Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Faith Crisis Stories

Have you all seen this?

It's a project where some researchers are studying the Mormon faith crisis phenomenon. Very, very interesting.
They said this: "While we encourage you to express yourself in whatever manner you see fit, please consider addressing: 1) The type of faith you had prior to your loss-of-faith (e.g., fully active, semi-active, non-active). 2) The reason or reasons for your loss-of-faith. 3) How you felt and what you experienced as a result of your loss-of-faith. 4) How others (family, friends, ecclesiastical leaders) have responded to your faith crisis. 5) How you would describe your current belief/relationship with the LDS Church. 6) What might have prevented your faith crisis in the first place, and 7) what, if anything, might help rebuild your faith? "
So here's my submission (before editing! 700 words is really not a lot of words when you're trying to answer all of those questions about such a complex experience and its attendant emotions.) I am not including here the part about the type of faith I had prior to my faith crisis, or the reasons for my loss of faith, as I have covered that in My Story.
Losing my faith was traumatic. For a fully active Mormon, especially a lifelong one, the gospel and its programs provide a certain structural framework that you don’t really recognize until it just kind of vanishes into thin air.  When that happened, I didn’t have any beliefs about anything, really. I had to rebuild my worldview from scratch. It was overwhelming.

On top of the faith/belief/worldview thing, it was socially very confusing. My sister-in-law happens to be my best friend from childhood. We shared a lot of “spiritual experiences” as teenagers. The gospel certainly wasn’t the bulk of our relationship, but it was a big part. And even though we obviously remained close, a part of our closeness was missing. I felt that, and so did she.

Once I realized that I wasn’t going back to church and that my beliefs had changed, I felt like I should explain myself to my mom. I felt like she deserved to know the details of my feelings.  I wrote a three-page letter.

She never acknowledged it.

I remember my mother-in-law sending us an email once where she said that she had had an “impression” that if we weren’t worthy to raise our little son in the Millennium, then she and my father-in-law would have that opportunity. My husband was pretty angry. I actually wasn’t. I knew that it was her last, desperate attempt to get us to “come back”. I knew she was devastated. We didn’t say anything to her about it, but she did apologize later.

My current relationship with the church is that I’m an openly agnostic Mormon. I was inactive for six years, but I missed the community of the church and the “program” of the gospel. I decided to find a way to make it work for me. I couldn’t “fake it”, I couldn’t just force myself to believe again, so I discovered my “hope testimony”.  For the last year, I’ve been trying to be active. I would say I’m semi-active. (My husband isn’t interested in involvement with the church, and it’s HARD doing it by myself with three little kids!) I get to church at least half the time, I read the scriptures with my kids, I pray with them, we listen to hymns and primary songs. We are trying to implement family home evening (a practice my husband actually loves).

What would have prevented my faith crisis? Mormon culture is very rigid. My hope testimony is all about avoiding absolutist thinking. It’s about flexibility and pragmatism— I do this because it makes me happier, it strengthens my family, and it enriches my life, not because I KNOW it’s true. I guess I would say that my faith crisis may have been averted if I had grown up with less rigidity and more room for doubt. As I’ve “come out” as an agnostic in my ward and on my blog, I’ve been floored by the response from people who have felt this way for years. I wish the church were a place where people could openly acknowledge their doubts and find support from others who can’t say they know. The social pressure to “know” is just too strong. And when people admit to themselves that they DON’T know, that’s when the faith crisis happens, because the gospel flow chart ends there.  There’s nowhere to go but out.

I don’t really expect to rebuild my faith. I’m satisfied with where I am.
Have you submitted your story yet?

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