I think I’m going through a faith crisis…

I think I’m going through a faith crisis… October 16, 2015

I think I’m going through what I hear is a ‘faith crisis.’  I’ve been struggling with some of the new essays the church came out with and the fact that what we are taught in Sunday School often doesn’t line up with historical records and even what apologetics seem to try to explain away.  I haven’t talked to anyone about this – including my husband.  I’m petrified.  We are an active family and have children who are very involved in all the church youth programs.  I don’t want to do anything that would ruin my marriage or family.  But I can’t keep this all bottled up inside either.  What should I do?

A faith crisis or transition (or whatever it is we want to call this type of change) is often an incredibly scary process that can hit at the core of many parts of our identity.  And it is a process that can take anywhere from weeks to years – and getting to a place where you feel things are “resolved” is highly subjective depending on the individual.  We don’t make much room for faith transitions within Mormonism – unless people are transitioning towards us through conversion.  However, faith and spiritual exploration are normal processes of the human journey.  Many stay in the faiths of their upbringings – and many don’t.  I wish we did a better job of respecting people’s experiences instead of offering the common yet faulty throwbacks of “you are being deceived” or “you must be trying to justify sin.” Some initial thoughts to keep in mind as you start to navigate this process.

1.  Take it slow.  There’s no emergency in a faith transition (although the anxiety involved will often make you feel differently).  You can take all the time you need.

2.  Involve your spouse as soon as possible.  They may not react well at first.  But it’s usually better to involve them in the process of your change than for them to feel betrayed by not having been told that this was something going on in the first place.

3.  Just like you have a right to your feelings and beliefs – so does your spouse.  Feeling supported by each other will be an important task to prioritize and focus on, especially if you don’t agree on the issues you are bringing up.

4.  Stay away from unilateral decisions.  There are many daily ‘markers’ in Mormonism that are a part of our cultural and doctrinal identity.  And when these shift without discussion – it can be extremely scary for the spouse that feels like life is spiraling out of control and looking very different from the original ‘contract’ that was made.  For example don’t start drinking coffee or take off your garments without including the input of your spouse.  I don’t mean permission.  I mean input.

5. Decisions can be made in an exploratory fashion vs. finality.  For example, you can say – let’s try this for the next 3 months and then reevaluate how we both feel about how things are going.

6. Remember that when facing change, we tend to focus on the differences between us.  But there are many, many things you will still have in common with the people you love.  Principles such as love, charity, forgiveness, patience – these are things most of us value and won’t change regardless of where you end up with your relationship to Mormonism.

7. I would suggest individual and marriage counseling. It’s pretty tough to manage a faith transition on your own.  There are personal ramifications, marital and relational ramifications as well as complications you are likely to face within your extended family and community at large.  And you want to avoid developing symptoms of clinical depression or generalized anxiety disorder if possible.  Mormonmentalhealthassoc.org has a directory of clinicians – many who state they specialize in faith transitions.

I believe that shifts in faith and belief are a normal part of everyone’s journey.  This is just another name for spiritual growth.  However, there is a wide spectrum within the possibilities a faith transition may represent.  And getting the support you need – not going at it alone – is something you are deserving of.  You have a right to your own religious and spiritual beliefs and process.  The principles of agency and personal, spiritual seeking are pivotal in Mormon doctrine.  We just don’t do a very good job of respecting people’s decisions and experiences when they don’t follow the script.  I wish you well.
Natasha Helfer Parker can be contacted at natashaparker.org.

 

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