Support of Doubters

Recently, I had the privilege of becoming the confident of a Church member who is struggling with extreme doubt about his faith. This man is the husband of a friend of mine, and both husband and wife come from old-line Mormon families. He found me through the blogs, and he and his wife approached me one Sunday with questions.

This opened up some serious dialogue that was better moved from the Church foyer to our living room. Ignoring the fact that I feel totally unqualified to offer spiritual advice, I was able to offer a sympathetic ear and a forum free of judgment.

What they are going through has been completely kept from their families. Any tiny overtures towards expressing doubts have been quashed and shunned, and it didn’t take long to realize that road was closed.

Recently, during dinner at their home, the Wife relayed that she had mentioned apologetics, Sunstone and Dialogue to her sister, and the reaction she got only underscored that she needed to keep their struggles very quiet. She was told not associate with _those people_, how they must be messing up somewhere, and if they only would exercise more faith, this wouldn’t be happening.

This got me thinking.

If a person is having a faith crisis, what should they do? Well, that answer is a varied and each individual, but if you have a family who won’t tolerate questions of any kind, what are the options? My friend, right now, is in a “black and white” stage of his faith- and can’t really seem to discern the baby from the bathwater, as it were. His options, as he has related, are: Lie to himself and preserve his familial relations, or Leave. Through our discussions and the publications I have shared with him, hopefully he is realizing there is another path, albeit to a more complex faith, but to faith nonetheless.

It seems to me, the unknowledgeable convert, that having a forum of people who have experienced a crisis of faith and come out the other side with a love of Christ and the restored Gospel intact, would be a good thing. So why are these alternative areas for exploring our faith shunned and even feared in more traditional circles? Why do my friends have to hide their association with “them”, or more accurately, with me?

I have a testimony of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a temple recommend. I have gone against the wishes of my entire family by becoming a member of this Church, and by raising my children in this faith. I do not understand, cannot even comprehend, how it is better to throw the doubter to the lions, than to allow them a safe, soft-trodden path to explore their questions and doubts.

It seems to me, listening and supporting someone through such a crisis would be truly an act of Christian charity, and casting them out would be the job of the Pharisees. But then what do I know? I’m just an angry convert.

Comments

  1. For someone who has never really doubted, it is quite difficult to empathize with the doubter, so the standard responses are all there is (pray, fast, read your scriptures). There are some folks, that think, and perhaps for some kernel of reality (though distorted), that an organization like Sunstone might be the path away from, not towards the Church. Mostly it is just sad. Mormons’ unique perspective on the atonement has a great emphasis on empathy. It is sad when we don’t apply or realize it.

  2. J- I agree that there is a kernel of reality in the perception- but that reality, like most things, is based on Individual actions, rather than on the movement, or pulbication, as a whole.

    For the record, I do not belong to, nor subscribe to, either of the above-mentioned publications. I also take no issue with thier missions.

  3. Through our discussions and the publications I have shared with him, hopefully he is realizing there is another path, albeit to a more complex faith, but to faith nonetheless.

    What publications have you shared with him?

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    You’re right that there’s not much room allowed for doubt in our religious culture, which is too bad, since doubt is entirely natural and a very common religious experience. Why are we so resistant to expressions of doubt? I suspect it is largely a matter of fear and ignorance. Most members of the Church really have no idea what might be out there–for them, it is all a big, black hole–and they are afraid of the unknown. People who say “I know” the Church is true don’t really know it and are afraid of what they don’t know. And they are afraid that expression of doubt might somehow be contagious; that if one person expresses doubt, pretty soon those around him will join the chorus, which (they fear) will begin to swell.

    The simple act of letting someone know she is not alone and that doubts are natural represents a large first step in assisting someone in dealing with such doubts.

  5. Right. I guess I was just trying to reinforce that idea that empathy goes both ways. Sometimes it is easy to forget the other folk and why/how they feel the way they do.

  6. It seems to me, the unknowledgeable convert, that having a forum of people who have experienced a crisis of faith and come out the other side with a love of Christ and the restored Gospel intact, would be a good thing. So why are these alternative areas for exploring our faith shunned and even feared in more traditional circles? Why do my friends have to hide their association with “them”, or more accurately, with me?

    Tracy, not every Latter-day Saint who recommends against Sunstone for answers to people losing faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet does so for the reasons like that of the sister in this story (“She was told not associate with _those people_, how they must be messing up somewhere, and if they only would exercise more faith, this wouldn’t be happening.“). Sure, people detached from the “battles” of the previous few decades associated with Sunstone can sigh at the aversion that many faithful Latter-day Saints experience with relation to Sunstone (I do, even though I certainly don’t advocate or support many of the divergent views of the Gospel and its meaning that Sunstone publishes). But do you really think that Sunstone is accurately described as “a forum of people who have experienced a crisis of faith and come out the other side with a love of Christ and the restored Gospel intact”? People who have experienced a crisis of faith would perhaps be accurate, but from the perspective of orthodox Latter-day Saints (which many or most active Latter-day Saints are), an intact love of the restored Gospel includes believing that Joseph Smith was a Prophet. To the extent that Sunstone gives the perception that this is a debatable premise, orthodox believers will likely not think that it is a valid source to turn to in a crisis of faith. For better or worse, I would say that the reality is that most orthodox Latter-day Saints would feel that scripture reading and prayer — those standard Sunday School answers — are a more likely source to find guidance during a crisis of faith than Sunstone.

    Having said all that, however, perhaps it is time for orthodox Latter-day Saints to give Sunstone a chance and to relax a little bit about Latter-day Saints who view or interpret some aspects of doctrine or foundational principles somewhat differently. To a large extent, I believe the orthodox already do, but there is always room for improvement.

  7. As someone who has and continually does struggle with doubt – what I’ve found is there isn’t really any support. I’ve tried hard to stay active, continue to live the commandments, etc., but it’s a struggle, knowing that I may not ever have the answers I want and that there really isn’t anywhere to turn. It makes faithful people profoundly uncomfortable to hear others express doubt, and there is always the undercurrent that you must be doing something wrong or you would have the same faith they have. You can’t talk about it at church. My experience with my family is the same as what Tracy mentions above.

    My saving grace has been the naccle – even though I’m not a consistantly present commenter, I’m always reading. Seeing other people, many of them very faithful, discussing problematic issues without losing faith, hearing intelligent people offer their perspective, developing a more mature understanding of certain topics – even witnessing or participating in full on arguments about certain things – it actually is very comforting to hear all of the different perspectives.

    But in REAl life? No support at all. We really aren’t a hospital for sinners, we operate more as a social club for saints. Not that I expect anyone but me to be responsible for my own faith, but it would be really nice to have people to talk with about it, or an institutional resource for trying to work through some of the issues. I think the naccle helps fill that void nicely.

  8. It seems to me that the most charitable response is to encourage the person to pursue their goals and fulfillment, whatever direction it leads. Some people find all they need during the 3 hr block; others do not. Growth sometimes comes when we strike out on our own for a time, where we learn lessons that aren’t taught during the correlated meeting schedule.

    Sometimes we forget those two important truths found in the Book of Consumers, 3: 8-9:

    One size does not fit all.
    Your mileage may vary.

    If we really believe in free/moral agency, we will encourage people to make choices and pursue their best understanding, even if it doesn’t match our own.

  9. Tracy M,

    It seems to me that most of the familial response your confider described is a function of fear. It would be nice to live in a world free from the fears of others, but we don’t. The fearful see the same uncertainties and ambiguities in their faith that others do, but their response is to shut it out — and if people are attached to the object of their fears, they shut those persons out, too.

    Does Sunstone-reading correllate with a higher probability of leaving the Church? I’m sure that it does. Of course, correllation says nothing about which one causes the other, or whether both factors are caused by something else. But that kind thinking isn’t something that fear generally engages.

    You did your confider a great benefit. Whatever the person’s future geography on Sunday mornings, he needs someone to extend kindness and charity, just as lepers needed Mother Theresa to overcome her revulsion to their condition, and to clean their wounds.

    I’m immensely grateful for the people who, knowing my lack of belief on central questions are still glad to see me in Church, together with my apparently belief-deficient DNA.

  10. I realize this might not be the most helpful thing, and is unsolicited advice, and is probably a little more churchy than the usual fare that gets dispensed on BCC, but I think one way we can help people who aren’t empathetic with those who doubt is to help them to see these things through the lens of spiritual gifts. Reminding people with strong faith to give a close reading to D&C 46:8-14 may help them realize that their strong faith is in fact a spiritual gift, and that not everybody gets the same gifts. This fact might also help your friend to feel more comfortable in the church: we’re instructed to ask for and strive to receive those spiritual gifts which we don’t receive naturally, and to develop and strengthen those which we have been given naturally, but not all of us get the gift of strong faith by default. Some of us have to work at it.

    By looking at the gospel through this lens, perhaps he can assuage some of his own cognitive dissonance, and perhaps, if he and his wife can find an opportune moment to share this kind of a concept with their family, they might help them realize that we aren’t all the same, and that’s actually what Heavenly Father intended.

  11. FAIR maintains a question board where someone with a question can ask in total anonymity whatever they wish and someone with some expertise will respond. I very often dialog with individuals who have questions and doubts. I am always happy to be of what assistance I can be. If I am asked questions about matters that are beyond my expertise, then I refer them to others who have that expertise (that means Kevin Barney). The purpose is to assist as much as possible the growth and perspective of the questioner rather than to provide ready made answers.

    Further, I agree with Sue except that I don’t think the Church is a club for saint, but a place for saints-in-the-making in to learn from each other as best we can. Sometimes we serve each other by trying each other with how annoying we are, but hey, it’s a chance to learn about forgiveness I suppose.

    I suggest that those of you who have difficulty talking with family members consider the possibility that you have exposed a subject on which they feel inadequate and ill-prepared to address your concerns, but they care deeply about you and don’t want to lose some argument resulting in loss in faith. That isn’t how it is in my family. We’re very open about this kind of stuff. But we’re weird.

  12. Your friend may be able to find a comfortable position within the church if we, as a whole, were better at accepting those that doubt, those that have W of W problems, those who think differently. Where do these ideas of superiority (?)and my way or the highway (?) enter into our psyche? If those on the fringe realized exactly how many “warts” even the “stalwart” members have maybe there would be few less actives.

  13. John F- As I stated earlier- I do not belong to Sunstone or Dialogue- but I have no issue with those who do.

    Those were the examples the Wife used when talking to her sister. My point-of-reference is that I do KNOW people who subscribe to those organizations who have inded walked through a crisis of faith as come out the other side intact. Those are the examples a person might need when facing this.

    Nonny Mouse- I was thinking of that scripture this morning as I wrote this piece. Undoubting faith is truly a gift.

    And, fwiw, I think Kevin is right- fear of the unknown is at the center of many situations such as this.

  14. Lots of active, faithful Mormons doubt, profoundly, through their whole lives. There’s really nothing wrong with that; doubt and faith are part of each other, and part of mortality. They’ll both be with us until we reach the moment when both are replaced with perfect knowledge.

    Does our church embrace serious, self-conscious doubters like Tracy’s friends? Oh, yes. All the time. Many tens of thousands of them, at least. Often they don’t advertise. Yet, like Masons of Joseph Smith’s day, such doubters often recognize each other’s secret signs.

    An openness to negativity and a loss of faith is a crucial ingredient for successfully navigating a major crisis of faith, in my opinion. Such openness is itself an act of faith, an expression of belief that God is not dead and that He does indeed have the power to speak to the injured and the broken heart. When we become so fearful of the possibility of doubt that we refuse to seriously contemplate all sides of a question — to genuinely study it out — we cut ourselves off from the possibility of receiving an answer. In such an act, we do ourselves the disservice of drawing a line and saying, “this far I will go but no farther.” The genuinely Mormon thing is to have faith enough to really question, to admit that we do not know the answers before we ask, and to accept the reality that the answers may not conform to our desires.

    There is peace in facing the darkness with eyes open. And there is always more light than we think.

  15. I feel for your friends, Tracy. I have weathered multiple crises of faith and remain committed to both church and Gospel. For me, I have benefited most by non-judgmental relationships with committed LDS (and, frankly, others who take their religion seriously) in combination with careful soul-searching and broad reading. I still think that James’s description in Varieties of Religious Experience of the psychological turmoil of newly embraced atheism is accurately and powerfully expressed. That experience is one not to be laughed at or ignored.

    Your friend may just want to spend more time with people who love God and/in Mormonism and are open to doubting souls. It’s amazing how susceptible we are to generalizing from our immediate surroundings (both human and otherwise) to the universe.

  16. In the end though what helped my crises was that I had some pretty amazing spiritual experiences that confirmed my faith, in the end that’s what saved me, and I don’t think anything else would have done as much.

  17. I just typed this and it got lost so hopefully I’m not double posting. I was just helping someone who had this crises of faith Elder Eyring’s talk “helping a student in a moment of doubt” was very helpful, its in his book To Draw Nearer to God.

    I’ve had 2-3 Spiritual Crises of Faith and what helped me more than anything was that I had some amazing spiritual experiences confirming to me the truth. It also helped to read some writings on some intellectuals in the church and how they kept their testimonies like Bushman, Givens, and Nibley.
    However without the spiritual experiences nothing would have saved me I’m sure.

  18. Tracy,

    That individual needs to make more friends who have weathered similar crises. If you are in an area where there are other members of the bloggernacle, have a small get-together. It sounds like your friend needs sympathetic ears.

    Also, I would be reluctant to point him to Sunstone. I’m not one who believes Sunstone is a den of sexual transgressors, but I also think there are times when voices at Sunstone place way too little stock in miracles and personal revelation, which may be things your friend needs.
    This is not always true; Sunstone has produced some very valuable material over the years, but for someone having a crisis of faith, I think there are a lot better places to go.

  19. Does Sunstone-reading correllate with a higher probability of leaving the Church? I’m sure that it does.

    Greenfrog, # 9,

    I think it is important to note the survey that Dialogue magazine conducted of its readers in 2005. The survey found that 79% of Dialogue readers attend church “every week” or “most weeks”. It also found that about 70% of Dialogue subscribers also subscribe to Sunstone.

    I think those numbers are much better than the Ensign’s. If the official magazines could deliver close to 80% of their subscribers to church pews every week, we would have to double the number of church buildings in use each Sunday.

    The evidence is pretty clear that a Dialogue/Sunstone Mormon is more active, in the Sunday-go-to-meeting sense, than an Ensign/New Era Mormon. But of course there is lots of overlap in all directions.

  20. StillConfused says:

    Living in Utah, I see a lot of this. Many have come to me with similar quandries and feeling as if they are total failures. I am particularly sensitive to this because I come from a family where religion was forced and questioning was prohibited and as a result only 2 of the 12 children are still lds. The main thing that I tell folks is just to figure things out for themselves in a way that works best for them – may be scriptures, may be prayer or (in my case) may be song. And I encourage them to have sympathy for those who are judgmental – for they will sufer more in the end.

  21. Tracy M, I totally agree that doubters need love and support (I was one myself many years ago); and fortunately most (not all) families are willing to rally around those with questions once they understand their situation. Certainly, “listening and supporting someone through such a crisis would be truly an act of Christian charity,” and I think most LDS try to reach out to those who have questions in a spirit of fellowship.

    In my experience, there usually isn’t a problem of members accepting the expression of doubts if the person doubting is trying to resolve those doubts by reading the Scriptures, praying, trying to live the commandments, and seeking guidance from Priesthood leaders and other active members.

    But I think that Greenfrog (#9) is correct in seeing fear as one of the main reasons for family members being uncomfortable with some expressions of doubt–especially if Sunstone or Dialogue are mentioned. One of the dangers that some members see in some publications (as well as many posts in the Bloggernacle) is that they seem to emphasize the intellectual over the spiritual approach to seeking religious truth.

    Tracy M, what you termed “alternative areas for exploring our faith,” can appear to many as cleverly designed temptations, which are particularly directed towards people with an intellectual bent. They promise deeper understanding, but often at least some of the writers seem to really aim at undermining faith in traditional LDS doctrine, history, and practice.

    Most of us know at least a few people who, when newly exposed to a plethora of supposed “historical facts” that appeared to contradict LDS beliefs, gradually (or promptly!) seemed to forget about the myriad personal spiritual experiences they had in the past. Too often, the next step was to abandon their faith in favor of perceived intellectual “enlightenment.”

    Hence, for some staunch LDS, to seek answers to doubts mainly from other doubters can seem like pouring gasoline rather than water on a burning house.

  22. I really liked John Dehlin’s “How to Stay in the LDS Church After Becoming Disaffected” and his “Stages of Faith” podcasts are also helpful. Krista Tippetts discussion on “Doubt, a History” was also really good. I’d add all these urls, but I tried that before and it was erased.

  23. People who say “I know” the Church is true don’t really know it and are afraid of what they don’t know.

    I find this generalization just as offensive as the notion that all Sunstone subscribers are [fill in the blanks].

    We are all at different places in our spiritual growth, taking various routes on our diverse paths. I can accept that others have doubts and I try to support them.

    But I resent very much being told that I “don’t really know the church is true,” or that am I naive if I don’t share the same doubts about aspects of church history that some do. I explored many cburch history issues to my satisfaction when I was at BYU and had access to the library there. I pay a huge price daily for the privilege of having the Holy Ghost in my life each day, and I recognize the gift of being able to know.

    I would be lying if I said that I don’t know. It surprises me that another person who has never met me could so easily leap to the conclusion that nobody can.

  24. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think it is right to remember to your friend that this life constitutes a spiritual struggle. Our struggles are different, but the solutions to our struggles are not that variable. “Our own paths” are variable, and they lead everywhere possible. What is sure is that there are going to be difficulties to the nth degree. If it is coming easy, that is a problem in and of itself. Some people are haunted by doubt. Another person with very strong faith might be plagued with dogmatism and fixity, and an inability to learn. Another person, like me, to whom faith comes easy, might struggle constantly with personal weaknesses and sins, and the spiritual loss that comes from playing cover up. Another person might have tremendous responsibility for the well being of others that causes them deep pain and stress, and that they would escape for their own selves. Etc.

    The path through is faith, repentance, covenant making, the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and, tellingly, enduring to the end. Many many many won’t endure. And one can hardly blame them.

    ~

  25. Naismith, I think you’re offended by a different definition of “know.”

  26. I really think we need more of a culture in the church of being accepting of people who have questions. All to often, it seems that having a question is seen as something dangerous. But people always are going to have questions. It doesn’t need to even be any more unorthodox in behavior, or necessarily change in response to people’s questions — it just has to be willing to listen to people who have earnest questions.

    If a person doesn’t feel they can explain who they are to others in the church community, they will go somewhere else where they are accepted. They don’t even need to have other church members agree with them — but they do need church members who express love and support towards them, and consider them good people, even if they do have questions.

    I’ve seen a lot of people stop coming to church because no one was willing to take their questions, and therefore themselves, seriously. The people with questions who do stay seem to be the people who grew up with parents who did subscribe to Dialogue or Sunstone, and thus felt that questioning was OK, even if their bishop or YW leader didn’t approve. So they never really felt alone in the same way.

  27. That’s poorly worded, rather:

    I think Kevis has a different definition of know than those who “know the church is true.”

  28. What Sue said. What RT said. What Thomas said.

    I have nowhere near the level of faith I did ten years ago. Coming through this has been messy and ugly and painful. But there ARE kindred spirits out there and answers are highly overrated. There is a kind of peace that comes from abiding with the questions.

    When I lost my faith, I crashed and burned. If anybody knows how to make a soft landing, I’d love to hear it. My observation is that this path is strewn with anger, cynicism and broken and almost-broken families, and that the best recovery is often just apathy. Some people come through happier and healthier and whole, but no longer LDS. Sometimes the safest response is to stop looking and stay where you are.

  29. Re: Ann in 29

    I think the best way to have a soft landing is to already have a parachute. Not great advice for people currently grappling with issues of raith, but I do think that if the church was more accepting of people with legitimate questions (as opposed to excuses to stop living standards, which certainly happens as well), then this sort of crash and burn wouldn’t happen nearly as frequently.

  30. Amen to the idea of understanding spiritual gifts better.

    D&C 46: 13-14 — “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” If some have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then it seems logical to assert that even more are going to have to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet – and myriad other uniquely Mormon teachings.

    I have no problem with saying things like, “I know the Gospel is true and that the Lord has restored the Church through Joseph Smith” – but I also would love to hear more people stand in front of the congregation and say, “I believe . . .”

    I wish more members really understood that better.

  31. As one who is in the middle of deep struggling with my testimony I can relate to your friends. If I could go to church without being judged and without feeling like the only reason some people try to talk to me is because they want to fellowship me-not because they have a genuine interest in me or getting to know me. The problem is that when I wasn’t attending due to health reasons I never heard anything from anyone, once I tried to talk to my bishop about my testimony struggles I suddenly was getting phone calls and visits from people I didn’t know. Those visits and calls set me back further because they feel so insincere.

    The hard part is that my friends who are non-members or have left the church are so compassionate to how emotionally painful my struggles are. The people in my life from church (with about 2 exceptions) are very quick to tell me all of my problems will go away if I just attend church and stop thinking about these things.

    I think more compassion as a whole is needed for people who are struggling-whether or not we can understand why they struggling.

  32. There is peace in facing the darkness with eyes open. And there is always more light than we think.

    Thank you, J. – you have refreshed my hope at a time when I desparately need it. And thanks to all at BCC, as you have helped me tremendously in my efforts to get through my “black or white” stage of faith.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    Naismith, I apologize if I wrote in a way as to offend. That was not my intention. Let me try again to articulate what I was trying to say.

    I’m not a real big fan of the use of the word “know” in bearing testimony. I don’t use it myself. I understand why others do, and it’s ok with me that they do it, but I think sometimes people lose sight of the fact that when we use that particular word we are doing so in a rhetorical way to indicate a very strong faith. But when it comes down to it we all walk by faith in this life. I’ve known lots of people who stood at that pulpit and swore with deep emotion that they know the church is true, who, when they learned some little thing they weren’t prepared for, their faith wilted like flowers or broke like glass and they lost their testimonies. This happens all too often. So I’m not as impressed by the “knowledge” rhetoric of testimony bearing as some people may be.

    If people really “knew” the Church was true in an epistemological sense, then they wouldn’t fear anything that could be said against it. But a lot of people who use the semantic rhetoric of knowledge in their testimonies realize that there is much about the Church that they don’t know anything about, and I think for some of these people there is a fear that they might learn something that would upset their testimonies.

    To me, fear of knowledge about the Church is inconsistent with true epistemic knowledge that the Church is true. But in my view, no one has such knowledge, for we all walk by faith.

    In other words, we should not confuse the “knowledge” expressed rhetorically in Mormon testimony bearing with epistemic knowledge about the Church. Some people confuse those two things and think their testimony “knowledge” makes them impervious to critical argument–which it does not. And some people deep down understand that their testimony “knowledge” doesn’t really protect them from critical argument, so they fear such argument.

  34. We have built a culture that is largely unresponsive/understanding of those who are struggling. Everyone puts on their best dress on Sunday’s and for some the outward appearance must be a manifestation of the inward nature. Not true. If everyone could only dress in accordance to their spiritual strength then we would see alot more jeans, t-shirts, and tank tops and a lot fewer white shirts and ties. In this type of environment we might be more successful at fostering those with doubts.

    And don’t even get me started on correlation…

  35. Even the Bloggernacle suffers a bit from this. Personally, I often feel hesitant to contribute to the great discussions here on BCC because I don’t have all the references, quotes, and theories at my fingertips. So, for someone such as myself, who is doubting their intellectualism, the ‘nacle only serves to exacerbate my condition ;-)

  36. Maybe “doubt” is the wrong word. It carries too much baggage. “Asking questions” is a better description, and there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Getting upset with people for asking quesions suggests we don’t have answers. Rather than get upset, they should listen and provide those answers (or point them to someone who might give them some insight into those questions).

    And don’t confuse LDS issues with family issues. Everytime I read some Exmo talk about a rotten experience with their *family* and blame it all on the *Church*, I think: Why are their family problems the Church’s fault? Your friends should remind their family that they are now adults. They need to deal with their own religious questions (which is within their power) and let their family members deal with their own issues.

  37. Brewhaha, I’m a BCC Perma, and I still don’t know how to make a footnote! Worry not.

  38. prairiechuck says:

    Dave (29) one reason ex-mos conflate family issues with church issues is that family often use the church as a cudgel. They quote GAs and prophets to legitimize the nasty way they treat their doubting family member.

    I agree with #34–“Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge”

  39. Tracy M.- This is a wonderful post.

    One thing I find odd, is that in my interactions with almost anyone who I would consider a true blue through and through mormon is that they are never really about squelching doubters. I think a challenge is that sometimes it seems so easy for some of us to sometimes get answers to prayers and to have faith in those answers that it because hard for us to understand why someone else isn’t having that divine connection the way we are. I have to say when I have hit “intellectual” road blocks, I have always been able to find a supportive person to guide me through. When I have had spiritual roadblocks, I have had to mainly untangle them myself. Often it is perhaps the inteleectual roadblock that is disbling my spiritual capacity,and it requires me to have a “paradigm” shift, in order to see things clearly again.

  40. Re Dave in 37:

    “Asking questions” is a better description, and there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Getting upset with people for asking questions suggests we don’t have answers.

    Ah, but in most wards, there is something wrong with asking questions! Culturally, it’s very much frowned upon, not matter what the official policy is. Unspoken, or even counter-official-policy cultural taboos can be very powerful.

    I hope we can all work to make people who have questions feel more welcome in church. Talk to your bishop or RS president about how you have friends that feel they can’t bring up questions in church, and that they’ll struggle much less if they just feel that their concerns (and therefore themselves as people) are taken seriously.

  41. re: 12

    Where do these ideas enter the Mormon psyche? Good question.

    Perhaps it originates with conference statements like “….It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud….” Rhetoric like that still flows out of SLC on a regular basis. It’s either/or, all-true-or-a-fraud. While there is scriptural precedent for this view (Corinthians 15:14, etc), it becomes quite problematic when extended to all the foundational stories of this Church. Way too many historical problems to paint yourself into that corner, imo.

    I know nothing of Church culture in Utah, but could imagine there are powerful social incentives to avoid asking the tough questions.

  42. Aaron Brown says:

    Great post, Tracy.

    And really great comment at #34, Kevin. I used to really struggle with the rhetoric of “knowing” in the Church, but once I recognized that all our professions of “knowledge” are merely subjective statements of really strong conviction, than the irriation faded.

    Aaron B

  43. At a time when I was caught in the middle of this conflict — I was at BYU, to make matters worse — Eloise Bell gave a lecture about doubt and faith. I wish I had written somthing down, because I will probably misrepresent it, but I seem to remember this idea: that faith and doubt are not opposites, but part of the same process. At any rate it saved me in a crisis, mostly knowing someone else was thinking about doubt.

    In my own experience, it was important, like Sam said, to find others going down the same road in and out of the church. A wise man (a Methodist pastor) encouraged me to see those who could not deal with my doubts with charity and understanding so there would be a place for me if and when I wanted one. It turned out to be essential.

  44. MikeInWeHo- exactly! I have heard, oh so many times, “It’e either all true, or it’s the grandest fraud”. A problematic corner to paint oneself into, indeed.

    I know nothing of Utah, either.

    Maybe “doubt” is the wrong word. It carries too much baggage. “Asking questions” is a better description, and there is nothing wrong with asking questions.

    No, in this case, doubt is indeed the correct word. This individual is experiencing deep doubt- even extending to the attonement and the existence of God. That sounds like doubt to me. Let’s not pretty it up with other names.

    FWIW, I don’t even think there is anything wrong with doubting; if it happens, you have to deal with it. There is nothing we can feel that God does not already know and understand. I don’t have to tread lightly around the Lord. He can handle my doubt, or any other uncomfortable thing I may feel. If someone is not granted the spiritual gift of resolute faith, one has to work it out for himself. How else can we own our testimony or ultimately come to a place of faith at all?

  45. President Monson has said on numerous occasions words to the effect: “Remember, faith and doubt cannot exist in the mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. Cast out doubt. Cultivate faith.” Thomas S. Monson, “Be Thou an Example,” Ensign, May 2005, 112

    I may misunderstand him (and others who have stated the same principle).

    But my understanding was that the absence of doubt means “certainty” and that certainty is akin to “knowledge”, not “faith.”

    On the other hand, if he simply means not to “dwell” on the negative (“doubts”), but to accentuate the positive (“faith”), (see Bing Crosby song) in our normal day-to-day life, I have less problem with his statement.

    I have plenty of doubts. Some have resolved themselves over time. Lots have not. At a time when I faced the “darkness with eyes open” (as JNS puts it) I did find there was more light than I thought. Perhaps not as much light as many of my brothers and sisters who are certain, but light enough, and faith enough.

  46. Tracy:

    Do you have any input from my comment #3?

    Also, from your #13, it looks like my comment #6 might not have been very well written. What do you think I was syaing in my comment #6?

  47. I have two sides to my answer for the question, “What are the options?”

    Firstly, if you are struggling, don’t let members of the Church shun you. Remember, they are shunning your doubt, not you, and chances are they are shunning your doubts because they are afraid of their own doubts (as has been mentioned already.) Stick it in their faces. My husband, who was converted to the Church later in life, and I recently had an issue in our ward. I had a 40-minute screaming match with my bishop. That is not something I have ever done, and I hope it’s something I never have to do again. Ordained or not, however, the bishop did not understand what behavior was appropriate to teaching rather than upbraiding someone who did not understand certain aspects of our culture. My point is that lifetime members are often in a certain comfort zone that they NEED to be shaken out of. They need to see beyond their own experience. Be careful with this, of course. Don’t have a screaming match if a few soft words will do.

    It may be hard to instruct others how to help you, but oftentimes they truly don’t know what to say. If they shut down the avenue to discuss doubts, blast it open again. Tell them “I am talking about this with you because I thought I could trust you to discuss it lovingly and intelligently. There are other sources I could have gone to and gotten some of the answers I need, but I came to you. I hope I’m not wrong.” Lay it out on the table for them. You (and they) might be surprised when they rise to the occasion.

    Secondly, I have found multiple times in my life that there is only one real source for answers. Stop trying to find answers in the minds of other people. They are likely to be just as clouded and confused as you are. If they are not, they will still not be able to give you the answers you need, only the ones they needed. It is good to go to others to gather information, to look at a topic in a different way, but always remember there is only one Source who has the real answers.

    Periods of doubt are the cruxes of a spiritual journey. In those moments, you will decide the course of your ultimate path. Sometimes you won’t find answers, but you will always find the choice to hold to your doubts or to let go of them and just believe.

  48. Kevin Christensen says:

    I find the Stages of Faith too doctrinaire to be personally useful. I prefer the Perry Scheme for Ethical and Cognitive Growth. It’s based on a study of the experiences of students entering a University experience. It focuses on maturing understanding of epistomology, rather than on doctrine, which I find more generally useful. Veda Hale sent me this summmary several years ago.

    PERRY SCHEME OF COGNITIVE AND ETHICAL GROWTH TABLE OF TRAITS BY POSITION AND TRANSITION
    POSITION 1 – Basic Duality. (Garden of Eden Position: All will be well.)
    The person perceives meaning divided into two realms-Good/Bad, Right/wrong, We/They, Success/Failure, etc. They believe that knowledge and goodness are quantitative, that there are absolute answers for every problem and authorities know them and will teach them to those who will work hard and memorize them. Agency is “Out there”. The person is so embedded here that there is no place from which to observe themselves, yet they have a dim sense of there being a boundary to Otherness somewhere that gives their Eden-like world view boundary.

    Transition 1-2 – Dualism modified. (Snake whispers.) The person starts to be aware of others and of differing opinions, even among authorities. This started the feeling of uncertainty. But they decide it is part of the authority’s job to pose problems. It takes hard work to deny the legitimacy of diversity and to keep the belief in the simplicity of truth.

    (It should be kept in mind that in any of the transition states it is easy for the person to become depressed. It takes time for the “guts to catch up with leaps of mind.” When a sense of loss is accorded the honor of acknowledgement, movement is more rapid and the risk of getting stuck in apathy, alienation, or depression is reduced. When one steps into new perceptions he is unlikely to take another until he comes to terms with the losses attendant on the first.)

    POSITION 2 – Multiplicity Prelegitimate. (Resisting snake)

    Now the person moves to accept that there is diversity, but they still think there are TRUE authorities who are right, that the others are confused by complexities or are just frauds. They think they are with the true authorities and are right while all others are wrong. They accept that their good authorities present problems so they can learn to reach right answers independently.

    TRANSITION: 2-3 – Dualism modified

    Now the person admits that good authorities can admit to not knowing all the answers yet, but they will teach what they know now and teach the rest when they have it. They accept that disciplines are divided into the definite and the vague, but that in the end even science fails. Though they have given up dividing meaning into just two realms, they still feel knowledge and goodness are quantitative and that agency is “out there”.

    POSITION 3 – Multiplicity Legitimate but Subordinate. (Snake’s logic considered)

    The person still feels that the nature of things naturally produces differing opinions, but it’s as it should be, because the Authorities will figure it all out and hand on their conclusions eventually.

    ALL OF THE POSITIONS ABOVE FEEL ABANDONMENT IN UNSTRUCTURED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS. WHEN CHANGES IN THINKING START TO HAPPEN, IT CAN BE A DANGEROUS TIME. (The forbidden fruit has been partaken and one is out of the Garden of Eden.)

    There are seven ways a person can go.

    Transition 1. The person can make the transition by modifying dualism drastically to where one no longer trusts authority to have any answers, and they think it will be a long, long time before they will; therefore, there is really no way to be judged by them. Bitterness sets in, as it seems as if rewards don’t come by hard work and rightness, but by good expression and arbitrary factors. With an inability to distinguish between abstract thought and “bull”, disillusion settles and blinds the person to where they become dangerously cynical and take advantage of any opportunity to get gain.

    Transition 2. The person could decide that, if there are so many different answers a depending on individual perspective, that it is impossible for any true judgment; therefore anything goes. All is of equal value. To have an opinion makes it right.

    Transition 3. Same as above, except it dawns that there are some facts that, if known, can make for a better choice among the many.

    Transition 4. Anger and frustration win out. Instead of becoming cynical and opportunistic, person acts out negatively.

    Transition 5. The person is moving closer to accepting relativity. He trusts authorities to have valid grounds for evaluations. To get along, one needs to accept that authorities are using reasonable information in making their answers. So the person tries to discover what it is authorities think and want.

    Transition 6. Person realizes that on some matters, reasonable people reasonably disagree, that knowledge is qualitative and is context-dependent. They begin weighing factors and approaches in ways that force comparison of patterns of thought, they think about thinking and this occupies the foreground. But they still tend to want to conform so much that they have trouble thinking independently.

    Transition 7. This position between multiplicity and relativity is now closer to relativity. The person sees that thinking relatively isn’t just what the authorities he has been dealing have reasoned out and want him to accept, it is the way the world works, in most cases.

    NOW UNCERTAINTIES OR DIVERSITIES MULTIPLY UNTIL THEY TIP THE BALANCE AGAINST CERTAINTY AND HOMOGENEITY, PRECIPITATING A CRISIS THAT FORCES THE CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW VISION OF THE WORLD, BE IT ONE MARKED BY CYNICISM, ANXIETY, OR A NEW SENSE OF FREEDOM.

    POSITION 5 Relativism discovered.

    The person accepts that all thinking is relative for everyone and are much taken with this new perspective. It could be a time of profound anxiety as the person struggles to understand how to make right choices. They decide they can and must do something about this new world view, but they may spend a long time before sensing a need for commitment. They can take responsibility for a task at hand, but don’t yet realize they have a responsibility to choose commitments.

    THIS POSITION COULD MAKE FOR A PERSON WHOSE AGENCY FOR MAKING SENSE HAS VANISHED ENTIRELY. THEY COULD ALSO REACT BY POSTPONING DECISIONS, FALLING INTO APATHY OR GOING INTO A RAGE. IT COULD GET SO BAD IT COULD APPEAR THE PERSON NEEDS CLINICAL HELP. THE POTENTIAL FOR CYNICISM COULD BECOME EQUALLY ALARMING EDUCATIONALLY.

    If the person RETREATS, rage takes over and he loses agency to make sense. He survives by avoiding complexity and ambivalence and regresses to Dualism, position 2, (multiplicity prelegitimate). He becomes moralistic righteous and has “righteous” hatred for otherness. He complains childlike and demands of authority figures to just tell him what they want.

    If the person at this point doesn’t retreat, he may go into a state of TEMPORIZING. His agency for making sense has vanished, but he postpones any movement. He may reconsign agency to some possible event. If so, Guilt and shame accompany the uneasiness about a failure of responsibility they feel hopeless to cope with.

    Or if not either of the above then the person may try to ESCAPE. He becomes apathetic. His agency for making sense has also vanished, but in his feeling of being alienated, he abandons responsibility and uses his understanding of multiplicity and relativism as a way to avoid commitment. He is drifting and has some sense that later he will find himself to be living a hollow life. This drifting with insecurity about “goodness” of his position can make for such a detachment that precludes any meaningful involvement. He starts to rely on impulse. THIS CAN BECOME A SETTLED CONDITION. “For the students reporting their recovery of care,…their period of alienation appears as a time of transition. In this time the self is lost through the very effort to hold onto it in the face of inexorable change in the world’s appearance. It is a space of meaninglessness between received belief and creative faith. In their rebirth they experience in themselves the origin or meanings, which they had previously expected to come to them from outside.” (page 92 of the Perry Scheme.)

    POSITION 6. Commitment Foreseen.

    FROM HERE ON THE PERSON WILL FEEL FRUSTRATION IN TOO-STRUCTURED OF AN ENVIRONMENT.

    Now the person thinks he is alone in an uncertain world, making his own decisions, with no one to say he is right. He makes choices aware of relativism and accepts that the agency to do so is within the individual. He sees that to move forward he must make commitments coming from within. He foresees the challenge of responsibility and feels he needs to get on with it. He also senses that the first steps require arbitrary faith or willing suspension of disbelief. He knows he needs to narrow his focus, center himself and become aware of internal, what could be called, spiritual strength.

    He starts to see how he must be embracing and transcending of: certainty/doubt, focus/breadth, idealism/realism, tolerance/contempt, stability/flexibility. He senses need for affirmation and incorporation of existential or logical polarities. He senses need to hold polarities in tension in the interest of Truth.

    He begins to maintain meaning, coherence, and value while conscious of their partial, limited, and contradictable nature. He begins to understand symbol as symbols and acknowledges the time-place relativity of them. He begins to affirm and hold absolutes in symbols while still acknowledging them to be relativistic. He begins to embrace viewpoints in conflict with his own. Now the person has a field-independent learning style, has learned to scan for information, accepts that hierarchical and analytic notes are evidence of sharpening of cognition. He is willing to take risks, is flexible, perceptive, broad, strategy-minded, and analytical.

    The TRANSITION position between Position 6, “Commitment Foreseen”, and position 7, “Commitments in Relativism developed” is as follows:

    Besides the above, the person feels he is lost if he doesn’t decide, that if he can once make one decision, everything else will be OK.

    POSITION 7. Commitments in Relativism developed.

    The person makes first commitment while being aware of Relativism, and has a vivid sense of CLAIMING AND POWER. He now more fully feels that agency is within him and foresees responsibility with excitement and anticipates more empowering as he makes more commitments and choices. The TRANSITION between Position 7 and Position 8, sees the person having made his first commitment but feeling that everything else is still in limbo and he is foreseeing problems coming from trying to juggling responsibility. He senses need to be: wholehearted–but tentative, to be able to fight for his own values–yet respect others. Now, besides the other ways of studying, the person begins to read not to conciliate Authority, but to learn on his own initiative.

    POSITION 8. Commitments in Relativism developed continues.

    The person makes several more Commitments while realizing he must find balance and establish painful priorities of energy, action and time. He starts to experience periodically serenity and well-being in the midst of complexity. He has a sense of living with trust in the midst of heightened awareness of risk. He accepts fact that order and disorder are fluctuations in experience. He searches for models of knowledgeability and courage to affirm commitment in full awareness of uncertainty. HE STILL NEEDS TO RECOGNIZE THAT EVEN THE MODEL MUST BE TRANSCENDED, AND HE SENSES HE NEEDS TO DEVELOP IRONY. The TRANSITION between Position 8 and 9 brings trauma. The person feels everything is contradictory and he just can’t make sense out of life’s dilemmas. But he begins to develop sense of irony and sees he must embrace viewpoints in conflict with his own, not in the old multiplistic way of “separate but equal” or “live and let live” but truly embrace them with what might as well be called “love”.

    POSITION 9. Commitments in Relativism further developed.

    The person now has a developed sense of irony and can more easily embrace other’s viewpoints. He can accept life as just that “life”, just the way IT is! Now he holds the commitments he makes in a condition of “PROVISIONAL ULTIMACY”, meaning that for him what he chooses to be truth IS his truth, and he acts as if it is ultimate truth, but there is still a “provision” for change. He has no illusions about having “arrived” permanently on top of some heap, he is ready and knows he will have to retrace his journey over and over, but he has hope that he will do it each time more wisely. He is aware that he is developing his IDENTITY through Commitment. He can affirm the inseparable nature of the knower and the known–meaning he knows he as knower contributes to what he calls known. He helps weld a community by sharing realization of aloneness and gains strength and intimacy through this shared vulnerability. He has discarded obedience in favor of his own agency, and he continues to select, judge, and build. veda

  49. Tracy,

    It seems to me, the unknowledgeable convert, that having a forum of people who have experienced a crisis of faith and come out the other side with a love of Christ and the restored Gospel intact, would be a good thing. So why are these alternative areas for exploring our faith shunned and even feared in more traditional circles? Why do my friends have to hide their association with “them”, or more accurately, with me?

    It seems to me that the unknowledgeable life-long member could also use a forum of people who have experienced a crisis of faith.

  50. Kevin-

    Lengthy, but very useful. Thanks.
    Tracy, I recently read Richard Bushman’s diary “On the Road With Joseph Smith;” at one point in his diary, he gives an explanation to someone perplexed by the information in RSR (I think that was the context), and he ends with his declaration that “I believe more than ever.”
    I think that should be the outcome of any crisis of faith. I have them periodically, and when I come through them believing less, I get back into the questioning, searching and prayer until I come out with a new insight that allows me to “believe more than ever.” I may believe in a more complex way at the end of the process, but I know I have come through the process successfully if I would feel comfortable going out and teaching the missionary discussions with the same spiritual confidence I had as a missionary.
    Tell your friend to never settle for believing less in the basic propositions of the restored Gospel, because they are true, and the answers that make this possible are out there for people who want them; we usually have to make room for them, however, by jettisoning overly-simplistic concepts of things like prophethood and inspiration.

  51. I could have used some support during my dark days from 1997-2003 when I hated going to church and felt constantly alone. I had no support, and even had a bishop who was screwing me over (not literally—but he definitely was abusing his position of power).

    The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I prayed long ago in that small room in the MTC whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, and dang it, God answered my prayer. So in 2004 I finally said whatever to everything, and let it all go. I didn’t leave the church, but went every Sunday. The pain has slowly gone away and I’m now a counselor in the branch presidency in a branch that needs my help and my knowledge.

    Did I have to go through all that crap? Did I have to hate going to church for nearly seven years? Did I have to hate associating myself with Mormons during all that time, knowing that they were the only kinds of people I really wanted to be around? I knew if I let go of that association, and begun associating with non-members, I would lose it all, and dang it, God answered my prayer, so I couldn’t let it go.

  52. Thanks Tracy for this post. I think that overcoming the idea that doubt is not sin is a big challenge in Mormon culture. Having trusted friends to support us and finding models who have experienced doubt was important for me. Reading Michael D. Quinn’s “To Whom Shall We Go?’ Historical Patterns Of Restoration Believers With Serious Doubts” (which was published in Sunstone) was helpful as well.

    I am intrigued by your Dialogue/Sunstone disclaimer about not belonging or subscribing to such publications. You write for a blog that is affiliated with Dialogue and you are going to be on a Sunstone panel in a couple of weeks.

  53. I wish that I had found this site years ago when I was going through my crisis of faith. Instead I found many anti sites that, looking back now I wish I had never surfed those waters.

    My doubts began after I received my endowments.I continued going back to the temple for a few years but I was unable to keep my doubts on the back burner. When I expressed them to two of my closest friends, one told me she couldn’t deal with me & I haven’t spoken to her since. She is now serving her third mission with her husband.I hope she doesn’t run into any doubters! The other is my oldest & dearest friend & she tried,she really did but when I would go to the temple with her she would avoid any questions & talk about her many children & then ooops it’s time to go. Being that we were on opposite ends of the country we didn’t have many opportunities to attend a session together. After a while I no longer qualified for TR so talking about the temple w/o being in the temple was & is unthinkable to my friend.As I guess it should be. Not so on the anti sites.

    One GC I heard Pres. Hinckley say about Joseph Smith and the restoration (paraphrasing) “It’s either true or we are engaged in a work of fraud”. I walked out & haven’t been back in many years.

    My husband is Catholic though not practicing & my two children were in Catholic school, I thought what the heck at least we will all be the same religion. I spoke to a wonderful Priest & told him of everything I doubted. He told me doubt is a good thing. It makes us question and learn.He assured me that doubt is not a sin. That is what doubt felt like to me within my LDS circle,sin.

    I miss the church. I even miss the temple. I still read the Book of Mormon & catch GC on cable.
    I’ve sworn off all anti web sites & boards. Not long ago I happened upon D&C 46:13-14 & I thought “where was this scripture five years ago?”

    I don’t think I’ll ever return to activity in the church it would be too confusing for my family.But I’m glad to have stumbled on this site and appreciate the collective wisdom in this group.
    Thanks for being here.I’ll end this & go back to reading.

  54. StillConfused says:

    Jackie, Even when I question things, I am not a big fan of “anti” sites on any matter… too much negative energy. I don’t think that helps the process of learning and discovering.

  55. Thank you, Jackie. I hope somehow you can end up attending actively some day, but, if not, I hope you can have the Spirit with you always. You have been given that gift, and you can “receive” it inside or outside the confines of the building.

  56. I am intrigued by your Dialogue/Sunstone disclaimer about not belonging or subscribing to such publications. You write for a blog that is affiliated with Dialogue and you are going to be on a Sunstone panel in a couple of weeks.

    Kris, I know- that probably looks very strange. But to this day, I have honestly never read a copy of either publication. I came to BCC via an invitation because the admin liked my writing style, and I’m on the panel at Sunstone because I am a member of BCC. As I said before, I have friends who have been greatly helped by association with those groups, and I take issue with neither. I look forward to learning more than I contribute at the symposium next month.

    John F. Re: #3- Sorry about the lag-time. Mormon Stories, a link to Jeff Lindsay’s site Mormanity, I told him about Sunstone and Dialogue helping friends, and I sent him a link to the symposium in Seattle, where there will be a workshop on Faith Crises.

    John F. Re; #6- well, I am in no position to defend Sunstone or it’s official position on things. What I do have is real-life experience of people I admire and respect who are affiliated- Kristine Haglund and Kevin Barney, to name my favorites. There are things I hear from the Sunstone arena that give me pause, however those things, as I said before, are based on the individual interpretations, rather than organizaional stands. Is that helpful?

  57. Someone posted the mormonstories document about staying in the Church even through doubts. I don’t believe that document really represents the whole issue, and it’s main message seemd to be “don’t worry about it, and don’t worry about seeking what is wrong with yourself.”

    While the author has some great points about not having to agree with all the members on doctrine, procedure, etc. it seems to lend a lot of help to someone not interested in changing their opinions. As Elder Oaks talked about, the gospel isn’t just about knowing, it’s about becoming. If we sit back and find a way to merely “stay” in the Church we might be missing the boat in the end, after all.

    As to why some people are afraid of online recourses and alternate magazines/publications, they likely haven’t read them. I find different opinions and ideas fascinating; that’s why I seek more light and knowledge in the online community and other publications. Certainly I encounter some chaff in the wheat, but that doesn’t concern me as much as the fact that at least I am looking for food.

  58. Rhetoric like that still flows out of SLC on a regular basis. It’s either/or, all-true-or-a-fraud. While there is scriptural precedent for this view (Corinthians 15:14, etc), it becomes quite problematic when extended to all the foundational stories of this Church.

    Yes, and no. Something had to happen objectively, but our vision of it in our mind, especially of non-first hand experience doesn’t necessarily correspond at all well to this objective truly. If we confuse our mental picture of what we think happened versus what actually happened, then we can get in trouble.

    For the church to be able to stand on its foundational claims, there was some sort of divine visit by a resurrected being whose name could be relatively well-rendered in English as Moroni, and who showed Joseph Smith where there was an actual metal record of inhabitants here on the American continent. Some events that this record contain include a voyage from Jerusalem to the American continent, and Christ’s postresurrection appearance here.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure how confident we can be that our mental picture of any of the details corresponds well with reality. For example, were the plates gold, or some goldish-appearing alloy? How good a historian was (trained soldier) Mormon? Is B of M history necessarily any better than OT history, which is pretty sketchy? Geographical details are almost worthlessly vague. How many of the people that Mormon compiled his records from were decent historians? How reliable was their narration? For example, how about the Mulekites? Their language apparently bore no relationship to the Nephites’ language, and they had no records, nor religious similarity — the only apparent connection to Mulek was a four hundred year old oral geneaology from King Zarahemla! (Omni 1:14-18) Maybe when they heard that the Nephites belong to a specially favored group from across the sea, they responded, “Yes, us too! We’re just as good as you!” How well do we really understand the B of M?

    Upshot: Just because we think we know something, doesn’t mean we do. So while I do believe in objective truth, because of our incomplete knowledge, figuring out what belongs in that category is a rather difficult.

  59. Look, a large fraction of intellectually minded LDS (I might guess at least 30 percent — though this is pure speculation) go through a period in their lives when they feel that (whenever they honestly and logically confront the issue within themselves) the church is more likely to be false than true.

    Even if you are one of these people, there are a lot of very good reasons you might stay in the church:

    1. You’re certainly not sure that the church ISN’T true.

    2. You remember that you used to feel more sure about the gospel and hope that, if you remain faithful, you might again feel more sure in a few years.

    3. You recognize that the church improves the lives of your family and those around you.

    4. You feel that, on the whole, being a Mormon makes you a better person.

    5. You don’t want to disappoint family or friends.

    6. You don’t want to take the responsibility for leading those who look up to you (children, siblings, close friends, etc.) out of the church.

    7. You are profoundly emotionally attached to the church and recognize the leaving would cause you personally an enormous amount of pain.

    8. You love church history. You have a tremendous affection for Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and all the others (warts and all).

    9. The church feels like home.

    Of course, I could go on and on. I don’t think that staying in the church for these reasons is a bad thing at all. You can tell your friends they don’t need to feel guilty for staying in the church for the reasons above while they work on their testimonies.

    If everyone who doubted the church immediately left it, our membership would quickly dwindle. The strength of our church is that it is sufficiently “healthy” — and full of readily apparent “good fruits” — that people can and do seriously doubt the doctrine and still remain faithful for decades.

  60. Sue said in #6:

    But in REAl life? No support at all. We really aren’t a hospital for sinners, we operate more as a social club for saints. Not that I expect anyone but me to be responsible for my own faith, but it would be really nice to have people to talk with about it, or an institutional resource for trying to work through some of the issues. I think the naccle helps fill that void nicely.

    This breaks my heart because I’ve found it to be so true. My wife and I haven’t really participated a lot in our new ward. It’s not because of a lack of faith; it’s not because we don’t get along with our leaders; and it’s not that anyone has been mean to us. We just don’t find as many opportunities to socialize because the ward is so big, and without that “social club” aspect, there’s just not a lot to our church attendance. [sigh] Thank God for the ‘naccle. It may not rise to the level of worship, but it certainly gets me feeling connected to the Church of Jesus Christ, sometimes at least as much as Sunday services.

  61. Kevin, Is there a position 4 – or just a misnumbering?

    Thanks.

  62. Timer – Wow, your list is amazingly accurate. These ARE the reasons I stay and have stayed. And I’m very glad I have. I don’t have faith, the answers I get to my prayers are more like, well, you’ll figure it out eventually, and right now that – combined with the other reasons you list – seems to be enough. But there is a goodness in the church that I can’t turn away from.

  63. Sue, just so you know, I think your last comment is the very foundational definition of faith – acting on a desire to know, even in the face of great difficulty and frustration. The ability to endure purely by faith should be included in a “gifts of the Spirit” list, IMO.

  64. I have found that what silver rain said in 47 is crucial That there is only 1 real source for answers. When I went through my crises of faith 2-3 times I would cloister myself with a lot of reading material, and just pray my heart out, (Think Enos). I had found that as I try to ask other people no matter what side: faithful, or non faithful that they either were just as clouded or were just unhelpful. Alot of people think they are clear on the issues but the I wanted to know for myself. I can understand why Nephi wanted to see what his father saw.

    I have found that God does answer those who turn to him just as Nephi said, each of those times I had some rather miraculous experiences, and I can now see things more clearly such that what bothered me doesn’t bother me anymore.

    What Dan Elsworth said is important also in 50. In order to successfully navigate through the crises I felt I needed to come back to believe more than ever. This did happen to me (by the way that book by Bushman is invaluable on the inner workings of an intellectual historian and his own testimony) While I can understand those who stay but don’t believe (I think its better than leaving) I would hope that they eventually come back to believing, because much of the greatest blessings comes from not just attendance but from developing the faith to perform miracles, receiving revelation, gaining further knowledge, etc.

  65. Yes Sue I think its admirable that you continue in the face of your doubts. I believe that if you continue you will eventually come to understand things.

  66. I have two thoughts on this thread. First, Sunstone. That magazine for me is such a mixed bag. There are tremendous, faith-promoting articles that I’ve read in it. Yet, there were also tremendously faith-attacking articles in it, too. (Or, at least, articles that seemed to me to attack faith) I would hesitate to encourage anyone to read it, unless I knew the person’s outlook really well first. Maybe that will change, but that’s how I feel right now.

    Second, I remember giving a talk on faith, and I told the entire congregation that doubts in and of themselves aren’t bad things. They happen, whether you want them to or not. The question is, will you give the Lord enough time to answer your doubt? Often, I have had my doubts answered over time, sometimes a long period of time. Yet there are also certain questions that haven’t gotten answered. If you stick with God, praying, studying, serving others, I firmly believe that God will help you with your struggles. My talk said a lot more than that, but afterwards, quite a few people thanked me for the words I had said. I think there are a lot more active members with doubts than any of us realize, and they are often ones who get up and bear their testimonies month after month.

  67. I’m enjoying being able to read honest discussion about these issues without all of the screaming and insults that often occur in the process…bravo to all of you.

    I have two questions related to this thread if you can all humor me while I try to articulate it with clarity AND brevity.Even as a life long member of the Church I have had periods of doubt, or felt that the light wasn’t as bright as it used to be in my life, but I’m only inclined to call one of them a “crisis”…can those of you who do use that word or have experienced it define/share specifically what it means with me? Does the term “crisis of faith” mean the same thing to everyone? (That was question #1)

    The teachings of the scriptures, and of many Church leaders, is that the surest way to know if any doctrine or principle of the gospel is true, is to live it. In other words, we exercise our faith(no matter how young or weak it might be)FIRST and THEN comes the blessing or witness or knowledge of the truth of it.

    That said, question #2 is:
    IF those of you who feel that you experienced a crisis of faith regarding one particular law/principle of the gospel, were you living in obedience to the requirements of that particular blessing at the time? (If it was more than one issue then adjust the question accordingly.)

    I’m asking sincerely and out of genuine interest, but of course no one needs to answer if it makes them uncomfortable. I can say for myself that when I had my most intense “doubting” period I was coasting spiritually, and in probably other ways as well.Granted I was an angst filled teenager and experiencing an undiagnosed near-clinical depression at the time, but I also had not gained a personal testimony of my own yet…and had previously felt no desire or obligation to etc.

    Much thanks

  68. Abish, (1) For me my crisis is that I am trying determine if I can stay a member of the church because of my doubts and because I find some of the teaching so painful and in disagreement with what the God I know and love would want. In my case I have exercised every amount of faith I have and have no received confirmation. I think that is a great plan, but it just plain doesn’t work that way for everyone.

    (2) in my case yes I was/am living the principles I have struggles with. I realized this morning that I have struggled with it since I was about 12. I am 32 almost 33. I have prayed and shown faith in every way I know possible. I think I finally have reached the point of spiritual exhaustion on exercising faith with no confirmation and continued doubts. I think that often we (at least me) seek support/counsel from others because we have listened to the various counsel the brethren have given. I think we are sure that we are doing something wrong or aren’t trying hard enough because if we were doing things right we would have received confirmation by now.

  69. I like what RoAnn said in the 20s back there.

    I also agree with J. that empathy can go both ways. What if people who seem insincere or judgmental or whatever really are trying, really do care, but just don’t have the experience to be able to respond in just the right way? Compassion and understanding both ways can help solve this problem. Those who struggle need to be patient with those who dont and vice versa.

    As to this:

    Eloise Bell gave a lecture about doubt and faith. I wish I had written somthing down, because I will probably misrepresent it, but I seem to remember this idea: that faith and doubt are not opposites, but part of the same process.

    Terryl Givens gave a wonderful talk that touched on this.

  70. It’s none of my business of course, but would you be willing to share which teachings you find painful or that don’t gel with your concept of God? I understand if you wish not to.

    I know that as I’ve grown up and interacted with people of other faiths and cultures that my perceptions and concepts have changed many times, and that it has taken years of study and pondering to come to a place where the pieces start falling into place and fitting tightly.

    Imagine attempting to put a puzzle together with no idea what the end result is supposed to look like. It would be very difficult and take a great deal of time BUT…it could be done as long as you establish some kind of absolute/reference point…like the outside edges. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (His existence, His divinity, His atoning sacrifice) repentance (sincere sorrow for our own sins and the belief that He is willing to pay for them) baptism (to establish cleanliness and verify our acceptance of the covenant to Him in return) and the laying on of hands to impart the gift of the Holy Ghost are JUST the outside edges if you will. They establish the foundation that we are to work from but they are just the beginning.

    I’m not saying that I have the whole puzzle figured out, in fact, I’m sure that Christ will place the final pieces later on and my human brain couldn’t comprehend it anyway. But what I have figured out looking back from where I stand now, some of the pieces went into positions that I never would have attempted to place them myself. In other words, I often tried to hammer them into the spot I thought they SHOULD go and was frustrated when they threw off my progress. Only later when their companion pieces were laid down first, did they mesh perfectly…and yes…I felt silly that I had ever attempted to impose MY design upon the ever-more-beautiful image that is unfolding.

    My point? The truth…the complete and eternal truth of God is NOT painful…it is glorious! It is peaceful and beautiful and light and everything good. If you are feeling pain then it is most likely that some pieces of these particular issues aren’t in the right place, or just haven’t been placed yet. You could be praying for confirmation of something that is true (part of the puzzle) but that the Lord knows you may not be ready to accept and integrate into your life (the piece doesn’t go there). He cannot send you confirmation of a true principle if that confirmation would do more damage than good at the moment. And you may have interpreted a principle incorrectly and of course He will never send confirmation in such cases.

    I hope this makes sense. :-)

  71. I made a comment, it ‘appeared’ when I submitted it, and now it’s gone. This has happened before. Is there something weird in the server?

  72. m&m- no, our spam filter has been a little over-zealous lately. We’ll check on it.

  73. I guess maybe this feeling that doubting is a sin is either a Utah thing or maybe something that stopped before I joined the church 4 or 5 years ago now, because it’s not something I’ve encountered at all. In my ward, we frequently have comments where people talk about their doubts. Sometimes it’s even brought up in Sacrament talks. I happen to personally think that doubts are completely vital to faith and the whole process.

  74. Will Schryver says:

    Tanya Sue:

    I have prayed and shown faith in every way I know possible. I think I finally have reached the point of spiritual exhaustion on exercising faith with no confirmation and continued doubts. I think that often we (at least me) seek support/counsel from others because we have listened to the various counsel the brethren have given. I think we are sure that we are doing something wrong or aren’t trying hard enough because if we were doing things right we would have received confirmation by now.

    I’m just curious what form, from your perspective, this “confirmation” would/should/could take? What are you looking for/expecting/awaiting?

  75. I guess I’m curious as to what teachings are giving people such pain. Perhaps there are some historical artifacts that cause heartburn, but there’s very little in the current teachings of the church that could make me have a bona fide crisis. Maybe we need to distinguish between the two?

  76. Steve,

    Gosh, there’s quite a few:

    *Joseph Smith and the differing versions of the first vision
    *Joseph Smith and polygamy (marrying women who were already married to other men; marraying women who were very young; hiding many of his marriages from Emma; propositioning women who were wives of his counselors)
    *Polygamy in general
    *Blacks and the priesthood
    *Temple rituals and their similarities to the Masons
    *Women and their inability to hold the priesthood (why can’t we?) and the role of women in the church
    *DNA from South Americans that show with 99% accuracy that they do not come from the Middle East

    I’m at work so I could list more but… Gosh, if JS did some things that I find repugnant and many others (including the laws of the day) did, too, then can I accept that he really was a prophet of God? I believe he discovered the gold plates and translated them but did that power go to his head and did his later revelations come from God or from what he dreamed up? I don’t know but I wonder how the Holy Ghost and God could give so much revelation to JS when he was doing some pretty icky stuff in his personal life.

    Like many of the posters, I’ve tried to have rational dialog with others in the church and I am almost always either blown off or told to pray more and I will get an answer that it’s all true. So I’ve done that to no avail. If it’s true and I’m asking, why am I not getting any answers? And why the fear of bringing up these questions either in church or to church members? I don’t like it. I will remain a member because to leave it would cause too much harm to my family and I refuse to give any organized religion that much power over my relationships that I hold so dear. So I quietly try to get all I can out of church (there is so much excellent guidance found in our church) without letting it all completely make me crazy.

    But that’s not always an easy task, I’m afraid.

  77. Steve, I can think of a couple right away, but I don’t want to appear to project them onto Tanya Sue – being the annoying parser that I am. I think if you asked MikeinWeHo and Nick, for example, what keeps them away from the Church, you would get a direct answer about a teaching that causes them great pain.

  78. I’m finding Norbert’s (44) and m&m’s (70) comments in this discussion very interesting at this time, since I’m studying the topic recently, though I’ve not finished summarizing my thoughts on it yet. I think that faith and knowledge and doubt are all a process we are intended to go through. Too often we focus on the destination when it is the journey we ought to be experiencing.

  79. Jane Doe, most of those are issues of history and various fact claims and not the current teachings of the church. I think it’s vital to distinguish between the two, as I said in my earlier comment. Perhaps I have not been clear enough — “teachings” I interpret to mean social directives or moral instruction, not really historical points. As Ray points out in #78, it’s no panacea to do so, but if all we can do is focus on what has happened in Church history without regard to what kind of people the Church can make us into today, we’re selling ourselves short.

  80. The thing is that in the mormon church there is a plague where people honestly believe that doubt is somehow tied to unworthiness. Much like people think that you must be republican to be a true mormon people think that if you have doubts it’s because you must have some unresolved sin in your life. And since someone who is honest enough to have doubts will undoubtedly be honest enough to not lay claim to being perfect the non-doubters view of those who doubt is strengthened.

    This is something that seems especially strong in the mormon church. If a catholic said to another, “You know I don’t think that everything the Pope says is 100% true.” only the staunchest catholics would take offense. Whereas were I to say the same thing about Gordon B. or, heaven forbid, Joseph Smith most members would be aghast.

    Perhaps it’s the hero worship that surrounds the prophets, perhaps it’s the everyone is following someone else, perhaps it’s something entirely different. But I’ve always said that “People don’t fall away from the church so much as they are pushed.”

    Really if the church cannot change the way the church in general deals with doubters and embrace those who question (I’ll echo what’s been said the doubter on the internet gets support but in real life is shunned) then we will be in a bad bad spot in twenty years.

  81. FWIW, I believe doubt is what empowered every major change in human history that dealt with revolution of some sort – both good and bad. “I doubt that . . .” is the starting point for all kinds of ennobling and enabling movements. The only problem, IMO, is when “I doubt . . .” leads to “therefore, I can’t . . . until I no longer doubt.”

    Since doubt is the absence of certainty, I would posit that we all must, by definition, doubt until we are certain – and then doubt again if we lose certainty. Since none of us can be certain about everything imaginable, every one of us should “doubt” something all our lives. If we are certain of everything, I believe we either are ignorant or delusional.

    My belief is that we need to stop doing or “believing” something only when we become certain of something else – NOT when we realize we doubt the first thing. If we never reach an acceptable level of certainty, then we need to accept a life of searching doubt – following whatever principles and people and politics and religion we feel provide us with the highest degree of certainty we can obtain.

  82. Steve,

    Not sure how anyone can ignore our history. That’s like building a house on sand and wondering why the house just won’t stay up. Many of our teachings, rituals, and all of our ordinances are due to our history so to just try and ignore all the early stuff (isn’t that convenient?) is impossible.

  83. Sigh….. Jane Doe, I’m not saying to ignore the history; please don’t deliberately misread me. My point is this — if all someone can do is dwell on the confusing aspects of Church history, it’s no wonder some people aren’t happy. Doubt and confusion will likely plague you in these matters until you die. The source of happiness in this religion is based in family relationships and in making our communities better, based on relatively simple principles.

  84. #84: How about your family is not welcome to attend your wedding?

  85. Steve,

    If it were only that simple. Honestly, I believe that’s what this post is about– how to support those who question or have struggles with the church (doctrine, culture, or otherwise) and not to give the same trite “just look at the big picture, pray, obey” answers that clearly don’t work for everyone. Some of us have questions and it would be really nice to either have someone give us their answers on how they think it all shakes out, or at least hear us without feeling patronized.

  86. Steve,
    I think you dismiss Jane too easily. Surely familial relationships and communities can be made better without the church.

    One could be a great parent without setting foot in a temple, millions of people do it everyday. Similarly countless communities are made better without the 3 hour block. Surely there must be more to it than just that.

  87. Jane & ronito, like I said I don’t think it’s a panacea, and I don’t mean to sound patronizing. Ronito, I agree with you that there are plenty of ways to improve lives without the Church.

    Like many others I have also gone through some periods of serious doubt and reflection, and so I am not just talking out of my butt on this topic. Nor do I think that I have offered up a trite answer here. I do believe, though, that at least some people who talk about their serious questions and trudge through their doubt-filled lives are engaging in a form of intellectual selfishness, like college students writing reams of emo poems. I find that I am happiest in the Church and understand it the most when I am acting for the benefit of other people.

    Part of this may sound like I’m hiding my head in the sand — keeping myself busy enough so that I don’t become concerned with the shaky, shaky foundations of the Church. I disagree. I have plenty of time to read our history and try to understand why things are the way they are. But at the same time, by being an active participant in the community I can see the real power and efficacy of the Church, its ordinances and teachings. With that baseline testimony of the practical effect of the Church on my life, I am far better equipped to confront and understand where we come from as a religion.

  88. To Miles #74-

    Along that same thought…what exactly is happening in situations where people say that their family/ward members are not supportive of their questions? Are members literally saying things like “Shame on you for questioning!” or “I refuse to talk to you about your doubts”??

    In #32 Tanya said that when she told her bishop about her struggles, suddenly she was getting phone calls and visits-which indicates to me that her ward DID respond when they actually knew she had a need-but that she felt even more alienated because she interpreted them as insincere.

    I think sometimes as members we expect that because God knows we are suffering/sick/lonely/etc that He will ‘inspire’ those with stewardship over us to come to our aid and that when it doesn’t happen that way, we think that there are only two explanations for the lack of service/love/friendship. 1-Because a loving God doesn’t exist at all or does and we are unworthy of His attention. or 2-Because those who are supposed to be serving us aren’t “in tune” or doing their jobs because surely a loving God would be trying to signal them on our behalf.

    There is at least one other explanation that I can think of 3-Because we have a misplaced sense of pride when it comes to admitting, to ourselves and/or others, that we NEED them. (And we’re all guilty of this at some point in our lives)It makes us feel helpless, and weak and pathetic…but isn’t that what we truly would BE without the grace and mercy of God?

    If we cannot embrace the fact that we “need”/desire/want and sometimes MUST HAVE, the loving help of other human beings to ease the burdens of mortality, how can we possibly embrace the fact that we MUST HAVE the loving help of Christ to obtain immortality? (even those that do not know they want/need/desire it!)

  89. I have to believe that for some who have the gift of faith, doubt may not be a necessity, and we ought not be critical of those who never doubt, beause that really may be their gift (as such, they may not be the types who will be able to empathize). But I agree that for most of us, it’s a process and an interplay. If there wasn’t opposition, for most, it’s not likely our faith would be tested and grow. Isn’t that some of what you are getting at, SilverRain?

    I have been going through a sort of doubting phase in a way…not with the truthfulness of the Church, but just feeling like sometimes the prayer process doesn’t work the way I thought or hope it would. Sometimes heaven feels farther than I wish it did, and I start to get mad about it…especially when things are hard in my life.

    But what I have found is that doubt and the struggle can come when I impose my view of what “should” be with the way things are. Maybe God is answering in ways that I don’t see, or is waiting for reasons that I don’t understand. Sometimes I think we demand an awful lot to ‘make sense’ to our brains that aren’t meant to, or we put an awful lot of stock in our view of how things should be.

    So, I can’t help but think that sometimes when we doubt, it’s because we impose our view of the ‘should’ on God or on the Church, even. (e.g., If God were ________ then the Church/history/facts/doctrine/my experiences/whatever wouldn’t look like ________). Whenever I get in that mindset, frankly, I lose a measure of the Spirit and feel faith fading. I think it’s a form of pride. The kind of humility that puts me in a place where I’m willing to really trust how things are, in spite of what I want, or think should be, or wish were the case is humility that is hard to get to, imo. For me, these moments require some serious reevaluation of my constructs and expectations, and some serious patience and faith in what we are taught in the scriptures and through living prophets.

    Mileage may vary, but that is how my own experience with doubt plays out. It’s only through enduring through the darkness that light comes once again…often in ways that I don’t expect, and often in subtle ways. And as much as I wish others could solve things for me, the solution really is through faith and the Spirit, although having people care along the way helps a lot. To to me, this is a key point of the post. We can and should care, but we can’t take those doubts away. And sometimes if we try, we might distract people from the necessary process of working through growing their tree of faith. I think part of our journey and test is to see what we will do in the face of doubt. Will we cast the seed out because of our unbelief, or will we hold on, even when it feels scary and unsure? (I told hubby last nite that I actually felt scared…it’s hard to not have things be as you think they should, to risk, to try to have faith but not have the outcome be as I want (but is that really faith? Faith isn’t to get what we want how we want it, right?)

    I loved loved loved a recent post on Segullah blog about finding ourselves in the plan. I think sometimes we underestimate the power of the simple truths of the gospel to help us stay grounded. (Not that our other concerns don’t matter, but I truly think that sometimes we let ourselves get distracted from the basic things that the Spirit can testify of most readily.) Maybe it would be meaningful to some here. Go to segullah dot org slash blog. Scroll down a few articles. (not gonna do a link because of the hyperactive spam filter).

  90. RE Abish, # 74

    If we cannot embrace the fact that we “need”/desire/want and sometimes MUST HAVE, the loving help of other human beings to ease the burdens of mortality, how can we possibly embrace the fact that we MUST HAVE the loving help of Christ to obtain immortality? (even those that do not know they want/need/desire it!)

    What a concise statement about the atonement, and the need for grace in our lives. This is how we learn it. Well said.

  91. Jane Doe: a fair number of us have thought and even written about many or all of those topics and still find ourselves spiritually nourished in the church and able to maintain belief in both church and gospel. I personally believe in both studying these out AND maintaining a less probing aspect to our associations with the church.

  92. I find that when doubts start to rise due to challenges or difficulties in my life, I try to employ a well-worn but sturdy shelf and what passes for a journal in my life. I’ve been counseled to keep a journal many times, and have not done very well. I have bits and pieces lying around, or somewhere on my hard drive. No, what is most helpful to me is a list that I keep with my scriptures of important spiritual experiences, kind of a Top Ten list. It isn’t detailed, often just a word or phrase, like “1993 Wilderness Youth Conference” or “Visiting the Church Museum of History and Art, 1998″. Those notes can trigger me to think about some of the things that I have experienced, and help me to weather the current storms with much more confidence. My Patriarchal Blessing tells me I should keep a journal, to record these things, and someday, I’ll write them out in more detail for my family and posterity. But for now, the notes speak volumes.

  93. To add just a bit to what Steve said, from a different angle:

    Jane Doe, based on what I have seen for many years with many people, the problem people have with others who speak of “irreconcilable pain” or “irreconcilable issues” is that those issues that cause pain usually are issues the others either have never faced or have faced, battled and reconciled. Frankly, every one of those you list in #77 falls into that category for many members – those who simply don’t see them as major pain-causing issues and those who have questioned them and found ways to reconcile them. Due to that, it is easy for these members (even many of those who are sympathetic to the reality of doubt) to brush them off as not *really* faith-breaking and irreconcilable.

    I don’t mean to minimize or trivialize your own personal pain, but the issues in #77 (the “historical” issues of which Steve speaks) aren’t like homosexuality, for example. Someone who struggles with “historical” issues often, at the very least, can hold onto a foundational faith that – someday – they might be able to understand and reconcile those issues; as Elder Jensen admitted, many homosexuals simply have to live without that hope, making it almost impossible to exercise that same faith. To me, that is *great and irreconcilable* pain.

  94. Forgive my boldness in posting here. I am only studying the Mormon religion because:

    1) My recent move has placed me smack in the middle of a concentrated Mormon area;

    2) I am contemplating support of a Mormon candidate in 2008 and although I expect him to run the government outside of his church framework, it is important to me to know the values by which he runs his personal life. Our personal values affect every aspect of our lives;

    3) As a political ghostwriter, it is imperative that I be familiar with all the major candidates and those issues which will become political fodder for the press; and

    4) A friend whom I respect is devoted to the Mormon Church in spite of: (a) its steadfastness to some practices which, from an unstudied perspective, resemble a caste system (I mean no disrespect here); and (b) his inability to be shoehorned into a mold.

    With all of that unnecessary setup, my point is only this:

    The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848 (officially) and women in this country were only granted the federal right to vote in 1920 (a bill that passed by one vote ). So although that which would seem to make common sense (Women in the Priesthood), is someday eminent, resistance to change in all but the teenage brain is such that this blog and others which are ahead of the curve are exactly that.

    The good news is that valiant efforts to help the Church see the obvious will no doubt shave years off the period of kicking and screaming by motivating rational discussion amidst biblically unsupported mantras.

    I respectfully invite the host to delete this post if she/he wishes to do so.

  95. I start working while I am at work and looks what happens-I miss all of the fun!

    Abish-I am willing to share, but please no arguments or trying to convince me I am wrong. My main struggle is with women’s role in the church. Not only the lack of priesthood but what duties they are assigned. For example in my stake during stake conference it is always the relief society that cooks dinner when it is the visiting general authority. And women who serve and clean. These are just examples. I have tried praying, asked for blessing for confirmation and although I cannot deny the spirit of the priesthood, I still feel like women should hold it and be in positions of leadership and authority in the church.

    I also have many friends that are gay. They deserve to live a life with a partner that loves them and they love. I don’t think their life is a sin. The reason I say this is because none of them chose these feelings.

    Also regarding the calls, I do have reasons for feeling the way I do. I have had some serious health problems. I went through chemo while holding down a full time job because I had no other way to support myself or pay for treatment. There were no phone calls then. I was so close to my bishop and he knew as did the RS president. That is fine. They are busy. But if that wasn’t important enough for them to reach out to me then this shouldn’t be other. Also, the calls started after my bishop talked me into a blessing and then no showed. As did my home teacher prior to me have two surgeries in one week.

    Will-I would like some sort of peace regarding the situation. I want to not feel emotional pain when I attend church and see men in all of the positions of authority.

    Steve-I have no idea why this causes me so much pain, all I know is it does. The last time I went to church I barely made it out of Sacrament meeting (before the Sacrament) before breaking down crying.

    There are things I LOVE about the gospel, but the struggles I feel regarding these and some other issues are so painful that I don’t know if I can continue to torture myself by being part of the church. Because it is torture.

  96. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Joseph Smith, inspired version

    Using my dictionary for reference on the words “assurance” and “evidence”, I humbly submit the following re-wording to perhaps bring us together (at least here on this thread)on what “faith” actually IS…

    Faith is a positive declaration intended to give confidence or trust, a promise or pledge, or having full confidence in things hoped for, the signs, indications, proofs and manifestations, of things not seen.

    So now we can ask-
    Who makes these declarations and promises to us? God does.
    What do we hope for? To dwell with Him again and always
    What has He promised us? All that He has
    How does He do it? Through scripture, through prophets and priesthood revelation.
    What sort of signs indicate that things exist that we cannot see? Angels, visions, spiritual gifts, scriptures, personal revelation, witnesses, testimony, the fruits of the believers, and blessings obtained from experimenting upon the WORD.

    So then, I don’t think a “crisis of faith” should be defined as-
    *being confused about, or disagreeing with particular doctrine(s)
    *not having/getting confirmation or revelations on our time frame etc.

    A crisis of faith should be defined as having no confidence in the plan of Salvation with its attending promises from God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, or the signs and evidences regarding both.

  97. Steve Evans says:

    Tanya Sue, I hereby officially invite you to sit with the Evans Clan some time for Sacrament. I promise, no crying or torture will occur. Snacks will be provided.

  98. Steve-HA! That was great. Are the snacks going to be chocolate?

    Seriously though, I survived my nephews missionary homecoming talk by playing the dot game with two of my other nephews. It was great! I would take you up on the offer but I don’t think we live near each other. Thanks though!

  99. Tracy,

    I sincerely believe that you did the right thing. As one of the earlier commentators said, I think I have “belief-deficient DNA.” Doubt seems to come much more easily to me than faith. This has been true throughout my Church experience, irregardless of how well or poorly I have done with various aspects of my spirituality (praying, reading the scriptures, etc.)

    I am guessing that it was not your intention to make this a thread about Sunstone/Dialogue, but it seems to have gone there anyway. I tend to treat members who deride those publications and their readers and publishers, but who have probably never read anything in them, the same way I treat all the anti-Mormons who claim that the BoM is false, but have never read it—namely, with very little thought or attention.

    For me, one of the most valuable aspects of becoming involved in the Bloggernacle is having a forum and “friends” who experience similar doubts or at least are capable of working through their faith in a thoughtful way. My issue with family is different. My wife’s family is very much in the vein of your friend, however my own family is non-Mormon and have until recently been virulently anti-Mormon. So I feel like expressing any doubt or weakness with regards to my faith only gives them an opening to attack the Church further.

    To summarize, what a person struggling with faith and doubt needs is *not* to read X book, or X talk, etc. The answer will be different to each. But what everyone will need is to know that there are others who experience similar doubts and who have come through it OK (as well as others who have not) and who are willing to listen, even if one feels that God is not.

  100. I am of two minds about using D&C 46:8-14 in the way described in post #10.

    On one hand, the argument seems to patronize the person with all faith and no doubts. It sounds like a second-rate compliment. The sentiment “I don’t have the gift of faith; I’m not as lucky as you,” reminds me of a YW activity (make-overs) in which someone told me (I don’t care to wear makeup), “Oh, you you’re so pretty; you don’t need to wear makeup.”

    On the other hand, I take the Lord at his word. Strong faith is a gift to be coveted and pursued.

    I’m stewing over the following quotes from Gary Wills’ book “What Jesus Meant” — 1) “Troubled belief is not disbelief, though ‘true’ believers take it for that.” 2) “An unexamined faith is not a faith. It is a superstition.”

  101. #90 m&m – It is close to what I’m getting at, except I doubt (no pun intended) that anyone has such a gift of faith that they never entertain doubts on any subject. Even Christ suffered doubt. More to the point, I believe it is truly necessary for us to doubt to understand knowledge and for faith to be real. Faith is choosing to believe, it isn’t something you just fall into. Even for those for whom faith comes naturally, there must still be an element of doubt involved in the process. If you truly know the seed will grow, then you are not exercising faith, you are acting on knowledge. This:

    The kind of humility that puts me in a place where I’m willing to really trust how things are, in spite of what I want, or think should be, or wish were the case is humility that is hard to get to, imo.

    Is a big part of what I was getting to in my post on the subject.

    Though I know it’s a little tongue-in-cheek to claim it, I emphatically believe there is no such thing as faith/faithless DNA. You might as well say the devil made you do it. I think it is an attempt to absolve yourself of responsibility, even in jest.

  102. Kevin Barney says:

    jane doe’s list examples of issues that concern her in no. 77 I think helps to illustrate why members may not want to discuss such matters. The fact is, your average Mormon doesn’t know anything about this sort of thing, and therefore feels very uneasy about delving into such topics.

    I’m very familiar with these issues, and yet I remain a faithful and believing and engaged member of the Church. I would be happy to sit down with someone who had concerns about such issues to discuss them in detail and offer some of my own perspectives. For that matter, I would be happy to teach a lesson in Church on such issues.

    But in my whole stake–a relatively affluent area–there are only maybe two or three other people who have enough of a grounding in these issues to discuss them intelligently. Most people in the Church just don’t care that much about Church history (and I should know given the lack of attendance for my Institute classes when I taught early LDS history).

    It’s just not realistic to expect to find the same level of awareness of these issues that one finds in the ‘Nacle, for instance.

  103. Abish, I kept starting to write it all out, but it got way too long and obnoxious and threadjacky. I’ll just say that I was an extremely sheltered, devoted, faithful and obedient mormon.I read the scriptures and stayed away from any kind of church study or literature that wasn’t 100% correlated. Trying to find something to spice up my gospel doctrine lesson I ventured onto the internet, and, well, same old story – textbook case even. For most of my life, I was the ultimate black and white thinker, and very spiritually immature. I firmly, firmly believed it’s all true or it’s all not. Prophets were practically perfect in every way. All of that jazz.

    You know, it’s not that I don’t think you can’t be a member and doubt. I know you can. It’s that I don’t want to doubt. If I didn’t mind doubting and staying a member, I would be perfectly happy. But I’m not all that comfortable sitting on a fence. I want to work through my issues, and I do it on my own the best way I can, I just wish there were institutional resources to help a little. My bishop could not have been less interested in my problems (but I suspect the man is actually a robot, so I’m just waiting for a new bishopric – I’m sure I’ll still have doubts when they finally haul the old bishoptron 3000 out of his position and back into the high priests quorum.).

    I also realize that I might not ever get the answers the way I want them. Right now I’m just sort of hanging out, doing what I can, and now and then I cross something off the list of stuff that I can’t get past. Hopefully I won’t get hit by a car in a week, and run out of time for hanging out with a fencepost up my butt.

    Sorry for the threadjack. I’m kind of sad that there is so little to say about what the church COULD do to help people who struggle. At the very least, you’d think there would be special (knowledgeable, older) missionaries you could call or something. 1-800-INOCUL8 or something

    I’d love to see a group archive on the naccle where posts from various blogs that discuss issues that commonly give people trouble could be filed. Folks having trouble could read through the posts, read some of the responses, get different perspectives. The anti sites have them. You look up the problematic topic, and bingo, a whole bunch of material for you to read and stew about. (Of course, you could just NOT go there, but I think for most people struggling with these kinds of issues, that happens at one point or another.) The naccle, it’s a little more difficult to find the resources. Naccle posts on those topics have been insanely helpful to me in the past. Hearing how people resolve it themselves, how they think about it, how they feel it fits in, or doesn’t. But many of the topics are not things that naccle regulars want to go over AGAIN.

  104. And I know, I know, there is FAIR. But the naccle is different. Better, even.

  105. Joanne,

    I LOVED the first half of both of those quotes

    1) “Troubled belief is not disbelief”
    2) “An unexamined faith is not faith”

    But DISagree with the second halves…for obvious reasons.

    Those that know Christ and love Him don’t attempt to judge the depth of anyone’s faith but their own, because they know it is not possible.

    I also don’t think an unexamined faith is a superstition. A seed is not a tree, but the potential is within it. My 4 year old sobbed openly today when we found her lost (and bestest friend) stuffed bunny beside the road 3 houses down from us and said “I prayered to Jesus! Oh mommy I missed her sooooooooooooo much.” Her faith may be “unexamined” and not based on reason or knowledge (definition of superstition) but “her mother does not doubt that she knows it”. *grin*

  106. Why do I keep spelling naccle wrong? Nacle. Nacle. Whatever. Arg.

  107. #106 — Yes. I might want to ponder those statements as they relate to my own experiences, but not someone else’s.

  108. I’m not a real big fan of the use of the word “know” in bearing testimony….I think sometimes people lose sight of the fact that when we use that particular word we are doing so in a rhetorical way to indicate a very strong faith.

    If this is true, then why does D & C 46 actually uses the k-word? It draws a clear distinction between “know” and “believe.” It doesn’t say one is a stronger version of the other. And I’ve always accepted that they were different things. I’ve had many long talks with friends about this issue. Some of us know; some of us believe. For a while 2 out of the 3 guys in our bishopric were believers, so 2 out of 3 fast Sundays, we would hear from someone bearing testimony that they believe certain things.

    Do you have a problem with President Hinckley’s use of the term “know” or is it just us peons bearing testimony in wards/branches that shouldn’t use it? Because his final talk in last general conference was entitled, “Things of which I know,” and included the comment that, “I confess that I do not know everything, but of some things I am certain. Of the things of which I know, I speak to you this morning.”

    I kinda thought that those who struggle with doubts might be comforted by the admission of a prophet that he doesn’t know anything.

    I don’t claim to know everything, either. When it comes to the Gospel, there are things I know, and things I believe, things I’m not sure about, things I hope, and those I don’t really care about. When I bear my testimony, I am precise about the things I know (that Jesus is the Christ, who died for my sins) and principles I believe.

    But it seems to me that to deny the things I know would be to ignore a gift, burying a talent or hiding it under a bushel. I’m not so comfortable doing that because in D & C 46 it says, “To others it is given to believe on their words…” To believe on the words of those who know. So if we deny that knowledge, and say something more politically correct like we have strong faith (in order to avoid offending anyone) then we are depriving others of the opportunity to believe on our words.

    I’ve known lots of people who stood at that pulpit and swore with deep emotion that they know the church is true, who, when they learned some little thing they weren’t prepared for, their faith wilted like flowers or broke like glass and they lost their testimonies.

    I’ve certainly seen that happen, too. But unlike you, I don’t jump to generalizations about what is going on in their heads. I just accept the gift of what they say at whatever point in time and whatever place in their spiritual path they happen to be.

    I know that Jesus Christ lives, and is my savior. I am sorry if that offends you, but I think my knowledge ought to be as acceptable as my neighbor’s doubts.

  109. Kevin Barney says:

    Well, as I said, Naismith, I’m not bothered (and certainly not offended) that other people use the “know” language in bearing testimony, even though I choose not to do so myself. I’m glad that it is meaningful for you.

    What I was trying to say is that if someone knows the Church is true, then why should he have any hesitancy to discuss the issues jane doe raises? If he knows the Church is true, then discussing polyandry, even if he is not conversant in the subject, should not be a potential stumblingblock to his own faith, for he is beyond mere faith and in the realm of actual knowledge. He shouldn’t be scared to discuss any troubling issue.

    If knowledge of the truth of the Church is contingent on not discussing hard issues, it doesn’t strike me as actually being knowledge in the epistemological sense of that word.

  110. Naismith- I agree with you except for the tone and feelings that inspired the use of a noble word like “peon”. :-)

    I beseech you not to burst my rose colored balloon-of-hope that it IS possible to discuss differences calmly and deeply without offending the Savior that loves us all. And if the entreating approach doesn’t work, I’m going to let Sue call you a naccle, nacle, nuckle head. :P

  111. Jane Doe 77,
    I left, was excommunicated and spent 35 years outside the church returning only about a year ago.

    In my mind, those questions and many others had to be answered. Eventually they were, one by one, by the Spirit. Don’t give up, ask for His help.

  112. Good questions, Tracy. I’m sad to hear about negative reception of doubts.

    As I’ve blogged at T&S, I like Tennyson’s line, “there is more faith in honest doubt, than in half the creeds.” Many members work with honest doubt.

    Last testimony meeting in our ward, I bore a testimony of doubt. I said, it’s okay to have doubts. It’s okay not to know all the answers. I don’t think God expects us to know everything that church culture seems to expect. It’s okay to doubt. That’s something I don’t doubt. :)

  113. But Kaimi, you can’t doubt objective evidence. The fact that you doubt means that it’s not objective. *Big. HUGE. wink* – so nobody else will misunderstand and go off on me*

  114. Naismith – what you said in #108 reminds me of something I’ve read somewhere on the ‘nacle regarding virtual bookshelves. I am thinking that we each have virtual bookshelves that could roughly be labeled as “Things I Know”, “Things I Believe”, “Things I’m Not Sure About”, “Things I Hope”, and “Things I Don’t Really Care About” (according to Naismith above)?

    We all have these kinds of shelves, it seems. So the question in my mind is why some people are comfortable with having each of these shelves stocked full of ideas while others are not satisfied until everything is moved to the “Things I Know” shelf?

    I, personally, can live with many ideas on each of these shelves. In fact, I think that it is impossible to completely clear out all of the “Knowing” shelf in this (or perhaps even in the next) life. I don’t live with the mantra “I must know! I must know!”

  115. Brewhaha – http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/08/the-prophets-shelf/#more-2982

    For particularly enlightening commentary, see comment #12.

  116. Brewhaha

    Now if someone could just tell me what to do with the stuff on my “Things I wish I’d never done” and “Things I wasted too much time on” shelves….I’d sleep better. lol

  117. Let them sleep with the fishes, abish – and don’t buy a fishing pole. That’s what a good friend told my wife nearly 20 years ago, and it’s just as true now as it was then.

  118. Ray

    Thanks – I suspected it was here on BCC.

  119. #110-Kevin

    What I was trying to say is that if someone knows the Church is true, then why should he have any hesitancy to discuss the issues jane doe raises? If he knows the Church is true, then discussing polyandry, even if he is not conversant in the subject, should not be a potential stumblingblock to his own faith, for he is beyond mere faith and in the realm of actual knowledge. He shouldn’t be scared to discuss any troubling issue.

    What I have to ask is why would anyone seek for answers or enlightenment from those who are not conversant in the subjects they seek to know more about? I wouldn’t be disappointed if my dentist can’t answer my question about my nasal infection even if his area of specialty involves something in close proximity to my nose. I also wouldn’t think he was stupid, afraid or part of a conspiracy if he just blew me off (pun!),told me to take antibiotics or wasn’t as curious as I am about discussing it in depth. It would be silly to make any such assumptions (at least until I got the answer) and sillier still to ask him without exhausting the more OBVIOUS resources first…in this case people like professors of LDS religion, institute teachers, CES instructors, church manuals and publications, and official church documents.

    Is Jane Doe trying to bring up such things in casual conversation, or in social gatherings where people are in a different gear or is she contacting people who seem to be somewhat wise in doctrinal areas (or perhaps spiritual and easy to talk to)and saying “Hey, I really respect your opinion on things…would you mind if I came by some time and asked you some questions about some doctrines I’m struggling with?” I cannot fathom that someone genuine who is asked in a genuine way, would not be at least willing to help as far as they are able, and I refuse to believe that the “Church” is filled with such people because I’ve never met any. (Hey! See??? I DOUBT!!!)

    I think it is possible to be a religious believer without being the equivalent of a biblical scholar, and having the influence of the Holy Ghost can teach people more than any book or lecture series ever will.

  120. But abish, here is how the conversations usually go. At least for me:

    “Hey, Ward Mission Leader (or whoever), thanks for meeting with me. I have some questions about XYZ.”

    “I’m happy to help.”

    “Well, I’m wondering what you think about XYZ.”

    “I’ve never heard of that. Where did you hear about that? That sounds like anti-mormon propoganda.”

    “I read about it here, and here, and here, and here. It’s legitimate, what I’m struggling with is –”

    “No, that’s surely anti-mormon propoganda. I’ve never heard that before.” (looks at me suspiciously)

    “O.k., well – ”

    “None of that is true. And even if you feel it MAY be true, we don’t need to worry about those things –”

    “Well, I am worried about them because –”

    “You just need to pray. And have faith.”

    “I know, but –”

    “I don’t know all of the deep doctrine. I don’t need to know it. My testimony is more simple.”

    “…”

    “Well, thank you for meeting with me.”

    “Sure, I hope I’ve been of help.”

    I have had this exact same frustrating, head banging on the wall conversation at least 15 times with church leaders, hometeachers, ward mission leaders, people who I know who I thought were fairly knowledgeable. I appear to just – not be very lucky in finding the right person. I guess I don’t travel in the right circles or something.

    So help FROM THE CHURCH in finding the right kinds of people, would be valuable.

  121. Kevin B:

    Gosh, I wish we were in the same ward!! You don’t happen to live in Southern California, do you? I have to tell you,…my uncle reads lots of Nibley and FARMS and yet when I brought up some of these troubling topics, he shut me down completely. Too uncomfortable with him. My dad, bless his soul, flipped out and mom said he couldn’t sleep for a week. My mom, not much of a believer, told me to puhlease stop since this religion had no right to hurt our family. Another close friend who was exed and came back looked at me baffled when I asked her some questions. NO ONE I know– and I mean NO ONE can have these conversations with me and I just don’t get it!! If you’re sound grounded in your faith, why the total FEAR of having in depth, rational discussions about these topics. Outside the church, you can have them. But inside the church… well, it’s just not allowed. We must either truly believe or pretend to believe in the total infallability of our leaders and but it all or keep our mouths shut. I wonder why, if the church is so dang true, why it can’t stand up to such honest scrutiny.

  122. Sue, I don’t pretend to be a scriptural scholar, nor do I believe I have all the answers (or even most of them), but if you need to talk with someone and ask whatever questions you have, e-mail me at fam7heav at juno dot com. (That is an old address that still receives messages.) I will give you a current address and do my best to answer what I can.

    Understand, I can’t give you “the answer” – just my perspective and, sometimes, multiple perspectives I have heard and respect. I can’t guarantee my perspective will resonate with you, but I would be happy to do whatever I can. Whatever I can’t answer right away, I will talk with others I respect and pass on whatever they share.

  123. Jane, same message as to Sue.

  124. Even Christ suffered doubt.

    Can you explain your thoughts on that one? I don’t know that I agree.

  125. Thanks Ray, much appreciated. I don’t need “the answer.” It’s just nice to hear how other people deal with the same issues. That’s why I appreciate the nacle so much.

  126. Sorry Sue! Between pacifying the masses with sugary bedtime treats, and humoring the plumbing handicapped (but extremely determined to do it HIMSELF…ALONE) husband attempting to “seal a leak” in my daughter’s bedroom wall, I missed your response to me.(#96) I thank you for sharing and I would also be banging my head against the nearest blunt object if I had that experience.

    I’m sure that there are many here who can help you at least in SOME measure and if they cannot…perhaps no one can YET.
    It has always been my firm belief that the reason it is NOT possible to know EVERYTHING during mortality is because God knows His children better than we do. Take me for instance…I honestly think that if I could explain everything rationally and completely…I’d eventually lose interest, grow mold, and someday a stiff wind would spread my spores across the wilderness. It’s a catch 22 for me…I HATE not being able to satisfy a question…but I also HATE being without a quest.

    I also know that once I have a handle on things I tend to become EXTREMELY self-sufficient. I debate on whether it is because I “just grew up that way” or if it is because I don’t WANT/LIKE to be ‘holden’ to anyone else. God knows this about me I’m fairly positive. And while I’m an anomaly to everyone who knows me, I’m almost positive there are others out there like me. If that’s true, then God is wise to withhold from people like me because we constantly need to be reminded that our dependency is the only thing we can give to Him that He doesn’t already have.

    I do NOT think that prophets and leaders are infallible, or perfect, or more than really, really good men that God depends on to make things move the way He wants them to, and I for one would never WANT to be in their shoes. None of them have been translated (to my knowledge)so I can be assured that they are not perfected yet, AND none of the President’s of the Church have suddenly been struck down by Him either, so I can be assured that they have not “led the people astray”. You see, I don’t put my faith in the HUMANS that run things, but I have TOTAL faith in the promises God made to us about being led by them.

    I guess for me, if I KNOW that God is directing the Church, and that He promised that THIS dispensation’s organization will stand forever-it will not pass away as all the other’s have-who am I to question Him? Either THIS Church is the true Church and all of the loose ends will be tucked perfectly into place to my satisfaction by my Savior OR I can say “No thanks” if they don’t. He’s never let me down so far, and I don’t ever expect Him to.

  127. m&m, I didn’t post that comment, but I agree with you – in a way that, ironically, might be a re-statement of what was meant in that comment.

    Doubting means a lack of certainty, and I can’t think of a single instance where Jesus lacked certainty. However, there were at least two times when I think it is safe to say that He struggled mightily – **because He didn’t understand completely**. (In the Garden, where He asked if the cup could be taken from Him and on the cross when he cried out and asked why His Father had forsaken Him.)

    I think this highlights something that isn’t understood very well by too many members – that there is a *big* difference between doubt (lack of certainty) and lack of knowledge. Certainty does not necessarily equal objective knowledge. I don’t think Jesus ever doubted His Father love, but He certainly experienced moments that surprised Him – that He didn’t anticipate – that pained Him unexpectedly. He suffered the “worst” of those (perhaps the only ones of which we are aware) right at the end of His life – at the height of His spiritual progression here on earth. That surprise didn’t destroy His knowledge of everything else he knew, and it didn’t keep Him from believing what He still didn’t comprehend, because deep down He knew who He was and what He had determined to do.

    I can be uncertain of a whole bunch of things, but that doesn’t mean I doubt the most basic things that form my fundamental testimony of the principles of the Restored Gospel – those things that constitute for me what Jesus’ knowledge of His calling were for Him. It helps me tremendously in my own struggles over things I just don’t understand to realize that the Bible says that even Jesus went through the exact same thing – at a level I can’t even begin to understand.

    Among other things, I have no doubt whatsoever that I am a child of God, that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith – although deeply, deeply flawed in many ways – was the prophet of the Restoration. Given that foundation, I can find legitimate ways to reconcile the other stuff – that deals with all three of them and others, not just JS.

  128. Ray (#117)

    That’s great advice. At one point in my life I would have done that…then waited….pacing along the shore…and then learned how to scuba dive, hired a salvage company and….you get the idea. Now I’d just hope that the toxicity doesn’t hurt the fish….

  129. I have been trying to understand why some people (me included) have doubt problems (by doubt problems, I mean not being able, inclined to put things on that shelf), while other people, knowing more than I do about mormon history issues/philosophical issues/science v.religion issues, or whatever , as smb points out, do not have such problems. I know that this comes across as a heurmeneutics of suspicion, but spiritual experiences are so grounded in emotion, and emotion is so emotional, and the shelf can hold so much, and religious explanation is so not falsifiable, and individual experiences are so variable (some people are happy in church, some are not, some people are prone to depression; some are not; some people have strong mormon families and some do not, some people get along better in groups and some do not, some people experience miraculous healings and some do not) that I find myself thinking often that yes, Church works for the people church works for. The Church, like, I suppose, most religious traditions claims exclusive and ultimate truth, and that is its part of its value for us; even if we recognize its flaws and imperfections, we recognize in it a vehicle for seeking truth and a vehicle for community, but a religious community is often a community that one is sort of stuck in, and it doesn’t always work as well for one person as another.

  130. Sue-It sounds like we have talked to the same people. Also, add in “Go read something uplifting-like the Miracle of Forgiveness”. I always feel so dumb after talking to them, like I am Satan because I have doubts in my testimony.

    I somtimes think people have that response because (1) they are not naturally curious (I am) or (2) they are somehow worried if they talk about it then it will become their problem as well. I think fear of the unknown is such a common human emotion.

  131. M&M – As Ray pointed out, I believe Christ suffered doubt here and here. Perhaps “doubt” means different things to the two of us. However, by Ray’s definition (“lack of certainty”), Christ did, indeed, suffer it. The important thing is that despite His doubt or lack of certainty, He relied upon the Father’s certainty. He exercised faith. He was not so different from us as that. If He always knew, if He never had reason to ask questions or wonder about His divine mission, He would not truly be like us. Part of the point of mortality is to live behind a veil of forgetfulness. Though Jesus could, inarguably, part that veil at times, do you believe He lived entirely without it?

    I also believe that if He did not experience doubt, He would not know how to comfort us when we experience it.

  132. Wow.

    I take a few hours off last night to have a birthday party for my now four-year-old, and look what happens. Comments have doubled.

    Apologies for being absent.

  133. Doubter's Friend says:

    There is an important issue that those with strong faith do not always understand about doubters. Some of them doubt the fundamental doctrines. They do not just have serious questions, and they do not just doubt certain doctrines. They doubt whether there is a God, because God has never interacted with them in a meaningful way. They doubt the atonement, because it seems utterly illogical, and they have never felt its power. They doubt that Joseph Smith really restored the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, not only because the whole story sounds so wacky to them and so full of inconsistencies, but also because they have read and studied and prayed for years, and have received no answer to their prayers.

    There is no virtual shelf for these doubters where they put their concerns, awaiting resolution for another time. They can’t understand why they should persist in the LDS church in faith, instead of exercising similar faith in another, no less plausible system of belief. Those kinds of arguments make sense for some who have serious questions but still have some kind of faith. But they are not persuasive to those to whom God has never spoken.

    One of the big problems for church members when they encounter these people is that can’t comprehend such doubters because they are not supposed to exist. God has promised to answer prayers. He goes not give his children rocks when they ask for fish. So when they encounter one who has prayed, fasted and studied and obeyed, and who still has real doubts, they can only turn away. They cannot deal with this direct assault on their entire paradigm of faith.

  134. Jane (77),

    Your questions are definitely valid, but it sounds like you have already made up your mind that those issues are very problematic, as they represent either false teachings on the part of the Church or unfairness in the commandments.

    What if God disagrees? What if the definition of revelation is much more expansive and complex than you are thinking? What if there are very good divine reasons for gays to not give expression to their desires (96), or for women not to hold the priesthood? Do you honestly think the people around you are going to answer those questions to your satisfaction? Expecting transcendent answers from horizontal questioning is mostly a fruitless, frustrating process.
    I really don’t want to sound like I’m handing out a glib prescription to your questions here, but I think Howard (112) is dead on. Take critical study, patience, humility, and a lot of fasting and prayer, and bake those in the oven over a long time, and you will get answers; just don’t make the mistake of trying to confine God’s answers to the either/ors, true/falses, and yes/nos that characterize the questions in the list you made, beacause often the answers will come in the form of better questions or transcendent insights.
    If I or others are not troubled by those questions, it’s not necessarily because we aren’t aware of the questions; often, we have wrestled with and transcended them, and no longer see the need for a true/false answer.

  135. Doubter’s Friend: You raise an excellent point. The believer’s typical response in such situations is not to turn away, but to either assume that the person in such an absolute state of doubt has received answers and has failed to recognize them, or has failed to do the things they ought to do to receive those answers. (which sounds awful, but is no different than the doubter not believing the believer has had these experiences and that the believer has correctly interpretted what these experiences are.) Even if A and B are both true, this is frustrating to the doubter because they do not know what they are not doing, or how to change what they are doing to make it what they ought to be doing. What eventually happens is not that the believer turns away, but the doubter becomes tired of the same responses over and over, which never solve the problem for them, and the doubter either becomes hostile to the believer, and the hostility turns the believer away, or the doubter turns away, as his needs are not met. (This is not to say believers are never the first to turn away. I am just speaking from my personal experience.)

    Personally, I believe that it is for some to receive spiritual answers to prayer, and for others to not. It has to do with our fundamental spiritual selves (Our spiritual gifts, as discussed in the Bible, book of Mormon, and D&C) and I accept that some people are going to have to walk in darkness, as part of this life. Now can you walk in darkness and still be a faithful latter-day saint? I believe you can. Is it hard? I am sure it is. Do i hope that your darkness will break and you will be illuminated and built up by the power of God and the atonement? Of course I do. I’m a believer, and I hold on to the idea that there will eventually be an end to the darkness of every doubter. There was an end to my darkness, so I hope the same for all.

  136. As a philosophy major and sometimes philosophy teacher I am well acquainted with doubt. I am sometimes amazed that some people just don’t seem to have open questions that are often beyond are ken to definitively resolve. In my experience, that is just part of what it is to be mortal. I think it is the norm for thinking people to doubt and wonder and call into question and probe and prod. I don’t see anything wrong with good faith questions and expressions of doubt.

    However, it has been my experience that when those who doubt (and again I have been among them) begin to express their doubts, they often set their doubts out as a challenge to those who have faith. Sometimes it comes off kinda like: wow, you’re stupid because you don’t have the problems that I do and you don’t have them because you’re clueless about church history and doctrine. Instead of inquiring in good faith (even though many of them have genuine questions) the style of engagement is to come off as disaffected and angry because no one is listening. Sometimes those who receive the questions (and I have been on this end too) feel attacked and befuddled.

    There is a real need for those who have experienced doubt and know what is going on to listen and work through issues. Often times there are related issues — family issues, emotional issues, self-doubt issues and, yes, now and again even moral issues (tho not always). Finding a style of engagement that is not confrontive, that is searching and seeking with humility can be a real challenge — especially with the anonymity of the net.

    I am one of those who had profound spiritual experiences and then a dry spell where the heavens were as brass. I am thankful that the heavens have opened to me again. But I remember well the feeling of abandonment, bewilderment and betraual when there just didn’t seem to be answers any more.

    In any event, listening with love and working to assist the doubter in whatever direction they choose to best serve their lives works best in my experience.

  137. Tanya Sue and Sue,

    I found the same thing about some of the things I was having trouble with, that nobody could help me or understood what I was talking about. That is why I decided I could rely on God and God alone.

    He answered me but a prerequisite to receiving this answer I had to admit as Nephi did that I do not know the meaning of all things but I know that he loveth his children.

    I had a sister who left the church because of the issues surrounding women and that always bothered me deeply. It had been something I wondered about a long time. And while he has not given me the reasons behind his organization he has confirmed to me that he indeed does love his children and that these things will one day be made clear. He assured me that he was not being unfair and I would one day see that.

    My own experiences with my children inform me that there are some things I do with my own children that at this point they are unable to comprehend. Trying to explain to them why I deal with them the way I do would not help them at all so in some cases I just tell them that it will eventually become clear to them and they would thank me for doing so. Answers on all these questions I think come only after we have the humility to believe that he truly loves us.

    Putting it another way, we may not understand why we have to sand the floor, paint the fence, wash the car, etc. as the kid on Karate Kid did, but it is important that we trust he knows what he’s talking about, only then can we begin to see what his purposes are behind them.

    As far as all the historical issues, I have struggled with those as well, and I have found peace on those things also. It is unfortunate that you can’t go to someone in the church typically for help on these things but I think that will slowly change as more and more people become conversant on these things. Bushman’s RSR will help on that.

  138. One of the great things Orson Scott Card said was that we need to have more doubts in our doubts.

    In our culture we often place doubt on an elevated status for no good reason other than we don’t want to be a “sucker”.

  139. Ray: Thanks for the offer. I will contact you via email (probably tonight from home when I have time to think about it).

    Dan Ellsworth: Thanks for the trite response. I’ve heard the same thing from a jillion people. Just pray, have faith, you’ll get the same answer I did that it’s all true and don’t worry about things in the past anyway. Sorry, it hasn’t worked. But believe it or not, I am trying really super hard to keep an open mind. It’s why I still go to church (all 3 hours) every Sunday. Some day, I hope to get an answer that it’s true (or mostly true). My issue is that if I were very righteous but then started doing some very unrighteous things, like steeling from my employer, having many affairs (some with a few very young boys), etc etc, would I still receive profoundly enormous revelation from God? Would I still have the power of the Holy Ghost? I don’t think I would. Then… how did JS get this priviledge? And if he didn’t, then why do I need to go to the temple, wear garments (which I’m not a fan of), etc etc if maybe these “revelations” came from his head and not necessarily straight from God? And while I love the church’s current teachings and, despite 3 long hours in church every Sunday, enjoy being a member for the most part, it’s why I struggle.

    I also struggle with the notion that our leaders should not be questioned (much) and they are generally reveered (sp?) when they often don’t deserve it. I could go on and on about a personal example of the worse time in my entire life when the bishop (though he knew) did everything he could to avoid/ignore me, as did the Relief Society presidency, all the way down. In my deepest hour of need, not a single member of the church was there for me (though I asked for help and it was a truly dark time). Who did? A couple great friends (not Mormon) who have turned out to be the most Christlike people I know.

    I know it sounds like I have an ax to grind with the church. If you met me, though, I think you’d find the opposite. I’m friendly at church, participate in discussions, invite the missionaries over for dinner, mostly live the WoW and take care of my body, support my family in church activities. But heaven forbid I ever try to discuss the sensitive topics. I get the same answers Dan gave me… I just need to pray more and be more humble then you’ll be just like me some day. Ugh.

  140. Been gone a while, but kinda funny that I come back and see a thread along the same vein as what I’ve been trying to sort out since shortly after getting back to school. Turns out I’m the only member on campus (as far as I have been able to find out) and the closest single’s ward is about half an hour away. Went to the reg. ward here for a while last year but really didn’t get much from it since there wasn’t anyone else there within 2 years of my age with whom I could relate. Better something than nothing but I keep finding myself wandering mentally because I wasn’t a youth and wasn’t going to be bringing the kids to any ward picnics. I felt pretentious going when all I was going to do was drift off and think about what I would be thinking about if I hadn’t gone at all.

    I want to be going to single’s ward because that’s where I feel like I should be but until recently have been a little slacking about finding ways to get there since I don’t have a car yet. Once I do it’ll be much easier.

    After that setup, something really interesting happened to me last night. Someone who i know through the online game I’m addicted to (that comment is for Ray’s benefit ^_^), but am not what I would call friends with send me a tell saying that he didn’t know why but he had a dream the night before in which he was told to do 2 things; speak at his parent’s church and talk to me. I have never met this person and have never talked outside of general bantering back and forth in the group channel for anything more than quick side commentary. For some reason he felt prompted to ask me to pray for his significant other who has leukemia and is in the middle of going through treatment.

    Kinda one of those things you can’t really ignore, when someone you barely know as an acquaintance is told that they need to ask you to pray for someone they love, who you yourself has never even heard of more than once or twice in passing. Just got my refund check from the school so once I get to the bank the first thing I’m going to do is find a cheap, 4-wheeled frame and find where I put the directions. Fortunately for me, gas prices down here are among the lowest in the country

  141. Steve Evans says:

    Jane Doe: “I know it sounds like I have an ax to grind with the church.”

    Indeed it does! It sounds like you have very little to say in the way of praise for the Church at all. Rather, it sounds like you hate every inch of it and would leave it in a heartbeat if you could. As I’ve said before, wallowing in such feelings of doubt and confusion will get you absolutely nowhere. Easy as it is for you to condemn Dan’s “trite” answer, he’s not wrong. It’s very possible you are approaching this situation in entirely the wrong way.

  142. As much as it sounds like a trite answer, it really is the only way. The reason why everyone keeps telling you this is because its true.

    What if I wanted to lose weight and I got sick of everyone’s “trite” answer that I need to exercise more.

    Sometimes there really is no real easy way to do it.

    As far as why you haven’t gotten an answer. It sounds like you’ve already decided that Joseph Smith made some horrible mistakes, and therefore couldn’t be inspired. Perhaps God doesn’t see it the same way and maybe its because he knows some things that you don’t. What helped me with the polygamy thing was to read about some of the experiences those he proposed to had as far as receiving their own witness. They had to experience these things first hand and many of them stayed true because they did receive an answer.

  143. Steve/Jeff,

    Thanks. It’s exactly these responses that many doubters experience, leaving us feeling confused, alone, unsupported, and unwelcomed. That’s the purpose of this post, is it not? And with the shrill “you must hate it so just leave” is entirely expected. Instead of a rational explanation on how/why you’ve been able to accept certain things, it’s so much easier to simply say “gosh, it’s your problem so go away”.

  144. Jane,

    “Trite?” Are you serious?
    I really want to be supportive of people like you who have honest questions, but you don’t make it easy when you show that kind of contempt for people like me, just because we say it’s possible to struggle with questions and emerge with a better perspective without getting the answer we hope for.
    Sometimes the family members, friends, and people at Church are portrayed as so mean and unfeeling, but there really are two sides to the story, don’t you think?

  145. Steve Evans says:

    Jane, yawn. You have such an obvious chip on your shoulder, it’s ridiculous. From your comments, it’s clear that you are not genuinely interested in discussion or even in questioning. Rather, you’re just angry and want to vent. From all of your comments, your hatred of the Church and distain for those who believe are palpable. Characterizing my reply as “shrill” is par for the course with you. Frankly, you don’t strike me as someone who is wrestling with doubts — I think you are antagonistic, and you’re acting like a troll. If you want to be mad at the Church, fine — but spew your anger elsewhere.

  146. I’m sorry if giving you the right answer leaves you feeling unsupported and unwelcome. I don’t have the attitude that you must hate it. I can just see that it seems you’ve already decided a few things so therefore it might be harder for you to get answers to your prayers.

    I’m not sure what you want from us exactly. I’ve experienced the exact same doubt for the exact same things and I’m telling you exactly how I was able to get through it, but apparently that makes you feel unwelcome.

    If you’re looking for a rational explanation as to why things work then that might be the issue right there. I’ve come to feel that our own reasoning processes are limited and some things must be learned spiritually.

  147. See, my comment #136 holds true…

  148. This sounds like an argument with my wife some time ago after Church; we had lessons in Church about the Abrahamic Covenant and lineages in the House of Israel, two doctrines I would really rather we deemphasize and let fade away. After a while, my wife pointed out that I wasn’t approaching the issue in a spirit of honest inquiry; I was just looking to vent over something that doesn’t taste right to me. She was right. For the time being, I’ve put those doctrines on my “bookshelf” until I’m ready to approach them honestly and humbly, and that may be a while.

  149. Matt, most tautologies work that way.

  150. Jeff-I will be the first one to admit that I might just be being stubborn and prideful at times right now. It is actually why I asked several people to stop pushing me to go to church-because then I have to deal with all of the other issues and my stubborness as well. I don’t think I am searching for a rational explanation because there are plenty of things that defy rationale-women giving birth to more than one child for example. :)

    I know God loves his/her children. There is no doubt in my mind. The historical issues don’t bother me as much because I am good person today and still have done some really dumb things in the past so I can cut the church some slack.

    My problem is that I don’t feel that women’s current role is what God would have it be. I think that things will change because they always do in the church. I would love to see women being encouraged to administer as they did in the past and I am not sure that we won’t hear that at some point. For me it is a matter of finding/making peace with where things are and whether or not I can live with them. I can say that taking a breather from church has actually helped a ton. I was extrememly bitter and angry before and now I have chilled about it.

  151. Tanya Sue — I can now confirm that chocolate will be present at Sacrament.

  152. Matt,

    Your comment is correct in depicting some of why we get frustrated, but it does not take into account that sometimes the questioner has made up his or her mind on what is inspiration, what is worthy of being considered doctrine, what is fair, etc., e.g., “If there are multiple and varying First Vision stories, then one or more of them are unreliable.” If the questioner has already made up their mind of this statement, it really limits their ability to receive insight into the context of Joseph’s development, and what he felt was appropriate to share at different times.

  153. Sreve-I am so there!!!!!

  154. I meant to type Steve…stupid new work laptop….

  155. Dan, at the risk of adding more to my tautology, I did note that the doubter does not really understand what they are not doing, or how to change what they are doing. While you may be correct that a shift in perspective is necassary to overcome the difficulty presented, this changing of perspective can often feel like an insurmountable obstacle to the person being asked to reevaluate. This becomes more difficult when we have Moroni’s promise and Joseph Smith telling us to ask God in faith and he will help us, and the most fundamental problem we need help with is having faith.

    I don’t want to be redundant, so I’m stopping there. (too late, I know)

  156. Thanks for this thread its been helpful to read through the comments I’m another doubting member. And have been for a couple years. It has been pretty hard on myself / marriage I am still 100% active in the church and am trying to determine if I have a testimony (ie reading BOM, praying listening to confrence talks…) Many posts here strongly resonated with me. My beliefs change quickly but now I probably believe the church is more false than true. But I can’t explain a lot and I know I can’t say I know is False. I’m working with my bishop and he has been supportive. But it has been a lonely twisting road. I tried fair & nom. But didn’t really either were too helpful. If anything caused more doubt.

    While I’m bothered by some history of the church. I’m also troubled by basic Christianity, as well as some current church teachings. I realized I’m bigoted toward homosexuals, and am working to overcome it. I know I am because of my parents as well as church teachings. While I’m working to overcome it I wonder if this truly is a godly commandment. Why are we so against gay marriage? I also wonder at times if the churches obsession with sexuality is misguided. I believe it causes much unnecessary pain and suffering. While I believe fidelity is key in marriage I’m not sure absolute abstinence is best outside of it. I find the admonition to avoid tattoos / piercings silly and can be used to hurt and divide. I had long hair as a youth and I know how much crap I got for it even without the prophet explicitly saying it was bad. I think like blacks, women without the priesthood is a practice not a doctrine – so change it already…

  157. I realize that, and I’m not going to claim that these things operate in a predictable, explainable sequence. There are a lot of people who could rattle off a perfect list of scriptures and quotes explaining the process of getting from doubt to faith, but I’m not one of them; the process for me is always much more messy and full of unexpected twists and turns.
    The insistence that these things happen in a neat, understandable sequence has the effect of keeping doubters mired in doubt, and keeping believers from empathy towards those who doubt.

  158. “It seems to me, listening and supporting someone through such a crisis would be truly an act of Christian charity, and casting them out would be the job of the Pharisees.” – Tracy M

    “I’m friendly at church, participate in discussions, invite the missionaries over for dinner, mostly live the WoW and take care of my body, support my family in church activities. But heaven forbid I ever try to discuss the sensitive topics.” – Jane Doe

    “Jane, yawn. You have such an obvious chip on your shoulder, it’s ridiculous. … If you want to be mad at the Church, fine — but spew your anger elsewhere.” – Steve Evans

    I shouldn’t have come back to BCC today. Or, frankly, ever. No one deserves to be publicly raked over the coals like that. If you have a troll problem, edit the trollishness out of the troll’s comments, delete the troll’s comments entirely, ban the troll from commenting ever again, or do whatever you need to do to prevent trollishness from appearing on your blog, since it’s your blog, after all. But the personal berating of commenters sucks. Seriously. I actually had something nice to say in response to Tracy M’s nice post. After reading the comments on this thread, however (since it is polite to read before you post), I forgot what I was going to say, and am now in a bad mood. Thanks, BCC.

  159. Fine, Beijing. I’m a Pharisee and whited sepulchre. Sorry for your bad mood.

  160. Doubter's Friend says:

    Steve: During the past ten years or so, I have have been a father, friend and Bishop of at least ten people whom I genuinely love, and who sound very much like Jane Doe. Some have left the Church, and some have not. I am trying hard to keep those who still remain. I really do not understand what good you think you will achieve by treating her the way you have. I really wish people would not treat people like her this way. Why would we ever want to insult and drive people away from us?

  161. Beijing, I gotta stick up for Steve on this one. He had made other comments earlier to adress these concerns in a charitable way, only to be told by Jane Doe that he and Dan were being “trite”. She was the one being unfair, and Steve responded to that. While I sympathize with Jane, her response was uncalled for. Don’t just single out Steve for that.

  162. Steve Evans says:

    Look, folks, I’m a jerk. I love this Church, and when I see people talk about it in ways I find excessively negative, I don’t like that at all. In those situations, I reply harshly and in a knee-jerk way. Jane Doe, I probably owe you an apology for being mean to you when you needed such a reaction the least. I hope that you can see me for what I am — a loudmouth jerk with a quick temper. Beijing knows me for years and has no illusions otherwise.

  163. Another Jane Doe says:

    Jane –

    Don’t let Steve scare you off. A lot of us here at BCC struggle with the same things you’re struggling with. I’m just a lurker here, most of the time. But I love being able to read the writing of intelligent, faithful, knowledgeable people in the bloggernacle. My questions and doubts haven’t been resolved, but I’ve found lots of food for thought. I sift through long threads filled with repetitive themes, rehashed arguments, inside jokes, silliness, and contention, to find the occasional beautiful gem that lifts my soul. I especially love the writing of Kevin Barney, Ronan, Ray, J.Stapley, Kristine Haglund, Kaimi, DMI Dave, Eve, Lynnette, and, yes, Steve Evans. I hope you’ll keep coming to church and keep coming to BCC, and work through your faith and doubts in a way that will bring you peace and joy. It’s a very personal thing, but in Mormonism, it’s also a communal thing. I’m grateful for the Bloggernacle, my virtual faith (and doubt) community. Thank you to all of you.

  164. Doubters Friend: Thanks a million for that. Your words are very true.

    Jacob M: Trite means “repeated too often” or “already said in exactly the same way so often that it no longer has any effectiveness”. When I stated that was a “trite” response, I meant it in a very literal sense… I’ve heard it a million times and the response was wholely expected. Not sure how that comes across as a personal slam or dig as the responses that followed it aimed in my direction were.

  165. Jane,
    “Not sure how that comes across as a personal slam or dig ”

    look at the last sentence you wrote in #140:

    “I get the same answers Dan gave me… I just need to pray more and be more humble then you’ll be just like me some day. Ugh.”

    Do you honestly believe that is what people like me are saying? Do you think we are arrogant to share insights we have that have helped us? What are you hoping for from the people you talk to who have had good experiences sorting through difficult questions?

  166. No, Dan, what I’m saying is that it’s a trite response when some day I’d really like to hear something really substantial on my questions. Like… “I believe JS married women who were legally married to other men because________ and that it was pure in the eyes of God because _________.”

    Seriously, I’ll stop commenting because it’s making me incredibly sad.

  167. Also,
    “I’ve heard it a million times and the response was wholely expected.”
    Would it be fair or even kind for me to say that I can predict your responses to any given doctrinal question or expression of faith?
    It would be nice if you would ask yourself if you are guilty of the same contempt that you perceive in the people who you approach about things; that introspection actually might help you in your search for understanding.

  168. #141 – (*Personal message alert* – Everyone else feel free to skip)

    citrus, knowing nothing about the person who called you, I suggest you fast and pray about how to introduce the concept of Priesthood blessings – then fast and pray for the inspiration either to voice the will of the Lord or know whom to ask to do so.

    Back to the rest of you.

  169. Saying that it’s trite is invalidating the person’s own experience. Dan was telling you his own experience as well as he could, and you’re saying his words are worthless, because you’ve heard them a million times. That is not a good attitude to have towards others.

    Before you respond to that, though, I do wish to let you know that I understand in part how you feel. I’ve had plenty of times where I have felt deep doubts as to those same issues which you brought up. I specifically say “in part” because I’ve felt that I’ve gotten an answer. Not the full answer, but an answer. I won’t go into the specifics here, because I don’t want to have my treasured experiences to become trite.

    FYI – I live in Huntington Beach, CA. You close by? If so, I wouldn’t mind talking to you about my perspectives. However, I must note, I am 26, single, and working full-time and going to school full-time, so the Nacle is where I spend many of my few free moments. Believe it or not, I’m also a lot nicer in person than online, but I can still be quite obnoxious. My email is jacobcmix at aol dot com if you want to contact me, too.

  170. I have been trying to understand why some people (me included) have doubt problems (by doubt problems, I mean not being able, inclined to put things on that shelf), while other people, knowing more than I do about mormon history issues/philosophical issues/science v.religion issues, or whatever , as smb points out, do not have such problems.

    I think #130 highlighted the Big Question in all this. As a social scientist, I would guess that there are statstically significant identifiable reasons for those differences, given a large enough representative sample size of church membership.

    But I don’t know if anyone has systematically studied that issue.

    For me, one thing that has allowed me to be comfortable living with unanswered questions is that my undergraduate degree is in a biological science. A lot of the stuff we learned, especially back when I graduated 27 years ago, was based on theory or “laws,” without any solid evidence–although in the intervening years, developments in electron miscropy and genetic analyses have ultimately “proven” things that we had accepted on faith. So I am used to the idea of living with insufficient data, and don’t have the insistence to demand answers that other folks do.

    The other thing is that our travel schedule has allowed us to visit most church history sites, from the Mormon battalion visitor’s center in San Diego to those up in Palmyra, etc. At our first visit to Liberty Jail, there weren’t too many folks, so they let us walk down into the jail (which I didn’t appreciate at the time was somewhat rare). And when I travel to those sites, I ponder about what happened there, and pray about it and seek to understand better. When I was in Kirtland, I prayed about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy, and while we were there, I was hit with such a strong testimony that Joseph was a prophet, beloved of the Lord, and that someday I would understand what was going on with all that. So although it wasn’t an answer that skeptics might accept, it was a clear answer to me that allowed me to go on and continue faithful in the church. And I had other experiences in other places.

    (The one exception to all that is the Sacred Grove, which was not positive. We went in July, and I had casually applied routine-strength insect repellent. It wasn’t near enough; only 100% Deet would work for the carnivorous mosquitos they had there. I literally ran through it and out again to avoid the nasty bugs. and didn’t have time to pray.)

  171. “I believe JS married women who were legally married to other men because________ and that it was pure in the eyes of God because _________.”

    I’ll fill it in:

    “I believe JS married women who were legally married to other men because he had a very different — and I believe faulty — concept of how eternal marriage works, and I have never seen the contemporary Church claim that his marriages were pure in the eyes of God.”

    I am comfortable believing he was wrong in this area, and I am comfortable being a member of the Church because I don’t believe his theological wrongness (and I believe there was a lot of it!) has anything to do with the things I have learned and experienced in the Church.
    BTW, I also don’t beleive the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, and I believe the denial of the Priesthood to Blacks was a sad mistake. I can go on and on…

  172. Tanya Sue:

    Thanks for the response,

    Just out of curiosity why are you so sure that women’s place in the church is out of step with what God would have it be. I found that in order to have answers to my prayers I have to be willing to question all of my preconceived notions.

    While it is natural to feel that whenever we come up against something in the church or scriptures that doesn’t match our own feelings to assume that its the church that’s wrong rather than the other way around, that may not necessarily be the case. Part of the reason is the way that we see things may be culturally defined and not in the way that God does. The way we see leadership in our culture may be vastly different from the way that God sees it. In his eyes perhaps he doesn’t see that women are in a subordinate position at all.

    You may have to question everything you hold true to in your heart, to see things.

  173. Jane and fellow doubters,
    The first thing to note is that if you believe that you have a monopoly on doubt, you are exceedingly short sighted. Everyone doubts (note Kevin’s (or someone’s) honest doubters comment). That one chooses not to doubt in your particular way speaks to taste, not spirituality, honesty, arrogance, or inherent goodness.
    The second thing to note is that the church wants you, doubts and all. You may not feel that way, but it appears to be true and has been true in my experience. As a fellow traveller, I want you in the church.
    The third thing to note is that there simply isn’t a way to answer all those questions in a way that will satisfy. In my experience, God does and commands things that appear capricious, cruel, wrong-headed, and baffling. At the same time, my interaction with God has led me to moments of grace that I cannot and will not deny. It is my firm belief, or rather, I know that God loves me and that he doesn’t have any particularly good reason to do it. I am frail, stupid, silly, proud, rebellious, and unteachable at my worst, but it is in my worst moments that I have most felt his love and come back. The choice to believe is always just a choice. There is nothing to say I can’t stop believing tomorrow, if I so choose. For the moment, I choose to continue to believe. You have to do what you have to do; God will love you anyway and if you want to come back, there is nothing you can do that won’t make us welcome you back.
    As an example, I was talking with my wife this past Sunday about some of the language that Paul uses regarding men and women (the business about Christ being the head of men and men being the head of women). She asked why women were depicted as further from Christ than men. I answered that I thought that Paul was trying to figure out the reasons behind church government and was relying on stories about Adam and Eve to justify the practice then. She noted that I didn’t really answer the question and, probably, I didn’t. I had to reframe the question to have it make sense in how I approach the gospel. This is why your conversations with “believers” go nowhere. We are always reframing the question (even if it is the same question, we ask it from a different context). Think about how Richard Bushman can read and accept all the conclusions he came to while writing Rough Stone Rolling and then consider how he came out of it believing that Joseph is more of a prophet than ever. Not to call you ignorant, but I am sure Bushman has a better grasp of the issues than you (and me), but somehow he gets through it with testimony intact (although I am also sure it has been adjusted). I don’t say this to state that you should believe Bushman at his word, or that you should believe because he does. Rather, I think that truth is that Bushman went into it believing and chose to continue believing while he did it. So he reframed the questions in the light of his belief and it became, for him, a faith-affirming endeavor.
    Doubters tend to assume that they are the only ones being in honest in the room or that they are the only ones asking these questions. Isolation, especially self-imposed isolation, begets despair. I am not saying that your isolation is self-imposed; certainly it is difficult to discuss these issues in church. However, I have never been in a ward where there wasn’t an enterprising reader of Nibley or FARMs or the Bible or the Journal of Discourses. Some humility may be in order in seeking out these folk and interacting with them and being willing to learn from them (even if they aren’t always willing to learn from you).
    Finally, since you asked, I believe that Joseph Smith was justified in marrying other men’s wives because I believe that God told him to do it. That is about all the explanation God has given for the practice and it is about all that I have been able to wrap my mind around. I simply can’t explain it in rational terms, aside from saying that God apparently has a different notion of the proprieties of marriage than the modern West prepares us for. I can’t morally explain it nor do I pretend to approve of it; however my notion of God and of my understanding of God is prepared to accept that God could have commanded it. Mostly this is a matter of personal choice.
    Good luck in your journey

  174. It seems we’re going round and round, and if any of you would like to continue this thread, please feel free to do so off the boards.

    Thanks for all your comments, but the comments here are now closed.

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