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Drew's Reviews #20 - “The Crucible of Doubt”

I just finished reading “The Crucible of Doubt” by Terryl and Fiona Givens.

Quick Take: Not an easy read, but really expanded my perspective on many typical doubts experienced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Longer Take:

The authors of “The Crucible of Doubt” attempt to dissect the paradigms and thought processes that breed doubt in the typical Latter-Day Saint (e.g. The role of the church in our lives, divine delegation, the infallibility of church leaders, spiritual self-sufficiency, etc.). They argue that if we better understood these paradigms many doubts would become nonissues.

I enjoyed “The Crucible of Doubt”, but this book is written for people way smarter than me. It's not that the concepts are beyond me, but it is written in a way that I had to hyper-focus to keep up (I actually finished it and immediately read it again). Most striving to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, will identify with the myriad of doubts described in this book. But if you’re a little slow like me, you may struggle to keep up with the writing of the authors. It reminded me of reading Elder Neal A. Maxwell. So many great learnings, but you really have to work to appreciate them.

I recommend this book to any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whether you are struggling with your faith or not. Terryl and Fiona Givens do a wonderful job of showing that “doubts” connected to the gospel of Jesus Christ are not without shades of grey. There are often multiple ways to see and interpret them, and sometimes a small tweak in our perspective can make all the difference. One can doubt and believe simultaneously.

Some of My Favourite Quotes:

"We feel unmoored if our religion fails to answer all our questions, if it does not resolve our anxious fears, if it does not tie up all loose ends. We want a script, and we find we stand before a blank canvas. We expect a road map, and we find we have only a compass.”

“…religion is not the coward’s way out of life’s difficulties. As Flannery O’Connor wrote, “Religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it’s a cross.”

"If spiritual maturity and not a rote performance is the goal, then life is not a multiple-choice test. There can't be ready answers to the most soul-stretching dilemmas. ... The test has to probe deeper than true/false or right/wrong. Self revelation and self-formation take place only in the presence of the seemingly insoluble, the wrenchingly vexing..."

“Like the sand in the oyster shell, the torment of uncertainty is at the same time the spur to our spiritual vitality and growth.”

"To the would-be believer, not everything makes sense. Not all loose ends are tied up; not every question finds its answer. Latter-day Saint history can be perplexing, some parts of its theology leave even the devout wondering, and not all prayers find answers. Still, many of us believe the disciples had it right. “To whom [else] shall we go?”"

"...if we insist on measuring our worship service in terms of what we “get out of” the meeting, then perhaps we have erred in our understanding of worship. ... Abraham, the wise men, and King David understood that in true worship, we approach the Divine with the desire to offer treasures and gifts, not to seek them."

"In the spiritual realm it is easy for Mormons to grow accustomed to viewing their weekly meetings not just as opportunities to serve and renew covenants, but as their primary sources of spiritual nourishment. But ... spiritual strength requires finding one's own well from which to drink."

“God specifically said that He called weak vessels so we wouldn’t place our faith in their strength or power, but in God’s. The prophetic mantle represents priesthood keys, not a level of holiness or infallibility. That is why our scripturally mandated duty to the prophets and apostles is not to idolize them but to uphold and sustain them “by the prayer of faith.””

"Some of us … are called to live lives of commitment and devotion while dwelling in the realms of belief alone, or harboring the earnest desire to believe. In the perpetual absence of certainty, one may still choose to embrace, and live by, a set of propositions that are aesthetically, morally, and rationally appealing. Even in the absence of certainty, a commitment to the weeping God of Enoch and the gospel of His Son seems a devotion that carries its own intrinsic worth.”

“The question may remain, how does one lock onto the propositional assertions of a restored gospel that is also laden with claims about gold plates and the Book of Abraham and a male priesthood and a polygamous past and a thousand other details we may find difficult? Perhaps … one might focus on the message rather than the messenger. One might consider that the contingencies of history and culture and the human element will always constitute the garment in which God’s word and will are clothed. And one might refuse to allow our desire for the perfect to be the enemy of the present good. Finally, we might ask ourselves, with the early disciples, “to whom [else] shall we go?””


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