Doubt and the Dangers of Reading Alone

A lot has already been said about the Hans Mattsson article in the NYT. One issue, however, that I feel needs further exploration is how crises of faith might be approached from a more therapeutic or pastoral angle. Below are some excerpts from a sacrament talk I delivered at the beginning of this year. I hope it might contribute to the recent discussions of doubt and faith crises in Mormonism.

This invitation to speak coincided with a presentation I attended on Islam. The presenter studied Muslims who had experienced what we might call a crisis of faith within their community. Some Muslims found ways of remaining within Islam and others decided to leave. One of the interesting things the presenter noted is that many of the Muslims he encountered had their initial crisis of faith when they were “reading alone.” In other words, these Muslims explained that their doubts about Islam began when they came across information that challenged their faith. They felt that they encountered, or at least, studied this information alone. While in this context, “alone” could be taken literally, to mean that they confronted this information by themselves—reading it in the privacy of their own homes, perhaps, either in a book or on a computer—but instead we can take it more broadly to mean that they felt alone when going through some crisis of faith. They were alone in the sense of feeling that no one within their community could sympathize with their struggles.  Continue reading “Doubt and the Dangers of Reading Alone”

Wheat and Tares Apologetics

Apologetics has obviously been on my mind recently. In previous posts I discussed how certain kinds of apologetics might be pursued at places such as BYU. Indeed, I believe that religious institutions such as BYU should produce apologetics in the sense of scholarship that explains, explores, and defends the truth claims of Mormonism. I also believe that this scholarship should be fit for a university, meaning that it should largely meet the criteria of scholarship within the broader academic community.

In this post, I’d like to discuss one kind of apologetics. An apologetics represented in pieces such as Greg Smith’s review of Mormon Stories. This kind of apologetics is one part of the classic FARMS approach to apologetics. And unlike other parts of the classic FARMS approach, this approach is inappropriate for places such as BYU. I might even go so far as to venture that a determination to pursue this approach, despite its shortcomings, is largely responsible for the desire to replace some of the leadership at the Maxwell Institute.

The kind of apologetics I want to discuss is what I call Wheat and Tares Apologetics. Wheat and Tares Apologetics is aimed at sifting the good guys from the bad guys. It aims to answer the basic question–is This Person/Organization a trusted source for learning about Mormonism? Or, more broadly, should LDSs trust This Person/Organization? Since apologetics tends to be done in defense of a perceived threat, most of Wheat and Tares Apologetics is geared toward showing why some individual or organization is a “tare” rather than a “wheat.” Continue reading “Wheat and Tares Apologetics”