Once upon a time, the topic of inoculation was all the rage in the Bloggernacle. Too late for that now; the epidemic is upon us and its primary symptom, doubt, has become a standard feature of LDS discourse. The latest discussion is Patrick Mason’s new book Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, co-published by the Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so instead I’m going to point you to Boyd Peterson’s post “What To Do If Someone You Know Is Going Through A Faith Crisis.”
Here is what you should take from Boyd’s post: The biggest problem about a faith crisis is *not* that one person or one couple finds their confidence in LDS truth claims suddenly shrinking or simply gone. The biggest challenge is how friends, family, and local leaders react in the face of another’s faith crisis. While a few thousand Latter-day Saints may find themselves in a faith crisis, many more face the challenge of responding well (with faith, hope, and charity rather than innuendo and rejection) to someone else’s faith crisis. For every Mormon with a mote of doubt in her eye, dozens are at risk of a beam of judgment or rejection. So one way or another, this is everybody’s problem. It’s my problem. It’s your problem.
Here are a few quick highlights and suggestions from the essay for dealing with someone else’s faith crisis:
- Don’t freak out. “If you react with anger or you let your own emotions overpower you, that loved one is going to feel like he or she can’t be honest with you and future talk about faith is over before it’s even begun.”
- Don’t judge, don’t preach, just listen. “Preaching is the last thing they want to hear. It is guaranteed to shut down the conversation. And bearing your testimony to them can come off as condescending and presumptuous. Just listen.”
- Preserve the relationship. “Just as God doesn’t withhold love on the basis of what one believes, neither should we. Don’t let this change come between you and your friend or loved one. Extend more love, not less.”
Boyd gives more suggestions in the full essay. It would be nice to hear from readers who have given or received love and encouragement in the face of a Mormon faith crisis, whether theirs or another’s.