Mark Matheson is a visiting professor of business at “the BYU of the East Coast”, Southern Virginia University. Matheson received a doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of Phoenix, a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Utah. In 2010, Matheson was an Entrepreneur in Residence at The Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship at BYU-Hawaii. He worked for 25 years as a stock market analyst. He grew up in Utah, lived in seven different states during his childhood, and served his mission in Switzerland and France. He has an instagram page, @scriptureanalyst, that makes you see scriptures in a different way.

Enter Mark…

Faith Crisis or Faith Transition is a hot topic currently. A new book on the scene, “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question,” by David Ostler has been a wonderful surprise addition to the triage of this trauma.

Brother Ostler has walked a fine line between faith-building and faith-crisis dissection and his tome has established a wonderful tone for understanding the gap. It is even-handed on the topic, not being overly hard on the Church or disdainful of doubters.

The book should be of particular interest to the LeadingSaints audience since many of you took Brother Ostler’s survey that helped formulate some of the book’s theories. Brother Ostler was a healthcare data scientist by profession and brings that same rigorous analysis to multiple surveys he has helped generate, as well as research results from others.

Bridges contains some of the most poignant prose I have read, perhaps in my lifetime. The author is very self-revelatory and his family and research experiences with the topic bring a frank and fresh genuineness to the discussion.

Brother Ostler reveals that:

“I, myself, have family members who have lost their testimonies…For me, there are empty chairs in the temple…Our home has no empty chairs at the dinner table.”

After his years as a bishop, stake president, and mission president, listen to his prologue dedication:

“As I look back on my years of Church service, I realize that there are many who unnecessarily suffered because I didn’t know how to effectively minister. I didn’t know how to comfort them in their challenges, I didn’t know how to mourn with them. To them, I offer this book, asking for their forgiveness.”

He also has an uncanny knack for raising questions that many may have pondered, but maybe have never put into audible words such as:

  • “We may worry that talking about difficult issues will give some in the Church reason to stop believing.”
  • “Why are we so quick to put down divergent views?”
  • “I can see how a bishop could be fearful[,] thinking… he needed to protect the Church.”

Ostler’s bridge metaphor is such a multi-facted exploration of this topic. “Building a bridge requires vulnerability, because our efforts may not always be reciprocated–there may be no one else building the other side of the bridge.” And “Bridges are meant to be crossed back and forth.”

The book used many first-person examples that will help you understand faith turbulence as never before. You will want to spend time pondering sections such as:

  • “Building Trust as Church Members”
  • “Why People Leave”
  • “Confronting Today’s Challenges of Faith”
  • “Examine What Is in Your Truth Cart”
  • “How Faith Changes”
  • “Reconsidering the Concept of Worthiness”

You won’t agree with all of his assumptions and conclusions, but the book will be an excellent springboard for you to start percolating these concepts in your councils and families.

Bridges has inspired me to try harder to empathize with the silent people in my ward who may secretly be suffering from a faith crisis. And I want to implement Brother Ostler’s challenge:

“Even though we may not know these people personally, we can still imagine putting our arms around them and expressing the love we know our Heavenly Parents feel for each of their children.”

This book takes the faith-crisis exploration in the modern LDS culture to a new depth and should be an essential read for any leader seeking to better minister to those in faith transitions.

You can purchase David Ostler’s book here.

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