Latter Day Saints at a Faith Crossroads

Cruising the Bloggernacle in recent weeks, I’ve read much on the topic of faith. It appears some church members are standing at a faith crossroads, deciding which road they will travel.

Some of what I’ve read related to the lost of faith. A few commenters even shared their “testimony” of deconversion. Here is a sampling:

One writer related how at a young age she “quite unexpectedly”, became an atheist.

A long time active member of the church relates how she lost her faith when she began to study contradictions and problems with church history and doctrine, and when no one could provide answers—her faith was shattered.

There were others who wrote about suffering with anemic faith:

A commenter says he has received powerful spiritual witnesses regarding the restoration and the Book of Mormon, but doubts still persist.

An active church member tells about his struggle never having had a prayer answered yet he is doing all the right things.

Another writer measuring his faith says he doesn’t know that Jesus is the Christ, or that Joseph Smith is a prophet, or even that God lives. But at some level he believes all these things.

Then there were those who wrote of their faith to balance the discussion:

Nearly everyone who studies Mormon history and doctrine encounters issues. Some leave the church, but many stay and are happy. I know I am. The reality of the Church is complex, but it’s also wonderful. The members are, in my experience, amazing people seeking to succor each other. The ordinances of the Church are imbued with real power.

Why is faith diminished and even lost?

The issues of faith are real and when faithful member’s experience deconversion, anemic faith, or even when faith plateaus—then confusion, fear and heartache can result and drain spiritual reserves.

The phenomenon of faithful members losing their faith is not new. It is as old as mankind. The reasons are manifold as illustrated by the parable of the sower (Mark 4:14-20).

The scripture use the imagery of foundations built on rock or sand to help us understand how faith and testimony are tried when the storms of life appear and the rain descends, and the floods come, and the wind blows, and beat upon them, if their foundation is rock they will be unmoved, but if sand they are moved out of their place and can perish spiritually.

Members who build their faith and testimony on Jesus Christ have a foundation on rock. Those who establish their faith and testimony on anything else, build on sand.

Surprisingly, active, committed members can build their faith and testimony on sand. It’s even possible to truthfully answer the questions on a temple recommend interview or even be called to influential church positions—a member of the Bishopic, Relief Society Presidency, High Council, Stake Presidency, or even as a General Authority and still have their foundation on sand.

We build on rock when we earnestly and diligently seek to fulfill our baptism covenant and receive the Holy Ghost and the Gifts of the Spirit that are available to us. The Holy Ghost is made available to us by earnest prayer.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

But above all our other petitions, we should plead for the companionship of the Holy Ghost in this life… The greatest gift a man can receive in this life is the gift of the Holy Ghost, even as the greatest gift he can gain in eternity is eternal life. Bruce R. McConkie, “Why the Lord Ordained Prayer,” Ensign, Jan. 1976, 7

When we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost we can and should receive spiritual experiences.

Elder Ballard wrote (notice the use of the word “must”):

We must have personal, spiritual experiences to anchor us. These come through seeking them in the same intense, single-minded way that a hungry person seeks food…It is my witness and testimony that the Lord is not very far away.  When Thou Art Converted, Chapter 4, by M. Russell Ballard

Spiritual experiences anchor us so that our foundation is built on rock instead of sand. Most church members who dwindle in unbelief do so because they lack spiritual experiences.

I know for myself of these things. I’ve studied the issues in church history and doctrine that can undermine our faith and testimony, and when troubled by these things, I reflect on the spiritual experiences the Lord has given me, and I am troubled no more.

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