Personal Faith Crisis Report Sections:
Section Table of Contents
- OUR CHALLENGE
- BREAKING THE CYCLE OF DISAFFECTION
- INSIGHTS & POTENTIAL STRATEGIES
- CLOSE THE HISTORY GAP
- CONSOLE INDIVIDUALS IN FAITH CRISIS
- SUPPORT FAMILIES IN FAITH CRISIS
- PROVIDE PASTORAL COUNSEL TO DOUBTERS
- PUT THOSE IN FAITH CRISIS TO WORK
- AN URGENT BUT THOUGHTFUL APPROACH
SUMMARY & POTENTIAL
12. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13. And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
14. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.MATTHEW 18:12-14
- Faith Crisis is a viral challenge affecting individuals, families and ward communities worldwide.
- Today, Faith Crisis is being driven primarily by uncorrelated content propagated by social media.
- The “Mormon Moment” will continue the presentation of uncorrelated information to our membership.
- Unless bold measures are taken to treat those in Faith Crisis and to mitigate the challenge for future generations, significantly more LDS families will become impaired and the future success of the Church will be put at risk.
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF DISAFFECTION
1) Mitigating Faith Crisis for Future Generations
Mitigating Faith Crisis for future generations is possible but will require bold steps. The key is to ensure future generations no longer become shocked by gaps between our official LDS narrative and our uncorrelated history.
2) Treating Those Currently in Faith Crisis
Addressing the pain and suffering of members currently in Faith Crisis—and encouraging them to remain faithful and active—is the more difficult challenge. However, many of those in Faith Crisis are looking for reasons to stay. Our challenge is to give them good reasons to stay. If we cannot, we risk losing their participation.
The first and key point of recovery is when the active member shares concerns with family, friends, and leaders. Instead of treating that person harshly, our membership—and our leaders—must learn to treat him or her with empathy, compassion, and unconditional love. These struggling members must be embraced to make clear they are wanted and needed (doubts and all).
INSIGHTS & POTENTIAL STRATEGIES
There is no panacea to solve the Faith Crisis challenge—but several steps can be taken to alleviate suffering and mitigate future loss of faith. The following insights, strategies, and tactics are presented as suggestions for how leaders may consider addressing the issue:
CLOSE THE HISTORY GAP
The gap between the history currently taught and factual history is—in certain instances—highly differentiated.
Inoculate current membership and future generations by closing the gap between our historical narrative and factual history.
- Have a member of the First Presidency deliver a major address to all CES leadership and staff that makes clear the urgent obligation of CES to teach Church history openly and honestly (within a faith-based context).
- In an expeditious manner, update CES and other Church manuals and curricula to more accurately depict Church history. Collaborate with respected, non-Church employed historians to add credibility.
- Openly publish official position papers on difficult historical/doctrinal topics. If known answers are inconclusive, concede uncertainty and advance multiple ‘viable’ answers, including those that may be uncomfortable for the Church.
- Strategically identify difficult issues already being highlighted in the Church’s Joseph Smith Papers.
- Place Church history back into the adult curriculum (Relief Society and Priesthood) and provide members a framework for better understanding complicated Church history.
CONSOLE INDIVIDUALS IN FAITH CRISIS
Members in Faith Crisis feel condemned, betrayed, and abandoned by the Church leaders and members.
Train general leaders, local leaders, and the general membership how to appropriately acknowledge and support our brothers and sisters in Faith Crisis.
- Via conference talks, outbound communication, and leadership training, work to change the traditional narrative (that those who doubt are “sinners and apostates”) to an approach of empathy, understanding, love, and outreach.
- Encourage leaders to not exclude members from callings when they experience a Faith Crisis.
- Develop and provide local leaders with specific reference materials that instruct leaders on what to say, what not to say, and where to send struggling members for additional support.
- Instead of encouraging Faith Crisis members to “stop thinking and stop reading about the issues,” encourage members to thoroughly research the troublesome issues. Consider providing a listing of third-party materials which have been shown to help those in Faith Crisis reconcile difficult issues (e.g. The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life by Fiona and Terryl Givens).
- Publicly acknowledge leaders are *listening* to those with concerns.
- Acknowledge—and do not dismiss—the existence of challenging Faith Crisis issues.
- Consider an outreach initiative in which general authorities meet with disaffected members in compassion and love.
SUPPORT FAMILIES IN FAITH CRISIS
Currently, a spouse in Faith Crisis often results in damaged or destroyed marriages and traumatized families.
Counsel families to stay together and support each other despite Faith Crisis issues.
- Through conference talks and outbound communication, communicate that Faith Crisis—in and of itself—is not a valid reason for divorce.
- Counsel those members in Faith Crisis to allow their believing spouse to participate fully in Church (and not undermine the believing spouse’s faith).
- Create an online-based “Faith Crisis Hotline” in which believing and Faith Crisis spouses and family members can call a professional specifically trained in dealing with Faith Crisis issues.
PROVIDE PASTORAL COUNSEL TO DOUBTERS
Some members in Faith Crisis may lose their moral compass upon evaporation of their beliefs.
Provide pastoral counsel to help those—regardless of their beliefs—retain their LDS moral standards.
- Reinforce morality using wider traditions or using sound principles for those who have lost faith.
- Provide guidance to non-believing members that allows them to constructively interact with believing family and fellow members (e.g., what to do, what not to do).
- Provide access to trained mental health professionals to alleviate anxiety and to develop moral framework.
PUT THOSE IN FAITH CRISIS TO WORK
- A significant number of Faith Crisis members wish to stay engaged in the Church and contribute.
- Both faithful members and members with doubts are drawn to providing Christlike service to our fellow men and women inside and outside our LDS communities.
- Disaffected members indicate they are more likely to stay involved in Church activity if the Church were to focus more on Christian service to the non-LDS world.
Retain and re-activate by leveraging the Church’s infrastructure and resources to put to work those Faith Crisis members willing to serve.
- Leverage Church resources to facilitate outward-facing compassionate service projects and invite Faith Crisis members to assist in organizing and participating. Consider having The Missionary Department lead this effort on a global scale.
- Identify regional Faith Crisis leaders who can assist and strengthen members experiencing a Faith Crisis.
- Create a “by invitation” Sunday School curriculum or ongoing Family Home Evening support group aimed at ministering to members in crisis (and their families.)
AN URGENT BUT THOUGHTFUL APPROACH
Although a daunting challenge, the wrong approach would be to do nothing to address the Faith Crisis epidemic. The longer we wait, the more difficult and complex the challenge will likely become.
Urgency is needed. But it should also be acknowledged that there is a risk in publicly recognizing that such Faith Crisis issues exist. Some saints who might never know these faith-eroding issues may become vulnerable when these issues are publicly examined. Some argue we should promote what is called “faithful history,” that sanitizes the past and represses or covers discrepancies between an arranged (constructed) historical narrative and historical and scientific fact. While upsetting vulnerable members is a risk, it can be ameliorated by presenting troubling issues in a careful, open, and, even faithful context—that is, by demonstrating that a mature faith can (and should) allow for error, mistakes, and the full range of human culpability that results from agency. One could argue that such a healthy approach diminishes dishonesty and hypocrisy and allows for individual saints to face their own failings and imperfections with greater honesty and candor, thereby producing greater emotional and spiritual health.
If the Brethren and the institutional Church can set the example that it is possible to face troubling issues openly and honestly, it will enable members, weak and strong, to do the same. The alternative is to continue to pretend these issues do not exist and to be defensive about them, and thus continue to lose some of the Church’s best, brightest and most spiritual members.
That this problem is challenging does not mean it is unsolvable. There are many—our team included—who are ready to help the Church design and implement an approach for addressing this issue in a way that both strengthens the Church and helps it fulfill its divine destiny.
“The position is not assumed that the men of the New Dispensation—its prophets, apostles, presidencies, and other leaders—are without faults or infallible, rather they are treated as men of like passions with their fellow men… But while the officers and members of the church possess this spiritual “treasure,” they carried it in earthen vessels; and that earthliness, with their human limitations, was plainly manifested on many occasions and in various ways, both in personal conduct and in collective deportment. But back of all that, and it should never be lost sight of, is the supreme fact— and it was a controlling element in all their proceedings—that they occupied such relation with God that they were, on occasion, moved upon to speak and act as God would speak and act.
And when they spoke and acted as prompted by the inspiration of God, then what they said and what they did was the word and will of God, and the power of God unto salvation… The only way such a task [teaching LDS history] can be accomplished, in the judgement of this writer, is to frankly state events as they occurred, in full consideration of all related circumstances, allowing the line of condemnation or of justification to fall where it may; being confident that in the sum of things justice will follow truth; and God will be glorified in his work, no matter what may befall individuals or groups of individuals.”ELDER B.H. ROBERTS A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH, CENTURY I
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