When navigating a Mormon faith crisis/transition, I believe that it is crucial to spend some quality time acknowledging all that you like(d), love(d), and gain(ed) from being Mormon. There are several reasons that I feel this is important:
- Gratitude – Gratitude is essential for many reasons.
- It is associated with positive mental and physical health.
- It is an important “spiritual” practice.
- It is often appropriate within the context of Mormonism, as most transitioning and post-Mormons are in the 99th percentile education-wise and socio-economically. In spite of the pain of a faith crisis, many of us are (or should be) incredibly fortunate for the lives that we have lived (which were heavily influenced by Mormonism).
- Healing and Balance – However unfair, transitioning and post-Mormons often have the reputation of being “angry.” While I believe that anger is an essential part of the grieving process, I believe it is important to not let our anger consume us, harm our relationships with loved ones, or become a destination. Identifying and acknowledging the good we received from Mormonism can help to take the edge off of unproductive anger. It provides perspective, and is an important step to finding healing and balance after a faith transition.
- Perspective/Empathy – One of the most frequently articulated concerns voiced by progressive and post-Mormons is the challenge of ongoing communication with orthodox Mormons. One major obstacle to healthy relationships with orthodox Mormons is when progressive/post-Mormons fail to respect their decision to remain orthodox. Keeping present in your mind/memory all the reasons you loved/valued Mormonism can help you maintain perspective/empathy for why orthodox Mormons choose to remain orthodox, in spite of the many reasons you may have found to move away from, or abandon orthodoxy.
- Direction – For most of the people I speak with, a Mormon faith crisis can leave individuals with several gaping “holes” in their lives, including: identity, morality, meaning, purpose, family, friends, community, spirituality, existential angst, and fear regarding the afterlife. These “holes” can make you feel lost and broken, and can even lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and despair. Taking the time to appreciate all the good that Mormonism has given you (i.e., what you have lost, or what you miss) can provide you with important direction for what “holes you need to fill” in your life. Margi often compares a faith crisis to having a large tower of wooden blocks fall to the ground. Each block represents a value that the church helped you identify and place. Part of the process of navigating a faith crisis is to examine each existing block, and decide whether or not you want it to be a part of the new, improved structure that you will inevitably build. Nurturing gratitude regarding your orthodox Mormon experience can help you better identify what elements you want to include in your post-orthodox or post-Mormon life.
Like most progressive/post-Mormons I know, I did not leave Mormon orthodoxy because I hated it. In fact – I loved many aspects of being Mormon. That makes this exercise easy for me. So…here is a running list of many things I love(d) about Mormonism:
- Many of the hymns and primary songs about family, love, hope, nature, kindness, righteousness, courage, etc.
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
- Having a set of doctrine/teachings that answered so many of life’s most vexing questions/problems.
- A sense of meaning/purpose, to give my life direction and meaning, and to provide motivation when life got messy or painful.
- A reliable and caring community of family and friends – that often helped me to feel safe, cared for, and part of something larger than myself.
- A clear sense of identity.
- A sense of confidence – The Church helped me to feel confident in myself.
- So many fun activities as a youth – scouting, ward/stake dances, youth temple trip (to Mesa, AZ!), youth conferences, dance festivals, road shows, testimony meetings (where occasionally members would show vulnerability).
- All the ways the church provided support to me as an adult – Encouraging me to be a good husband and father. Helping to teach my children “right” and “wrong.” The times when the church offered service or encouragement to me and my family. This included a framework within which to serve others.
- A moral code to help keep me healthy and safe.
- Opportunities to feel a sense of “spirituality” – or connection to something higher than myself.
OK…your turn! Please take a moment below to share the aspects of Mormonism that you are/were grateful for! I believe that this exercise can be helpful in your faith transition.
John Dehlin, Ph.D.