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Faith Crisis is a term describing a period of time or event where someone has serious doubts about their belief’s. You may have even experienced a faith crisis yourself. But how are we to approach those who are experiencing or have experienced this “faith crisis?” We have a few ideas….
There is a website called Millennial Mormon’s. It is a blog site that posts some decent articles but does so from a perspective and understanding shared by the rising generation, those of you who are in seminary or institute programs. The tag line of the site is “your grandpa’s gospel, now with #hashtags.
On that site was posted an article by Tanner Gilliland on November 4th, 2014. The article is entitled, “4 “DO NOTs” for Treating People in a Faith Crisis.” I actually found the article to be a pretty good opening reference that addresses some of the things that we may find ourselves doing or thinking with respect to people that experience a faith crisis. While I don’t agree with all the assertions they are minor and I trust that you will be smart enough and in tune enough to take in the correct spirit of the article, and not haggle over a couple of words.
4 “DO NOTs” for Treating People in a Faith Crisis
BY TANNER GILLILAND · NOVEMBER 4, 2014
With more and more information becoming available on the internet, more and more people are asking important questions about the church and its history. Sometimes these questions lead to serious doubts. Many of these doubts and concerns are not easily solved and require much prayerful effort, patience, and study.
Some people feel that they can’t find adequate answers to their questions so they leave the church. This usually is not an easy decision for them. Some lose friends or family, and others even lose their employment.
It is imperative that faithful members of the church, particularly millennials, learn how to appropriately interact with those who wrestle with doubt. To that end, I have created this list of things NOT to do when someone you know raises serious questions about religion:
1) Do NOT assume they are sinning
While sin is certainly darkens our minds, it is not always the cause of doubt. We must eliminate the stigma that those who doubt have some lurking evil, and that those who leave the church were just looking for a way out. This unrighteous judgment can be both harmful to us (it is a sin) and detrimental to the person we are judging.
2) Do NOT pretend that you know all the facts
Our religion is very complex. There are aspects of our doctrine and history that are very difficult to understand and we don’t claim to know all the answers. People who are deeply concerned with these issues have often given them many hours of study and consideration, so the “seminary answers” often don’t quite cut it. Rather than throwing out platitudes, try to understand their perspective. Share what you know and understand, and acknowledge that you don’t know everything. Always be honest.
3) Do NOT belittle their concerns
As one who ventures “down the rabbit hole” so to speak, I can testify of the frustration that comes when someone tells you not to worry so much. If we believe that our religious convictions will affect the our eternal destiny then of course we should worry about getting it right! What seems like a minuscule molehill to you may be a monstrous mountain for another. We can’t solve problems by ignoring them. Remember that our religion started with a boy who had some serious religious questions. Instead of disregarding the question, listen to the concerns and help find the answers.
4) Do NOT ostracize them
Though this is the last item, it is probably the most important. Nobody should feel like they aren’t able to express their concerns for fear of losing friends or family. Our love cannot be conditional upon someone’s level of belief. Christlike love is unconditional.To individuals with spouses whose beliefs are different, remember the counsel of Paul: “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.” (1 Cor 7:13-14)People need your love, not your diagnosis. Expressing doubt or even leaving the church does not equate to being a bad person. In the end, even the acts of good by atheists will be accounted to them as righteousness. God’s love does not have a membership number or require a temple recommend. Neither should ours.From the Joseph Smith Papers project to the video about temple clothing, the church is taking progressive steps toward transparency and more open dialogue about controversial issues. I believe that our generation will be instrumental in continuing that trend. Let us always be quick to lend a listening ear, a supportive shoulder, and most importantly, an open heart.”
– End Article –
Wether you know someone right now experiencing some challenges to their faith or not, you will likely encounter someone in the not so distant future. So it is best to have this information and resource at the ready should this come up.
Should you be experiencing a faith crisis right now yourself, and someone is not following these 4 basic principles, try to do your best to also extend the same level of understanding you want others to have with you. Take these 4 things and reverse them…with a slight adjustment.
1) Don’t assume that people are judging you harshly.
2) Don’t assume that people know nothing about faith challenges – many go through them, and many come through them with even stronger faith than when they entered the faith crisis.
3) Do not belittle people who are trying to show concern but may not be the best at being crisis counselors.
4) Do not ostracize yourself. I once heard the analogy that the worst time to leave the storm shelter is when the hurricane is passing over you. In other words, if you are having a faith crisis and you are scared or upset and don’t know where to turn for help or answers, it is best to not leave the church, the source of strength that you need to help you through this time, especially when you are in the middle of the trial.
We don’t always know how to respond to people when they encounter difficulties in life, wether they be faith related or not. So, remember to be patient with others, as you would want them to be patient with you.
In conclusion I want to share with you a thought that was kind of sneaky from the October 2014 General Conference. Elder Anderson gave a talk and in the foot note of that talk was a quote from President Eyring that says this about how to approach those in faith crisis:
“In your love for them you may decide to try to give them what they ask. You may be tempted to go with them through their doubts, with the hope that you can find proof or reasoning to dispel their doubts. Persons with doubts often want to talk about what they think are the facts or the arguments that have caused their doubts, and about how much it hurts… You and I can do better if we do not stay long with what our students see as the source of their doubts… Their problem does not lie in what they think they see; it lies in what they cannot yet see… We do best if we turn the conversation soon to the things of the heart, those changes of heart that open spiritual eyes.”
(“‘And Thus We See’: Helping a Student in a Moment of Doubt” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 5, 1993], 3, 4