Dear alumni and current writers of the 100 Hour Board,
1. What is a "faith crisis"? I mean, I get what it is. But I feel like different people use that phrase differently. What is it to you? How should someone cope with it?
2. Have you/someone you know ever experienced one? If you're not comfortable talking about it, feel free to write about it as if someone you know had this faith crisis or post anonymously or something <3
3. I have a friend who is currently in a faith crisis. He is transferring from BYU so he can have the option of leaving the church if he decides to do so. Any recommended reading/listening for me, as a friend, or him, seeing as he is going through a faith crisis? (Books, blogs, articles, podcasts, etc).
4. What do you think 100% believing true-blue mormons need to know in order to better understand less actives/those who leave the church/those who are wavering? Is it bad that I don't want to pressure him into A. staying in the church or B. staying at BYU?
5. Did you know that if current BYU students decide they do not believe in the church (but keep the word of wisdom, law of chastity, all commandments, etc) they can be expelled? How is that not a violation of their agency/freedom of religion? It seems to me that if they are keeping the honor code, we should let them stay.
-My Name Here
PS For reference, I am re-asking question #91188.
Dear My Name Here,
1. A faith crisis is the moment where you know you can never see your religion of origin the same way again. Many people leave the Church after a faith crisis and some don't, but I think that anyone who has had a significant faith crisis has had their views at least colored significantly in a challenging way that they would not have wanted had they had the choice. Can you cope within your faith community with that new knowledge or insight or emotion, or not? My original, big daddy faith crisis centered on my experiences at BYU and 3 Nephi 14: 19-20, and I do not use the phrase "crisis" lightly. The cause doesn't have to be big or dramatic for it to be traumatic and painful. All of my experiences as a gay person, all of my concerns about church history, and so many other things didn't even center in the original crisis and I've dealt with those things later, in the time since I left in 2009. As for how someone should cope with it, they should cope however is helpful to them, in a whatever-gets-you-through-the-night kind of way. Faith crises (particularly, it seems, for people who end up leaving) are beyond painful. Faith crises feel like the world is falling out from under your feet, leaving you stranded in midair while everything you know and many people you really love careen away from you, and you can't keep up. My faith crisis remains one of the worst experiences in my life, right up there with my suicide attempt, abusive relationships, and trying to deal with my mental health over the past couple of years. Therefore, I don't think there are "shoulds" in faith crises, and I think that trying to impose "shoulds" on that experience is the business of people who don't understand human behavior or trauma.
2. Well it's pretty obvious by now that I went through a faith crisis. By late 2009, I was uncomfortable enough with the ruse required to write for the Board (and be at BYU) that I started writing under a pseudonym called Friendly Neighborhood Agnostic whenever the question touched on the Church so I felt less hypocritical. Back then, being openly agnostic on the Board earned me hate mail and a whole bunch of "concern" from my friends. I was the first person of my age that I knew to leave the Church. I was a lot of people's (including Board writers of the time) apostate guinea pigs, and that was awful and traumatizing on its own. Also because of that, I have provided advice and/or support to more people than I can think of regarding their own faith crises. I've seen it happen so many times. It's always hard. It's always traumatic. People who have left feel legitimately harmed and that they have been cheated out of part of their identity. This is a big deal.
3. If you are serious about this, you need to be willing to really accept and listen to the experiences of people post-faith crisis. Go look for what they say. It’s out there.
4. Because of some personal creative endeavors, I have created a bit of an ex-Mormon community. I asked them what they thought believing Mormons need to know if they really want to be supportive. Everyone (E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E) that I have ever met who has left the Church has felt what these folks suggested as answers. Here are some responses:
- Just listen. Don't try to fix it. Please don't be defensive.
- Actually give a [care] about them and not what they think about Jesus.
- People in general need to break out of the mindset that other people making the same decisions as you justifies your decisions. I see it all the time in parenting and diet communities. It's like people can't believe it's right for them unless it's right for everyone. Once you let go of that, it's a lot easier to just let people live their lives. So, decenter yourself, stop taking their faith crisis personally, and be a good friend.
- Love the person, not the religion. Let the person know that you will love them regardless of what do or don't believe. I lost so many friends simply because I left the church, and it hurt a lot. The ones that stuck around are so much more valuable to me now.
- Try to be friends with them regardless of their religious status. It can require more effort than other friendships because it's easier to be friends when you have more stuff in common with someone. But there's still plenty of common interests and common trials that people can have regardless of what they think of religion. Don't ask about their faith transition if your intention is to convert them back. You should only ask about that if you just sincerely want to understand them better, regardless of whether you want to leave Mormonism or not.
5. That was certainly the situation when I was a BYU student back in the late aughts, and those were certainly the problems I had with it then. I'm not sure whether any changes have been made to that but if they have they have been subtle. For the record, having to go to Church long after that became a traumatic experience for me just so I could graduate may not have been super stellar for my mental health. Just saying.
Treat your friend like a person, not a project. Do not even think about little things you can tie back into the Church. Just be there for him and see which way he goes. I do not wish what he is going through on anyone. That's how hard it is.
- The Black Sheep
P.S. Some things a faith crisis is not: a symptom of a larger existential crisis, a symptom of anything at all (other than having to face up to some doubts about your religion of origin), weakness, being offended, being lazy, wanting to sin, petulance, a phase, a vacation, a prodigal son situation to feel good about yourself over.
P.P.S. The (valid, understandable) reason that some folks are anonymous below (and why you (validly, understandably) gave them the option) is that this is almost always done wrong and it is buried in shame. Just, think about that for a second.
1. A faith crisis, to me, means that something has challenged your faith in a way that makes you seriously question your participation in the Church. (I'm using this in an LDS-specific context, since this is an LDS-specific venue and that's the only faith tradition I've ever been a part of.) If you have serious doubts about one doctrine or another but maintain a fundamental faithful base in Mormonism, I wouldn't describe that as a faith crisis. I also wouldn't consider it a faith crisis if you change your church attendance for reasons other than changes in what you believe.
2. Yes. It has happened to me personally and to several friends that I know of. I don't like talking about it in detail in public, but I'm willing to discuss it privately if you or another reader would like. I'll say this much for the readership in general, though: This wasn't a matter of choice for me. I came to a series of personal realizations that were impossible to reconcile with my level of belief and activity in the Church, and trying to deny those realizations was like trying to deny that the sky is blue and grass is green. I could only maintain my belief and activity by lying to myself, and I could only lie to myself for so long before it threatened to destroy me. Am I happy with where I ended up? No. Will I stay there? Who knows. I'm just doing my best with what I have, inadequate as that is.
3. Honestly, I can't think of anything specific. Your friend can and should get whatever outside help he feels he needs, but ultimately, the state of his faith is a personal decision that only he can make.
4. See point number two. I once heard someone describe their experience as "I didn't leave the Church, I tried to stay but I was dragged out kicking and screaming by my conscience." I wouldn't describe myself as having left the Church (that's such a definitive phrase, and I survive in ambiguity), but the sentiment describes my experience perfectly.
5. Yes, I'm aware of that. I understand the reasons for it, and I understand the distinction drawn by the anonymous writer below between belief and action, but a more flexible policy would have saved me immense stress and hard feelings that linger years after graduation.
I apologize if I've been overly vague in this answer. The Church brought me immense joy and peace when I could still be a faithful and believing member, and I do not want to do anything that might separate anyone from whatever good the Church does in their lives. For anyone who does want to talk, though, my inbox is always open and (mental health permitting) I'm happy to discuss things in a bit more detail in private.
Dear Your Name Here,
I've got thoughts on a few of your questions from the perspective of someone whose faith struggles did not lead to them leaving the Church.
I agree with Marzipan below about "doubting/questioning your faith" - I think a "crisis" is generally when we go further than just having minor uncertainties or discomforts related to our faith - a crisis implies that you're freaking out because you're struggling with something fundamental to you. I disagree with The Black Sheep, though, that a faith crisis has to be something that nobody "would  have wanted had they had the choice." To me, that phrasing minimizes the significance of the struggles of those who emerge from a faith crisis with the determination that they are stronger because of it and focuses instead solely on the feelings of those whose faith crisis does end up destroying their faith or causing them to leave the Church. I don't believe that those are inevitable outcomes.
I had a really hard time with faith a few years ago. I was undergoing serious life changes (about to go through the Temple, about to get married, on hormone-affecting birth control, dealing with a personal struggle, etc.) I'm sure that some people would and others wouldn't consider what I went through to be a faith "crisis" based on their definitions, but I'm going to relate my experience anyways because I went through significant pain and turmoil and the results of it weren't me leaving the Gospel or the Church.
I was upset and scared during that time period, because I felt like I didn't know if a lot of things were true. In part maybe because of my tendency towards strict honesty/linguistic clarity, I'm not one of the people who tends to be super comfortable standing up and saying "I know [X,Y,Z]" in a testimony meeting. I'm not alone in this among members who continue to attend Church and strive to believe and grow in my knowledge and testimony. At that time, however, I became distraught about my fear that not knowing things meant I was doubting things and doubting things meant that I didn't have any faith.
I remember crying to my fiance, a strong and active member of the Church, telling him that he didn't have to marry me because I thought he deserved somebody with the testimony and faith I felt I didn't have, and I didn't want him to feel stuck to someone whose faith/belief weren't good enough.
Fortunately, I was able to talk to a good friend of mine, who helped me understand something I think everyone struggling with their faith needs to remember: having faith and having knowledge are not the same thing. Similarly, doubt and uncertainty are not the same. My friend listened to my concerns and told me that what I was having a crisis with wasn't my faith, it was the language I was applying to it.
To explain: Everybody knows that "faith is an action/verb," but I think that when it comes to a faith crisis, we can easily forget this. We think that because we don't have a certain level of absolute knowledge, it means that we don't believe, and we don't have faith. Realistically, God has told us that we don't receive a witness (or knowledge) "until after the trial of [our] faith." And I think there are a lot of trials, both little and large, that contribute over time to the faith-to-knowledge transition of various parts of our testimonies and understandings. It's not like "Oh, I had one trial, so know all my faith in God is knowledge about Him!" We need to transition from faith to knowledge on a ton of different little facets. Faith-to-knowledge that serving someone we don't like will bless us. Faith-to-knowledge that God loves us. Faith-to-knowledge that God still loves us after circumstances change. Faith-to-knowledge that the Church is true. Faith-to-knowledge that the leadership of the Church is inspired (and still inspired after it changes or makes a decision we don't understand or makes/admits a mistake, etc.)
When we can't say we have absolute knowledge, we can still have faith, because "Whenever you work toward a worthy goal, you exercise faith. You show your hope for something that you cannot yet see."
This principle is what enabled me to move forward with faith from a moment where I realized that my knowledge isn't yet anywhere close to perfect. People always talk about how faith and doubt coexist, and I think it's important to consider that along with the understanding that if faith is an action, doubt is too. I understand now that even though I can't always instantly choose to have a perfect knowledge, I can always choose whether or not I want to have faith by deciding to trust God, keep the commandments He gives through prophets, keep attending Church, keep reading my scriptures, keep praying and asking for my testimony to increase, etc. etc. etc. By these actions, I show faith rather than doubt, even if I don't have a perfect knowledge, and as a result I am blessed in many ways, including greater knowledge. For example: I trusted enough to remain active in the Church and marry in the temple. That's been an extraordinary blessing in my life. I trusted enough to keep reading my scriptures daily and to do other Gospel studies, which has enabled me to find meaning and truth at various times. I trusted enough to attend the temple and have felt the peace that is present there. I'd urge others who are struggling to look for areas that you can show faith and see the blessings you receive from doing so, even before your knowledge is perfect (or even close). My knowledge is still far from perfect. There's still a ton of stuff I don't know, and that can still be scary. However, I get to choose whether I want to throw away efforts that have so far brought me joy and encouraged further effort or not.
When it comes to getting kicked out of BYU, I'd be interested in sourcing from anyone who can confirm your description, because this is not my understanding of how it works. You can be expelled if you withdraw your name from the Church, stop attending Church, or break Church standards, but I'm unaware of any policies that would expel you for refraining from any of those things but simply not believing the Church. With regards to how that's not a violation of their agency or freedom of religion? I think this works out because as far as I understand it BYU isn't kicking you out for what's happening in your head - they're requiring that students maintain standards they agreed to with admission. If a student's no longer interested in maintaining the standards BYU requires, BYU shouldn't be required to continue to provide services to that student. To emphasize: my thoughts would be much more sympathetic to students if BYU required that students answer temple-recommend style questions about their testimonies and beliefs in order to maintain student status. At least when I was a student though, there weren't any questions about what I believed - just what I did. And that was firmly within my realm of control. So I guess my understanding is that if they're keeping the honor code, they can stay: but for those who enter BYU as members, part of the Honor Code is keeping your Church commitments, regardless of the state of your testimony or your desire related to it.
To sum: What I've gone through isn't the same as what anyone has gone through, and I don't know how anyone else feels. There are a lot of different ways that people struggle with faith, and I can only empathize with the ones I've personally endured. To those who struggle: I affirm your infinite value, and I hope that you can find lasting peace, even if it takes a struggle to get there.
Hey what's up,
1. It's when you start doubting/questioning your faith. It's extremely hard to cope with; I don't have much advice except that it's nice to talk to people who have experienced something similar.
2. Me, family members, a million friends from college/elsewhere.
3. The Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook group was really helpful to me back when I was Mormon and in a faith crisis. There are members and ex-Mormons who have thoughtful discussions and are supportive of each other. It's nice!
4. Understand that people leave for good reasons and that it's unfair to make assumptions about one's "worthiness" or character based on their relationship with the Church. I don't think it's bad that you don't want to pressure your friend into staying in the Church or at BYU. It demonstrates that you are a compassionate person who recognizes that your friend is going through a complicated time in their life and just need a friend's support.
5. I did know that. It's horrible! No one should have to worry about being expelled if they decide to change or leave a religion.
Thanks for asking such thoughtful questions. You seem like a caring friend and a nice person in general. You keep doing you!
I'm curious about the re-ask. I wish I could ask you about this and a hundred other questions over a warm meal. But since we don't have that luxury, I'll settle for this format.
1. A faith crisis is the heart-wrenchingly, mind-bendingly painful experience of having one's sense of safety and actuality in the world crack, then shatter, followed by sifting through the remnants to figure out how and what to rebuild. It's likely a recursive and not a linear process.
2. Myself and many people I love, and also now some people I work with as a therapist.
3. I don't know that there is much I can recommend in this venue. But I can recommend this.
4. See 3. And no, it's not bad. It's a mark of a good friend.
5. You're a good one.
All the best,
Waldorf (& Sauron)
1. To me, a faith crisis is when something you believe becomes questioned. It's something you believe so wholeheartedly that it becomes a part of you. I understand that you're going for a religion aspect, but I've experienced faith crises with work or even people. I think coping with it heavily depends on who you are and what you need. For me, I need space. I need to wrap my mind around whatever happened and how it impacted what I believe without being swayed by other people.
2. I have. They were at a time in my life that everything was changing and I didn't have an anchor or something constant to rely on. Nagging questions that I had just bubbled to the surface and completely overwhelmed me. It was an absolute awful time. The things I thought I knew to be true were called into question. It was almost like I couldn't trust myself and it was impossible to distinguish between what I actually thought and knew to be true versus what I had just recited time and time again out of habit.
4. I think the Church is slowly changing, or maybe it's just the people I'm around. I think more people are accepting and loving of others, whether they're members, non-members, or former members. The most important thing a member could do for someone in a faith crisis is to just be a decent human being. When your world is already spinning, the last thing you want is for someone to come and guilt you or let you know that "Jesus still cares," because, in that moment, it feels like it doesn't. If they have told you what they're experiencing, it's okay to ask how they're doing and to listen. You don't need to make it a missionary moment. You don't have to tell them you're praying for them. Your job is to just be there and support them.
5. Yep. And it's the worst.
I won't go after all the sub-questions, but some thoughts:
Questions 1. & 2.
I think sometimes, maybe often (although I wouldn't claim always), a faith crisis is a symptom of a broader existential crisis. At some point a reasonably self-reflective person will realize how little they know. People disagree about practically everything--who is right? How can you really be certain about any historical or empirical "fact," once you realize all the complexities and subtleties of the evidence for almost any proposition? On an even broader level, how do you know you're not a brain in a vat, living in a simulation? How can you be sure you live in a universe with constant laws (problem of induction)? What should your philosophical assumptions or axioms be for abstract reasoning? As far as empirical experience goes, Bayesian reasoning seems like a compelling tool, but what should your priors be? Does free will exist? How long have I/will I exist? Why does anything even exist? How can you find truth or figure any of this out when so many core assumptions are potentially up for grabs? These questions can't be resolved with logic in any generally accepted way. If you grow up with any particular set of answers to these questions, the realization will eventually come that there are other possible answers, lots of people disagree with you, and you aren't necessarily that special. From a certain perspective, there's a presumptive case for everything being meaningless and ineffable until proven otherwise, it's hard to "prove" otherwise, and thus: existential crisis. For faithful people, an existential crisis will tend to manifest as a faith crisis. (I think this model applies well even in some cases where these questions are only implicit.)
I don't think I care to label it as a "faith crisis," but I have grappled with these questions. However, I keep coming back to hard-to-explain confidence, developed over time through study and experiment, in a few key things. I really feel like I have free will and that I live in a lawful and eternal universe. If I wanted to, I could convince myself this is self-deception, with some logical evolutionary psychology explanation, and talk myself into nihilism. Or I could choose to take it at face value, accepting the belief, choosing the assumption, embracing the knowledge, with no way to prove it to anyone else. Similarly, I have felt powerful experiences with the Spirit and with the Book of Mormon, and reviewing my journal over time would show this to be the case throughout my life. I have two options, each of which has internal logical consistency: I could explain it all away and wallow in a nihilist existential crisis, or accept the Book of Mormon at face value. Faced with these options, I have chosen and been blessed to live as a believer, if imperfectly so. "Lord, I believe--help thou mine unbelief."
Korihor would say to me "behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ," and I could reply "ye do not know that you aren't living in a simulation, the rules of which are about to capriciously change" or "ye do not know that your memories are even real." Part of Alma's reply was in a similar vein: "And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?" (Alma 30 is outstanding on these issues...far deeper than is generally appreciated.) At some point you just have to choose what to believe. Maybe there is pure Platonic knowledge that is self-evidently logically immune to this sort of petty dismissal, but I don't think it gets you much farther than "I think, therefore I am."
Thus any time you use the words "I know" you open yourself up to this sort of petty dismissal that anyone can know anything. And "I choose to believe" or "I assume" opens you up to a related dismissal: "you just want to believe, but you actually don't." This sort of skepticism drives a race to the bottom, where the person who can reject the most beliefs assumes a high-status position. I think this is the sort of thing the people in the great and spacious building (Lehi's vision) would say. People taste of the fruit, living the gospel and reaping its benefits, but folks in the building shout down "you don't really know." With the weight of the world behind that opinion, some people are drawn away by it, even though they were already tasting the fruit. Did they really not know?
In practice, I'm plenty confident that the gospel is giving me everything I could legitimately ask it to. I'm sure enough to pay tithing. I'm sure enough to go to my meetings. All the weird, imperfect stuff in the Church is well within the bounds of what I'd expect within any institution from sheer human frailty. The commandments make sense to me. The Church's life advice makes sense to me. I try to follow gospel teachings, and I can see how many specific gospel things I do promote specific good outcomes in my life. I have felt comforted by and through my beliefs during many challenges. I am confident that I'm happier in the Church than I would be out of it. I could torture the English language and say "based on my experiences with experimental belief, and hard-to-explain personal feelings that no one else can inspect, I continue to accept in theory and implement in practice the not-logically-provable philosophical assumption and Bayesian prior that the Gospel is true, and I'm around as confident that this is a good assumption as I am that anything is even real, given that I can't even logically prove that I'm not just a deterministic brain in a vat spiraling through a capricious, meaningless universe." It's a bit more straightforward, and in a practical sense indistinguishable, to say "I know the gospel is true." So that is what I do say.
TL;DR: realizing the power of skeptical ideas/growing some intellectual humility may cause an existential crisis, leading people to end up questioning all their beliefs, including and especially their faith. At some point you have to choose what you believe and how to interpret the evidence your life generates for you, and it's a very personal and challenging choice that others will always be able to belittle. Societal pressure is towards nihilism and it's easy to criticize people for using the word "know". But functionally, if you're doing it and it works, then that's something that you know--in Christ's words "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself," or in Alma's words "And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good." And based on planting seeds and observing the results, I know the gospel is true.
The Crucible of Doubt by Terryl & Fiona Givens is a short, well-written, subtle discussion of faith and doubt from a faithful Church standpoint; I learned a lot from it and it sounds like it'd be right up your alley. Kierkegaard is challenging but good; consider trying Fear and Trembling, which is a book-length exposition of the existential faith idea that I'm beating around here. C. S. Lewis' Surprised by Joy talks about his journey away from and back to Christianity, and even before thinking about this question, I recommended his Till We Have Faces as a superlative work on doubt and faith and one of the best two books I've read in the last year. The scriptures referenced above, especially Alma 30 and Alma 32, have influenced my thinking.
There are not a lot of circumstances in the Church where anyone should "pressure" anyone else. If you stick with D&C 121 (incorporated herein by reference) you'll probably be all right.
You can find an explanation of the Ecclesiastical Endorsement system here, and a statement of policy here. The leader has to check three boxes: (1) applicant lives in their unit, (2) applicant is not disfellowshipped, excommunicated, or voluntarily disaffiliated (e.g. chose to have their name removed from the records), and (3) leader has discussed Honor Code and Dress & Grooming Standards with the applicant. The policy document states an individual should not be "less active." So if you take the Church's money by attending BYU, they expect you to show up to church on Sunday and live the school's standards, but at no point do I see any questions about what someone believes.
1. To me, a true faith crisis (in the LDS church) is a state of thought or feeling in which you are no longer connecting to God through the church's teachings and prescribed behaviors. That could be from losing belief in God, belief that LDS living is the way to connect to Him, or when you're just not able to connect for extensive periods of time.
2-4. I have experienced them but I won't insult the intensity or pain of others by implying it was something comparatively significant. They were significant to me and enough to trigger a few months of depression, but never enough to make me dread going to church or disconnect from my family. I have been very close to many people who have lost their faith in the Church's teachings with a lot of variety in depth, time frame, and permanence. I've watched some come back, some fake it through BYU, and I've seen some lose faith God entirely.
My advice is to stay close to them with the sole purpose of being a good friend and having a good friend. Depend on them as much as you allow them to depend on you. If you talk to them about their activity in the church, do it in terms of your relationship with them. Do it to know their heart and to help them understand yours. If both people are invested in the relationship this will be healthy and uplifting for both of you.
No friend or family member who has returned to the church has ever done so because of something I said. It wasn't my example. It wasn't my friendship. It wasn't my testimony. It was their choice. Something in their life changed that made being in the church better for them than being out of it.
Once-- after a lot of time making it clear that I was proud of them, happy that they were happy, and that I loved them--only once have I expressed my disappointment. I said "I miss going to the temple with you. I was thinking of you in my session today and really wanting those blessings for you. I love you. I'm proud of you. I just really want you to know that." It did make her sad, I think. But I felt strongly that if my relationship with her would be real we would need to be able to hear each other's pain and never hold back the love we have for each other.
5. I think they should be able to stay. But if they aren't active members who pay their tithing they shouldn't be paying the member's tuition rate. If someone is willing to pay standard tuition and live the honor code then I believe it would be immoral to kick them out for denouncing the LDS faith. Sorry if that's inflammatory or painful to anyone but that's what I think.
Dear Mine mine,
There are some excellent thorough answers above and I just wanted to pop in to give one piece of advice. A little bit of background: my parents and siblings all left the Church while I was on my mission. I had a hard time with it. The problem was compounded by the fact that I didn't have the greatest relationships with them before. Today I have better relationships with them than I ever have, and it's because I allowed myself to rebuild my relationships based on the other things we have in common. I also made sure we are on the same page boundary-wise (I've asked my dad not to talk bad about former ward members when I'm around and I don't preach at them, for example). In every relationship, you will have better outcomes by trying to understand where the other person is coming from and respecting their wishes (note that understanding someone does not mean you agree with them).
Ultimately I've come to a better place with my family and I am absolutely positive that I am a much better influence on them as a faithful person who listens than as a faithful person who speaks. So: listen, set & follow boundaries, and just generally practice empathy. Also, recognize that people who leave the Church are hurting and that yes it is possible that they are happier being honest with themselves out of the Church than they were when they were having a hard time in the Church.
My faith crisis has gone something like this:
- Have a series of deeply hurtful experiences that damage your relationship with the church. “Fix” each one through personal spiritual experiences.
- Realize that you just barely start feeling better about the church in time for the next deeply hurtful experience to hit. Find this exhausting.
- Decide to take a “break” from the church, which in practice means drinking coffee three times and skipping church twice.
- Cut your break short because of a family temple trip.
- Have a lovely spiritual time in the temple.
- A month later, have a general authority say something so hurtful as to make you feel suicidal. View this as the same cycle described in steps 1-2, but more intense.
- Realize that the suicidal feelings are not your fault, nor are they how God would have you feel. Have absolutely no idea how to move forward in a Church you believe to be true, but makes you suicidal.
- Pray about it.
- Receive the answer that God is totally fine with you leaving the Church and that he does not expect you to stay in a Church that makes you feel this way.
- Be unwilling to deal with your family‘s potential reaction.
- Find that the prospect of leaving or staying makes you equally sad or seem equally terrible. Decide to ignore the traditional inactive/active framework and just do whatever you feel like at any given moment, within the constraints of reasonable adult behavior. Sometimes this means doing churchy things and sometimes it does NOT.
- Distract yourself with questions about truth claims, because you’ve decided to take God at his word that he’s okay with you leaving if you want, but you’d always envisioned a faith crisis to be about whether the church is True™ and you’d like an answer to that before you make a final decision.
- Don’t work too hard on the truth claims, because you’re “giving yourself space instead of pressuring yourself.” Vigorously resist deciding where “space” ends and “avoiding a decision” begins.
- Randomly listen to an Elder Uchtdorf talk and get the warm fuzzies one day. Decide to keep Church standards. Nothing is really resolved though and Church stuff randomly makes you really angry or really depressed.
- Start getting so anxious on Saturday nights that you can’t fall asleep before 4 am and miss your 9 am church.
- Say whatever you want in Sunday School when you do go.
- Wonder what on earth you’re doing and why you don’t just leave when God said you could leave and Church stuff is having such a marked effect on your mental health.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten.
As far as reading/listening, Planted by Patrick Mason is good if you’re trying to resolve the faith crisis in favor of staying in the Church. “Temple” by Parson James is a great song.
Not pressuring your friend is a good instinct. Just listen. Understanding them as an individual is much better than trying to understand the concept in the abstract.
As far as I know, whether you get kicked out of BYU for losing your testimony but showing up to Church and keeping church standards depends entirely on your bishop. Some don’t see belief as part of the Honor Code, and some decide to withdraw your endorsement over it. And I think that’s a grave flaw in the system.