Hmm...Could it be SATAN!!?

Hmm…Could it be SATAN!!?

I have family and friends that are either in the midst of a faith crisis or have passed through their crisis and now find themselves outside of the Church.   As I have spoken with them and listened to others’ stories about their faith transitions, I have taken mental notes of what seems to help and what doesn’t  help.   So, I decided to make a “How To Guide” for dealing with friends and family who are in the middle of a faith transition:

 

  1. You must love them.   This may sound like a “no-brainer”, but the majority of people that are in the middle of a faith crisis are afraid of losing friends and family if they discuss with them their doubts and concerns.
  2. You must love them.   Didn’t I say that already?  Ya, I did.  You get the idea now.  This cannot be the superficial, smiling in the hallway at church, kind of thing.  It must be a real love.   If you don’t possess that, your friends and family will see right through you.
  3. Do not assume that they have been sinning or want to sin and are just looking for excuses to leave the Church. 
  4. You must realize that doubt is not a sin.
  5. Do not assume that the reason for their doubts is because they’ve stopped reading the scriptures and praying. They most likely have been doing those things for a long time and are still wrestling with doubts.
  6. You must realize that there is a good chance they will leave the Church.  That is a tough one, but it is a reality.  
  7. Realize that for some, either because of  the need to maintain their own healthy mental well being, or for reasons of integrity, it is better for them to leave the Church. 
  8. If your friend or family member leaves the Church, you must honor that decision. 
  9. If this is your spouse, do not threaten to leave them.  Family is more important.
  10. Understand that most Mormons that leave the Church either become agnostic or atheist.
  11. Do not accuse them of reading “anti-Mormon” literature (although this may be true).   People have left the Church after reading a scholarly history, such as Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.
  12. Understand that if your friend or family member leaves the Church, they will still be morally good people. 
  13. They must understand that if they leave the Church, you will still love them and not think less of them. 
  14. Do not say something idiotic like, “The Devil has deceived you.”  Your roll is not to call them to repentance or to preach to them.  If you do this, they will probably stop talking to you.
  15. Shut up and listen.   Within Mormonism, we often think we have the answers to everything – when we don’t.   Many times our friends and family aren’t looking for answers to questions, they are just looking for someone that will listen to them.
  16. You must validate their concerns.   Just because you have not experienced what they are experiencing, doesn’t make their story any less valid.
  17. Realize that if they have gotten up the courage to talk to you, that they have spent months, if not years, thinking and worrying.
  18. If they do want answers to questions, only answer them if you have a plausible answer.  Don’t make crap up.
  19. Understand that your family member or friend has been “trying to make it work” for a long time and has probably been in a lot of pain while trying to work things out.
  20. If they do want answers to questions, realize that they have been thinking, reading, and studying about this harder and for a longer period of time than you have.  If you want to help you need to study and read A LOT before you start spilling out crappy answers.
  21. If you are reading and studying more in an attempt to help, the reading must be outside the correlated dribble that we get in our Sunday School classes and the “white-washed” drivel Deseret Book produces. 
  22. Realize that they are going to be hurt and angry and are going to say things that might offend you.
  23. Realize that a crisis won’t be averted through just one or two discussions with you.  Be patient.  It could take months or even years for the person to go through this transition and they probably won’t be the same afterward.  Most either end up with a more mature, nuanced faith, or leave the Church.
  24. Be discrete.  They have told you about their doubts and concerns in confidence.   
  25.  Realize that all of these suggestions can be difficult to do. Do not take this on unless you are committed to all of the above. 

These are just general suggestions that I have found have kept open the communication lines between my friends and family members that are going through a faith crisis or have transitioned out of a faith crisis and have left the Church.  Keeping the lines of communication open without judgement are extremely important during this difficult time and can help save friendships and family relationships.

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Miguel is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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