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Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 06 Aug 2019, 15:49
by hawkgrrrl
I just finished reading this great review of David Ostler's new book Bridges about faith crisis. He did a survey of hundreds of faith-crisis having young adults and also of leaders due to a calling he held. His book is insightful, and the data very interesting. For one thing, the leaders he surveyed felt that hosting meetings to address faith crisis was very important (98-99%), but less than 1% of those who experienced faith crisis agreed that leaders were qualified to host such a discussion. I have to agree that they are not only unqualified, but uniquely bad at it in many cases, actively causing harm or making threats (social, not physical!) that make them an unsafe resource. ... crisis-yet

Anyway, the book concludes with 3 areas that make a difference in whether people stay or not:
- Trust. People who stay still trust that leaders are good-hearted or have good intentions, even if they make mistakes.
- Belonging. People who stay feel accepted on some level by their local congregation despite not fitting the mold.
- Meaning. People who stay still find meaning, even if it is different than before, in church attendance and/or scripture study.

That list looks very astute to me, and I will just add that inability to establish these 3 pillars (or radical changes in them) can make continued participation in the church really difficult. For example, in my case:
- Trust isn't that hard in that I assume people (even if they are foolish or their counsel unwise) want to do the right thing, BUT there is a fine line there between wanting to be moral and good and actually doing the due diligence associated with the responsibility one has received as a leader. The PoX was a huge blow for me, IMO a complete breach of trust. Likewise, the persistence of sexism in things the leaders say, even just revealing their blind spots that show me very clearly that women are second class, can be really difficult to want to weather. Many of our policies feel lazy, lacking in empathy or downright reckless.
- Belonging is a smaller factor for me, because in general I don't mind being an outsider and don't care too much what people think of me. But when our ward boundaries changed a couple years ago (we've lived in the same house for 13 years and were sucked into an established ward) I quickly realized that I was not only an outsider, but had no friends at church to keep me interested and felt I had little in common with others, far less than our prior ward. That's been a tough change. We've made some friends, but not as close as when our kids were younger and ward friendships were important as parents.
- Meaning is a tough one because my whole life I've felt that there are greater sources of wisdom than scripture or General Conference talks, and that's only become more true the older I get and the more widely read. But I do believe there is value in reading scripture and in studying church talks with others, discussing the meaning we find in our lives.

I see diminishing returns on all three over time, but I do agree that these are the three that have to exist to "Stay LDS."

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 06 Aug 2019, 19:34
by LookingHard
I am really looking forward to this book. It rings true what the recap says.

Trust top leaders - 99% shot for me. Local - some good, some not so good.

Belonging - I fit the mold and generally get along well and have tons of friends at church. This and my wife being "in" is the only reason I attend at all. But one thing that I don't feel that is mentioned in the blog is that members accept me in my path. It feels that overall they accept me because I am orthoprax and they assume I am orthodox. If I were to show I view things differently I doubt most would be comfortable with me.

Meaning - It used to give SOME meaning, but to me most meetings were too long and too thin on taking about God and love. Since my faith transition, this is just about shot also.

The blog link is worth the read.

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 07 Aug 2019, 12:54
by AmyJ
Trust - I trust the leadership to be human and make mistakes. I guess that I trust they will screw up some things, but that they still have good things to share as food for thought. I trust that I can put up appropriate boundaries and have/gain the understanding of the best course to take.

Belonging - I have an amazing branch family who look out for us. They are a major reason I stay as much as I do. I know and accept that I am always an outsider - that is the only way to see other outsiders to reach out to. I believe that I have an obligation to find common ground and do my part to be a good community member and friend. Yes, they would probably dump me if they realized that I don't consider myself a Christian even though I show up at church regularly and so forth. I feel the choice is mine to determine whether I would leave because I got pushed out, or because I chose to move on - and I don't let them make that choice for me.

Meaning - Still working on this one.

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 08 Aug 2019, 05:47
by LookingHard
In reading AmyJ's response, I feel compelled to clarify my "trust" comment. I do not feel that the top church leaders are evil and I hate them. I actually have some sympathy for them as there are some serious issues for the church and if I was fully a believer and in their shoes, I would be torn on what to do.

But when I say I have lost trust it comes in two forms. I have lost trust that they get any better direction from God than I do and most people. They are just men trying to do their best, but they have baggage just as I am sure I do also. But I also don't trust them to be 100% honest by the church's own definition when it gets to things like sex/child abuse and also history. If it is really going to give the church a black eye (that they might be able to heal from over time), they do whatever not to admit. I think it is their MO and for over a century it generally worked well - until the Internet.

But back on the book. There have been 2 podcasts on this that I have heard. One is on Mormonland from SLTrib and the other is A thoughtful faith ... id-ostler/ The author seems like a smart loving gut without much of an ego.

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 08 Aug 2019, 10:49
by DarkJedi
I did hear the SL Trib podcast referenced by LH.

I posted this on another thread:
I just finished my first read through of The Next Mormons, How Millennials are Changing the LDS Church by Jana Riess. One of the things addressed in the survey and book is trust of church leadership. I think most of us here know what that means because a good chunk of us have experienced times when we believe church leaders and members were not completely honest with us, leading to a feeling of betrayal and often being a component of individual faith crisis. Such feelings were part of my own FC. The overall number three reason for leaving the church was "I do not trust the Church leadership to tell the truth surrounding controversial or historical issues" (see table page 224). But for Millennials, trust was tied for first (along with feeling judged or misunderstood) among reasons they left (see table page 225).

The top 2 reasons for leaving were "couldn't reconcile personal values and priorities with those of the church" and "stopped believing there was one true church." For baby boomers and the silent generation (basically those born through 1964) the top three were in that order as well as being overall first through third.
I think this fits with what Ostler seems to be saying. I have added Bridges to my reading list.

For myself:
Trust: I do believe leaders (at least the current Q15) are not maliciously trying to hide or whitewash stuff and have good intentions. I also believe they are human and fallible and therefore make mistakes. I dislike that they don't necessarily admit mistakes. I wouldn't say I trust all of them and prefer to draw my own conclusions on any given topic and reserve the right to disagree with them.
Belonging: I am somewhere on that scale. I do feel accepted in my ward and stake, but I also sometimes feel marginalized or mistrusted although not usually by local leaders. I don't feel as if I am an outsider, although I do sometimes play the role in my own head because it helps me observe and sometimes makes me chuckle (even out loud). That said, I also don't feel a huge need to belong. I could just as well slip in to the local Methodist or Catholic church (or another ward), do my thing, and leave while trying not to be noticed. My faith is my own, I don't need "fellowship" to practice it.
Meaning: I find some meaning in the sacrament, but I also find that meaning in the practices/rites/rituals of other churches. I quite like the way the Catholics do communion because the focus is clearly on the Savior and His atonement. I am quite comfortable in Latter-day Saint services because I have been to way more than any other church's. Beyond the sacrament I find little meaning and can take it or leave it.

In my area the old "every member needs three things" has been cropping up quite a bit lately. I disagree that every member needs those things and I have a couple times now gently put that idea forward. I have friends but I don't necessarily need someone to be my friend at church as noted above. I certainly can get by without a calling (which usually just gives me stuff to do that I wouldn't otherwise do and don't necessarily want to do) and I get way more nourishment on the good word of God on my own outside church than I do at church (and isn't that at least some of the point of "home centered" church?). These things probably do mesh at least somewhat with Ostler's findings though (for example meaning for some can be found in callings).

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 14 Aug 2019, 12:23
by hawkgrrrl
I liked the idea of the 3 pillars to remaining active in the church so much that I devised a poll for readers. I'm a little surprised by some of the results. ... s-bridges/

Hop over and take the poll and see what you think.

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 16 Aug 2019, 07:57
by Holy Cow
hawkgrrrl wrote:
14 Aug 2019, 12:23
I liked the idea of the 3 pillars to remaining active in the church so much that I devised a poll for readers. I'm a little surprised by some of the results. ... s-bridges/

Hop over and take the poll and see what you think.
These poll results are very interesting! I've never really spent time on Wheat & Tares. What is the general vibe? How would you describe the general audience on that site? Is it mostly TBM? Mostly folks who have gone through some type of FC, like here? Lots of ex-Mo folks? I think knowing a little more about the audience would give the poll results a little more context.

Re: Ostler's Bridges: A great review

Posted: 27 Aug 2019, 11:43
by hawkgrrrl
Holy Cow: It's definitely a mix of TBM and middle wayers, perhaps similar to BCC but less academic. We don't moderate as heavily, so you get some cranks. The majority are probably progressive. Among the bloggers, the majority are active in the church, but not TBM. A few are really into the Mormon History stuff, and others are more into the middle way discussions. Dave B and I are more the latter. Mary Ann and Mormon Heretic are more MHA nerds.