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.