Each of us has a certain level of faith that we are willing to exercise when it comes to religion. Some have a low threshold of faith (e.g. Atheist), while others have boundless faith (e.g. “True believers”). Nevertheless, everyone has a point at which their faith is tested. When our faith threshold is exceeded, many find relief in completely abandoning their old way of thinking. Some choose to shelve (a.k.a. ignore) those things that cause their faith threshold to be exceeded and yet others try to fit the pieces of their former faith together forming an amalgamation of personal beliefs which allow their expectation of faith to fall within acceptable boundaries once again. In my conversation with others from different faiths this seems to be a universal concept. Martin Luther’s expectation of faith was exceeded when he was asked to accept what he saw as corruption in the Catholic Church. Episcipalians expectation of faith is being tested by the acceptance of homosexuality in their Church. There seems to be some boundaries that when crossed are too much for the lay person to accept.
The LDS Church, by highlighting only faith promoting history, unintentionally lowers the faith threshold of its members. Presenting only the positive side has the negative effect of convincing members that their church has few flaws and is above the frailties of other Christian denominations. It is inconceivable to most LDS members that a prophet could be wrong on spiritual matters. His pronouncements whether in General Conference or on national television are considered scripture by the most faithful of saints. This misunderstanding of what a prophet is can become spiritually dangerous when a clearer view of LDS history is made available. It is compounded by the fact that the LDS Church places little emphasis on contextualizing its own history, allowing critics to paint past missteps in the worst possible light. With few resources available to the lay member from Church friendly sources, their faith in the LDS gospel is tried. Only those with the ability to reconcile seeming contradictions, bringing their expectation of faith back to previous levels, can make it through and still hope to retain their former testimony. For many the experience alters their testimony and understanding of the LDS Church to align better with the new knowledge they have received.
Once our faith threshold has been breeched it will lead to inevitable loss in confidence of our spiritual leaders and our own ability to discern truth, unless our expectations of faith are increased somehow. If we can accept faults in our spiritual leaders and their teachings and take more personal responsibility for our beliefs, we can continue in faith. The alternative is to continue to hold all men to the standard of Christ and watch as each falls by the wayside unable to measure up.
Prophets are people, they have no claim to immunity from the prejudices, understandings and influences of their generation. To think that they could escape unaffected by the world is more than should be hoped for by members of the Church. Our own history shows this to be the case. Good men do bad things, make wrong decisions and because of their standing before God those choices made by one individual at times affect negatively thousands, even millions of people. The question for informed LDS members is, can we overlook the faults of our past prophets or were their faults so unlike our Savior that we loose faith in them?
What is your expectation of faith? How far are you willing to go to believe in things for which there is no physical evidence? What if there is physical evidence which contradicts your belief?