A scary awakening

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DoubtingTom
Posts: 198
Joined: 22 Mar 2017, 12:13

A scary awakening

Post by DoubtingTom » 22 Mar 2017, 14:06

Hello all and thanks for letting me join the forum! This will just be a quick introduction post. I have harbored doubts and skepticisms about the church for years. I've always been fascinated with church history and will say that I have probably been better informed than the average member regarding the trickier aspects of our history. So there has not really ever been any shocking revelations during my faith crisis. I have been aware of most of the issues one by one and put many of them on the shelf over th years or found temporary satisfactory answers from the apologists.

My faith crisis began last fall when I was called to be EQP. I was harboring some doubts at the time, but felt the new calling could be an opportunity to shore up some of those doubts. I also got repeated advice from leaders about just following the Spirit and letting my keys lead. Following the Spirit has never been easy for my overly cerebral mind, so I took this advice as a challenge to improve my spiritual ability too.

As I pulled down items from the shelf or re-explored things I'd previously found some answers for, I found I had a new tapestry laid out before me that painted the church in an entirely new light. Previously I'd always looked at these things from the standpoint of the church is true and forming answers that fit that conclusion, even if they weren't the most logically straigtforward approach. But I had an awakening sort of moment when I honestly asked myself, "What if the church isn't true? Would I want to know?" Once I allowed that question to be asked honestly, I found the picture painted by everything I either already knew or was learning to be vastly different. I also asked myself seriously during this time if I really believed that God exists. I know I like the idea and want to believe, but I am firmly on the side of doubt at this point.

The cous-de-gras, so to speak, was when I started to doubt emotional/spiritual experiences as coming from God. As I mentioned earlier, feeling the spirit has never really resonated with me in the first place and it makes much more sense to me that we feel strong emotional/spiritual ties when we encounter things that we hope or want to believe in that resonate with what we personally believe. We all all subject to the culture and influence of our upbringing and life experiences. And when we come across ideas or thoughts, scriptures, or experiences that resonate with those experiences and desires, we may feel strong emotional or spiritual feelings that will ring true. To me this explains how different people of different backgrounds can have different spiritual experiences that seem to contradict.

So that's where I am now. My wife is a true believer and knows about my doubts and has lovingly listened and supported me through this. I also spoke with my Bishop who was also very supportive. Then my stake president wanted to visit (after my bishop spoke to him) and also was loving and supportive. They both said I've not done anything wrong by having doubts and gave me generic Mormon advice about studying and praying and seeking the spirit. I probably downplayed my doubts a little, but I was still grateful for their support and non-judging attitudes. The main reason I went to my bishop is I felt obligated to let him know if he felt I shouldn't continue in my calling. To my surprise, I haven't been released. I told my stake president that I don't believe the Book of Mormon as a historical book and that I'm not sure about the existence of God, among other concerns. And he hasn't released me. That was 2 months ago. Since then, my doubts have grown and I'm feeling more like I want to ask to be released. I just don't think I can serve effectively in this calling from where I'm at right now.

So that's kind of a snapshot of where I'm at right now. It has been lonely and scary going through this. I'm grateful for a supportive wife but she only wants to listen so much...hearing about my general nature of my doubts and concerns but doesn't really want to get into specifics and I respect that. My goal is not to drag anyone else through what I'm going through.

I will post more in the futur but wanted to introduce myself here first.

Thanks for listening and looking forward to getting to know the community.

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LookingHard
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Joined: 20 Oct 2014, 12:11

Re: A scary awakening

Post by LookingHard » 22 Mar 2017, 17:56

Welcome Tom,

You are bringing me back a few years to the first time I asked myself honestly, "What if it ISN'T true" and BAM! An emotional free fall like I have never ever experienced. It took about 1 second to fall past all my Mormon beliefs, grabbed at a limb of "is Christianity still true" and that didn't slow me down at all and ended up asking if there was even a God. I toyed around with the thought of being an Athiest, but to me that feels too certain that I know something. And I don't. I don't even know how I would know. I have settled, partially to help preserve my marriage, on being a follower of (most) of Christ's teachings as I think for the most part that lines up with my internal moral compass of primarily loving and helping others. I may be taking Pascal's wager in a way, but I am OK here. I feel much more calm (but it has taken years).

I was serving as HPGL after being released from a bishopric. That was causing lots of emotional consternation within me. I had to teach a lot and I (respectfully) pushed the boundaries (I NEVER taught out of the manual - I just couldn't). I tried to be honest. We talked about how to talk about porn with our kids (not in the way the church does with lots of shame). About how HP meeting is zzzzz and how we can improve it. I even talked about the essays using Elder Ballard's CES talk about "you need to know these essays" (not ONE of the HP's had even heard of them). I finally had to ask to be released and volunteered to go into Primary. That has helped ease the emotional tension quite a bit. Once again - I don't follow the manual strictly (I talked about the Friend article that touched on the seer stone in the hat - one girl replied, "That is stupid!") I try to just make the class fun and touch on the lesson topic and pull in all kinds of different somewhat related topics - such as JS's family "farmed" maple syrup which took up > 50% of the lesson time.

I am blabing a bunch about me and I hope it helps. I have found this site and the welcoming folks here a key part of my healing. Glad you have come here and I hope you also find healing.

Keep explaining yourself. Writing is good to "get it out". I would also recommend trying to find someone that you can talk to (phone of preferably face to face) that you can be 100% honest with and they will not be judgmental.

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DarkJedi
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Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: A scary awakening

Post by DarkJedi » 23 Mar 2017, 04:03

DoubtingTom wrote:
22 Mar 2017, 14:06
The cous-de-gras, so to speak, was when I started to doubt emotional/spiritual experiences as coming from God. As I mentioned earlier, feeling the spirit has never really resonated with me in the first place and it makes much more sense to me that we feel strong emotional/spiritual ties when we encounter things that we hope or want to believe in that resonate with what we personally believe. We all all subject to the culture and influence of our upbringing and life experiences. And when we come across ideas or thoughts, scriptures, or experiences that resonate with those experiences and desires, we may feel strong emotional or spiritual feelings that will ring true. To me this explains how different people of different backgrounds can have different spiritual experiences that seem to contradict.
Welcome to the forum.

The extract above resonated with me. I have similar struggles and have reached a similar conclusion.

You are fortunate to have such a supportive wife and understanding leaders. I think more and more of our local leaders are seeing and interacting with those in crisis or transition and it serves them well to try to understand rather than condemn. Sadly, leadership roulette is still going strong and likewise I think our bishops are seeing things the general membership are not, thus many members are not as understanding.

We look forward to your participation as well.
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."

My Introduction

DoubtingTom
Posts: 198
Joined: 22 Mar 2017, 12:13

Re: A scary awakening

Post by DoubtingTom » 23 Mar 2017, 06:19

Thanks for your replies. I agree that I'm fortunate to have support. I was hesitant to even go to my bishop because I've heard advice on forums against that, but for me it was more of an integrity thing. I felt he should know honestly where I'm at and if he still felt I should stay in my calling, that was his choice. But I felt dishonest serving each week without him knowing my doubts.

That said, I still feel some sense of disingenuousness (is that even a word?) about standing up before the quorum. I never testify of things I don't believe but I also don't share my doubts and the implication is that I do believe. So there is a bit of discomfort still in this calling but I like to serve. I still may ask to be released in the future, but for now it's enough for me for the leaders to know where I stand and let them decide.

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DarkJedi
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Re: A scary awakening

Post by DarkJedi » 23 Mar 2017, 07:24

DoubtingTom wrote:
23 Mar 2017, 06:19
Thanks for your replies. I agree that I'm fortunate to have support. I was hesitant to even go to my bishop because I've heard advice on forums against that, but for me it was more of an integrity thing. I felt he should know honestly where I'm at and if he still felt I should stay in my calling, that was his choice. But I felt dishonest serving each week without him knowing my doubts.

That said, I still feel some sense of disingenuousness (is that even a word?) about standing up before the quorum. I never testify of things I don't believe but I also don't share my doubts and the implication is that I do believe. So there is a bit of discomfort still in this calling but I like to serve. I still may ask to be released in the future, but for now it's enough for me for the leaders to know where I stand and let them decide.
There is some discussion of this idea here: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8037

IMO it is not disingenuous to state what I believe without stating what I don't believe. Everybody does it to one extent or another.
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."

My Introduction

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hawkgrrrl
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Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 16:27

Re: A scary awakening

Post by hawkgrrrl » 23 Mar 2017, 11:54

DT, welcome to the forum! Lots in your intro that I'm sure everyone identifies with. I love that your SP and bishop were supportive and understanding the point of keeping you in your calling. I'd recommend you read Reuben's post about his outreach program to those in faith crisis. You really could be a person to do a lot of good and maybe that's what your leaders are thinking. Honestly, the more people are feeling emboldened (or whatever the motive is) to be open about their doubts, the more local leaders are seeing that it's not unusual like leprosy, and that they need to work with who they have. For every person who says "Hey, I have doubts!" there are probably 10 who quietly doubt.

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Orson
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Re: A scary awakening

Post by Orson » 23 Mar 2017, 13:10

Welcome! I am glad you found us. I can relate to your story on many levels. I repeat the same things here many times, but what we each have to offer is our own experience. One thing that helped me is realizing I could let go of my previous ideas about, or construct of God, while still pondering the possibility of something greater in the universe than only what our physical senses can detect. I like to say "God is what is", to me God exists in the truth of it all, what science can detect as well as what is on the other side of the black hole. I don't think a sense of wonder and a curiosity about "more" ever hurt anyone - or denied them communion with physical scientific reality.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

Ann
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Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: A scary awakening

Post by Ann » 24 Mar 2017, 00:08

I told my stake president that I don't believe the Book of Mormon as a historical book and that I'm not sure about the existence of God, among other concerns.
Are you comfortable keeping your BOM opinion to yourself? That's kind of what it boils down to, in my opinion. Doubts about the very existence of God might be more acceptable to voice because they aren't quite as threatening to the group. I know that sounds nuts, but I think that kind of doubt and despair is seen as sort of understandable and possibly fleeting.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

DoubtingTom
Posts: 198
Joined: 22 Mar 2017, 12:13

Re: A scary awakening

Post by DoubtingTom » 24 Mar 2017, 12:18

I think that makes sense that doubting God is less threatening than doubting the BoM. After all, we are inundated from the beginning that it is the keystone and if it falls, everything falls with it. We are sold this dichotomy that either it's all true, or all a big fraud, but I reject that dichotomy. So for me having doubts about anything shouldn't necessarily be threatening but to those who hold onto that polarizing viewpoint, then doubting the BoM undermines the entire foundation.

I can keep it to myself, sure, but he already knows so that genie is out of the bottle. When I meet with him again, I'm sure he'll ask where I'm at and I won't lie. My doubts are stronger and my certainties are weaker. The question is whether or not I'll ask to be released (the focus of my other post)

Ray DeGraw
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Re: A scary awakening

Post by Ray DeGraw » 25 Mar 2017, 12:03

Being authentic is radically different than being totally open.

Being totally open almost always is a negative thing. Seriously, it causes much more heartache in nearly all settings than it helps. We bite our tongues in every conceivable situation. Doing so in church is no different, since, at the core, it's a matter of inter-personal relationships.
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

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