I’ve been visiting sites authored by church members who have either lost faith or are in one of the many phases of losing their faith.
The title of this post makes an important point. I’ll restate the title in the form of a question: Why do some church members allow their faith to be compromised or even lost because of unanswered or unanswerable questions about church history/doctrine?
Recently, a church member and founder of a hard-hitting website I frequent, one that is particularly adapt at portraying church history and doctrine in unfavorable light, resigned his church membership. In a public letter to his Stake President he said his website offered only the truth. He didn’t seem to understand why the church was considering taking action on his membership when everything on his website was “factual”. In the end, he decided to resign his membership to save everyone time and trouble.
As I read his letter, I recalled an aphorism: The greater our island of knowledge the greater our beach of wonder. This saying can be viewed in several ways. I’ll apply it to those who see the world through the eye of faith. Our island of faith is surrounded by a beach of wonder where, out of necessity, there are issues that challenge our faith. This world was designed to try our faith (Abraham 3:25-26). In this world there are going to be questions that challenge faith; some questions may even be unanswerable. The author of the website didn’t seem to grasp the simple definition of faith: complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
I couldn’t help but think the websites founder had a PhD in the things of this fallen world and the equivalent of a grade school education in the manifestations of the Spirit. It appears he built his foundation of faith on a sandy beach. The beach may be an interesting place to visit, but our island of knowledge is where we build our foundation of faith—there in the spiritual rich soil of those things that build faith we will become grounded and rooted by the manifestations of the Spirit (Ether 12:6), those who are properly “converted unto the Lord never [do] fall away” (Alma 23:6). Continue reading
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (New Testament | Hebrews 4:16)
Clayton M. Christensen is a returned LDS missionary and is currently a Professor at Harvard Business School. This is a portion of an essay he wrote, Why I Belong, and Why I Believe.
I was born into a wonderful Mormon family, and as I grew up I found few reasons to disbelieve the teachings of the church. My parents had deep faith in its precepts, and their example and encouragement were powerful-I believed in my parents, and I knew that they believed the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not until I was 24, however, that I came to know these things for myself.
I had been given a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England. After I had lived there for a few weeks, far away from the supportive environment in which I had been raised, it became clear that adhering to Mormonism in that environment was going to be very inconvenient. In fact, doing the sorts of things I described in the first part of this essay within the Mormon congregation in Oxford would preclude my participation in many of the things that had made Oxford such a rich experience for prior recipients of my scholarship. I decided, as a result, that the time had come for me to learn for certain and for myself whether Mormonism was true. Continue reading
Nearly everyone has experience with weeds (thorns, thistles, briars, and noxious weeds). They come in many varieties. Basically, weeds are a wild plant that grows where it is not wanted in competition with other desirable plants. The scriptures teach that weeds torment humankind for a purpose, the Lord told Adam “cursed shall be the ground for thy sake” (Moses 4:23).
How are weeds helpful: “for thy sake“? A fundamental doctrine of Mormonism is that there must be opposition in all things. Without opposition there is no growth. Weeds are opposition.
To Joseph Smith in the afflictions of Liberty Jail, the Lord said, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7), “and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (D&C 122:8). To Alma and his people who were brought into slavery to the Lamanites we learn that “the Lord seeth fit to chasen his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day” (Mosiah 23:21).
Opposition in the Internet Era Continue reading
Elder Neal A Maxwell passed away in 2004, but his words live on. Following is a talk he gave in Oct. 1992 General Conference. It was titled “Settle This in Your Hearts”. To view it click here.
Otherwise, you can read the entire talk below.
Eighteen years ago from this same pulpit, I pled with those who stood indecisively on the “porch” of the Church to come fully inside. (See Ensign,Nov. 1974, pp. 12–13.) Today my plea is to those members already inside but whose discipleship is casual, individuals whom we love, whose gifts and talents are much needed in building the kingdom!
Any call for greater consecration is, of course, really a call to all of us. But these remarks are not primarily for those who are steadily striving and who genuinely seek to keep God’s commandments and yet sometimes fall short. (See D&C 46:9.) Nor is this primarily for those few in deliberate noncompliance, including some who cast off on intellectual and behavioral bungee cords in search of new sensations, only to be jerked about by the old heresies and the old sins. Continue reading
Heavenly Father Provides Us with Mountains to Climb So We Can Become Like Him
Acquiring and growing a testimony is like climbing a mountain. As we ascend the mountain we can turn and view the vista behind us, and feel a sense of accomplishment at how far we’ve come.
As we continue the climb we will arrive at the top and feel a rush of accomplishment and growth. However, as we look into the distance we soon become aware that there are towering peaks before us that need to be climbed. We know if we leave theses unclimbed we’ll be missing out on experience, experience that we need and should not put off.
Not all who climb continue, it is difficult and many chose to ignore the invitation of the inviting peaks beckoning them. It is so easy to plateau in our journey, especially when everything is going well.
This is when we can begin to forget the Lord and take side paths instead of climbing towards the peaks. These side paths have many destinations but none of them offer the rewards of climbing towards the peaks. Continue reading
I read, Yearning for the Living God, by F. Enzio Busche a few years ago. He was a Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The account I have quoted is informative on many levels. As you read this, I hope you can feel Elder Busche’s testimony and gain understanding about the workings of the spirit, both the spirit of God and an evil spirit.
“The following experience is probably one of the most sacred in my whole life. It happened in the very beginning of my service as a General Authority…On one trip…I…stayed in the basement of the mission home…I was very tired when I finally went to bed at around 11:00. I fell asleep as soon as I was in bed. I woke with a start when, at about 1:00 A.M., the mission president came into my room. The light was on and he was speaking to me, but I was still half asleep and did not understand what he was saying…I focused on listening to him and was surprised by what he said. He said that in the evening, a missionary had been possessed by an evil spirit. His companion had called the assistant to help cast it out. The assistants had gone and done that, but as they got back to their own apartment, the evil spirit had entered one the assistants. The other was so shocked that he did not know what to do, so he went straight to the mission home.
The mission president was appalled, of course, because this was not just an ordinary missionary. This was one of the stalwart, experienced missionaries who was speaking gibberish and not in control of his physical movements. The mission president had tried to cast out the evil spirit but had failed. He began to panic, but then he realized that he had a General Authority in the basement. That was when he came down to try and wake me up. Continue reading
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Everyday we make many decisions, some decisions are without consequence, while others can change the course of our entire life. Decisions about religion have power to not only change the course of our life, but our after-life as well.
One of the fundamental teachings of the Mormon church is that God designed this life to be a proving ground (Abraham 3:24-26). Those who “will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” will receive greater blessings (opportunities) in the after-life than those who do otherwise. It takes faith to believe this doctrine.
The prophet Joseph Smith taught there are four basic principles church members need to embrace (4th Article of Faith): Continue reading
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Elder Neal A. Maxwell used the image of a fruit ladened-tree to illustrate an important point that church members need to ponder on often:
“Happily, many of us have already picked and been greatly nourished by the low-hanging fruit from the gospel tree. Yet, on the higher branches, much fruit still remains, unreached for and unplucked.” Neal Maxwell; Whom the Lord Loveth P 7-8.
This clever analogy turns our thoughts to the importance of fully embracing gospel principles versus a partial embrace. After reading this, I can’t help but think of the awful arithmetic used in the parable of the Ten Virgins—50% failed to qualify to enter the wedding feast.
Properly exercising faith is the key to receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit. Following are some ideas on how to increase faith so that we will be able to reach for and pluck the higher hanging fruit. Continue reading
The prophet Nephi wrote and prophesied about our day. He referred to us as Gentiles and said that we would “put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning… (2 Nephi 26:20).
Unfortunately, I think we are living in that day. But at the same time we live in a day where God’s miracles are available to those with faith. I believe all men and women have access to miracles at some level, be of whatever faith they may. However, Latter Day Saints have been given additional access to miracles because of the restoration of the gospel. We are eligible to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (if we seek diligently for it). In addition, we have the priesthood, restored by angelic messengers.
Miracles Follow Those Who Believe
There are two kinds of miracles according to Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Continue reading
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Often, children teach their parents about barriers to faith. I recall a story that illustrates this. Years ago in Arizona, church members were asked to fast and pray to exercise their faith so that Heavenly Father would bring relief to a drought that threatened the harvest. It hadn’t rained for a long time. A husband and wife saw the faith of their young daughter in action as they prepared to leave for church. As they were backing out of their driveway, their daughter said, “stop the car daddy, I forgot my umbrella”. It was a hot sunny day, not a cloud in sight, but the little girl’s faith was focused on the purpose of the fast. She didn’t want to be without an umbrella. This is an example of the unbridled faith of a child. As adults, we need to relearn this kind of faith.
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss those things that inhibit faith. I think all of us, to one degree or another, have barriers to increasing our faith. Some barriers we’re aware of other we don’t see.
The Lord taught David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, about barriers to increasing faith: Continue reading