As I have actively watched the online discussions regarding faith-crises/faith-transitions, I’ve noticed something strange. While there is excellent advice on how to work through it – for example the Givens’ book, The Crucible of Doubt, and Patrick Mason’s, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt – I haven’t found anything that tells us what to expect when going through a faith-crisis. That is what this post is about. Let me narrow it down a bit.
This post is what to expect with your faith crisis – if you make it out the other end with your relationship (although sometimes complicated) to the LDS Church still intact. For those who have left, or are on their way out, this post won’t have relevance. The reason being, I haven’t left the Church. I am still active in my ward and I hold a calling. So, I can’t speak much to the experience of those who have left. I acknowledge there are good reasons to leave and I don’t believe my experience is any more valid than the experiences of those who have left. This post is meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive – that is, what I have observed, not what I think you should do. It is based on my own faith journey and what I have experienced and observed personally and from watching the online Mormon community. Here is what to expect:
- It sucks.
- It hurts.
- It will take years for you to “work things out.” Expect it to take around ten years – at least.
- There is not a silver-bullet answer.
- The answers will be less about answers and more about you transforming into someone different.
- It sucks (I know I said that already, but it’s true).
- Your relationship to the LDS institution will change.
- Your relationship to your ward will change.
- Your relationship to your family will change.
- You will feel lonely.
- You will feel isolated.
- You might feel certain, right at this moment, about some things, but your certainty will later change.
- You will feel angry.
- You will think that you have it worked out and then…
- You will feel angry again.
This will happen multiple times. Think of it as second, third, fourth, fifth, etc “Dark NIghts of the Soul.”
- Although you might be careful with how and what you say at church, you will screw it up a lot.
With time, instead of screwing up nine out of ten times, it will drop down to five out of ten times.1 😉
- You will regain your own moral compass and moral authority.
- You will end up giving some things up in order to remain part of the LDS community.
- You will come to realize that everyone is wired differently.
Some people want to know about all the problems, some don’t want to know about any of the problems, and some just want to know that someone has it all figured out.
Wait! There’s More!
Now, at the beginning, I said this post was about describing what to expect with your faith-crisis/transition. I’m going to give some advice too. The advice, again, is based on mistakes I have made or seen friends make over and over again. It’s almost like Ground Hog Day. It’s not what you normally hear in these discussions, but here you go:2
- Don’t try alcohol.
This advice comes from several sources. The first source is from a psychiatrist/therapist who used to be LDS. He says that Mormons in their 30s and 40s usually don’t mix well with alcohol. The second source is also from a non-LDS friend (who has never been Mormon) who lived in Utah for about six years. He observed that when adult Mormons, who had never drank before, began drinking, they went overboard and often ruined their lives (this comes from a man who likes to drink). Perhaps this happens because Mormons have never learned moderation. It’s either do or do not – there is no middle ground. The third source is me and my observations. Just think about it. You are in your thirties. You are established. You probably are married and might have a good career. Most people experiment with drinking in their late teens and early twenties. They have little to risk if they go overboard a few times. You don’t have that luxury when you are in your thirties and forties with a career and family. So, the advice doesn’t come from a morality-Word of Wisdom stance. It comes from a practicality stance.
This advice to avoid alcohol also comes from another angle that I haven’t quite vetted yet. I’ve discussed it with my wife, but it needs some tweaking. Regardless, I’ll throw it out to you. There is something powerful and binding in sharing a common meal with someone. Perhaps that is why so many family celebrations, such as Thanksgiving, involve food. It seems that there is also something powerful and binding in knowing that others share your same food likes, dislikes, and prohibitions. I have observed this among my friends who are vegetarians, vegans, or really into nutrition (ie gym-rats). Not being a Jew, and not being a scholar of religion, I assume one of the things that has bound the Jewish people as a people for so many centuries is the common food prohibitions. I believe the Word of Wisdom functions the same way. What I am saying here is this. Look at abstaining from alcohol, not as a moral prohibition, but as something that binds you to your community. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something in drinking alcohol that further distances Mormons from their community. Most of my friends who have tried alcohol, end up leaving and I think it is the communal reason (that I have poorly argued) and not a moral/sinning reason (that we so often hear at church) as being a (not the) reason that they leave. It distances them. So, if your intention is to stay, stay away from the booze.
- Don’t try drugs (see above problem and multiply to infinity).
- Don’t have sex with someone other than your spouse.
Open marriages, polyamory, and three-ways are bad ideas.
- If you are married be mindful of your spouse and if you have children, be mindful of your children.
If you are constantly online, you are taking time away from your spouse and family. Period. This will drive a wedge between you and them. Be mindful of that.
- Don’t assume that your faith-crisis should be everyone else’s faith-crisis too.
- Don’t talk about the Church and your faith-crisis all the freaking time.
- Don’t be “that dude” in Gospel Doctrine class that is always bringing up the messy stuff. Pace yourself.
- Be strategic in what and how you say things in church. It takes practice.
- Don’t assume because someone doesn’t want to talk to you about your problems with the Church, that they are ignorant.
- Realize that the Church, “just works” for some people.
- Find someone that you can trust to talk with and that will give you honest feedback and pushback when you go off the rails.
Finding online support groups are great. Even better is if you can find someone that is a little “further along the road” than you in reconstructing their Mormonism into something meaningful. Too far ahead, and you won’t be able to relate to them. You need someone just a few steps ahead of you. Be open to their critiques. Too often I see people talking into echo-chambers where everyone always agrees.
- Be open to the idea that you might be wrong about something.
- Do service.
Many people have written about this idea but it has mostly been within the context of “show up to help people move,” or, “help out with meals for the sister in the ward who just had a baby,” or “do your calling.” I mean something a little different and that takes a little more listening and work. This idea I like to frame around Mark 12:31: “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” When I think of obedience, I use this second great commandment as the standard for measuring. I don’t immediately think of all the “does and dont’s” of Mormonism. Pay close attention to what people are saying about other people in your ward who might be in physical, mental, or spiritual need. That sister who is in the hospital because of a fractured hip? Go and visit her on your own without anyone else knowing. The young man who came home early from his mission? Go to his house with giant cinnamon roll and sit and chat. Do it quietly. This takes a lot more active effort than going to preplanned activities or doing your calling, but it’s worth it.
- Read a lot.
This includes responsible scholarship as well as essays that talk about spirituality.
- Consider looking outside Mormonism for spiritual nourishment.
My favorites are Chaim Potok’s, My Name is Asher Lev and The Chosen and listening to Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being.
- Maintain a spiritual practice.
Notice I didn’t say “a religious practice.” If prayer and church attendance isn’t working for you, consider meditation, walking in the woods – anything that will still your mind and is spiritually fulfilling.
- Joseph Smith is no longer relevant.
That is a little click-baity but let me try to explain. This is another idea that I’m still developing. There are some Mormons, who are active in Church, who are aware of all the issues, and are just settled and peaceful. When you talk to them about polygamy, polyandry, the Kirtland Anti-banking Society, the Book of Abraham, anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, etc, etc, they realize the problems they are for many, they don’t try to defend Joseph’s actions, but Joseph and some of his nonsense, almost become irrelevant to their spiritual practice as a Mormon. Irrelevant may not be the right word, but I can’t think of another that describes what I’m trying to say. Jesus becomes the central part of your faith.
- Blog posts and FB updates don’t count as scholarship.
This one drives me bonkers. Too many people read a blog post or a Facebook update and that’s truth for them. Scholarly books are written by people who have been published in professional journals and whose writings have been vetted by others in their professions. I’m not suggesting that reading scholarship will solve your problems. In fact, that might be the root of your problems. It was for me. Todd Compton’s book, In Sacred Loneliness, sent me for a tail spin.
- Don’t be an asshole.
- Don’t paint your Facebook wall with all your issues.
- Take a Facebook Sabbatical. Closing your Facebook account, for even just a week, will help tons.
- Don’t “pedestalize” people.
We as Mormons are hard-wired to put people up on pedestals. If it’s not a prophet we are following, it’s someone we admire from the online Mormon world or someone we have met personally. If you do this you will be disappointed. Always.
- Don’t get into arguments on Facebook.
A lot is lost when things are typed out. People don’t see body language. They don’t hear voice inflections. Here is a great Key and Peele skit that does a great job of making this point (warning, lot’s of F-words).
- Try to preserve a good relationship with your ward members.
- Try to preserve a good relationship with your family.
I want to expand on the last three bullet-points a bit. I acknowledge that family and ward members can sometimes be huge a-holes. I also acknowledge that fractured relationships are often the faults of family and ward members. But, many times those going through a faith-crisis can add fuel to that fire. In all honestly, I know I have done this either in retaliation, or to “prove I’m right” to win an argument, or just in sheer frustration. It’s not easy, but just don’t do it. Family is important. Friends are important. Try to preserve those relationships. Learn to say, “I am sorry,” even if you don’t think you did anything wrong. Imagine if you do end up leaving the Church and you end up losing your family too because of your a-holery.
The Great Predictor
I will close my post by offering a pretty solid predictor of whether or not you will remain LDS. It all comes down to relationships. Imagine your Mormonism is a four-legged stool. Three of those legs represent relationships:
- Your relationship to your family
- Your relationship to your ward family
- Your relationship to the LDS institution at large.
The fourth leg is your own predispositions/genetics. That is, some people are just wired to be black and white thinkers while others are more liberal in their dispositions. The former have a harder time nuancing, the latter have an easier time.
If only one or two of those legs from the stool are broken, (for example, you are a black and white thinker and your relationship to the institution is fractured, but your relationship to your ward and family are still good) you will probably make it through with your Mormonism still intact. However, if three of those legs are broken, you will most likely leave the Church (for example, your family hates you and you haven’t been kind either, your ward has made things rough, and Salt Lake City just continues to piss you off — your liberal predisposition and ability to nuance won’t matter — you will most likely end up leaving). Now, this isn’t 100%, so don’t look at where you are now and go, “Oh, hell. I might as well throw in the towel.” Remember that you might change and others might change as well.
1 I stole that from Dan Wotherspoon.
2 This list is not exhaustive. I provide another list in a December 2014 blog post I wrote as a response to the Ensign article entitled, The Answer to All Your Hard Questions. The list from my 2014 blog post shares some similarities with the list I provide here. If you would like to read the blog post, click here.
Thanks. I agree with most of the parts I have gone through and I appreciate the words of advice on the parts of the road ahead.
Great post! “The answers will be less about answers and more about you transforming into someone different”. I also agree with how much time this faith transition takes. I see it as a lifelong process , but the biggest bumps hopefully behind me at this point. Such a good idea to have a relatable mentor, and to be patient with the process, trying to see the good that is coming from these changes as hard as they can be.
Good stuff Mike.
Thank you so much for this. I’ve been working out my faith for a couple of years now in silence since I live in Utah and all my family members are active. I think it’s important to validate how hard it is and how much self control is required.
Yes. YES! I sustain this message.
Good article, summarizes the way things do go. However, in my experience, the only true and enabling answers to my problems and yours, with the church, are to be found in "active" soul communication with its actual founder, The Lord Jesus Christ. He will lead, guide, direct and inspire through His messenger, the Holy Spirit. The word active as used here is not meant to convey the thought of only being active in prayer, it is meant to convey being active in actually praying with expectations of an answer, listening to and doing what He tells us………….to think, speak and act in harmony with His Divine Will. Doing the hard yards. Then the uncertainty dissolves in the more important matters of being a disciple.
I think you are onto something with your thoughts on food and drink being a community binder. I have a colleague who researches cultural foods in urban environments. I asked why she was so passionate about it since to me, because of ignorance, it seemed like a delicious but trivial subject. She told me that food is a very powerful cultural identifier and when studying ancient peoples it is their food habits that often signify which groups they were bound to. It’s funny but when she told me this I felt, what I identify as the spirit really strongly. I think this is because I am about ten years into a faith transition, I love my Mormon community, and I look for ways to be bound to them. This is necessary in part because I have intentionally chosen to be divided from them on certain social justice issues. So now my choice to not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee among other things is a manifestation to my Mormon community that there are many ways I do desire to be bound to them
Oh my gosh. That is so dang fascinating. Has she published any of her research? I would love to read it. I’m presently working on a Word of Wisdom post that looks at it from different angles and would love to cite her work.
I don’t know that she has published any of her work on this yet. This is a project she has been working on in 2015. Next time I see her I’ll ask her if she knows of any researchers writing about this subject and I’ll forward it on. I do think there is something to your thought process. Even if you look it at from the angle of being a record keeping people then having cultural behaviors that are identifiable such as not drinking coffee leaves a mark that keeps a record of our people. Throughout my faith transition I have had the opportunity to re-imagine my spiritual and cultural practices. Some I left behind but others I recommitted myself to for entirely new reasons. I left behind beliefs systems that marginalize or exclude minority groups but I re-committed myself to tithing, word of wisdom, and the temple. The reasons I am committed to these had never crossed my mind prior to my faith transition.
I was talking with Brian Dillman (he runs the Rational Faiths podcast) about your first comment. It would be an interesting idea to explore on the podcast. When you see her, ask her if she would be interested in coming on with Brian.
That is a really fun and interesting idea. I have no idea how this person would respond to that request. We don’t know a lot about each other’s outside lives. Meaning that I don’t think either of us have considered each other’s religion or ever had a discussion on that. I will definitely float it and see what she says. She is a really bright and interesting woman.
Thank you for this post. Besides going through my own faith crisis the past two or three years, I’ve been trying to help many friends in our stake negotiate their’s. Your comments on the word of wisdom really resonate with me. Once a friend takes a turn down alcohol alley, it’s over as far as their desire to stay. I don’t think the word of wisdom is a moral evil. I think it absolutely keeps us at a distance from others (which I hate) and I would love to have a drink myself, but I agree completely that if a person has any desire to make it work and to stay, avoid the adult beverages.
All of your advice seems consistent with my experiences. Spot on. Thank you for sharing. Is it too early to nominate this essay for a Wheat and Tares 2016 award?
Michael, great post, great insights, just all around good thoughts.
As I read, I keep hearing 3 messages to myself in my head. 1) Nailed it, 2) Uh, strange but I understand, 3) That’s kind of sad…
I have had a fascinating spiritual journey to where I’m at. When I got back from my mission in 1989 I was on fire. I read half of Deseret Book and was aiming for Mission President with a likely stop at Bishop and or Stake President. I came off my mission with a very black and white mentality, but became more so the more I read. I got “unfriended” on facebook by a dear friend, returned missionary and proud gay man in a happy gay relationship. He had posted a talk by Elder Hafen at BYU that said something to the effect that “Gaydom” was learned, a perversion, a sin and that person is going to hell. He asked if I agreed and I said basically, I love you, but of course Elder Hafen is 100% correct, but I’ll come visit you on your lesser planet in the next life. Ok, I didn’t say that last part, but it was pretty much implied.
Then, to make a long story short, God grabbed me by the ear and told me to go out into the wilderness and I will lead you to the promised land. I became a Lehi. And, btw, I believe all who seek God will find themselves directly in the Lehi metaphor of a story. I had a faith crisis. It all started with President Hinckley’s interview on TV. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for our MOSES to declare to the world that he meets with Jesus Christ in the Holy of Holies every week and gets direction for the world and the church because that is what I preached on my mission. I was here in their country to tell them that we have a Moses on earth that walks and talks with Christ. There I was in my white shirt and tie all dressed up ready to hear him prophecy to the world and he said something to the effect that the definition of a prophet was that he prayed just like everyone else and he gets some impressions here and there, except that his are for the whole church sometimes. I was crushed, I had lied my whole mission. But like Mary, I kept these things and pondered them in my heart.
So fast forward 10 years. I now knew all the inconsistencies with the church. My logical faith crisis was complete. My full rebellion was wearing blue shirts and growing a beard, which essentially just put me in the young mens presidency. I saw a friend get excommunicated for teaching Joseph had several wives and likely had sex with them, less than what the First presidency now admits in the essays. When Uckdorf said that Brigham made a mistake, he was racist, should have never took the priesthood away from Blacks I read the revelation to President Kimball and the Lord apparently didn’t know at the time that Brigham made a mistake. Anyway, there are hundreds of issues with the ol’ history of the church that most members don’t take the time to study because it is all Anti-Mormon.
But my my logical faith crisis did not move me out of the church. It was experiencing the negative results of church teachings and practices in my children that made the switch flip. Two things here…1) the church has many great teachings and programs. But there are unintended consequences of teachings that screwed up my kids, mostly my daughters and I had to either continue to do what I had always done and expect a different result, or take the very difficult road of doing something different. I took the difficult road and it has brought tremendous happiness into mine and my children’s lives. 2) I was willing to continue as an active member of the church in spite of the likely man made foundation because Joseph came up with answers that most other religions don’t have answers to and mostly because all religions have messy histories and bad men in them, so why would I use that as a criteria for leaving one that had a few more answers.
The logical issues put much weight indeed on the camel’s back. Perhaps barely enough to bear safely. But seeing my perfectly “normal” children deal with depression and suicidal thoughts was a big wake up call to me. The Straw that broke the camel’s otherwise adequate back was when my daughter went into to the bishop for a temple dedication recommend. She was punished and access denied for telling the truth about not very significant masturbation issues. The youth friend of hers and liars in the ward were of course blessed and given access. She was told to read her BOM more and pray more and visit with her bishop weekly on her “sin”. I was not going to leave her home alone while the rest of the family went to the temple dedication. We stayed home. We talked. We found out that bringing our kids up by the book resulted in poor self esteem, depression and suicidal thoughts. I would be glad to go into the teachings such as modesty and legalism that brought these young minds to this place, but suffice it to say I was shocked. These are kids who outgoing, captain of the softball team, straight A student’s, lots of friends and dates, son was captain of the wrestling team, seminary president, etc. Not exactly bullied wall flowers. But certainly bullied by church doctrine and teachings.
That background brings me to your essay. I have a boy on a mission, the entire family 5 girls and me and mom do not go to LDS church anymore. We drink alcohol in moderation. Have a cup of bulletproof coffee in the mornings and go to a non-denominational church. The missionary is going to have a challenging adjustment to his family.
We don’t do threesomes. I found this beyond fascinating. The crazy part is I understand your advice to people leaving the church. My wife is part of 2 “secret” facebook groups of women that are in every degree imaginable of faith crises. About 80% of the women are from Utah. One is 1453 members and one is 543 members and both have grown solidly in the past 8 months my wife has been on. It is by invitation only and they interview you to make sure you aren’t a spy from SLC. It ranges from women who have removed their records to women who secretly want to be out of the church but haven’t told their husband and are the relief society president. It is just crazy the diversity of women. They share issues like telling home teachers to stay away to how to tell your parents you aren’t a believer to wrecking their marriage from telling their husband they aren’t going to church anymore to daring to where a pair of jeans with a hole perfectly placed so that family or ward members will see they don’t have garments on so they can be confronted and finally come out of the closet. Again, crazy stuff, most of which I can’t relate to. My wife was invited on because there are several women who have missionaries who came home to a family in faith crisis and she was interested to talk to them about their advice.
So I’m voyeuring in on these women’s lives and I see so much of the things you are speaking of in this article. One of my favorites was, “I need help, I want to like coffee so badly, but I just don’t like it, any advice to help me learn to like it?” And the advice came in droves. It fascinates me that these women, once they leave the church, in their minds, want everything opposite whatever the church taught, no matter if they like it or not. They are going from being fake in one world to being fake in another. It’s hard for me to judge them because they have been taught to be fake their whole lives and they know not who they really are because when you take the church culture away from them, there isn’t a lot left at first! But I just have never met anyone who is saying stuff like these women. The sad thing to me is that they are throwing out the baby with the bath water. If you told them that there was a great scripture in the book of Mormon that said treat women great or love your neighbor, they would say it is a bunch of crap, because of who the author is. In the REAL world, if someone doesn’t like tequila, they don’t “want” to learn to like it, they just stay the heck away from it. In the REAL world, if they don’t like a church, they just don’t go and go find one they like. But they CANNOT leave the church alone. The LGBT issue is an example, they routinely thrash the church on what pigs they are for it. For me, if you don’t like it, then don’t go, but why thrash? It isn’t normal and I feel for them. In these poor women’s worlds, they want to like everything that is not Mormon. Anything and Everything. Threesoms were not allowed, so by damned, I’m going to do a threesome. Most are heading toward atheism or secular humanism, even if they don’t know it.
It is confusing for me, I have some thoughts that I won’t bore you with, but for me and my family we left on a spiritual journey. The LDS church had a lot of good in it, it brought us to a certain level, it had some unintended consequences, but every organization would that is built up by man. The new testament has literally come alive for me and my family, even the Book of Mormon has come alive. I love the teachings of Buddhism. The articles of faith are kind of amazing from my point of view. Let me worship how, where and what I want. I believe all things, hope all things…Anything virtuous, lovely, or good report I seek after these things. And I know where joseph got them, but does that minimize them? Why would it. If a gold nugget is found in a river, the ocean, a dirty mine or a brothel, it is still a gold nugget.
There is so much truth out there and more than anything else I have realized that the Mormon church’s claim to have a corner on the market is more false than I ever realized. It was incredible to see one week with this youth pastor changed my daughters life forever. No more pornography issues, no more masturbation issues and a fire to go to church I couldn’t believe. But why would I expect different, he does it for a living, he works with kids every day, our old bishop was an accountant and ill equipped to handle youth issues whatsoever. And he is the norm, a good guy, trying hard, but just doing what the handbook says, but with no real skills at all.
So why write this, I don’t know, maybe there is one gold nugget in here, maybe I just needed to say, you are right, people leaving the church tend to leave their minds behind. But most of all, I think I wanted to say that if you leave following God, you won’t drink yourself into oblivion, you won’t want a threesome. You will enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, you will read books that improve your marriage, you will take advantage of your new found time not doing all the LDS duties to deepen your relationship with diety and with your family. Why does leaving cause people to want to become less. For me and my family, maybe we are weird, but we have sought even greater heights! I guess it is the difference between leaving for logical reasons, and leaving for spiritual reasons….In the end, my advice is if you don’t like coffee, don’t drink it, if you don’t like the LDS church leave it, if you don’t like cheerios, don’t eat them, if you want a happy life, you can’t get all the way there without spirituality. Improve your body, your spirituality, your relationships and your business and the happiness will flow into your life beyond your imagination.
Michael Barker – I was with you until the dismissal of Joseph Smith. Thanks for restoring the Church, Brother Joseph – now get lost. You’re now irrelevant and an impediment to faith, yes, even an embarrassment to us, you and your “nonsense.”
What a problem he is! Why did God choose him in the first place? I suppose Brigham Young also needs a push offstage. Will Pres. Monson follow?
How can the crisis of faith ever really be resolved while maintaining this double-mindedness? Won’t it just continue on in slow burn if not ending in loss of faith altogether? And if the resolution is to refashion the Church in one’s mind to more resemble a Protestant denomination (or hoping that it will become one in actuality,) I’m not sure how robust a faith will remain.
Thank you for this post, it resonated very much with me. I have been a devout member for over 30 years, and considered myself quite knowledgeable (more so than the average Mormon) of its history. Oh how wrong I was. When I read the online essays, which lead to reading Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness, that book just wrecked almost so much of my opinion of Joseph Smith. While I won’t say I have no respect for him, (his charisma must’ve been quite impressive!) I can no longer revere him, either. So your point about him losing relevance makes sense to me, it’s almost the only way I can think of to stay in.
I am on the precipice at this point — half my family is in, half is out. My opinion of the leadership in SLC is shaky — especially considering that Monson has Alzheimers/dementia. I do love many people in my ward. My disposition is fairly tolerant of gray areas. So your four-legged stool analogy was very helpful. It’s been 8 years now, and I sense that I need resolution one way or the other very soon.
What a horrible experience to live through. I very much appreciate your insight.
Go back and read my explanation of what I called, “click bait.” The parts that Joseph brought to us, that can damage faith, become irrelevant. Now, like I also said, this is something I’m still wrestling with and developing and I decided to wrestle with this concept on an open forum.
Thanks for reading the post and the push-back.
Fellow Philly Saint,
Wheaties for everyone!!!
Here is a youtube video from Rational Faiths. It was presented at a CES conference in Oregon and is aimed at helping the CES teachers know what to do with faith crises:
Thanks for the video link. Good for you for providing a resource like this to CES.
Oh man. In Sacred Loneliness sent me for a tail-spin 10 years ago. That book is rough.
One of these days I’m going to write a post called, “Richard Bushman is a Gateway Drug.” I think Rough Stone Rolling is the first step into scholarship for many Mormons and sends us for a wild ride.
Well thought out and very detailed, Michael. I had my first "faith-crisis" while coming into the faith, as a teen-ager, when my Southern Baptist-Ministered Son-English Teacher (that is a mouthful, huh) did his dog-gonest' to convince me of the errors of my new way. At 15-16, in the mid-70s, i read Walter Martin, Hal Hoagy, Jack B Free, and a host of anti-mormon authors. And still, in the midst of the cacophany of confusing messages about Joseph and early Church, I received a testimony. A testimony with pockets of doubt (doubt, according to my personal definition is the inability to explain or rationalize some incident, or apparent character trait), but a testimony, none-the-less. You might imagine that when the Church first spawned the essays that seem to have caused such an earthquake amongst our members, it seemed like a non-event, to me. Why? Because I had already been exposed to most of the information, and thought, almost subconsciously that most LDS members were aware, like me. I remember a training group that I was involved with, in my current profession (about fourteen years ago), when, at the conclusion, a former "Youth for Christ" minister said to me, "Shane, when I first met you and found out that you were Mormon, I thought, there is no way that I am going to like this guy. But, after spending several months together, I just can't help but like you, and see you as a Christian. So I just have one question for you; how can you believe in this "Joe Smith" character?" It was a great question, but my answer came to me quickly. I said, "so much has been written about Joseph, by his firends, and by his enemies. I have chosen to believe his friends". While that was not a perfect answer, at the time, when i said it, it was a bit of a personal revelation, to me. In the words of Forrest Gump, "My Mama always told me" to try and look at both sides of every situation, in life. And that constant counsel, from my childhood to now, has caused me to accept that I do not see all sides of my favorable perceptions, nor those that seem to be so well raised against me. Thank you, for the article.