Elder's Quorum this week spent a good portion of the time discussing how to talk to Millennials about God, Church, the Gospel and religion. In context of how to deal with doubts and questions.
One class member cited an interesting study that indicated Millennial age folks are more likely to self identify as "spiritual" but are less interested in formal organized religion. This was concerning to the Elder's Quorum. Many people wondered and asked out loud more than once if this was a good or bad thing. No one knew, or if they did, they didn't volunteer anything.
The lesson was based on a recent general conference talk and the instructor summed it up by saying that we should not go about addressing our doubts and questions from a place of doubt first, but begin with our belief first.
I sat and puzzled over that because it didn't make a lot of sense. Believe what first? What are you supposed to believe first when you have a question? It seemed to be getting at an attitude one should maintain when confronting doubts. Which is fine. But that would have been easy enough to say. Instead it was about believing in some vague nothingness which didn't address anything nor produce answers to peoples questions or doubts. It almost seems like it just covers them up by painting a pretty attitude around it. Telling someone who has a question or doubt to simply have a better attitude or "believe first" bypasses the main issue and makes the questions seem less legitimate. Shouldn’t we instead teach how to reason? How to know when we’ve arrived at the right conclusion?
I was even more puzzled by the discussion taking place about that conference talk. More than a few quorum members said things like "Just have faith if you don't know the answer" and "believe first, don't doubt first" and if you have doubts or questions "just remember what you already know" "Remember what you felt when....." "Don't think you can be spiritual without all the formalities of organized religion". One member said the great lie was that you can be spiritual without the formalities of religion.
Those are as close as I can remember to actual comments made. These answers were extremely disturbing to me because they all carried an underlying message of "don't think". Having the right attitude was held in high importance as well as feeling the right things. There was no mention of actually putting forth effort to study and research and gain knowledge and understanding so as to answer questions that arise. There is fear about doing that. Thus there is a downplaying of thinking because when you think or encounter contradictory information there's fear of some big bad black hole you'll fall into. These are the attitudes that are forming because of what we are taught by our leaders. There is fear of the internet even if what a person finds is accurate. We shouldn't fear the truth.
I saw a quote the other day and don't know who to attribute it to but I liked it.
When an honest man discovers that he is mistaken he can either cease to be mistaken or he can cease to be an honest man.When members of the Church don't know the answer to something, or discovers new information it doesn't seem to be a welcomed experience. If their Millenial children or acquaintances come upon new or troubling stuff the overwhelming answer in class boiled down to some degree of not thinking. Don't investigate. Don't look at any unapproved source, and if the approved source doesn't have the answer, postpone the question and just trust until "God reveals the answer". This is mind numbing. No one will have any understanding or be interested in gaining any if this is what we teach. The scriptures on the other hand have answers and encourage us to seek, ask, and knock and to utilize reasoning.
These are intelligent and successful men in the quorum meeting. In their respective areas of professionalism these types of answers would not be tolerated. They would put forth effort and study and reasoning to figure out the issue. But when the topic is religion, there is a weird tendency to shut off and not think and trust some other person to do your thinking for you and then tell you what is right and wrong. It's surprising how you can take the same group of people put them in a different setting with a different topic and they would not behave this way.
I offered a comment in class that no one in the room was going to be able to help someone answer a question they themselves do not know the answer to and refuse to investigate. Millenials are less likely to accept "doubt your doubts" shallow responses to their legitimate questions about what is happening inside the LDS church, it's history, practices, policies and general state in 2018. Especially with all that is accessible on the internet.
Telling younger folks not to think or only look at certain sources is going to set off red flags. The younger generation is seeing holes and gaps in the reality that many life long members have never questioned most facets to their religion or never had any mental incongruity about anything. That doesn’t command any respect. It doesn't cause anyone to want to emulate that. It comes across as naive. Due to never having thought about important religious topics because they were taught not to, or were taught that they should just have faith and follow the prophet. The younger generation does not see this as noble, or appealing. It sounds downright stupid to many of them
The only response to the comment was a question to the rest of the group about how many millennials were in the room. I was the closest there was, but kept that to myself. Unfortunately the class continued on the direction that we need to just believe first (because that's what the conference talk said to do). Being a Gen X, I feel like I see both sides. Both generations are confronting harsh reality from different points of view. For one group it will be that they know sometimes little about the Gospel but are really good at obeying their leaders. They cannot answer many questions about any difficult topics because they don't know enough about them to make any comment, and are often encouraged to just believe instead of think. So, as would be expected they have little knowledge, understanding, or practice reasoning on such things.
The other younger group is confronting a host of issues that the older generation is hesitant to answer. They are good with the internet but need to remember that not all topics of importance can be explained or understood in a sound bite facebook length video or meme. They have been fed sentimentalism which won't hold up. It takes sometimes time and experience and careful and ponderous thoughts to find out the things of God. Not just swiping. For younger folks religion sometimes offers little appeal and too little substance to put faith in. Why have faith in religion that is seemingly so easily debunked on google? The older folks are facing the hard truth that what they've been taught is often full of falsehoods, but it's scary to investigate because look at what happens to some folks when they do? So both face different challenges.
It was a concerning experience today. I'm almost glad this type of thing is now only going to happen every other week at Church. Not thinking is not an intelligent solution, especially in matters of God and the Gospel since the glory of God is intelligence. No matter how pretty you make it sound to not think, it's still stupid.
The younger generation is going to change the future of the LDS church for sure. Facts are going to change the LDS church. The truth is going to change the LDS church.