How to Minister to those with doubts

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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SunbeltRed
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How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by SunbeltRed » 20 Oct 2014, 06:45

As I reported on another thread (http://www.staylds.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=5935) at a stake meeting yesterday we discussed the LDS.Org Topics section and there was some discussion about an increase of Bishops and the SP getting members who are coming in with questions. The general attitude lacked a comprehensive understanding of ministering to those who are experiencing or have experienced a faith crisis.

In a recent Borderlands article D. Jeff Burton had a discussion with a Bishop about how he (the Bishop) ministered to those with doubts/questions in his ward (http://forthosewhowonder.com/wp-content ... Story1.pdf).

I serve in a Stake calling (not the Stake Presidency) and I feel compelled to minister to those with doubts/questions. Having been through the process I appreciate how hard and lonely it can be. However, I don't know exactly how to go about it.

What I imagine (what I am currently thinking) of is to have an evening every couple of weeks where people who the SP or Bishops have identified can meet together and have some dedicated, safe, non-judgmental space where people can discuss anything they want. There would be some rules, such as civility rules, we are here to uplift, to love and be loved, we are together to learn and grow. The purpose would be to help people Stay LDS despite their doubts or changed paradigms. I would also need the SP and other members of the Stake Leadership to stay away (which I don't think they would like). I need to put some more thought into this before I would actually present it to the SP, but that is the overview.

However, each scenario I think through ends with me having to explain what exactly this will accomplish, why it would helpful, what will we talk about, and why I feel compelled to do it. And as I think through how this might play out I keep seeing me being released and then having to face my own inquisition.

For me personally, I would be Ok if the end result was being released and/or my TR was taken away. I would be fine with that, but I don't think my wife would be. Honestly, if I had my TR taken away for doing what I thought was a good thing, she would be fine with that, but she likes being lds and she is more afraid of how people would react to us as a family (which honestly just makes me really sad to think that we could be shunned because of how we might believe.) and that people might not want to be friends with us and let their kids play with our kids. That, to her, is what scares her the most.

So I feel in my heart a desire (a calling?) to reach out to those in need, but not quite sure how to do it without becoming marginalized myself.

Any thoughts/advice?
Last edited by SunbeltRed on 20 Oct 2014, 11:51, edited 1 time in total.

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DarkJedi
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Re: How to Minsiter to those with doubts

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Oct 2014, 09:19

I feel that same calling and since it actually is part of my formal "church calling" I feel OK in it. The problem is in how to approach it. I'll be honest here in saying that taking initiative on my part to contact certain individuals who are clearly in crisis has not been very fruitful, and I think my SP considers one of those particularly to have been an unpleasant experience (and I agree it was not pleasant and may have made things worse). I think if we each reflect on our own experiences and even coming here and posting we'll find for the most part that it was initiated within ourselves - we had to want to acknowledge/change/seek help and we had to be ready for the transition.

I am intrigued with the idea of a meeting, though, and I think my SP might actually approve something like that. That's partly because I have found more success when the people have come to me. I think that's partly why I have been afforded the opportunity to speak in SC - to make it very clear there is someone who has been there in stake leadership. I can also see opposition to the idea because more orthodox members seem to have some fear of questioning itself and perhaps even a fear of allowing us to gather and interact. Who knows what might happen!? :wtf: Still I think a kind of meeting where individuals self select and where they could be free to openly discuss things might be good - even though we can't afford the anonymity afforded here (and I think it would also be necessary to exclude the judges in Israel, even if they are questioners themselves).

I'd be interested to hear other thoughts 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."

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SunbeltRed
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Re: How to Minsiter to those with doubts

Post by SunbeltRed » 20 Oct 2014, 09:58

DJ,

Couple of points you made:

1) I agree that having a place where people could self-select is better than reaching out. If someone is in an interview with the Bishop and starts asking tough questions, it would be much easier for the Bishop to say "you know, those are good questions. I don't know that I will be able to resolve those for you. But there is a class we have that you can attend. The purpose is xyz, they have talked about all the questions you are bringing up here. How would you feel about attending?"

That way people really can choose how they want to engage. They will realize their concerns are being addressed, and the leadership does care.

If I were leading the class I would make it a point to say at every class that I don't have any answers for anyone. This is not a class for answers, it is a class of how to actively deal with your concerns, work through them the best you can, and come up with your own answers. But I don't have the answers.

2) I do wonder what would happen if you got together a community like ours in person. Could be super awesome, could be a disaster. I have no idea. That's why building in a purpose and framework for the class and discussions would be important. Keep things kind of in a box without wandering too far.

3) I bet more Orthodox members probably wouldn't like it. But I don't really care. I mean, it would be good to get buy in, but I see this effort as ministering and if members don't want or can't handle ministering to the questioning souls of the stake, then they need to attend their own class about becoming more like Jesus. I wonder sometimes why members are so afraid of those who question...

Good thoughts, thanks for the response.

-SBRed

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DarkJedi
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Re: How to Minsiter to those with doubts

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Oct 2014, 10:27

SunbeltRed wrote:I wonder sometimes why members are so afraid of those who question...
I've wondered about this, too. I'm sure there's no one answer ("It is not that simple"), but I think a big part of it is that they are afraid they might be wrong or that someone else might be able to shake their faith. The thing is almost all of us have some questions - but most suppress or ignore them. Confronting the questions can seem risky, especially to those who fear their eternal welfare is in jeopardy simply by seeking the answer. I think when it comes down to it, that is the crux of everyone's faith crisis/transition - we each found some answer or answers we weren't necessarily seeking that shook our foundations.

I like the idea of the bishops referring people while giving them a choice. I don't think it would work well if people were specifically invited unless the individual doing the inviting felt moved upon to do so. I don't see another way to accomplish an invitation other than general announcements which could turn out not to attract anyone.
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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SilentDawning
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by SilentDawning » 20 Oct 2014, 16:51

Sunbelt:

If I was asked to attend one of these meetings, I probably wouldn't go as currently structured in your proposal. It's not safe. Their goal is to get you back on the TR-list, and for someone like me, I wouldn't be ready. Plus, sharing doubts will only limit opportunities to serve in the future, and keeping that door open is critically important for me, as I have no faith in my own doubts!

I don't quite know how at this point, but I would be inclined to make the contacts one on one...I would see if you can figure out who the walking doubters are (the people at church who are living the facade). Perhaps drop unorthodox comments to open the door to trust, and don't try to systemize it. Let it happen naturally. If you are in meetings, listen for people who are brought up that show potential unorthodox, disaffected attitudes, and find ways of getting to know them, and steering their conversation to coping etcetera.

The most important part of these kinds of outreach activities, in my view, is to not have any agenda for the outcome. The only hard outcome I would seek is a good relationship in which the person feels welcome, safe, and accepted.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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SunbeltRed
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by SunbeltRed » 20 Oct 2014, 17:04

SD,

That is how I would want the class to be. Invite only, no leadership is invited or allowed to be there. Everything said and shared is 100% confidential. The goal would be to create a safe space, however the overarching purpose would be to help people who are interested in staying LDS or want to maintain a connection to the church in some fashion. I imagine something like an AA for faith strugglers :smile:

But I get where you are coming from. I am already attempting what you outline below. If people listen closely to my talks and comments, they would recognize a fellow Liahona. I certainly understand the hesitancy someone might have and as DJ pointed out, attempting to reach out without really knowing where someone is at can be a bit tough. Within the plan might be the opportunity to visit one-on-one as an alternative to attending the class.

Appreciate the input.

-SBRed

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SilentDawning
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by SilentDawning » 20 Oct 2014, 19:18

SunbeltRed wrote:SD,

That is how I would want the class to be. Invite only, no leadership is invited or allowed to be there. Everything said and shared is 100% confidential. The goal would be to create a safe space, however the overarching purpose would be to help people who are interested in staying LDS or want to maintain a connection to the church in some fashion. I imagine something like an AA for faith strugglers :smile:
The problem is that I personally don't believe there is much confidentiality in the church. I wouldn't want to be at a meeting in the flesh as a reslt.

I've had an idea occur to me three times now, and that is to initiate some kind of Google Group for the locals, where they can post anonymously. After a while, they may become more willing to come out in person. On the other hand, isn't that simply StaylDS in a google group? Why not encourage them to post here?

Anyway, if they get used to sharing their feelings online, they may grow to trust you and then "come out". For example, after about 3 years of posting here on StayLDS, I grew more comfortable with certain people on this site knowing my full identity and location. Trust has been established. Further, I've grown pretty comfortable in my own skin, and realize that I don't really need the church to self-actualize any longer. So, even if someone finds out who I am, I'm not sure I'd care as much as I did 5 years ago.

It took a while for me to find a new path...and to trust my new identify as someone who is trying to develop divine attributes (and I don't say that in the "becoming a god" kind of way, either).

Perhaps I'm more paranoid than other people, but those are my thoughts about any kind of local middle way initiative.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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DarkJedi
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Oct 2014, 19:31

I won't disagree that you might be a bit more paranoid than some others here, SD, but some paranoia in our situation is certainly warranted - maybe even more so for those who live in the Corridor. ;) I have thought about what you said, and if invited to a meeting specifically I probably would not have attended during much of my faith crisis - I wasn't ready for one thing. If it were just a generally announced "fireside" kind of thing, I may have at later stages of the crisis - essentially post Uchtdorf Oct. 2013. The thought of some kind of online group is also intriguing, and you make a good point that people could just come here. A local group might be more personal, though, even though there could be anonymity.

I'd really like to hear what others think about this - if invited now, would you attend a meeting where you would be assured there were no judges (bishops or SPs) and everything stayed in that room? Would you have attended when you were alone and not getting the kind of help you are getting here? Would you participate in a local online group or perhaps something like a reddit? What if it were a conference call that allowed total anonymity?
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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LookingHard
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by LookingHard » 20 Oct 2014, 19:47

I also have a desire to really reach out to others. I went through my faith crisis without another sole to talk to (or at least that I knew of). My current bishop is very supporting and loving and I live several states away from the Jello belt - deep in the bible belt. I know the SP from my youth (a bit). I have been toying with offering to talk in the Saturday night meeting of stake conference on "how to treat those with doubts." I think I am going to tell my bishop I am willing and see if he feels like floating it to the SP, or if he wants me to do it, or if he thinks the SP wouldn't go for it. I will tell them I will submit the talk to the SP first.

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Daeruin
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by Daeruin » 20 Oct 2014, 21:16

If invited now, I probably would not attend, for a number of reasons. First, I'm an introvert and instinctively shy away from group settings. I would be much more comfortable speaking one-on-one to someone who had demonstrated personal friendship to me first. Second, like SilentDawning, I value my anonymity for now. Probably everyone in my ward knows that there's something or other going on with me, but they don't know the details. I don't want those details coming out, partly because I fear the consequences, but partly because the details of my faith crisis are very emotional and I have difficulty sharing them with anyone, let alone someone I don't know (except in a completely anonymous setting like StayLDS). Third, I am becoming more comfortable with my own faith and personal direction, so I don't need a support group as much as I did a year ago.

If invited a year or five years ago.... that's a hard question. I probably would have been most comfortable with the idea of an anonymous conference call or MAYBE a fireside where I could sneak in, sit in the back, and leave early without being noticed if I wanted to. But I think I would have been seriously suspicious that any such event would be some kind of intervention-style trap. It might have depended a lot on how the event was described.
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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