How to Minister to those with doubts

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

Post by NewLight » 21 Oct 2014, 04:48

Hi SBR,

I think you are a visionary and a little ahead of your time on this one. I really don't think leadership overall is ready for such a bold approach, especially given that the church is highly authoritarian still and likes to control things rather tightly. This was hammered home to me once again just this summer when I watched this program ( http://www.channel4.com/programmes/meet ... sode-guide ) about a young missionary in Leeds. They spent a fair amount of the program showing some church official in the background to make sure nothing wrong was said.

The Church also has a history of treating those who question and make it public poorly – from blaming them, to threatening them with disfellowship, to excommunicating them. Bottom line – I don't think the Church is ready for such a gathering, even if I think it is a good idea. I also think those with doubts would fear attending because of the retaliation that might take place.

You mentioned that your leadership is seeing an increase of people coming in to bishops and the stake president with questions. I feel encouraged that is happening in your area because in most instances, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and maybe this issue will get some more attention in a way the Church can be comfortable with now.

I picture “help for those with doubts” as being a little more confidential. I think that if you built up a pool of faithful doubters like you and others that bishops and the stake president can refer people to in confidence, that might fly with the leaders and you might still be able to keep your TR :D . There is less chance of people feeding off each other and making the situation worse and the one on one would just be more personal. Many with doubts don't want a spouse or family members to know either.

My two cents. Good luck and God bless.

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nibbler
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by nibbler » 21 Oct 2014, 05:03

SunbeltRed wrote: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:
I don't think you'd get much support from the church with this. One of the reasons we continue to see messages that are essentially saying "don't stray from the correlated material" is because leaders see members leave after being exposed to certain information. If they don't see it I'm sure they imagine that's what will happen. I'm afraid a group meeting, especially a group meeting where the leaders were explicitly barred entry, would be a giant red flag to leadership. They would view the meeting as a place where members are being exposed to that certain information. Fears would likely prevent such a meeting. The leaders would understandably want access to make sure that the meeting wasn't leading the flock astray, the participants wouldn't participate with leaders present. Catch 22.

I would imagine that someone going through a faith crisis would also worry about spies in the meeting. Which participant has shifty eyes and is taking notes? :think: You'd probably also want to have plans in place for dealing with people that only show up to win back the wayward souls.

I feel bad because all I've really done is beat suggestions down without offering much of what can be done, not very constructive. I struggled to post in this thread because of some experiences that I've had in trying to help leadership reach out to people with doubts. I'm not quite ready to share those experiences because they aren't exactly edifying. Maybe someone with a little more clout than me (I'm a nobody) in stake leadership could get the ball rolling better that I could.

One of the takeaways that I will share is that members with doubts are approached in the exact same manner as members that are inactive for other reasons. There's one approach for all: read scriptures, pray, and attend church. That probably works well in some circumstances but I don't have to tell you how those don't work for someone going through a faith crisis. Unfortunately love bombing, although well intentioned, also drives someone struggling through a faith crisis away. I think a person going through a faith crisis needs a bit of alone time in the wilderness. I know I did. I would have loathed multiple visits from church members during this period.

Again, I apologize for the tone. I've only explored the unasked question: how not to minister to those with doubts, which is negative. Unfortunately that appears to be all I know as I haven't seen anything on the local level that leaders are willing to support. I think eventually there will have to be people in leadership callings that "get it." People that have perhaps been there. A difficult prospect because people that have been there may have already made the decision to leave or may not want the headaches of a leadership calling.
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
— Hippocrates

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SunbeltRed
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by SunbeltRed » 21 Oct 2014, 08:31

Appreciate the thoughts.

I am re-thinking my approach. Perhaps I will just reach out to my SP and let him know that I am willing to talk with anyone that the Bishops or SP has come across that are having a hard time. I can say something generic like "I've been through what the people with questions have been through and I am here and still active and so I can empathize with what they are experiencing. If they are willing to have someone visit, I am willing to visit with them."

Then perhaps I can share a few of the articles and ideas from here (without reference to here) that may help him understand what people are experiencing. The hang-up though may be, if someone would be ok with a visit, what I would/ could/ or should talk about with them. I won't be able to provide answers, because people have to work through this on their own, but I can help them talk through re-framing their paradigm. However, those conversations would be uncomfortable if someone else from the leadership were there. I don't think it would be a safe space if that were the case.

But you have all given me some food for thought and I am going to ponder on it some more over the next few days.

For me, and this is just my experience, I really needed someone to talk to. Someone who would just listen, understand, and then sort of say, whatever you decide, I'm ok with it. But let me tell you about how I have dealt with it. That is essentially what Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters podcasts are, a place to explore, listen, and ponder. I know how much those spaces have meant to me, and just hoping to pay it forward in some small way.

-SBRed

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SilentDawning
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by SilentDawning » 21 Oct 2014, 09:04

SunbeltRed wrote:I am re-thinking my approach. Perhaps I will just reach out to my SP and let him know that I am willing to talk with anyone that the Bishops or SP has come across that are having a hard time. I can say something generic like "I've been through what the people with questions have been through and I am here and still active and so I can empathize with what they are experiencing. If they are willing to have someone visit, I am willing to visit with them."
That might fly, but remember, all individual counseling is supposed to be the jurisdiction of the bishop and SP last time I read the handbook. Unless sanctioned as an official calling somehow, I see that as an obstacle.

But I do think you are on to something valuable -- I would like to spin off Nibbler's idea. What if you held a Fireside called "Helping those with Doubt and Commitment Issues regarding the LDS Church: A View to Understanding".

This fireside targets the TBM's and local leaders to whom the knowledge you have gained here at StayLDS is likely new. I remember being at a Ward Conference and a member of the SP said "We have these members who are active through their youth, serve a mission, and get married in the temple. But then somewhere in their 30's 40's and 50's they go inactive -- why????".

You would answer that question, You could actually go to the leadership of the local Stake and ask them to generate questions for the people who doubt, or suffer from commitment problems, post the questions here, and then hold a fireside or leadership training meeting for the local leaders in which they get candid, anonymous answers to selected questions. We could give you our backgrounds so they know we are not anti-Mormons, but people with long experience, many of whom still have ties to the church, and still attend, and if they are like me, want their options open to engage fully at some point in the futre.

You could also answer questions such as:

1. What is the best way to reach a person who is suffering from doubt or commitment problems?
2. How can I, as a leader, help these people feel welcome at church?
3. How can I empathize with this group? What is their life experience after they experience doubt or commitment problems? What stages do they go through?
4. What challenges do local wards present to people who doubt or have commitment problems, perhaps unknowingly? How can we as leaders prevent this from happening?
5. How can I, as a leader, prevent my own leadership from becoming a stumblingblock to full activity in the people I lead?

Your reach would likely be much further than you could achieve on your own. You would be influencing the leaders who interact regularly with other leaders, and members who have commitment or doubting issues. And you wouldn't be violating any sacred counseling cows or anything.
"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."

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DarkJedi
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by DarkJedi » 21 Oct 2014, 12:00

SunbeltRed wrote:For me, and this is just my experience, I really needed someone to talk to. Someone who would just listen, understand, and then sort of say, whatever you decide, I'm ok with it. But let me tell you about how I have dealt with it. That is essentially what Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters podcasts are, a place to explore, listen, and ponder. I know how much those spaces have meant to me, and just hoping to pay it forward in some small way.

-SBRed
This was it for me, too, SBRed. Seriously, I would have come back long before I did if someone would have just listened and tried to understand and not tried to argue or call to repentance. They didn't need to agree with me, just hear me out. In fact, this was a criticism I had of my wife that I would share with church leaders - I had no one to talk to, not even my best friend/"eternal companion." That's why this forum is what really brought me back, although I will say that my current SP does listen. I am going to attempt to make this point in my talk this Sunday, and with the support of our friends at BYU (at least their quotes) I think the point can be safely made. I'm hoping that people will come to me, but I am also telling them that their bishops, RSPs, EQPs, could be talked to as well (while advising those people to listen).

I think what really needs to happen, SBRed, is more like what Bill Reel has done and talk to the leadership. I really do like this thread and I'm glad you brought it up and I appreciate the answers/input. The leadership does have to come to an understanding that the standard "read, fast, pray...." does not work for everyone (probably almost no one in crisis actually) and what people really need is listening with love (charity actually).

Just a note to Nibbler's reply, and I'm not attacking you whatsoever, I love and appreciate you. There is the perspective that people who would come to such a meeting have already been "exposed" and that's why they're the way they are. I agree that a TBM might not see it that way, though, and may see it as fueling the fire - and that indeed could be a negative outcome. I think you and I, Nibbler, may have had some similar experiences - self selection is a must.
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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nibbler
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by nibbler » 21 Oct 2014, 12:39

lol I don't feel attacked. Besides, that speaks to what I was trying to say. People that would attend such a meeting feel like they are already exposed, more orthodox members think the meeting itself is reinforcing people's doubt. That's probably not going to change.

Also, there's doubt and there's doubt... if that makes sense. People that have questions may not be ready to be exposed to certain perspectives, milk before meat works on the doubting side of the equation just as much as the believing side.

I've approached leaders a few different times. It didn't work out so well. In one case a leader expressed frustration with recent RMs going inactive due to doubts. I offered a simple "I may know a bit of what they are going through, I'd like to help where I can." Nothing more, nothing less, not trying to spark off a revolution or anything, that was the extent of what I said. I felt like I was sticking my neck out... it got whacked at. Again, maybe offering help like that means more if it comes from someone with more clout.

My experience is that it's almost a requirement to work at the individual level. I think it really helps if there was an established friendship from before, the connection cannot feel like an assignment. It's ultra hard going into the home of an inactive person with doubts that you don't know from Adam and gain that level of trust... and you have to gain trust on both sides.

Reconnecting with old friends may be a good place to start.

Good luck.
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
— Hippocrates

Roy
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by Roy » 21 Oct 2014, 16:45

Great discussion.

1) Bill Reel did a similar presentation for his local leadership that acknowledged that some doubters may have legitimate concerns while still leading with faith. Great ideas and real experience to benefit your project. viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3888&hilit=presentation

2) You could also offer to the leadership that you are available to meet with strugglings members one on one. I agree that it is normal to feel a definate need to talk to somebody about these issues. If there are no safe places in the church they may seek out other venues.

Just my thoughts.
"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

Curt Sunshine
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by Curt Sunshine » 21 Oct 2014, 17:12

I just saw a comment by LookingHard that we missed when it was written. I have approved it and just wanted to mention it to everyone, since it wouldn't have been visible until now.
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.

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LookingHard
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by LookingHard » 21 Oct 2014, 17:31

Ray DeGraw wrote:I just saw a comment by LookingHard that we missed when it was written. I have approved it and just wanted to mention it to everyone, since it wouldn't have been visible until now.
Thanks Ray. I fully get this is a volunteer supported board and I knew eventually my comments would get approved. I won't be a troublemaker!

Having just joined, I will go and put in my "history", but I want to take a good few minutes this weekend to do a good job of it. I don't want to do a superficial job of it.

amateurparent
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Re: How to Minister to those with doubts

Post by amateurparent » 21 Oct 2014, 19:40

This whole discussion just makes me so sad. This attitude within the church is what is driving me away. I cannot think of another organization out there who expects blind obedience and faith in leaders without any ability to question any decision.

My prayers do not confirm all things related to the church. I would like to discuss that. Where do I go for THAT discussion within the framework of the church? I could sure stir up a Gospel Essentials class!
I have no advance degrees in parenting. No national credentials. I am an amateur parent. I read, study, and learn all I can to be the best parent possible. Every time I think I have reached expert status with one child for one stage in their life, something changes and I am back to amateur status again. Now when I really mess up, I just apologize to my child, and explain that I am indeed an amateur .. I'm still learning how to do this right.

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