This is a rebroadcast. The episode originally ran in October 2016.
In August of 2015 I was released as bishop, but my second counselor didn’t show up to be released. I was concerned about what he was going through. A few months before that meeting, Heath—my 2nd counselor—disclosed to me the faith struggle he was experiencing. He had been striving to put his doubts to rest and gain a new level of conviction to the restored gospel. I was even more shocked when he and his family removed their names from the rolls of the Church.
Thankfully my friendship with Heath has continued. We have had many uplifting conversations over lunch. These discussions were so uplifting that Heath suggested I interview him for my podcast. He was mainly joking, but I liked the idea. It turned out to be a special experience for me. I have learned so much about faith and testimony, and what leaders need to be aware of when members in their ward doubt.
I strongly encourage you to listen to the episode above and then share it with a leader and a friend.
Heath is an immigration attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah. He completed his undergraduate work at Brigham Young University-Idaho before graduating from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. He became active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a junior in high school and later served a mission to Ecuador. He has served as elders quorum president and most recently as second counselor in the bishopric when Kurt served as bishop. He, his wife, and their three kids stopped attending church the day the bishopric was dissolved and in June 2016 chose to remove their names from church records.
In this podcast, Heath tells his story of the doubts he had, his struggles with uncertainty, the day he finally got an answer, and how he has begun to feel more at peace since discovering others like him who are struggling with similar issues but who believe in the Church and are still able to serve.
Kurt also explores one of the most difficult questions facing leaders in the Church: How to encourage individuals who are struggling in their faith—in their quest for certainty—without discouraging them or putting too much pressure on them to get there.
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard Bushman
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Secular Buddhist Association
Why Your “Without a Shadow of a Doubt” Testimony is Hurting Your Leadership
Elder Holland’s Secret to Teaching | Sharing the Fire of Your Faith
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8:30 Began to have concerns about certain aspects of church history in 2006 as a student at BYU-I
- Began reading Rough Stone Rolling, a biography of Joseph Smith by author Richard Bushman
11:20 Took a class in law school entitled “Joseph Smith and the Law” that caused further doubts on what he had read
13:45 Soon after law school, took a job at a non-profit in Salt Lake City and was called to serve as elders quorum president
- Became consumed with the goal of extinguishing all doubts in order to feel like a more effective leader
- Continually prayed, fasted, attended the temple and did all of the things he was taught to do in order to receive the testimony he desired
- Feelings of uncertainty intensified when he was called as Second Counselor in the bishopric, as he felt he was supposed to know all of the answers whenever there was a question posed to him
- Desired to have the kind of testimony Elder Holland speaks of, one that is able to warm the hands of others, but got to a point where he could no longer say that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
24:00 As he wanted to know more and more if Joseph was a prophet, and feeling like he couldn’t get an answer or couldn’t recognize it, he became increasingly depressed. Questioned if the problem was him. Was he not good enough?
- Received an answer one Sunday afternoon that provided relief for a time. That relief was gradually replaced with thoughts of, “if it’s not true then what’s the point in living?” and he felt like would have rather been dead than have the church not be true. Heath and his family did not attend church again after that.
30:00 Kurt and Heath begin to explore what Kurt could have done as his leader.
- Do I have any “Heaths” in my ward or stewardship? What am I going to do about it?
- How can I raise my kids to believe in the principles of the gospel and understand the process of building a testimony without increasing the stress that Heath felt as they go through this process? How can I help individuals in my stewardship to do the same?
33:15 It must come from a place of love
35:30 Heath began listening to various podcasts addressing LDS issues, and learned there were others like him who had doubts.
40:00 Found people who had similar issues with church history but still believe in the church and are still able to serve, which helps him feel like he could find a place in the church again someday
42:30 How can we as leaders help people who are struggling before they get to the point of resignation or inactivity?
45:55 How do we encourage individuals to keep pushing towards testimonies of conviction while at the same time helping them to just step back and take a break for a bit, maintaining a healthy balance?
48:05 “I was not comfortable with uncertainty.” If members can’t say they are comfortable with uncertainty, there may be a problem.
54:30 What if it really is just about Christ?
59:00 Heath’s current testimony is one of hope. A hope that there God exists, that Christ is there and that they hear his prayers. A hope that families are forever and that there is something after this life. A hope that these things are true.
60:20 What Kurt has learned through his relationship with Heath
- The paradox of bold testimony and certitude is that for some who hear it, it can build and strengthen, while at the same time it may alienate others.
Takeaway questions for leaders to consider
- When individuals who crave certitude and the same bold testimony that we feel we may have don’t feel like they’ve gotten the answers they want, how can we help them to step back for a few moments and give their quest for certitude a break?
- How can we challenge, encourage and push them in their quest for certitude without diminishing their concerns, discouraging them or putting too much pressure on them to get there?
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