When Jessica and Millette (not her real name) knew they shared the same birthday and baptism date, they decided they would be missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints together. 

They attended the same ward, finished their Young Women Personal Progress at the same time, and served alongside each other for years. 

It was a story of faith and friendship, one for the books. Until one day, Millette said something out loud. 

“I don’t think I should go on a mission anymore.” 

Curious – rather than surprised – Jessica asked why. 

“I’m afraid I’m losing my testimony. I’m not even sure if I should stay in the Church.” 

Jessica was in disbelief. Could it be that her dear friend who loved the Church as much as she does suddenly lost faith and interest? 

She was reeling in fear, disappointment, and worry. But she knew Millette’s faith crisis was real. 

At that moment, there was only one question in her mind: “What should I do?” 

Dealing with a Loved One’s Faith Crisis: Why It Is Not About Us

The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in the Plan of Salvation. 

When we were sent on this earth, we were not given a cookie-cutter set of rules so we can only have a common, similar, one-dimensional experience. 

The Lord honors our agency. In fact, agency is a crucial component of the Lord’s plan for us. 

Our Heavenly Father knew that with the plan, His children will make different choices and will go through distinct experiences. 

It’s understandable that when you hear a loved one express their faith crisis, one of your first reactions would be “But why are they going through that? We’ve been in the Church together and I don’t feel that way!” 

Although this is a valid emotion, viewing another’s experiences through our own eyes can trap us into one of the adversary’s most dangerous pitfalls: judging others. 

When we don’t take a moment to know what caused a person’s faith crisis, and why they are struggling with such, we will miss the opportunity to help them and love them. 

When Faith Crisis Comes to Our Loved Ones: Understanding What a Faith Crisis Is

What does it feel like to be in a faith crisis? Here’s a quick analogy.

Imagine holding a lamp with the brightest fire one could ever find. 

You knew all your life that the lamp is infallible in protecting the fire inside;  holding it gave you the confidence that you could get through the darkest corners unscathed!

You knew the lamp and the light can’t be dimmed. But overtime, people start to throw inks and mud towards your lamp.

Some try to forcefully take it from you. 

Some well-meaning people – graciously trying to wipe off dirt from the lamp –  only end up leaving scratches. 

No matter how hard you dodge the ink, mud, and scratches, they hit your lamp, covering the fire inside, and slowly dimming the light. 

You look at the lamp you’ve put your trust into all your life now all dirty and dimmed. 

You start to wonder:  “Was the light in my lamp really enough? Was that light really meant to be a blessing to me? If it was such an infallible thing, why is it dimmed now?” 

A faith crisis can feel that way. Those who are dealing with a crisis of faith look at the gospel and ask “Is this even true? Can I still trust it?” 

Sometimes people in the church – just like one holding a lamp – may start questioning their beliefs for different reasons.

It could be because they learned something about the church’s history that made them feel uneasy, had a bad experience with a church leader, or didn’t agree with a recent change in church rules. 

Each person has a deep reason for their faith crisis, and if one person shows them understanding and compassion, navigating around questions and doubts can be more bearable. 

What People in a Faith Crisis Want You to Know 

When someone experiences a deep faith crisis, it feels like their whole world is falling apart. 

They’ve believed in so many truths for years. They have built their life around and through the Church. When doubts begin to creep up, things can feel very uncertain. 

Here are some feelings your friend and loved one in a faith crisis can be experiencing. 

They’re Dealing with Big, Overwhelming, and Scary Feelings

Having to look at every single truth you loved, believed, and trusted all your life IS scary. 

Some people who went through a faith crisis have expressed these feelings. 

  • They have spent years confidently saying, “I know the Church is true,” but now they’re questioning that belief. This shakes the foundation of everything they thought they knew.
  • They start to doubt their past spiritual experiences. They wonder, can I trust what I once felt so sure about?
  • When their faith feels shaky, they struggle to find reliable sources or experiences to answer their pressing questions. How can they be sure about God, Jesus, sin, or morality?
  • It’s especially tough for someone who’s been a dedicated member of the Church for a long time. This crisis can feel like one of the most confusing things they’ve ever faced.

They’re Going Through an Unfamiliar Path, and It Can Be Lonely

Most Latter-day saints in a faith crisis struggle to find a safe space where they can freely voice out their questions, doubts, and concerns. 

The loneliness and the strange emotions settle in when they’re around people testifying of a truth they struggle so much to be confident in. 

In their struggle, how they view the world crumbles, and it’s disconcerting. Because most of them become subject to judgment, these people simply withdraw. 

Finding Truth In this Information Age Leaves Them With More Doubt

Each individual has their own unique set of troubling questions, but certain historical and doctrinal issues tend to resurface frequently. These commonly include polygamy, the pre-1978 race-based restrictions on priesthood and temple participation, women and the priesthood, the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, the various accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision, and the Church’s stance and teachings regarding LGBTQ individuals.

When church members stumble upon new historical facts, they often first deny their validity. However, further research reveals that some of these claims are true, not mere fabrications from critics. This realization leaves them bewildered, unsure of where to turn for guidance. They may seek counsel from trusted figures like their bishop, other leaders, or Institute teachers, who often validate their concerns and provide comforting explanations. 

They Deal with the Fear of Getting Judged and Alienated

Unfortunately, some encounter judgment instead of support, being accused of lacking faith or morality due to their doubts. They’re advised to simply pray more and ignore their questions, which feels inadequate. Many of these individuals are devout members who have dedicated themselves to the Church, so when their inquiries are met with evasion, it’s disheartening. They feel ignored and dismissed by the very institution they’ve trusted.

How We Can Help Friends and Loved Ones in a Faith Crisis

Avoid Questioning Their Worthiness

There’s a common misconception that assumes once a person questions a policy or a principle in the Church, that person has done something wrong related to the policy. 

Seeing this issue in the lens of worthiness can cause us to judge first instead of helping or supporting them. 

Know Where They’re Coming From 

Only God and the person involved know exactly what caused the faith crisis. We don’t always get a complete picture, so we can’t simply dismiss their valid emotions by saying “Have faith.” 

We can’t say “Have faith” to an offended person who’s wondering how a community can be hurtful. 

We can’t tell a seeker of truth to “Have faith” when doubts already consume them. 

We can’t dismiss a struggling friend in a faith crisis to simply “Have faith” when they are no longer sure which faith to hold onto. 

Make them feel seen and heard by listening to their concerns and really understanding the root of their faith struggles. 

Offer a Listening Ear, Before Offering a Scripture Verse or a Talk 

It’s tempting to refer them to the scriptures and wonderful talks that uplifted us in our own faith journey. 

Although this gesture is coming from a good place, this isn’t always helpful especially for someone who already has doubts about the gospel. 

Read talks and scripture verses that you feel can help your loved one. However, only offer it when they ask. 

Let Them Know You Still Love Them 

Losing the once fervently-burning testimony about the beliefs of the Church comes with an anxiety that they’ll also lose the people they love who don’t share their faith crisis. 

Don’t let a faith crisis get in the way of your relationship. You can express love and understanding even if you don’t share the same struggle. 

Just Be There… Not to Bring Them All The Facts But To Help Them Navigate Through the Journey 

Most family members and friends say that one of the biggest challenges of having a loved one with a faith crisis is they feel the other person’s walls are up. And it’s quite understandable — they’re terrified you will just lecture them because you don’t understand. 

Let your loved one know you’re there to simply BE THERE. Let them know you’re not there to chastise, or judge, or deliver a lecture. 

You’re still there because they’re still your friend or family member, and you love them. 

Re-build trust and let them know you’re there to help them deal with their questions IF they need help. 

Bear Your Testimony

Bearing your testimony to someone who struggles with theirs can sound counterintuitive, but it comes with blessings when done to build common ground rather than argue and debate. 

The Lord Wants Us to Help Those Who Are Dealing with Faith Crisis

When we don’t know how to interact with our loved ones with an issue of their faith, let’s look up to Heavenly Father as our example. 

He’s patient with us, He respects our agency especially when connected with faith, He lets us make choices, and He’s always letting us know we can come back to Him because His arms – even though we’ve made choices different from His expectations– are still open.