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Kirby: Manage doubt in LDS faith before it manages you

Published May 2, 2013 12:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column regarding an LDS General Conference talk about individual faith. It was a good talk. I read it three times.

As part of the column on unconventional faith, I referenced my own "13 Particles of Faith." It was something I jotted down years ago while listening to a church talk that sounded suspiciously like it was based on Mein Kampf.

Within minutes of the "Particles" being posted at sltrib.com, I began receiving emails from fellow skeptics. Within 48 hours, I had 400 emails, dozens of phone calls and a couple of personal visits.

Apparently, there are a lot of people whose faith is a matter of particles. Doubt was not a lonely personal affliction but rather something shared by lots of other go-to-church Mormons.

A lot of life has to be taken on faith. You couldn't have faith if you didn't have doubt. Whether it's in church, life or just personal relationships, the secret to balance is where you let your doubts take you.

A big part of that is knowing which level of doubt you're operating at so you can take the necessary precautions to avoid losing everything. Doubt can have the same effect as nuclear warfare in terms of what it can do to your life if you're not careful. Similar to the military's DEFCON state of nuclear readiness, I'll call it DOUBTCON.

DOUBTCON 5 (code term: "beyond the shadow of a doubt") • DC5 is the most relaxed level of doubt there is. There are no pressing questions. God is in his heaven and all things are secure. Most people in church operate at this level. Hell, most people operate at this level anywhere they feel blithely secure.

An example of DC5 would be the call for a sustaining vote in sacrament meeting. "All those who can sustain Sister Looper being called into the Primary, please manifest. …" Nobody really troubles themselves over this. Called? Called by whom? Doesn't matter. The hands go up automatically.

DOUBTCON 4 (code term: "inappropriate thoughts") • In DC4, there is a shadow of doubt, not necessarily about everything, but maybe about something important that used to be black and white but now is starting to look a little gray. "Umm, who exactly told us this skin curse crap?"

DOUBTCON 3 (code term: "OK, wait a minute") • Doubt is starting to jell into something that needs to be researched. It's also something you might want to keep to yourself for fear of alienating others, including those dearest to you.

Had I been one of the original apostles after the Crucifixion, I would have come back from a snack run and found John the Beloved, Peter the Rock, Thomas the Dubious, Matthew the Publican and the other apostles wildly excited about the appearance of Jesus.

Robert the Rude : "You idiots have been in the wine again, haven't you?"

DOUBTCON 2 (code term: "Things are getting really bad") • If you can have doubt about one thing, why not doubt everything? Nothing should be taken on faith. Doubt starts translating into overt disobedience or at least serious noncooperation.

Brigham Young: "So, Brother Kirby, you are being called to marry the Flummox sisters and that scary German woman who arrived last week."

Me: "No, I'm not."

DOUBTCON 1 (code term: "Everyone but me is full of &#$%!") • This stage represents complete meltdown and declaration of war. Time to go on the offensive. All that matters in DC1 are your doubts and how smart you are to have them. Your doubts have solidified into perfect knowledge and become something that can be worth not only your church but also your marriage, the relationship with your children and any friends you have.

Doubting isn't bad. It's actually healthy. It can be educational, but it also can lead to destruction if you let it overtake your ability to have faith. The trick is in recognizing where doubt is taking you so you can manage it rather than letting it manage you.

rkirby@sltrib.com