Mormon Stories Listeners,
Yesterday I spent an hour on the phone with a Mormon missionary who is one week deep into a faith crisis. They are pretty sure the Mormon church isn’t “true” any more, so it appears as though that ship has sailed. They are about a year into their mission, and are trying to decide what to do in their situation. Some of the complicating factors include:
- Reasons to stay on the mission:
- They believe that the Mormon church is “good” overall, even if it isn’t true. They are open to remaining a liberal/non-literal believing member, but don’t know if/how that’s possible, nor if people like them are wanted in the church.
- They do not want to disappoint their family by returning home early. They worry that it will break their parents’ hearts.
- Will their parents face a financial penalty if they come home early?
- Will they be judged/shamed by family, friends, ward, community, and future dates if they come home early?
- For a number of reasons, they are sort of locked into attending one of the BYU schools, and do not want to jeopardize their situation. In this case, it’s not as simple as telling them “you shouldn’t go to BYU!” Trust me on this. Sometimes life is complicated.
- They are a bit worried that their life foundation is crumbling, and they are concerned about the ramifications of “blowing everything up” at such an early age….without a viable plan.
- Reasons to come home early:
- They wonder if they can last an entire year as a Mormon missionary, teaching investigators and baptizing people not really believing in what they are teaching.
- Can they be a reasonably effective Mormon missionary without being dishonest to companions, investigators, members, and mission president? Is this dishonest? Is it unhealthy?
- Can they successfully navigate bearing testimony to the things they believe in (e.g. charity, love, service, kindness) and not have to bear testimony of the things they no longer believe in (e.g., Joseph was a prophet, BOM is true, Mormon church is the “one true church with exclusive authority”)? In short, can they maintain their integrity if they stay on the mission?
- How do they stay motivated as a non-believer?
- Will BYU ultimately be a safe place for them if they don’t really believe the church is true? Can they last at BYU as an underground non-believer? Is this too risky? That said, they don’t really see other educational options at this point for a number of personal reasons.
- Will it be emotionally damaging to hide/pretend regarding their true beliefs about the church for several more years? Is it dishonest to do so?
- Does the church even WANT people like him to be missionaries, and/or to be at BYU?
- Other questions they are pondering:
- Do they come out to their parents now, even if they know it could break their hearts? Or is it better to keep it to themselves?
- Do they open up to their mission president about their faith crisis, or will that introduce potential risk/harm, and jeopardize their future plans?
- Is there a good way to come home early but to do so in a way that minimizes the risks and disruptions? Could they possibly claim that they have anxiety/depression, but not disclose the faith crisis? Any suggestions on how to do this?
- For those of you who experienced a faith crisis on your mission:
- How did you cope with these and other issues?
- What decisions did you ultimately make?
- How did those decisions turn out for you?
- What perspective can you share with this missionary, and with other missionaries?
I am less looking for general advice….and am more looking specifically for advice/perspective/experience from people who have actually faced these sorts of issues on their Mormon missions.
I am looking for anyone who faced these sorts of issues on their Mormon mission to share their perspectives in this blog post, so that this missionary can hear various perspectives.
I would also like to bring 5-6 of you on Mormon Stories Podcast to share your perspectives. So please message me if you are able/willing: email@example.com
Finally, I believe that this exercise will help untold Mormon missionaries in the future. So thank you so much in advance.