Latter-day Saint Faith Crisis

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are questions commonly encountered by members in faith crisis and the Church members closest to them. If you have questions you'd like to add to this list, please reach out to us at We treat all emails as personal and confidential.

Table of contents

For members in crisis

Q: I want to come closer to God but all I'm getting from prayer and study is emptiness. How can I find spiritual fulfillment again?

A: What you're experiencing is known as heavenly silence. It affects believers both in and out of the Church. Famously, Mother Theresa suffered for almost 50 years with the feeling that the heavens had been closed and God had abandoned her. Joseph Smith's writings from Liberty Jail echo a similar sentiment. And in more recent years the Church has produced videos about this very phenomenon. You are not alone.

For some, heavenly silence is an invitation to take a leap of faith and engage more deeply with their beliefs. After a period of doubt and darkness they once again feel the influence of God in their lives.

For others the silence is unending, regardless of their efforts to break it. This often leads to lasting changes in belief or practice. Some leave the Church, others step away just long enough to reconstruct their faith in a more personal way, and still others remain active but reframe their perspective on the Church to make space for their own experiences. All of these choices require courage and honesty. Whatever path you take will be a difficult one, but as you remain true to yourself and your values you'll find fulfillment—even if it's different from the way you used to feel.

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Q: I'm afraid that if I start questioning, I'll end up leaving the Church. How can I explore my concerns in a safe way?

A: Remember that your choices belong to you. You don't ever have to leave the Church if you don't want to. No one will force you. Many of us have been through a process of doubting and questioning and ended up staying in the Church. Although it's scary, you have to trust yourself to make the right decisions with the information you have.

It's also helpful to remember that thinking about something isn't the same as doing it. You can ponder, study, and pray for as long as you need to! One exercise that may help is to explore your thoughts in writing. When you're struggling with a faith-related decision, write two letters to yourself, one in favor of the first choice and one in favor of the second. It may help to imagine yourself six months after making each decision and write from that perspective. This gives you a safe way to honestly explore your options without making any life-altering changes.

Fear can stop you from thinking clearly. Overcoming this fear takes courage, but it will pay off as you gain confidence in the decisions you've made.

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Q: I want to change my relationship to the Church but I'm afraid of being harmed or losing people that are important to me. How can I overcome my fear?

A: Unfortunately, a change in faith often has unwanted consequences. In extreme cases it can lead to divorce, loss of contact with friends and family members, homelessness, or abuse. Many of us have been treated kindly and compassionately by our families and peers after a faith transition—even better than we expected—but others of us have experienced tragedy. For these reasons you may choose to be extremely careful about how you express your beliefs.

For some people, especially teenagers with strict parents and people who are employed by the Church, the wisest course of action may be to find support privately and anonymously in online communities while continuing to behave outwardly as though nothing has changed. Depending on your situation, safety might be more important than authenticity. Hopefully you will someday reach a point where you can honor your beliefs without fear of repercussion.

On the other hand, if you feel safe to do so, opening up about your faith transition can be an incredible relief. Many of us have experienced a weight off our shoulders from the moment we began to speak freely about our experiences and beliefs. Even with some social or personal consequences, we feel that the peace of living in harmony with ourselves has been worth the sorrow of disappointing others.

If you feel the timing is right, you can overcome your fear by carefully planning your next steps, keeping in mind how much you stand to gain. Take it as slowly or as quickly as you want. If you think through your decisions ahead of time you'll have more confidence to act on them.

Finding support is important. Talk to the people in your life who you think are most likely to be sympathetic to your cause. If they seem open to it, share your thoughts and plans with them. Tell them how much their support means to you. Rely on them for advice and encouragement when things get difficult. When you have a plan and a friend, you can get through just about anything.

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Q: How can I talk about changes in my beliefs without offending or pushing away the people I love?

A: Compassion is an essential starting point for any conversation with a person who believes differently than you do. Remember that the other person is doing what they believe is right. Often their attempts to persuade you in a certain direction, as awkward or inappropriate as they may be, come from a place of genuine love and concern.

Persuasion, however, is not the right approach. Trying to convince someone to change their beliefs will backfire. Your goal should be to build mutual understanding, not necessarily agreement. If the other person understands the way you feel, they can usually respect your choices and continue to have a positive relationship with you.

Understanding is built on principles of kindness and vulnerability. Try to listen as much as you speak. Focus the conversation on your own feelings and experiences instead of factual or historical issues. Acknowledge that people have different perspectives and you can't speak for everyone. Tell the other person what you admire about them. Respect their beliefs in the same way you would want them to respect yours: instead of doubting or criticizing, affirm and appreciate.

This doesn't mean you have to endure personal attacks or listen to ideas that invalidate your identity. A conversation where you really open up, talking about your feelings and things that have hurt you, can turn sour very quickly. Practice setting boundaries ahead of time. Decide what kinds of statements you won't tolerate, then prepare responses that make it clear you understand while firmly rejecting what's being said or implied about you. Be willing to repeat yourself several times if necessary, especially when expressing a feeling or something that has actually happened to you. And be prepared to end the conversation if the other person is intent on putting you down or gaslighting you.

These conversations are complex; they rarely run their course in a single sitting. But they can be essential in your closest relationships. You have the right to tell your story to the people you love, and you deserve their trust and understanding. Even if it doesn't go perfectly the first time around, keep trying. Show humility, apologize when needed, express your uncertainties in an honest way, and work to make the relationship a supportive environment for both of you.

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Q: I'm afraid of offending God if I make choices different from the ones I was taught. How can I know if what I'm doing is right?

A: Gaining confidence in your worthiness starts with deciding what you believe about God. This is a process of thought, reason, study, and intuition. The most genuine beliefs come from within.

Those of us who are believers tend to think of God as a kind and reasonable person. It's hard to imagine a Creator who would punish us for trying with all our hearts to do the right thing. Of course, the all-important question is "what is the right thing?" And though nobody else can answer that question for you, you can answer it for yourself.

Doing the right thing means pondering the information you have, being aware of your own wants and needs, considering the effects of your choices on other people, and then having the courage to decide what's best. You usually won't be 100% sure. That's okay; no one knows what the future will bring. And if you end up changing your mind later, that's okay too.

For every decision in life there will be people on both sides telling you what God expects or finds offensive. But a God who really knows you would expect you to follow your heart. Sometimes you may feel strongly about a choice that scares you or goes against what you've been taught. Discovering and building your own beliefs will give you the confidence to press forward.

Fear is strongest when you are silent and alone. Try to find people you can talk openly with—people who will listen to you, love you unconditionally, and encourage you to make good decisions without imposing their own opinions on you.

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Q: I enjoy going to church and want to continue being a member but I sometimes feel there isn't a place for someone like me. Is there a way to be myself without distancing myself from the Church?

A: Yes. The Church is full of people who often feel they don't belong: single parents, people who never married, skeptics, gay and trans people, people in poverty, couples who struggle with fertility, and many others. If you're not part of a traditional, fully-active family, or if you don't believe everything that's said at Church, you may often feel the Church isn't making an effort to speak to or understand you.

Even if the Church doesn't always see you, a change in perspective can help you participate in a positive way. The most successful non-typical Church members have a "Konmari" approach: if a doctrine or activity sparks joy, they welcome it; if it doesn't, they gently discard it and move on. You'll have a more fulfilling relationship with the Church when you don't feel obligated to defend, explain, and believe everything that happens in it.

The truth is that there aren't very many members for whom the Church is a perfect fit all the time. Almost everyone struggles with certain aspects of doctrine or history. Some of us have a more difficult time hiding our differences, but no difference or disagreement makes one member less valid or worthy than another.

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For members offering support

Q: How do I know when it's okay to talk to a loved one about their faith transition?

A: Ask them.

It is possible they don't want to talk about their experiences. Their feelings on the subject may be too raw, they may not feel they have the words to express their thoughts well, or they may not trust you to be respectful and empathetic about such a sensitive topic.

On the other hand, they may just be waiting for you to bring it up.

Many of us who have experienced a change in belief are slow to talk about it. We don't want to offend our believing friends and family members and we don't want to be accused of trying to "lead people astray." It's often easier to suffer alone than to risk an important relationship by beginning a conversation that might push the other person away.

If you want to discuss your loved one's experiences, it's okay to ask if they're open to it. Assure them you're not looking for an excuse to preach or testify, you just want to understand and support them. They may still say no. One way to show you can be trusted is by easily and lovingly accepting their "no," whether they give a reason or not.

If they say yes, they may only open up a little at first. The way you respond to this is what they'll expect every time the topic comes up, so choose your words carefully. Accept and acknowledge their experiences, be considerate, and never allow your own feelings or ideas to dominate the conversation. If you treat them as an equal, someone whose choices are as valid and worthy as your own, in time they'll trust you with more of their story.

People can often tell where your heart is by the way you act. If your intention is to manipulate or influence, you won't get far. But as you demonstrate compassion and a desire for the other person's well-being regardless of their relationship to the Church, they'll feel comfortable speaking openly with you about their beliefs, doubts, and fears.

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Q: One of my family members has left the Church. It upsets me deeply that they chose another lifestyle over our eternal family. How can I express the sorrow and hurt I feel?

A: It's not uncommon to feel betrayed or ashamed when a family member leaves the Church or doesn't take it as seriously as you do. These feelings are real and can be hard to ignore. Don't hesitate to seek support from other family members, friends, or a licensed therapist.

Be careful about expressing these feelings to the family member who has left. There might never be an appropriate time to do so. You can easily damage the relationship if you give the impression that you think their choices are unwise, their feelings don't matter, or they're being dishonest about their experiences.

If you want to have an honest conversation you'll need to understand that leaving the Church is typically a painful experience. The other person likely spent a great deal of time thinking and worrying about it before you ever knew. This is a decision that belongs to them, is about them, and affects their own life first and foremost. It would be inappropriate for you to make it about yourself.

You do not have the ability to change someone else's mind. Trying to do so will put distance between them and you. Your loved one needs understanding and support, not disapproval and correction. If you can't offer compassion in a genuine and humble way, it's best not to discuss the subject at all.

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Q: How can I help my loved one return to the Church? I only want what's best for them.

A: Some people return to the Church after a period of separation and some don't. There's nothing you can do to guarantee the outcome you want. In the confusion and hurt that follow a loved one's faith transition, you may find yourself imagining things you could say to persuade them, plead with them, or make them feel guilty about their choices. It's best to keep these thoughts to yourself. Speaking them aloud will not make the other person find faith and recommit to the Church; it will only hurt their feelings and make them feel misunderstood.

Rarely, people feel tempted to manipulate or coerce their loved one into participating in Church services or faith-promoting activities. This kind of behavior is selfish and always does more harm than good.

The most important role you can play in someone else's faith journey is one of kindness: listen to them, believe them, and help them heal. They may have been hurt by the actions of Church members or the words of Church leaders. They may worry that the way you feel about them has changed or that you suspect them of being sinful or prideful. You can help by reassuring them, expressing love, and trying to understand their choices in a genuine way, without condescension or disapproval.

When a person feels accepted and loved rather than judged and condemned, they'll be far more receptive to gentle invitations to Church meetings and activities. They may not ever return to the Church—it's critical that you acknowledge and accept this—but if they do, it will be possible because they feel safe, thanks to the unconditional support and compassion of members who care about them.

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Q: A family member has left the Church and lives a lifestyle I disagree with. I don't want to enable them. Should I stop supporting or talking to them?

A: No. Unless the family member is abusive toward you or someone in your household, cutting them off isn't an appropriate response to their life choices. Your responsibility as their family member is to care for and appreciate them. Part of a respectful relationship is allowing the other person to make their own decisions without the weight of emotional pressure or ultimatums.

There are boundaries you can set without causing harm. You don't have to change the way you practice your faith as an individual; your personal church attendance, study, and tithepaying are no one's business but yours. Your family member may not be comfortable participating in family home evenings, family prayer, or family scripture study, but you can continue to hold these activities so long as you don't punish them or withhold privileges for not attending. Likewise, your family member shouldn't expect you to finance or host activities that clearly violate Church standards, such as parties where alcohol is served.

The only situation where you should evict a child is if they pose a threat to the health and safety of you or someone you love. The decision to leave the Church and/or criticize it does not, on its own, qualify as a threat. Additionally, decisions about one's own gender, sexuality, politics, romantic partners, or religious beliefs are never sufficient cause for retaliation.

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Q: How can I let people know that I'm a safe person to talk to about faith issues even though I'm an active Church member?

A: People will decide whether to talk to you about a faith transition based on two things: your beliefs and the way you express them. The latter is often more important than the former. If you talk about your beliefs in a scripted, impersonal, rigid, or exclusionary way, you won't be perceived as a safe and empathetic person. On the other hand, if you find appropriate opportunities to describe your beliefs in an inclusive and nuanced way, you'll likely find that people are eager to open up to you.

Many conversations have been sparked by a testimony, lesson, or comment that spoke empathetically of those who doubt, expressed acceptance of people and choices the Church commonly excludes, or even acknowledged the speaker's own uncertainties. These are signals that despite your beliefs (or because of them) you can be trusted not to judge or condemn someone else's journey.

In personal conversation, an attitude of listening to understand goes a long way. Nothing will destroy another person's trust as surely as brushing off, denying, or being condescending about their experiences. A healthy conversation isn't possible unless you acknowledge that the other person's story is just as valid as yours. When you truly listen to and believe someone, it shows.

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