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Even if you doubt your doubts, what if you doubt the doubts about your doubts?
Why do doubters struggle to remain in the church?
This entry was posted on April 26, 2014 at 4:38 AM and is filed under Agency, Anti-Mormon, Apostasy, Christian, Doctrine, Education, Faith, Morality, Mormon, Mormon Belief, Mormon Culture, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
I think doubting our doubts is good advice so that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I think questioning and testing the group think and thinking for one’s self while following the spirit is even better advice.
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Doubters are welcomed in the church as long as they keep their doubts to themselves. The church treats doubters like a contagion and thus are to be avoided. This effectively makes church more like a country club and less like a hospital.
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A hospital is for those who want to cured. Doubters don’t want to get rid of their doubts, or don’t believe their doubts are a spiritual disease and therefore usually refuse help. That is when they become contagious trying to convince everyone else to become sick with them.
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The problem is far too many LDS testimonies are very fragile having been built upon techniques of indoctrination, blind belief, peer pressure and finding them in the bearing instead of upon the solid rock of revelation. They are technique manufactured testimonies, the baseball baptisms of testimonies, rather than being built on the rock of revelation. In fact the absence of revelation from top to bottom is the single largest problem the church has, it has all but lost it’s foundational principal.
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I ask myself only one theme area of questions when I doubt—–
Does a belief in this serve me and my family? How would a lack of belief affect my family’s well being? Mental Heath? Closeness? Avoid depression? Connect with other people, guide a good social structure in my kids lives? Limit them?
Then I weigh the pros and cons and it usually builds my faith. Ultimately, I dont fully believe in God being an exalted man or us resurrecting after in a tangible body like the one we had on earth. Ultimately, those things don’t matter to my faith here on earth now. What matters, is how I lead my life here and if I am following Gods will.
Mormons seem to have the most class and kindness of any group I’ve ever met. The church structure appeals to me. I believe only worthy MEN should hold the priesthood but I also believe it binds them just as much as it empowers them. Some say it is used to control women, I say women use it just as effectively and unintentionally to control men.
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Ps–my questions and doubts were always welcomed in my greater Seattle area ward.
I think there’s a difference between a person with doubts and a disbeliever.
Everybody, exhibit A: Jettboy. As usual. I haven’t ever seen anybody study and wrestle and pray and agonize and try harder than my friends who are currently struggling with doubts. To suggest that they are refusing a simple cure for their “disease” is unkind and inaccurate in my experience. Sure, I’ve seen friends leave the church and in their anger and grief they sometimes lash out, but those who are really trying to come to grips with their doubts and faith just want desperately to do what is right.
It is hard for me to separate the two categories in the poll, really. As a person struggles with doubts and questions, their experience at church becomes more complicated. When some of the things sooth and some of the things wound, church can become extremely confusing, and it becomes difficult for doubters to suffer in silence. We all crave someone to relate to, to understand us, and as doubters reach out to their faith community they often find the distance between themselves and their wards growing even larger. The dissolving relationships between doubters and their fellow ward members (and even the church in general) can exacerbate existing problems and doubts.
A solid, supportive, welcoming community structure likely in many cases could usher a doubter through the most troubling times onto something more like the firm ground they may have once stood on. An unwelcoming community can push a doubter out faster than they may have taken themselves out, hitting them with feelings of loneliness and inadequacy at an emotionally and spiritually vulnerable time. My feeling is that we could diffuse a lot of anger in those who do eventually choose to depart because the answers in their spiritual quest led them elsewhere if we really gave them a safe space to work out their questions within the boundaries of our faith communities.
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Just because it should be pointed out everywhere, every time that Jettboy graces the bloggernacle with his unique perspective: he’s an unabashed racist who’s also expressed hearty support for the murder of homosexuals. Not directly relevant to the topic at hand, but worth remembering for anyone considering taking him seriously.
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I guess if you see doubt as contagious then Jettboy’s solution is the way to go. But doubt is not contagious. The big secret is that everyone has doubts! (even Jettboy). The church should welcome and celebrate doubts. Doubts should be viewed in the same way we view trials, that is, as part of the refiner’s fire. But instead we get “doubt your doubts,” ” the way to gain a testimony is by bearing your testimony,” etc. which may be helpful in the short term but in the long run produces a weak membership.
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If doubt is contagious, what does that say about the strength of the testimony?
If the doctrine is strong enough, shouldn’t the presence of the doubt make no difference?
If you are afraid of doubt, what are you *really* afraid of?
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Truth is contagious
Let me get this straight…you doubt your doubts, but have no doubt…
Ok, whatever you’ve been smoking or baking in the brownies, SHARE. We can debate its “medicinal” usefulness later.
Folks, it wuz said best by Sigmund Freud and possibly George Burns…SOMETIMES, a cigar is just a cigar…just ask Bill and Monica.
Casey, do you know what really gets you angry about me? That I’m actually a typical Mormon more than you and most of the posters here. Not only that, but my remarks actually got a good amount of agreement. Think on that one.
It isn’t that doubt is the problem. Its that too many who have doubts treat it as a virtue when the Scriptures clearly teach it as a spiritual weakness and a stumbling block. Western society’s cynicism is at odds with the religious life. We go to church to demonstrate and preach faith, not challenge it.
I left because of the nature of my doubts, although it was also clear to me that I could not fully participate as a doubter had I chosen to stay.
Is doubt a stumbling block or is doubt really a stepping stone? I guess it all depends on your point of view.
If doubt is contagious, what does that say about the strength of the testimony?
Absolutely nothing. It says that we’re all human.
Yesterday the good brother scheduled to offer the TFOT lesson in our combined EQ/HPG priesthood meeting didn’t show. Our Elder’s Quorum president, at a loss, told us which talks the lesson was supposed to focus on, one of which was President Uchtdorf’s from Saturday morning session of last October’s conference, “Come, Join With Us.” I offered to lead an impromptu discussion based on that talk, and we did so. (They knew what they were letting themselves in for, to be fair.)
At one point I quoted Pres Uchtdorf’s statement, One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?” Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. We then discussed the reasons we had all offered and heard offered for why someone had ceased activity in the Church – “there was a commandment he couldn’t live.” People nodded, chagrined. We’d all heard that and probably assumed and said it. “She took offense at something.” More nods. And one brother pipes up with “Their testimony just isn’t strong enough.” I said, yes, we’d all heard that, too – but he was serious. He really thought people left the Church because their testimonies weren’t strong enough, as if all those doubts could be resolved by more prayer and fasting and 3x-daily topical applications of Moroni 10:3-5. Rather than specifically call him out, I merely noted (forcefully) that there were many cases of people who had left the Church who had testimonies as strong or stronger than the people in that room, and we moved on.
I really believe that to be the case, both through my interactions with “live” less-active members, my experiences with reactivation, my online experiences, and my own experiences as doubter, sinner, and iconoclast. Inactivity is not always a crisis of testimony.
One brother, an active and persistent home teacher, asked what we would say to one of his inactive brothers who says that he grows closer to God even though he doesn’t go to Church. My response was that I would simply ask him to tell me more about that, and explain what he meant by that. I think too often we hear that as an invitation to debate. The same brother from above stated that you could only hear so much of that before you’d have to use the authority of the priesthood and basically set the person straight, or at least report back what he was saying. My response to that ignorant and short-sighted twaddle was simple – “I’m not the guy’s priesthood leader, and I’m not going to rat him out.” It’s my place to try to love and to understand.
It was an interesting discussion. I think that talk of President Uchtdorf’s was significant in that it’s one of the only times in recent history in which a senior Church leader has acknowledged in Conference that the Church is not perfect. That’s a strange concept to the Lockstep Brigade. However, I think we’re long overdue. I loved this quote:
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.
#17 – (New Icon) Certainly the reasons for conversion and/or apostasy are as varied and unique as the participants thereof. Too easy to pontificate and just say, “take this spiritual medicine, and it will be all better”.
As the fictional Quark would say to his APPARENTLY dim-witted brother, Rom, as he greedily rubs his hands in anticipation of greater profit (more succulent gree-worms that “Moogie” can pre-chew, perhaps?)…”Hew-Mons! There is great profit in almost everything about them except attempting to understand how they think…”
How many members, testimonies notwithstanding, have said, “Aw, (screw) it!”. There comes a point where one just gives up, I guess. It does no good to play the “blame” game, as many like to do when offered the chance to speak (and instead get on their self-righteous high horse). If there’s one “nuclear” weapon the Adversary has, it is certainly discouragement.
What are you even saying.
Doubt is not a weakness or a stumbling block, my acceptance of doubt in my life has deepened my faith and my relationship and reliance on my Savior and His grace. I’m a much better person now than I was when I was certain I knew everything. I’m not diseased and I don’t need to be healed. If you think so I recommend listening to Elder Bednar’s talk again.
Now, just because I am in a better place because of doubt doesn’t mean everyone will be. I accept the doubtless path as perfectly acceptable for those who want to stay. But the people I end up talking and visiting with are so isolated in their thoughts and experiences as if it’s shameful to be faithful and have questions, told to just put things on a “shelf” and ignore them — well the shelves are coming tumbling down and people need help processing their questions and coming to a place of peace with them . . . apparently I’m helping strengthen faith by processing with them. Or so I’ve been told.
NI, that sounds like an interesting discussion.
Some members reinforce others in their desire not to question and to see everything perfectly. They may have a strong desire not to doubt, and they’ll do what they need to in order to reduce their perceived cognitive dissonance and reconcile everything.
Some of us, and Kristine and I among others seem to have that role, end up almost as “doubt counselors” – (not trying to speak for you, Kristine, only for me) – since I tend to embrace and wrestle with my issues and usually come out stronger on the other side. I am only human, finite, and limited, and I don’t feel that my imperfections make the gospel imperfect. I’ve often joked with my wife that I seem to have “shrink” stamped on my forehead, which seems ironic for someone like me. :)
Different people react to doubt in different ways, especially when the community is as generally unwelcoming of the doubter as ours is. I tend to shrug the disapproval off, as much as it tires me, because I’ve never been excessively concerned about what people thought of me. But some people choose not to deal with doubt and its attendant disapprobation at all. Some people leave, and some people eliminate the dissonance by adopting an alternate thinking pattern (becoming traditional Protestants, for example, where all of the irrational thinking has been rationalized away over the centuries – we’ve only had a hundred or so years to work on our issues), or by bottling it up, or by having side hobbies that let them blow off steam.
I for one think that my tendency to question has been a great strength to me. It drove me out of the Catholic Church as a teenager, it kept me out of the Protestant churches of my friends, and it got me into this church in the same way in which the young prophet got here. I feel a deep affinity for the prophet of JS-H 1:5-14 and the prophet of D&C 122. I think that my willingness (most of the time, at least eventually) to meet the Lord halfway has helped him turn many of those things to my good. Hopefully some of that experience can be used to help others who aren’t satisfied with the “Suck it up and doubt not” Sunday School answer.
Where would we be if Joseph Smith hadn’t questioned?
Then we’d testify that “Steve Schmuck” was a Prophet of the Lord, or WHOEVER the Lord would call to fulfill the role. It’d be hard to believe that the Savior didn’t have a backup plan to leave it all to Joseph Smith’s agency or mere happenstance.
Glad the Lord didn’t wait until 1974 or so when I was then of the same age as young Joseph…better him than me.
Questioning isn’t the problem. Treating the questions as if they are the answers are the problem. Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray for answers with a firm faith he would get them. Not so with too many who hold on to their doubts like treasured truths that those “believing” people are stupid enough not to notice. In fact, that their doubts are more truthful and authoritative than the Priesthood leadership who have been called of God. Instead of “I believe, help me my unbelief,” its become, “I might believe, and am proud that I don’t believe like those other schmucks who really should get a clue.”
Jettboy: I agree that there is a big difference between being a doubter and being dogmatic in one’s unbelief, and there are plenty of unbelievers who tout doubt as a virtue (when they don’t really have doubt, just crystallized skepticism). Interestingly, a recent study done by shenpa warrior revealed that when one spouse’s faith changes, marriages are really only in trouble if either spouse is totally set on being right, not as a direct result of the faith change, but only as a result of unwillingness to listen or respect different viewpoints (early days on this study, so don’t quote me on that!). Doubts would say “I don’t know,” or maybe “help thou mine unbelief,” but full-on disbelief is pretty convinced it’s right and you’re wrong, just as zealous as any belief is.
Personally, I am an unbeliever in some things: polygamy being divine, the wisdom of the united order as a social experiment, the idea that blind obedience is ever a good idea, the worship of Nephi as some sort of hero when I find him totally insufferable, that gender is eternal or that gender roles aren’t cultural artifacts. There are other things I mostly hope and/or believe but occasionally doubt: that God hears and answers prayers, that we lived in the pre-existence, that the temple is divinely inspired, that what I think is revelation is what it actually is when our leaders receive it. To me, that latter group of beliefs has plenty of open room for me to listen to others’ viewpoints. Nobody will ever convince me about polygamy being divine or about women truly belonging in a limited role that doesn’t speak to me. Fortunately, polygamy almost never comes up at church any more, and I’ve so far been able to ignore most of the sexist claptrap about my role as defined by people not living my life.
“Even if you doubt your doubts, what if you doubt the doubts about your doubts?” We can play this game ad infinitum, “Doubt your doubts about the doubts you have about your doubts!”