Do you have to lose your faith to find it?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about faith, specifically about what a trial of faith might consist of. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a trial of faith. I’ve experienced no great tragedy (knock on wood) and, while I’m excellent at self-sabotage and self-pity, I’ve had no real obstacles to overcome. My father has always been kind to me, so I’ve never had any trouble imagining a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us. I’ve never really had cause or need to question my faith in any significant sense. I worry that this has made me lazy.

First, let me be clear: I don’t want to fetishize trials or struggles with this post. As I’ve hopefully made clear through the years of blogging, I don’t particularly want to experience hardship; it looks like a lot of effort. Even that dumb joke trivializes the exquisite pain, suffering, doubt, sorrow, despair, loneliness, and wretched anger that many people (if not most people) must live through. Some don’t survive. I’ve no doubt that claims to have never really had to deal with anything hard are a form of humblebrag, but in my instance it surprises, humbles, and frightens me. I don’t imagine that I’ll escape something horrible; if I wanted to keep myself up nights it would be incredibly easy to imagine things happening to myself or, much, much worse, to my loved ones. If I wanted to inhabit that mind, I doubt I’d get out of bed in the morning. And yet, some people do.

So, with that caveat, I’ve been thinking a bit about what it really would mean to lose my faith. I wonder because I’m not a terribly good Mormon. So, arguably, I wouldn’t experience a huge life change if my faith faltered. I’m in Bavaria, so I’d probably try beer, and coffee is incredibly tempting, but other than that I don’t imagine my life changing all that much (let’s assume my family would be cool with it, for the sake of argument). So, if I am only so-so at commandment-keeping and general Mormonism, what does Mormonism give me? Why cling to it at all?

I think that what Mormonism gives me most is meaning. Understanding myself as a child of God, of a loving God, gives me a sense of the universe and the purpose of life that calms me and grants me a sort of bizarre serenity. As bad as things might get, I have the feeling that they will work out. There is a quote out there that I saw today on facebook from President Hinckley. He said, “In my ninety-plus years, I have learned a secret. I have learned that when good men and good women face challenges with optimism, things will always work out! Truly, things always work out! Despite how difficult circumstances may look at the moment, those who have faith and move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.” (Don’t ask me the source; I found it on goodreads). This is nice and comforting, but I also wonder if, like I said above, it is making me spiritually lazy (to go along with the physical and emotional laziness). I’m like a welfare queen, relying on the good Lord to make up for my errors as I wend my witless way through life.

Perhaps what a trial of faith is meant to do is to rob you of this laziness. Not that you have to be lazy to get a trial (generally, as I understand it, you just win the trial lottery), but that we shouldn’t be this sort of lazy. An assurance that God will make everything work is a comfort, but when that comfort is gone, torn away by the combination of something horrible and prayers about it that go unanswered, we don’t stop living. Our lives go on when our faith does not. In this new-found void, we must make our own meaning.

I’ve always been impressed by those people who create their own meaning. Existentialists, whom I usually find too gratingly superior to really understand existence, at least have this right. We must determine what our lives mean; there is no-one, not even God, who can do that for us. The loss of faith puts this into stark perspective; when you realize that no-one will show up at the end to give you a gold star or a demerit for the work you did, then you must decide for yourself how hard you are going to try to live. Voltaire, at the end of Candide, encourages us all to tend our gardens, but isn’t that as nihilistic a pursuit as any other goal in that book? The person that we must ultimately satisfy is ourselves; I worry that, in our efforts to please God, we forget that we are not here to please him, but rather to become like him. Creating meaning from the unfashioned void, that is what God does.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that we shouldn’t praise the Lord, nor that we should just seek our own bliss. I just wonder what sort of faith we might have if we made having faith a conscious decision, not based in our memories of a happy home, tradition, upbringing, or any one of the hundred thousand earthly influences that lead us to choose one thing over another. What if the choice to believe was an act of agency, of will, in its way contrary to our earthly understanding, but a necessary step to becoming a being who can create organization, being, meaning, and joy from chaos and random chance? Do you think that the shift to becoming one with the Father could require us to endure all things as Christ did, including a moment or more of wondering why he has forsaken us? Hypocrite and faltering Saint that I am, I still wonder if I too might someday be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Lord, in those hypothetically dire straits, help Thou mine unbelief.

Comments

  1. I think the answer is that some people have to suffer great trials to find their faith. We talked about this in RS on last Sunday. I mentioned that I am the child who has to touch the stove to know it is hot. It is the only way I learn. Looking back on my life, in my greatest times of trial where I felt it was unbearable to even breathe anymore I know it was trial by fire. I emerged on the other side traumatized, but alive. These trials by fire have burnt away the “fluff” and left me with where (and in what) my faith truly lies. I never lost my faith, but it has been strained, stretched, and contorted to the breaking point; that’s how I know how to find it.

  2. I think you are right in many ways. I’m sure we all must go through the “why has Thou forsaken me?” moment at which time it is faith as an act of agency that must be put on the alter of sacrifice.

  3. Joshua B. says:

    yes

  4. I’ve got mixed feelings on this. Faith without ever having experienced doubt is a scary proposition, unless it’s a fairly lukewarm faith. Overconfidence in one’s beliefs in the unknowable is a recipe for zealotry.

    I would add that there may be a difference between having your faith tested and having lost it. Did Jesus lose his faith in the 40 days or was it just tested?

    And lastly, I have wondered about the connection between success in life and faith. If you’ve never really experienced suffering and adversity, do you in fact really need and rely on religion. I’m not sure religious experience is available equally to those who don’t really “need” it. Most religions are founded by those on the fringe for a reason. The star quarterback isn’t usually God’s mouthpiece. Otherwise Jesus would have said “the first shall be first.”

  5. EOR,
    I think that most of our first impressions of God (the sort of things that we build our faith on) are wrong, because we are so excited that someone up there is listening to us that we don’t really pay attention to what they say (or don’t say). Our specialness in this overcomes our ability to process what is going on. So, life, as is it’s way, proceeds to destroy our initial assumptions about God. Many describe this as losing faith, especially when you don’t create new assumptions (aside from him/her not being around at all). So, there is that (it sorta relates).

    Joshua,
    Pithy.

    hawkgrrl,
    I don’t think I’m advocating for faith without doubt, so I’m going to assume that the first part is where you agree with me. I also can’t speak to anything in Christ’s life, but the cross and what-all seems more trying to me than the 40 days, FWIW.

    I too am interested in the connection between success and religion. Certainly, the poor and the rich get different things from religion; they have different needs after all. I’m not, however, comfortable articulating what I think those needs may be or why they might exist. On a global scale, I’m filthy rich. On an American scale, I’m pretty middle class. I feel like I’m as capable of needing religion as anyone, but how would I know otherwise. That said, I think that you are right to connect this post to notions of privilege (specifically, white, upper-middle-class, American privilege), where we are so concerned that we aren’t experiencing life as the poor do that we wonder if we shouldn’t dream up some pseudo-drama (Trek, a “cleanse”, and so forth) in order to make ourselves feel more connected to the divine. I’m sure most poor people would prefer to have the option to cleanse, as opposed to the daily drudgery of practically starving to death, as well.

  6. As to “success,” I think we have to evaluate it in terms of more than just class distinction. For example, as you point out, the wealthy may experience personal loss or trauma (disease, divorce, loss of a loved one) that causes suffering. Buddha was a wealthy prince who deliberately forsake it all to experience the divine.

    I guess the question I have is whether you are talking about a trial of faith or a crisis of faith. Those seem to me to be two very different things. A crisis of faith in some way turns us away from our set of beliefs to a different set of beliefs. A trial of faith probably results in reconfirming our beliefs ultimately while giving you more reasons to rely on your faith. Here’s the rub: most would probably say Jesus underwent a trial of faith – would he remain faithful despite the difficulty? Would he obey even to death? But if you look at it from a Jewish perspective, he had a faith crisis; he left Judaism behind for a new set of beliefs, one that he didn’t just get from Judaism. I once heard a Rabbi say “Jesus was a bad Jew” because he broke with Jewish faith traditions.

  7. By those terms, I’m definitely talking about a faith crisis.

  8. I suppose what I went through is definitely a crisis of faith. It started not because of an outward trial, but because of a desire to have stronger faith- things in life were going well and I wanted to strengthen my testimony of certain things that I believed in but didn’t fully understand/know about (like the temple ceremonies and the nature of the prophets and the priesthood).
    At the time that I started on this path, I could not have been more of a full believer, though little things about church culture drove me crazy- since I felt it was true, I could deal with all the little things that I don’t like or find to be destructive. Unfortunately, my efforts to strengthen my testimony had the opposite affect- I realized the evidence I had always based my testimony on was, at best, incomplete. Once that came tumbling down, all I was left with was the rest- the parts that I didn’t like. Admittedly, this is the fault of the nature of my testimony- it was always logic-based rather than faith-based. I never had a spiritual witness of the truth of it all, despite asking for one sincerely for many years. At the time I thought the lack of witness was because I didn’t need it, I already “knew” it was true based on logic. My spiritual gift was “knowing” it was true, even without being told. Unfortunately, I came to “unknow” a lot of things, and know NEW things, and my analytical brain was forced by logic into a change in beliefs.

    So here I am, no belief in the power of the priesthood, wondering why I should stay. After 4-5 months of experimenting with making it work, we decided that the church was not helping us grow. The mental gymnastics required to stay were taking energy that could be used to much more constructive purposes. The cognitive dissonance was soul-crushing. I recognized that I don’t want my children too heavily influenced by things taught in YM and YW. Mormonism wasn’t yielding good fruit for us anymore. And frankly, I simply don’t have the type of brain that I can WILL to believe something that feels wrong. It felt like God had a different plan for us.

    Mostly, I was surprised by one thing: in my crisis of faith, I NEVER felt like God had abandoned me. Mormonism was a wonderful tool for good in my life, and I’m glad God put me in a position to be in it for 28 years. But I have felt his hand guiding me every step of the way out of the church and can see why- at this point in time, being out of the church is healthier, happier, and lets us focus more on being who God wants us to be. I absolutely do not think this means others should not stay- far from it. If it is still a tool for good in your life, then you have your answer.
    In short, my crisis of faith is NOTHING like I expected a crisis of faith to be. The only sad part has been seeing my family’s broken hearts- not because of any of my actions but because of my beliefs, which I really don’t have much control over. We’re all subject to whatever evidence (including spiritual evidence like promptings from the Holy Ghost) we’ve been exposed to.

  9. I would say you don’t have to lose your faith to find it but rather that you need to question your faith to refine it. Sometimes, that’s an externally imposed trial or crisis; sometimes, it’s a natural result of a seeking spirit; sometimes, it’s something else. In all cases, it changes faith from something borrowed to something owned.

    As Hawkgrrrl once said, at some point you have to become an adult of God, and that includes learning what you personally believe enough to act on – even if it is different in ways than others who were instrumental in providing your initial faith.

  10. No to derail the conversation, but I have a really hard time with quotes like the one from President Hinkley above. I know things often workout for many people, but they don’t work out for lots of others. Anyone that has read Dostoevsky, studied history, or looked around the world a bit can find many examples of people who’s live have not worked out, despite lots of prayers and often optimism. To me it just seems naive.

  11. k anderson says:

    But does it work out in the END? Even in the next life, the Lord will right all wrongs, won’t he? And I suppose that depends on the meaning of worked out. Obv Haiti earthquake victims or those that die in poverty or sexual slavery do not get justice in this life. But I have faith justice and mercy claim all in the *end*.

  12. marginalizedmormon says:

    goodness, I’ve spent decades doubting everything, and I am still in the church, but with my tongue in my cheek.

    There is a very big difference between glorious faith and being an active member of any religious body/group/ideology.

    No, I can’t relate to President Hinckley. He was a nice man, and some of the things he preached were all right, but he was a ‘golden boy’–yes, he was. If you’re outside that inner LDS circle you might have an entirely different experience, with things that could never be discussed over a conference center pulpit.

    as the person just above me says, there is no justice in this life, not for many people, not for slaves (of all kinds) and children who don’t get enough to eat, ever–
    I’m not quite sure how aware some of those in Salt Lake (in leadership) are of these people; they see all the happy, smiling LDS when they fly around the world to dedicate temples–

    (sounds cynical; don’t mean it that way)–

    It’s a privilege, I think, after it is all over . . . to have things not be quite right–

    but I am very grateful that I have had faith crises–

    pretty steadily throughout my life–

    and God is much more real to me now than when it all began, when I still thought things were simple and that 1 plus 1 would equal 2–

    and that if you just walked a certain path the lovely life would follow–

  13. I think sometimes you do. I think sometimes the trial of our faith is regaining that faith. It is re-establishing what we once believed to be true and hoping for a miracle. I know that when I lost my faith and re-established it, I gained so much more knowledge that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m not saying it is for everyone and I know many dear people who went through the same thing and never came back. For me, when I came back, it was with full force and with a knowledge that returning was indeed my choice. It was very powerful. Ideal?? Not really. But I wouldn’t trade my testimony now for the one I had before.

  14. Loss of faith is not a prerequisite to real faith.

    Faith is a both a gift and a choice — we have to choose to accept the gift — we have to choose to magnify the gift.

    The faith of one who has had a faith crisis cannot be said to be “better” than the faith of one who has not had such a crisis. The faith of one who has not had a faith crisis cannot be said to be “lesser” than the faith of who who has.

    Faith in what, by the way? Faith in the Church as an institution? Or faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? The first by itself is perhaps what the original poster is describing — hopefully, those with this faith will choose to magnify it into the latter. For covenant-making Latter-day Saints, the latter encompasses the first.

  15. I believe that a “faith crisis” and a “testimony crisis” aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    A while back, I had a nearly two-year period where nearly every imaginable thing that could go wrong seemed to be going wrong. (In retrospect, I got off lucky, but I sure felt beat up at the time.) The first 6-8 months were full of hope, full of “we’ll get through this” and “any day now, it will get better.” But after a long time of seemingly having everything go the wrong way while watching everyone else move forward, I kind of got to the point where I felt like every day I got up, it was just to see what disappointment was next. I felt so powerless, and the guidance I had felt in other times of my life seemed to be non-existent.

    My testimony wasn’t really challenged during this time, but my faith certainly was. That’s when I learned that faith isn’t really faith if things always work out. It’s putting trust in the Lord and trying to move forward every day even when things aren’t going well and when what you want seems eternally out of reach. It’s trusting the Lord is there even when you can’t feel him talking, even when the evidence of blessings is scant.

    I didn’t enjoy any part of that experience, even though I know I benefited from it. And while things are mostly going great right now, my world is filled with people who are struggling with big things, and I’m sure I’ll have my turn again. So while I don’t think we all necessarily have crises that make us question or lose our testimonies, I believe we’re universally faced with situations big and small in which we our FAITH are being challenged and tested. (“Ere we are aware,” much of the time.)

    Faith must be challenged to be strengthened? I’ll agree with that. I don’t think any of us get to escape it, either.

    Testimony challenged to be strengthened? I’ve had to work through hundreds of little challenges, but the core has strengthened and thickened over time either in spite of those smaller challenges or because of them. I’m not sure which.

  16. ji,
    Do not in this instance, nor in any instance from this moment on, presume to speak for me. Thank you.

  17. Master Blaster says:

    I find that when I do not take the Book of Mormon seriously in my life, my faith struggles and doubt creeps in. For me, there has been nothing comparable in bolstering my faith and casting away doubt in regards to basic Gospel truths and in the Resurrection. I don’t doubt the sincerity of people saying they felt led out of the Church, but I have a hard time believing that God would actually ‘lead’ someone away from the Book of Mormon and access to the blessings that come from the Priesthood. He might be leading you the best you’ll let Him, but actually leading you out???

  18. “Do you think that the shift to becoming one with the Father could require us to endure …. a moment or more of wondering why he has forsaken us?”

    I’ve decided I believe the answer is “yes”. Notwithstanding that we preach we can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, I think what we become is determined by how we choose while facing crises/choices, great or small, when we don’t feel the immediate influence of the Spirit. While under the influence of the Holy Ghost, the spiritual witnesses we receive, the foundation of our faith, seem large and unassailable. But, when left to ourselves, we can doubt they ever happened. We are left to choose how we will react and whether we’re willing to rely on those possibly imagined witnesses of the past. Most of the time our growth comes from the small mundane choices we’re constantly making to live our faith, but I believe there will come times for each of us when the crises will seem insurmountable and we feel totally abandoned. I think we can get through some of these situations on force of will, or perhaps simply force of habit, but in the end, I think our choices will be determined by what we really love.

    And Elder Holland’s conference talk was really, really good.

  19. “I’ve had no real obstacles to overcome.”
    Really – not even that guy with the practice drum pad?

    For me too, faith gives meaning and purpose to existence. Mormonism offers a narrative that places me in an eternal stream that makes sense to me. There’s lots of stuff I find problematic, don’t understand, and wouldn’t pretend to know, but when I look around I see no other story I find motivating or could really get behind. When I think about losing faith, that meaning is what I’m afraid of losing along with it.

    I believe that faith is always a choice. For some it’s an easy choice, for others it is a difficult one. I know some people who seem to make that choice once and hold to it come whatever, and others for whom it must be made in new ways every day. Still others who go through long periods of one and then the other (I count myself in this category). I believe everyone has questions and doubts, but not that everyone needs a real crisis of faith – at least not after having found it the first time.

    What does it mean that things will “work out” in the end? That we will survive a great hardship? For most hardships, whether or not we will actually survive doesn’t depend on the presence or absence of faith. We come through it either way, but I think the experience can be so altered by faith that we feel it’s the only reason we survived.

    I don’t see that kind of hope and sustainment leading to spiritual laziness – “relying on the good Lord to make up for my errors.” That sounds applicable not to “bad things that happen to me and those I care about”, but rather to “bad things I choose to do in violation of what I know or believe to be right.” While I usually interpret quotes like Hinckley’s in light of the first category, I might also have a tendency to think “God is good and forgiving, He’ll recognize whatever efforts I’ve made and let me in in the end.” And though it’s indefensible, I probably do sometimes have that very thought in my head at the moment I choose to do wrong.

    If that’s the kind of spiritual laziness you have in mind, I don’t think loss of faith is likely to free me from it. The meaning I’m inclined to create in His absence – well, it doesn’t include Him. I do not have any confidence that the experience would eventually lead me back to Him at all, let alone with stronger or more refined faith than ever.

  20. Peter LLC says:

    I guess I see faith as one of the factors that (potentially) give trials any redeeming value at all. After all, it rains on the just and unjust alike.

  21. John, is that what ji was doing?

  22. Yes, Whiteton. I am utterly, utterly uninterested in a crisis of faith regarding a religion. A crisis of faith regarding religion is more along the lines of what this post had in mind. Of course, I don’t particularly like ji, but he did assume things about me that made me look small and interested in petty squabbles, rather than something of significance. It is also not the first time ji has behaved thusly.

  23. Thanks for explaining, John. I thought ji’s comment was helpful in clarifying the issue for me (and didn’t make me think of you as interested in a petty squabble), and your follow-up to him felt like a sucker punch. Good thread so far.

  24. I see your point now that I read it more carefully. Especially this: “The first by itself is perhaps what the original poster is describing — hopefully, those with this faith will choose to magnify it into the latter.” And I think it’s fairly clear you’re describing faith as a whole in the OP, not merely faith in the institutional church.

  25. Capozaino says:

    I think ji’s is a rhetorical move that is frequently made to minimize the significance of faith crises (I’m not accusing ji of specifically doing that here, just saying that I’ve seen similar rhetoric deployed to that end). When we treat the person in the middle of the faith crisis as if they never really had a deep, abiding testimony of the really important stuff in the first place, then we can easily conclude that their wavering was not a result of significant wrestling with difficult issues and that our own faith remains unassailable by whatever it was that sparked their crisis.

  26. http://sanfranciscostreetfighter.com/2012/06/29/ether-1227/

    This is a short story about faith and the Mormon church I suppose

  27. I agree with Capozaino. I’ve definitely seen members try this approach. It reminds me of those couples who see another couple splitting up and smile and nod smugly and condescendingly that if that poor couple had only known the true love and commitment that exists in THEIR marriage, they would not be divorcing.

  28. I reject the notion that faith is a choice–at least wholly. I am willing to concede that the commitment to faith is a choice, but one cannot manufacture faith merely by wishing it to be so. Some for whatever reason will never find the faith they desperately seek for in earnest, and others sometimes have it handed to them. Neither has made a choice and there are two completely different outcomes.

    However, I also reject the notion that faith untested is truly faithful, so take it with a grain of salt if you like.

  29. Remember Shiva, destruction is part of growth. There can be no growth without change and change means destruction. You cannot find a greater faith and understanding without loosing the lesser faith. So, what is a crisis of faith? An open door to the future.

    At some point the faith of childhood gives way to the faith of the “adult of God,” nicely put. You can call that a crisis of faith because, in the transition, one may be strongly encouraged to chuck the whole thing and cut your losses. What is a shame is that the destruction may happen without the chance to rebuild.

    It has always been my understanding that we have stuff to learn. We can learn it hard or learn it easy. For some people the crisis passes like a cloud across the sun. Just a brief transition. For others it is like crossing the ocean in a canoe, with imminent disaster on all sides. For some people the faith of the child seems sufficient. Who can judge?

    About Pres. Hinckley’s observation: It has to work out, somehow. The worst that can happen is you die.

  30. Aaron (the streetfighter),
    Good story.

  31. “The worst that can happen is you die.”

    Actually, in extreme situations, the worst that can happen is you live.

    I love President Hinckley, and I think I understand and agree, ultimately, with what he was saying, but I also understand that much of what we believe we believe from a position of relative luxury and grace. Our theology encompasses the extremes, but (the collective) we seldom experiences those extremes – so we speak in platitudes that fit our non-extreme lives.

    Often, those platitudes hurt people at or near the extremes, and, often, we really can’t fathom why. Thus, faith trials and crises often arise when our general platitudes smack up against unexpected life and lose. Re-evaluating things we took for granted can be difficult – and, often, the most difficult situations are those where the former assumptions were believed the most passionately and deeply.

    When clarity disappears and unexpected murkiness surrounds, faith is necessary – and, sometimes, it’s not so much losing faith as losing previous sight and having to discover pure faith (hope in the unseen) for the first time.

  32. EOR, I realized too late my stated belief that faith is always a choice could be taken in a very negative way. Before I try to clarify what I mean, let me say what I definitely do not mean. I emphatically do not mean that if someone has never had faith, has lost faith, or struggles with faith, then they just haven’t decided to believe. Or they just need to try harder. Or anything remotely like that. In other words, I would make no general claim that lack of faith is a choice.

    What I did mean is based on the idea that faith in God is built on personal experiences (or collective, I suppose) with the Divine. This could include any type of spiritual experience, answers to prayer, received blessings, comfort in hard times, personal revelation, etc. These experiences can reinforce belief, strengthen faith, and teach us to rely on God. But it seems to me that any one of these can in principle be explained as originating from some other source. It could be chance, it could be psychology, or whatever. And no one can prove where it came from. So when I have these experiences, I have to choose to attribute them to God – to recognize in them His hand. In that sense, I believe that faith is a choice. That’s all I meant. I think of it as being true in general, but am happy to be contradicted if you (or others) see it differently.

  33. Thanks for your further clarification Aaron. I like to understand people’s views/beliefs correctly so I appreciate the opportunity. I understand perfectly what you mean. I am more in the non-interventionist-God camp, but certainly not knowing where my faith has its origin like you, I do attribute it to God.

  34. Elder Bednar’s book Act in Doctrine has a section on this very topic. Here’s a short clip of part of what he discusses – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G00plHwh-Hg – I’ve wondered the exact same thing. I wonder if I’m not getting out more or doing more of what the Lord wants and that’s why my life hasn’t been so difficult. For example, if I were to invite more people to hear the gospel, I might experience greater trials from losing friends or being rejected.

  35. EOR wrote: “but one cannot manufacture faith merely by wishing it to be so”

    I reject this notion! :P That is exactly what I did and what got me through the largest trial of my faith. I choose to believe, I choose to have faith. Slowly my faith solidified. Though I agree with Aaron that it would be hard to do so if one never has faith/belief to start. The whole question of why have faith would creep in…

  36. marginalizedmormon says:

    I also understand that much of what we believe we believe from a position of relative luxury and grace. Our theology encompasses the extremes, but (the collective) we seldom experiences those extremes – so we speak in platitudes that fit our non-extreme lives.

    Often, those platitudes hurt people at or near the extremes, and, often, we really can’t fathom why. Thus, faith trials and crises often arise when our general platitudes smack up against unexpected life and lose. Re-evaluating things we took for granted can be difficult – and, often, the most difficult situations are those where the former assumptions were believed the most passionately and deeply.

    When clarity disappears and unexpected murkiness surrounds, faith is necessary – and, sometimes, it’s not so much losing faith as losing previous sight and having to discover pure faith (hope in the unseen) for the first time.

    Ray, these are beautiful words. I was fond of President Hinckley, but I had a cultural/social/spiritual clash with his perspective; he was from an entirely different culture, and he was surrounded by supportive people, so his teachings came from that foundation. That was good for him and many members of the church, but for those of us who started out with a different cultural perspective (or landed in it somewhere along the way) it was hard to understand the gospel according to President Hinckley at times. I had to put his teachings on the back burner when that happened. There were other things he said that I appreciated heartily.

  37. marginalizedmormon says:

    Actually, in extreme situations, the worst that can happen is you live.

    !

    Yes.

  38. marginalizedmormon says:

    Capozaino–

    good words

  39. “When clarity disappears and unexpected murkiness surrounds, faith is necessary – and, sometimes, it’s not so much losing faith as losing previous sight and having to discover pure faith (hope in the unseen) for the first time.”

    Beautiful Ray. I believe that part of the problem is that we use the term faith to mean different things. Many use the word “faith” or “testimony” to refer to a particular perspective or worldview. It is when that worldview is pulled out from under you that “faith as hope” is the most precious.

    In regards to GBH’s comment. I feel that hard work and optimism are components to living a successfull life. They help you to leverage some of the other components more effectively. All other things being equal, optimists with good work eithic should live more fulfilling lives. If we were to run this trend for a large population, the variability of other individual circumstances would tend to accumalate near the middle (think bell curve) and the optimistic trend would bear out.

    Unfortunately individual lives and circumstances are never equal. Optimisim and work ethic are important components but they are not alone (some other might components include aptitude, ability, opportunity, and luck).

    This is a different way of describing what Ray seems to be saying: ” I also understand that much of what we believe we believe from a position of relative luxury and grace. Our theology encompasses the extremes, but (the collective) we seldom experiences those extremes – so we speak in platitudes that fit our non-extreme lives.

    Often, those platitudes hurt people at or near the extremes, and, often, we really can’t fathom why. Thus, faith trials and crises often arise when our general platitudes smack up against unexpected life and lose. Re-evaluating things we took for granted can be difficult – and, often, the most difficult situations are those where the former assumptions were believed the most passionately and deeply.”

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