Responding Badly to Doubt

By: Andrew S
December 1, 2011

DoubtI just saw this post from Patheos which the author notes is the third part of a series on deconversion…but this part addresses the role of poor responses to doubt as a major reason for people’s deconversions.

The one thing that I noted from this article was that, even though I had no reason to believe that the author had Mormons in mind (in fact, I don’t even know if the author considers Mormons to be Christians, but that’s neither here nor there), the things discussed in that article seemed commonplace to Mormon discussions about doubt within the church. A few excerpts:

The way that Christians react to the doubts of others can, inadvertently, amplify existing doubt. Many of the writers told of sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers. These answers, in turn, moved them further away from Christianity.

For example, a former Southern Baptist, rather harshly, identified this tendency among the Christians that he had known: “Christians have their PAT phrases for every little whim. . . Christians always use the word “faith” as their last word when they are too stupid to answer a question.”

Standard pat answers included statements such as: “God will never put more on you than you can bear,” “God works in mysterious ways,” “it was God’s will,” “your faith wasn’t strong enough,” “God wanted him in heaven,” and “God is testing you – stand firm!”


Ex-Christians were not only critical of fellow parishioners, but also of clergy’s and church lay-leadership’s failure to address the doubter’s questions. One ex-Christian wrote: “And to top all of it off, I could get no satisfying answers to my questions (they call them sinful doubts) even from the pastors and elders. I was told not to read the bible to try to find problems, that was a sin.”

In sum, the absence of thoughtful answers and the lack of listening carefully to questions were interpreted as both anti-intellectualism and a lack of empathy, leading the writers to feel trivialized.

Two Phenomena Occurring

It seems to me like in this article, as in many Mormon counterpart stories, there is a distinction between how doubters are harmed by what believers don’t or can’t do, and how doubters are harmed by what believers did do. For example, there’s one thing if believers can’t provide satisfactory answers for those who doubt (either because they don’t have theological training to cover those issues or because they have never personally experienced those issues and therefore don’t understand them at their root)…but this is more akin to a firefighter not having a working hose or extinguisher…the fire will demolish the building on its own if there is nothing to stop it.

But the second thing that could happen is that perhaps there could be things believers proactively do that worsen the doubter. If a building has a minor fire that might go out on its own, it won’t help if someone throws more fuel on the fire. The article author recalls a story about that:

Related were several remarks about rule enforcement. For example, a former member of an Assemblies of God church recounted an incident regarding his smoking. “I was struggling with smoking at this time, and was sincere about wanting to quit. At a prayer meeting one Thursday night, I told the group of 5 men about my struggle with tobacco. They proceeded to tell me that smoking was sin (the body being “the temple” of the Holy Spirit and all), and that “god doesn’t hear the prayer of a sinner.” What happened next stunned me. As the men took turns praying, it came to be my turn, and as I began to say my prayers, they all got up and walked away from me!!!”

This looks to me to have indirect parallels with Hawkgrrrl’s recent post on lying, where she mentions the recent By Common Consent posts on the failure for many leaders to provide pastoral care (because instead, they have to serve as judge). Not being able to provide pastoral care with doubts may be example of not being able to do anything to put out the fire…but to judge someone for their doubts and actions proactively adds fuel to the fire.

So, my main question is…how much of each kind of reaction is there for people? I’d love to think that we could just teach people how not to stoke the flames (but how?) and then doubters would be more comfortable within church. But another part of me thinks that doubts themselves, if they are not addressed appropriately (and how many people can address those doubts? In a previous article to this series, the author points to the possible role of apologetics in helping), will lead to many leaving.

The comments to the article, of course, add completely new dimensions. Should we even want doubters to stay in the church if that’s the stage they are at?

Tags: , , , , ,

32 Responses to Responding Badly to Doubt

  1. jmb275 on December 1, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Interesting. I think there is one point being missed. Sometimes there are no answers to the doubts. Sometimes it’s not so much that there aren’t people who don’t think they have answers, but the answers don’t ring true.

    For me, that’s a better characterization. I don’t feel like people threw fuel on the fire, nor do I think people just shrugged their shoulders at my doubts. I had friends try and help, and I read lots of apologist stuff. There were plenty who thought they had answers. The just didn’t work for me. The faith I salvaged from the burnt house was much less certain, and more willing to acknowledge I might not know all the right answers.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  2. Jake on December 1, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Sometimes I think the bad responses to doubt are all just imagined. I am sure that sometimes people do respond to doubt badly, but I wonder how much of it is all just perceived in the mind of the doubter. Because we are aware of our own doubt we are more aware and feel victimised as we feel that everyone else believes.

    I’ve argued that the church struggles with doubt before. But since then I realise that it doesn’t match up with my experience. I’ve told a SP (who is possibly one of the most orthodox TBM guy’s I have ever met) in a TR interview flat out that I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is historical and that most of the Joseph Smith story is mythical and he said ‘that’s okay’ and gave me my TR. I’ve spoken out in priesthood about how I don’t believe certain principles, think the church is wrong or have massive doubts about certain things. Never once have I had a bad response, on the contrary, generally most people are quite positive about them. As many doubt themselves but don’t have the confidence to verbalise their doubt.

    I’m not saying there aren’t people who struggle to cope with other peoples who doubt, and will label it evil or whatever. Just that I wonder how often its seen to be more pronounced and larger in the doubters perception. We think everyone else is immune from doubts and we are the only one who doubts when in my experience everyone is wrestling with doubt and disbelief to some extent but they just hide it behind a facade of faithfulness and cliche sayings.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  3. Bob on December 1, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Doubt and faith are but shadows of knowledge. To see it otherwise, is to give up on the seeking of truth or wisdom.
    We have had many great voices over thousands of years expressing this. Why not hear them by listening them? Why live a dark life of hidding your doubts, when they can lead you to knowledge?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. Paul on December 1, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    My view on this issue has changed as I’ve grown older. There was a time in my younger years when I thought I had to have an answer to everything and I thought I had that answer — all doubt could be worked away one way or another if the doubter were willing.

    As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand better that there are a lot of things that I cannot control, and someone else’s views is one of those things.

    Just as I will not accept someone telling me I did not have spiritual experiences I have had, I cannot tell someone else they have (or can have) spiritual experiences that they believe they have not (or cannot) have.

    As a result, it is easier for me to listen to someone else express doubt based on his or her own experience and accept it for what it is — that person’s experience.

    One of my sons who left the church years ago keeps coming back in different ways: he’ll sometimes read scriptures with us; he’ll sometimes pray with us; once in a while he’s go to a meeting with us. But while I welcome those intersections between his experience and mine, I cannot assume they mean that he is “healing” or “coming around.” He is where he is, nothing more, nothing less.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  5. Porter on December 1, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    I think this is a huge problem in our church. And I love that term “deconversion”!

    I have attempted to discuss my doubts about current church leadership and historical problems with my TBM family, and the responses I receive from them are very similar to those above. They question my faith, tell me to pray more, tell me to read the BofM more, tell me I must not be living right, etc. But they never address the substance of my concerns.

    They really cant, because they have religious blinders on. They have a strong but blind faith and like it that way. They LIKE being Mormon, and they dont want to expose themselves to grey areas or problematic historical issues through research because they fear that they might have their testimonies shaken. I had a brother actually tell me that researching Church history on the internet was in itself sinful.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  6. Ray on December 1, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    “Should we even want doubters to stay in the church if that’s the stage they are at?”

    Absolutely. Complete lack of doubt ends growth and is counter to the Gospel, imo. Kick out the “doubters”, and you not only will reduce the congregations by more than 50% but also wipe out all chance of continuing revelation and the practice of true Christian charity. I’m not being hyperbolic; that’s really how I see it.

    I’ve written quite a bit about this on my own blog. Perhaps the most relevant to this post is from 2 1/2 years ago. It deals with the difference between “doubt” and “uncertainty” – and I think most discussions conflate the two and, therefore, cause issues and confusions that don’t have to exist if we just are a little more precise in our terminology and definitions:

    “Faith, Doubt and Enduring Uncertainty” (

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  7. Ray on December 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I hit “submit” before adding that Andrew and I had an interesting discussion about the post I linked in the comment thread of that post. I really don’t care how we phrase certain things and the exact words we use, as long as the message is that we need to accept uncertainty as fine and danday and actually good and necessary for growth – that the only bad thing is when we switch over to an active refusal to keep an open mind and start thinking we know everything about something – or even that we know enough.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  8. Andrew S on December 1, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    re 6 & 7:


    I was going to respond to your post there, and then I discovered that I had already responded to that post with exactly what I was going to say. Way to go 2009 Andrew S!

    Anyway, I think the issue is this: doubt does not imply some kind of chosen (e.g., “we switch over”) and conscious (e.g., “active”) refusal to keep an open mind, nor does it imply knowing everything or enough about something.

    It simply implies that we do not believe something (to this extent, I can work with your basic definition of doubt as opposed to uncertain). I can be open minded and not believe something. I can be uncertain, and not believe something.

    The issue is…if I don’t believe, then what? In this sense, your post sidesteps that issue. It says, “Well, if you’re uncertain, maybe you still believe.” Sure, that’s possible, but if you’re uncertain, maybe you don’t believe. So, here, it becomes critical (as I pointed in a comment on your post) whether we choose to believe or not or whether belief is a conclusion as a result of an internal evaluation that we cannot change unless we can either add different data to the internal evaluation or somehow change the internal evaluative process.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  9. Jen on December 1, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Great post Andrew. The story about the smoker is sad, but not surprising. I try to imagine what the Savior would have done had He been there. I imagine Him walking out on the other 5 men when they are praying, but of course that’s not very nice of me now, is it.

    I don’t know why I am thinking of this in relation to doubters, but I am, so here goes. I have a friend who has a severe mental illness. Everyone wants her to just take her meds and act “normal”. Part of her illness includes thinking she doesn’t need medication sometimes, because she truly believes she is better. When she stops taking them though, she begins “acting up” and can be a great challenge for everyone. I think in some ways we want to give doubters some type of “medication” (just have more faith, read your scriptures more, etc.) so we don’t have to deal with their “acting out.” When they struggle, we don’t know what to do, but is it really their fault? What is really going on with them? Are we missing the point completely? I don’t know, but I believe the Savior expects us to love them from where they are at just likes He does with us.

    I guess my point is we tend to make doubters feel it is their fault, but is that truly the case? Are some people just wired to ask more questions, think more about things in a way that makes them doubt and if so, how do they change who they fundamentally are?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  10. andy on December 1, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    you know how sometimes people are afraid to confess of porn or sex because of the penalty? and that because of that the person that should be counseling the person isn’t able to?

    the same thing happens with doubt. the one person who is appointed to help me talk through my doubts is the same person that can take away my ability to go to my brothers wedding for having doubts. i’m not willing to take that risk.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  11. Andrew S on December 1, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    re 1


    Actually, that is something that I was thinking…but what I was thinking instead is…if there are no answers to the doubts, then isn’t it essentially a crapshoot whether or not people salvage a faith from a burnt house (as you have) or whether it’s a total loss (faith-wise, so to speak)?

    re 2,


    One thing I’ve considered (very dangerously) is whether this all is akin to something like depression. In depression, the depressed individual often is trapped inside his own negative spiral that precludes him from seeking help or even recognizes the efforts of others as helpful. So even though, in reality, people are trying to support him, in his mind, he sees himself as utterly alone.

    So, is there an appreciable distortion between perception and reality in this case as well?

    re 3,


    OK, so doubters shouldn’t hide their doubts. If we accept that, what then. What should believers do or not do?

    re 4,


    I’m definitely trying to get to that point (looking at people’s experiences as being *their experiences*, even if I have different ones). Not quite there yet, haha.

    re 5:


    Do you think that apologetics or bloggernacle “nuanced” answers help? Would they help if the people at various bloggernacle blogs were in the ward, able to be there throughout the week offline?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  12. Ray on December 1, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    andy, I understand totally your second paragraph in #10 – but I don’t believe the following:

    “the one person who is appointed to help me talk through my doubts”

    Bishops are not appointed to do that; they are appointed as judges to decide whether or not to levy punishments and the nature of any punishments that are levied.

    That’s one of the central issues in the “what to do” question, imo. We like to think of Bishops as our own version of Catholic Priests (hear our confessions and offer us all-wise advise), but, in reality, that’s not what they are. If I feel I need to “confess”, it is supposed to be about something that MIGHT, at least in my mind, end up needing “judgment” of some sort. It’s not focused on “pastoral care” as much as it is focused on “correction” or “corrective action”.

    I really dislike the idea that doubt / uncertainty needs to be “confessed”. It doesn’t, imo. It should be totally and utterly separate from “confession” and “correction”. It should be perfectly OK – and only should be “confessed” if it leads to actions that obviously need confession and/or correction.

    Someone can be uncertain of the virtue of the Law of Chastity – and even actively doubt it has any merit – without having to confess that uncertainty. Once they act on it in a way that obviously violates the explicit standards that apply to them, however, it becomes a different issue.

    So, to Andrew’s question about “so what?”:

    I think we only can “solve” this issue and stop responding bacly to “doubt” when we start celebrating uncertainty and quit talking about it as if it’s a bad thing. Part of that, imo, is to find other people who won’t “judge” us for our uncertainty and share our uncertainty with them. Iow, we need to find someone else to be our counselor and let our Bishop be our Judge in Israel for actual sins and our congregational administrator.

    Yeah, I know: Easier said than done.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  13. Jen on December 1, 2011 at 12:13 PM


    It would be nice to have someone is who trained in counseling and helping others to cover the pastoral care of the members. And, not necessarily have to report to the bishop ever doubt and struggle everyone is having so members feel safe going to them. I guess we can dream….

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  14. dpc on December 1, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    How about some kind of guide for those with doubts? Like on who to approach and how to broach the subject. Most of the time, when someone comes with doubts, the listener has no clue what the person is talking about because they don’t have the same exposure to whatever material the doubter has. About 10 years ago, a friend of mine left the church because of its “revisionist” history. I had no clue what he was talking about. Not because I didn’t know the history, but because growing up my parents had taught me about Josepsh Smith and the seer stone and his polygamy and things like that and so I didn’t see where the ‘revision’ had taken place. Had he explained where he was coming from better, it probably wouldn’t have changed his course, but it would have helped me to relate and understand and help him better.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  15. Bob on December 1, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    #14:Andrew S,
    There is no such thing as a non-believer. Everybody believes. I may “believe” you are wrong, or you are right. I may believe there is a God, or I may believe there is not.
    Everyone doubts. You likely doubt the Catholic Church is true(?) Does this give you pain? Do you hide it? Does your family reject you for this doubt?
    How do you end doubt? By gaining knowledge.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  16. FireTag on December 1, 2011 at 2:11 PM


    I find the characterization of a Bishop as a “judge” interesting. It’s true, of course, but in the CofChrist/RLDS tradition, there seems to be a reason we call the equivalent position to your Bishops as “Presiding Elders” or “pastors”. If things get to the point where “judging” and discipline is required, I’ve already fallen short as a pastor or presiding elder. And, while I’ll do what’s necessary, I know I’ve fallen short.

    Maybe the better analogy to understand my point is to consider a CO of a military unit. If he sees his primary role as preserving his ability to fairly conduct courts marshal, his unit is going to take a lot of casualties.

    Help doubts if you can, for as long as the doubter wants help, but better an honorable discharge early than a court marshal later, IMO. The former leaves open the possibility of help coming from another source or by following another road more congenial to the doubter’s experience. The discipline tends to pour fuel on the fire.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  17. Cowboy on December 1, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    “I think we only can “solve” this issue and stop responding bacly to “doubt” when we start celebrating uncertainty and quit talking about it as if it’s a bad thing.”

    I agree, but from the Church’s standpoint I can see why this would be a tough pill to swallow. The main selling point for Mormons is “read and pray”. We promote the idea of Prophets who receive direct revelation from God, and that each individual has the ability to also acquire their own witness. It would seem like a conflicting message if they were to also begin embracing uncertainty, as that is the whole point behind the Mormon rhetoric, ie, Mormonism closes the gaps of uncertainty. That is why it has become the socially acceptable thing to insist that “I know….”. It would a very dangerous rebranding effort in my opinion.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  18. Paul on December 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    The repeated characterization of the bishop as harsh judge is troubling to me. It just hasn’t been my experience. Even the most harsh bishop I knew refered a doubting member of my quorum to me when I was Elders Quorum President years ago. His (the bishop’s) goal was to provide comfort first, and answers, if possible. The bishop did nothing to distance the member from the flock.

    I acknowledge that my experience may not be the same as others’.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  19. Jeff Spector on December 1, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    I’ll reverse this a bit and say we are harmed more by those who cannot be or appear to be “uncertain” under any circumstances. This type of thinking is what has given rise to the “I know” culture. Very few really “know,” the rest of us substitute “Know” for “think,” “believe,” “hope,” or even “wish.” I liked that deconversation post because I think he author hits the nail on the head.

    More real thinking would allow “doubts” to be expressed instead of this “I know” robotic mode we find ourselves in.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  20. Bob on December 1, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    #17: Cowboy,
    A group that closes the gap of “uncertainty”, or “doubt” with anything but truth or wisdom, for me, is not worth saving.
    The “certainty” of Mormonism has always been met by a challenge from others. It’s now a challenge within Mormonism, and growing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  21. Ray on December 1, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    Paul, I don’t mean for my comments to sound harsh toward Bishops.

    Almost every Bishop I’ve had in my life has been a kind, caring person; I’ve served in various local leadership callings in my life that put me in close working relationships with many, many Bishops and Branch Presidents – and I’ve not worked with ANYONE that I didn’t consider to be a good person. I know there are a few Bishops who “fall” and become bad people (and I know of one Stake Presidency member who really was a . . . moral failure and jerk), but I’ve never worked with a Bishop I would consider to be a bad person.

    I have loved them almost without exception – but I don’t view their role as being primarily a doubt counselor. I see them primarily as judges – and judges can be extremely kind, forgiving, caring, compassionate people who invoke only the smallest punishment possible in all situations, but they still are judges.

    One of their duties is to proect their flocks, and that duty influences much of what they see (their perspective) much of the time. That’s all I’m saying – that they can be wonderful counselors in individual cases, but it’s not their main duty. That duty can be fulfilled primarily (ideally) by a HT or VT, a HPGL or EQ Pres or RS Pres, a friend and confidante, a sibling or parent – someone who doesn’t sit in judgment and have to worry about protecting others as they listen to someone’s doubts.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  22. Jeff Spector on December 1, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    I see a Bishops role as Judge to be one of the least in terms of the amount of time they spending “judging.” Shepherding and ministering should be much higher on the list. Even if it results in a referral to someone else such as a Quorum Leader/RSP or HT/VT.

    And any conversation on doubts, should always begin,

    “Brother or Sister X, Everyone experiences doubts from time to time even if they don’t express them. You should feel comfortable to have them and even express them without the judgment of others. I will personally intervene should anyone give you a hard time about expressing doubt in the proper setting. We are all here to learn and grow from another. No one should be made to fell bad for expressing doubt and having questions.”

    That would, to me, be an avenue to have those doubts resolved or put into the proper perspective.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  23. Andrew S on December 1, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    re 9,


    This kind of goes with my comment on depression. It’s a controversial statement, for sure, but it could have an analogy.

    re 10,


    That was the central point of the By Common Consent posts I had linked.

    But I also think Ray has a point re 12.

    re 14


    The question is…how do you develop such a guide? How do you spread it? How do you spread it in such a way that it doesn’t actually cause many more people to doubt? (e.g., in transition from a simpler faith)

    re 15:


    I may “believe” you are wrong, or you are right. I may believe there is a God, or I may believe there is not.

    False dichotomies here. The dichotomy isn’t “Believe you’re wrong” or “Believe you’re right”. Or “Believe there is a God” or “Believe there is not a God.” The dichotomies are “Believe you’re wrong” and “Not believe you’re wrong.” Secondly, “Believe you’re right” or “not believe you’re right.” “Believe there is a God” and “Not believe there is a God.” And finally, “Believe there is not a god” and “not believe there is not a god.”

    The issue is this: to believe, you have to have some compelling reason to believe. This can be subjective, yes, but you have to have some reason. Lacking reason to believe there is a god doesn’t necessarily give you reason to believe there is not. As a result, you can lack reason to believe there is or believe there is not a god. In that sense, you can be a non-believer.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  24. aerin on December 1, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    It could be a conundrum for the believer who hasn’t had doubts about a particular issue.

    Thinking more about this post. My Mom, for example, has openly expressed doubts about polygamy in the D&C for many years. As far as I know she still has a temple recommend – I don’t think anyone in leadership cares. I think someone can be a very faithful, believing member of any church and still openly have doubts about some of the more controversial doctrines.

    So, my assumption is when someone doubts a controversial doctrine (like polygamy or blacks and the priesthood) and shares those doubts, it may be treated differently than “core” beliefs (in quotes because what a core belief may be is debatable). Or whether it’s something the believer themselves has doubted or is uncertain about.

    Without question, if you (a believer) know(s) someone has really thought about something; has been researching a issue, questioning how hard they have worked, or whether or not they are living correctly or morally is probably not useful. It likely will not resolve their doubts and probably just upset them in general.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  25. Bob on December 1, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    #23: Andrew S, they are only “false dichotomies” if you drop the “I” out of my sentences as you did.
    People have a belief on EVERYTHING! They don’t need “some compelling reason”. They can even believe “I don’t know”. Don’t you believe that?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  26. MD on December 1, 2011 at 8:29 PM


    When I expressed my doubts about parts of what I experienced in the temple I was told that I need to repent.

    How is that not a bad response? I certainly didn’t imagine it.

    Since then I have kept my mouth shut and suffered greatly in silence.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  27. hawkgrrrl on December 1, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    +1000 on Jeff’s #19! To me, this is a far bigger issue than bishops who are ill-equipped to handle doubters. When our culture expects and socially rewards over-confidence in testimony bearing, it only widens the gap for those who attempt to examine their doubts and beliefs and who can’t in honesty state they “know” when they are just expressing faith.

    What can bishops say when someone comes to them with doubts? I think the best answer is something along the lines of: “You can’t have faith without doubt. I hope you will continue to come to church to add to your positive experiences with faith to balance the negative ones that sometimes foster doubts.” We want people to come to church to experience the divine, which is invisible and unprovable. What we need to avoid is contributing to the additional negative evidence the doubter has that makes it impossible to experience the good the church has.

    If you have a fight with your spouse because you want him to clean his dishes, the worst response is, “If you don’t like my dirty dishes, you can get out!” But often that response is only to an antagonistic or chronic complaint.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  28. Andrew S on December 2, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    re 25,


    Nope. That’s how psychology works. You’re basically asserting different contents of beliefs and then equating them as the answers to the questions of the content of other beliefs. What I’m doing is pointing out that the placement of the modifier matters — whether you put it on the action (believe or not believe) or the content (God exists or God does not exist).

    In other words, you simply can’t account for someone who says, “I don’t believe God exists, but I don’t believe God doesn’t exist. I don’t believe either way.” Because you think that not believing God exists means someone believes God doesn’t exist, which is incorrect.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  29. Paul on December 2, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    #21 Ray, I see your point. Thanks for that comment.

    #22 Jeff: I agree with you. I remember when serving as bishop a number of years ago I had a brother I worked with for months about his doubts. He had all but left the church; only attended for his children’s activities, and was very polite. There was nothing more that I wanted to do than help him find a way to believe, but I could not do it.

    #26 MD, I’m very sorry for your experience. It does seem like a bad response.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  30. dpc on December 2, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    @Andrew S

    For the doubter’s manual…

    I think it would have to be written by someone who themself went through an intense period of doubt, but eventually reconciled their doubts with their faith. Someone who couldn’t make that reconciliation might end up too cynical to write a helpful guide. I doubt that I will ever write one, although it might make for an interesting writing project.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  31. Andrew S. on December 4, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    re 30,


    (sorry for delay in commenting. I haven’t been checking RSS as frequently as they should.)

    I think it would be interesting to see whether people who go through periods of doubt and reconcile that doubt with faith come through to a “common ground.” In other words, my prediction would be that the newfound/reconciled faith after a period of doubt is very personal, individualistic, etc., So it might not make a good “general doubters’ guide” if really, it’s a personal conclusion that people have to make.

    And of course, there’s the matter of whether doubt is a negative thing to begin with…obviously, someone who couldn’t make that reconciliation might want to make a guide saying that such a reconciliation is not positive.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  32. whizzbang on December 4, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    I love this from the wonderful Elder Rulon S. Wells,a former member of the First Council of the Seventy (1893-1941)

    “Let me here say that at this time I was occasionally associated with people entertaining non- Mormon views, some of them being infidels and atheists, but in every discussion I found myself defending the existence of God. I may have been somewhat neglectful of my duties, although I was always more or less of a religious turn of mind, and had been reading some books that probably were not as wholesome as they might have been—Ingersoll and other infidels—and my mind had become a little bit disturbed.

    While on my way to my mission field, crossing the ocean on the Steamship Dakota, I went down into the salon of the ship one day, and lay upon one of the cushioned benches surrounding the eating tables, where I fell asleep. While asleep the Lord appeared to me in a dream and I saw Him standing before me; and by His side was William W. Taylor, one of the other missionaries, a son of President John Taylor, a boy like myself going upon his first mission. He stood by the side of the Savior, and the Savior extended His hand to me and grasping my hand, holding it tight, looked at me in the face and said: “Will you ever doubt again?” Brother Taylor, who stood beside Him said: “I believe that is enough for him.” With that, the Lord let go of my hand and I awoke.”

    April 1940 GC

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0


%d bloggers like this: