Sunday, November 23, 2008

Afflicted

Tell me:

What's the proper reaction when a close friend or family member shows or expresses doubt with Church doctrine and/or a loss or weakening of testimony?

What would you do if a friend told you they struggled with certain doctrine?
Assume they're sinning?
Tell them you can't be around them anymore?
Tell them to read their scriptures and pray?
Tell your bishop or stake president?
Send the missionaries over?
Avoid the topic altogether?
Insist the Gospel is true?

What's the best way to help someone and support them in what is undoubtedly the most frightening period of their life?

What would you do?
What should you do?

And why would you do it - what outcome would you expect from it? Does it matter?

For those who have left the Church or are in this particular situation:

What have or did you experience from others?
What helped? what hurt?
What do you wish people would have done differently?
And, if applicable, what was the straw that finally broke your back?



By the way, this isn't me asking for advice. I didn't realize it could come out that way until just now.

7 comments:

the narrator said...

From someone who has been through this, let them talk.
Just listen and love.

Unless they ask for specific help, do not try to solve it for them.

If they want something to think about, have them read William James, Soren Kierkegaard, Eugene England, and/or D.Z. Phillips. Those were all very helpful for me.

Amanda said...

My advice would be just to listen and not judge. This is something they have to work out, and oftentimes, just talking about it can help them work it out. If they ask for advice, and you think you know their situation well enough to give some, then you can say what you would do in their place, but don't push them.

As someone who once questioned my faith and eventually left, the worst things people did for me was push me and suggest all the things people normally suggest. Or worse, gave me the "tough love" sort of answer, where they would keep doing what they do regardless of how "sinful" I got. Then, when I did leave, I had people calling me and telling me that I needed to come back and that I hadn't thought my decision through and that one day I would come to realize I was wrong. That irritated me to no end. There was no way I would have gone back after those comments.

Nate and Jessica said...

My husband is a return missionary, we have been sealed in the temple, and he still goes through times where his faith waivers and he questions doctrine. I just make sure he knows that I love him and I listen to him. Every member of the church will go through a time (or many times) where they question their beliefs. I think the most important thing for someone who is struggling is for them to know that they are loved and supported. They aren't usually looking for someone to bear testimoney or to offer advice, they are usually just looking for someone to listen and to love.

When my husband struggles I usually read the scriptures more myself and read more church books just to make sure that my spiritual levels are higher so I can more attuned to the spirit so I can help him if I need to. I've just realized that he finds his way back to the church and his testimony is strengthened again when he's had time to sort things out.

This is where unconditional love is so important. Someone who is struggling can't sort through their issues properly with someone throwing negativity at them. They have to know that they are loved and supported.

Nate and Jessica said...

Sorry, it turns out I had more to say.

I think it's also important to think about the fact that there might be deeper issues as to why they may be struggling.

The reason my husband goes through these cycles has a lot to do with the things he went through growing up. His dad was a seminary/institute teacher and devoted his life to the church. He had a mental breakdown and is now Paranoid Schizophrenic (spelling?). After 30 years of being in and out of mental hospitals he tells his children the church drove him crazy. My husband has also had two sisters die tragically. One died when he was 7, the other died 5 months ago.

Those issues have a huge effect on him and that is a big reason why he goes through the cycle of doubt. I always take that into consideration when his testimony is weakened for some reason.

Laura said...

A couple years ago, I learned that an old seminary teacher, and good friend, lost his testimony. Not only did he go inactive, but he has dedicated his life to convince others why the church is wrong. It's really strange to me since this was a person who knew more church doctrine than anyone else I knew. He served a mission and even extended it because he didn't want to come back home. I often wonder what it was that made him lose faith in the gospel.

My husband and I both agree that he was kind of a fanatic when it came to church stuff. He tried to live up to ridiculously high ideals. He placed the church and members on a pedestal. So my own feeling is that once he started to realize that the church has an imperfect past and imperfect people, he decided it couldn't be true. I think that often times, we set ourselves up for dissapointment when we think that the church and its members can do no wrong.

Also, sometimes we allow ourselves to become offended by members and not the gospel itself -although many have issues with both.

I would echo the comments above by saying that listening wihouth casting judgement is probably the best thing one can do. I also think it might be good to let the person know that we all have doubts from time to time. I might then ask what things drew them to the church in the first place, or if they were born in the church - what blessings has it brought to your life? Sometimes we just need a little reminding.

Ulitimately - each of us has to get on our knees and work it out with God. I might tell a friend to pray about it, but be prepared to accept the fact that he or she may not come to the same conclusion that you or I do. And if they don't, we can't pass judgement or make that person feel guilty about it. A testimony is a very personal thing.

Chedner said...

What drove me absolutely CRAZY when my testimony was waning were the assumptions that I was trying to get rid of my testimony so I could justify a life contrary to the Church's counsels.

All I wanted was to be able to sincerely sit down with people to discuss my concerns, my thoughts, my experiences, my ideas, etc. (So I could SALVAGE my testimony.)

However, my concerns, thoughts, experiences, ideas, etc. were always taken as me trying to attack, challenge, and befuddle the Truth.

For example, I asked one of my brothers why there was such a stern stance on the necessity of literal seed when, quite likely, there are going to be more people adopted as children of Abraham than there will be his literal children.

He told me I should stop trying to justify that which is evil -- and started telling my siblings and mother how much of an apostate I was becoming.

Not helpful...

I was looking for a doctrinal explanation of the gaps I was seeing concerning the rationalization of a couple only being able to progress via literal seed. What I got was condemnation and rumors.

It only propelled me into the bitter, "I hate the Church and all its God-damned self-righteous pricks" phase (which I'm thankfully over now).

Lisa said...

What most people don't realize, either, is just how incredibly frightening doubt and losing a testimony is.

I've had a bit of the tough love, and it doesn't help. At all.

I've had a peek at how some must be treated like lepers. Yeah, that helps too.

After Chedner's comment, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if many "anti-mormons" were the result of so much misunderstanding and utter stupidity when they expressed their problems in the church.

I've had experiences to make me want to scream. Pisses me off.

It's one of the scariest things in the world to admit to yourself that you're having issues.

To admit it to others? Paralyzing.

Keep 'em coming. If you know of anyone else who has gone through this or had to experience having a loved one with a faltering testimony, please ask them to share their experiences here. It's important that people realize that not everyone who struggles is trying to struggle; that we don't always react the way we think we will; that the way we think we ought to respond isn't always the best way.

Just looking for some proof. My experiences are, at this moment, rather small. They're telling, for sure, but still small.