To Those Struggling In Their Faith

Euhemerusdoctrine, history, LDS, Mormon, Mormons, new order mormon, orthodox, questioning, religion, surviving, testimony, theology 22 Comments

There are many within Mormonism who struggle daily with their faith. They have been exposed to historical information they were not aware of, they were torn in political battle, they dislike the culture, or in some other way awoke to a “reality” they had not known before. It can be a lonely place in a tight knit community with such strong beliefs. And when a person is in that frame of mind, it often feels like the solution is to crawl in a hole and disappear. To further throw salt in the wound, the church doesn’t have any sort of official support group, or weeknight class, or specially trained individuals to handle such a dilemma. They are alone, and desperate, as they watch the foundation of their life get blown apart like a bomb in the basement of a skyscraper! They are often told to have more faith, to wait, read the scriptures, fast, pray, etc. But these answers now feel empty and unpromising. My heart goes out to these people. I have been there, and sometimes revisit (though I try to make the visit short).

Much has been said in this vein by people with more wisdom and experience than me. So my point here is not to examine the psychology, convince you to stay, leave, become a cafeteria Mormon or anything of that nature. I just want to speak with you. I want to talk directly to you and tell you at least one possible route you might take. You can take my words with a grain of salt, but do yourself a favor and at least ponder them for a moment!

To those struggling in their faith:
Turn inward, not outward. Stop making your tradition the object of your worries, and worry about you. Decide that you will take responsibility for your own spirituality. Recognize that the only thing in life you get to control is you – and rightfully so. Use that power to dictate your future spirituality and stop being controlled by other influences whether historical, cultural, or familial. Use the power found in personal responsibility to elevate yourself by loving others. Recognize that people make choices and get to control themselves just like you get to control you. These two attitudes allow you to build a healthy mechanism for interacting with people. You have compassion for others, and even organizations, and give them the benefit of the doubt because you know they are imperfect.  But you also reserve your right to act in response to their actions in the way you see fit. You try to create the perfect balance of love and compassion with resolute understanding of your right to control yourself.

You then arrive at a place where you get to decide what you believe and what you won’t believe. But you have also learned (since you’ve been there before) that you better not believe everything you think! You know you need to constantly learn from other people, cultures, ideas, science, religion, etc. If you don’t, you run the risk of reverting to the same mindset you previously had (although with a different set of ideas). You see that you’re not that interested in joining with people who simply verify what you already believe because there is no growth for you there (and that’s exactly what your old tradition gave you in your former self). You have now fully realized that the object of your disaffection was not your old tradition, but your old mindset and attitude. You have elected to take control and modify your expectations of your old tradition, people, and life in general.

You are now prepared to look to your old tradition, and when you do you find that it isn’t so bad when viewed from your new perspective – and besides you feel at home there in some sense. You are largely aloof of all the truth claims (they may or may not be true, it doesn’t really matter that much anymore), culture, and doctrinal problems but you enjoy associating with good people and you see everyone as “good people.” You occasionally feel like an “alien” because while you feel comfortable in your old tradition, you realize that you are on your own personal journey, grabbing bits of truth here and bits of truth there. You no longer feel like part of the “collective.”

You understand your purpose in the organization from the view of your new perspective. You’re not interested in making institutional changes as you view the church as your spiritual tool in the toolbox of life. You are invested enough that you want the organization to succeed, but divested enough that your world won’t end if it doesn’t.  You may not accept some callings offered to you, but welcome opportunities to make a difference on a local, more personal level in a way you are comfortable.  Once again, you are in control of your spirituality.

You look at the people in your old tradition and see them on their own journey, believing what they want, all while recognizing you can learn from them even if you don’t necessarily believe what they believe. You see most truth as relative for each person, yet admit that existence and nature are the ultimate objective truth and reality. You have arrived at a healthy balanced view of the world. But in that very moment of “arrival,” the next life event makes its way onto center stage in your mind and you’re right back to work through the new challenges trying each time anew to maintain the proper balance you developed before. But you know that with each cycle it gets better and better!

You are now in a strange paradox, feeling comfortably uncomfortable. Faithful Mormons will likely see you as apostate if they could see things from your perspective. And by the same token, apostates will see you as an apologist, caught up in ignoring reality. But you know you have embraced reality as your guiding star to help you navigate the seas of life! You have embraced the ideology that each ideology has some truth, and some falsehoods, and you accept the obvious irony in this very statement!

Good luck on your lonely journey, there are many who have come before you and will come after you to cross the same bridges.

Comments 22

  1. Thank you so very much for this. I have made this decision (to take control of my own spirituality and to stand outside the collective). It was the best decision I made. I rely more upon the scriptures, the Holy Ghost and the teachings of the prophets while disengaging from the cultural baggage, hang-ups, and social pettiness. I rejoice in the spiritual nourishment received in sacrament meeting and in the Celestial Room of the Temple. I adore the Restored Gospel and concentrate on becoming more Christ-like. I feel that I have finally reached where I need to be on the road to Galilee.

  2. I think the “struggle” you mention in the title is largely due to the second to last paragraph where you say “Faithful Mormons will likely see you as apostate…” I think many people going through this transition feel the same way about themselves due to social conditioning. Until this inner conflict gets resolves, there is the “struggle”.

  3. Thanks for the post, Euhemerus. I have a couple of follow-up questions for you. 1) what if it really is your old tradition that is the cause of your disaffection, and not just your former mindset and attitude? 2) Are you suggesting not only that it’s possible to remain affiliated with the church, but that it’s better to do so?

  4. Excellent post, and you probably know I agree with all that you said…you just said it so well. Thanks.

    Like Mike said#3, the struggle IMO is how to explain to others how I feel, and I think family in particular. I’m not a different person then before. I actually feel more at peace and more enlightened (good thing, right?), taking the spiritual responsibility you expressed. Others in the ward may see my attitude as lacking in faith…but I don’t care so much about them. It is mostly how to get my family who have known me for so long to understand this is a good transition in my eyes. I do care about what my family thinks, and I cannot just blow them off…I live with them daily.

    I have handled it by always showing love…it is hard for them to argue with me when I love them and love God. But clearly, they are worried about me, and that hurts me. I am not worried about them, and yet they have their issues…why must I be judged because my ideas are not traditional mormon?

    Like you said, I turn inward…and find peace. But I think family is the most difficult thing to deal with on my personal struggle. It takes patience, love and communication.

    I wonder if others have had success with this.

  5. I think it’s almost sad that LDS people have had the opportunity to be a big enough majority anyplace that it’s ever been possible to think you can safely surround yourself only with those who agree with you.

    It’s somehow great that we are just 200 Mormons among 250,000 people here. We’ll never have the illusion of being able to ignore others. We can’t be an exclusive club, but have to always try to be inclusive. That keeps us on our toes, and that could be why about half of us are current recommend holders.

  6. Re #2
    Good on you! Sounds like you’ve already discovered much of this for yourself!

    Re #3
    This is a great point. I struggle with this as well. Note that I don’t struggle with it in the sense that I share their concern, but I struggle with it because it arises in the hearts of others and is expressed outwardly, usually in a less-than-glowing fashion. It’s not that I’m concerned with my decision, per se, but how others treat my decisions.

    I have no answers for this except that we learn to understand, and empathize with those around us. This doesn’t make the hardship go away, but it can give us the peace of mind that we are doing what we think is best. What more can we do?

    Re #4
    Great questions. Not sure on the answers. Here’s a shot at it though.

    1) what if it really is your old tradition that is the cause of your disaffection, and not just your former mindset and attitude?

    Assuming that you know this for certain, then you should probably get out. For example I wouldn’t advocate many people returning to their own fundamentalist groups or cults if they were damaging in a very real way. I personally don’t find this in Mormonism though, although I can see why some might. As with most things in life, a question like this is to be examined carefully, weighing all the evidence, etc. However, I would note that even in the case of a true blue cult, the change that comes by transcending the cult, regardless of whether or not you remain a part of the group, is really what’s important.

    2) Are you suggesting not only that it’s possible to remain affiliated with the church, but that it’s better to do so?

    I think this is answered by this line in my post:

    So my point here is not to examine the psychology, convince you to stay, leave, become a cafeteria Mormon or anything of that nature. I just want to speak with you. I want to talk directly to you and tell you at least one possible route you might take.

    I am not suggesting anything with regard to the old tradition except how we view it. Whether this results in physical action to leave, or stay, is really irrelevant to my point (although I recognize it is important).

    Re #6
    Great points. It is sad. But it’s great that you are “on your toes” to avoid such an exclusivist attitude.

  7. Your post reminded me of some of my earliest encounters with the Church as a young boy growing up. To give you a time frame it was before the block meeting schedule when church required three or four trips to the chapel each Sunday. My grandparents lived in rural Southern Idaho and in between meetings large chunks of friends and family would gather around the living room or a dining room table and dissect the talks, lessons, argue doctrine, politics and belief and point out the hypocrisy of the leadership. It was entertaining and enlivening, even for a fairly young kid. There wasn’t a struggle about faith, it was full out community combat, alive and real. I’m certain I got a glimpse of a younger, more liberal and more energetic Mormonism from those afternoons between Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. No one was worried about the outcome of their rants or disagreements.

    You mention in your post that “You’re not interested in making institutional changes as you view the church as your spiritual tool in the toolbox of life.” The loss of the desire for change, albeit an institutionally dictated loss, is a huge loss in the struggle for faith. The path you’ve painted is an inward shrinking away from the challenges of interacting with people. You fade away into a position of no importance or acceptance. Your voice is silenced. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen — it does, but it isn’t right and not the best for the community in the long run. The key word in your post is “struggle.” The struggle is not just an individual struggle but a community struggle, not for uniformity, but for vitality.

    Hell, that is why I read this site and post. It replicates to a small degree my church experience of my earlier years, something that is sorely missed judging from your post.

  8. Ulysseus, nothing in this post says the author has lost a desire for change – just the desire to try to force institutional change. There’s an important difference – and, as you say, the author is doing here exactly what you used to observe around the living room or dining room table.

    Even in those days, you and yours weren’t doing your discussing out in the open or in church meetings. You were doing it in the “safety” of your own homes. In that way, nothing at all has changed since your childhood – except the size of the dining room table and the fact that the author is doing his discussing out in the open more than your family and friends used to do theirs. I don’t see any difference whatsoever (except perhaps that it’s possible now to be MORE open with the type of discussions you describe while still remaining faithfully within the Church), so I am puzzled a bit by the notion that things have gone downhill since those idyllic days of yesteryear.

  9. Turn inward not outward? God disagrees. 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

    Why not simply say g’bye to religion and hello to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly at heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    Nowhere did Jesus say turn to yourself, turn to your pastor, turn to your prophet/apostle, or turn to your bishop. Jesus works within us. All of man’s efforts, including our inward efforts, are futile.

    God bless all that read this and actually consider what I said with an open heart.

  10. Actually Ray, I was trying to say in a way that Joe in Cedar City articulated for me — turning inward is the wrong way. Turning outward into the community is the key and I think it is completely necessary to attempt to create institutional change. I didn’t note in my post that the comments around the kitchen and dining room table were usually further exposition on the arguments and discussions that took place in church. It was a continuation of the dialogue from the church meeting itself.

    By no means am I looking for a return to the past and more “idyllic” times. I was attempting to illustrate the need for a community that allows for individuals to struggle with their faith. The turn inward silences criticism and creates automotan uniformity which is not conducive to allowing an individual to struggle with their faith within the confines of the community. The struggling will go elseward and the community will collapse in upon itself.

  11. #14 – Thanks, Ulysseus. That describes my own approach pretty well – respecting others’ agency to believe “according to the dictates of their own conscience (even within the LDS Church)” while sharing gently and respectfully my own views that are different than “the norm”. If that is what you meant, then I can respect and accept that.

    I simply would add that I am not trying to force institutional change, although I am trying to contribute to it. I’m just willing to be patient and non-militant, since I have seen and continue to see very significant institutional change occurring.

  12. Re #11, #14, #12, #16
    Yes, I think Ray covered it nicely. And I think we are in agreement although I may not have articulated it quite right. My comment is about not being militant, or flamboyant, but being patient, and try to make change at the local level. In fact, at this point in my struggle for faith I would likely accept a call to be a Bishop, or councilor in a Bishopric. I’d probably even accept a Stake Presidency calling should it come my way. I would love to help people on a local level.

    My comment to turn inward does not mean that we don’t care about people, or try to help others. It isn’t a call to be selfish. But often, when the struggle of faith begins there seems to be a tendency to turn angry toward the church, leaders, Christ, and sometimes religion altogether. The call to turn inward is a plea to recognize that the object of disaffection is likely not those things, but rather an old mentality, or attitude. To fix this one needs to turn inward and find peace with oneself.

    I don’t advocate shrinking from anything, especially relationships with people. I apologize if that didn’t come across quite right.

  13. Thank you for this post…it certainly struck a chord with me as I have been in a state of ambivalence for some time. Time to make a choice!

  14. Any time we put our faith in men (including faith in ourselves) we will be disappointed, discouraged, and depressed.

    We should fix our eyes on Jesus, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” Why would we need anything else? When we can turn specifically to God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

    For your consideration I offer the following video. I’m sure I will be attacked on this forum because the video does contradict the LDS gospel. I can assure you the video is not out of hatred towards LDS people. It simply discusses that we can rest in Jesus Christ. We don’t need anything else.

    God bless…

  15. Joe

    I’m not sure I agree with your comments, but I won’t say I disagree either. I think that turning inward is something we need to do within ourselves to take stock in what we are willing to do to change. So I think you are under the impression that the inward look is the only viewpoint to be taken. Though I think you are right that ultimately if you turn to Christ, if that is your decision, you won’t be disappointed.

    Now personally I am in the middle of my own introspection and I am trying to realize what I am willing to do. It is when I finish this part of my journey I will be ready to move to the next part. If that includes turning to Christ so be it, but I think ultimately we need to know what type of things we are made of before we expect someone else to help lift our burdens.

  16. what do you mean some people are struggling with there faith I would say MOST ALL are struggling–I know that the 61 years I’ve been going to the LDS church  more than not I have to go home and reread the lesson again so I get the real meaning of it–Most of the teacher just read it to the class with there own interpitation of it all..( Not the Mormon one) it seems that there is some keened of campaining for leadership callings. Because so many are from other denominations there bring that with them and the thinking so not the same. Sorry

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