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Advice on a request from my bishop


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Hi all.  

This weekend, my wife's visiting teaching companion asked to be released as a VT.  My wife reached out to her and said she hoped everything was OK, and that she loved VT with her.  She got a text back reciprocating those sentiments, but not much more information.  Then Sunday morning, this same site was released from her other ward calling from the pulpit.  Then the bishop asked if he could seek with us after the block.

When we met with him after in his office, he confided with us that this site and her husband had recently discovered and read the CES letter.  They told the bishop they wanted to be released from their callings and needed to take a break from church.  He asked if they were still willing to read the scriptures and pray, and they said after all that they have "discovered" the don't feel like they can.  He hen asked them if they would be willing to talk to other members.  That is when out bishop thought of my wife and I.  He knew that with my experiences with my family leaving the church in a very antagonistic way with me that I had read the CES letter and chosen to maintain my faith and my membership.  He asked us to go and see this couple and talk to them.  

We relied we would love to show them we love them and that we don't judge them for struggling with these things.  I also informed the bishop that I would not want to get into trying to give a point by point rebuttal to the couple, and that my experience is that most people who talk like they are talking have already made a choice on what they believe about the letter and are not looking for answers.  The bishop has not read the letter and asked me if I thought he should.  I told him that it probably would not serve him well to read it, and that his advice to be proactive spiritually is probably good advice coming from a bishop.

My appeal to you all is - help me understand how you would approach this "assignment".  What would you do, and avoid doing?  How do you even begin such a conversation?  How do we avoid getting into a legalistic feeling debate about the letter, while still eating them know we know of it's contents and have resolved the dissonance for ourselves?

I want to serve this couple well, and welcome your input!

 

Thanks!

MP

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49 minutes ago, Maestrophil said:

Hi all.  

This weekend, my wife's visiting teaching companion asked to be released as a VT.  My wife reached out to her and said she hoped everything was OK, and that she loved VT with her.  She got a text back reciprocating those sentiments, but not much more information.  Then Sunday morning, this same site was released from her other ward calling from the pulpit.  Then the bishop asked if he could seek with us after the block.

When we met with him after in his office, he confided with us that this site and her husband had recently discovered and read the CES letter.  They told the bishop they wanted to be released from their callings and needed to take a break from church.  He asked if they were still willing to read the scriptures and pray, and they said after all that they have "discovered" the don't feel like they can.  He hen asked them if they would be willing to talk to other members.  That is when out bishop thought of my wife and I.  He knew that with my experiences with my family leaving the church in a very antagonistic way with me that I had read the CES letter and chosen to maintain my faith and my membership.  He asked us to go and see this couple and talk to them.  

We relied we would love to show them we love them and that we don't judge them for struggling with these things.  I also informed the bishop that I would not want to get into trying to give a point by point rebuttal to the couple, and that my experience is that most people who talk like they are talking have already made a choice on what they believe about the letter and are not looking for answers.  The bishop has not read the letter and asked me if I thought he should.  I told him that it probably would not serve him well to read it, and that his advice to be proactive spiritually is probably good advice coming from a bishop.

My appeal to you all is - help me understand how you would approach this "assignment".  What would you do, and avoid doing?  How do you even begin such a conversation?  How do we avoid getting into a legalistic feeling debate about the letter, while still eating them know we know of it's contents and have resolved the dissonance for ourselves?

I want to serve this couple well, and welcome your input!

 

Thanks!

MP

First, it sounds like you are already have a good grasp on things and I agree with your above commentary and responses provided to your bishop. I think one thing I have learned and observed is that people crave certainty, hard evidence, or something that removes all doubts and questions. I believe this craving is a large reason why many people begin testimonies with "I know". Some people don't seem to like ambiguity and so when they read things that trouble them (true or not), they want to find a place of surety, even if that comes at the expense of their faith. Ironically, this means that they often embrace the same types of black and white thinking that they employed when they claimed "to know." What I am saying, is that if we could teach people who start to experience a faith crisis to (a) embrace the ambiguity, and (b) exercise faith in the face of their doubts, concerns, questions and all of the ambiguity, they will find a richness of faith, testimony, and ultimately knowledge in the Savior, restoration, the Church, and the Gospel. Hopefully it is not too late for these folks to realize the marvelous chance they have to truly test and grow their faith. 

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I would  not bring up the CES Letter with them unless you feel you have some "talking points" which may help them. In other words after you read it, why did you stay? Was that because the Spirit continued to confirm the truthfulness of the church to you? Or did you feel the CES letter had weak points that weren't convincing? If the latter then you may be somewhat prepared to get into specific doubts they have.

They may also feel you were "sent" and become defensive. So it might be better just for your wife to feel out this sister first and just say "I noticed you didn't get a new calling...do you have concerns about the church?" and see what happens. If this sister brings up the CES letter then you have grounds to bring it up in another visit to the couple.

I have read the CES letter, and while at first it seems somewhat convincing, it definitely has weak spots. If you can strongly hit on these and talk about how they aren't really good arguments, you may be able to help this couple. Jeff Lindsay actually does a very good job of addressing most of the same CES arguments on his website. For instance the argument that Joseph Smith must have plagiarized the BoM from prior works just doesn't fly when one realizes that keying in on particular phrases is just not really helpful, because they were really just a part of King James English, and thus were used in hundreds of books - even phrases like "narrow neck of land".  Using the same computer search methodology, Jeff Lindsay comes up with a book with the same types of phrases which one is very hard pressed to say could be used to write the Book of Mormon. 

Since you said " I also informed the bishop that I would not want to get into trying to give a point by point rebuttal to the couple, and that my experience is that most people who talk like they are talking have already made a choice on what they believe about the letter and are not looking for answers," my feeling is my suggestion may not be the correct approach for you. But you may try looking over Jeff Lindsay's website and suggesting it to them.

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1 hour ago, Maestrophil said:

Hi all.  

This weekend, my wife's visiting teaching companion asked to be released as a VT.  My wife reached out to her and said she hoped everything was OK, and that she loved VT with her.  She got a text back reciprocating those sentiments, but not much more information.  Then Sunday morning, this same site was released from her other ward calling from the pulpit.  Then the bishop asked if he could seek with us after the block.

When we met with him after in his office, he confided with us that this site and her husband had recently discovered and read the CES letter.  They told the bishop they wanted to be released from their callings and needed to take a break from church.  He asked if they were still willing to read the scriptures and pray, and they said after all that they have "discovered" the don't feel like they can.  He hen asked them if they would be willing to talk to other members.  That is when out bishop thought of my wife and I.  He knew that with my experiences with my family leaving the church in a very antagonistic way with me that I had read the CES letter and chosen to maintain my faith and my membership.  He asked us to go and see this couple and talk to them.  

We relied we would love to show them we love them and that we don't judge them for struggling with these things.  I also informed the bishop that I would not want to get into trying to give a point by point rebuttal to the couple, and that my experience is that most people who talk like they are talking have already made a choice on what they believe about the letter and are not looking for answers.  The bishop has not read the letter and asked me if I thought he should.  I told him that it probably would not serve him well to read it, and that his advice to be proactive spiritually is probably good advice coming from a bishop.

My appeal to you all is - help me understand how you would approach this "assignment".  What would you do, and avoid doing?  How do you even begin such a conversation?  How do we avoid getting into a legalistic feeling debate about the letter, while still eating them know we know of it's contents and have resolved the dissonance for ourselves?

I want to serve this couple well, and welcome your input!

 

Thanks!

MP

Salut le Mec,

Ca, c'est plus que difficile!  

I think you already have a great handle of the situation.  You express your love for them as children of God and as fellow LDS.  Maybe share with them your own experience and how you remain a faithful LDS.  For me the focus is on Jesus Christ and serving him - the history of the Church, the actions of other humans, is meaningless UNLESS it assists me in being a better disciple of the Savior.  The issue is never anything else but the Savior and when individuals attempt to focus on something less than him, then the their focus is wrong and Satan as won in getting them to do just that.  

Taking a break from church attendance is one thing, but removing ourselves from the Spirit - and those things that invite the Spirit - is not helpful to the growth of an individual.  Who is benefited by withdrawing from the scriptures?  When we review our own actions and where influence comes from it focuses where influence is coming from and to whom we are listening.  

The CES letter and its points are not what is important and it does nothing to improve one's relationship with our Father in Heaven or Jesus Christ.  In my opinion, its sole purpose, and the sole purpose of all things similar things, is to take our focus off of our Heavenly Father and is plan for us.  

You will do great by loving them and accepting them for where they are.  They either will respond or not and it does not matter to anyone AS FAR AS loving them and being friends.  

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I think you should be very honest in everything you say and tell them the bishop reached out to you.  I think they will appreciate that he did that, and didn't just ignore them or discontinue having anything to do with them because of their unbelief.  

You can share what you've come to find out, show empathy for where they are at in their life and how life altering it must be.  And just be there for them to talk to anytime they need to get their doubts off their chest.  That's a huge blessing for them right there.  If they feel they are a project or that you're trying to keep them in, they will probably leave quicker.

Totally speak openly about the issues, never get into an argument or debate that what they've learned is wrong.  Tell them you are here for them to talk to, and you are aware of everything they have found out.  Give them the courtesy of knowing that Mormonism isn't for everyone, I think I remember a quote from Pres. Uchtdorf on that one.    

Remember, if they don't have you to talk to they will reach out to ex LDS or disillusioned members instead.  Life is a big gamble right now in my mind.  You can choose a lifestyle, a belief and do what is best for the individual I guess.  There is no proof that this church is true, so why do members act as if there is?  They've every right to figure out what kind of faith paradigm they want to be in.  

Who's to say the LDS aren't totally off track and in the wrong faith paradigm?  You know there are a bajillion that think we are.  They don't understand that it can be a nice way to live.  The essays alone show there can be reasons for doubt and questions and that the church covered it up.  

For crying out loud, in the Brigham Young manual they said BY's 'wife' instead of wives, without even mentioning his polygamy.  The truth is on the doubter's side, not the church's. When are the apologists going to admit that?  No the apologist continues to sidestep that issue. I know that is a hard pill to swallow, but just being honest.     

Anyway, hopefully you'll figure out a way to stay friends and stay in contact.  

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Just let them know, too, that their doubts doesn't mean they are at fault or sinners or anything.  Personally, I think the Bishop, seeing how he is very much involved and caring, and the fact that they did mention the CES letter in particular, should read the CES letter.  He should know where they are coming from and if he wants, discuss the letter with you again.  Good luck.  These are good people and I know you and your wife will treat them with love and respect.

Jeanne

Edited by Jeanne
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From my experience leaving the Church I had many friends/family members that talked to me about why we were making the wrong decision.   The only conversation I really respect is the one with a friend who said "I don't have all the answers but I have had too many spiritual experiences not too believe it".   For me, I can accept that answer and truly respect it.  If he believe in the LDS Church and it is bringing him happiness/spiritual contentment who am I to disagree?

Others who wanted to "prove" my opinions wrong came up lacking as did those who told us we should stay just because it was a good way of life.   (of course there was also my Mother's....."think about the children guilt trip" that was also unsuccessful")

 

 

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If I were you, I would simply show up and say, "I once walked where you are walking.   If I can be of help to you or your family in any way, I'd like to be.   Here is my phone number, email address, place where I eat breakfast every third saturday morning at 8:30 AM.   I don't know whether talking about it would help: when I was where you are, I didn't see the point of listening to apologetic responses.   I can tell you that I wished I had known when I was going through it that ______________________________________.    It took me _______, but I am glad that I am now reconciled with God in His church.   I'll check in with you from time to time.   Wherever your belief takes you, you are dearly loved children of Heavenly Parents who are rooting for your happiness and success."

And then I would simply listen, occasionally share something in nature that is beautiful, and do kind things with them.

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If you get the opportunity it might be good to point out that the CES Letter and other similar works are simply someone else interpretations from their own experiences and that an intelligent, rational person can and should be able to come up with their own answers to the data presented that does not include the conclusions of the authors of those pieces of literary genius.

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Thank you all for your very helpful responses!  I am incorporating them all to some degree...  We did get a hold of them and offer to come meet, and they seem to be willing.  sjdawg - your comments from your POV helped a lot, thank you for sharing that.  

I will return and let you know how things went.  Our ultimate goal is just to help them feel supported and loved regardless of their spiritual choices.

 

MP

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