Why are there no safe spaces to question our faith?

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I’ve had two faith crises.

One thing that having two faith crises has done for me is allowing me to compare them. In most ways, they were different. Different triggers, different durations, different reactions, and different emotions.

One specific way the two faith crises differed was the level of openness I took with each.

With my first faith crisis, I kept the entire thing private. Even though Mary knew eventually what I was growing through, she didn’t know all of it.

I was scared. I was scared of what people would think of me if they knew that I doubted God’s existence. I was scared of what they would think of the black and white perspective I had publicly nurtured for myself. I wondered how it might affect what future callings I could receive.

With my second faith crisis, all that was different. People already knew that I was critical of some things regarding the church, so I didn’t need to worry how they’d react. Sure, my response this time around might have been more abrupt when compared to other times when I criticized elements of church governance. But it wasn’t much of a stretch.

I have tried to, over the last few years, tried to present my viewpoint as a grey one. so I don’t think, from that perspective, that it surprised people that I took a view this time around that wasn’t black and white, that I could still sustain the leaders as prophets, seers, and revelators while simultaneously rejecting a policy they endorsed.

Regarding callings, well, let’s just say I’ve become disenchanted with the calling process over the last 3 or 4 years. As a result, I’m no longer that invested in what callings I receive.

That explains some background on why I was less worried about posting publicly about my faith crisis this time around. What it doesn’t explain was why I did it at all.

I was open this time around because I thought it was important that others who were struggling realized that they weren’t alone. I also thought it was important for people to realize that when others go through faith crises, the reasons for doing so are often complex and heterogeneous.

While I was going through the process, an unintended consequence of my openness was an outpouring of support and empathy, which themselves were cathartic and helped me through my struggle. That was something clearly absent my first time around, when I hid it from everyone.

All this leads me to the core question that prompted me to write this post: why are some people so concerned with how they appear to others? What was it that motivated me the first time to keep it hidden? What was it that created an environment where I felt I needed to hide it?

I received so many messages from people who told me that they were struggling with the policy changes, some of whom were actually having faith crises. Yet most of them, if not all of them, remained silent. Why is that?

Why do we have a culture that prevents people from questioning openly, a culture that labels those who question as apostate and heretical?

If we provided safe spaces where people could discuss their questions without consequence and received unconditional support to work through their questions, how would that affect the outcome of faith crises among our members?

 

3 thoughts on “Why are there no safe spaces to question our faith?

  1. I don’t have any answers to your questions. Human nature being what it is these issues will likely plague us forever. There may be some danger in focusing exclusively on doubts but ignoring them might be as harmful. For those with faith crisis’ it would be nice if Sunday services did more to build the faith of those in crisis.

    I will say, that part of the puzzle is the way Latter-Day Saints talk about testimony. A premium is placed on testimony and certainty and we often talk about testimony as an all or nothing entity. You either have one or you don’t.

    Reality is far more complex with multiple facets of faith ranging from absolute certainty, dispassionate acceptance, faith, hope, skepticism, doubt, to disbelief.

    Perhaps a more nuanced discussion about belief and doubt would help. I have heard good things about Terryl and Fiona Givens book, The Crucible of Doubt.

    1. I agree with you. Testimony is so nuanced, complex, and individual. I gave up long ago saying things like “the Book of Mormon is true” and replacing them with more realistic things like “I believe the Book or Mormon contains God’s words”. It feels more authentic and meaningful that way.

      I haven’t read the Givens’ book, but they spoke at a stake fireside recently here.

  2. We all have our perspective or the lens through which we view the world and it is that lens that makes some issues more important to us. Nearly 20 years ago I went through a crisis that took me away from the church. I was given counsel by a Bishop who though well meaning was not correct. I lost my way because of the pain i felt due to that counsel. I now work counselling people who are dealing with the pain caused by spouses and parents and children with addiction issues and how it impacts them.
    The first presidency has created a manual for us to use which addresses these painful issues. The family proclamation is doctrine and when people fail living it then pain of their family members needs to be dealt with. Thus they have created this manual.
    Kim, I have read your postings on fb and i feel your pain and i can see your perspective. Mine, however on this matter is not one of exclusion but rather one of respect for the relationship between parent and child.
    If parents are living a lifestyle where the child is also in the home, how can a child be baptized without showing disapproval of what the parents are doing?
    I feel like this is a cautionary policy to support respect between parent and minor child.
    When I was baptized in 1973, I was married and had to get my husbands consent since it would undermine our marriage which it did in spite of the consent and thus we were divorced later due in large part to the different lifestyle choices. I thought it was beyond stupid and a violation of my right to be baptized but now i realize that it showed respect to our marriage and my ex husbands position of leader in our home.
    I hope time will assist you in accepting this policy… God Bless you and yours.

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