From where I currently stand, I have come to appreciate my crisis of faith. It cleared my mind of all I had been trained to think, and allowed me to explore and develop my own, individual outlook. The world is no longer black and white, truth and untruth, good and bad. As psychologically painful as it was at certain points, I could not have come to see life that way had it not been for a crisis of faith. I have discussed my evolving opinions of God and spirituality (ad nauseam) in other posts, so I will take some time here to reflect on my faith crisis and Mormonism in general.
History was the buzzword when it came to my early struggles with belief. I cared about every detail of early Mormon history, from Joseph Smith’s family dynamics in Palmyra to his polygamy in Nauvoo. I spent hours poring over primary sources of the witnesses as they referenced their experience with the plates. In short, I spent most of my summer studying, emailing archaeologists, and, initially, entering a state of concern over my salvation: What if the church is the one true church-will I go to the telestial kingdom or worse, outer darkness?
Eventually, I had to come to my own conclusion that if fear was the driving factor behind my staying fully active in the LDS church, it was not healthy nor a testament to truth. Truth was beyond fear.
Today, I find it much more enjoyable to study the history of Mormonism for leisure rather than cognitive dissonance and emotional distress. As I reflect, I have come to realize that today, my issues are not primarily historical, but stem from philosophical/theological disagreements (ie conceptions of God, Jesus, truth), as well as institutional concerns. I find the history fascinating but, quite frankly, with regards to determining my own beliefs, it really doesn’t matter to me whether or not the eight witnesses saw physical plates or if Joseph had an affair with Fanny Alger. That is not to say that those aren’t legitimate problems, however they do not factor into my own equation of belief.
My institutional concerns relate to the LDS church, and not all of the various expressions of Mormonism. While sects such as the Community of Christ have integrated themselves into the liberal, ecumenical world of religion, the LDS church adheres to older, (I think) outdated ideals. This prevents the church from progressing in today’s fast-paced world and leads to an us-them mentality which is only reactionary. The LDS church also has not provided an open template for discussing theological and historical opinions, but instead retains a closed, correlated system which, when members do explore elsewhere, can cause confusion and hurt. The recent essays attempting to counter critical claims against LDS orthodoxy may be a half-step in the direction of progress, but the church still has a long way to go in accepting its past and its diversity of members. Finally, the church continues to build itself on a foundation of truth and certainty, rather than primarily being a community of ever-growing/improving people. In other words, the object, as I see it, of LDS orthodoxy is more of certainty, than community.
My crisis of faith has allowed me to critically evaluate myself. Perhaps the LDS church needs its own crisis of faith to fully come to terms with the prevailing modern and postmodern world views. It would do itself a service by looking to the Community of Christ and how they faced the realities of the past and the nature of society. But until (or if) that day comes, I will continue to evolve and journey on…