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Crumbling testimony

Posted: 29 Dec 2015, 14:26
by Always Thinking
I only yesterday realized that my testimony of the church is crumbling. I still have faith in the Gospel itself, but the church itself is becoming difficult for me to keep faith in. I'm seeing so many issues with the set up of the church that it bothers me.
One of the main things that made me have a hard time with my testimony of the church is how missions are set up. My husband was abused verbally and emotionally on his mission. He was telling me more details of how isolated he felt. He wasn't able to talk to anyone. He couldn't call his family when he needed help (which I don't understand why that is a policy), he tried to tell his mission president about his horrible companion and the mission president basically told the guy that he had a problem with him so the guy made things worse on my husband. He tried emailing his family but they thought that they were supposed to share it with their friends too and so word got out that way and his companion was mean even more. He also had a horrible trainer. Maybe i'm biased because my husband has one of the worst missions I've ever heard of. When I was growing up, I was a goody-two-shoes Mormon or a molly Mormon. But the older I get the more I actually want to explore difficult topics and it's hard to get past some dark truths in the church. Like how awful people can be called to positions of power in the church, how young men are expected to go on missions even if they don't have a testimony and if they come home early, people think something was wrong with them, or they DID something wrong. I know I was one of those people back then. But now I know how judgmental people can be. We still think missions are good in general because we know a lot of people have mostly good missions. I just worry about our son (who is 3) and what if he decides a mission isn't for him? A lot of women won't be interested in him who are LDS. Really, there's starting to be a lot of things that bother me about the church lately, that was just one I was thinking about yesterday. Idk, i'm kind of rambling but idk who else to talk to about this because i'm not full on against the church or anything, but I also struggle with some of the things. I'll probably make more posts eventually so this one won't get way longer than it is. I'm hoping some of you can relate with me.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 29 Dec 2015, 17:01
by FaithfulSkeptic
I can relate! The thing that gives me most hope right now is that there are more options for young people who desire to serve, but just aren't cut out for a proselyting mission (Young Church Service Missionaries). If I would have had this option 20+ years ago, I would have taken it.

I think about the church so much differently now. I know that we have leaders, many of whom are great people, but even great people have flaws (sometimes surprisingly big ones) that can damage our faith and testimonies. For example, I have a very different picture of Joseph Smith now in my mind, and I think he was both brilliant and deeply flawed.

One piece of advice I got from several people here when I first posted was to take it slow and focus on what you do believe. I think this is hard to do in the state you are in, but it is great advice.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 29 Dec 2015, 17:06
by Always Thinking
That's a good idea! One of my biggest things I believe in is prayer. I will definitely pray about it all when I get the chance. I'll have to find a time where it's quiet in the house though which is hard with a toddler :) but I will try to as soon as it's possible. It's hard not having people to talk to too. I can talk to my husband of course, but my family has no clue that my testimony is crumbling so idk how to tell them without them worrying about my soul, you know? But I will definitely try and take it slow. I am glad I found this forum because it seems like a good balance of positivity and negativity of the church, which is hard to find elsewhere

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Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 29 Dec 2015, 18:05
by Curt Sunshine
I had a very good experience on my mission, but there absolutely is an element of leadership roulette involved. Some Mission Presidents are wonderful, some are awful, and most are somewhere between those extremes.

Being able to separate the Church and the Gospel, and being able to acknowledge the good and the bad, can help tremendously in sorting out things and defining one's own perspective and testimony. It can be a struggle understanding and accepting the truth of there being opposition in ALL things, but it also is a liberating process that leads to peace - whatever form that peace takes.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 29 Dec 2015, 19:54
by DarkJedi
I agree that mission rules are too strict, archaic, and somewhat cultish. I served a mission many years ago and had a so-so experience. My president was in between on Ray's scale, but did not care about us missionaries as individuals and there were missionaries that had experiences with him and companions like your husband. I did have companions I didn't like much but they were not overtly abusive. I am sorry for your husband's experience. I have a son who recently returned from a mission and had a really great president and another who is currently serving. I don't know enough about his president yet.

Your son has 16 years to go. Don't worry about a mission now, enjoy him for what he is now. Those 16 years will go far too quickly.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 30 Dec 2015, 08:54
by Rob4Hope
Bugger wrote:...how young men are expected to go on missions even if they don't have a testimony and if they come home early, people think something was wrong with them, or they DID something wrong. I know I was one of those people back then. But now I know how judgmental people can be. We still think missions are good in general because we know a lot of people have mostly good missions. I just worry about our son (who is 3) and what if he decides a mission isn't for him? A lot of women won't be interested in him who are LDS. Really, there's starting to be a lot of things that bother me about the church lately, that was just one I was thinking about yesterday. Idk, i'm kind of rambling but idk who else to talk to about this because i'm not full on against the church or anything, but I also struggle with some of the things. I'll probably make more posts eventually so this one won't get way longer than it is. I'm hoping some of you can relate with me.
I didn't enjoy my mission, but I am glad I went. I believe I went where I did because I played a good game of ping-pong (no kidding!). Met a man who was a jerk, found out he played ping-pong, and wanted more than anything to cram the ball down his throat! Well,...he was a cheeky b*stard, and so I called him on....and he ended up having a pretty good game as well. We smacked that ball back and forth for a fair amount of time,...just working to destroy each other,..and while we did, we talked. We also spared in the talk arena,..and he eventually got baptised. How weird is that....ping pong, or all things.

Anyway, I had a son come home early of his own choice. He said to me: "Dad, they say we are trustworthy, but they don't allow us to make any decisions that require trust." He couldn't stand the idea of being completely controlled--every activity was prescribed from the moment he woke up to when he went to bed. He was told he was going to go inactive, leave the church, was disappointing God,..and every other control/guilt trip there is. When he got home, he was carefully kept away from ALL other young people who hadn't gone on missions. In fact, he was wisked off to a singles ward FAR away from his home ward, so as not to be associated with others. The SP said this was for him, but it was to prevent him from sharing his less than stellar experience with others, and thus potentially dissuading them from going.

I love my son's attitude: he could care less what others think. He made his own choice,...and I support and love him. He is doing just fine: is 21 now, has his own home, is married, and makes more money as a VERY gifted programmer than most of the state. What can I say...he did what was best for himself.

I also do NOT appreciate the emphasis on "best 2 years". I felt, when I came home, if that was the best 2 years of my life, kill me now--no kidding.

Once when I was inside a mental health counselors office (for an unrelated concern), I asked her about missionaries,..and she said there are MANY!....who did not enjoy their missions, and she works hard to help them pull their life back together. it is one of the "hidden secrets" the LDS faith in SLC tries to curtail--missions are not the "best 2 years" for a large number of people.

I think it is a disservice to build up young people with these ideas, only to have them feel cheated, and worse--broken, because it wasn't what they expected. It is a choice to serve a mission. Using anything outside of gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned to encourage a mission is wrong. Guilt to persuade is an evil method.

There are a lot of LDS women emerging, at least in SLC, who are not swayed by the idealistic romance of only dating a RM. I know several who don't feel that missions are the only way for a YM to mature and grow, and who also have faith crisis moments themselves. So, I wouldn't worry too much about the idea of your children being shunned because of not serving a mission. At least in SLC, I can tell you the culture is changing, from the inside no doubt. There are pockets of orthodoxy that are profound--like down at BYU--but outside of those places there are shifts and changes happening.

It makes me feel good to know that slowly a cultural shift is emerging--missions are becoming something people serve because they choose to, not because they are "going to hell" if they don't go (which was something used when I was called to serve some 30 years ago).

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 30 Dec 2015, 12:43
by Curt Sunshine
Your son has 16 years to go. Don't worry about a mission now, enjoy him for what he is now. Those 16 years will go far too quickly.


Amen. :thumbup:

Sufficient unto tomorrow are the decisions thereof.

You also will be different in 16 years, hopefully.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 30 Dec 2015, 13:31
by West
Shh, don't tell anyone I'm on here. You know, mission rules and all. ;)

A little more than halfway through my mission now, and I thought I'd drop by. Lo and behold, a mission topic! Basically, I lucked out big time. My current mission president is amazing. But he came right after a mission president who pushed numbers like no other and even went so far as to bribe the missionaries to get an insane amount of baptisms by promising a "free day" if the number was reached. Lots of really depressing baptism horror stories from that, the type my companions tell in low voices with shaken heads. We're still dealing with the aftereffects of that era. Seriously appalling. So yeah it's luck of the draw with mission presidents.

On another note, I have now watched a lot of my dear missionaries go home for everything from mental health to knee problems (two top reasons they go home early). I lived in the same house as one sister who had daily panic attacks for several changes until it got to be too much for her. Talked for hours on end with elders in extreme distress and just wanted/needed someone to talk to, who told me that they wished they hadn't come, that they knew they shouldn't have come, but they didn't want to disappoint their brother or father or be left behind when all their friends had already gone. And I've had the calls right before they board their planes to go home, sick and depleted, to thank me and wish me the best with not a word of complaint for their lot. I have been blessed with such a unique perspective of the mission. I get to see so many different sides of my missionaries, who are close enough to my age that they're like my younger siblings, my friends. And when one has to go home early, I want to go home with them to stand up in their wards and stakes and tell people that don't they dare judge them for coming home before their 18 or 24 months, because the numbers don't matter, only the effort. And wow, how some of them have put in their full efforts.

My mission has not been the best 8 months (so far) of my life. I don't want it to be. But it has been some of the most difficult and soul searching and personally progressive 8 months of my life, and I attribute that to being not a normal missionary and coming out here as the underdog with a faith crisis and a lot more years of experience. I came out here looking for the reason that God wanted me to be here, after telling Him a dozen times that I was not in the least qualified and I was too old and cynical, and I found what I didn't know I was looking for a million times over. But it was what I needed, personally, me. It was a decision I made for myself. I wish elders were more encouraged to go through the same soul searching process. Although I lucked out and had a small MTC district filled with elders who did go through that process. But story for another time.

Basically, I've been lucky. I don't know what I did to deserve it. And I've seen and heard from those who weren't lucky, who had some pretty terrible experiences. And I know that both types and all types in between exist out there, and I wish we could have that discussion more openly and more frankly in the Church. And maybe one day we will.

I want the culture to change. Everytime I think of "my" missionaries, the ones who went home before reaching the golden numbers, and how some people are judging them without even knowing how many tears we cried and prayers we offered and treatments and phone calls we made trying to help the ones who wanted desperately to stay and support the ones who knew they had to go
...it sucks. Many members say they believe God has a special plan for everyone, but when the plan doesn't follow the checklist, it's auto assumed the person done messed up. Sad to hear coming from people who believe God knows each of us personally and what we need in our lives, even if that isn't the golden number.

When I go home, I won't be looking exclusively for an RM. I've seen my fair share of missionaries who got their golden number and went home the exact same person as before their missions. And then there were the ones who gave it their all and changed so much for the better and became the type of adults I would respect in any setting, and they went home before their given expiration date. Like the Church, the goodness is down to the person. No titles or numbers or cool stories will ever amount to more than what a person is in the inside. You're always going to find the good if you look for it.

But hey, you know what, let your testimony crumble. Let it fall and explode and release all the tension trying to hold it together. If a building crumbles, it's better to tear it down and build anew. Sort through the pieces, find the best parts, and build it up newer. A little better. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone somewhere is judging one of my dear missionaries who never reached that golden number, or a young man who's almost 26 and ducks his head when someone asks when he's going to put in his papers because they don't know how much he's struggling, please stand up for them. The culture won't change any faster if we don't give our part of it a push.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 30 Dec 2015, 13:34
by West
Also I should note that mission rules are radically different depending on the mission and the mission president. Like night and day sometimes. Really just the luck of the draw.

Re: Crumbling testimony

Posted: 31 Dec 2015, 14:37
by Roy
I believe that sending young people out on missions, having strict rules, restricted contact with outside sources, etc. all have to do with generating high conformity and unquestioning obedience.

Running a mission is hard work. You have so many far flung individuals with different needs. If you become their counselor then things get so complicated. If you become their drill sergeant then things proceed in a more orderly and efficient fashion.

As a missionary, I once contacted a family friend RN about a lump in my testicle that was causing me discomfort. The mission sent me to the Dr. Later when it was determined that the lump was scaring from a P-day mishap and not dangerous, my MP berated me for getting independent medical advice in violation of mission rules. I suppose his solutions would have been for me to sweat it out for who knows how long wondering if I had testicular cancer...

OTOH, I understand that from his position he has to maintain control ... otherwise the missionaries will gravitate down the slippery slope that leads to running amok.

P.S. This same MP did not allow my family to call me to tell me that my G-pa had died. They called the mission home and he called me to relay the message.