Things to consider when telling Active Believing Mormon family and friends about a change in beliefs.

This is an edited version of a post that I made on March 20, 2017, in the A Thoughtful Faith Support Group:

When considering if or how much to share with family and friends, I consider “what is my motivation?”

Do I just need boundaries and space?

Is it more about me and my desire to provide reasons or justifications for my unorthodoxy or for my Sabbatical?

Is it because I desire loved ones to mourn with me?

Is it my desire to be understood and accepted by them?

Do I feel a need for them to understand what I have experienced and concluded because I want to be validated by their reaching the same conclusions–in case I am making mistakes?

Is it because I really want to understand their points of view and how they deal with the mess?

Is it because I don’t want to be judged, shunned, or even banned by not participating in something like a temple marriage or endowment due to my change in beliefs?

As you consider these questions, know that unless they are able to “unpack” some of the things on their “shelves”, it is nearly always counterproductive to get into the weeds of the messy issues with them.

As we used to do, they have likely interpreted their spiritual experiences as God giving them certainty of subject matters, doctrines, rituals, practices, behavioral norms and standards, and the divine inspiration and discernment of Church leaders. Then, when they encounter something that may cause them to question or that causes them dissonance, the are practiced and skilled at “putting those things on a shelf, with faith”. Same as we used to do.

If they aren’t ready, it is sometimes either us our relationships with these family and friends that get “put on a shelf.” 😞

If you are like me, I am here in great part because I came to the conclusion that the LDS construct of spiritual experiences–that they are the Holy Ghost witnessing of the truthfulness of things–is a faulty construct. Most of my foundational spiritual experiences “witnessed” of things that are not entirely factual. I’ve had to work to rebuild my own construct of what spiritual experiences mean. However, those individuals still attached to the orthodox LDS construct of spiritual experiences won’t be able to fully understand your experience.

So, some ways that I have parsed it, usually in face-to-face discussions has been with things like:

1-After stumbling across the Church History Gospel Topics Essays and the cited sources, I have experienced some pain and dissonance, and I am in the process of reconstructing my faith. Until I am further along in reconciling these things, for my spiritual and emotional health, I’ve decided that I need a sabbatical from my callings and church activity. This changes nothing about how I feel about our relationship. I just wanted you to know that I am actively seeking understanding and truth.

If you want to understand more about the things that have been difficult for me, I’ll probably give you some things to read on LDS .org, materials distributed through Deseret Book, maybe a podcast from a faithful member, and maybe a presentation from the last Fairmormon conference to study.

After you have studied those things, I’d be happy to discuss why they have been difficult for me.

Then, leave it at that, and don’t get into the weeds of the issues. If they are ready to study and “unpack” some things, they will do the study. If they aren’t there is no benefit to going any further. It will just hurt the relationship.

2-After spending a considerable amount of time studying church history, the Church History Gospel Topics Essays, and from the cited sources, my views about the Church have changed.

I am actively seeking truth and God, but I don’t believe many of the things I used to believe.

Please trust my sincerity and desire for truth. Please know that this doesn’t change how I feel about us and our relationship.

(If they want more details, then let them know that you’d prefer that they first study what you have, and then you’ll be happy to discuss details with them.)

They are going to feel attacked when the things they and you once held sacred are no longer believed. It isn’t meant to be personal. It is just where they are at.

As others have expressed in this Group, less is better.

Typically, the worst thing we can do is a public Facebook post and/or a long email letter that is copied to a group of people when you are still traversing the Stages of Grief. Some of those people just are not ready, and we can burn relationships if we do it too soon if we express our loss of beliefs with Anger or Depression.

I believe that for closest family members and friends, it is better to approach them individually before you are public about your changed beliefs.

Some of those people haven’t yet “earned the right to know.” By “earning the right to know,” they need to be people who trust and accept your sincerity, even if you reach different conclusions from them, and usually, they need to be people willing to “unpack” and at least look at some of the messiness.

(Edit from June 4, 2017: After a year into my faith transition, I was outed by a well-meaning Active Believing Mormon friend who thought she was messaging me instead of posting on my Timeline. Since then, I have done some public posting, but I am no longer in the Anger or Depression Stages of Grief, and I really have attempted to be kind in my posts. So, I haven’t completely followed my above suggestion other than I did come out individually to most of my family and most of my closest Mormon friends.  It seems to work best to wait until your personal emotional and spiritual well-being is not dependent upon the reactions and responses of others.)

Hope this helps. This is how I am working to navigate these things here in Montana

 

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