In his lazy learners and lax disciples talk at the April 2021 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, church President Russell M Nelson emphasized the importance of developing faith in Jesus Christ through intentional effort and action. Those who don’t succeed in this self-administered brainwash he refers to as “lazy learners and lax disciples”. He also blames doubters for not being able to “choose to believe” and instructs them to “stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters”. These ideas and phrases do damage. They marginalize and even demonize doubt. This doubt has come from the church telling “a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials” as its own historical narrative rather than the truth.
He offered five suggestions for cultivating faith: 1) study, 2) choose to believe, 3) act, 4) perform ordinances/go to the temple, and finally 5) ask God. President Nelson encouraged listeners to make faith in Jesus Christ a central focus of their lives and to actively work to strengthen their relationship with Him through these five practices.
Your mountains may be loneliness, doubt, illness, or other personal problems. Your mountains will vary, and yet the answer to each of your challenges is to increase your faith. That takes work. Lazy learners and lax disciples will always struggle to muster even a particle of faith.
To do anything well requires effort. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ is no exception. Increasing your faith and trust in Him takes effort. May I offer five suggestions to help you develop that faith and trust.Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains
By President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
He offered five suggestions for cultivating faith:
- “Immerse yourself in the scriptures to understand better Christ’s mission and ministry. Know the doctrine of Christ so that you understand its power for your life.”
- Choose to Believe
- “If you have doubts about God the Father and His Beloved Son or the validity of the Restoration or the veracity of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as prophet, choose to believe and stay faithful.”
- Act in Faith
- “What would you do if you had more faith? Think about it. Write about it. Then receive more faith by doing something that requires more faith.”
- “Ordinances unlock the power of God in your life.”
- Ask God
- “Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, for help.”
He infers that those who will not or cannot do these things must be lazy learners and lax disciples. These points are all very basic and any participant in the church has done them, why aren’t they working for the droves of people leaving the church? They must have been lazy, they didn’t actually study or act in faith, they must not have simply asked God for more faith or attended the temple enough to partake of the ordinances, and finally, those who leave the church didn’t choose to believe. They were too lax to do these simple basic necessities for their own faith.
Messages like these add to the marginalization those who struggle with doubt face. Talks like this that demonize doubt can contribute to an unhealthy culture around faith by creating an environment where questioning or expressing doubts is discouraged or seen as a sign of weakness. This can lead to people feeling shame or guilt for having doubts and may discourage them from seeking answers or help when they need it. It can also create an atmosphere where conformity is valued over authenticity, and where people feel pressure to suppress their doubts or conform to a particular belief system, even if it doesn’t resonate with them personally. This can be particularly harmful to individuals who are already vulnerable or marginalized, and may further isolate them from their community or support system. Ultimately, a healthy culture around faith should value honesty, openness, and dialogue, and should allow for different perspectives and experiences to be shared and respected.
Is it the lazy learners and lax disciples who struggle with doubt?
Stop Rehearsing Doubts
President Russell M Nelson is wanting church members to increase their faith, which is admirable. But his outline to achieve this faith is fraught with issues. He wants those with “doubts about God the Father and His Beloved Son or the validity of the Restoration or the veracity of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as a prophet” to simply “choose to believe and stay faithful”. He implores members with doubts to “stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters,” or in other words to keep quiet about them. Don’t share the doubt, doubt your doubt, keep it away from others especially, it’s contagious! Just put the doubts on your shelf and carry on with whatever faithful sources tell you to believe and choose to believe them. Many other church leaders refer to doubt or difficulties reconciling inconsistencies in official church history with actual history and doctrine as a disease. They have grand plans to inoculate especially the youth from the plague of doubt.
President Nelson suggests that one’s study should have limits. His second recommendation is that doubters should “choose to believe and stay faithful. Take your questions to the Lord and other faithful sources. Study with the desire to believe…Stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters” (italics in the original).
In other words, limit study and research to church-approved sources and don’t discuss your questions with anyone else who may also have questions; because to talk about them, to talk through the questions and doubts with others who are also looking for answers, is nothing more than “rehearsing” or practicing being a doubter, which can only lead to increased doubts.
This, of course, is not a fair assessment. Sharing questions (doubts) and discovering answers (research) with friends who are on the same path can be very helpful to everyone involved. We’ve all experienced this in various areas of life. So considering President Nelson’s comments and suggestions, I think what he has in mind here is not so much about directing doubters to find truthful answers to their questions, but rather directing doubters to “muster enough faith” to stay in the church despite their doubts. There’s no virtue in being “lazy learners and lax disciples.” Instead, “Choose to believe and stay faithful.”https://www.mrm.org/lds-prophet-disparages-doubting-mormons
The Mormon leader asks doubters to stop rehearsing their doubts with other doubters. What about asking the church to stop rehearsing their faith with other believers or at least to stop pushing their faith onto others!? This is the same general principle but inverted? Is it right to tell those who don’t follow you or believe the same things as you what to do when in the inverse situation you hypocritically don’t do it?
The principle of asking doubters to stop rehearsing their doubts with other doubters is essentially the same as asking the church to stop rehearsing their faith with other believers. The church may be motivated by a desire to maintain a unified community and prevent the spread of doubt and disillusionment. This is the definition of evangelism or outreach to those who do not share the same beliefs.
How is this fair, or consistent? They are asking one group to refrain from expressing their doubts while allowing another group to freely express their faith. It is hypocritical and even manipulative, especially since the doubters are not given a space to express their concerns and seek answers within the community, they are told not to discuss the doubt and basically to either “shut up or leave”.
It is important for any community or organization to strive for transparency and openness, and to respect the autonomy and agency of its members, regardless of their beliefs or doubts. This means allowing for honest dialogue and the freedom to express doubts or disagreements without fear of retribution or ostracism. Church leaders however are consistently expressing disappointment and anger and even fury over those who leave.
How has this paradigm affected you in your own faith transition? If you’re experiencing doubt, you are not alone! Many others have, and rehearsing doubts and experiences is actually healthy while shelving your concerns is not. Come join the wasmormon movement by sharing your story, we want to share everyones experiences with the Mormon church.