For several years I have felt a desire to write down a detailed explanation of my crisis of faith story to share with others who similarly struggle. In 2007 I even started a FAIR wiki page on the subject Crisis of Faith Reconciliation. A few people who know me well have asked me to share my experience publicly, but it's frightening to put myself out there with the end result being that culturally fundamental Mormons will now see me as different from them in a significant way. When I say fundamental, I don't mean people of the FLDS church, but Latter-day Saints that are caught up in what I see as an overly fundamental culture. Most of the members that I know are culturally fundamental. I had additional hesitation in doing this because everything I want to say has already been stated elsewhere. For a while I gave in more to my fears than my desire to share. Recently, I had some experiences where I saw several others in this same situation and I realized that I have to get my story out. Not for myself alone, but for the many other people that are having the same struggles as I am. These struggles bring severe, constant and unnecessary heartache. Pain you can't really understand without going through it yourself or with a loved one.
Because of that heartache I don't like to think about this overall issue more than I have to. Life is much easier when I don't, when the metaphorical elephant is in the room, but I can keep it out of the conversation. Unfortunately, this elephant is potentially the most important elephant in my entire existence. Because the Mormon lifestyle is so all-encompassing, I bump into this elephant in almost everything I do. Because this elephant has such eternal importance, talking about it will quickly bring up strong emotions in those with whom I engage, often making the discussion painful for all and ultimately unfruitful. Hopefully by sharing my story this ubiquitous elephant will not only hurt me less, but also others whom I care about that are similarly suffering.
What is this damage-causing elephant and how did it come to be? I’ll explain it in more detail later, but basically this elephant is the result of a traditional Mormon going through an existential crisis of faith. I purposefully combine existential with faith into one term because for most Mormons, when you go through a crisis of faith, you lose faith in everything! Modern Mormonism sets us up for this, because it too often involves an “all or nothing” view of people, groups, institutions and ideas. Culturally, people tend to assume the prophets and apostles are like spiritual fax machines, getting their directions word for word directly from the divine, despite their statements to the contrary. It's either all good or all bad. The Mormon belief system creates a logical understanding of existence which sets up a situation where if this church isn’t true (which logically is the most likely to be true), then what church could be? Further progression down that logical path leads to the thought that maybe God isn’t real either. Suddenly, that reassuring confidence that you had the ultimate truth collapses and you are left alone, cold and philosophically naked. Just being in that soul searching place is scary, but the shock of suddenly being dropped there from a place of such confidence can be soul-racking because of the stark contrast.
If you are going through this crisis of faith yourself it is important to understand few things. First off, you are not alone. Having opened up about this over the past couple of years has made several other people feel comfortable discussing their similar doubts with me. Second, you are not less worthy or faithful because you haven’t had a spiritual confirmation strong enough to make you feel comfortable saying, “I KNOW this church is true.” Our own scripture even confirms this, “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God...To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (I'll refer to this second group as D&C 46'ers). In other words, the Savior is telling us that some WON'T initially (if ever) be given an experience that will make them KNOW. Don’t let others make you feel guilty for being a D&C 46'er, even though you have probably been trying very hard your entire life to have an experience that would allow you to say “I know!” Like most things in life, this is not a binary problem, but a continuum. Furthermore, having a metaphysical experience that allows you to say you KNOW God exists, doesn't mean you know every teaching to be true or God's will.