by Michael Barker

Over two weeks ago I did a post titled, “25 Things You’re Doing Wrong”.    It gave a list of what the traditional-believing Mormon should do if they wish to maintain a loving relationship with a friend or family member that is in the middle of a faith crisis or has left the LDS Church.   I sent the link to my bishop.   A few days later, my bishop asked if I would participate in the fifth-Sunday lesson this month.  The other person speaking would be a woman in our ward that lost her leg due to vascular disease; she now wears a prosthesis.  She is now in Chaplain training at one of our local hospitals and is learning how to help people that have experienced loss.  Her message was to be on just that.  How to help those that have experienced a loss of a family member, a body part, health, etc.   It was quite beautiful.   My portion of the lesson was based upon my post.   So, here are my lesson notes.   You will see that the way it is organized is by me making a certain point (the same ones made in my earlier post) and then expanding the points with either quotes or my rambling.   I had to tone down the message a little bit as I was addressing my church congregation.

Afterwards my brother-in-law, who is visiting from Utah, jokingly said, “Man you wouldn’t hear that lesson in Utah.”    Another person, a visitor, came up and said, “Thank you.  I now understand my daughter a little better.”   Someone in my ward told me that he has doubts.  Doubts that he hasn’t even told his wife because he doesn’t want to raise concern.   I understand him.  The sense of isolation can be suffocating.

So, her are my notes.  Feel free to use them in your ward. Who knows?  Maybe this lesson will be given in Utah sometime.  Oh, ya, what is the “Grand Fundamental Principle of Mormonism”?   Scroll down to the bottom and you will see.  I also threw in  a Dave Matthew’s Band quote in there.

I recorded the lesson I gave.  I had more material than I had time.  So I think I only got to number six out of twenty-sevent points. Click on the link to listen.  20130630 134713 .  I don’t know how great the sound-quality will be.


Why me?

About 5 years ago I was in the middle of a faith crisis. I just needed to talk with someone that would listen. However, everyone with whom I spoke treated me as a contagion. I seriously considered resigning my membership then.

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. I have two cousins that left the Church last week. My brother’s father-in-law left the Church while on the High Council of his stake. 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. One of the hardest things that comes to these people along with their loss of faith, is their loss of family and friends.

I am going to narrow our discussion a little bit and then broaden it at the same time:

1)I’m narrowing this to those that struggle with doubt due to difficult historical or theological issues they have come across and to those that have left the Church. For that is the only thing with which I have any insight.
2)I am narrowing this down to “How to maintain a relationship with a doubter” Why? Two reasons. First, one of the things that causes the biggest stress for people that are struggling is the rejection and rebuke they will receive for expressing doubt. I have seen it over and over again. Even though we don’t “officially shun” members of our family, Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we can be pretty mean.
3)This discussion is not about what people have done wrong to bring doubt into their lives, or why people have left the church. Those that have left the church are not in this room with us – you are. So let’s talk about you. This is going to challenge some of your assumptions.
4)My own personal experience with faith crisis and those of whom I have listened and spoke to and thus with which I have some insight, has come about mostly due to issues of our LDS history. I am not going to talk about the specific problems that most frequently bring about a crisis of faith. I don’t have the time to bring them up in a responsible manner.

But, let me say, that the internet is like the Gutenberg press of the 16th century. There is a lot of information out there about our LDS history and a lot of it is true, but hard to come terms with in a healthy, productive manner. The brethren are aware of this.

In a 2012 meeting at Utah State University, a student asked Elder Marlin Jensen of the Seventy and at the time Church Historian if the brethren in Salt Lake were aware of the seemingly mass exodus that is occurring in our Church due to some tough historical issues. He responded:

“The fifteen men [First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve] really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these [difficult LDS historical] issues. (Elder Marlin K. Jensen, LDS Church Historian, Utah State University, January 18, 2012)

My faith and my relationship with our Church is more complex than it was before. That came out of necessity as I had to reconstruct my faith, because I wanted to. There is something true and powerful in the Mormon narrative. I believe it is the most whole and complete narrative that is given of life and truth. Now, that is not to say that one’s simple faith is any less valid than what I now have. But it is more vulnerable to the internet.

Having passed through a faith transition myself, I have a great responsibility to you, my faith community.

For us Mormons, salvation is not just a personal thing, it is communal; it is Gospel-centered, covenantal family-relational. When we covenant with our Heavenly Parents, we are not just covenanting with them, but also with our Church members and family. We are such a communal group. We bear testimony to each other. We derive our testimonies from each other as well as the Spirit. There is a type of collectivity. We are a quasi-ethnicity. We are tribal. So, when someone leaves, the community feels threatened. Our sense of self feels threatened. Our sens of identity has been challenged. It can be a very threatening and frightening thing to see someone break apart from the community. And that can explain some of the over reaction by those left behind

So, I am going to reframe the purpose of our discussion.

What can we do to maintain relationships with those that are struggling spiritually now or have already left the Church? If salvation is indeed how we believe it is, then relationships, especially familial relationships, are the zenith of importance.

So, our discussion today, for me comes from my own real experience, and from the real experiences of others. I have a good sense of what does and does not work. This discussion is not for those that have already left the Church. For they are not sitting here. It is for you. It is to challenge you and your preconceived assumptions.

The Greek etymology for apostasy is “to stand apart from”. There is a problem with the denotation vs. the connotation of the word. In our LDS culture, the connotation is not one that stands apart, but one that is aggressively trying to destroy faith.

Can we ourselves be apostate by standing away from those that are struggling? It is much easier to call people apostate (using the connotation of the word); it is much more difficult to act in love.

1) Pray for guidance

2)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.

Ponder this Hebrew word:
“chesed” (it starts with a gutteral, like the end of Loch (ness monster) – (Thanks to Jared Anderson for helping me out with this one.)

it really has no precise equivalent in our language. English versions usually try to represent it with such words as “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” “steadfast love,” and sometimes “loyalty,” but the full meaning of the word cannot be conveyed without an explanation.

The word is used only in cases where there is some recognized tie between the parties concerned. It is not used indiscriminately of kindness in general, haphazard, kindly deeds. It is one of the words he used in the Psalms (23 times, plus Hosea 2:19) to translate the Hebrew chesed when it refers to God’s love for his people Israel. It is a persistent love. Translators otherwise have used ‘mercy,’ ‘goodness,’ and ‘great kindness’ in the Psalms for God’s attitude to man; and, outside the Psalms, such words as ‘mercy,’ ‘goodness,’ ‘favour’ for God’s attitude to man, and ‘kindness’ for man’s attitude to man. The theological importance of the word chesed is that it stands more than any other word for the attitude which both parties to a covenant ought to maintain towards each other.

3)You must love them. Didn’t I say that already? Yes, 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. Too often in the Church we show no interest in someone until we have not seen them at Church and then either all of a sudden show an interest in them, which the member will see right through, or worse, we ask their spouse what is going on with the ward member instead of speaking directly to the person. Just ask yourself if you have been guilty of that.
Just the other night, during family scripture study, I was touched by what Jesus spoke to the Nephites just prior to his condescension to the Americas (interesting that Jesus is quoting himself from Matthew 23:37):
“…how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you. And how oft would I have gathered

Hen and chickens on altar in Church of Dominus Flevit
you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen…how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not….how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings…” (3 Nephi 10:46)
The first thing that struck me was that Jesus takes on the feminine character of a mother hen gathering in her baby chickens. This shows his devotion and nurturing love he has for us. The second thing that struck me is how, despite the chicks wandering, the hen always tries to gather in, nourish, and protect her chicks; and she will continue to do so in the future.

4)Do not assume that they have been sinning or want to sin and are just looking for excuses to leave the Church.

By doing so, we are avoiding addressing the real problem that has caused a crisis of faith; we are “wagging the dog.” We, in fact, are building up a hedge around ourselves, and perhaps around our faith community, in hopes of offering self-protection.

For example, we need to stop telling the story, the way we do, about Thomas Marsh and the whole milk-stippings incident. The way we tell it is too reductionist.

If we look at the membership of the church with an activity rate that’s lower than fifty percent, non-active members are the largest segments of Mormons in the country. We really have two choices in how we approach them. We can either look at the less-active as simply fulfilling prophecy of apostasy. We can say they were offended. We can say we know, a priori what is in their head – why they did what they did. Or, we can stop and listen and potentially learn something that helps these people feel like they can come back to church. Which is, whether you are a believing literal member, who wants to build the kingdom, or a less orthodox member who just realizes that some of those people out there are really the pick and flower, and you would just love it if they felt that they could bring their company into the organized church again. That should be a goal that is worth persuing

5)You must realize that doubt is not a sin.
In our covenantal responsibility we have for each other, we often show an over-zeal with which we label people apostate when they are only doubting.

Doubt is the only backdrop to which faith has any real meaning because there cannot be any real faith without doubt. The doubt has to be a powerful enough solvent to burn holes in our stories about God and ourselves.

President Uchtdorf, CES Fireside, 2013 Speaking of the story of the six blind men feeling a different part of an elephant and then describing it:

“…That someone could make a judgment based on one aspect of truth and apply it to the whole seems absurd or even unbelievable. On the other hand, can’t we recognize ourselves in these six blind men? Have we ever been guilty of the same pattern of thought?
I suppose the reason this story has remained so popular in so many cultures and over so many years is because of its universal application. The Apostle Paul said that in this world the light is dim and we see only part of the truth as though we are looking “through a glass, darkly…”


“…Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?” (Dieter Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

One of the concerns I have with cultural Mormonism is what I call the rhetoric of certainty.45 There is the de facto exclusion from the pulpit of those people who don’t feel they can stand up and say “I know”. We must dignify and legitimize that perspective and stance of uncertainty. Doubt is the precondition for actual, meaningful choice. If evidence for anything is so overwhelming, then we are not freely choosing to believe that. We certainly don’t choose to believe the law of gravity; there is too much evidence; and no matter how much you try, you cannot choose to believe in the Easter Bunny because there isn’t any [evidence]. Faith operates in that realm where it is possible to choose a reasonable belief in the face of reasonable doubt. That is a kind of faith that is highly valued of the Lord because it represents an act of the will; a gesture of faith in which we choose to embrace Christ and what He offers us.

Doctrine and Covenants 46:13, 14 reads:

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”

It is clear, in these verses, that belief and knowledge are seen ontologically (the nature of something’s being/existence) as two separate things. In these verses, knowledge is not seen as being superior to belief; they are just different. I don’t think we appreciate the significance of these two verses together. Current Mormonism is very much an “I know” culture, and we too often look down on those who can’t say “I know”—if they will even admit it. To “some” it is given to know, and others to believe.

In fact, the capacity to only believe is a kind of doubtful ascent. It is a spiritual gift.

That lack of capacity to know is called a spiritual gift in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Church as this moment, the Church culture, is on the near-end of a seismic shift in the way faith is understood and treated. If you needed any conclusive evidence, it is Elder Holland’s talk in General Conference. For the first 63473-mtime of which I am aware, it was said from the pulpit in General Conference that it is OK not to know:

“…The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know…A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field…” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April General Conference, Sunday Afternoon Session)

I cannot emphasize the importance of Elder Holland’s remarks. Although it is apparent from his talk that he has never experienced the existential faith crisis that many Mormons now find themselves in, he is trying to understand. A talk like this would not have been given five years ago. It was quite remarkable and many who now find themselves outside the Church see his talk as an olive branch that is being extended. Notice that he never calls the doubter to repentance.

“…If you ever come to an answer to a question that tries to stop all the other questions, you aren’t thinking hard enough. Because any answer that puts a stop to other questions is just cheating. It’s just a bully. It’s not actually giving you any knowledge if it is says, ‘Here’s the answer, so shut up!’ Then all it is doing is stopping things. And anything that stops is damned – in both spellings of the word. It is both stopped and also condemned. And it has condemned itself by stopping its curiosity; it is stopping it’s potential for progress. So any kind of curiosity that remains, it’s got to be, if not a good thing unto itself, it leads to good things, and it’s not something that looks attractive, it’s something that can be made attractive or is a step on the way or we just haven’t finished yet. That’s one of the wonderful things of how mind-blowing eternity is. We haven’t finished yet and there probably won’t ever be a time when we just say, ‘We’re done!” Perfection, even the word, sounds just like it means ‘the place where you don’t have to try anymore because it’s the state we’ve arrived at.’ If I’m not mistaken, Joseph taught that perfection is a state of ongoing perfection. You are not perfect if you are stopped. If you’re stopped, then you are imperfect…” (Zina Peterson)


“…Questions are good. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but absolute, antiseptic certainty is the opposite of faith. If our popular [Mormon] culture demonizes the intellect, that’s not what Joseph [Smith] taught. Joseph taught that we are intellects fully as much as we are spirits. Or sometimes he seemed to talk that our essence is spirit-intellects. That’s what we ontologically are. And to bifurcate those, to sunder the mind and the spirit is to be apostate from major thrusts of Joseph’s theology. The point is to look to our own [Mormon]culture, our own tradition, our own scriptures, and find where we are taking the name of the Lord God in vane by trivializing it and sitting in our classes as though they were little scripts waiting to be inacted instead of asking authentic questions that would magnify our callings and ours souls and our minds. We ought to not let ourselves be guilty of a narrowness that the Lord neither requires of us or apparently tries to foster. We need to learn the difference between a fruitless, esoteric question that leads you into weird thickets and a good question that can enlarge our sole and our humanity…” (Phillip Barlow)


“…I’ll be honest about it. It not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the Garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in pryer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” (Yann Martel, The Life of Pi, pg. 34)

6)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. Many people, I for one, wrestle and pray and study for months, yet don’t feel like they are getting an answer. So, it is offensive when you tell them “You just need to study the scriptures and pray more”. It is a cop-out answer.

Remember how Jacob wrestled with the angel to obtain his blessing?

Genesis 32:24-32

“…No good thing comes without conflict and opposition. In a metaphorical sense, we may often feel as though we are wrestling with an angel, alternately crying out “let me go, for the day breaketh” (the angel’s line, I concede) or “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”. Our relationships with God are not static. They stretch, bend, contract and dilate, rarefy and compress―as is true of any relationship, earthly or divine, that has a chance of lasting. Wrestling, then, is a form of communion―a word implying a reconciliation of sorts. For those entangled with angels, such a communion functions as an exchange, an ebb and flow, a transaction of sorrows and joys…” (Kylan Rice, from his essay, The Day Breaketh)

Too often we are too loyal to the outcomes instead of the processes described in scripture and our religion.

“…In my experience, neither critics, nor apologist for the church do much to convince me whether or not to believe. Debates, analysis, and scientific evidence may alternately undermine or support by beliefs. But belief itself is a choice I wrestle with God for, somewhere in a dark swampland, my inner landscape; where not only God’s credibility, but my own are at stake…” (Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D. in psychology and education from University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles).

7) Shut your mouth 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.

We have to be comfortable with silence. We must learn to be present in the moment.

When I was in my medical training, we we learning about counseling. The instructor drilled it into our heads that when someone comes to the clinician with an issue such as weight loss, one needs to just listen at first and not give advice. Several times she had to stop our little break-off group sessions as we practiced the principles learned because all of us would immediately go to giving advice instead of keeping our mouths shut.
We can learn something from the story of Job. At first his friends just listened:

Job 2:11-13
11 ¶Now when Job’s three afriends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
13 So they sat down with him upon the ground aseven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

His friends were doing quite well in helping Job – until they opened their mouths and started speaking:

Job 4:1, 8-11
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
9 By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.
10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.
11 The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.

Oftentimes it is best just to be silent and mourn and listen.

8) You must realize that there is a possibility they will leave the Church. That is a tough one, but it is a reality.

9) 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.

I have a friend who struggled with doubts for 7 years but continued to remain in the church, trying to force herself into the mold of a person she knew she was not. This caused much anxiety and depression for her. She finally realized that she needed to leave the Church out of a sense of integrity and for her own mental health. She is much happier now. Do I wish she would have stayed in the Church? Yes, but we are still friends.

10) If your friend or family member leaves the Church, you must honor that decision. You may not agree with it, but you must honor it.

As our loved ones struggle and question, we must realize that some will leave the church because they are unable to reconcile what they are experiencing with what the church is. What do we do with them? Do we honor their journey?

We need not dismiss the differences and divisions. We need to heal some of the divisions and find ways to interact and love one another despite the divisions. There are very sound reasons for these differences and sometimes they are necessary; but we need to love people and try to heal some of the wounds. Does this mean that we have to embrace their views? No! To truly have compassion for someone, but you must have some idea of “the good”. How can I really help this person? Do I show compassion for a person by countenancing tastes and wants and inclinations?18 As our loved ones struggle and question, we must realize that some will leave the church because they are unable to reconcile what they are experiencing with what the church is. What do we do with them? Do we honor their journey?

11) If this is your spouse, do not threaten to leave them. Family is more important.

12) Understand that many Mormons that leave the Church either become agnostic or atheist.

13) 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. Dr. Richard Bushman of course being the past chair for the History Department at Columbia University (an Ivy-league college), past Stake President, past Stake Patriarch, and now Temple Sealer, and one of the Editors of the Joseph Smith Papers.

14) Understand that if your friend or family member leaves the Church, they will still be morally good people
15) They must understand that if they leave the Church, you will still love them and not think less of them.

16) 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.

There is a fundamental difference between someone that is struggling with doubt and someone that is say, beating their wife and children. The latter does need correction.

17) You must validate their concerns. Just because you have not experienced what they are experiencing, doesn’t make their story any less valid.

This is difficult. Often in Church culture, if someone has not had the same experiences we have had, we discount them. This leads the doubter to not share their struggles.

It goes a long way to say, “I’m so sorry you are struggling with that. I have not struggled with it myself, but I can understand why that would make you so upset. I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I’m here for you and I will listen.”

We need not dismiss the differences and divisions. We need to heal some of the divisions and find ways to interact and love one another despite the divisions. There are very sound reasons for these differences and sometimes they are necessary; but we need to love people and try to heal some of the wounds. Does this mean that we have to embrace their views? No! To truly have compassion for someone, but you must have some idea of “the good”. How can I really help this person? Do I show compassion for a person by countenancing tastes and wants and inclinations?

Ultimately, we want our integrity to be what guides us. Meaning, where do I stand? What do I think is right? Having integrity means I can care and love for you, but not stand where you stand; but also, not move away from you just to protect myself and my world view. Is it the best of me that is driving that decision? In other words, is it love, compassion, and wisdom or is it fear and reactivity?
Instead of embracing others that struggle and instead of embracing the richness that can come with diversity of opinion, too many times we are as the Levite Priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). We side-step around those that have been beaten in order to remain clean.
This is difficult. Often in Church culture, if someone has not had the same experiences we have had, we discount them. This leads the doubter to not share their struggles.

We want to trust people and sometimes people’s stories can lead to an instability of that trust and so when we go to church, there is this tension between intimacy and stability. Intimacy only comes when we share our true stories that will sometimes provide data points that will destabilize the story and so most of us go to church for stability, not for intimacy. Again – Most people go to church more for the stability than the intimacy. Being intimate, even though it is a lot better, it is also a lot riskier, and takes a lot more work. Anyone that has experienced intimacy knows that it is a lot more “awesomer”, but much more difficult to achieve and requires a lot more vulnerability.
Often we don’t want to deal with the truth because it makes us feel uncomfortable. We want to be able to trust. We want structure that gives us stability to our lives and when we come across data points that undermine that security, we tend to push it away. Even though in the long run, doing so might actually hurt us.
So at church, when we are wanting to share a kind of road map of where we are, we are often unwilling to share the complexity and the intimacy of that road map because it is complex and because it can possibly destabilize.

Ask yourself, when I attend Church, am I looking for stability or intimacy?

Two of my favorite talks given in our Sacrament meeting over the past two years were given by Sister Burnett and Sister Thomlinson. Because they spoke of struggles that they were having now. In Church we usually only hear of one’s struggles after the struggle has been resolved.

I concede that all will interpret Christ in the way that is most convenient, but I believe a fair reading of what Christ represented can be summarized in the parable about leaving the ninety-nine to go after the one, or the Good Samaritan (Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4; Luke 10:32). If Christianity is about anything, it is about the underprivileged; it’s about the the socially marginalized; it’s about the ostracized; it’s about saying that those of us who are privileged, need to give and support and develop empathy and compassion for those that fall on the margins. I don’t comprehend any form of Mormonism where there isn’t a huge moral mandate to stand and love and embrace people who fall on the margins.

If we, as the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), do not provide a loving safe place in which doubters, skeptics, those with intellectual and political differences, and the marginalized can work things out, they will find a place to do so outside the church and we will lose them forever; these people, once they have left, rarely come back. They will find a place that validates them, their skepticism, their political views, their intelectual differences and usually these will be places that destroy faith. They will find a place that will apply balm to the wounds inflicted in “the house of [their] friends” (Zechariah 12:6).

Just listening and allowing the doubter to be vulnerable and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is difficult and God-like. It almost requires a type of at-one-ment on our part. It requires us to mourn.

When we hear in the news of a child being killed, now that I have children ,it moves me differently. It moves me to tears. Don’t you also feel that you need to just sit with it for a moment; to feel her pain? Doesn’t make you want to reach out to her? I am able to suffer a bit with the mother of that child. I am able to be “at-one” a bit with her. However, my life will go on. My pain will go away. That mother’s pain will be a hole in her heart for the rest of her life.
Jesus performs the atonement, he feels our pain, not so he can balance the books, but so he can know how to succor us (Alma 7:12). It is that human experience of having the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and being willing to suffer with other people and succor them that we, in a way, become like God; as we become one with those around us.(Dr. Jeremy Timothy)
It is by doing these very difficult acts that we will become the “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17), that the Gospel of Jesus Christ promises; and charity is the greatest manifestation of that transformation – “cleave unto charity which is the greatest of all…[for] charity is the pure love of Christ.” (Moroni 7:46, 47) Maybe when the apostle Paul speaks of “the law (in the broadest sense of the term) being dead” (Romans 7:4, 6; Galatians 2:19), he is essentially saying that the do’s and dont’s of a Christian’s faith are dead because they have been so incorporated into the life of the Christian that this new transformed self supersedes the law. To be as God is, is to posses the pure love of Christ. It is to have charity; and to have charity is to be as God. Is this blasphemous? “As long as it is God’s nature and character we are striving to emulate, and not His power and glory, we are on safe ground.”23

Divine vulnerability is most dramatically embodied in the figure and mission of the Christ. Jesus Christ has had unparalleled hold on the human heart because He fully shared in the human condition, a “glorious, yet contracted light” that “stole into a manger” in order to experience the entire sordid and suffering span of the human condition. The story of His life and ministry strikes us with wonder for two reasons. First, it establishes a real, shared intimacy that only fellow travelers in suffering can know…Christ’s empathy then is not some inherent attribute of the Divine. It was dearly paid for, each day of His mortal life, filled as it was with all the trauma an uncomprehending world could inflict on perfect innocence…The story of Christ’s life amazes for a second reason: it tells us something about a particular power only made manifest in vulnerability. The paradox of Christ’s saving sway is that it operates on the basis of what the world would call weakness. Christ aimed to “draw all men unto” Himself by his ignominious crucifixion, not his triumphant resurrection. We are drawn to the suffering Christ, not the victorious Christ” (Terryl and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps)

The Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote a friend: “The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help…The God of the Bible…wins power and space in the world by his weakness”

18) Realize that if they have gotten up the courage to talk to you, that they have spent months, if not years, thinking and worrying.

19) If they do want answers to questions, only answer them if you have a plausible answer. Don’t make things up.

20) 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.

21)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 uneducated answers. I have found that most people that are struggling due to historical issues have been voracious readers. Often times, they weren’t huge readers before their crisis of faith. They almost go on a binge. They just cannot stop reading about Church history. So, they know a lot of stuff that most members just don’t know.

With your reading will come a paradigm shift in your approach to Mormonism and an abandonment of some of the historical narratives that just aren’t historically true:

D&C 93:39
“….And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers…”

Some of the things we have learned about our LDS history is much much more complicated than what most realize. If we want to help, when help is asked, we are going to have to change some of our assumptions. Ask a fish what its like being wet. the fish will ask, “What’s wet?” He has certain assumptions. We are going to have to change our misapplied criteria. If we are wanting to help, we must abandon, in a sense, some of the traditions of our fathers. It takes a humility and courage to entertain other possibilities.

Our questions are limited by our language and world view. If you were a physician in the middle-ages, you would ask God, “O.K., which of the four humors do I need to deplete from this body to heal it?” When God tries to bring us to a new paradigm, the previous paradigm has to collapse. We have to move on. It may seem as if we have been deceived, but God can only answer the questions we are ready to ask. That’s the great thing about Joseph Smith. He got better and better at asking questions.

To be engaged with a doubter, we risk contamination ourselves. It is just like someone that treat tuberculosis. To treat it, one risks their own health. Yet, that is what we are called to do.

Most of us don’t read. Just ask yourself how often you read the assigned reading for our Sunday School classes. I bet if we were able to take a poll, we would find that more than half of us don’t read the assigned reading for our Sunday School classes. This isn’t just a Church problem. It is an AMER ICAN PROBLEM.
USA TODAY 11/16/07 – analysis that was released by the National Endowment of the Arts:

Only 38% of adults in 2006 said they had spent time reading a book for pleasure the previous day.
65% of college freshmen in 2005 said they read little or nothing for pleasure.
30% of 13-year-olds in 2004 said they read for fun “almost every day,” down from 35% in 1984.
“There used to be the assumption that if someone went to college, they would become a lifelong reader – and the numbers bore it out. What we’re seeing right now is that we’re no longer producing readers. We’re producing B.A.s and M.A.s and PH.D.S.”
Publisher Weekly:
An AP-Ipsos ( a global market and research company) poll about reading habits found that, among those who read book in 2006, the average respondent read seven books.
25% of adults surveyed said they didn’t read any books last year
Past studies as well as the new AP-Ipsos poll released August 21, 2006 found that gender, age, socioeconomics, education, race, ethnicity, religion and location all play a role in how much a person reads.
The reading population has been dwindling for years. Studies site stiff competition from television, movies and the Internet fro the trend.
The typical person, the AP-Ipsos poll found, read four books last year – half read fewer, half read more.
The Gallup Poll in 2005 found similar results when it asked the slightly different question of how many books the person started in the last year. The typical respondent started five books, down from 10 in 1999, but close tot he 1990 response of six.
in 2004, a National Endowment for the Arts report titled “Reading at Risk” found only 57% of American adults had read a book in 2002, a four percentage point drop in a decade. The 2004 study found that 43 percent of Americans had not read a book, compared to the 27% who reported reading no books at all in the AP-Ipsos poll.
Who are the 27% of people the AP-Ipsos pll found had not read a single book that year? Nearly 1/3 of men and 1/4 of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious. Put another way, avid readers in the current and past studies have found that book readers tended to be elderly, female, southern, religious, and educated. Their non-reading counterparts tended to be male, lower income, less religious and minorities who live in rural areas.

22) If you are reading and studying more in an attempt to help, the reading must be outside the correlated material that we get in our Sunday School classes and the material that Deseret Book produces.

You need to raise the level of discourse. One of the things that our culture tends to do is it tends to dumb down things. Our culture is impatient with having to study. It’s impatient with having to do critical thinking. It’s just, “Give it to me, give it to me, fast, quick, quick, quick! And I want it simple.” Keep it simple stupid is the principal; the KISS principal you know. I say what we need to do is…. we don’t need to water down the substance of the discourse. We need to boil up the people. If they’re going to be educated in all kinds of other fields, why should they not be educated about their faith? You see?…..

I think that it is the task, the educational , the pedagogical task of the church to raise up the level of discourse about their own faith to the general level of discourse on any other intelligent subject that the culture is going to be prepared to talk about. And I would say it is the obligation of any thinking Christian to be able to articulate their faith at a level of discourse that could challenge the basic cultural assumptions.

“Nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist. Because no doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended….That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of own arguments….from Christian apologetics [in]to Christ himself. That is also why we need one another’s continual help–oremus pro invincem (let us pray for one another)” (C.S. Lewis essay “Weight of Glory”)


“Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows that ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” (Austin Farrer, “Grete Clerk,” in Light on C. S. Lewis, comp. Jocelyn Gibb (New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1965), 26.)

“Own your religion, don’t borrow it. If you are to make it work for yourselves and especially if you wish to make an impact on the larger church, you have to read, think, and write deeply for the rest of your lives; Google will not get you there and neither will the blogs” (Dr. Gregory Prince, author of David O.McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism)

“If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.” (C.S. Lewis)

“These things are both true: We need to maximize the opportunities for the strongest most quesioning minds to find satisfaction and comfort within the fold. It is also true that we need to define the fold by simple and clear teachings that can never take account of all the complexities and questions. How we hold those two things together is an ongoing matter of adjustment.”(Dr. Ralph Hancock)


23) Realize that they are going to be hurt and angry and are going to say things that might offend you.
Often times this anger comes from a sense of betrayal. Sometimes, they will want to disabuse everyone around them of their beliefs. That is tough. Along with that sense of betrayal comes a real grieving, and sometimes depression, because of a loss of faith.

24) 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.

Too often we are too loyal to the outcomes instead of the processes described in scripture and our religion.

25) Be discrete. They have told you about their doubts and concerns in confidence.

26) 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.
27) What the Church is doing to address some of these historical issues:
history.lds.org; Joseph Smith Papers; Ronald Walker, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard’s Massacre at Mountain Meadow.


What does one do so as to not be infected when trying to help? That is a tricky question for which I don’t have a clear answer. Those that treat tuberculosis, run the chance themselves of becoming infected. So, do you not treat the patient? In surgery I have been stabbed with a needle, have had a pin driven into my finger with a power drill. I have to be close to the radiation emitted from X-rays. I have treated people with the HIV virus; with the Hepatitis virus. Do I not treat them because I might become infected? Do I not treat people because of the radiation? No. I take precautions, but even with the precautions, I have been hurt.

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.

The commitments we form to Mormonism are strong. In the strength of feeling, the power of the [Mormon] culture to attract and retain, the power of the imagination Mormonism inspires, the richness of its intellectual heritage – we have what it takes to address these crisis [of faith]. We have what it takes; we absolutely do.


Our faith tradition is strong enough that we can fully embrace those that are struggling, those that feel they have been marginalized, those that have been hurt by the church, those that have political and intellectual differences, without worry of weakening the institution.

As our loved ones struggle and question, we must realize that some will leave the church because they are unable to reconcile what they are experiencing with what the church is. What do we do with them? Do we honor their journey?

I do not believe and worship incompetent Heavenly Parents. Christ has the power to save all except those that have put themselves completely out of Christ’s reach. The question is, how long and how hard is the process going to be? That is up to us and some of us will take a circuitous path. As Doctrine and Covenants 88:31-33 teaches, the single limitation is our capacity to receive.

Our Heavenly Parents want us to freely chose to be in a loving relationship with them. But for agency to really exist, two equally compelling choices must exist. We cannot chose whether or not the law of gravity to exist. See what I am saying? There is too much evidence for it. We are compelled to believe in the law of gravity. We have no choice. Yet with the existence of a God in general, with Christianity and Mormonism specifically, there must be equally compelling argument on both sides, or our agency is rendered null and void. There must be equally compelling arguments for belief and disbelief. And so I tell you, I have freely chosen to believe that there are Loving Heavenly Parents that want us to be freely chose to be in a loving relationship with them. I tell you that I have freely chosen the believe in Mormon Christianity. I chose to try to be in relationship with not only the divine, but with you.

I think we can work, if we don’t get arrogant in the process, to enrich and broaden the culture and make it less defensive and more open.

Christianity in general and Mormonism is seeing a decline in its ability to retain 18-30 year olds. What are we to do?

In our faith, we seem to vacillate between, “Hey we are just like you!” and “Hey we are different!!” We see this in our Articles of Faith:

We are just like you, we believe in God (AofF 2). No, we are different!!! We don’t believe in original sin. Wait we are the same!! We believe in the Bible. No, wait we are different – we believe in the Book of Mormon.

With the decline of Christianity,now is the time to emphasize our differences with the rest of Christianity.

If we believe we are all co-eternal with God, as our Mormon cosmology teaches, then what defines God is not His absolute transcendence, but his willfulness to engage other intellegences in loving relationships. In the absence of eternity, transcendence, or the absolute, Mormons believe the root of all value in this universe is in a willful decision to create loving relationships

Love is not a whisper nor a weakness. No love is strong.

So, what is the Grand Fundamental Principle of Mormonism?

“…Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism, to revolutionize and civilize the world – pour forth love…”
Joseph Smith 23 July 1843 (Sunday Afternoon) in Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 234



Quotes and other stuff:

“…One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth. Let it come from where it may…”
Joseph Smith, 9 July 1843 (Sunday Morning) Temple Stand in Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 229.

“…Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism, to revolutionize and civilize the world – pour forth love…”
Joseph Smith 23 July 1843 (Sunday Afternoon) in Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 234

“…The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know…A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field…” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April General Conference, Sunday Afternoon Session)

There is a tension between creating a standard for the masses and for the norm, because who would want to live in a world where there aren’t high standards and expectations for people? The way we achieve higher heights is by creating high standards for the masses. All that stuff for the masses is great, but there is a group of people, in the minority, for whom those standards have been experienced as oppressive or destructive. How do we reinforce some standard and some norms and encourage some of these for the masses while still not having that mean that those in the minority – intellectually, in terms of feminism, sexuality, or otherwise – that is not deathly, in some instances, for them? Granting full authority to all possible exceptions to the rule, no matter how compassionate it may seem, comes in direct conflict with the need to reach for that high standard; it comes with consequences.

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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