there are three main reasons why the church struggles so much with the faith crises of its members, some of which have already been touched on. And I don’t see any major changes coming down the pike anytime soon.
1. Mormonism is simply not equipped to deal with nuance; in fact, it sees nuance as a weakness. The black and white thinking that many have mentioned on this blog over the years really is a hurdle to helping members who tend to see things more “metaphorically”. A significant consequence of this fact is that when the church assigns someone to help a member dealing with a faith crisis, usually the person assigned is unable (or afraid) to empathize too much with the struggling person because to do so would be to challenge that person’s black and white thinking. This means that there can’t be real and deep trust between the two people having the conversation, which leads to a lack of success.
2. As John W. points out, leadership itself cannot offer any answers. Because leadership would view admitting doubts as a weakness, that means that it continually doubles down on “knowing” that the church is true and that kind of language even though church leaders have never, in the history of the church, provided a satisfactory explanation for any of the controversies that the church still deals with. That institutional hubris causes another kind of lack of trust; if the church can’t admit any wrong, even when confronted with historical facts, how can it be trusted to deal with people who have doubts?
3. As some have mentioned above, doubters, nuanced members, whatever you’d like to call them are seen as dangerous because they are likely to have a greater understanding of church history, the church’s deceptions, etc. So I don’t believe that there really is much of a desire to have them around, despite the lip service the church pays to the issue. IMO, the leadership is much more concerned with shoring up the church’s shaky narrative than it is with actually welcoming people who don’t toe the orthodox line (hawkgirl had a great comment about this a day or two ago). That also means that unless a “doubter” sees the error of their ways and again comes to a “knowledge” of all the church’s truth claims, the church is going to regard them with suspicion. And since no-one ever goes from a more skeptical, nuanced point of view back to a naive, black and white one, members with nuanced beliefs don’t stick around. Why should they when the church doesn’t even respect their lens of belief enough to treat them as equals in Christ’s kingdom?
That sounds simple, Travis, until you realize that “revelation” is actually the problem.
I would ask for my name to be removed before going to a stake faith crisis class.
You are right. Total oversimplification, but it’s a useful framework to clean-house and purge beliefs.
You are also right that “revelation” is the problem: Joseph is, or Joseph isn’t.
For me, Joseph is. I am comfortable with Joseph behaving unpuritanically like a tribal priest and pagan king.
I fully agree that a “faith/belief crisis” has been growing and many people are leaving the church because of increasing information and knowledge (largely due to the Internet) without evidence or understanding. We have become such an evidence-based society that faith is being pushed out and replaced with disbelief until such time as a preponderance of irrefutable evidence convinces one otherwise. “You have to prove it to me for me to believe, but you don’t have to do anything for me to disbelieve.” Yet, isn’t disbelieving something, itself a belief? I know many who say, “I won’t believe there’s a God until he shows himself to me in a way no one has ever appeared and communicates with me in a way that I will no longer doubt”. OK, so what do we know about perfect knowledge? It replaces faith – which greatly reduces our power and our reward. The Apostles could not do what Christ did, partially because of doubt. Thomas was told that blessed was he for believing but more blessed are those who do not see nor feel for themselves but have faith in their words.
Wasn’t it Joseph Smith who said, “It’s not what you believe that will send you to hell but what you refuse to believe.” People that want this level of evidence want to ignore and trash one of the primary reasons for coming to earth. Faith is not just believing in something that is true without any evidence of it, but, it’s also believing in something that is true DESPITE the evidence against it! Having an open mind to the possibility of something we do not understand Is very important. The moment you become dogmatic about something that is not true is death.
Also, I too would like to see a church/doctrinal class that addresses these many controversial issues with evidence presented on both sides but I’m pretty sure it would simply end up in arguments, anger and a shouting match by class end.
I have found through my own experience that the only way to know and understand the spiritual is through revelation. For example, many discredit the testimony of the early saints about actually seeing the Book of Mormon because they say they saw it with their spiritual eyes and not with their physical/natural eyes. Yet, many of these same people say they believe in the Bible. Daniel, Peter, Paul, John the Revelator and many others throughout the Bible testify that they saw “in a Vision…” things they did not see with their natural eye-as evidenced by what they say they saw. Did Peter actually see a sheet with many animals in it come down from the sky? Did John actually see all those freaky, multi-eyed, multi-headed, multi-horned creatures with his two natural eyes? If people believe them, why don’t they believe any of the 12 witnesses?! Shoot! I’ve got 12 BoM witnesses to your one witness of John’s Revelation, or so many others.
It requires revelation to know and understand the spiritual truths and the reason you don’t get that revelation and witness is simple… you haven’t obeyed the heavenly law(s) that is/are predicated upon that blessing.
My sister lives in Logan and invited me to attend a faith crisis class for their stake. I thought it was well done and the teachers did an excellent job. I even volunteered a few comments. If it was closer I would have attended again. It was a good class.
Last year our Stake RS organized a series of firesides (when it was 35c: church culture) one was on faith cricices. The presentation was by our LDS social services person. He did not address any problem, but he talked about James Fowlers, levels of faith, (without naming fowler) and made moving from level 3 was positive. The I left the meeting feeling uplifted. But neither the ward or stake leaders were there, and this idea has not reappeared.
I am more concerned by present discrimination on gays and women, as well as transparency on finance, and truth on history. If the present had no problems the history might be acceptable.
I just watched Biden, and Harris acceptance speeches. I was very impressed, and hope for the sake of America they win, and can unite the country again. If that happens the church will be left looking like bigots.
I hope the leaders, are seeking revelation on the future of the church, rather than trying to defend their present bigotry.
“…my faith is informed by doctrine, which is informed by ordinance, which informed by covenant, which is informed by revelation.”
Travis, I assume this dynamic works as well for Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus and Muslims as for Mormons?
To answer the question about whether a church president could ever make pronouncements about making room for nuanced belief, I think the answer is no, at least for the foreseeable future. When you have a current president who states in general conference that the temple endowment ceremony is of ancient origin, I don’t see that same person being willing to give much room to heterodox belief (and yes, I understand you can nuance his statement to death, but then why say it if the plain reading is not what he meant?). I believe it will take a generation of leadership that is currently probably all still under 40 years of age (and maybe far younger) that was raised with easy access to all of this information (so you’re talking anywhere from 30 to 70+ years especially as people live longer and longer). They will likely also take over a church that has shifted drastically in its racial, geographical, and class makeup toward the current global South and sub-Saharan Africa in particular. Taking Europe as my barometer, I don’t know that a bigger tent belief-wise will really equate to a whole lot of people joining, coming back, or staying (at least in the Global North and apparently much of Mexico and Central and South America which have stopped growing and are facing many of the same problems).
Geoff-Aus: try to stay on topic. Very few of us want to hear about your enthusiasm for Biden / Harris in a post about ministering. Let’s leave politics out of this…easy for me because I can’t stand Trump or the modern Democratic party.
That said, Travis (see above) I must say I like your style. Your thinking on a difficult, painful & timely subject is original & systematic. The path forward for the institutional Church is not visible at this pt. The primary appeal of the Church is the specificity of its claims – which is also its greatest liability. Here’s hoping you’ll help resolve the impasse.
Two things I know to be true about my post-faith-transition (I don’t call it ‘crisis’) self:
1. That I don’t take advice on faith transition from someone who hasn’t experienced one, whether that’s my husband or a General Authority.
2. I am not a ‘questioner’ or a ‘doubter.’ The things that I know are true, I KNOW to be true.
And one thing that I don’t know for sure but I suspect:
That my Heavenly Parents actually WANTED me to have a faith transition.
John W., Brother Sky:
Y’all are far too cynical. “Mormonism is simply not equipped to deal with nuance”? C’mon! We believe that God is Human – that he is corporeal, but also omnipotent (or close to it) – that he’s married to a woman who’s also God – and that both of them really know their physics and are inordinately fond of beetles. Name any other denomination that has a thoroughly theistic cosmology that’s also perfectly scientific. My point: If we’re not the nuanced church, which one is?
Mormon theology is so much larger and more coherent than the correlated drivel in the manuals. We can overcome the manuals, and I see the beginnings of that in those who, like the OP, are sophisticated enough to doubt, think, and still believe.
A “faith crisis class” would not drive everyone out of the Church. It would only drive out those who will likely end up leaving anyway once they come upon enough damning information. We should cure faith crises the same way we cure infectious disease: by inoculating against it, even at some significant risk to the patient. Because the potential benefit outweighs the risk. The Philosophy of Religion course I had a BYU was exactly the class the OP proposes. I’m still here, the professor is still here, and I’m *sure* neither of us would be without the discussion we were permitted to have (though we did sometimes close the door).
TL;DR: Discussing doubt with other doubters in a Church setting saved my spiritual life. It’s a vaccine. Don’t knock it!
No one is leaving buecause of the internet. They are leaving because of the information found on the internet.
I, for one, don’t accept the equivalency of feeling-based evidence with fact-based information. I have found that as people hold their own firmly held beliefs so dear, it doesn’t extend to broad acceptance of others’ firmly held beliefs.Rightfully so.
Scientific process has advanced us further, and faster than all the feelings and firmly-held beliefs did for eons.
Billy, my point wasn’t that the church is not equipped to deal with nuance, but that simply by dwelling on issues that tend to cause doubt, people are more likely to generate more doubt-inducing questions. Leaders favor presenting a narrative that makes the church look strong and its truth claims look obvious. They deliberately avoid introducing possible doubt to members.
BYU is a highly protected environment that expels students and fires employees who leave the church or even so much as say something unorthodox. Social pressure to remain active and profess belief is immense at BYU. There you can have classes that talk extensively of issues that tend to cause doubt and low risk of people leaving over those issues. Plus students can be held to expectations in the class for the purpose of a good grade. If every stake is to have a faith crisis class, who will teach it, who will attend? Who will come up with the content? Inoculation efforts where there aren’t strong social environments that press belief and adherence could very well backfire. It can only work in certain settings. Plus BYU has an advantage in that you have PhDs and experts in various fields controlling the narrative and relatively inarticulate students being asked to repeat that narrative. A big factor causing the belief in the student at BYU is the impression that smart, qualified people believe it, therefore I should as well.
Why do I struggle with the idea of “inoculation” in this context? Are we encouraging members to accept certain issues that really are not acceptable? Are we telling young adults and seminary students part of the story without telling the full story? Providing partial but not full disclosure on troubling issues?
anon. Have you listened to my podcast? I’m not in favor of partial disclosure either.
“Y’all are far too cynical. “Mormonism is simply not equipped to deal with nuance”? C’mon! We believe that God is Human – that he is corporeal, but also omnipotent (or close to it) – that he’s married to a woman who’s also God – and that both of them really know their physics and are inordinately fond of beetles. Name any other denomination that has a thoroughly theistic cosmology that’s also perfectly scientific. My point: If we’re not the nuanced church, which one is? Mormon theology is so much larger and more coherent than the correlated drivel in the manuals. ”
Joseph Smith supposedly said that if he taught the Saints everything that had been revealed to him, they’d kill him. I think what you are getting at here is what Joseph Smith was afraid to teach the Saints. I believe that Joseph Smith was beginning to approach the idea that there is no God at all, not in any traditional Judeo-Islamo-Christian sense. There are just human beings, some far more exalted than others who have tapped into the life force of the universe and can wield it for creative purposes. There is no “First Cause” and “Last End” of all things, which is how the Catholic Catechism describes God.
What Joseph Smith did, essentially, (if indeed he was moving in this direction), was place the human race on the throne of God. For his followers, who came from Protestant backgrounds, this indeed would’ve sounded like a blasphemy worthy of death.
I think of Mormonism as a sort of “Atheistic Deism.” An contradiction of terms, a paradox, absolutely. Not the best choice of words. But to me it perfectly describes deep Mormon doctrine. There is no God, but there are gods.
I don’t believe in this idea personally. I do believe in God. I believe God to be the First Cause of all things. God is not a man, nor a woman. God is God. Not a contingent being; rather, God is the one and only necessary being. He is my origin and my source.
I think that deep inside, a faith crisis comes not because a Mormon doesn’t fully understand the amazingly nuanced Mormon theistic cosmology. I think a faith crisis comes because at some level, either at or below a state of conscious cognition, the individual hits up against the reality of the Mormon theistic cosmology, and finds it to be grossly lacking.
Look up at the stars and the visible planets at night. Or into the depths of a clear pond at high noon. Everything on this planet is mysteriously and gloriously both too large to comprehend and too small to grasp. It is mind-blowing. A human being created this? Sure….he is an advanced human being, but still….to quote a famous Mormon hymn: “the thought makes reason stare.”
There is a certain logic to Mormon theology. But that is the problem. It is all logic, no poetry. There is not enough divine mystery. According to Mormon belief, I can get a decent idea of what God looks like by finding the nearest mirror.
Chesterton said, ““The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” The perfect description of a “faith crisis.”
I think for purposes of discussing apologetics, it might be well to make some distinctions.
Progressive Mormons, to my mind, are concerned with how the church addresses societal and cultural issues such as LGBT+ issues, the proper role of women, financial transparency, immigration, etc. Some can remain faithful in the church while holding these concerns. For others, their feelings are strong enough that they feel a need to disaffiliate. I don’t think apologetics is particularly useful/effective for these types of issues.
Another distinction surrounds issues like young earth, continents splitting at the crucifixion, evolution, a global flood, etc. These types of issues are evidence-based. The church has largely backed away from these (the most recent thing I read on the official website regarding evolution says “we leave science to the scientists”.) That stance allows those who want to hold such positions to continue to do so and the church isn’t tilting at windmills trying to defend the indefensible. Apologetics really doesn’t play a significant role here, IMO.
Trust, as identified by Ostler, is the arena of apologetics. As I read “Bridges”, I found it to be a compassionate guide to leaders. I also found it to be useless as a tool for the questioning member. This is because it comes from a place that – trite phrase – the church is true and the best place for you. For the questioner, that is not solid ground.
For me, the Gospel Topics Essays (not particularly good apologetics) were the beginning of the end. Not because they revealed new information, but because they revealed an official narrative that was disingenuous at best, and outright deceptive at worst. Just digging around in the footnotes reveals that (my first draft had several examples – I’ll save those for another day).
This goes right to the heart of the trust question. The Q15 approved these (we know that from multiple sources). At the end of the day, they want me to believe things that didn’t happen, feel good about some pretty awful stuff that did happen (and can no longer be denied), and leave thinking that all is well in Zion. “Don’t worry your pretty little head.”
In the full light of day, the narratives can not stand. Layout all available facts. Read what smart people are saying about them. Think it through. And let the chips fall where they may.
Apologetics often wants to skip that part. It goes wrong when it omits relevant, though unsupportive facts; introduces irrelevant, though supportive ideas; and applies logical fallacies. The desired outcome is “the church is true” (whatever that means) and you should stay in, let me spin a tale that will make you feel great about it.
I generally find church apologetics to be infantilizing: you’re not smart enough to figure this out on your own. Let me help.
I have listened to some of your podcasts. You do a fantastic job of laying out evidence. We often come to the same conclusions. But those conclusions usually don’t line up with the official narratives (let’s face it, narratives have largely replaced doctrine these days). They don’t trust me with the truth or grant me any dignity in my search for it.
That does not engender trust. The ball is squarely in their court on this one.
Thank you BeenThere. There have been so many times that I have wanted to sit down and write that exact comment, but would never commit the time and energy. Cuts right to the center of the issue.
“At the end of the day, they want me to believe things that didn’t happen, feel good about some pretty awful stuff that did happen (and can no longer be denied), and leave thinking that all is well in Zion. “Don’t worry your pretty little head.” “ Brilliant!
It was the info copped to (albeit reluctantly and apologetically) in the GT essays that lead me out. Some of it was confirmation of things I knew /suspected already. Some of it was a revelation (hehe). I wish they would read them in GC. I wish they would clearly lay out what revelatory process actually looks like. Then let the chips fall where they may as you said. But they won’t. The perpetuation of the organization and a more important than the truth.
BeenThere, thank you for your insights.
“At the end of the day, they want me to …feel good about some pretty awful stuff that did happen (and can no longer be denied)”
From Been there
Is this what “inoculation” accomplishes? Should that approach worry us? Is there a better path forward? Would it be better to own up to our mistakes and the seriousness of some (many?) of them, seek to provide restitution, and make the necessary changes to prevent similar mistakes in the future? Does sweeping problems under the rug solve them? Are there fundamental problems in our structure as an institution that must be changed to prevent such problems in the future?
What would effective “inoculation” actually involve? Convincing members to peacefully accept problems of the past? Would it be better to constructively work to rebuild our structure so that we avoid similar problems in the future? This would be an involved process, but are there any other options if we want integrity as an institution?
For faith crises classes to work, you need scholars (preferably non-BYU staff because their performance could affect their employment). Unfortunately, there are not enough of these to go around (scholars that would also be acceptable to the Church leadership). The classes would need to long on accurate history, honest about doctrine, but should certainly include discussions that involve how the instructor (or moderator) resolved his or her crisis. But this type of candor is not really acceptable to the LDS leadership.
“I know this church is true.”
I don’t understand that claim anymore.
My faith transition did not begin with the internet. It began at the local library 15 yrs ago.
What does it mean? To most, I suppose it means that we are the only church that is “correct” in its teachings and the only one bestowed with the proper authority to baptize and perform ordinances. Basically, every human that has lived or will live on earth will need to become Mormon if they desire the highest kingdom in Heaven.
My view has changed over time. I view organized religion has a means to an end–the end of bringing people to God through Christ along with the 2nd commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Individually, how/if effective any church is at doing that is variable. One size does not fit all.
It seems more that the church is the end, and we worship the church and its leaders. It seems more of our talks are about worshiping church and its leaders in one form or fashion, rather than focusing on, Christ and his core message.
Nuance and complexity seem unwelcome in the church. Absolutes are essential. Leaders can’t/won’t admit human error or faulty thinking, though membership is taught to admit mistakes while repenting.
We are taught leaders get direction directly from God, though the direction can sometimes change quickly or slowly.
I heard a talk in my ward recently that I wish could be repeated large scale. The talk emphasized just listening to people. Simply meet people where they are. Above all, provide support, comfort. We don’t always need to jump in with a sermon or an admonition to “repent” from having unanswerable questions. Those of us who are going through a faith transition have been sitting through countless Sacrament or other church meetings, reading the scriptures for YEARS.
Give us a break. Enlarge the tent. We don’t all need to fit the cookie cutter mold.
and, for younger generations, do a better job of educating them. Don’t put down “the world” ie anybody that isn’t Mormon. There are wonderful, Christ-like people in the “world.” There can be un-Christ-like people in the church. Don’t present our leaders as infallible now or in the past. Don’t teach a white-washed history.
My post will go into moderation because I use the Book of Mormon as the basis of my comments.
Here is an example of a scripture from the Book of Mormon that provides answers about the whys and wherefores of a faith crisis.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
(Book of Mormon | Helaman 5:12)
Unless we acquire the kind of testimony that Helaman is talking about as our foundation we won’t be able to survive the storms that are and will come upon us.
Heber C Kimball put it this way:
his Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand. Harold B. Lee quoting Heber C. Kimball, BYU, June 28, 1955; also in “We Believe” by Rulon T. Burton, p. 1038-39.
If you see this churchistrue please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will like to have an exchange with you on this important topic.
Jared….you are making the classic mistake. You start out with a quote about how we have to build on Christ. You follow that up with a quote that assumes the LDS church is Christ’s church.
You can’t tell someone who is losing their faith in the church that they need to build their foundation in Christ, assuming that when they do so, they will stay in the church. This kind of help is no help at all to a person in crisis. For me, this kind of deceptive language only hastened my departure from the LDS church.
I left the LDS church after a powerful spiritual encounter with God/Christ. I did build my foundation on Christ. That is why I felt compelled to leave.
Ditto to what John said. When my faith crisis started, I recognized it for what it was. I told God that I was going to struggle for a while and to be patient. When I came out the other end 8ish years later, my faith was much, much stronger. It was my relationship with the church that hadn’t survived, although I’m still active for my spouses sake). So Alma is right. I didn’t fall when the winds came.
August 22, 2020 at 6:26 pm
My post will go into moderation because I use the Book of Mormon as the basis of my comments.”
Now Jared as i can see your post, it did not go into moderation. There is an uncharitable comment on the moderator, which has proven false, that they are anti the BOM. Might you need to do something?
My comments on Milenial star, and Meridian magazine, appear to be blocked, no matter whether I question or agree with the article.
Does that mean progressives are more open to discuss differing opinions, than the conservatives? I believe so, that is part of being progressive, actually practicing freedom of religion,and speech, rather than spouting about it.
Your effort might be covered by a description of how people who are at level3 of Fowlers levels of faith see those who have progressed on to level 4. Description of level 4
. “They begin to critically examine their beliefs on their own and often become disillusioned with their former faith. Ironically, the Stage 3 people usually think that Stage 4 people have become “backsliders” when in reality they have actually moved forward.”
You may get there yet.
Some things to consider:
-Do we actually believe in free agency?
-Do we actually practice the 11th article of faith?
The LDS church isn’t for everyone as taught in the vision of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8 & 11). If you find another path that works for you then by all means pursue it.
For those who are in a faith crisis, meaning they haven’t left the church but are deeply troubled, can do what many others have done and turn to Heavenly Father with full purpose of heart for an answer to your concerns. In 1966 I was in a situation that drove me to my knees, I asked Heavenly Father to let me know if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon were true. I got an answer that changed my life. I was taken behind the veil and learned in a most persuasive way that God and Satan are real. Then in the months that followed I was shown by the power of the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be. Since then, nearly all the promises made in the scriptures to those who follow Christ have been fulfilled in my life.
I’m done here. I’m not interested in debating. What I’ve said is a witness, among many others, that the LDS church is what it claims to be. The best to all.
rogerdhansen, you’d need scholars to write the curriculum. Just like scholars are leading the Joseph Smith Papers Project and not seeing their Church bona fides questioned. But anyone who’s comfortable with the issues and reasonably articulate could teach the course (I can think of several such laypersons in our decidedly non-ProgMo stake).
Inoculation doesn’t (or shouldn’t) require dishonesty. It’s a gradual, thoughtful introduction of interested people to the historical and doctrinal mess that is the Church, mediated by informed believers (as opposed to an immediate, emotional introduction of naive people, mediated by nobody, which is what most people experience now). The idea (just like in biological inoculation) is to introduce difficult truths gradually in order to to buy time for a person’s system to build the resources to respond to unmediated exposure. We should not stop short of full exposure (the internet will fully expose everyone, anyway).
If you think about the faith crisis you’ve been through, you’ll see that it’s actually a series of smaller crises that our brains interpret as forming a pattern (often correctly, but sometimes spuriously). The CES Letter is a great example of such a series. The idea behind inoculation is to “flatten the curve” of those smaller crises by priming a person to expect them, so that they can still occur (which is fundamentally *good* for us, and also inevitable) without overwhelming the threshold of cognitive dissonance. Each issue becomes a slow burn instead of an explosion. The end result and energy released are the same, but with far less damage.
This is not a new idea. Teachers since Socrates have recognized that truth can only be understood gradually, and that full exposure of the underprepared or uninitiated may actually undermine long-term learning. This is why we teach 8th graders Newtonian physics and spelling, not relativity and critical race theory (although the latter are closer to the truth)
John, your post is very well said. I’ve never heard anyone express that view before, and part of me is sorry that you feel this way about Mormon cosmology. But I understand, and I always appreciate being challenged by a beautiful thought. Thanks for giving me another perspective. It does make my head hurt sometimes.
I think for many it’s more than one of the issues you mention – ie, discomfort with treatment of lgbt / women / minorities / anyone different combined with a realization that many mistakes have been made in the past that convinced me that the prejudiced policies are likewise more mistakes. And I can forgive mistakes but on those issues the Q12 are just doubling down more and more every time they open their mouths. Add to that my realization they do that because they’ve built a church based on worthiness and earning salvation and fundamentally miss the point of Christ.
At some point it becomes an institution I simply cannot trust with my heart or the level of resources (time, money, loyalty) it demands.
@churchistrue, a question I’ve had about your project. (If you’ve answered this on a blog post or somewhere else please direct me to it.)
I have long believed “faith is a choice” and it seems to me that’s part of your foundation / aim here. And for a long time I made the choice to act like I believed because I wanted to believe and because I found a lot of beauty there.
But at some point, I simply no longer wanted to believe.
I no longer want to believe that God hates LGBTQ folks. I no longer want to believe that God doesn’t trust women in leadership or decision making or think that men should always be at the top of the hierarchy. I no longer want to believe that God eternally separates families that don’t jump through a bunch of hoops. I no longer want to believe that God wants the church to hoard 100B. I no longer want to believe that God would put DHO as second in command of his church. Etc etc.
So I guess what I’m saying is if faith begins with desire and we choose faith … I’m not interesting in making that choice anymore. I think for me it’s a bad choice.
Elisa – I remember feeling that way and I’m so sorry for your pain. I felt angry at being boxed in to a hole with room for only round pegs.
My question then, is what do you want to believe? What do you believe? Can you build a relationship with diety off of that?
Elisa, to someone like you I would say, thanks for giving it a shot. What I’m trying to do is make a case for engaging the church from a metaphorical standpoint on the intellectual issues, if you believe in the truth and beauty and find value in the lived experience. If you don’t experience truth and beauty in the lived experience, it would be natural to leave at that point. I hope we can do better as a church to help people in that situation.
Elisa, I love your comment so much. I 100% agree. I don’t want to believe in any of those awful things either.
My suggestions to anyone who continually pushes a spouse in a faith transition to pray, read scriptures, attend the temple, etc.: ask yourself if your spouse is a good person, acts well to those around them, lives their life in an ethical manner, is a principled person, finds the good in others, exemplifies pure religion (even without religion), and/or any other characteristic you value. If the answer is yes, then love and accept your spouse as is, no changes necessary. Validate that their well thought out new viewpoint has merit. Support them in living a life that’s meaningful to them. Stay away from trying to justify the more troubling aspects of lds church history. As hard as it may be for you, try to not force them to believe in a god that for whatever reason no longer works for them.
Help them to be authentic.
Regarding your own solid faith, perhaps try to increase your faith that while man looks on the outward appearance, god looks on the heart.
Depending on your circumstances, substitute “family member” or “friend” for “spouse”.
* trying to justify the more troubling aspects of lds church history and doctrine.
Interesting post and discussion in the comments. Some quick observations:
1. Inoculation is dead. Too late for that. The cat is out of the bag. Inoculation might have controlled the outbreak of doubt at the beginning of the faith crisis era, but it wasn’t done. So now we are at the “doubt pandemic” stage. What the Church needs is a response and treatment plan. Which it doesn’t have yet. Publicly, leaders still deny there is even a problem. Publicly, they say the Church is going strong, full speed ahead.
2. Having a stake-level “faith crisis” class seems like the best approach (which doesn’t mean it’s a great approach, just the best out of several problematic approaches). Gospel Doctrine class is not the right place for faith crisis questions. The Church won’t address it directly and publicly at say General Conference because (as noted in the post) it does more harm than good if people without doubts or questions are exposed to honest apologetic discussion.
@churchistrue, thanks for that explanation. I do think what you’re doing is great, and it’s helpful for me to better understand its scope. I do agree that I’m not sure what can be done for folks like me short of some pretty major changes, or me figuring out how to engage despite those barriers.
@lehcarjt thank you, and yes, absolutely I’m focusing on what I do believe! I’m a real Debbie Downer here but in reality I’m trying to give my attention to the things I do believe (or want to believe) and ignore the rest. Easier said than done sometimes, but definitely a better way to live.
I was genuinely curious for how this podcast / effort responded to that particular perspective and it sounds like it wasn’t intended to, which is fine – I’m not really looking for someone to convince me to stay, although I am definitely interested in models for people who believe as I do but still find meaningful ways to engage in and contribute to the church community while still maintaining integrity and fidelity to the values I hold that conflict with the church’s. And not pretending to be / believe something I’m not / don’t. There was a series on “middle way mormons” a while back that I found very helpful although it also left me with the impression that for most people middle-way mormonism is just a stepping stone on the way out.
@ziff, thank you!
I appreciate this article and your work. The church really is in a tough spot. As you so aptly point out they’re kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Having said that, I see a big piece missing from your article and from your approach in general. I say missing but I should just say that different people have different values, and it’s okay, I’m not claiming superiority. The list of trust, belonging, and meaning, and your approach here, seems to downplay the preeminence of one major value for those who have stepped away: truth.
I know that can be _sort of_ subsumed in trust, but I would say not really. My faith crisis made me investigate the issues. Now I see no way that the church can be what it claims. I don’t think Joseph saw God. I don’t think the Book of Mormon is historical or inspired. I don’t believe the prophets have any extraordinary insights. I don’t think the priesthood power is real. Maybe if the church makes space for non-historical Book of Mormon interpretations I’d be more comfortable participating, for my wife, but not likely. This won’t be solved by trust, belonging, and meaning. I think the church is fundamentally wrong on a number of levels. Of course there’s still good in it, and good people. But I don’t see a way, even with your approach, to square the circle and reconcile the difference between what how I see the world works now and how the church claims it works. Even if the church moderated, it’s doubtful they’d make enough space for this new stance. This is often where those with faith crisis end up. It’s not a few small differences, it ends up being a gaping chasm.