My faith crisis story (JM)

This is the second post in a series how several of us have dealt with a crisis in faith.

I have had a few experiences in my life that have shaped my understanding of the gospel and the church. These key experiences have shaped the small testimony that I have and I feel like there isn’t anything that could ever change my understanding of those experiences, or what they taught me afterwards.

When I was on my mission, I had what I call a “Negative Spiritual Experience”. Not that the Holy Ghost gave me a negative experience, but it was something that I’m fairly convinced was adversarial in nature. This experience, for the first time in my life, caused me to actually fear the gospel and gave me an understanding of what is at stake in the spiritual war we find ourselves in. It took me a very long time to overcome this experience. When I finally did, I was able to finish my full-time mission and I found myself firmly on “The Lord’s Side” of a line that had been drawn for me in the spiritual sand. From this experience, I learned how real the adversary is and the extent and limits of his power.

Another experience I had involved giving a blessing. As I walked into the situation, I quickly came to realize that the person in need of this blessing was clinically dead and the only thing keeping them alive were the various medical machines designed to keep basic body functions going. I was preparing myself to give a blessing of comfort to release this person from their pain and suffering. But it wasn’t meant to be.

As I placed my hands on this person’s head to seal the blessing, I saw something. It was like remembering something that happened before and you are seeing the event in your mind. It’s almost like I was day dreaming for a split second. The thing is, I knew the thing I had just seen hadn’t happened yet, but that it would. I saw this person smiling, laughing, and playing with family members in their home. Was it a vision? I don’t know. But it felt like I was remembering something that hadn’t happened yet. I then continued with the blessing. I blessed this person that they would recover from their condition nearly 100% and that they would once again laugh and play with their family members. In the blessing, I mentioned that it would be a long and slow recovery, but that it would come in time. It did, and I have personally witnessed this person, laughing and playing with family members just as I saw.
From this experience, I have learned that God is real and that the priesthood and the authority to use it has actual power. I learned that all things are possible with God. Not that it will always turn out that way, but it can if it’s meant to be.

The third experience involves some callings I have had. Many of them have been leadership callings in the church. My first three leadership experiences found me as a counsellor in a presidency. They were experiences of learning from the mistakes of others. Nothing earth shattering there. We all see things we don’t like and decide how we would do things better if we were ever in charge. I made my list and kept it to myself in case I was ever in the position to need it.

I then had what I consider to be the best calling experience of my life. I was called to be a counsellor in the Stake Mission Presidency. I could go on for paragraphs about that experience and what it taught me. I believe I can sum up that experience by saying that it was the first time I had ever witnessed “True Presidency”. I have never seen it in any form since. I count myself blessed to have been a part of it. This leadership experience wasn’t about learning what not to do. It was about, in my opinion, the only way to function in a leadership role in the church.

It wasn’t exactly about how we lead the stake mission, although the results we had were amazing (In fact, when the order came to disband the stake mission organization, our stake presidency told us that if the letter hadn’t had the signature of the first presidency on it, they would have thrown it out). The workings of our presidency were as close to perfect as I can ever imagine them being. And when I see any other presidency in action, I can tell if they have it or not.

There is a personal chemistry component that contributes to true presidency. There are also procedural components as well. I learned that when inspired people make inspired callings, it all works out. There were people called by inspiration to the stake mission who failed miserably in their calling. But it was the right call and had the stamp of approval of the spirit. We also knew the doctrines related to the Stake Mission inside and out. We knew every part of the Church Handbook of Instructions that affected the Stake Mission inside and out. We lead by inspiration and followed exactly the program that the brethren had prescribed. And the parts that were left up to us, we filled in those blanks using out personal experience, opinion, counsel, and inspiration to arrive at what the Lord wanted us to do. It was fluid. It changed as the needs of the Stake Mission changed.

After that experience, when I was called to a position of president, I did everything I could to re-capture the atmosphere of true presidency. I knew it worked and I knew it was the only way to work.

Thus begins the faith crises I am currently in the middle of. Being in this presidency, and feeling secure in how things were suppose to happen, I attempted to work with my Stake Presidency and Bishop in staffing and running my organization as I knew had to be run. I had nothing but an uphill battle. It was a constant fight to follow the basic guidelines in the handbook. Never had I even thought that a priesthood leader would even consider setting aside the doctrines and principles of priesthood leadership, and ignore direct council given in the handbook.

Bishops and Stake Presidencies have changed for me a number of times since then, and I see an increasingly disregard for doctrine and handbook procedures and counsel. It has almost come to the point where I lack any faith in any of my local priesthood leaders. I cannot bring myself to follow sub-standard leadership when I know they are directly going against what they should in many cases. I feel as though I would be untrue to myself and my testimony. I have tried to talk to them and voice my concerns. In response I have been told things like “Well, as long as I’m in this calling, this is the way that I’m going to do it?” or “This is how the Stake President wants it done”. Nothing will ever change there.

I know God’s power is real, but he will let his children wander in darkness if we are unwilling to follow his counsel. I know the adversary’s power is real and waiting to lead us away from the gospel at any chance he gets. I also know that he can only do this if we let him. I also know how the church organization is meant to be lead and what principles are to govern church organization. I feel as though I am torn between two choices. I can either follow my local leaders into the fringes of apostasy, or I can withdraw from them, thus alienating myself from any link to the gospel, and I just don’t know what to do.

4 thoughts on “My faith crisis story (JM)”

  1. Kieth and I were just studying Philippians 2:12 last night and we actually had to put our scriptures aside as we got in a very heated debate on what it meant:

    12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

    13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

    15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

    It hit me as strongly as if it had hit me physically in the middle of my forehead. I really felt that the Lord was telling me to stop my murmuring about my callings and how I had felt with my last release. Keith did not see it that way. He feels that one has the right to say how they are feeling about how a leader is or is not doing their calling.

    We all have to decide what is right for us. I wish there was an easy answer. If you ever come up with one let me know!!

  2. I have to say JM, I had exactly that experience on my mission. My zone leaders enacted extra policies and procedures that seemed as though they could be a good idea, but took missionaries’ focus off of the most important aspects of missionary work.

    Far too much emphasis was put on obedience. Now, don’t misunderstand, obedience is eternally important, but this focus on obedience came at the expense of a focus on love, which saddened me to no end.

    I found myself in exactly your situation. I tried talking with my zone leaders, but they refused to listen. As a result, I was left with exactly your dilemma. My zone leaders kept coming up with new “rules” not stated in the handbook, and one was disobedient for not following them, and I was entirely unsure of what to do.

    At length, after much prayer, I came to the conclusion that I had to explicitly disobey them, because there was something that I was meant to teach them, something that only I could teach them. Now, I’m not saying that I’m some amazingly spiritual person, because I’m far from it. Nor am I advocating this line of action, because questioning leadership is one of the very first steps to apostasy, as one can read about in Teachings of President Brigham Young. I’m only saying that the Lord had a purpose for me in this specific instance.

    After coming to this conclusion, I entered into a six-month… disagreement, we’ll call it, with my zone leaders. They kept calling me to repentance and telling me that I should be doing better, and I kept telling them to keep their opinions to themselves and ignoring them. During this time, I prayed, on average, one hour every evening just to make sure that I was indeed doing the correct thing. I questioned my initial conclusion more times than I can count. At one point, to my great consternation, one of these zone leaders became AP, which meant that the Mission President trusted him. I prayed for the better part of the night after that happened, because I wasn’t really trusting someone that the Mission President did.

    Anyway, to make a long story short, everything turned out beautifully. After about six months, the zone leaders finally became so frustrated that they pulled me aside and we talked for about an hour and a half. Just the three of us, my companion wasn’t even there. They finally listened to me and realized the error of their ways. Today I have a better relationship with each of those guys than I did before this experience and the zone leaders and APs changed their stance and the mission benefited greatly for it.

    Now, in conclusion, I guess my advice is this: follow the Spirit, man. There were others on the mission in my position that decided to trust the zone leaders and obey them. It could go either way for you. Just follow the Spirit. There really is no telling what the Lord is doing; for all those other missionaries knew, their situation would never have improved. For all you know, the Lord has prepared another person to do exactly what I did. Maybe that person is you. Maybe there is no person meant to do that for your leaders at this time; maybe they’re supposed to learn this lesson at some future date. We can’t know the the Lord’s plan for us. We just have to follow the Spirit.

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