Sunday, October 13, 2013

Name them one by one

In the first session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held October 5, 2013, the beloved Second Counselor of the First Presidency, Dieter Uchtdorf (a.k.a. The Silver Fox), delivered an address entitled "Come, Join with Us," in which he encouraged members of the Church to "first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." The admonition was an instant hit among the faithful and internet memes sporting the Diete's words were soon popping up all over social media as status updates and adorable memes.

It's not particularly difficult to find reasonable criticisms with what Dieter's saying here. For starters, the concept of not doubting your faith applies exclusively to members of the Mormon Church and not to anyone considering joining Mormonism - which is odd considering most of the talk (including the title) is addressed to non-Mormons. Heaven forbid an outsider of some sort (like an investigator of the Church) actually decide to keep his original faith instead of converting to Mormonism! For those who are already Mormon, hearing that we should be doubting our doubts rather than our faith comes across as at least a little ignorant if not entirely insensitive. Dieter seems to suggest that members who doubt are uncritically embracing their doubts rather than resisting or analyzing them carefully over years and years of their life. How many doubts do believing Mormons store on their proverbial shelf in hopes that one day their understanding should be completed with "further light and knowledge"?

The years I spent as an active, believing Mormon were plagued with doubt-causing cognitive dissonance, but I hardly even noticed. Friends have since asked me what caused my disaffection from the Church, what happened, when did it happened, and what exactly I still believe with regards to Mormonism. When I sat down to think about it I couldn't help but notice that there were a number of issues that I had put on the shelf only to move on faithfully as I felt Heavenly Father would have wanted me to do. So after seeing all the Uchtdorf memes and listening to his talk I began compiling a personal list of doubts with the belief that I would be able to identify just a few key moments that had given me pause during my years of faithfulness, but within a matter of minutes I had a much longer list than I had anticipated and more moments of dissonance were coming to mind all the time. Of the items that made the list, some are fairly concrete events while others are more subtle realizations that sunk in over time. The thing is: I ALWAYS DOUBTED MY DOUBTS every time they came up and in the end IT WAS THE WRONG THING TO DO. I should have had the courage to be wrong and move on with my life, develop new beliefs, and worry less about the Church.

So this blog is about my wrestling with cognitive dissonance and doubt in the decades that I was an active believing Mormon; these are the doubts I doubted until all I had left was the fact that I could no longer believe.

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