I just sent the following email to my good and hard working Stake President.
Over the past 3 months, two more solid couples in our stake have left the church.
In addition, yesterday I received this message:
“I wanted to check in to see when the next Talkeria in Sugar Land might be. I just met with someone in the South stake who is navigating a faith crisis.”
I bring these three families to your attention because I know you care about your flock. Often, when members leave the church, it isn’t noticed. For example, for over 2 years, you, me and the bishop discussed the possibility of creating a safe space for saints to talk about their questions & doubts. During that time period, 9 families in the ward stepped away from the church. When I share this statistic with ward members, they are incredulous. Never-the-less, the 9 families have left.
The situation with people leaving is not unique to the LDS. Last night, I came across a fascinating article. It might be helpful, as you and the bishops continue to wrestle with this issue.
It was written by Rick Brown, the Religion Columnist for the Sugar Land Sun.
He told the story of the doubting apostle, St. Thomas. And then said, “If you’re in a season of doubt, here’s what you need to know.”
“First, be honest with your doubts. Thomas was. When Thomas stepped into a place of honesty about his doubts Jesus stepped into the room. Being honest with your doubts is a necessary part of faith.” (My commentary: It’s hard to be honest with your doubts when you have to keep them to yourself.)
“Second, be with people who aren’t afraid of your doubts. Find a faith culture that allows for doubts and where leaders themselves are free to express their doubts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be with people who are not afraid of questions? They let you ask yours. They share stories of doubts they’ve had. When you’re in a period of uncertainty they carry you along until you regain your faith equilibrium. They don’t get anxious. They just love you the way Jesus loved Thomas.” (My commentary: He is talking about a safe place to discuss. We need this so badly in the LDS Church. I’ve reached a faith equilibrium. But, it was a lonely and painful journey. It shouldn’t be.)
“Third, a culture that allows questions can help you be aware of what God is doing with your doubts. Jesus allowed Thomas time to “doubt his doubts” a bit. Jesus knew what he was doing with Thomas. He was allowing him time to think through what it was he believed.” (My commentary: The only place to think through questions and doubts is…NOT in the church. Rather, it can readily be found among the good and loving people who have already left. This needs to change.)
Hopefully, something here will be of help.
All my best to you and your family,