I have an opportunity to represent our local Mormon Spectrum Support Group and offer feedback to local leaders of how they might best be able to minister to and support us.
Brainstorming some thoughts, I narrowed it down to 5 basic things:
1- Respect, honor, and trust requested boundaries.
Ask us our preferences for frequency and kinds of contact, ministering, topics of discussion, etc. Ask about our preferences for how the Ward and its leaders interact with our children and spouses. Then, respect, honor and trust those boundaries.
Know that some of us are processing the Stages of Grief over our lost beliefs. Some of us are processing a sense of betrayal and trauma. Some of us need to avoid participation, engagement, or topics that either re-wound us spiritually or emotionally, or that place us in a position where we are more likely to wound friends and family.
2- Trust our stories, our experiences, and our sincerity.
Author Brené Brown suggests that as individuals we might want to consider only sharing our stories with people who have “earned the right to know.” This would include people who trust the sincerity, vulnerability, and sacred nature of our individual experiences and stories.
What we need are people who will sit with us, mourn with us, comfort us, not question our integrity, not acuse us of pettiness like being offended or wanting to sin, who will listen to our stories without pre-judgment or expectations that we will ever develop faithful reconciliations for our questions, and who trust that our experiences are authentic and real.
If one of us feels comfortable sharing our story with you, know that it is a sacred trust.
If we want your help or opinions, we will ask for them. Otherwise, just listen.
There are few things in life more traumatic, painful, vulnerable, and sacred than a faith crisis.
Possibly most important, please understand that you can validate our experience and grieving without simultaneously agreeing with it.
3- Seek to identify, discuss, and nourish our common shared interests, beliefs, and desired practices.
For example, even though I presently hold no belief in the foundational truth claims of the Church, and I have lost most all belief in the literal historicity of the Bible stories—including the resurrection and Latter Day Saint theology of the Atonement of Jesus—I still hold very dear to me many of the teachings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels.
I love the Gospel of Ministering and Service to others. I love and find spiritual meaning and value in the Matthew 25:34-40 type things—feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the stranger, and visit the sick and inprisoned. I find joy in doing these things literally and figuratively.
That is my Gospel now. It is where I continue to experience spiritual connection with my fellow human beings and with what I now perceive to be God.
I have as strong and moving a testimony, with as deep and meaningful spiritual experiences now through service to others as I ever did in the Temple as an Ordinance worker, or as a teacher, missionary, or leader in the Church.
I don’t have a problem if we use the language of calling those experiences the Spirit. I don’t have a problem calling that sense of spiritually elevated emotion and connection, God.
I can constructively engage with my Latter Day Saint friends and family in projects were we serve others—literally and figuratively, doing Matthew 25:34-40 type stuff.
Even though I do not presently believe I could sit in a Sunday School Class and not raise my hand to dispute things I believe are harmful or false that are taught directly from manuals and General Conference talks, I can work within the “shared spiritual language” of ministering and service to others. I can do this without subjecting my Latter Day Saint friends or myself to mutual wounding borne out of our differentiated beliefs.
So, find what we have in common, and build on those things.
Please know that we have a range of beliefs in our Mormon Spectrum Group. The above is solely an example of my experience and belief.
4- Trust that God participates in the lives of people on paths that are different than for the less-than-a-tenth-of-one-percent of the World’s population that are active believing members of the Church—including persons who once were active believing members of the Church but who have experienced a change of faith.
If you can hold space that God can work in the lives of the 99.93% of His children on earth who are not active believing members of the Church, then please also trust that He could and would still participate in the lives of those who have experienced a change of faith about the Church.
For you to be able to effectively support and minister people like me, I believe that you’ll need to be able to hold a level of nuance and trust in God that His plan for me is where my honest and sincere search for truth and divinity leads me.
If the only thing you can hold is that God participates exclusively in the lives of Church members worthy of a temple recommend, I don’t believe you will be able to effectively support and minister to me because I’d percieve that you’d deny God’s ability to continue to be part of my life.
If you believe that when someone experiences through a sincere quest for truth, through their own inner voice, conscience, and that through their personal experience that God has led them to a present perception that the Church it is not what it represents itself to be, that the only source of this perception can be Satan, then I do not believe you will be able to effectively support and minister to me.
I can hold that you have spiritual experiences and that you interpret them under the construct that they constitute divine witnesses of truth.
Can you hold that I have spiritual experiences and that the construct of divine witnesses of truth failed me because they “witnessed” of things that I currently perceive are partially or entirely inaccurate, and that I have worked really hard to reconstruct a different understanding of what my spiritual experiences are and what they mean?
If you cannot hold and trust that the construct you still believe works for you, has failed for me, and that while I don’t deny my past and current experiences, that they hold a different construct for me now, then I do not trust you will be able to effectively support and minister to me.
5- Help me understand your boundaries.
For example, during a Sunday School class, will it be okay for me to express my view that there wasn’t a Global Flood, or that the story of Jonah is a non-historical satirical allegory, or that the consensus of scholars is that 6 of the epistles attributed to Paul weren’t actually written by him, and that neither the Gospels or the Book of Revelation were actually written by the Apostles to whom they are attributed?
Will it be okay for me to express how I feel about LGBTQ issues and women’s roles in the Church?
Help me understand the degree to which I can authentically participate in your particular Ward within boundaries that work for you.
So, tell me what you think. What feed back to you have regarding these 5 things?