I have also spent a lot of time trying to understand what others also go through when they experience a profound loss of faith. A couple of years ago I made a list of the reasons why I am able to stay active in the LDS church after losing my testimony and be happy enough. I share this list so that others can examine ways in which they might be able to help others who go through something similar.
First, I am able to express my views honestly in church. I live in Boston, which is an area that has more open-minded people even in the LDS church. It still took some personal effort to get to the point where I can say what I want to say during lessons, talks, meetings, and other venues and not feel a twinge of guilt that maybe I’m harming somebody who’s fragile. Because if I did not express myself, I would go crazy and I don’t think I could stay active and happy.
Second, my beliefs are not very set; they are still evolving. I know how much I don’t know and how much trust I place on various beliefs of mine. Some others who go through a major loss of testimony end up in a place where they know the church is not true. Other than considering that possibility, I never really came close to landing in that camp.
Third, I am respected by my ward leaders, my stake leaders, and enough of my ward members. There are probably people that think that I don’t belong in church because of the views I express, but if there are, they don’t go out of their way to make me feel like I don’t belong.
Fourth, I still feel inspired occasionally when I attend church. I also appreciate the opportunity to confront and consider perspectives that differ from my own. I am able to benefit and have my experience broadened by the perspectives of others. I believe that continuing to attend helps me in my personal growth.
Fifth, I have not been personally harmed by the church or church leaders. I know many people who have been, but that has not been my experience. Rather, my experiences with the church have been inordinately positive. For people who have been harmed by the institution or its leaders, I think it is especially difficult to maintain activity.
Sixth, I think that my presence in church is helpful to others. I am thanked all the time for the comments that I make in lessons, or when I express my beliefs during a testimony meeting. I think that my presence in my ward makes the others around me who struggle with the church feel more hope and camaraderie.
Seventh, I feel a commitment to the church. I chose to make the church a part of my life, and I think that I would feel a sense of personal shame for not holding up to a commitment I made. I don’t know how healthy this attitude really is, but I feel happy enough with it for now.
Eighth, I feel a personal duty to do what I can to make my community as good as it can be. That applies to my neighborhood and the city I live in and also to my ward. I want the church to improve. If I did not attend church, then I couldn’t help it improve or even feel justified in critiquing it. I want to do everything that I can to make it better. I wouldn’t be effective at making my church community better if I weren’t an active participant in it.
I want to conclude with sharing a little bit more of what I believe. I do not know that God exists, but I choose to believe that God exists. I have looked at the evidence on both sides, both scientific and experiential, and I choose to believe in God. Furthermore, I believe that this faith transition that I have gone through is part of God’s plan for me. I believe that God wants me to have this perspective so I can share it with others. I believe that the purpose of this life is to become better people—more loving, kind, compassionate, more understanding. In sharing my experience, my goal is to increase understanding of those who go through a major faith transition in the hope that they will find compassion and respect within their church communities as they navigate through their spiritual journey.