Bruce and Marie Hafen: Understanding and Navigating Stages of Faith, Pt. 1
“Trust me, it’s going to be good.” We often speak of trusting God but will everything really be good in the end? Should we be worried when we, or those we love, are struggling to trust Him? Emeritus General Authority Bruce C. Hafen and his wife Marie share their concept of three stages of faith after a lifetime spent exploring difficult topics and seeking peace amid the complexities we all face in real life.
Erin Hallstrom: I know the church is true. This is a phrase we often hear and say, but when do we know it? How do we know it? Is it okay if we don't know it? Today we're talking with Elder Bruce C. Hafen and his wife, Sister Marie Hafen, who have spent their married life exploring questions of faith together and with their family. This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Erin Hallstrom and I've been so looking forward to this conversation. Elder Hafen is an emeritus general authority and Sister Hafen was a college English teacher. Both are the authors of the new book, Faith is Not Blind. Elder and Sister Hafen, thank you so much for joining us today.
Sister Hafen: We're glad to be here.
Erin Hallstrom: So I think it's interesting that the way you met, directly correlates to the book that you have, that you've written, would you tell us a bit about how you met?
Sister Hafen: We met in a class, actually, at BYU, it was a religion class. It was called "Your religious problems." And we were very happy to solve one of our most important religious problems in that class because our friendship in the class developed into a romance, which developed into our marriage. So we are glad, we hope our children are glad, we think they are. But in that class, and it was a great class taught by West Belknap, who was then the Dean of the College of Religion at BYU. And the format was that each of us would introduce a topic for discussion with the class, present what we had researched and then the class would respond individually in writing after writing a very short paper after the class. The topics were, as the name of the class suggests your religious problems. Some of them were church history, some of them were Joseph Smith and polygamy, questions were asked about race in the priesthood. But there were also questions from some about how can I live my religion better? How can I be a more pure disciple? How can I have the spirit more in my life? So we have had that since the beginning of our relationship, the opportunity to discuss issues that are difficult sometimes but have answers. So that has been a tradition with us, through the years, is to talk about difficult, interesting, complex issues.
Elder Hafen: After each class, there were a few of us who would just keep talking about whatever the religious problem was an hour-long conversation, and our group would spill out of the Joseph Smith building on to the campus at BYU. Sometimes we'd wander down to the devotionals together. And so that's how we really came to know each other, was talking about the gospel and about questions. And they were faithful questions, we were curious, we were interested. And so that has just kind of naturally sparked our relationship and our home ever since. And so, as in more recent years, as people have been talking about, what do you do when people have questions? That's just very natural to us. We say, well what do you mean, what do you do? It's so fun, it's so constructive. We learn and stimulate each other and our kids, you know, they've kind of come into the conversation and ask questions.
Sister Hafen: They're good. Questions are a good thing.
Elder Hafen: In fact, recently an example occurs to me, Erin, about this that relates, I think, to the contemporary environment about this. One of our kids told us that just a few months ago, one of their children, their boy, who was, I think was about 14, he walked up to his mom, one day, and he said, "Mom, is it okay to not believe in God?" And instead of screaming or saying how dare you ask such a question, I'm paraphrasing, but I think what she said was something like, "What a wonderful question, that shows you're thinking about really important things. Let's talk." And I think that kind of mothering sees questions as a way to learn and grow, questions are good in that kind of an environment?
Erin Hallstrom: Well, I do think that we have a lot of fear around those kinds of questions, because they are, we don't always know the answers to them, right? I mean, I actually have, I teach youth something school and I taught a class just this last Sunday, talking about how we receive answers to our questions. Which is very interesting that that came just a few days before talking to you today, so I really do appreciate that. But I had them list all their questions on the board to start with, which was very interesting, to see what kinds of questions they had are completely different than the questions I thought they would have. But then, we weren't going to answer the questions. And we had one kid that said, "Well, can't we go question by question and have you answer them for us?" And I said, "Well, no, that's not we're gonna do we're going to talk about how you receive the answers, and you're going to receive the answers. And some of these don't have answers or some of them, you need to find them in different ways." Anyway, I find it is interesting, just that we have some unnatural fear, especially with some questions, some questions are hard. We have a natural instinct to push back from them, right? So I love that example of "Oh, that's interesting. That's great. What makes you think about that?"
Elder Hafen: Well, I like what you just illustrated, Erin, your comment about encouraging your kids to go find their own answers, that resonates with us. That's what we're trying to do when we are writing about faith is not blind. And somebody who's working with us, Kevin Knight, told us this experience from his childhood that illustrates, I think what you've just been talking about, said when he was a little guy, I don't know, maybe six or seven, people kept talking about eternal life.
Sister Hafen: And how long it was.
Elder Hafen: His memory is eternal life, he just kept puzzling over it. And he said that sounded so boring to me because I couldn't even sit through three hours of church. But I didn't dare ask anybody because I could tell I was supposed to know what this was and I didn't. And so he said, "In my boyish way, I went off and prayed about it." And he said, "I remember after all these years, getting this kind of distinct answer, sort of thoughts in my mind, and it was simple, it was for me. And the response was, to what is eternal life, 'Trust me. It'll be good.'" And he said that helped him.
Erin Hallstrom: Oh, yeah.
Sister Hafen: We've come to really like those two short sentences, "Trust me. It'll be good." They apply in a lot of ways
Erin Hallstrom: Yeah, I believe it. That's beautiful. You've talked about that this class, and really, this approach to answering questions or thinking about questions has really influenced your life and your family's life. How did that demonstrate? Or how was demonstrated in your like, day to day life raising a family? I mean, I read in the book, you talk about family dinners.
Sister Hafen: That was the one I was going to mention.
Erin Hallstrom: Okay, go ahead.
Sister Hafen: The Italians call it "tavola," it's the family table, it's the family dinner, where everybody sits down together. And it's not only good food that they eat together, but they pass along culture, they pass along a way you look at life, they pass along how you look at the church, how you look at your leaders, how you look at the scriptures, everything. So we just planned to sit down together, and it wasn't always possible, but as much as we could so that we could talk and we could share so that we could pass along those things that were important to us. And they could teach us what they were thinking about and what they were learning. So that was one thing.
Elder Hafen: I can think of a couple of illustrations of that. Well, one of them actually starts with my mother, so maybe this goes back a generation or two. In her final year, she lived next door to us, and she was sort of in her late 70s, early 80s and she'd come and eat dinner with us all the time. And our wiggly little kids were all around the table, I mean, we had seven children and I think the youngest, at that point, would have been maybe 10, would that be right for Rachel?
Sister Hafen: 10-ish, yeah.
Elder Hafen: My mom would, right in the middle of dinner, she used to say, not making a big deal out of it, was just conversation, she'd say to the kids, "Well, what did you do that was hard for you today?" And then we would talk about that. Sort of anything was fine, it was good to talk about that. And one time, after a few dinners like this, our youngest child said, "Why does grandma always ask what did we do that was hard? Why didn't she say 'What did we do that was fun?'"
And then years later, when she had her own little girls, I heard one of her little girls say to her sister, "We can do hard to things in our family." And I asked Rache, who was not far away, I told her what she'd said. I said, "How do your kids know about hard things?" And she smiled and said, "You know. You know how they know."
One other little example, our daughter Sarah, who's also been helping us with this project, who teaches English up at BYU Idaho with her husband, Eric Devaney, who also teaches there full-time. Well, I don't know how old Sarah was, maybe seven or eight. She said one day, kind of flowing out of this atmosphere that Maria has described. Now it wasn't we didn't do it deliberately manipulative, it's just the way we talked, just came out of that religion glass.
Sarah said, Dad when we meet Heavenly Father I don't think we're going to say, 'Heavenly Father, can I have your autograph?' I think we just get to ask him anything we want, don't we?
Sister Hafen: Perfect.
Erin Hallstrom: Oh, I love that. I have plenty of questions that I have thought about that. I have a friend who at one point would tell me that when we die, my favorite thing she said, I'm going to go to that tent where you ask all the questions you have, and here are my questions. And I've always thought about that in my head, I realize it's probably not a tent, but I've always thought about that. That idea of-- and we talked about eternal life being continual learning and that idea that we immediately get to seek more learning.
Elder Hafen: You know one little example I might mention, prerequisites to this family atmosphere and even our atmosphere in that class, as our kids have asked us about our own experience, we've been open with them. And for me, I grew up in St. George of, you know, very strong Latter-day Saint community. I was in a wonderful home, Latter-day Saint parents, married in the temple, we talked about the gospel. But when I was 19 I stood at the pulpit for my missionary farewell, I simply could not bring myself to say I knew the gospel was true. I was kind of stuck on the difference between knowing and believing. And I knew some people expect me to say, "I know," but I just-- I didn't understand how people could know, but I believed deeply. And rather than apologizing for that I have, you know, our interaction with our kids, or I've talked this way to missionaries when we have visited missions, and zone conferences, I've told them that experience. And I've told them that Alma 32 was kind of my, my little go-to personal Bible because it taught me the process and it's similar to the process we describe in this book. Faith isn't blind, it's a growth process. You plant a seed, and it grows and Alma said, "ye cannot know their surety at first," referring to his words. But here's what you do and then as you see, all that he describes in Alma 32, this process is natural, it faces adversity. And he talks about nurturing the seed and the little sapling when the sun is burning hot lest it withers. And I could understand that, and that has been my experience. So now at this stage in my life when I can say to those missionaries or to our kids, "I know the gospel is true. I know it by experience, not because I was saying what I thought I was supposed to say." So my experience confirms, including the hard things, and you come out of the hard things knowing things you couldn't have known if you hadn't gone through them. I think of Moroni's words, "you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." So the trials are okay. And when you see that as part of the natural process, then I think people can understand that. It makes sense.
Sister Hafen: I mean, just to see them as part of the whole process. And an opportunity.
Elder Hafen: Yeah. So you're not afraid of hard things, of questions, of new experiences because you're prepared for that. It doesn't mean you know all the answers, but the process is natural, it's okay, that's part of being on the earth, and learning from opposition and experience.
Sister Hafen: And I didn't know you before your mission but I've heard you say before that it was your mission itself and the experiences that you had there that helped you. By the end of your mission, you could say, "I know" because of the experiences that you've had, the answers to prayers, the fruits of your labors, so to speak, people who had questions, who got them answered.
Elder Hafen: Yeah, you're right. In fact, maybe I should share a little example the comes to mind when Marie mentions that. I've had reason to think of this example in recent years, because this issue has come up, become quite public. In the early 60s, I was a missionary in Germany, and we met a wonderful American family. They were there in the service, they were in the early 20s, expecting their first baby. And we taught them the first few missionary lessons. And they were just drinking it in, they were bright, they'd been to church-related Protestant schools, do they loved the Bible, they loved the Lord. But they could tell this was more, this was new And they read the Book of Mormon, they went to church, they prayed, they were ready to be baptized. And then they called one day and said they didn't want to see us anymore. And we were devastated. But they said well you can come and say goodbye. So we went to their little apartment there in Frankfurt and as we walked in, there was a very gloomy atmosphere. And Paul, their names were Paul at Wendy Knopp, is the name. Paul said as we walked in, "We feel like we've been set back 400 yards," and I thought what is going on? We walked in and sat down and Paul told us that they'd gotten a letter from home. He was from Oregon, his sister had married a wonderful Christian man from Nigeria, Africa. And they were writing to tell Paul on Monday, having heard they were talking to the missionaries, don't talk to those Mormons. They discriminate on the basis of race, that's a racist church. And that really cut to the quick for them, that offended them, they thought it was wrong and so they were saying things like, "Why didn't somebody tell us this? How could this be? God doesn't treat people differently." And I was the senior companion, we just sort of listened to all this and just were totally stunned. And then they looked at me to see if I have anything else to say before we left.
I had never, never heard a discussion I didn't know what to say, And yet in that moment, I just said, "Why don't we read Acts chapter 10?" Now, where did that come from? A few months earlier, in my personal scripture study as a missionary just trying to learn the scriptures, I had read Acts 10, about the experience where Cornelius receives a vision, he goes to Peter who has received a vision, and that leads to this huge change in what the church was doing, offering the gospel to the Gentiles. And I had never thought about that in this context, that kind of context at all. We read it together and I just sat there thinking, I didn't know this. Where did this come from? And so we talked about it and they were such dear people, it's not like they were persuaded, we prayed together and then we left. A few days later, they called and invited us back and they said they wanted to continue. They were later baptized and raised their kids in the Gospel. Paul and Wendy went on a mission as a couple and they're both deceased now. Years later, when we were remembering that pivotal night, and for me, it was a crucial step in the movement from belief to knowledge. I knew what the scripture meant when it said it will be given to you in the very moment. And Wendy didn't know that she didn't remember the scripture at all. She didn't have that context for why that was so significant. So all she said it was when I said, "What do you recall from that night?" "The darkness finally left us and the light came back."
I think the Knopp's illustrate our quality about approaching the subjects. They were like Nephi, they knew that the Lord loves his children, but they didn't know the meaning of all things. And what I think their experience illustrates is they were open to a merely plausible explanation to something we couldn't completely answer. But they were willing to give the Lord the benefit of the doubt, because of their attitude. And it did help to have a plausible explanation, even though it didn't answer all the questions.
Erin Hallstrom: I would love for you to outline, you talk in the book about three stages of faith. And what are the different stages?
Sister Hafen: Yeah, the development of faith? And maybe it's, we could base it, I think, really, quite well and accurately on a statement that came from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, the great judge. And we've come to love this statement over the last little while, it's been something new to us even though these ideas generally, about how to approach questions go way back, you know, decades.
What he said was, "I would not give a fig for this simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." So with the Knopp's, I think what they saw was everything was moving along fine, they're taking it in, they're praying, they understand it. And then the complexity with their family member and then the simplicity after complexity that came with the spirit and the peace that they felt this is right. We're moving ahead, it's something that we would love for us and for our family. But you did mention that there are three stages.
Erin Hallstrom: Yes.
Sister Hafen: So if the first one is simplicity, then we could say that that is innocence, perhaps, not tested by experience. Maybe you could mention because you can say it probably easier than I can, about the cloistered virtue.
Elder Hafen: Marie's an English major so whenever I can quote John Milton to her I know she'll—
Sister Hafen: Then I'm impressed.
Elder Hafen: He's the one who said a phrase that we hear a lot and some people have to think about what does it mean? Milton said, "I cannot prize a cloistered virtue." What's a cloistered virtue? A cloister is a place where people live who shut themselves in from the world. They don't want to go out and deal with mortality. And so he's saying a virtue that is limited to the cloister. One of his phrases in the same paragraph where he talks about that is, a cloistered virtue is one that never sees her adversary
Sister Hafen: Doesn't acknowledge doesn't concern.
Elder Hafen: To us the phrase, "faith is not blind" means true faith sees her adversary, true faith doesn't stay in the cloister to never hear the questions. It sees it and faith isn't blind or deaf or dumb so it overcomes the adversary, it overcomes the opposition. It's a tested virtue instead of a cloistered one, and then it's strong and then it stays and it's real. And I think that's kind of how mortality is supposed to be. And that's what happened with the Knopp's when they face the complexity. I've heard stories of people, other missionaries tell stories like that and when people run into that very question, they just are so stunned that they don't want to hear another thing. It's, quite common to get stuck in complexity because it seems more realistic, more honest and so a lot of people get stuck. And part of what we're trying to say in this book is, first of all, we acknowledge that that can be hard, you can get stuck, it can feel like Kwikset, so what do you do? And when parents or leaders see their own family members are the people they love going through that, what can they do? And our experience just confirms that you can get through this. In fact, it's natural to get through it and your faith and your understanding will be stronger, you can learn from complexity, rather than being overcome by it or disillusioned by it.
Sister Hafen: So that simplicity then is stage one, but the complexity that you've mentioned is stage two. And we might also define complexity, as you see the gap between what's real in your life and the ideal that you have assumed. And sometimes there is a jangling there, there's a mismatch. And so there's a struggle trying to figure it out. So that's one kind of complexity, is if you've got questions that you hear answers about, and they're just going around in your head, and you're trying to make sense of them.
Elder Hafen: An then after stage two comes stage three.
Sister Hafen: Then some people get stuck in the complexity, they don't-- and then maybe they don't want to get out of the complexity because they think it's too hard. Or they think that in order to be honest with themselves somehow with what they've come to think, that they can't move beyond that. But the simplicity beyond complexity is an informed simplicity, a settled simplicity.
Erin Hallstrom: So stage three is simplicity beyond complexity.
Sister Hafen: Right. So it's very different from the first simplicity.
Erin Hallstrom: Yes. Because there's an awareness, right?
Sister Hafen: Right. An informed experience that's been added. And like you said, there's a piece about it, even if you're in the middle of something hard.
Elder Hafen: And this isn't complicated. We were driving, in I-15 here in Utah the other day and saw a billboard that states stage three, it was an ad for tires. And it said, let me see if I can remember,
Sister Hafen: I think it was, "Tried, true and tested," something like that.
Elder Hafen: Yeah, you want to drive on tires that are tried, and true and tested. That's why they test jet planes to make sure that they'll fly. And so the test has value and this is a very natural concept, that's all we're trying to say.
Erin Hallstrom: So thinking about introducing complexity, by the way, I love the words that you use, I love thinking of it in terms of complexity because that summarizes many things. It can be complexity around just difficult situations that arise in your life or circumstances or questions that come up or thinking about things that you know happened and not understanding how that works. I mean I just think it encompasses a lot of things. So some of the complexity comes up for people because they didn't know it existed. And all of a sudden, they feel like, you know in your example, "Why did no one tell us about this?"
Sister Hafen: Yeah. Why didn't somebody tell us?
Erin Hallstrom: Yeah, I mean, I was thinking it is so interesting because it's the exact same topic. But I learned in 10th grade, a friend of mine in school said to me in 10th grade, "Why do you belong to a racist church?" And I said to her, "there are many misconceptions about our church. This is not true." And I was so confident in my denial about it. And I went home and talk to my mom and said, "Hey, did you hear this? Let me tell you about this one, this thing that I heard," and my mom had to tell me at that point, say, "Well, let me explain something to you." And that was the first and I just realized I hadn't it just hadn't come up in young women nor in primary, but when do we start introducing some of these topics? At what point?
Elder Hafen: Great question, Erin. It's coming up now, mostly because of the internet. Because everything is on the internet. The internet doesn't discriminate about whether somebody is three or 13 or 103. And so when children get onto the internet to do research, as we've seen with our grandchildren, they run into stuff that throws them for loops. And so parents and leaders need, at least we're finding, instead of being shocked about this, we need to see the question as an opportunity to give a response. Here's an example as recent as last Sunday. We were taking care of these three delightful granddaughters because their parents were out of town, we decided to go to their own ward for church because they've moved into a new location. And as we were leaving church, our 11-year-old granddaughter was with a good friend, they just been in class. I was just walking with them, I was just listening to the conversation. And one of these little girls said to our granddaughter, "You know, we were talking about Heavenly Father in our class. Why doesn't anybody ever talk about Heavenly Mother?" Now, I don't think an 11-year-old would have asked that when our children were that age and I'm not quite sure why. The question has always been there, it's always been a wonderful question. But people didn't talk like that. Well there that was on the street and they were talking back and forth, they were interested in it. And I could tell they were trying to find answers and I was looking for a way to not be preachy and not say "Don't, don't ask questions. We don't know anything about that." I found myself saying, you know, one of our most favorite hymns in our church was written by a woman, named Eliza R. Snow, and it has a sentence that says, "a truth is a reason, truth eternal tells me I have a mother there." And it's true. And then one of these little girls talked about how, I don't remember the exact words, but it was something about we don't know as much about her and there are really good reasons. She picked her up kind of from our parents or by instinct, but the atmosphere for that little discussion was constructive. It was peaceful, it was not confrontational, it doesn't need to be.
Sister Hafen: So that she can begin to understand what that simplicity beyond complexity. I'm thinking about a meeting where we were attending in the Utah State Prison. Bruce had a calling with the branches that are in the state prisons and jails, there about 70 of them. And we were there on a day, that was the testimony meeting, they're not able to have the sacrament, but they do invite the inmates to come and visit.
Elder Hafen: This was in the women's unit of the Utah State Prison.
Sister Hafen: So these were women, dressed in their prison garb, sitting in the little chapel in the prison, which Elder Ashton helped to make possible years ago. Yeah, Marvin J. Ashton. But one of them got up to bear her testimony and you could just see the simplicity, that she didn't-- well she might have given a fig for it. But then the complexity and then the simplicity after in what she said. Because when she started her testimony, she said, I can remember when I was a little girl, I love to bear my testimony. I would just run up in front of the church, jump on that stool and talk into the microphone and say, "I know the church is true. My mom and dad love me. I know that Jesus suffered for my sins." And then she would say, "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen," and she would run back to her seat.
But she said, then the years came along, and I ran into some real challenges and problems. And they were serious enough that I am here now behind these bars. But I can tell you, that those same words, "I love Heavenly Father, he knows me. Jesus suffered for my sins. I know the church is true. They have an entirely different meaning for me now. And I'm working very hard to be able to use what I have learned here to change my life."
So that was, she had gone right through those stages through hard experience. And who knows, maybe she became addicted to opioids, maybe she became so addicted, that she did things she would never have thought she would in order to have them. I mean, you don't know. But she had gone through that experience. And then there's one other that I might mention if that's okay.
A young woman that grew up in a very Mormon community in Rexburg, Idaho. And she was on automatic pilot, as far as the church was concerned. She had her young woman's medallion at an early age, she was on track and then when she was about 18, she heard from someone "You know, the church believes that women should not hold the priesthood." And she became really interested in that question, "Well, why wouldn't women hold the priesthood? I mean, they're as good as men. They're as smart, you know, they can do whatever they want." And she became so wound up in that, that she just took her name off the church's roles. A little later, three years later, she was at a university in Utah, Utah State, and one of her roommates had become interested in the Gospel, and the missionaries were coming over. So she thought, "hmm, you know, maybe I'll just sit in on those discussions," so she did that. And her heart was softened a little. And the missionaries said to her roommate, "why don't you pray about this?" And our young friend had thought, "It's been a long time, maybe, maybe I will." So that night, she knelt down and she said, "Heavenly Father," and she said, "The minute I said, 'Father,' my heart just started to soften, it started to melt. And I began to feel this connection with him that I had not felt for a long time." And she said, "Over some time, as I studied, as I learned, as I experienced more, I developed what I would call a closeness with Heavenly Father."
And she said that a little later than that somebody that she had known when she had been so indignant said, "Well, what happened to those beliefs that you had those challenges that you felt about women and the priesthood?" And she just said, "you know what? I don't worry about those so much anymore. He knows what he's doing. And I have other things, more important things to do with my life."
Elder Hafen: Trust me, it'll be good.
Sister Hafen: Yeah, "Trust me, it'll be good.
Erin Hallstrom: So those questions don't necessarily go away? Or get answered?
Sister Hafen: No, and not immediately. Sometimes it's overtime. But for her, it came when she was open enough again to take in what was really there, the simplicity beyond complexity. The informed, she dealt with the uncertainties, with the disillusionment and was now back.
Elder Hafen: You make a good point about that, Erin. And I think it's important for all of us to remember what you were getting at. And that is, we're not saying that you get the answer.
Erin Hallstrom: And you graduate. That's what we are waiting for right? I just want to graduate.
Elder Hafen: It's more that you have a perspective about the context for the answer. There are so many, so many things we can't understand yet. If we could just accept that, it would help. We can understand it until we're ready. And so to just have a process that helps us be at peace about the question as much as we can and when we're willing to give the Lord the benefit of the doubt, trust me, it'll be good. With time, our experiences, we learn here a little there a little, line upon line, when we're ready we will learn more. And that is just as natural as a child becoming an adult. That's, that's a process for our spiritual growth as well as our biological growth.
Erin Hallstrom: There is a lot of fear involved when someone we love experiences doubt or has a tricky question. And I'm wondering, at what point should we be actually worried? You know, and I use the word "worried," but when I mean is, at what point do we step in? At what point is this just a natural stage? I mean, that's the thing I love about reading the book, and thinking through the stages, is that we're saying this is natural, this is what you kind of should be going through. And instead of this fear of "Oh, no, my daughter or my--" you know, I've been a young woman's leader twice and you have this "oh," you know,
Sister Hafen: What am I gonna do?
Erin Hallstrom: Are we worried about this person, are we going to lose them? You know, and we have that thought in our head that even talking about losing them, even the language sometimes that we use, the no empty chairs in heaven, sometimes can be hurtful to some families who, whose families don't look perfect in the way that we think of perfect.
Sister Hafen: I think of Bonnie Parkin with that one when she went in and she was called as-- she shared this at one time, she was called to be the general release society president. And she said, "But President, our family's not perfect."
Elder Hafen: Who was she talking to? President Hinckley.
Sister Hafen: Yeah, President Hinckely. And President Hinckley said, "I don't think there is a perfect family."
I'm sorry, I kind of cut you off.
Erin Hallstrom: No, no, please.
Elder Hafen: That's a good example. And a wonderful question, Erin. And I think we've all been there, we've been there.
Sister Hafen: Can we give her an example from our family?
Elder Hafen: Well, Marie worries about me, I worry about her. I think it's fine. We've got to find a better word, the Australians have a wonderful phrase called, I'd like to have a T-shirt that says this, "No worries, mate."
Erin Hallstrom: I'm from Hawaii, we say "No worries," too.
Elder Hafen: Worrying is sort of-- it connotes a kind of fretting, and that fretting comes across, and it can get in the way. And if that's one of the values of understanding these issues with the larger perspective, do you think that our Father in Heaven is up there biting his nails over his shoulder, and even when he cries over them?
Sister Hafen: You mean, if he's not chuckling?
Elder Hafen: He does both, but it helps us to know that, yes, he feels deep concern. He's the God who weeps. He weeps over those who make the wrong choices. But he's also the one who understands the process. And there's a different rate for every person. And I think
Sister Hafen: And you're asking when do you worry? Did I cut you off?
Erin Hallstrom: Well, I mean, my thought is mainly, is there a point when worrying too early can be, exactly to your point...
Sister Hafen: If you give them too much. More than they would need or want.
Elder Hafen: It can be counterproductive.
Erin Hallstrom: Be counterproductive?
Elder Hafen: Because it blocks the communication. I think we know what that feels like, we have had to restrain ourselves and work at it to just hold off. I remember a conversation with one of our teenage kids, where I was so frustrated, and she said, through her tears, "Dad, when you talk like that, it makes me want to do the very things you don't want me to do."
Erin Hallstrom: I've never experienced that.
Elder Hafen: "I'm trying to get through this, would you just support me?" It was an important message for me to hear. And I think that's true on these kinds of questions. The questions are productive and that's why knowing the process that we've been talking about is so helpful. Because it's not just a yes or no thing, we do ourselves a disservice when we say that faith and doubt are the only alternatives. There are lots of alternatives, faith, and doubt and wondering, and wandering and curiosity and scratching your head. And I've concluded that one of the reasons that some of us don't know where we fit in all those terms, is that our experience is larger than our vocabulary.
Erin Hallstrom: Oh, I love that.
Elder Hafen: And I think it was Richard Bushman, talking about his experience when he was a young man at Harvard and was feeling like he was agnostic. And yet when he got a mission call, he said yes. And he was there like wait a minute, what am I doing here? And then he realized that it was a language issue. He didn't know how to explain the language in terms that his agnostic Harvard friends could understand. But he understood it. And so he once said something like, "A growth and testimony can be seen as an improvement in language." And some of this is learning to understand. So as we're patient with each other, and we listen, even though what we're hearing is not something we understand or approve, or we wish it were not happening. If we can be patient, and give people the benefit of the doubt in their own process and know that they want to find what's true, so let them get there and help them.
Erin Hallstrom: Well, we're going to talk more in our next episode about--
Sister Hafen: Yeah, we'd love to talk about Adam and Eve.
Erin Hallstrom: Great, let's do it.
Next week, we will dig deeper into the three stages of faith. And we may even talk a bit about Adam and Eve.