An LDS Faith Transition Has Three Stages:
An LDS Faith Transition has three stages, comparable to faith transitions from other faiths of the World: 1. Initial World-View Construction. 2. Subsequent World-View Deconstruction followed by 3. World-View Reconstruction.
My Top 10 LDS Faith Transition Resources for each stage are listed below. Reconstruction stage resources listed may also be useful for those not of an LDS background. With the exception of LDS temple service, access to the top 10 resources of each stage is free.
Initial LDS World-view Construction
1. Establishing a foundational LDS testimony is KEY to the most “fortified” initial LDS World-view Construction. Prayer and the witness of the Holy Ghost are essential components of this. These experiences paradoxically can also set the stage for a later faith transition.
2. Diligent study of the LDS Scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon is absolutely essential for the initial construction of an LDS world-view. This often paradoxically is also essential for the later stages of an LDS Faith Transition.
3. LDS Church service and participation to include worthy LDS Temple Service is also needed. For some LDS temple worship bolsters their initial LDS World-view. For others, it pushes them towards later World-view Deconstruction for a variety of reasons.
4. The Official Website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon) is a powerful resource for constructing an initial LDS World-view. It also can be a powerful source for a later LDS Faith Transition. The LDS website is extremely well done and has numerous helpful links to include the Official LDS Church Study Resource Page. In addition to many study resources, links are included for service and humanitarian opportunities as well as family history research, etc.
5. LDS General Conferences: The words of modern LDS prophets and apostles are also essential for the LDS faith journey. This specific site shows conferences all the way back to the 1850’s and is listed in the official LDS resource page above!
6. Joseph Smith Papers, many in his own hand writing also are very helpful in the faith construction phase (as well as the later deconstruction phase). This is an official LDS website.
7. BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute: FARMS (The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) was absorbed by the Maxwell Institute. This is perhaps the best website on the internet for somewhat scholarly perspectives (mostly from BYU professors) that still conform to orthodox LDS interpretations! This site is listed in the official LDS Resource page above.
8. FAIR Mormon (LDS Apologetics) is the most prominent LDS apologist website on the internet! This site is listed in the official LDS resource page above. FAIR apologetics has helped bolster numerous faltering testimonies during the construction phase of an LDS world-view. It also is one of the best websites on the internet for building a solid foundation for an LDS Faith Transition.
9. Book of Mormon Central is an apologist page specifically regarding Book of Mormon matters, but also aimed at increasing readers’ testimonies and application of the Book of Mormon in other ways as well. It includes links and articles on archeology, etc. that may help bolster faith. The site is listed in the official LDS resource page above.
10. Saints is the newest official re-telling of LDS Church history. It is much more revealing than prior versions (e.g. Our Heritage). There are extensive footnotes that go into a great deal more depth than what is covered in the body of the text. This all can both bolster faith during the construction phase of an LDS faith journey while simultaneously setting the stage for a later robust LDS Faith Transition.
1. The top three resources for LDS World-view Construction are analogous to the top three World-view Deconstruction resources. Spiritual Witnesses: Seeing individuals testify from other (sometimes contradictory) faiths with equally strong foundational testimonies established in similar ways as the LDS paradigm can be “rattling” for sure to the confidence one has in one’s own witnesses of the Holy Ghost. Also, learning truths testified of by the Holy Ghost in one’s own life that later turn out to be absolutely false can be a powerful deconstructive force as well (e.g. feeling the Spirit during Paul Dunn firesides is a common example many cite). It is not uncommon for a “faith crisis” to start at about this point because the feelings of the witness of the Spirit was the most important foundational element the prior LDS Faith Construction phase was built upon!
2. Diligent Study of LDS Scriptures is absolutely essential during the faith crisis/world-view deconstruction phase of an LDS Faith Transition. Paradoxically, the exact same actions that for years built such a solid base during the construction phase of faith development, namely keeping the commandments, prayer and reading scriptures often hasten world-view deconstruction during this phase of an LDS Faith Transition journey! This is often difficult for orthodox adherents to believe or understand because it does not align with their own experiences within the construction phase. Thus well-meaning counsel is often given to those in an “LDS faith crisis” to just “pray, read scriptures and keep the commandments” to take one back from the Deconstruction phase to the initial Construction phase.
3. Volunteer Match is an excellent website for connecting with local volunteer and service opportunities almost anywhere in the nation! Social cohesion and experiencing Divinity can and DOES happen outside of the realm of LDS socialization. This can be a particularly helpful resource for those who previously found comfort in LDS temple worship. During the Deconstruction phase of an LDS Faith Transition, it is not uncommon to have one’s temple recommend revoked when being honest with one’s local LDS leadership about historical, doctrinal or textual concerns. It really becomes an impossible double-bind in many respects as one is usually expected to have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the modern LDS prophets and the LDS Church and also be honest for temple admittance. Once an LDS temple recommend is revoked, full LDS temple worship becomes impossible, even if paying LDS tithing and following all of the other LDS commandments. David Ostler, a very active LDS apologist and former mission president speaks of this extensively in his book “Bridges,” offering suggestions to local leaders for more effectively ministering to those in the middle of an LDS Faith crisis.
4. Read the Official LDS Gospel Topics Essays. These are responses to difficult and controversial historical, doctrinal and textual issues. Examples include troublesome issues about the LDS Book of Abraham, Native American DNA and the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s treasure seeking activities, and Joseph Smith’s polyandry (e.g. issuing calls to men to leave on missions and then marrying their wives while they were gone). What used to be commonly believed as “anti-Mormon lies” are acknowledged as true in many of these essays. In depth study of the footnotes can leave the reader with a different impression than what the essays try to convey, further expediting an LDS faith transition and strengthening the Deconstruction phase of an LDS Faith Journey.
5. Psychology Today is an awesome source! It is a very reliable site with many excellent articles as well as links to numerous licensed health care professionals. Understanding the well described and common psychological phenomena of Cognitive Dissonance, Confirmation Bias, Social Cohesion, Elevation Emotion, and the Illusory Truth Effect in particular can be VERY helpful during the Deconstruction stage. The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance in particular bears mentioning. ANY time one’s world views are challenged, REGARDLESS of what those views are, one will feel “confused.” One can then align to a place of more emotional peace by either ignoring or denying the data that challenged one’s world views, or adjusting one’s world views, or a combination of both. Feelings of confusion and peace in and of themselves are often not indicators of lies or literal truth. Rather, they are frequently only indicators of the alignment of one’s world view with the perception of the data at hand. Psychology Today is also an excellent source for better understanding and navigating various stages of grief. The Deconstruction phase of a faith transition can be extremely painful and full of mixed feelings of betrayal, bereavement, anger, self-blame, etc. These are all natural and normal feelings and do pass over time as they are compassionately embraced, understood, honored, validated and accepted.
6. LDS Church is True: The author is an active, non-orthodox Latter-day Saint. He is intellectually honest about the historical and textual facts and discusses these on his Blog while trying to frame these in a metaphorical paradigm. Based on his lived experience, he still believes the LDS Church is true, the “Body of Christ” and still supports local and general leaders. None of his posts are antagonistic towards the LDS Church. He experienced his own LDS faith transition and came out the other side a participating Latter-day Saint. This resource could equally be placed in the “reconstruction” stage but is included here given his honesty in dealing with many of the literal LDS interpretations that frequently fall apart for many upon a more in-depth analysis.
7. Scientific American is one of the most reliable and user friendly science sites on the internet. It avoids pseudoscience. This is an excellent resource for facts of human evolution, geology, carbon dating, DNA of Native Americans, etc which are not compatible with many literal interpretations of LDS scriptures. I do not believe God runs around planting overwhelming evidence in nature to tell one story that contradicts another story humans claim was issued directly from God (written scriptures from many different cultures). To believe God does so to “test faith” I believe would imply a deceitful God.
8. Rational Faiths is a popular LDS website during both the Deconstruction and the Reconstruction phases of an LDS Faith Transition. Two articles from this site in particular bear mentioning: Truthfulness of Deutero-Isaiah Part 1 and Truthfulness of Deutero-Isaiah Part 2 by David Bokovoy, PhD, prior Harvard, BYU and USU religion faculty. Bokovoy outlines the overwhelming evidence large portions of Isaiah quoted by Nephi from the brass plates were actually written after Nephi and couldn’t possibly have been on literal brass plates. He also outlines common (intellectually dishonest) apologetic measures some Latter-day Saints use to deny or minimize the evidence for Deutero-Isaiah. This was written a few years before he stepped away from the LDS Church.
9. Lectures on Doubt is an Excellent Website with numerous very well done posts. This site’s name was recently changed. It used to be titled “Leaving the Garden.” The author is honest, well informed, measured and uses very good critical reasoning skills. He does not take a stance attacking the LDS Church (at least in his posts I have read) although he is honest about facts. Where LDS critics frequently overstep, he will call them out on this. His Letter from a Doubter (written in 2016) is an extremely well-done document. In it, he describes some of the very troublesome aspects of many LDS truth claims from an intellectually honest and reliable perspective. He does so as a member who has been unable to find answers despite MANY years of honest and deep inquiry. Other free resources many find helpful during the Deconstruction phase include CES Letter, Letter For My Wife, Mormon Think or Reddit ExMormon.
10. Wives of Joseph Smith: This site draws primarily from historical documents about polygamy presented within “In Sacred Loneliness” and “Mormon Enigma” (both written by active LDS historians and also readily available in the past from Deseret Book). This site shares many journal entries, etc. from Joseph’s wives so one can see and learn first-hand how they entered into these relationships with Joseph and how their lives were impacted.
1. Psychology Today I mention this site twice because it can be extremely helpful for both the Deconstruction and Reconstruction stages of an LDS faith transition. For instance, better understanding Fowler’s Stages of Faith in Human Development, and how to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse can be extremely important in the Reconstruction phase when leaving a high-demand religion. As previously mentioned, this can also be helpful in navigating stages of grief, particularly common during the Deconstruction phase.
2. Mindful: Healthy Mind, Healthy Life: Vast bodies of scientific data continue to accumulate regarding the many benefits of being mindful and present. Prayer during the first two LDS Faith Transition phases taps into this same concept. Buddhists and Hindus have also known this for thousands of years. Mindful: Healthy Mind, Healthy Life provides free information on meditation as well as guided meditations. Headspace.com is also excellent but is not free. Mindfulness is exceptionally potent in situations that can’t be changed or adjusted. Learning to “Accept what is.” In addition, many high-demand religious groups encourage the suppression and even harsh judgment of an entire range of normal human emotions. This can lead to difficulty connecting with oneself and others on a deep emotional level. Becoming mindful of what one is feeling with a sense of compassionate curiosity is often a very important step in creating greater emotional intimacy in relationships with oneself and others. It is common for those in the reconstruction phase of an LDS Faith Transition to begin to experience a degree of connection and empathy with others they didn’t even realize they were missing as they become more mindful of the many emotions they had been taught to suppress, ignore or shame their entire lives. The benefits and gifts of an LDS Faith Transition can really begin to manifest during the Reconstruction phase!
A word of caution: Some groups delve into transcendental meditation “mindfulness” techniques, sometimes for hours a day, that move squarely into the region of undue influence/mind control. These approaches can be psychologically dangerous and are very different than the secular mindfulness techniques recommended by licensed health care practitioners.
3. Feeling Good, run by David D. Burns, MD. Based off of the concepts in the book Feeling Good the New Mood Therapy also by Dr. Burns. “Feeling Good” is often about identifying and adjusting cognitive distortions of reality to be more in-line with actual reality. There is very good data doing so results in more peace, happiness and much better mental health. The re-organization of cognitive distortions is the foundation of the extremely well-validated and well-studied Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) used by licensed therapists and psychologists, LDS and non-LDS alike. Common cognitive distortions in high-demand religious groups include Black and White Thinking, All or Nothing Thinking, Mind Reading, Fortune Telling/Jumping to Conclusions, Emotional Reasoning, Should Statements, Personalization, and Control Fallacies. Learning to identify and substitute these cognitive distortions with more realistic (and beneficial) pictures of reality can be one of the beautiful benefits and blessings of the Reconstruction phase of an LDS Faith Transition!
4. Studying commonalities with other sacred writ from other cultures can also be extremely beneficial to some during the Reconstruction phase. There are common ways scripture originates across cultures. Dan Wotherspoon (an active Latter-day Saint) discusses Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, a monomyth Campbell believed was at the heart of every religious myth and tradition. Of note, “The Hero’s Journey” bears remarkable resemblance to the “Plan of Salvation” as taught by Joseph Smith. Though in my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming many of the literal LDS truth claims are NOT as stated, a larger question may be how and why were many LDS narratives (and other religious narratives) created in the first place?
5. The Gottman Institute: Many marriages feel the strains of a faith transition. The Gottman’s are often referred to as America’s premier marriage experts. Their sound marriage advice is based on solid empirical research. Their articles on “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism, Contempt) as harbingers of doom in a relationship in particular are very useful.
6. Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith has many numerous well-done blogs from participants of the world’s faiths. For example, there is an excellent Blog on Christian Faith Reconstruction (after Deconstruction) by Keith Giles. Patheos hosts numerous good LDS blogs as well to include blogs of active Latter-day Saints seeing the LDS faith in more nuanced and metaphorical ways after their own Reconstruction phase of an LDS Faith Transition.
7. All for Good is another excellent website that can connect one with local service and volunteering opportunities. In my opinion, continued service and involvement with community, regardless of faith or lack of faith paradigm is important in the Reconstruction phase of any faith transition. Frequent involvement in nature or with music and the arts can also be key. Regardless of our religious persuasions (or lack thereof), it is important to our spiritual health to experience awe and wonder… emotions frequently associated with feelings of being at one with Divinity. This can happen with the activities mentioned above. It’s important not to let a faith crisis rob one of this beautiful aspect of healing that is so important to World-view Reconstruction!
8. Mormon Spectrum is a fantastic website with resources for those of an LDS background at ANY stage of their faith journey. Its online navigation menu is cleanly divided into four sections. Those who only want to explore “orthodox” sources for instance will not accidentally end up exploring “non-faith promoting” resources. Mormon Spectrum has links to an entire range of resource support material to include orthodox podcasts such as the official LDS Church podcasts and more nuanced podcasts such as Mormon Stories Podcast or Year of Polygamy podcast. Importantly, this site also includes links to many online support groups for those experiencing an LDS Faith Crisis. Listings include groups for people who want to maintain activity and involvement in the LDS Church such as Waters of Mormon FB Group to groups for those all along the faith spectrum such as Mormon Stories facebook group to groups for those who have left the LDS Church or are on their way out such as the Mormon Enlightenment FB group . Additionally, Mormon Spectrum lists In-Person support groups and communities across the nation!
9. Mormon Faith Crisis Resources page is another excellent resource tool with a potent list of deconstruction and reconstruction “Must Reads.” These range from works by LDS apologists Thomas McConkie, Jon Ogden, and Terryl and Fiona Givens to works by licensed health care professionals such as Steven Hassan, a leading cult expert (prior Moonie cult member). Excellent podcasts , music, talks, etc are also listed. Mormon Faith Crisis is also an excellent source for community, support, therapists, etc. For example, there are connections to the THRIVE website with many wonderful presentations such as Fundamentals of Mental Health in a Religious Transition. Other free listings on this site include sources such as online mixed-faith support groups Mormon Mixed-Faith Marriages and Marriage on a Tightrope.
10. Recovering From Religion can also be a very helpful support for many. Their Resource Page is robust and can link to free peer to peer support. Also, counselors familiar with helping patients with Post Religious Trauma Syndrome (not in the DSM) are readily available through this site. The experiences many have leaving fundamentally oriented, literalistic and high-demand religions like the LDS faith and reconstructing a healthy reality afterwards are NOT unique to those experiencing an LDS faith transition. There are MANY commonalities with MANY others going through similar experiences. As the name of this site suggests, there is a bias against religion on this site.
And finally, for the Most Important Resource in an LDS Faith Transition:
To trust one’s mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.Nathaniel Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
Changing the locus of control of your life from external sources that claim to know what is best for you in your life (even down to minute particulars) to YOU can be difficult. But YOU are worth it! YOU decide. This is YOUR agency. YOUR freedom. YOUR mind. And YOUR heart! Such a shift in the locus of control for our moral decisions is a natural and healthy part of normal human psychological and spiritual development. This is not to say external sources shouldn’t be believed or relied upon. It is wise to listen to what others with far more experience than us have to say and share, keeping in mind that truth and healthy principles of living can stand on their own feet, without the need for censorship or coercion. Ultimately each one of us are the gateway for whatever external sources we internalize. This autonomy is sacred.
During this journey, it is OK to trust our minds. It is OK to trust our conscience! It is OK to compassionately, curiously and non-judgmentally acknowledge and accept what we feel. These are all part of you and I. We are each worthy of full acceptance!
Sleep, Eat Healthy, and Exercise! There are volumes of evidence doing so are cornerstones to peak emotional and mental health. Social involvement is also key during a faith transition. Besides volunteer oriented resources already mentioned, Facebook has online groups for pretty much every interest and hobby imaginable. In addition, Meet Up can be a wonderful site for connecting with others with similar interests and pursuits in person. Of course, continued family time and support can be helpful as well.
The period of a faith transition, like any period of metamorphosis, growth and progression, can be a very rough time. But YOU are worth it!
Many additional resources for an LDS Faith Transition are not listed above but continue to be added to Jason’s Voyage Resource Page. Come back for updates!
Thank you for reading! I hope some of this is helpful, regardless of where you are in your own hero’s journey!
Jason Harris is a Neurologist/Neuro-Ophthalmologist, Dad and Husband who shares his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View. He believes all religions and scripture are man-made and believes there is Divinity in all of them.