On Friday, October 2nd, Thomas McConkie’s book Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis: A Simple Developmental Map will be launched. Read on to find out what it’s all about, and check back for a book review coming soon. Amazon copies will available tomorrow at 7pm MT.
For as long as there has been faith, there has been faith crisis. This generation of Latter-day Saints is no exception to the rule.
Generally, faith crisis points to a kind of falling apart, a disintegration of one’s former world that was previously held up by certain beliefs and propositions. It is a crumbling of the reassurance that once confirmed that this is the way things are.
But what if we understood faith crisis as part of a natural cycle of spiritual growth, a breaking open to make room for new life and new faith?
In the new book Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis,Thomas McConkie draws on the study of positive adult development toprovide a map for people who find themselves in faith crisis,fearing they might have taken a wrong turn in their spiritualprogression. This developmental perspective helps readersunderstand that they haven’t necessarily drifted off course; theymight have simply run up against the edge of their current map.Understanding how humans—and faith—grow and mature over time canoffer tremendous stability and confidence to those who would pressforward in the discovery of their own changing identity.
This new framework also enables the LDS community as a whole to view faith crisis not as a symptom of apostasy, but of a deeper and fuller redemption. The reader finds that crisis may represent the awakening of a new kind of faith, one beyond mere belief, that may very well represent a new dawn in the unfolding of our faith tradition.
Key takeaways from the book:
- Faith crisis can indicate the healthy emergence of a whole new identity and way of life: We tend to talk about faith crisis in Mormon culture as if something has gone terribly wrong, and that we need to panic and scramble to make it through this ordeal. Other people in our lives who don’t understand it may panic on our behalf. But if we understand the developmental territory better, we can lean into these faith transitions as a natural process of becoming something bigger—in terms of personal identity and the discovery of deeper faith—than we were before the onset of the crisis.
- We all hold belief and faith according to our unique developmental perspective: It’s been said there are as many churches as there are members. Adult development shows us in a rigorous way that this is true. And it is more than a philosophical nicety to say so: it is a fact of our communal life. When we don’t realize this truth, we tend to marginalize certain expressions of faith and assume deviance in others. It doesn’t need to be this way. We can learn to recognize and honor unique expressions of faith. A basic grasp of development can help us do this like never before.
- As we mature, doubt becomes a vital nutrient for our further spiritual growth: Doubt can be successfully managed and more or less exiled at earlier stages of development. But there is a tipping point in our spiritual growth beyond which it becomes necessary to take on more complexity and allow doubt a permanent seat at the table. To some, this doubt can be mistaken as a simple loss of faith. The study of development helps us see that doubt can and does give rise to deeper faith if engaged in a healthy way. And true faith will always give rise to more beautiful questions.
- The stages of development describe the patterned way we human beings make meaning of our experience throughout the lifespan: We used to believe that once children were full grown, they graduated into an accurate, “adult” way of seeing the world. We now know this is folly. Adults, like children, make meaning in patterned ways that we can describe and classify with considerable accuracy. We call these patterns of meaning making “stages of development.” According to each person’s stage of development, they will relate to Mormonism in a particular way, experience changes in their faith, and ultimately place their bets on what they feel is a life worth living.
This book is written for people who feel their relationship with Mormonism, with faith, and with themselves changing. It is also an excellent resource for people who don’t feel like they’ve ever had a faith crisis, but want to relate with more understanding and compassion to a loved one—whether a spouse, sibling, or close friend—undergoing a significant identity and faith transition.
About the author:
Thomas Wirthlin McConkie currently serves as Faculty at Pacific Integral where he researches adult development and supports individuals and collectives in activating their growth through embodied practice. He has been practicing mindfulness and other meditative techniques for over 16 years and studying their effects on human potential. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“This book on Mormonism is beautifully written, easy to read, and comes from a deeply held love for a community experiencing growing pains. What I rejoice in above all is that it offers a path through and beyond tests of faith for not just Latter-day Saints, but for all religious communities facing similar struggles. May McConkie’s seeds for ongoing dialogue and mutual tolerance fall on fertile ground.”
DR. SUSANNE COOK-GREUTER, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.D
“The true power of adult development emerges when the theory is deeply grounded in practice. McConkie does just this as he beautifully illustrates the spectrum of developing faith within the Mormon tradition. As the creator of the StAGES model I wholly support the expression of the developmental stages he shares in this groundbreaking book.”
TERRI O’FALLON, PHD, Developmental Psychologist, Founder of Pacific Integral
“This book is sure to be a game- changer for all those experiencing a painful faith transition, particularly (but not solely) within the LDS tradition. McConkie charts the upside of moving through various stages of adulthood on our path to spiritual maturity and soundness. This book will be hailed as a godsend by many.”
FIONA GIVENS, Coauthor of The God Who Weeps and The Crucible of Doubt
“Thomas McConkie is a significant new pioneer author on the LDS scene. His experience and expertise in developmental psychology allow him to guide us with insight and compassion through our faith troubles and to reassure us that all can be well as we gain deeper understanding of the developmental process. An important book for our time.”
M. CATHERINE THOMAS, Author of The God Seed and A Light In the Wilderness
“This is a thoughtful, articulate, and prophetic book for all Christians who love their church and are trying to find a way not to leave it.”
REV. PAUL SMITH, Author of Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve