These tips are important not only for Church leaders but for friends, family, and neighbors of those who doubt.
People in your ward doubt the validity of gospel and you don’t know it. You don’t know it because they are afraid to tell you, their leader, that they doubt. They are afraid how you will respond, what you will say, and what you will do. Some are even afraid their newfound doubts will cause you to begin to doubt because they were once fully convinced of the gospel’s validity too. No, they haven’t sinned or need an excuse to sin—they just doubt.
If the bishop, or any other leader, is lucky enough, members with deep questions about the restored gospel will actually set an appointment to meet with you before they fade away into inactivity, or worse. This type of appointment is one of your greatest leadership tests. A moment when you will feel like you need to say the right thing or you might unintentionally push them away.
To help leaders prepare now rather than in the 15 seconds you will have when they say, “I’m not sure I believe anymore” here are seven things leaders can consider to help those in your ward who doubt.
Validate, Validate, VALIDATE
Most people who have developed doubt in the claims of the LDS Church feel like they have gone crazy. They live in a church culture where they see people every month stand and deliver a testimony with “every fiber of their being.” These strong testimonies can be inspiring for many, but for those suddenly doubting, they feel like an outlier for even having thoughts of doubt.
Validation is the first step to a productive conversation. No matter how radical or outlandish the leader perceives the member’s new perspective, it is critical to validate the fact that any normal, believing church member could develop such questions. Validating their doubts, concerns, or different beliefs doesn’t mean you agree with them or that you should give them the impression you agree with them. Validation is simply recognizing the feelings a member might feel as he or she wrestles with a newfound perspective.