Faith Crises and Grace

For the discussion of spirituality -- from LDS and non-LDS sources
Tica
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Joined: 14 Jan 2018, 21:38

Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Tica » 18 Jun 2019, 21:54

My sister shared this link with me about Michael Maclean's faith crisis. Some of the things he said really resonated with me. It has felt like so long since I was sure about my own personal revelation or answers to my prayers. Going on probably 15 years or so. I am tired. I am going to have to put some thought into whether I may have received "out of the box" answers that I didn't recognize. It sure sounds like a hopeful way of living life. It also makes me wonder what kind of answers his son received... I hope he did...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckuIXECbB5E

Roy
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Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Roy » 19 Jun 2019, 09:42

Beautiful and inspiring video.

Last Sunday a high councilman talked about tithing. He said that he and his wife went through a period were they both assumed that the other was paying the tithing but neither was. This went on for several months and little things started to go wrong. Finally, they discovered their error. They decided to pay all the "back tithing" to get caught up. Only then did things in their marriage and life start humming along again. Then abut a month later the IRS contacts them saying that they owe money - lots of it. It was more money than this man could earn in several months. This family borrowed, and scrimped and saved until they were able to pay the IRS. They felt satisfaction that they were meeting all their obligations and were honest with God and man.

I was somewhat incredulous. 1) This couple does not seem to have the best handle on their finances. 2) The blessings of paying tithing did not seem to include making that IRS debt go away. 3) Had they not paid tithing they could have used that money to help pay the IRS. It seemed like terrible timing to have paid the "back tithing" right before they found out about the IRS debt. (Why is "back tithing" even a thing?)

Michael Maclean's YouTube video is similar. His son comes out as being Gay and says that all the things his parents have told him to do (Eagle Scout, Missionary) have not been helpful. Bro. Maclean wants to help and turns to prayer. He feels like there is no answer for a multiple year period - starts to doubt that God is there. At some point he makes a decision that God is there and to trust that there must be a grander design in everything that is happening. There is also some discussion about keeping your promises even if you no longer feel like it. Some time later Bro. Maclean feels inspiration/revelation in the writing of a number of songs about the life of Jesus. Bro. Maclean feels strongly that this inspiration/revelation was a personal message from God to him that confirms God's existence. Bro. Maclean looks back over the 9 year period where he felt he was alone and received no answers and he comes up with a list of 25 instances where he now feels God was blessing him and reaching out to him even if Bro. Maclean could not recognize it.

Out of respect for Bro. Maclean and what appears to be his genuine journey of testimony I will refrain from attempting to pick it apart. Suffice it to say that he has ordered his points and interpreted and prioritized them in such a way as to craft a specific narrative and meaning. We all do this! I do this! You do this! I personally feel that life is better and more fulfilling with meaning and purpose and narrative. I like Bro. Maclean. May he live out his life in the most fulfilling way possible.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Roy
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Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Roy » 19 Jun 2019, 10:10

I am curious about some additional details in the story so I went digging. I found an LDS living article with some additional details that were not included in the YouTube video. (I do not think that their omission was in any way deceptive or manipulative. Sometimes pieces of the story get included in some renditions and settings and not in others.) I was especially touched by the following account:
In the midst of his faith crisis, McLean came across a book called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, which was published years after her death. As he read about her secret 49-year faith crisis, which she confessed through a series of letters to her spiritual advisors and closest confidants, he related to her struggle.
“She asked, ‘Why has Heavenly Father abandoned me? Why can’t I hear Him or feel His spirit? And I can’t tell anybody this is happening.’ I understood. What was I going to say? ‘Hey, all of you who bought my records, just kidding! You are alone. Quit holding on—the light’s not coming.’”
Soon after reading her book, McLean had a dream about Mother Teresa that changed how he approached his crisis.
In the dream, the Catholic nun sang about her life while McLean accompanied her on the piano. He recalls, “It was her song about why she hadn’t just thrown in the towel, given up on faith, and confessed that believing and following a faith tradition was all too much, too difficult, too foolish. In my dream she sang:

I choose to pray to one who doesn’t hear me
I choose to wait for love that He conceals
And though God’s chosen now not to be near me
I’m keeping promises my heart no longer feels

“So here’s a Mormon songwriter having a dream about a dead Catholic nun who sings a song that begs the questions: Am I willing to keep the promises I’ve made to God even when I feel nothing in response to my deepest yearnings? In the most difficult trial of my faith journey, would I hold on to faith or give in to despair?”
Like Mother Teresa, McLean would ultimately choose to hold on—no matter what.
“I decided to recommit,” he says. “I’d wait on the Lord and look for answers that satisfied both my heart and mind. I’d attend church and not escape to the parking lot when I’d hear things that broke my heart or just made me feel like I was not where I truly belonged. I’d show up and shut up and listen and wait.”
He would listen and wait for nine years.
http://www.ldsliving.com/Michael-McLean ... in/s/83606
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Roy
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Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Roy » 19 Jun 2019, 11:01

Yeah it is me again...
It looks like Bro. McLean's son, Jeff, married his partner, Josh Walden, in 2010. They had met as cast members in a Broadway Musical. Good for them. May they live out their lives in the most fulfilling way possible.
https://karynmann.blogspot.com/2010/09/ ... rever.html
https://latterdaysaintmusicians.com/project/jeff-mclean
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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mom3
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Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by mom3 » 19 Jun 2019, 14:31

Just so Roy doesn't look like the only one answering. ;). I remember seeing this video in Sunday School.While I watched I remembered a decade or so earlier listening to Michael McLean speak about his depression at a Time Out for Women's Event.

It was a couple's weekend. He and his wife took the stage. She was the model supportive spouse. He talked about years of agony and emptiness. As if God forgot him. Aching, haunting songs he wrote about it. How he fasted longer, read scriptures for hours, signed up for every service project - in the hopes of being valid with God. Then one day at a routine doctor's exam - depression was suggested.

At this point in the presentation Brother McLean reached into his pocket and pulled out his prescription bottle. "This little pill" he said, waving it around."Changed my life." He went on to explain how depression isn't caused by sin or misdeed. Nor is it God punishing you. It was a great step forward in our cultures public discourse on depression. Sort of a massive sigh of relief.

As I watched the video in Sunday School class, seated next to my post Mo husband, who was visiting, we both had to shake our heads. Brother McLean has emotional struggles. I don't know what else to say. He is an artist. It is not unusual for artists to be burdened with dark, morose, dramatic feelings. They are real. Not contrived. They ebb and flow. If you study many of the great sculptors, painters, musicians - this is real. I am certain having a Gay child in this church didn't help. Michael McLean's audience is Mormon. What if they found out he had a gay son? Would he lose his Deseret Book contract? Would people stop coming to his concerts, buying his material, boycott him? Then what about the son? My guess is the McLean's live with lots of Mormon's - how would that go? Would his son be ostracized? Commit suicide?

I wouldn't be surprised that all this and more ran through his heart and mind. Panic ensued. Likely in moments. Fear took the rest. For Brother McLean, his pendulum swung back. Why or how - who knows. Yes, maybe when he was composing. Maybe the Mother Teresa book (which I have read and love). Or maybe just time.

I hear and feel your tiredness. My God and I are still working out the details of my life and communion with him since my trajectory changed. I too am on 15 years. Weary is an understatement. No one else, thus far, has had a satisfactory answer for me. Where I presently stand is a bit complicated to me. Ironically I wouldn't change it for the world. I daily focus on gratitudes. They are not God specific. Just gratitudes. Deep inside an undying faith that all this will be purposeful holds me. It's all I've got. I clutch it like my last coin.

Your God and my God must be out golfing.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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DarkJedi
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Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by DarkJedi » 19 Jun 2019, 15:17

Not to jump on the "negative" bandwagon, but....

I had previously seen this video as well, recommended by a well-meaning friend. I was unaware of Mom's perspective of his depression issues, but I remember wondering then and wondering now if what he had was really a faith crisis. I suppose if he thinks it was, it was - but it was not the same as mine despite the similar feeling that God had cut me off and it lasting for years. That was a major component of my faith crisis. The difference? It doesn't really sound like McLean ever really stopped believing. Through it all, he still believed that it was all for a purpose, it would all be OK in the end, and someday he'd understand. That's not at all how I felt or feel. I felt betrayed and unloved and more than questioned if there really was a God - I began to believe there wasn't. Fifteen years down the road, I still can't look back at any times (certainly not 25) and say "God was with me then" or "Jesus helped me then." McLean apparently really never stopped praying, I did and I still don't really pray in the sense that most Mormons would think of prayer. I do not believe that prayers are answered. I have checked out many times, but I can never leave (and the place is not all that lovely).

All of that said, I do believe in God's grace, the occasional tender mercy, and even the rare miracle. From that point of view, McLean's message is fine. Faith crisis? Probably not in the same sense most of us have experienced.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Tica
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Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Tica » 19 Jun 2019, 20:55

Roy wrote:
19 Jun 2019, 09:42
Suffice it to say that he has ordered his points and interpreted and prioritized them in such a way as to craft a specific narrative and meaning. We all do this! I do this! You do this! I personally feel that life is better and more fulfilling with meaning and purpose and narrative
I think this makes sense. I would much prefer to live a life full of hope instead of darkness (though it will always be there of course) wherever the hope comes from.

Mom, that is a really interesting point regarding the impact of mental health challenges. And, I think I need to read the Mother Teresa book :)
DarkJedi wrote:
19 Jun 2019, 15:17
I remember wondering then and wondering now if what he had was really a faith crisis. I suppose if he thinks it was, it was - but it was not the same as mine despite the similar feeling that God had cut me off and it lasting for years. That was a major component of my faith crisis. The difference? It doesn't really sound like McLean ever really stopped believing
This is more in line with my experience. I do continue to reach out to God, but my belief system has been pretty drastically altered from the typical LDS worldview. And, the infrequent times when I have felt distinct help or peace have been "answers" that wouldn't necessarily be church-approved.

I think when I watched this video that I had a moment of hope that I might have a confidant/support in my sister (we are really close). She sent me this link based on one throwaway comment I made during a shared weekend together because she is sensitive and thoughtful like that. Although we are alike in many ways, her faith is still strongly LDS bound, and it works for her. I think for spiritual musings I should seek out someone whose faith I can't crack on accident. It would just be so great to be able to be a whole person with someone.
mom3 wrote:
19 Jun 2019, 14:31
I daily focus on gratitudes. They are not God specific. Just gratitudes. Deep inside an undying faith that all this will be purposeful holds me. It's all I've got. I clutch it like my last coin.

Your God and my God must be out golfing.
Gratitude is powerful. I have been trying to focus on that as well. Tonight I paused and took a mental picture of my daughter joyfully running through the rainbow laced sprinklers in the park. That one is filling my heart for now.

Also, I hate golf :lol:

AmyJ
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Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by AmyJ » 20 Jun 2019, 05:25

I'm nearly 2 years into this I think... the largest, most surprising blessings I have received in this transition is the freedom of "And" and a tailored path...

I can choose to believe in God AND I can believe that God is not going to step in and solve my problems - that some "blessings from God" are actually lucky breaks and the results of hard work (BUT may be blessed by God - I don't pretend to know anymore).

Another stark realization for me is that the path of life is A LOT more tailored and personal then I assumed. I used to believe in the generic-one-size-fits-all path to God through the ordinances, church attendance and such, but now I don't believe in the same way at all. To me, it is much, much less about the doctrine (still finding my way on that skeptically) and more about ministering to others.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Curt Sunshine » 20 Jun 2019, 09:08

What is relatively easy for one person can be a crisis for someone else. I caution against dismissing someone else's experience as not being a "real" crisis, especially since everyone here would object to that being done to them.

It absolutely is possible to go through a crisis and emerge with something that resembles the previous situation. It also is possible to emerge with something that is radically different. Most people here are here specifically because their new paradigm is different enough that they struggle(d) to reconcile that new paradigm with the organization that facilitated or shaped the previous paradigm. Many other people find a new paradigm and don't struggle as mightily with the organization.

I accept and honor Bro. McLean's journey through a faith crisis. His experience is not the same as mine, but mine isn't the same as anyone else here, either. It is mine - and I wouldn't even characterize mine as a crisis. I would call mine an extended, continual transformation. Each has been difficult in different ways, but each was and is "real". I am fine if others see mine as a faith crisis. I don't care deeply about the terminology someone uses; I care about supporting through and in their own experiences.

Therefore, I support Bro. McLean's view of his experience. I have to support it, since I want others to support mine.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Arrakeen
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Re: Faith Crises and Grace

Post by Arrakeen » 20 Jun 2019, 10:40

I think he had a very real faith crisis, but his experience was very different from mine. My only problem with the video was how some people who knew I was going through a faith crisis tried to apply it to me, assuming that what worked for him should work for me too.

I appreciate the church trying to talk about issues like faith crises, but I wish they would include more stories where things didn't just work out in the end. I understand that they want faith-promoting, inspirational stories, but sometimes I just want validation of what I've been going through, without an assumption of where I should end up. I wish we could be comfortable with stories that have no clear resolution, where the answers never come and we end up trying to figure things out on our own.

I'm happy that Bro. McLean found answers that worked for him, but that was his personal journey. I'm just afraid using the video might reinforce an idea that as long as someone with a faith crisis keeps praying and continues in faith, they'll eventually return to full belief in the church. And that just isn't the case for everyone.

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