This post is about what it means to have a faith crisis. As a missionary people we are accustomed to asking others to consider our message and potentially convert from their old beliefs and become Mormons. But that process looks very different from the other side. As a person who was born into a faithful LDS family, I never expected to know firsthand the struggle of conversion. Sure, I hoped to be converted spiritually from the natural man, and gain my own testimony, and I did, but that process, as important as it is, does not come with the serious social and family upheaval that converts face. Many of us have lost friends and family over our conversion. It can be difficult to explain, and much more difficult to experience. It wasn’t easy for me. (My story is here.)
This article is here to encourage all those who are facing the difficult challenge of considering accepting new truths, even when there are consequences. At such times we are faced with a dilemma: faith is growing in us, yet fear threatens to destroy that faith before it grows strong enough to cast out our fears. We are just beginning to taste the joy of faith, yet we can still hear those in the great and spacious building mocking us. So there begins a war within us between doubt and faith. And the keys is this: we must act with courage in spite of our fears for faith to win in this struggle. Otherwise doubt will prevail in time, for where doubt is, there faith has no power. Faith however is strengthened when we act on the principles. For this reason I challenge you to take the next step in your faith journey. Faith is found in taking the leap of faith, and gaining the knowledge that God really is there to catch you. You’ll never know unless you leap.
I call this “going off the deep end.” When you embrace new truths, those who are afraid or unwilling to do so will say “oh, she sure went off the deep end!” and they don’t mean it as a compliment. But if we recognize the difficulty we experience in embracing these truths ourselves we can easily recognize this as a fear of the unknown. I understand their fear, and their assumption that I’ve “gone off the deep end.” But they haven’t taken the leap of faith themselves, and as such they cannot know what it is like over on this side of the deep end. But don’t be afraid, it is alright over here, it is worth it!
Here is a little insight from a couple of people who “went off the deep end” and then attempted to explain to their friends and family. (Names are not included, or faces, but the first of these authors is in the featured photo at the top of the article.)
“Our family hears from time to time, how people that have known us for a long time are “sad” for us, because our lives and faith have shifted. My favorite phrase is that I, in particular, have “gone off the deep end.” I want to talk about “happiness” for a minute, and then I want to talk about life in the deep end.
“In the Mormon community, being “sad” for someone is as close to a direct way for us to show disapproval for choices without appearing to have an aggressive judgement. I’m not really interested in convincing people that they are wrong, or that they shouldn’t be sad, or that my life is super great and I’m extra, super happy all the time. I know this mindset. I’ve been “sad” for others before, and I know the deck is already stacked. That the rubric used to measure happiness is a prescribed one, designed to condemn those living outside the box. That doesn’t interest me. So I’m not going to speak to it. You can be sad for us, that’s completely fine for you given your context for understanding.
“When my Mormon friends have challenges in life, it’s a trial. When it happens to those whose faith has shifted, it’s a punishment. Trial or punishment, life isn’t going to stop throwing stuff at us. So when things don’t go well for me, it’s useless trying to defend that thinking. And likewise, when things are going great for folks like me, it isn’t a blessing. It’s me being selfish and someday I’ll learn. This is what I mean with the deck being stacked. You can’t win here. I gave up several years ago trying to justify my choices to people who aren’t equipped to understand the context in why I make them. I’m not interested in selling my happiness to people who need to not hear me.
“I do want to talk about the deep end though. I absolutely, 100% adore the deep end. Being in the deep end isn’t a pejorative to me. If it’s meant to insult or correct my behavior, we’re going to have to find a better phrase. The deep end is truly spectacular.
“What does the deep end look like?
“For me, the waters are certainly more complicated. My life has complex relationships with so very many diverse and unique people. Let’s call that depth. And sometimes depth requires extra muscle to wade through all the tensions that having friends with competing ideas and interests bring.
“You could argue that for over the first half of my life, I spent the time on a singular shore, in shallow water. My feet felt grounded in sand, and I looked out at the big wide waves and ocean but it was a mystery to me.
“When you jump off the deep end, it can be terrifying because it is bottomless. It turns out it gives room to hold my well of curiosity, which is also bottomless. There is always more to learn and more to understand. This perhaps, is the thing that has brought me the most acute joy being in the deep end.
“Being in the deep end, you realize that below the surface is so much life. Life you never knew had existed before. New discoveries, hundreds and thousands of new ideas, and new ways to navigate the water.
“The deep end is expansive, which means there is so much room to grow and so much room to make big, fat, wide-open mistakes. And just when you feel like you might be drowning, that you can’t wade anymore or find footing, you realize the deep end is a bit crowded with others who have great strength for wading in complexity and they can hold you and bring you to a safer shore, an island you didn’t know existed.
“As you can see- it’s not about landing on shores. This isn’t a critique of those on the shore . It’s a critique for those that think being in the water is “sad.” Swimming let’s you find new shores again and again.
“Of course I’ve gone off the deep end. I’m a swimmer. Rather than try and peddle my happiness to you, I’m just going to tell you watch for me in the water. I’m not “sad” for those on the shore. I’m too busy swimming. The shore never was for me to begin with.
Come on in, the water’s fine.”
Another person, who left the mainstream and converted to Chirst’s Church wrote this to his family:
“When others look at me and my faith it is the differences that loom large. This is just human nature, how else are we supposed to distinguish except by recognizing the most noticeable features? And what is most noticeable is usually what is most different. So When an LDS person from another LDS sect, especially those from the largest of these, the mainstream church, wants to know more about my faith, they always seem to want to talk about polygamy. This seems so tangential and strange to me, because I’m not plurally married, nor is polygamy the central tenet of my faith. But it is the social issue that divided our culture and fractured our society. It is part of the restoration in the latter days, and I’m willing to discuss it, but I feel like when we do I’m missing out on sharing with you the things that really matter to me, and really impact my life.
“Instead let’s start by rejoicing in our common testimony of the restored Gospel, with all its powerful and enlightening ideas. Let’s talk about Christ, and the joy we feel in receiving a remission of our sins, Let’s express gratitude for the book of Mormon, for the temples, and for eternal families, even if yours don’t look exactly like mine.
“To my LDS friends and family in the mainstream church all they can see are the differences. They are forgetting that as a fellow latter day saint, and someone who still has a firm and growing testimony of the restoration, that I still believe everything they believe. The only “difference” I see is that I also believe more. I have only taken off the training wheels that keep most of us away from the complex and deep issues, and embraced the whole of the restoration instead of a redacted version. We still have almost everything in common, and I support you in your beliefs. I know it seems scary for me to be out here in the regions of the restoration that you may think are strange, or where there are hard to understand mysteries of the gospel, and I’m not saying you have to join me out here. But please understand that my beliefs are now too big to fit back into the small box accepted by the mainstream as fitting inside the correlated curriculum.”
It can be hard trying to explain to friends and family who are still in the mainstream that it is alright out here “over the deep end”, and how by courageously acting on principle fear has been replaced by faith. Many will never understand, and many may mock your faith. Don’t judge them for this, instead try to understand the fear that motivates them. If I had not acted on my small spark of faith when it seemed very scary, I would never have gained my testimony. Until you make the leap it is very scary. It isn’t easy, but it is always worth it.
the Lectures on Faith teach us that:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.” (LoF 6:7)
There is no reason for a true Saint to have fear. There is a strength within each of us. We do not stand alone because God is with us. He has also promised to fight our battles. Paul the Apostle, writing to young Timothy said, “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power.” God is the strength within us.
The weaknesses of fear and doubt destroy faith because fear and faith cannot exist together. Men of faith must learn to place everything upon the altar of God–nothing should have more value than the love of God. When we are willing to serve Him “at all hazards”, it is then that we perfect our faith in Him. And only then will He manifest Himself to us.
Paul’s advice to Timothy was, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (II Tim. 2:12) Paul wrote these words from a prison in Rome, knowing that it would probably be the last letter he would ever write. He then added, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (II Tim. 4:6-7) God desires that kind of spirit in men because “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Heb. 11:6)
It is a truth that men do not necessarily believe what is written in their creeds–but rather in the things they are willing to die for. In our own dispensation God said to His people: “Be firm in keeping the commandments wherewith I have commanded you; and if you do this, behold I grant unto you eternal life, even if you should be slain. (D&C 5:22)
This kind of faith doesn’t just happen to us, it is something that only comes to those who put forth the courageous effort to act in faith.
This blog has included several articles about the struggles and transitions many have made as they have embraced the fullness of the Gospel, and their struggles as they attempt to learn to obey all of God’s commandments in Christ’s Church. the one thing they all have had in common is that by acting in faith, and leaving the security of their former more limited beliefs they have found greater faith.
Faith was once described to me by a Sunday school teacher with this simple parable:
Faith is like a jug of milk. before you can get one, you have to know there is such a thing and want it, then you have to go into a store, and perhaps you’ll say to the clerk: “where is the milk” and she will tell you: “If you go to the back of the store on the right side, you’ll see a cooler, the milk is in there.” then you have to test that out: you have to pick yourself up, walk back there, open the cooler, and see for yourself. Once you do that you will see the milk, and can grab a jug. Then your faith is stronger. You don’t just believe the clerk, you know it for yourself, and you can taste its sweetness and receive its nourishment.
Every challenge of the gospel, every trial and crisis of faith, works in exactly the same way. If you have the desire to serve God, and will trust the voice of the missionaries who tell you where to find more truth, just like the clerk directing you to the milk, then you must act, and only then you will know for yourself. It is just like Lehi’s dream. The promise is there that if you will hold fast to the word of God that it will lead you to something wonderful. Just don’t listen to those who mock and pressure you to let go! Otherwise you will lose the sweet nourishment of the tree of Life.
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;Lead thou me on!The night is dark, and I am far from home;Lead thou me on!Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene–one step enough for me.
So long thy pow’r hath blest me, sure it stillWill lead me onO’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, tillThe night is gone.And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!-John Henry Newman, 1801-1890