August 7, 2009

John Lynch: "Uh, oh" to "Ah hah!" 20/20 Foresight for a Faithful Future in Defending the Church



These notes contain some comments from John Lynch in regards to StayLDS.com, etc. I urge anyone who wishes to comment on this presentation to email FAIR directly at FAIRLDS.org. 

The following are my personal notes of the presentations. They are incomplete and likely contain mistakes, omissions and especially spelling errors. A full transcript is now available from FAIR here.


 We try to translate an "uh, oh" moment into an "ah hah" moment where are confidence in what we already know remains intact.

We are Heavenly Father's children, and he loves us. Of all the titles he would have us address him by, he has chosen the title of father. I think that reflects the precious view he has for each of us whether we are fithful or doubting. He grieves at attacks on his children.

We are here to sustain our covenenat made in the temple to sustain and defend the kingdom. To accomplish our goal, of neccessity we must walk our own careful lines. We are decidedly partisans in defending the Church. We want to maintain confidence in the highest levels in allowing for the broader path needed by some while following the narrow path.

The battleground is in the hearts of individuals to allow them to rediscover faith. People who come to us arrive with a wide difference in background, so the tent must be cast somewhat wide. So what is it that we are defending. This is my thought, you might differ.


We are defending:
-Foundational claims of the restoration of the gospel.
-The canonized teachings.
-The priesthood authority, including ongoing revelation.
-Good names and reputations of General Authorities and Church.

What are we not obligated to defend?
-personal writings of memmbers and general authorities.
-changeable interpretation of doctrines.
-manuals published by committees.
(Dan Peterson had helped writing a particular manual and at one point he snuck in an inside joke for the review people. He wrote three questions. "Have you ever killed anyone with a sacrament meeting talk?" etc. The worst part is, it made it through correlation somehow and he had to call their attention to it.)
-Behavior of local leaders.
-Conventional wisdom or "folk doctrine."
(Curse of Cain, pre-ordained families, 3 Nephite stories)

We are really tyring to "Tend the Gardens of the Heart."
-Alma 32:28:
"Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."

Alma 32:38: "
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out."

There is a duel need here, we need to give room for the seed but it also needs to be nourished. Our real objective is the preservation of faith. It is not enough to answer criticism any more than all a gardner needs to do is weed.

1. Answers need to include not only refutation of wrong claims, but additionally affirmation of our faith in order to share testimony. We also need to encourage people to take responsibility for their faith, but we can be helpful on that path.

We need to find non-sensational needs to help testimony and faith grow. We all have received faith-promoting stories from so-and-so who heard someone else say something about someone's friend etc. and it becomes a rumor. We don;t need these sort of things to boost faith. There is enough good to help. But as people navigate their life journeys, it is important they can make clear and concise choices. So the ability to discern is crucial.

*Without discernment agency does not exist.
-How do we draw the line between right and wrong? Light and darkness? When we can't discern which side, we don't have strong agency, we have "uh, oh" moments.

Moroni 7:
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

  14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

  15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

  16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 
With clarity, we have choice. [John then dissected Luke 11:34, as the slide shows.]
Again, the more clearly we can dileneate the lines, the more we can restore the agency they deserve. 
Examples: What if your 16 or 17 yr old pulled up in a brand new Porche? You might worry about the tickets, fast driving, etc. [He showed a picture of a car, then the full picture showed it was just a sports car painted on the side of a minivan. So things are not always what they seem.]
He showed this gif, showing that people can look at the same thing and see it differently. The woman spins one way or the other depending on how you are looking at it. 
Critics can simply change how we look at the same material. 
Was the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor a suppression of something that threatened safety, or was it a totalitarian regime bent on opposing truth?
[He then showed an optical illusion of lines that seemed to be straight or square. Then superimposed other lines on top of it giving better perspective. ]

 So how can we get better perspective and adjust our thinking appropriately?

*We need to engender trust in those we work with.
Anything we do that violates trust will diminish our influence. Oftentimes how we react will be more important than what we say when we react (2 reasons)

1.  Because the person needs to know we are safe
2. Because there are other people on the sidelines watching.

*Faith is the focus, not the erasing of doubts.
When you try to find help, use trustworthy resources. There are wolves in sheeps clothing. 2 specifically.

1. MormonThink.com. Presents itself as open environment to discuss gospel from open perspective where the truth is discovered. I will tell you right now there is an agenda behind that website. They would like to make the line more fuzzy, to raise doubts.

2. StayLDS.com. This is run by John Dehlin, a sincere individual who wants to help. I think he is off the mark. They say we want you to stay LDS even though you don't believe. Why would you want to do that? Why have someone remain complacent in a state of doubt?

Find trustworthy resources that stand firm. Let them be partisan. Balanced information is fine. But make sure you find those who stand up for what the Church believes.

*Become a peacemaking presence.

What to do when someone I love has serious doubts?

1. Empathize
-the person hasn't just doubted all of a sudden, they have likely been struggling with pain for a time. So acknowledge the feelings. Assure it is natural and that they are not bad or wrong for their feelings.
-thank them for trusting you with their doubts and concerns
-assure them it is natural to feel how they do

2. Reassure them that an answer exists
-whether you know it or not, and whether it is the one we want, we'll find it.

3. Set realistic expectations.
-answers won't come all at once and easily
-it requires study and effort
-must persist and own their search for truth

[John then shared some comments from people who responded to a blog post he wrote a few weeks ago:]



"Thank you for writing this post. I went through my own period of disaffection, and your summary fits my experience as well. Your July 15, 11:48 post is as insightful as your original post.
To the commenters who are insisting that people ought to be able to ignore the behavior of people they trust, I would just say that people who are questioning are hurting a lot. Hurt leads to anger, and most see the anger and forget that there’s a lot of hurt under there. Quite plainly, I wasn’t strong enough to ignore hurtful behavior. You’ve got to have a fair amount of emotional and spiritual strength to ignore a violation of trust. Just scolding us for being weak doesn’t make anyone strong. Reaching out with patience and charity builds strength.

Incidentally, the online Mormon community is where I turned after people in real life ostracized me for having questions. There is a lot of kindness and patience in the Bloggernacle (yes, I know there are spats and arguments too). It made all the difference for me. I hung around the FAIR message boards a lot during that period. Just the kind tone of the faithful Mormons did more for me than all the clever arguments did."

4. Capture their concerns in full

5. Consolodate issues into larger concerns
-JS married 14 yr. old, BY made racist comments, BoM anachronisms, etc.

6. Reveal tacitics critics use to confuse, distort, overwhelm.
-So they can feel and recognize them.

7. Focus responses on larger concerns - 2 examples
-JS was a prophet
     (yes he married a 14 year old. What do we know about that and how did it affect his calling? What other evidences do we have about his calling? What spiritual confirmations have we received?)
-Book of Abraham as scripture
     (what do we know about it? what teachings do we have from the book itself that help us? do we cast out baby with bathwater?)

8. With focus on larger concerns it is emotionally OK to introduce any evidence on the larger subject so you can look at evidences that affirm truthfulness.

9. Once faith begins to return encourage practices that fortify spiritual strength
-prayer
-continued study
 (humility will help us gain perspective)

10. Engender trust by answering the questions. As faith returns, doing this will be much easier as they will be more prone to find the faith than the fear.

11. If you don't know the answer, don't pretend, admit it. Go find answer.
-Ask the Apologist
-FARMS
-FAIR Wiki
-LDS.org, etc.

12. Pray! Power of faith can perform miracles.

Another comment from a web user on that blog mentioned above:

"I was inactive from the Church from my late teens until the age of 31. When I finally returned my righteous mother told me that she always knew that I would come back. I asked her how she could have known that. Her reply was, “I never once went to bed without asking the Lord to watch over you and bring you back.” When she said that I had flashbacks of several situations that I had been in during that time that should have totally destroyed me ether physically or spiritually. The Spirit told me that I was preserved and guided back because of the faithful prayers of my righteous, loving, mother. The faithful prayers of a loving parent, relative or friend has great power."

How Do I Stay Strong?

-Balance faith-affirming influences, scriptures, prayer, etc.
-Get support
-Never let what you DON'T know obscure what you DO know.
-Focus on your relationship with God, not the daily ups and downs of what we do or don't have answers to.
-Having a "Questions" shelf.
-Spiritual renewal - do those things that provide spiritual experiences.
-Avoid "fundamentalism" and "skepticism" [as guiding principle]. Believing Too much vs. Too little. Don't prescribe for others what they must believe and have flexibility.

FAIR ORGANIZATION EFFORTS

1. Providing Transfusion Materials
-addressing potentially troubling aspects within faithful context

2. Local Chapters
-people throughout the church on local level helping to spread resources.

3. International Firesides and Conferences

4. Segmented Attention
-blacklds.org
-FAIR's Rising Generation, youth group.
-Language sites (German, Spanish, etc.)

5. Current Technology
-twitter, facebook, blogs, youtube, podcasts

6. Publishing and Production
-blacklds.org
-News alerts
-FAIR Journal

Close with 2 examples of people who wrote to FAIR to thank FAIR for help. This is our only reward. Noone at FAIR is paid aside from a book store manager.

One from a 19 year old who is preparing for a mission. This individual ran into anti-Mormon claims and struggled. He almost rejected his mission call and hardended against thew Spirit. He had real stumbling blocks but found help at FAIR. He spent months reading and had more info from both sides, realized the church MAY be true, humbled self, asked God again and God reaffirmed his faith.

The second was a 32 year old person who felt FAIR helped him in his conversion process.

It all comes down to the Spirit helping the doubt dissipate. The Holy Ghost is the key. 

Q: I think you may misunderstand the purpose of StayLDS.org/

A: I might, you might be right. My main concern is that I do want people to remain in the church. I am simply leery about encouraging people to stay despite not believing in any of the claims, etc. [incomplete typing]

Q: Curriculum is approved by First Pres. and 12, can't we call it official?

A: Sure, of course. But they are not definitive, the yare not perfect. They are here to help lead people to Christ. In that process some of the things in our history will be subject to correction. Consider McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, it had mistakes. If he can make mistakes, I guess even Dan Peterson can!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a moderator on StayLDS.com I just wanted to say I think the mission of StayLDS has been misrepresented in this post. We are NOT simply trying to help people stay in the church that don't believe. We are trying to help people regain some level of faith and spirituality. Some people crash hard when they experience a crisis of faith, we want them to know that members of the church still value them even if they can't presently see everything the way they think the church wants them to. Showing them this acceptance and love is the only way some of them will ever have a chance to return with their heart to the church. At least that's the way it worked for me personally. We work to help people find belief again, Thank You for the opportunity to clarifiy this point.

BHodges said...

Mod: you can also email John directly at FAIRLDS.org Send it to pres. here: http://fairlds.org/contact.php

Papa D said...

Nearly everyone knows me around the Bloggernacle - and I don't think anyone who knows me would believe that I am involved in a project to encourage doubt about the Church. That just isn't who I am or what I do. I blog using my real name, and I'm not exactly shy about my testimony.

I am one of the original admins at StayLDS.com, and we are doing the absolute best we can to help those who want to stay involved in the LDS Church do so - to the maximum level possible for each individual. If they don't believe some or many doctrines, we try to help them stick around long enough to reconcile those things in a way that will allow them to be productive participants and joyful individuals inside the organization of the Church.

I am doing this largely because I believe passionately in what Elder Wirthlin said in his talk, "Concern for the One" - and because I believe deeply that not all is lost when faith is shaken, even mightily - that the road back can be glorious, but there simply MUST be a good Samaritan around to help bind up the broken heart and care for the troubled mind.

If creating apologetics to address the charges of dedicated anti-Mormon activists is a worthwhile cause (and I agree that it is), I believe providing a place for struggling members to regain peace and faith among those who understand their struggles and don't simply write them off also is a worthwhile cause.

We deal with individuals, and we don't deal strictly with apologetics - so we aren't for everyone. We really aren't even for most. But I am convinced, based on what people have told me personally and what the Spirit has whispered to me, that what we provide those who need it can be and often is a true Godsend for them.

Ray

Angela said...

Just to add to what my fellow moderators & admins at StayLDS have said, we are deeply committed to the mission of StayLDS, which is to help people rebuild faith within the church while respecting their feelings as they sort them through. We are not there to create an alterna-church of non-belief in which people pretend to be faithful but are not. People of all levels of belief desire spirituality despite their doubts. Our site (like FAIR) has helped many stay in the church and begin that rebuilding process. There are some who are not ready to rebuild faith, and unfortunately, neither StayLDS nor FAIR are going to help them, regardless of our best intentions.

I consider this "friendly fire" rebuke to be misguided if sincere. I would hope that those not served by FAIR's approach (not all will be) can find the encouragement they need at StayLDS to rebuild the faith they need to stay in the church. Please reconsider your dismissal of our heartfelt work. We are faithful members of the church volunteering our time to serve and help others. We hope to broaden the tent to include all who want to be in it. People will certainly benefit more from association with the church than they will by abandoning it.

To conflate our mission at StayLDS.com with that of mormonthink.com (which is at direct odds with FAIR) is a serious misjudgment. Perhaps it escaped the author's notice that we actually link to your site on our main page.