Please take the opportunity to watch this TEDTalk from Benay Lappe.
We are all approaching inevitable Crashes during our lives. How will we choose to respond?
When I found myself in Faith Crisis about 27 months ago after stumbling across the LDS Church History Gospel Topics Essays, and I recognized that I my past spiritual experiences had witnessed of partially or entirely inaccurate things, my Master Story Crashed. I recognized that for me, my past spiritual experiences were not reliable witnesses of truth. The constructs and interpretations of those experiences suddenly crashed and became false for me. As I studied the Essays, the footnotes, and from the cited sources, I perceived that the Essays were not entirely accurate, that they whitewashed many difficult things in Church History, and that this deficiency in transparency was a dishonest attempt to by LDS Church leaders to prioritize Faith and Heritage over Honesty and Transparency.
I found myself thrown into what James Fowler’s Stages of Faith model describes as the Dark Night of the Soul, and I was thrust into Stage 4 Faith.
I followed all the “Sunday School” answer approaches. I never prayed more in my life, never studied scriptures with more depth and intensity, never searched among faithful sources in with so much fervor my life—other than maybe during my LDS Mission—than those early weeks and months of my Crash.
Naturally, I approached my local priesthood leaders for counsel, to request a priesthood blessing, and to find ways to mitigate my Crash.
I approached my then Stake President with caution and thought. He has been a friend for many years. We are business partners in a real estate development. Our sons were close friends when they were young. I didn’t want to risk throwing my friend into Faith Crisis while serving as the Stake President—in case his reaction to the information in the Essays was similar to mine. So, I didn’t go much into the weeds of the Essay topics.
I shared with him that I had stumbled across the Essays, recognized that I had received spiritual witnesses of inaccurate things, that I believed some of the information in the Essays was not honest, and that as a result of studying the Essays and discovering that my past spiritual witnesses were unreliable to determine truth, the Heavens had closed on me, and it felt like God ceased to interact with me. I was in pain, with a sense of betrayal and abandonment.
He knew about the Essays, but he hadn’t yet studied them.
Then, he shared with me a compassionate, and now I believe profound allegory—which at the time felt was completely impossible and overwhelming.
He suggested I consider that my experience was as if I had spent my lifetime building a perfectly organized and prescribed 1000 piece puzzle according to the narratives that the Church gave to me, and it worked really well for me until, through no fault of my own, my puzzle had been thrown completely off my table, laying on the ground in a thousand pieces.
My job going forward was to pick up one individual puzzle piece at a time, to sit with it and consider it in my heart, and if it still no longer worked for me I would set it aside, and if it did work for me I would set it back on my table.
Over time, I would eventually build a new puzzle from those pieces, one of my own design, not prescribed by others, and it would likely end up much smaller than the 1000 piece puzzle that shattered for me, but my new puzzle would grow to be more meaningful and more foundational to me than I could ever imagine.
The allegory was essentially to adapt, learn my own truth, and to re-tell my Master Story—similar to what is explained in this TEDTalk.
My friend’s allegory was more than overwhelming to me at the time because I had no local mentors to model or to help me start the process. I felt all alone.
In my past Master Story, I had prophets and apostles, scriptures and priesthood blessings, individuals with mantles of discernment from God, and a correlated curriculum. My past Master Story gave me identity, reputation, community, meaning and purpose in mortality (this life) and in the eternities.
Precariously, when people have their Crash happen in Mormonism, their tendency is to want to replace one “prophet” for another. Their tendency is not to take individual ownership and re-work, re-write, and re-tell their own Master Story. They (we) have a tendency to want someone else to tell us what should be in our new puzzle.
The TEDTalk speaker explains this tendency as Option 2. It is the most common approach we take when our Master Story crashes.
Now, I percieve that a Master Story based on individual empowerment and discernment, with individuals tasked to work, write, and tell their own Master Stories, does not seem to be a model easily perpetuated by self-preserving institutions or leadership structures steeped in patriarchy, leader worship/adoration, and/or narratives that God is at the head, directing the institution through His chosen intermediaries.
Over time, I did build a “new puzzle”—and I am still building it.
And, my new Master Story has even deeper meaning, with greater significance for me.
What will be your re-worked, re-written, and re-told Master Story when your current one crashes?