Posted by: Jay | March 7, 2008

Turning from pessimism

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In doubting my LDS faith I’ve gone through many emotions and stages of anger, grief and lose. At times I have doubted that God even exists (though rare and infrequent). My previous image of the LDS Church has changed from one of admiration to one of skepticism and as a result has made me more pessimistic about the role this religious institution plays in my life. I tend to view leaders (both local and church-wide) as good people and perhaps even good leaders, but lack confidence in their ability to express God’s words consistently. This has led me, out of necessity, to be more questioning about statements made in church meetings, including General Conference. I notice the inconsistencies that before would have passed by me unnoticed. They now grate my ears like sandpaper.

The spiritual drain caused by this constant word watching (which I feel I must do) has caused me to be apathetic toward the LDS Church. I’ve been this way for about a year now and I’m not sure I like it. I don’t want to be the hopeless malcontent who is never happy and always finds a reason to be upset. It worries me that I don’t do my home teaching or put more effort into my calling as a teacher. Not because the Bishop or anyone else will think poorly of me, I worry that my attitude is not very Christian. I should be going home teaching and sharing an uplifting message with the families which I have been assigned to. I should want to lift them up and help them regardless of our differences and my struggles with the Church itself. I believe a true disciple of Christ would do that, yet I have fallen short.

This whole experience has caused me to “slacken my strength”. I know many of my critics would say that lack of the Spirit is the reason for my spiritual downfall and I don’t deny they could be right. Before I began learning about Church history I was not reading my scripture everyday or attending the temple every month. However, I think most members don’t do these things consistently either, which does not make my case much different than the average member. Nevertheless, I admit that since my doubts began I have neglected personal scripture study, which I believe to be a mistake. I can no longer remain in a constant pessimistic state toward the LDS faith, it is not the person I want to be, nor is it truly who I am. Looking for the good among the bad has always worked best for me. I have lost sight of that by letting the bad overtake me and my thoughts. I fear that if I continued on my present course of pessimism I would never be able to be fully happy again. Things in the Church still cause me to sorrow, but it is time for me to feel joyful again, to feel close to God and know the peace that brings.

Has doubting your faith made you pessimistic? How have you dealt with these negative feelings?

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Responses

  1. Ah, screw the critics. You know which team you are on.

    I was recently talking with a friend who also struggles with church in many of the ways I’ve seen you describe. He’s also got a Ph.D in history (church related) and is very much aware of the difficult issues. I was talking to him once about a question and he responded that he knew that “anger” himself. I don’t know that I would call it anger in my case, but rather, “pain”.

    Listen to those terms: He used anger. You used pessimism. I used pain. I hope these are the initial emotions that result from the shock we receive when we are finally forced to completely reevaluate so much of what we once held to be a firm, solid foundation. To see some of that slip away was difficult. These “negative” reactions should seem, well, normal. But you made a very important statement: “it is time for me to feel joyful again.” Of course, that is the whole point of life, right (2Ne2:25)? I know he and I still feel those emotions sometimes, but not always. Not even most of the time, I’d say.

    You have a link to John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories. I really enjoyed the discussion on Fowler’s Stages of Faith, where they describe the “healthy” stage of doubt (stage 4, I think). I’ve relied heavily on that. I have also simply excised the pieces I don’t like. Honestly, if general conference is damaging to your soul by preventing you from feeling happy, I don’t think He Who Is Mighty To Save would be to upset if you did something else than listened to those men (and the token women). Of course, you should also cut them some slack and not expect them to be perfect. (I don’t mean that last bit in an accusatory way). It can be difficult to watch their disagreements, which often come across as inconsistencies. Those disagreements get played out in the lives of the average members.

    While I do view my own struggle with doubts as a struggle, it has become a much more manageable burden as I have recognized how many people around me also struggle. Initially, when I felt very dark and hurt by this stuff, I started to talk to a few people close to me. Unfortunately (for both of us) I did not recognize that they weren’t interested in hearing/learning about the issues I struggle with. Later, I found a few people in the ward and many people in the bloggernaccle I could relate to and vent with.

    I understand what you mean about “word watching.” I teach EQ, and man, it is such a struggle. I feel like I’m walking on a razor’s edge often b/c I don’t want to lie, I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone else’s faith, and I want to give the material a fair shake. Even just bearing testimony at the end can be a hard thing. I don’t know a way around that. I’m honest with people. I don’t say, “I know God lives,” because I don’t. I will, however, focus on the positive, on how much good can come into your life by living the precepts taught in the scriptures.

    Also, don’t be so hard on yourself, brother! Of course you’ve fallen short as a disciple of Christ. The Tennessee Volunteer’s have been falling short for years, (is Ainge coming back?) but you’ll still cheer for them come the Big Dance or football season, won’t you? That is what the Atonement and a new season are for.

  2. Hi Jay,
    My work as a pastoral musician has led me to many different congregations. I’ve worked directing music in one Reformed synagogue, singing professionally (backing up the Cantor) in two synagogues, leading worship music in two American Baptist churches, music ministry in four Episcopal churches, and currently in a Unitarian Universalist church. I have been a member of only one of these churches, and with the exception of my early professional years (I am 52 now), I do not share the religious dogma or doctrines of the institutions I work for. HOWEVER, I do a great job ministering in any situation, because I choose to emphasize right relationship, morals, ethics, and justice over doctrine in my music choices. I serve my congregations by selecting music that supports the sermon topics in ways that help the congregation understand how to put “feet” to their “faith.” If the preacher talks about salvation through Christ, the music will emphasize grace, forgiveness, love, and redemption.

    Perhaps your home teaching can emphasize all that is good and decent about Mormon values without dwelling on the history and/or doctrine you find disturbing. Although belief and doubt are intimately personal issues, relationship and ethical living is interpersonal, and these issues can be shared, taught, and learned without getting into the areas that trouble you.

  3. P.S. You know what I love most about your blog? It emphasizes a point that our minister says every Sunday: “Remember, my friends, whatever you are going through, you aren’t going through it alone.”

    Thanks for creating community, Jay.

  4. You have a link to John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories. I really enjoyed the discussion on Fowler’s Stages of Faith…

    Mormon stories is how I first started to learn about Church history. John’s caring and, most of all, fair approach to discussing difficult issues gave me the courage to investigate further on my own. Though at first it was to “prove” to myself that the Church was not wrong and there was an explanation for the putative discrepancies. I found that much of the truth lied in a gray area where I could not see too well. The frustration of living without answers to troubling questions lead to my struggles with the Church.

    I have listened to the John’s podcasts on Fowler’s stages of faith some time ago and really enjoyed them all. Eventually, I want to reach stage 4. I think I’m getting closer to that goal.

    It’s nice to know that there are others out there that think about these things. It always makes me feel better when I know I’m not alone. It also gives me hope when I see that others have found a way to cope with the feelings that follow doubting long held beliefs.

    Perhaps your home teaching can emphasize all that is good and decent about Mormon values without dwelling on the history and/or doctrine you find disturbing.

    This is a good suggestion and something I have thought a lot about. It appears the best way to continue in a foward direction is to focus on the positive aspects of Christ’s life and share those beliefs with the families I visit.

    Thanks for creating community, Jay.

    Thank you for being a part of it! I have enjoyed your comments.

  5. You may not want to hear my suggestion. But it could be that all those things that continue to grate your ears will continue to get in your way of developing a relationship with Christ.

    I’ve seen many people experience conflict with their church. As you say, they just become pessimistic. It’s at that point that I’m glad to tell them “it’s okay to find a new community to worship in. Christ doesn’t care where you worship. Just that you worship HIM.”

  6. Tim,
    I’m glad to hear your suggestion. I respect the openness and sincerity you have shown in your discussions, both here and on your blog. I will probably continue to attend other church services as occasion permits, but I think I can worship Christ where I am just as well as in other churches.

    I know the things that bother me will continue to do so, but I intend to not make them a stumbling block to my spiritual progress (as I see it). If given the opportunity I will of course voice my opinion. I don’t mean to say that I will ignore something I feel is wrong. However, constantly looking back at the bad only serves to make me into someone I do not wish to be, depressed, angry and frustrated. This doesn’t mean I will not continue to discuss difficult issues within the LDS faith on my blog, but it’s time for me to move on.

  7. I am far from perfect at this but here is what I do:

    1) I go to church to take the sacrament and ignore just about everything that is said. It’s stuff you have heard 100 times before anyway.

    2) Take responsibility for your own spiritual/intellectual happiness. For me this meant in depth biblical studies. It might also mean comparative religious studies, theology, studying Christian history, philosophy, you name it. It is important to do this EVERY day. If I skip a few days I get cranky and pessimistic again.

    3) Take responsibility for your own spiritual/active happiness. Go do some good just for doing good. Go take cookies to your home teaching families just because you want to follow Christ, not because you have an assignment. Do nice things for family members, make your wife breakfast, volunteer for something, teach as best as you can.

    4) Don’t discuss any church matters with your wife. NONE. This is the tactic I have taken and it really helps. You have to realize that you see things differently and that’s o.k. You are two different people and the church does not have to be the binding agent between you. Focus on your wife as a person, and leave the church out of the relationship.

    5) Find a safe person to talk to. This absolutely has to be someone in real life and not on line. You need a safe place to kick around ideas and thoughts without unloading it on your immediate family. For me this was a brother-in-law, but it probably would be even better if it was no relation at all.

    6) Realize that being optimistic is hard work and it does not come naturally to most people. I am NOT saying to fake it. That’s what your average relief society get together is all about, faking being happy. Look for the good in the world, in your wife, in your kids, in your job etc.

    7) Don’t be so goal oriented with religious stuff. Goals are good for things like cleaning the garage and doing your taxes but horrible for spiritual stuff. Don’t do the things in #2 because it’s a goal, do it because you love it. If you find yourself not loving it, find something else that you do love.

    8) Become more ecumenical in your outlook. Yes, stay rooted in the LDS church, but partake of the goodness in other churches. For me, this meant doing biblical studies using non-LDS resources as my guide. I am continually impressed by how much better everyone else talks about the Bible than do we Mormons. The point is to be grounded in the LDS church but not constrained by its culture.

    Anyway, just some things that help me. I hope you find something that works for you.

  8. I’ll echo what SunnyD said: Thanks for helping create a community here, Jay.

    But to respond to your comment, Jay, I think you are deep in the middle of Stage 4. It’s not a fun/happy place, but it is a “healthy” place.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stages_of_faith_development

    And David, I find myself doing many of the same things you described. You’ve articulated it well. Being single, #4 on your list is not part of my life, though. I would ask, though, do you not even talk about positive aspects? Some pieces of my struggles ARE actually positive, and I come across all sorts of really interesting stuff that, while not necessarily faith-promoting, isn’t damaging in any way, either. But beyond that, the struggle part, so much of the church just infuses my life that to not talk about it at all would seem strange. So when you say, “NONE,” I’m just curious how you mean that. None as in, “not any of the stuff you have problems with,” or none as in, “nothing at all.”

  9. Jay, I think you are deep in the middle of Stage 4.

    You could be right. I had forgotten how many stages there were. I meant to say that I hope to make it to the last stage where I come to peace with everything. It is a terrible drain, as anyone that has gone through it knows, on your mind, heart and soul. I really wish the LDS Church was more equipped to deal with people that are going through this phenomenon (although I’m sure they would rather pretend it didn’t exist).

    Dave,

    I really liked 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Thanks!

    I think 1 doesn’t help me depart from the pessimism I’m trying to shed. Even though it’s what I do currently. I’d like to start listening for things that are good and focusing on those things.

    4 isn’t realistic in my case. My wife already knows how I feel and I can’t imagine not talking about something that affects us both on a daily basis.

    Just my 2 cents. I realize we all deal with things differently and what works for one doesn’t always work for the rest. Nonetheless it’s good to hear how others are coping.

  10. My wife knows my thoughts on the matter. I just eventually realized that she doesn’t have the interest in it and gets highly frustrated by it all. In my case it is to avoid fights and hard feelings. I am not saying hide your thoughts from her, but simply find another outlet to express them. One of the problems in Mormon society is that you end up with zero friends as a Mormon husband/father because you spend all of your time bringing home the bacon because you don’t live in a two income household. So the only person many Mormon men can talk to is their wives, and if they are not up to discussing the subject it makes everyone really frustrated. I am not saying this is your case, but it does happen fairly frequently in Mormon culture.

    Of course one day my wife might read Rough Stone Rolling and then she might want to talk more about it.

    I forgot to mention, bring a book to church. My brother-in-law reads his Oxford Annotated Bible while at church. Of course that still may not work for you.

  11. LOL. Luckily my wife is reading Rough Stone Rolling. I think that has helped her understand me a little more.

  12. peetie,

    When I mean none, I really do my best to have it mean NONE. The problem is that even the most positive of subjects can turn negative when the discussion branches out.

    Both of us came into marriage as TBMs. She still is, 100%. This is my way of respecting her and what she believes while not being dishonest, I just don’t bring up the subject. Now, if she brings up the subject I will answer honestly, but this rarely happens.

  13. Jay ,

    If its any consolation , your attitude inspires me to trust and believe far more than of someone who just wants to ignore the issues and even lie about or twist or avoid them as I experienced .

    If someone in my ward would have helped me and said something like ‘ I know what you mean , these things are terrible and I don’t know what to say and I understand why you are feeling reluctant to join ‘ then I would have felt alot more welcome .Instead I was asked to pray about it ? It was even intimated subtly that I was using this all as an excuse because the standards are too hard for me ?

    The few times I tried to ask of some historical matters in church I tended to be looked at as the ‘infidel’ for asking and yet they were real concerns , they were about real people , real human beings who I was concerned had been taken advantage of and abused .

    I’m mostly referring to the Marriages of very young ( teens in many cases) to Old Mormon Leaders ( old enough to be their grandfathers and more ) and all because they thought they had the right to do this irespective of the will of those girls .The way they were called into these polygamous marriages and conveniently threatened with hell by those same leaders incase they had thoughts of opting out is simply outrageous and no resemblance to any early chrsitianity prior to any so called Apostasy.

    And also Joseph Smiths obsession with asking for other mens wives and marrying them in many cases.

    I once went Home Teaching with a ward member .In one Household The Husband was a member but the wife was Catholic .The topic seem to be the selling of ‘indulgences ‘ by the catholic church for the remission of sins from that Months Ensign.

    I was asked to comment on it and I did .I explained how wrong this was to take money for remission of sins and subsequent entry into heaven to be with God , yet in the back of my mind I felt that Tithe was actually being sold on the same principle, ( no tithe , no recommend no heaven to be with God etc ) yet I didn’t speak out or at least make the comparison for the benefit of the husband and wife .I feel a coward now for not doing so.

    And even worse the LDS church teaches non tithe payers will be burned .When I tried to bring this up , the ward missionary would just ignore my concern and say ‘well its cool to pay tithe blah blah’ and the lesson rolled on.

    I think its unfair to be bringing in new converts without them knowing the full truth .The policy of Milk before Meat is effectively being used to withhold important decision making information.Its the same way Financial products are sold and many people loose their savings as a result.

    Later on this will bring heartache and worry for alot of new members ( if they ever found out the real belief that is ) and put them in an awful situation of having to consider ‘breaking off ‘ the friendships of the church .

    I have some friends from church , but they seem only to be friends for the purposing of bringing me back ?

    I have one Valiant Sister of over 70 years of age . She is so certain I have been duped by the Anti’s and unfortunately for her she too has now learned some very uncomfortable truths for the very first time in her life .She presses me so hard on some matters and yet she is always factually wrong .What am I to do ? I have little option but to show her the truth and it devastates her everytime . If I don’t show her the truth she will just believe I just want to be a great Sinner or something and then use this as an example when speaking to other members.

    The church has taught her that all those who give up have been misled or want to live a crazy sinful life , there seems to be no concept in any sacrament talks that there is a real possibility that its actually the church who is misleading them and I’m not surprised .The church would soon defragment if the real truth be known .

    The only reason the church has been growing via converts in my opinion is mostly from a false and misleading history presented to investigators .

    Yes it has changed some Alcoholics , Adulterers and Suicidal people into a more socially appreciated lifestyle but at the same time its destroying families when a catholic converts much to the horror of her immediate family and friends.Then it has the potential to destroy their future LDS family when they are taught that all the family have to be in the LDS church for any chance of togetherness forever.What happens when one family member finds out the reality of the History ?

    I experienced the Jw’s as a youth and they nearly converted me ,but when I found out the true history it made me skeptical of anyone claiming to have a better connection to God and that through them God was speaking to me.

    God knows my address , If he has a message for me I am confident he is capable of contacting me directly .

    I think the way forward is for the church to ditch its unique claim and its founders claims and subsequently its unique scriptures and doctrines.

    Whenever I read or hear a church talk now , I can see through some if it ( of course alot of them have goodness ) but I can detect the historical innacuracies ( even from the GA’s and Apostles ) and thats why I had to give up on it and I’m trying to help my missionary female friend who suffers from poverty and depression and I blame the church for it …… while she probably blames herself for perhaps not being obedient enough to be blessed as promised.

  14. Jay, one thing I appreciate is that you are monitoring the results in your life. I think it is critical to notice what is working in your life. All of us have taken a particular position or outlook on life or faith. Often we might debate the merits of such an outlook, but I think the better way to judge the merits is to live that way, and then examine the results. It surely isn’t the quickest way to test matters, but I believe it is the most accurate.

  15. LOL. Luckily my wife is reading Rough Stone Rolling. I think that has helped her understand me a little more.

    My wildest dream is that RSR becomes part of the Seminary/Institute curriculum to be used during the Church history year or that it be used one year for adult Sunday School instructions.

  16. What happened to the guy who said this a year ago?:

    This is one of the most compelling reasons why I stay in the Mormon Church, despite some negative views people have. I sincerely prayed to God that he would confirm to me the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I did not receive an answer the first few times I prayed and decided to give it one last chance before I left the Church (I couldn’t stay any longer if it was false and we are promised by the church that God will answer us). Well, I will just say that the answer I received by way of what I believe was the Holy Spirit was so different than any other feeling I had felt before that I am convinced that it was from God. No, I didn’t see an angel or a vision. I’m just a normal person not prone to imagine things that aren’t there.

  17. If someone in my ward would have helped me and said something like ‘ I know what you mean , these things are terrible and I don’t know what to say and I understand why you are feeling reluctant to join ‘ then I would have felt alot more welcome .

    I know exactly what you mean. I think this is why it is so important to be open about the past.

    Interestingly, there is an institute teacher here that is more open about LDS history and acknowledges that we should worry about troubling things in LDS history. I was surprised when I heard he said that. Of course he was approaching it from a faithful prospective, but the mere fact that he recognizes there are problems give me hope that maybe our younger generation will be more open and honest about the past.

    I can’t help but think that as more of the information becomes available through Church friendly sources via internet (Mormon stories, F.A.I.R.) and books (e.g. Rough Stone Rolling) that members will begin to demand we be more open. Some people think that the members don’t help the Church to change, but they do. I admit it is a slow process but not a hopeless one.

    My wildest dream is that RSR becomes part of the Seminary/Institute curriculum to be used during the Church history year or that it be used one year for adult Sunday School instructions.

    What a great idea!

    Fred,

    Did I write that? It sounds a lot like my experience. If it was, I suppose everything I have learned has caused me to doubt exactly what it was I felt. While I still believe the Holy Ghost can teach us, I doubt my ability to interpret those feelings correctly. It was a good feeling, one that I thought would protect me from ever leaving the Church, but I was wrong. There was so much that I didn’t know about the LDS faith. So much that was not taught to me. I have to wonder why.

  18. Have you read the “Braving the Borderlands” articles by Jeff Burton? I don’t really identify with everything he says, but I certainly have thought them to be very worthwhile.

    http://forthosewhowonder.com/?page_id=7

    Your last comment is very poignant. I have had some similar problems – I doubt a lot of my past experiences with the Spirit; I’ve struggled with atheism since I was a teenager. Sometimes I wonder if I’m an atheist who has spiritual experiences (misinterpreted feelings), or a spiritual person who has atheistic experiences(or, as my bishop once said, “You think too much.”). Memory plays funny tricks on those “spiritual” experiences.

    I think this podcast is absolutely amazing. Elbert Peck’s “Pillars of My Faith”.

    http://mormonstories.org/?p=382

    I realize this sounds trite, and you have to make the decision for yourself, but for me there is enough good left in the church for me to want to continue in it, even though it can make Sunday really suck sometimes.

  19. Peetie,
    Sorry your comment got held up. If a post has more than 1 link it automatically goes to moderation.

    I have not read Burton’s article thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

    It’s been awhile since I listened to that Mormon stories podcast, but I remember liking it a lot.

    I echo your sentiments about staying in the Church. Though it helps that there are not really any better alternatives:)

  20. I recently attended a fireside with Richard Bushman, the author of Rough Stone Rolling. He was just appointed to be the chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont University. This is the first graduate program outside of Utah to study the LDS church on an intellectual level. Claremont is starting to host numerous speakers regarding Mormon history topics. On tap for March 20 is the Church’s official historian to discuss the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

    Both Bushman and his wife are intellectuals who are also respected Mormon scholars. They are active members of the church, too. Bushman wrote the book that is giving you such stress; he has maintained a balance between education, life, and religion. Consider contacting him (let me know if you’d like his email).

    Only you can decide your position with the church. Is it the GOSPEL or the CHURCH that makes you wonder? There IS a distinction and I’ve had to separate my feelings. I will admit that when Pres. Hinckley died I thought, “Oh good, now he can be with his wife.” That was quickly followed with, “What if I die and everything I’ve been taught me whole life is wrong? What if this really IS it?”

  21. Pam,

    Thanks for the advise. I think that balance is what I’m really striving for. Maybe I will try to contact Bushman. His book isn’t really the genesis of my doubting, but it did serve to confirm what several other sources claimed about Church history.

    It is interesting that you make a distinction between the Church and the Gospel. I had never thought of it like that before. Given all the issues with our past, I think that is really the only way you can look at it and still maintain some semblance of a testimony. Still it is hard to separate Prophets and their words from the Gospel especially when they are the ones that are the “mouthpiece” of God.

  22. I agree about the distinction between the Gospel (“message”) and the Church (“messenger”). The problem is, sometimes the Church has difficulty understanding this very distinction.

    No matter what church with which we choose to affiliate, in the end, each of us walks our own path. The “burning bosom” is not exclusive to Mormonism, and neither is the Holy Spirit who sends these burnings. Listen to the still small voice within you, and the other voices that clamor around you will recede.

    I think it is possible to find community within a church while finding God within yourself. I think that with sensitivity and compassion, you can still associate with a church whose dogma you no longer fully embrace. If the time comes when you find yourself at odds not only with religious dogma but with moral or spiritual values, that’s time to rethink.

    I do admit, in my own mind, I believe the conception of the Mormon church is shady, and its history has some dark moments that need to be exposed and recognized in order to be healed. However, a shady origin and history doesn’t mean the Mormon church itself is a fraud. I believe the heart of Mormonism is a good and loving heart. It is the people who are the actual church, not the leaders and not the founders. That is another distinction to consider: the body of Christ is made up of the believers themselves, not exclusively their leaders.

  23. I don’t know all of your circumstances, but let me assure you that the world will not come to an end due to your doubts, and I can’t imagine a loving God who would punish people for not always believing when the evidence is mixed, at best.

    There’s also no rush. You’ve spent years, maybe a lifetime building certain beliefs. When you are forced to reevaluate certain things, it’s unrealistic to expect that you will resolve all questions and concerns in a short period of time. It may take years and many unexpected paths before you can be sure of yourself again.

    And sometimes, I’ve found, I’m quite comfortable in admitting that I don’t know.

  24. Amen.

  25. Hey Jay,

    I comment here out of complete love through Jesus Christ. My personal relationship with Him has been the most wonderful thing I have experienced in my life.

    Your doubting is the direct work of the Holy Spirit drawing you to a true relationship with Jesus Christ. I hear this over and over when people are caught up in “church” rather than Christ. A great site I want to share with you today is this one http://www.bornagainmormon.com . I would encourage you to at least check it out and listen to what is said. They do not beat you up for being LDS or anything like that.

    Jay, I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to cause you to question what you hear in LDS meetings. We all need to place anything that is said from leaders up against the Holy Bible, God’s Holy Word. If it does not match up there, then it is a lie or huge misunderstanding. Either way, do not continue to stay under teaching that will not lead you to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is far too important for you and your family.

    Pressing on in Christ,
    Scott

  26. Jay

    You know what I believe and where I stand so I won’t go into all that.

    I have enjoyed reading your post it really hit home for me I think I spent many years in the same place you seem to be, it is not a fun place. I do think at some point you need to go in the direction that feels right to you make that decission outside of all those worries and concerns that you have expressed in regards to how family and loved ones will percieve you. Otherwise you will slowly destroy yourself from within. When I was going through my process a therapist explained to my TBM wife at the time (who was horribly affected and just wanted to beat me into submission out of her fear) “don’t you realize that if he continues as he is now he will probably have a heart attack by the time he 50.

    I commend you on your courage and hope the best for you and your family, either way this process will help make you a more understanding, accepting and loving person.

  27. Jay . can you insert the word “even” in between “a” and “more understanding”

  28. Jay,

    The fact you are doubting and are concerned about it shows your sincerety as a believer. I see many comments here on developing a relationship with Christ and of course that is the ultimate goal.

    I have struggled with many of the same things you describe and it hasn’t been until the past few months I feel I’ve come to terms with my relationship with the Lord and the LDS church.

    I know you posted this a long time ago. Do you have any concerns still that haven’t been answered? I’d be happy to chat with you if you’d like.

  29. By the way, I didn’t see a feed for this post, so if you’d like to correspond, feel free to visit my site:

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

  30. For a time doubting (and ultimately losing faith) made me pessimistic and depressed. But not anymore. Once you realize that it’s OK to put away what you know isn’t true and follow what is true, a whole new world opens up to you. It’s a marvelous thing.

  31. Jay, I love your posts and appreciate the humility and sincerity of your self reflections. Last year Blake Ostler gave a presentation that really hit home for me and helped me understand how I process “testimony” in my life that really has meant a lot to me. It is titled Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment
    and is a really analytical assessment on how we do and should interpret spiritual experiences. I’ll quote a little of it here:

    Now let me be up-front about what I won’t do, because I can’t, and because it trivializes what I want to focus on. I will not give some argument or evidence to try to persuade you or anybody else that your spiritual experiences are valid and trustworthy. If I were to attempt to argue with you to prove that to you, I would only show and prove (quite conclusively) that I believe that in reality there is something more basic and trustworthy than spiritual experiences; that is, the arguments I would give you. If I were to argue in that way, I would show conclusively that I really don’t believe what I am about to tell you. Now in saying this I’m not stating that I won’t give reasons, or that I won’t do my best to reason with you. I am saying, however, that at bottom, these arguments are not what is most trustworthy and basic in Mormonism. What is most basic in Mormonism is the individual experience of the Spirit.

    Now, I will also argue that it is a mistake to take spiritual experiences as evidence for anyone but the person who has the experience. The fact that I’ve had an experience doesn’t mean that you have some reason to believe. It only means that to the extent that you find that I might have something useful to say, that maybe you could do it too. I will, in fact, suggest that to see these experiences as evidence for other people misunderstands the role they play in our lives. In fact, I will argue that that would be like, well in a sense, idolatry, or trying to commit adultery, as bad as that is. However, I will also suggest that these spiritual experiences are so powerful that they reorient everything in our lives, they become the bases through which we see.

    I hope this is helpful! I remember Orson Scott Card saying that as Americans we need to have more doubt in our doubts, and I’ve really appreciated that advice.

  32. How about a little Bertrand Russell to lighten your spirits?

    “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young, and I love life. But I scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness although it must come to an end. Neither do life nor love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

  33. Thank you for this very sincere post. As an evangelical Christian, I too have had my bouts of severe doubt. My doubts were the result of reading material from Sartre, Neitzche, Camus and Wittgenstein…

    My life in my early twenties was a product of a head-on collision with existentialism and post-modernism. And having been brought up swallowing the idea of absolute-truth, was a real shocker to me. My testimony as a closet disciple of existentialism left me with nothing but regrets. My life took such a turn that I just couldn’t be sure that anything, not even I, existed.

    But, it seems, God is gracious…

    Even though I circulate in evangelicalism, I’d rather not associate with the ‘ism’ as if mere following certain isms is what makes you a ‘Christian’… it’s completely of God’s choosing =)

    And my life now – nothing as it is (it seems Camus was right after all), is a mere boasting of someone who died for me; and one who has paid the price I could not pay.

  34. You said:
    I believe a true disciple of Christ would do that, yet I have fallen short.

    We all fall short, that’s what the bible tells us. It’s only the blood of Christ that can perfect us. You are right to question your church, keep doing so. Question everything and you will find the answers you are looking for.

  35. Thank you for your reminder that Christ can perfect us. I know this is true. This is what I have been taught in the LDS Church. Sometimes I suppose I indulge in self pity when I should be leaning on my Savior for support.

    I question not only my own religion but also the others that I learn about. It seems there is no perfect religion out there. Each has its own flaws, Mormonism is no different than other Christian denominations in that regard.

  36. Jay,

    I just wondered how do you feel these days ?

    I assume the initial shock and fear has subsided ( probably because you’ve got used to it and maybe found others in the same situation as yourself).

    I think my only ‘real’ religious experience was when I was 20 and met the JW’s .For the next few months I can only describe that I was in absolute ecstasy and happiness .You could call it ‘feeling the spirit.’

    I thought
    1 I had found the true church of Jesus Christ.
    2 That the world was (very) soon to end and that we were going to live forever in this Paradise restored.
    3 No more wickedness , robberry, war etc.
    4 The end of injustice in the world.
    5 My Family in Jesus Christ as in Christian brothers and sisters.

    But what troubled me was that my parents ,friends and aquantences,objected to this new found truth when I tried to share it with them?
    I couldn’t understand why .Didn’t they want to be happy in the true church and look forward to Paradise and eternal life ? lol

    It wasn’t until a Born Again Friend challenged me, that I saw something different about the bible .. Interpretation !

    And it was downhill for my JW blinkers since then ……

    Having spent some time later amongst the churches of Various Evangelicals , Catholics, Christadelphians I came full circle and then came along the solution .. Mormonism :)

    Initially I thought it felt right , but once I got familiar with it and fought of massive pressure to baptise I realised that it was most likely just another church , but later discovered it was potentially dangerous too like the JW’s for family unity reasons…

    But If you are brought up in it then it doesn’t seem as threatening I guess.

    Further study into History confirmed to me I was being misled , by probably unknowing members but also some knowing members .

    Do you sometimes wish you never came across those troublesome things or are you happy to have been enlightened even though its shattered you prior perception of things?

  37. EJ,
    Life would be easier if we didn’t have to deal with difficult things. I’m not sorry that I now know more than I did about LDS history. It has changed me in ways that I never expected but I don’t see that as all bad.


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