Dr. Mark R. Grandstaff, PhD., a former Presidential Advisor and Fellow of numerous leadership think-tanks, is President and CEO of Renaissance-Thinkers, an educational consulting firm. He is a Certified Master Practitioner in the field of Jungian Depth Typology. His work on strategic leadership and the role of individuation and archetypal awareness has been cited as a refreshingly new approach to self-awareness and creativity by leaders like Bronco Mendenhall and Stephen Covey. An emeritus associate professor of History and Institutional Leadership at Brigham Young University, he has lectured at UC Berkeley, UCLA, Oxford, the London School of Economics, The University of Victoria, New Zealand and The University of Maryland, College Park. He assists people in getting to know themselves better through tying their work into their larger life journey — hence, finding a renewed sense of calling and mission, excitement, and satisfaction in their careers and lives. His Church assignments have spanned Ward, Stake and Area callings. He and his spouse, Amy L. Dixon, Esq., reside in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA and have recently returned from a mission to Frankfurt, Germany.
The Journey Back: Vision, Crises, and the Role of God in Our Lives.
We are all on a journey — A journey back to God who gave us life. And as religious leadership, we are here to provide vision and work with people so that they might develop their God-given attributes. As President Lorenzo Snow explained, “Our spirit birth gave us godlike capabilities. We were born in the image of god our Father; He begot us like Himself. There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization; in our spiritual birth our Father transmitted to us the capabilities, powers and faculties which He Himself possessed. . . .” (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 4).
Indeed, as it is recorded in D&C 4 and 2 Peter 1, we are one with the Divine Nature. Our leadership calling is to help people understand this. We are not earning the celestial kingdom, as I once heard, rather we are returning after having recognized that it is our internal, external, and eternal home.
In my 40+ years in the Church (I was a twenty-year old convert) — most of them in some kind of leadership position — I learned that yes, the Saints need Jesus personally, but usually what they need is for another person to be a Christ to them. I often have had to ask myself what does it mean for me “to be Jesus” in my work, my relationships (especially with family), my ward and the world.
Most of my time was taken up in calling, encouraging and pointing out the hand of the Lord in a given person’s life. I usually started by reviewing Christ’s sojourn. A careful reading of Matthew 3, 4 and 10 demonstrates that Christ was baptized, acclaimed of God and then tested, proved and taught while in the desert. When he was proved, he went out and called twelve others to be his inner council and students. Those whom he called recognized that Christ offered them a vocation (a way and purpose in life) which went beyond what they did as a job. Who better to show them the way than a man who was able to overcome the world through His own series of crises by continually choosing God’s purposes for His life. Times of testing Christ’s sense of vocation included the desert and the cross. And the Lord’s time in the Garden demonstrated to God again that, despite the Savior’s pain, He was willing to have the Father’s will be done. He chose God and His ultimate purpose — to overcome death and atone for mankind’s sins.
I do not know of many Mormons who overcame the world without at some time reaching a crisis point in their Church life. How we respond to such a crisis in many ways determines our future maturity as a Latter-Day Saint. Certainly the fact that there are today some who once knew the truth and then walked away can be directly related to their failure of properly responding to a crisis of their faith in God. If all those who have walked away were to come back, there may not be an empty pew in our wards (I have seen current data estimating about 40% non-attendance Church-wide).
Thus, the issue of helping members respond properly to a crisis of faith becomes a paramount one for the Church and its leadership. There are many inside and outside who have stunted their spiritual growth because of such a crisis. They have lost the kind of joy and zeal they once had for serving in the Church and they cannot seem to pinpoint when that happened. For many it can be traced back to a crisis time in their journey with God when they reached a place of desperation and felt God was not there or did not provide and so they hold that against Him, even unknowingly.
What constitutes a crisis of faith? It is when we come to a pivotal point in our religious life when events cause us to believe that we cannot go on walking with God and serving in the Church. The surface causes for such a crisis are as varied as individual experience — it could be the loss of a loved one, a financial disaster, a relationship break-up, or a job loss but the root causes consist of several main issues.
These roots are important to identify for it helps us to realize that we are not different from other Mormons (or Christians for that matter). It also helps us to weed through the particulars of our situation and see the underlying issues which have brought us to such a crisis point.
What then are these root causes which are at the heart of a crisis of faith? We can see these in the lives of five priesthood holders in the Old Testament. Men who did some of the greatest acts that have ever been done in the name of God. These are people we have read about, studied their lives and perhaps felt that we could never match up to their journey with God. Yet, these are people who reached such a great crisis point in their walk with God that they asked God to kill them or asked God why they had ever been born.
Moses was one of these people. To paraphrase Numbers 11:14-15, he said: “This job is too much for me. . . . If this is the way you’re going to treat me, just kill me now and end my miserable life.” How could such a successful leader like Moses ever come to a place where he felt he could not go on? This crisis came out of a deep seated sense of insecurity. Moses felt that he was not up to the task to which God had called him.
Elijah was another of these leaders of God as we see in I Kings 19:3-4: “Elijah was afraid when he received Jezebel’s message. . . . He walked a whole day into the desert. . . . He begged the Lord, ‘I’ve had enough. Just let me die! I’m no better off than my ancestors.’” Here Elijah, a man through whom God performed the miraculous, asked God to take his life. Although it seems like a strange paradox, this man of power was now in his crisis time filled with fear — afraid of Jezebel and feeling like he was all alone with no one who believed like him.
Job is the third of these men of God that we find in Job 3:11 asking: “Why didn’t I die at birth?” Here we find the prosperous and respected Job asking God why he had ever even been born. The unforeseen disaster that had come upon Job caused such suffering that Job reached a dramatic crisis in his walk with God.
Jeremiah was the fourth man of God whose faith was tested in Jeremiah 20:14-15: “Put a curse on the day I was born! Don’t bless my mother or father.” Jeremiah felt such an outward shame that what he had prophesized had not come to pass. This brought about an immense crisis of faith for Jeremiah in his disappointment with God for not doing as he had promised.
Finally, the fifth servant of God that came to a place of crisis with God was Jonah. He told the Lord in Jonah 4:3: “Now let me die! I’d be better off dead.” Jonah had not wanted to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh because they would repent and God would spare them. This is exactly what happened and Jonah came to a crisis point because of his pride in wanting his will more than God’s will.
In the long run, all five chose not to abandon their faith in God. They were able to have a crisis of faith and not lose their faith. They did this by recognizing a key truth — God has a plan. His plan may not be our plan, nor may we understand it, but He is still in control. In every case, God worked out His purposes (even if these people initially could not see it) which included calling, encouraging and coaxing out these priesthood holders’ divine attributes. Whether it is fear, insecurity, disappointment, suffering or pride . . . only by trusting God’s plan can you overcome your crisis of faith and move on — closer to Him.
The cost is simply too high to sacrifice all the benefits of faith over a temporary crisis. To abstain from the journey back to Deity complete with a weathering of the crises, is not only a soul-crime, it is a denial of Christ’s mission itself. We must thank God for His mercy and grace and willingness to carry us at difficult times in the journey. As leaders, we must be able to convey this sentiment to our fellow members.