Sunday, August 14, 2016

So Ross and I are in an amazing ward. There is a whole spectrum of people that attend, and guess what, some of them aren’t even sure if the church is true. I think it is awesome there are members of the church who may not have faith, but still feel welcome and choose to still attend. Right now the ward is doing this thing where members give short “faith talks”. A member of the bishopric who knew I no longer believed told me that, if I felt comfortable, I could give a faith talk.

I thought about it, and slowly some ideas started to formulate. I decided I might be willing to talk, but I wanted to include a musical number – on the guitar. Most Mormons have never heard the guitar played in sacrament meeting and some of them have even been told it is not allowed. But they gave me the green light and so guess what? I gave a talk and played the guitar in sacrament meeting today!

I had to write it out because I tend to get nervous and screw things up. I’m really happy to be sharing this and feel like it’s a big deal that there are wards out there who are welcoming to people like me and who would like to hear what I have to say.

Here is my talk:

Today I’d like to talk to those who no longer have faith. I cannot speak for others, but I can share a little bit from my own journey. For those of you whose faith is alive and well, consider this an opportunity to see into the heart and mind of someone you perhaps care about, but who no longer shares your convictions.

Ever since I was mature enough to comprehend the gospel I have had unanswered questions and doubts that were sometimes upsetting to my testimony. But in general I had a positive experience living the gospel. Most times it left me feeling happy and fulfilled and there were many times when I felt like my prayers were heard and answered. I will never discount that time in my life, because it was real. A couple of years ago I had an experience which led me to question my beliefs, and my faith crisis began.

A faith crisis can be harrowing. It can leave someone feeling lost and anchorless. It can be frightening to have such a paradigm shift that it changes your entire outlook on life. Once when I was sitting in church I remember feeling like my life was falling apart. The depression that I sometimes struggle with was beginning to reemerge, I had just found out about my unplanned pregnancy, but at the time, what felt most devastating, was that the church might not be true. An attentive sister in relief society asked me if I was doing alright. I shook my head that I wasn’t and did my best to hold back the tears. She lovingly told me that she prays for me and would continue to do so.

One night I was talking with Ross about scripture reading. I rarely felt uplifted or enlightened during scripture study, despite all my sincerity and best efforts. I had tried studying my topic, keeping a journal, prayer before, prayer after, at different times and at different places. I wanted to know why I wasn’t like the rest of my family. The question pressed upon my heart, “what would they think of me?” I was afraid of being rejected.

When you are immersed in a culture that constantly encourages you to strengthen your testimony, you can be left feeling isolated and wondering where you went wrong. To those who feel this way I would like to say, you haven’t done anything wrong. Your faith experience might just be different, and your journey, just different from those around you.

I have heard many say, that people who leave the church may feel like they are happy, but it is not TRUE happiness. Please understand that this is disrespectful. How would you feel if someone from another religion told you your happiness wasn’t as good as their happiness?

Last year I read an article in the ensign which talked about the difference between having sincere questions and having doubt. It described the doubter as one who was inclined to set aside their beliefs for sin. This is false and unhelpful. There is such thing as sincere doubt, and when we experience it, one of the best things we can encounter is a friend who listens without judgement and verbally tells us that their love is not conditional upon whether or not we share their beliefs.

My faith crisis eventually came to an end and the peace that I felt before it began, returned. I decided to continue to attend church with my family and do my best to support them. When we moved into this ward I was relieved to find that my differences in belief in no way left me feeling isolated. I feel very accepted here.

Unfortunately, there are many people who feel they must keep their unbelief a secret. I personally know many people who stopped believing years before telling their parents or spouses.  

For those of you who no longer believe I would like to share a few things that may help you stay positive. When I’m feeling grumpy Ross sometimes jokingly sings to me, “you’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . .”. One of the things I like about the church is that it teaches we have a Heavenly Mother. So the other day I was talking to the kids and I told them that Mormon’s believe that we have a Heavenly Mother too, and just like Heavenly Father, they could pray to her any time they wanted and to not be afraid to ask her for help.

I have found that I miss having conviction. I know of one person who no longer has faith but decided to replace it with something just as good. They came up with some core values that they knew they wanted to live by. You might say they made a family mission statement. Just like a family home evening lesson, they review these core values with their children regularly.

Try to respect your loved ones who still believe, the way you would want to be respected. Be forgiving of the church’s flaws. Set a good example by living an honorable life. Remember the way you felt when you were a sincere believer, so that you can have empathy for others, even when you disagree.

For me, I enjoy taking the hymns I grew up with, and trying to continue to live their message. I love the words to Lord, I would follow thee. There are children’s primary songs that I still sing to my children at night. There is a very simple one that goes, Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too. When your heart is filled with love, others will love you. To end I would like to sing one of my favorites, Love one Another: (Then I sing the song with my friend Brynn)
Here is a home recording of me singing the song:


Claudette Burt said...

This is a beautiful talk. I'm so proud of you Sara. I love you so much.

Melody Burt said...


Gabe and Anna Family said...

Sara, that was so wonderful. Your words were so insightful and helpful. I love you!

Gabe and Anna Family said...

Sara, that was so wonderful. Your words were so insightful and helpful. I love you!