We've had some constructive discussions on this blog in the past about the role of doubt in faith, particularly in Mormonism. The Church has taken great steps forward recently to destigmatize doubt and doubters. (God bless you, Dieter Uchtdorf.)
But we've also had some terrible shut-downs here too, with people fighting, fighting, fighting over disputed points of doctrine or practice, or accusing each other of apostasy.
We don't yet have a lot of constructive examples in Mormonism of how to talk about doubt.
For example, I remember a time not so long ago when the "I Have a Question" section of The Ensign felt more like a parody than a satisfactory Q&A. The official answer was often something along the lines of, "That question [DNA and the Book of Mormon/seer stones/birth control] has already been resolved to your betters' satisfaction and it's not your place to ask. Aren't we blessed to know the truth?"
And even now, I get emails from readers telling me that their bishop has taken away their temple recommend or calling just for asking questions or raising doubts. These leaders see doubt as a contagious infection, a contaminant to be eliminated from the rainbow-and-unicorn world of the Saints.
But for anyone who has ever struggled with doubt (raising my hand) and been disappointed when those doubts are met with either inadequate platitudes or fearful reprisal (raising my hand even higher), here's a thread of hope to latch onto: the thoughtful discussions Terryl and Fiona Givens have offered on doubt in the last few years.
Now, their long-awaited book has come out on the same topic -- from Deseret Book, no less, which tells me that the Church is concerned about addressing doubt and doubters in a more loving and thoughtful way.
And, yay! We're going to read it together here on the blog.
Starting October 10 (next Friday) and continuing for five Fridays through early November, we'll be reading the book together in chunks and discussing it. You can buy your copy from Amazon or Deseret Book. For next week, focus on reading pages 1 to 36.
And I've assembled a crack team of featured commenters to help make sure our conversations are constructive, thoughtful, and not filled with the argumentative remarks that characterize too many online discussions of religion:
- Samuel Brown
- Robert Couch
- Kristine Haglund
- Heather Hardy
- Emily Jensen
- Brandt Malone
- Mitch Mayne
- Rosalynde Welch
- Dan Wotherspoon
We hope to see you here next week, adding your thoughts on the book and the weekly topics alongside these excellent folks. But I'm warning you now: if you try to use those Friday discussions to call other people apostates, make it clear that you alone are in possession of the One True Answer that everyone else needs to bow down to, or pick your nose in any other way here on this blog, your comment will be deleted.
I'm upping the game for this discussion.
Because what we say about doubt, and how we say it, is that important.
All the posts in this series on doubt:
- Kickoff here: Mormon doubts? Let's talk about them
- Chapters 1 & 2 discussion here: How do Mormons deal with doubt?
- Chapters 2 & 4 here: "I know the Church is true" and other Mormon muddles
- Chapters 5 & 6 here: The dangers of idolizing Mormon prophets
- Chapters 7 & 8 here: Mormonism as "the only true and living church"
- Chapters 9 to 11 here: Staying Mormon when God is silent