Faith Matters has exciting plans for its podcast in 2020. In addition to more excellent Conversations with Terryl Givens, we’ll be expanding our reach with episodes hosted by Faith Matters executive team members Tim and Aubrey Chaves, exploring our faith with some of its most compelling thinkers.
We think you might enjoy getting to know our new hosts: in this episode, we share a podcast originally aired by Richard Ostler’s excellent podcast, “Listen, Learn and Love.” In it, Richard interviews Tim and Aubrey about their personal journey of faith, doubt, and striving for belonging.
We hope you enjoy this conversation, and look forward to sharing much more in the coming year.
Bill Turnbull: Hi, this is Bill Turnbull, one of the cofounders of Faith Matters Foundation. We are going to be expanding our Faith Matters Podcast in 2020 in an exciting direction.Our conversations hosted by Terryl Givens have been really well received, and Terryl has some incredible guests planned for the upcoming year, and so we’re really excited about that. But we’ve also asked two members of our executive team, Tim and Aubrey Chaves, to add their talents and voices to the mix.
You might’ve already heard their recent conversations with Fiona Givens and with Patrick Mason, and we thought you might be interested to hear a little about Aubrey and Tim’s personal story. So they recently sat down with Richard Ostler for an episode of his Listen, Learn and Love Podcast. It was a terrific conversation with Richard, one of his best ever episodes. So with permission, wedecided to share that interview on our podcast. I think you find it really insightful and inspiring and a great way to get to know our new hosts, Aubrey and Tim Chaves. So enjoy!
Richard Ostler: Welcome to another episode of Listen, Learn and Love hosted by Richard Ostler. My guests on today’s podcast are my friends Tim and Aubrey. Say your last name for us?
Tim Chaves: Chaves.
Richard: Chaves, is that right?
Tim: That’s very close, yes.
Richard: I’m going to spell it for our listeners. It’s C-H-A-V-E-S, and they are a married couple with four kids in their 30s. They live in Utah County. I think your oldest is 11.
Aubrey Chaves: Yeah, that’s right.
Richard: We’re recording this on a Saturday, and I think you’ve left your kids in charge of themselves. That’s a great age to do that.
Aubrey: Right, we may have to take a phone call.
Richard: That’s great. I became aware of Tim as I listened to a Faith Matters podcast that he did with Patrick Mason, and Patrick Mason is great. But as I was listening to Tim ask questions to Patrick Mason, I recognized that Tim has a story to tell, and so I wanted to get Tim on the podcast and I messaged him and he said, “I’d love to, and I’d love to bring my wife Aubrey with me.” So I thought, “Great. We’ll have both of them on the podcasts,” and Aubrey just offered a wonderful prayer before we started.
But this is a podcast talking about people that go through a faith crisis or faith transitions and want to and are able to stay members of our restored church. I went through what I call a mini faith crisis as a YSA bishop, and I’ve landed a place that’s sustaining for me is a committed member of the Church, and Tim and Aubrey are going to talk about their journey going through the same type of experience, and they have just really thoughtful insights and had been brave enough to share their journey in a couple places that I’ve read about it.
It’s a great story, and it’s couples like these two that give me hope for the future of our church, for the future society, with their thoughtful insights into our church and into the doctrine of our church, a little bit about our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, which is a sensitive issue for most of our millennial members. So just an overview of the podcast, we’re going to have four sections, roughly. Tim will talk about his own faith crisis, and then we’ll have Aubrey share her perspective as they shared that journey together.
Aubrey walked through the same space, and that’s the second section. The third section is about belonging and how to belong. As part of that we’ll talk about the Faith Matters effort and podcast that they’re a part of, and then we’ll talk about, number four, which Aubrey called the gifts of a faith crisis, and I love that positive term hat Aubrey uses. Just by way of introduction, let’s have you introduce your family to us, Aubrey. Where did you two meet and grow up, and tell us about your boys and girls and where are you raising your family?
Aubrey: Sure. Tim and I both grew up mostly in Sandy, Utah, and we grew up together. We’ve known each other since seventh grade English, so we’ve been good friends ever since. Tim went on his mission to Uruguay and was studying at BYU, and I was at Utah State and we both ended up home on the same semester and started dating pretty quickly after his mission, and were married in 2006. We have, yeah, four kids. Our oldest is 11, all the way down to two, and we live in Utah County now and are raising the kids.
Richard: And they’re boys, girls?
Aubrey: Girls. One boy, an eight year old boy, and the rest of girls.
Richard: Three girls. That’s great. Tell us where you’ve lived around the United States and what took you where?
Aubrey: When Tim finished school, he worked for a little bit and then decided to apply to business school, and so we left for Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, and lived there for a couple of years and switched coasts about halfway through for an internship in San Francisco, and then finished business school and came home.
Richard: Welcome back. We’ve had some members of our family that have gone to Harvard Business School. I remember meeting my brother there and his wife, and they were married with one or two kids, and I thought this is a great experience but it’s complicated. Just logistically going to grad school in Harvard. Tell us about that, Tim.
Tim:Yes. Well, it’s a very different environment than the suburbs of Salt Lake City that we are used to. It’s far more expensive, it’s far more difficult to get around. But just culturally, it’s easy to see why people love Boston. I mean, there’s so much to do, so much to experience and so much for the kids to take in, especially around the history of our nation. We loved our time out there. But then when you move back, it’s also just a lot easier when you have three, four kids. I mean, the conveniences of a suburban life are real.
Richard: Do you guys own a minivan?
Tim: We do. It’s parked out front.
Aubrey: It’s my shameless dream car. Double sliding doors.
Richard: TVs in the car?
Aubrey: No. No TV. I guess that’s my dream car.
Richard: Yeah. Anyway. Let’s get right into this, Tim. Just share with us your return missionary traditional believing LDS guy, served a mission in Uruguay, get married andyou’re off, and then you have the faith crisis. So tell us about that term and in your own journey.
Tim: Yeah, for sure. I mean, traditional believing for sure and potentially even more traditional and more believing than many from a young age, I like to joke that a lot of times in high school that kids will have potentially bad influences, and want to go and do different things. That was not our experience. Aubrey and I, like she mentioned, we’re very close friends in high school, and we had a group of friends around us that were also very close and we’re very, very, very traditional and believing and good people. The joke is, and it’s true that there was a little bit of a competition about who went to the temple more to do baptisms for the dead in our group of high school friends, and you would know because they would show up in first period wearing Sunday clothes.
Richard: That means they went to the temple.
Tim: That means they went to the temple, yeah. I mean, we were very orthodox and both raised in families that were that way. I can’t speak for Aubrey here. Well, I think I can, but we both loved our childhoods and our youth. I guess on my mission, we’re the first seeds of faith crisis, although it certainly didn’t manifest itself during my mission. But you start to have to defend the Church in certain situations.
In a lot of cases as a missionary, you’re unfamiliar with the attacks that people will use, and back in those days, there was what we call anti-Mormon propaganda, and it turned out that after I got back from my mission, I guess I wanted to arm myself against some of those attacks. This is roughly 2006, and I’m wanting to know what’s out there and how I can defend the Church, and so the thing that you do is go to the internet, and that’s what I started doing.
I found FairMormon and that was the best repository for me to find what people were saying and how I could respond, and that was an interesting experience for me because it started this path of a little bit of cognitive dissonance where I would say,“Okay, here’s the attack, here’s the defense.” But then really in my heart, in some cases I was like, “I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure about that defense, I’m not sure if I really buy that.” Then what I wanted to do was get a little bit more into the scholarly, the true scholarly efforts, and so I started reading “Rough Stone Rolling” by Richard Bushman. This is 2006, 2007 and I got maybe 100 pages in, and skipped ahead to the polygamy chapters, because that’s really where I wanted to … that was maybe one of the big issues that I wanted to defend, and I ended up putting it down because it was just too much for me to handle at that point. It felt like if this is true, which I took it that it was because this book is sold in Deseret Book and it was written by a faithful believing member, then it’s not an attack anymore. It’s just what happened, and I think that scared me to the point where, like I said, I put the book down and I didn’t … and I just pushed it off for a couple of years. By the time 2010, 2011 came around, it was an instance where I had put that on the proverbial shelf, but the shelf is really starting to creak.
So I finished “Rough Stone Rolling,” I continued to do more online research and find out about the issues. At some in that timeframe, I started thinking, “Wow, I really don’t know if the Church is true,” and that was disturbing to me because it was important to me, either culturally or whatever it was, to be able to say that I knew the Church was true. Even early on in my mission in the MTC, I brought up with one of my teachers like, “Hey, we were learning to say, ‘I know the Church is true,’ we didn’t … I mean, we learned the verb to know before we learned the verb to believe.” Right?
So we were saying, “Yo se que, I know that,” and I said, “Hey, I don’t know if I can say I know.” To his credit, he gave me an out. He said, “You don’t have to say you know,” which I think is great. But he also said, “But spiritual knowing is different than rational knowing.” That was my kickoff into this world of I know, I know, I know. I know, and I was I think very much in that world for the next four or five… I mean, six years really from the time I was on my mission until this faith crisis is now coming to a head.
What was tough for me too was that I felt Aubrey had married me on the premise that I knew that the Church was true. We had been in our intimate moments, we had shared testimony with each other, and I had said, “I know,” and I felt … It’s on that basis that you get married in the temple, and you’re sealed for time and all eternity, and you form an eternal family. The idea that I no longer knew … and I’m not saying that any of this is doctrinal, this is my perception, right?
The prospect of potentially having to tell Aubrey that I didn’t know that the Church was true, that I didn’t know really where my testimony stood, was terrifying in a lot of ways. I batted that around for probably a few months until finally, I remember one night we were driving home on the freeway, and I guess just a wave of vulnerability or whatever it was, came over me and I decided this is the time. I told Aubrey that I didn’t know that the Church was true. I didn’t give her all the details of what had been bothering me or any of that, but I gave her the high level of where I was at testimony-wise. I was really scared. Literally, I thought it was possible that she was going to say, “Well, that’s it.”
Tim: “I want to be married to someone that I can form an eternal family with.” Because in my mind, I guess at that time, not knowing was the equivalent of not having faith, and now I very much differentiate those two. If I didn’t have faith, then I probably wasn’t worthy of an eternal family. It was really scary, and I’ll let Aubrey probably chime in here about what she was feeling during that confession.
But to her credit, she never gave me even a moments pause about her love for me or her commitment to being together and continuing to form our family, both through …I don’t remember exactly the way it went, but the way I’m imagining it is that she just put her hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s okay. I want to know everything that you’re seeing and thinking and-“
Richard: I want to know everything you’re seeing and thinking.
Tim: Yeah, and she wanted to work through it together, and that was an absolute huge relief. Part of it was questioning my relationship with the Church and with my faith, but then the other part was questioning based on what I had come to believe or come to not believe potentially, part of it was questioning my relationship with Aubrey and not having that be in question was an absolute gift. I never doubted my place in our family because of how she responded and how she … and not just in that moment, but her actions over the coming years.
Richard: Tim, thanks for just sharing that. It takes courage just to talk into a mic knowing that there’s people who are going to hear what you just shared, and thanks for doing what you just did. So honest, and I just sense in you a great spirit and a desire to always do what is right. This isn’t about not wanting to do the right thing or turning away from God. This is just about being authentic to how you feel and then having the courage driving down or up the freeway communicating that to Aubrey. Aubrey, do you want to share?
Aubrey: Sure, yeah. I remember that exact place on the freeway when he said those words.
Richard: Were there kids in the car, or was it just the two of you?
Tim: At that time we would’ve had two little kids, I think, yeah.
Aubrey: Okay. Well, yeah I remember him saying that and it was one of those slow motion moments. I hate that he ever had to wonder what my reaction would be, but that’s really telling about our worldview at that point. It was such a part of our life to have a testimony. It was such a deep part of us to know that the Church was true, and that our whole life was oriented around that knowledge. It was a really disorienting moment to hear this person who I trust more than anyone in the world and know better than anyone in the world and love more than anyone, can have this uncertainty.
So it was all at once that I realized how many misconceptions I had about people who left the Church first of all, that I realized, “Oh my gosh, it’s not about laziness or sin or whatever thing you hear at church.” I could see that he was speaking out of integrity, and I respected that so much, and did truly just want him to know that we’re still a unit, and I do want to know why he’s wondering. It had felt so clear to me in that moment that nothing would change about our relationship, of course.
Anyway, I feel like that moment was also a gift for me because it gave me some space to really examine my own testimony, and decide what was fear-based and what I had defended because I was afraid to imagine a world any other way, and what were the things that really resonated with me that I truly believed because I felt them deeply. That was a really messy thing to figure out for a long time. I don’t think that I would’ve had the courage to be the first one to start that process if Tim hadn’t done it first.
He really made space for me to start examining my faith, and I felt almost immediately grateful for a little bit of peace and time, and I just felt like I had room to really explore how do I actually feel, are there things that I’m uncomfortable with? Are there things that maybe I don’t actually know? So that moment was a gift for me, as scary as it was, because there was suddenly so much uncertainty in our life. It really was a gift for our marriage and for both of our faith journeys.
Richard: Do you feel like Tim tried to pull you to his direction? Or did you feel it was more you wanted to understand because you love this guy so much and you’ve just seen his good heart, you want to understand what had caused him to feel this way?
Aubrey: Yeah. At the beginning, I think it was so tender, it was so hard to talk about for either of us that it took years. I mean, it wasn’t like that burst the floodgates, and then we were talking about it all the time at first. It was so tender and scary that it was like he said it and it was out, but it was so scary to talk about and to really dive into for a little while, because I think we were both trying to find something that felt stable to hold onto, and everything felt shaky suddenly.
We weren’t arguing about it or being persuaded. He wasn’t persuading me and I wasn’t persuading him. It was just out there now, and we both knew it, and then I think we both individually started on our own journeys. Then as we became more comfortable with this idea that we were exploring it, then it was easier to talk about and we could both have opinions and dissect them together and not feel so threatened by everything that was new, which is how it felt at the beginning. It was so scary.
Richard: At first because there’s so much unknown, did you think this could end your marriage or that Tim could leave you over this?
Aubrey: No, I never worried about our marriage, but it was scary to imagine 20 years down the road, and are we going to still be in the Church and do we have to leave if we don’t have a testimony? I remember that thought playing over and over, that if I don’t know the Church is true or if I feel sure that it’s not, then what does that mean tomorrow? Should we not go to church on Sunday? There was so much pressure, and so I think in the beginning, it was just working through hypotheticals. It was like a new wound that was so fresh, I just needed to let the swelling go down for a little while.
I just needed to sit with it for a little bit, and think about every hypothetical situation. What would it be if our kids didn’t get married in the temple? Or what would it be if Tim couldn’t stand in the circle? I needed to walk through the worst case scenario, all of those cultural things that were making me feel so much pressure, I needed to just walk to the end of the line of every single scenario so that I could finally get those out of my system a little bit and actually start thinking about how I felt, because it was so cloudy with that outside pressure that I couldn’t even… It was too hard to think about something so personal and elusive as faith, until those were out of the way.
I love the way you did that. Sometimes when I talk to therapists, they often take us there, and then it’s the reality of the worst thing we’re potentially thinking. We own it.Then you know your marriage isn’t ending, so you knew that wasn’t part of your worst things. But some of these things like Tim not being in the circle, and then you own it, somehow that allows you to move on and have peace. I don’t know if you did that on your own or had somebody in your life that helped you do that or maybe Tim helped you do that.
Two questions that come to mind. One is, did you then go through your own faith crisis or transition? The second question is, what would you say to the spouse, when another spouse opens up about, “I’m not sure the Church is true,” what advice would you give to that spouse? So those are two questions. That could be five minute answers probably.
Aubrey: Sure. Well, I’ll answer the second one first.
Richard: Or hour answers.
Aubrey: Yeah, I think when I eventually really felt like I was in the middle of what felt a real crisis, the thing that was most helpful from Tim is just … I just needed validation. I think my issues weren’t necessarily always shared by him, and it was so nice to just be able to say the worst parts of myself, just say the most unformed thoughts. But all of the things that were swilling around and just be able to spew them out and trust that he would keep that to himself, and just it wouldn’t change how he felt about me, and that relationship felt so secure that I think that’s what healed me.
I think there were a lot of times where I was really digging in on a certain subject, and I was probably really off base and probably didn’t have facts right completely. But it was helpful to not have to argue about it, to just be heard and say exactly what I was thinking and know that I could always go to him and feel complete acceptance and validation, and that made me feel really safe in the relationship so that I could keep working through it. Had it become really personal between us, I think it would have been an obstacle in my own faith development because it would’ve been about us and not about faith. Just having that constant security was the biggest blessing.
Tim: I think a lot of time, what I was worried about was that Aubrey would be so focused on the future, the very longterm future, our post-mortal future that it would be worth it to her-
Richard: That’s a ways down the road.
Tim: It’s a ways down the road, yeah. But if her perspective was, I need to have someone that’s going to be worthy of having this idea of an eternal family, then the utilitarian in Aubrey might … it might make sense for her to say, “This isn’t going to work. This isn’t going to work now.” Thinking about this always reminds me of Terryl and Fiona Givens in their book, “The Christ Who Heals”, they have this great quote that says that heaven apart from those we love is just hell by another name.
I think that what’s absent a lot of times from our thinking is that we really truly can have heaven on earth right now by being with those that we love. So I think this idea that I’m going to sacrifice being apart from those I love now in order to have this heaven in the future, you’re sacrificing heaven right now and inadvertently creating a different version of hell. Like Aubrey said, I think that strength and bond that we had in our marriage, and that safe space that we created, was even though we were questioning what we even knew about, the very long term future, we created our own little heaven with each other, by going through this together.
Richard: Is your marriage better off for going through this?
Aubrey: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Richard: Why, Aubrey?
Aubrey: I think probably because it requires so much vulnerability. It was getting in the habit of expressing your deepest fears, and I think I had really learned to keep those to myself. I think it just us so much closer to be able to say, “This is the thing I’m so afraid of.” I think that’s probably because you’re never on the same page. It’s so fluid. Every day, I felt a little bit different. It would have been impossible for us to always feel the same at church. So you just feel so vulnerable that this week maybe Tim’s a little more in than I am, and the next week I’m a little more in.
It was a constant battle to just make sure that we were together as a unit, and I can’t imagine something that could have been better for us in a marriage to just have to be so conscious about recognizing, what is my own woundedness that’s making me feel defensive about what Tim’s saying right now? Well, I’m afraid of these things. These were hours of dinner conversations that forced me to face the thing that I felt most vulnerable about and say it. I think that shared vulnerability just makes you so close. Yeah, I feel like it transformed our marriage.
Richard: You said a phrase in there that I wrote down part of it, what is my own woundedness that is keeping me, I think. I’m paraphrasing the rest of it. Keeping me from fully listening to what Tim is sharing with me. What a thoughtful comment. Thoughts on this, Tim? Do you think your marriage is better because you went throughthis?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we to this day now have this habit, and I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this before. But when dinner ends, we just sit there for probably 30 to 45 minutes and talk about whatever the issue is from that day, and usually … I mean I’m not talking about necessarily stress at work, but like I heard this thing or obviously there are obviously changes happening all the time now in the Church.
There are different voices in this space that are talking about in different ways. Those half hour to hour conversations after church are where we address those things with each other. I think just so inadvertently, that vulnerability, that willingness to talk about those things has actually created another space that we didn’t even have before that’s actually more time intensive in a good way for us to just get to know each other and understand each other better. The willingness to talk about anything and the ability to truly express ourselves opens up not just the fact that you’re talking about those things, but it’s more time together. Yeah.
Richard: I love that. What advice do you have, Tim, for others that are in your space that you were and worried about opening up to their spouse, and are hearing this podcast and hearing this beautiful story that at times, I’m sure some of your most painful moments, but sometimes that leads to what you’re describing is this wonderful, better foundation? What advice would you have for those that-
Tim: I mean, to me, that’s a really, really tough question because I don’t think-
Richard: There’s one set.
Tim: Yeah, and I don’t think that everyone’s response … I would love to say, “Hey, just be open and vulnerable immediately,” because look what happened? Aubrey was totally open to it. I don’t think that always happens.
Richard: Real thoughtful.
Tim: Unfortunately. I think it is a matter of studying it out and figuring out what pieces on the chess table everybody’s got going. I was able to open up with Aubrey because I think over the five years that we had been married, she had given me indications. Like I said, I was unclear on what her response would be, but she had never given me reason to believe that the response would be negative.
Tim: I think in the long run, it would be … I don’t think it’s ever right to just hold things inside and to never be open and vulnerable. But at the same time, I think you do need to be very thoughtful about timing, about how you approach it, and all those things. I wish there were once one stop answer for everybody, but I’m not sure that there is.
Aubrey: I think it’s probably safe to say at least that the way to approach it is not with a list of problems that you see in the church. I think had Tim in the car that day said, “You would not believe what I just learned about anachronisms in the Book of Mormon.” I mean my defenses would have shot up, and I … But because he approached it with so much honesty and I could see that he was in pain and worried and he was doing something really hard, those defenses weren’t there. Itwas easier to just really listen and hear what he was feeling. I think there was another way he could have done that that would’ve really caused me to tighten up and feel like I needed to defend the Church.
Tim: I think that’s right. I think each issue in there, potentially many and everybody has different issues, but can be an arrow, right? You don’t want to fire all of those arrows at once, if you fire them at all, right? I think what Aubrey is saying is absolutely true. There’s a way to express doubt and even lack of belief, if … But at the same time, not necessarily turn it into an attack. Not on that person.
I think it would be a rare case where it’s a direct attack on the person that you’re telling these things to. But the church is so involved in our lives, and our faith is such a part of our lives, and I think that’s something that our faith does really well, that an attack on the faith in any way can seem an attack on that person. Yeah, I think it just needs to be really thoughtful and careful, and done in a way that’s considerate of where that person’s at.
Richard: How long of a time did you wonder if you’d find a way to stay in the church? I’m wondering if there was a period of time when you thought, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay,” and if that time existed, talk to our listeners how long that time existed, and then talk to our listeners just how you were able to stay, and the feelings you were probably … I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I sensed when we went live, you’re in a place that you feel sustainable, and you feel you’ll be in the Church.
Tim: Yeah, I think we are. The answer to the first question, how long and was there a time like that? Yes, absolutely, where we were wondering if we would be able to stay, and I mean, I think it was many years to be honest.
I think a lot of times you do hear about people that read something online and a week later they’re out of the Church, and for some reason that was never us. We were never going to make a quick decision like that. I think we were really committed to figuring it out over the long run, because our faith was and is such an important part of who we are, and I think we thought a lot about what we would be giving up by leaving.
There was really not a case to be made for just giving that up without really going through some struggle first. I guess, once we got into this mode where we were able to openly share with each other, we started listening to podcasts quite frequently. I remember actually in one particular case, I was listening to an episode that Terry lGivens was a guest on of Mormon Stories, and listening to Terryl Givens for the first time …
I had listened to and read from many different scholars and believing faithful members that had started to approach these issues, and I think that’s something that’s really important to a lot of people when they … and it was certainly to us, once they start this period of faith crisis is, I want to hear and read just everything out there, and start to absorb and figure out what I really believe. There was something different when I heard Terryl, because there was a fairly pointed question at him about anachronisms in the Book of Mormon.
I think the question specifically was about horses, and the host said, “What do you have to say about that?” Terryl said, “Well, I think that it’s a problem.” Terryl, if you’ve ever met him or read him, is about the most faithful and committed member of the Church that there is. For him to say that he thought that potentially was a real issue that needed to be dealt with, and at the same time, he was an absolutely faithful and committed member of the Church. Holding those two ideas in tension, and just continuing forward really opened up a path I thought for me, to say …
Because what I’d been trying to do up til that point was resolve every single issue that there was. I had to take it one at a time, say, “Okay, how do I make polygamy okay? “How do I make the Book of Mormon okay? How do I make the Book of Abraham okay? Those things, that can become overwhelming and it can become a full time job, and you may end up not being okay with one or more of those issues.
To get this new perspective where it was okay to say, “I’m still in, and I have these issues, these problems, or these other ways of thinking about things,” having that modeled for me originally by Terryl was really life-changing. Again, that wasn’t the type of thing where I heard that snap your fingers and I’m good. But that was at least the germination of a path that I think is sustainable, to be able to hold multiple competing viewpoints, in tension, and still move forward.
Richard: I love that. I really love that. Aubrey, things to add?
Aubrey: Sure, yeah. For me, the real brunt of the faith crisis opened up around plural marriage, and I think it started because Tim had introduced this idea of uncertainty, and so suddenly the things that had always been very painful for me or just excruciating because I didn’t … I suddenly was able to comprehend the question, what if it’s not true? What if it’s not true? And I think I’d never ever in my whole life been able to wrap my head around that world.
It was too foreign, it was too hard to imagine that maybe it’s not. As soon as I was able to do that once, then the things that hurt most about the Church felt a bigger deal, and so that was what brought my whole shelf down. In fact, I remember a very specific day that Tim and I were having a conversation with an old friend, and we were talking about something in the early church and the story involved some plural marriage.
I just remember hearing this friend and how he could talk about it with just this carefree curiosity, and it was something about that tone that made me realize that the most painful part about this idea of plural marriage was not this hypothetical heaven that I thought it had always … that haunted me. It was something that I literally, it haunted my dreams. It was something that I thought about when I didn’t want to. When I was alone in the car, it would creep into my thoughts, or when we were just happy together, it was this dark shadow that just followed me.
Having this new uncertainty around just made that a bigger … I couldn’t keep ignoring it, I couldn’t run from it anymore. But I remember on that afternoon, that seeing him talk about it with just this almost a flippancy, seeing that dissonance that I could tell that he had never felt the intense pain that I felt around plural marriage. It made me realize that the most acute pain that I had there was not about jealousy, it was really about how unequal it felt.
I felt I was less than a man in God’s sight, and I really had to … That was the first time that I think I had really faced that. I decided that I just needed to learn everything I could about it, and so I remember going to the scriptures first and looking up anything I could find about marriage, and that was a big mistake, right? Because the Old Testament is all about women … anything with marriage in the Old Testament is a woman being given to a man.
I remember reading and finishing and just feeling so low. I felt like the penny and Tim’s the nickel. I couldn’t see how God could see me equally if this was how it was meant to be. That was really what launched my faith crisis. It was just this room to realize that I just couldn’t stand this. It just felt so off. For me, it was this new way of looking at faith, and like Tim was bringing up with Terryl Givens, it’s just this idea that I could acknowledge that this hurt and this felt wrong to me.
And at the exact same time, that there were good fruits that came from Joseph Smith, and I didn’t have to choose one or the other necessarily, and that’s what I had felt up to that, that I had to … I was literally keeping a Google Doc with points for the Church, points against the Church, and trying to weigh, should we be here and could he really even a prophet if all this had happened?
I think a huge turning point for me was realizing that I could say plural marriage does not resonate with me. I don’t know what was meant to happen or what’s going to happen, but I know that I am equal, I know that God values me. I remember one really awful day that I was reading Rough Stone Rolling, and I was in the Emma chapters, and I remember I just couldn’t comprehend how it could be true. How could this really have happened, and how could God be in this? I remember just taking a break and looking for some inspiration, so then I got on the Church’s website.
This talk came up and it was one of those experiences where I just skimmed down and it was like one line was just leaping off the page, and it said, “No woman should ever question how the Savior values womanhood.” The grace of that moment was not that I read that sentence, but just that I felt the most intense peace just settle over me that that was true, and that instead of starting with my problems, starting with plural marriage and trying to decide what that said about God, I needed to start from this truth that I felt from such a deep place, that God saw me equally and that I was just as important as a man, and I could start from that peace and then figure out where to go from there.
I think from that point on, I felt like I had a little bit more room to explore, and it wasn’t a decision I was trying to make every day if the Church earned my membership or not. I was just searching for good fruits, and that search felt a lot more peaceful than the debate that I had been having about whether the church was all good or all bad. Because I think that’s what the Givens, what Terryl explained is that, it’s not all good or all bad, we’re just looking for truth. So my paradigm really, really shifted about that point. I also remember something, maybe it was in the same interview with Terryl, but I remember him talking about how faith is not gravity.
We’re compelled to believe in gravity, because every time you drop a pencil, it’s going to fall, and faith is not that way. There will always be compelling reasons to believe or not to believe, and we get to make that decision. That was so liberating for me because I did think I was a victim of this faith crisis. I thought, I felt it was happening to me, and it was so scary to just wake up and try to take my temperature and feel like, “Did I have a testimony today, or more than I did yesterday? I don’t know what I believe.”
I really felt so powerless. I think Terryl is … I think he’s so right that this is a decision that we get to make. I love that Paul … There’s a Paul Tillich quote about the opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty. Man, that is not how I ever thought about faith, but I totally believe that now. I think doubt is necessary for faith. You have to have that doubt if you’re going to make a choice to believe, and certainty prevented me from ever having to experience the vulnerability of choosing to believe when it didn’t seem a sure thing. I think that was really a turning point forme.
Richard: This is one of the better segments we’ve ever had on the podcast, is just what you both just said. Because there’s a pastoral implication of what do I do if I’m the priesthood leader or parent? You two open up, and I love what Terryl Givens did because we can all do that. We can acknowledge the difficulty of the situation without needing to put it back in the nice, tidy box with a simple answer because it minimizes your experience and how hard you’ve worked on this.
So I love what Terryl Givens did for you, and I love your own personal journey with polygamy. You use the word grace, and you’ve never probably been able to resolve polygamy, and if I were your friend or your priesthood leader and I were trying to resolve polygamy, I don’t think that’s going to help you stay in the Church. But the feeling of our doctrine all likened to God and a feeding of grace from that one line in a talk, and just living with the ambiguity of that.
I certainly would have if I were your singles ward bishop and you were single and I was early in my assignment I would have been trying to resolve all this for you. I would have felt that was my job, and I might have given you a conference talk or scripture to read and bring you back to the way you were, and now my experience is, this is awesome what you’ve gone through, and isn’t it beautiful?And your ability now. Your marriage is better, your ability to help people isbetter.
I think if you came on the podcast in 20 years and talked about your ability to be better parents, you’re probably seeing some of that fruit now, but you’re going to raise teenagers, and I mean now you’re almost there, and I just think one of the beautiful chapters of your future is this journey you went through before you’re going to … and I’m sure you’re teaching your kids in a more thoughtful way right now, but especially in their teenage years, in their 20s and 30s, as they have you two in their life, and the foundation you’ve set for them and just your role within the church with Faith Matters and everything you’re doing to share your story and bring more understanding, so more can navigate this.
Aubrey: Thank you. I hope so.
Richard: Let’s talk about belonging. So now, you are probably different than a lot of Latter-day Saints. Just to comment on my own faith journey, it was a priesthood leader, my own home stake president when I opened up to him some of my concerns, especially around LGBTQ, he gave me a model, like Terryl Givens did. He did that same thing for me. He talked about fallen dominoes, and he gave me permission for a few fallen dominoes and he didn’t make it about righting those dominoes around LGBTQ.
Then the domino analogy for me was, because I’ve dominoes with really deep roots, a visual of the dominoes, one fall and they all fall, and I like that. That’s what I like about that model. So I have dominoes that fell and they’re leaning on other dominoes, and they’re not coming up. I don’t make my relationship with the Church about somehow making those dominoes straight again, and my priesthood leader doesn’t require that of me, but I have dominoes with really deep roots that keep me a believing member. That’s a little bit maybe like Terryl … my own stake president-
Aubrey: Yeah. I love that.
Richard: Let’s talk about how you belong then. So now, you have just a different feeling, talk about belonging. I don’t know who wants to start.
Aubrey: Go ahead.
Tim: Well, it’s funny that you say if you had been our priesthood leader, your response would’ve been to try to fix it, and actually-
Tim:… we did go through that to some extent. I remember there was a funny … Well, it wasn’t funny at the time, but I guess it’s funny now, experience where Aubrey I think first felt like if we’re going to-
Aubrey: I felt like I needed to confess.
Tim: Yeah, yeah.
Aubrey: It felt like this was something I really had to go confess.
Tim: Yeah, and for some reason, I can’t remember exactly what the circumstance was, but Aubrey went in … I don’t think it was even in a temple recommend interview.
Aubrey: No, I really was confessing that I didn’t know if I knew if the Church was real.
Tim: Okay. But for some reason it was with the counselor in our ward bishopric, and Aubrey brought that up with him. I didn’t even know that that was going to be happening. I was waiting outside the door for Aubrey, and the door opened, I didn’t know what went on in there, and he called me in at that point, and sat me down and told me very directly that I was putting my family in danger because I guess what had happened … and you can fill this in, Aubrey, but Aubrey had said that we’re going through these doubts and we’re doing it together, and Tim feels the same way I do.
I think he took the patriarchal perspective, and said, “Well, I need to get Tim in line so he’ll get his family in line.” Polygamy came up, and he said, “Well, do you not believethe angel in the flaming sword?” And all that, and I was just like, “Hey, I wasn’t even prepared to have this conversation.” I wouldn’t say that that’s been a pattern for the rest of this time that we’ve gone through a faith journey that’s been somewhat unorthodox.
But I mean, maybe it’s not been a pattern because we’ve learned our lesson to not really bring it up with leaders. But there have been a few instances here and there where our true feelings for whatever reason were made known, and we’ve been corrected, in some cases. In some cases severely by leaders. I think that-
Richard: That can be the deal breaker for members, and you’ve navigated that.
Tim: Yeah, and it hasn’t-
Richard: That can be a deal breaker, as you know.
Tim: Absolutely. Well, I think what happens is that there’s a crisis of faith, and then if you stay long enough, there’s typically a crisis of belonging that follows afterward. I think we really felt that, because what you start to … I mean, I don’t know if you’ve talked about stages of faith on your podcast?
Tim: Or stages of adult development.
Tim: I think so in Thomas McConkie’s “Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis”, he talks about a stage called the diplomat, and at that stage … I mean, and all stages of adult development have their pros and cons, and one of the pros in that stage is a deep sense of belonging, but one of the cons is that there’s also a high level of conformity. I think, and this is just my opinion now, but institutionally it seems we are somewhat in that stage and maybe working our way out of it.
But if you look at our faith tradition from a pretty high level, there is a lot of conformity happening. I mean, we all dress the same and look the same, we use the same vocabulary, and even if you look at … and I think this is changing now, especially with “Come, Follow Me”, but if you looked at our lessons on Sunday year after year, they were the same thing and the same points were brought up, and they were said in the same way.
It creates this very heavy blanket of cultural norms, and when you start to feel somewhat outside of that or when you’re told that you’re outside of that, then because the Church in many ways, like I said, is good at those things and bringing us together as a community, you can start to feel very much you don’t belong and you do have to find a way to take your own belonging with you wherever you go rather than needing to fit in, which can be a challenge. I think it’s a lifelong challenge in a lot of ways.
Aubrey: I think it takes time, first of all. I think when it’s new and fresh, you’re mourning so many things about that certainty. It feels so safe for somebody else to always have the answers, to not have to wrestle with hard issues, like issues with the church right now and LGBTQ stuff and or plural marriage. Anything that feels uncomfortable, it’s so much easier to defer to an authority and not have to wrestle with how uncomfortable you feel with it.
So that feels painful, when you have to let that go, and you feel very exposed. You have to suddenly figure out what God wants from you, and you can’t just shirk that responsibility anymore, and so you’re mourning that piece. I think there’s also security around knowing that you are on the same page with your family or your neighbors or friends and people who you know well and you have that in common.
I think it’s hard to realize that if they knew what you really thought, then maybe they would be nervous for you or they would tell you that you were not being careful enough or … I don’t know. I think you have to let go of that too. Then I think it can be really painful to just show up to church, and when you are in the middle of this rumble and you’re trying to figure out what you really believe, everything feels triggering.
I feel like, I call it, the diaper bag dig. There are so many times over the years where I had to bend over and pretend I’m searching frantically for something in the diaper bag while I pull myself together because of something that a speaker said that just hit a tender point. So I think that was about time, and when you asked before about how long it took before I felt peace about staying, I think it was six or seven years.
Aubrey: I mean, it was a long time before I felt like I think I can do this now. Or not I think I can do this, but I’m choosing to do this. I remember coming across this story about Bishop Woolley and Brigham Young in church history and how he was … he seems to have been an especially opinionated leader and wasn’t afraid to talk back to Brigham Young.
There’s the story about … I don’t remember what they were arguing over, but there was some heated argument and Brigham Young says, “I guess you’ll go and apostatize now,” and Bishop Woolley said, “if this were your church, then I’d be tempted to do so. But it’s just as much my church as it is yours.” I think I had to have that conversation in my mind with Brigham Young firstly, and then with other leaders.
Why do they belong and I don’t? This is my church, this is my heritage, this is my ancestor’s church and my family’s church and my kid’s church, and I belong here because I’m here, and because I choose to be here, and so that makes it mine too, and that makes it mine and all of the things that come with that. All of my uncertainty and beliefs, they belong here just as much as the person sitting next to me.
I think it took a really long time to feel that comfortable because we just … I think it’s so easy to just look for reasons why we don’t belong, and when you’re in the mindset of looking for reasons why you don’t belong, they just add up so fast. It’s so easy to just sit back and wait for somebody to say something that you disagree with, and I went to church that for so many years, just sitting back, and it was like tempting them to just say, “I dare you to say something that I don’t agree with,” because I’m really comfortable now saying, “Just crossing that person off my list of allies.”
In that, the end game is that you feel so isolated. I felt completely alone. So Thomas McConkie’s book was a really big step for me in, in changing my understanding of what my goal was at church. It wasn’t to go and stew about all the things I disagreed with. It was about looking for things that felt like God. In a later part of the book, he talks about how we have this tendency to become exclusively inclusive, and I was so guilty of that.
When you’re in that conformist stage, it’s easy to exclude people who feel too progressive or outside of the norm. But later, you can flip flop that and you become really exclusive around people who you don’t think are inclusive enough. So I was doing that. Anytime a leader said something that felt like it was a tell, they were either confessing that they were with me and they were going to try to be very inclusive to the fringes, or they were chastising me, and I was constantly sorting leaders into which category they fit into.
That point Thomas made really changed how I go to church, and I think about this every time before church starts. I think about number one, am I being exclusively inclusive? And instead, can I look at this person and recognize that they’re speaking out of love, and that they went home and prepared this talk, and they’re trying so hard to connect to God just like me? And I don’t need to be their judge just the way I would hope that they’re not mine.
Then the other thing that I really try to remember is from Brene Brown’s last book,“Rising Strong”. I love her idea about having generous assumptions, and that has helped so much. It just doesn’t cost us anything to have a generous assumption about the people we come in contact with, and it doesn’t cost you anything to believe that whatever their life experiences, this is where it has brought them.
I can respect that. I can respect that this leader who maybe is bearing testimony about a vengeful God that doesn’t resonate with me, I can respect that whatever happened in their life has brought them to that point and that they’re speaking out of integrity, and I can feel love for them and consequently connection to God through them, even while they’re bearing testimony about God that I don’t believe in.
I mean, it’s a battle. I literally read those things to myself before church starts to remember that I don’t have to judge, I don’t have to decide if I’m the same, I’m just there to connect to God, and I think we can do that with our community, even though not one of us is on the exact same page. So that’s been the biggest thing I think to help me feel belonging, and maybe one more.
I remember one time I was … I remember just venting to some friends. I was having such a hard time in Relief Society, and I remember telling them, “I just need one person. If there was just one person who would raise their hand and say something that would show me that they understand where I’m coming from, that’s all I would need to feel I can be here.” I remember them all just looking and saying, “Why? What are you waiting for? Who knows who else is sitting there thinking the same thing? Why aren’t you raising your hand and saying the things that you wish someone would say?”
It never occurred to me. I really had spent all these years just waiting for somebody to say, “I can be your friend,” and I was expecting this connectivity that I was withholding. I think as soon as I decided to just open up and be vulnerable and share how I really felt, people absolutely met me there, and that was not what I expected. Now I feel like Relief Society is a haven. It’s absolutely where I go to feel fed, and I don’t know that there’s a single other sister in the room who shares a similar story or faith as I do, but I feel there’s really a sisterhood there because there is so much shared vulnerability, and I really think that it was my withholding that made me feel so isolated.
Tim: Yeah. To Aubrey’s point about generous assumptions, I think it really is really rare to encounter someone that’s not doing their best in most ways. I shared that brief story about the bishopric member who chastised me, and like I said, and this is the perspective we’ve talked about even more commonly just in the last year, where it’s come into focus for us, is that even though I think that in many ways that was an inappropriate action, he was absolutely doing that out of love.
From his perspective, I was putting my family in danger, and so the best way, the best thing that he can do for me is to correct me. So while that comes across as very combative and like an attack from … especially when you’re in that room and actually experiencing it, which can be really difficult, if you’re able to take a step back from your amygdala a little bit and say what’s really going on here, that’s actually an expression of love, which … That perspective obviously gives you license to feel a lot more in charity back toward them.
Another thing that Brene Brown has brought up in another book, “Braving the Wilderness”, on the subject is to move in, and this is something I’m not very good at Aubrey I would say is very good at. When you feel someone is just so far apart from you and so different than you and has such different perspectives, and you just can’t feel any love toward them, if you actually get to know them, it’s a very rare case where you don’t end up loving them, and seeing that they are well intentioned.
The irony is that when you start feeling this way at church and then you hear the speakers or the teachers or whatever or the just the commenters, and they say something that seems so far removed, your natural reaction is to move out. You want to separate yourself from that person or those people. But if you can buck that natural instinct and move in instead, like I said, I think it’s going to be a very rare case where you don’t find that, at their core, they are absolutely well intentioned, they’re loving and they are doing their very best just like you are.
Richard: It’s really good stuff. I’d love you to talk about Faith Matters, and introduce that to any of our listeners that aren’t aware. Another question that came to my mind is, I think a lot of local leaders listen to this podcast and have heard you two talk, but what advice would you have for local leaders for couples like you? Because I think a lot of our local leaders recognize there’s couples like you that want to stay … their goal is to find an authentic way to stay and they are going, “What do I do to create a culture in our ward so that couples like you two feel they belong and feel they can stay?” So that’s two questions. Faith Matters and that second one.
Tim: Yeah, I can give you the background on Faith Matters. So ever since our initial moments being introduced to Terryl Givens, we were super fans and maybe-
Aubrey: And Fiona.
Tim: And Fiona. Yes, Terryl and Fiona. About two years ago, probably, there was this podcast that Aubrey heard called Conversations With Terryl Givens, and she sent it to me immediately and we fell in love with it. I looked at the about page on the website and ended up, without getting into a long story here, just connecting with the founders, Bill and David Turnbull, and Terryl was heavily involved with Faith Matters. Faith Matters is the organization that put on the podcast, Conversations With Terryl Givens, and just volunteering our help.
I have a background in web technology and in marketing a little bit, and I just said, “Hey, if I can contribute, then I’d love to,” and Aubrey felt the same way. They welcomed us with open arms. For about the past year and a half, we’ve been working on this foundation, the Faith Matters Foundation.
Richard: I think you’re part of the executive team.
Tim: That’s right.
Richard: Founder and executive team.
Tim: Yep, we are.
Richard: That’s great.
Tim: The mission really of Faith Matters is to maybe not recapture, but at least capture the expansive vision that we think our faith tradition really has from its very beginning, I think Joseph Smith, for any flaws that he had, he was gathering truth from wherever he could find it. He found it in Masonic rituals and he found it in ancient Egyptian papyri. He had no exclusivity in terms of where he was willing to find inspiration and create something great out of it.
I think that’s really one of the roots of our faith and Mormonism more broadly, that we don’t maybe give enough airtime to that. We’re looking for truth, period, and we’ve found something really, really great in this faith. We’ve found a God who is aGod of love, a God that is willing to weep with us, a savior who we think whose primary role is to heal us from our woundedness, and those are remarkable doctrines. I think the overall mission of Faith Matters is to say, “This is expansive, this is loving, this is healing, and let’s get that message out to the world, as best we can.”
Richard: Do you do podcasts, you do events, you do articles?
Tim: Yeah. The biggest things that we’re doing right now are articles on the website. So the website is faithmatters.org. We also have a podcast, the Faith Matters Podcast. One of the big initiatives that we’re working on right now is called the Big Questions Project.
Richard: Yeah, I love that title.
Tim: Yeah. What’s interesting a little bit that’s different about this, and I would say than apologetics, is that it’s not the “Big Answers Project.”
Tim: This is something that really resonates with me, because like I told you earlier, going to the apologetics website and saying, “I need the answer,” that never really resonated. I never felt like I was able to find it. What we’re doing with Faith Matters is trying to approach the question as a question, and gather different voices. So we are tackling topics like polygamy, like the Book of Abraham, evolution, LGBTQ issues.
Tim: All of those things. But we’re not saying, “Here’s the answer, here’s how you can resolve it.” But what we’re trying to do is create a space where we’re saying, “There are many other thoughtful people like you that are exploring these questions and working through it and trying to figure it out,” and give a platform for all different types of perspectives on it, and at the same time create a community, that anyone can be a part of, of like-minded Latter-day Saints.
Richard: That’s great. So needed. I wish I had connected with Faith Matters earlier. Talk about what a local leader, a bishop, Relief Society president, elders quorum president can do to just create a feeling of people can belong.
Aubrey: I think definitely at the beginning of this whole process, I think the thing that would have been most helpful is exactly what you throughout that you would have said to somebody who … or could have said to somebody who is really experiencing crisis, which is just … Just I respect that you’re in the middle of this, and I think that would have just given me so much peace. I think you’re just in such a vulnerable place, and maybe even …
I think I had an especially hard time approaching a leader just as a woman to the priesthood, because I felt I was waiting for them to inspire me, to tell me what God told me I was supposed to know, and it was really hard to figure out how I fit in that dynamic anymore, and so it would’ve been really empowering for a leader to just validate that I was seeking truth out of integrity, and that it wasn’t a deficiency in faith.
That it was hopefully a maturity, or at least it was a reaching for God and for a leader to just validate that this was really true reaching and not some sort of rebellion would have … that would have just been a big layer of pain that would just be stripped away, just having that validation from someone who’s in charge.
Richard: I think I learned somewhere along the line that I can validate how someone feels, even if they feel different than traditional most LDS members feel. It doesn’t mean I’m selling out my personal beliefs or the traditional church beliefs, I just recognize them to both of those the same time. So if I hold slightly different feedings about polygamy, my first reaction would be to pull you to my way of thinking or the traditional way.
I think I’ve learned and I’m not perfect at this, but I think I can hold your … I can do more to minister to you to hold … validate how you feel, and if you feel pain, to hold your pain versus dismiss that, and try to … I think it’s just a principle of ministering that I’ve never been taught and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I think that’s one of the things I about what you’re both teaching on this podcast, is I think we can all do that. That doesn’t require a lot of schooling or a lot of scripture study.
Everybody can do that, everybody can just listen to a story and honor their story, and I think we can hold. I don’t think it’s a requirement to be … I think your commitment to the church and your desire to contribute and do what’s right, behind that, we can have different feelings about polygamy, for example, or LGBTQ or the Book of Abraham or horses, and it’s not necessarily an insight or a commitment to the church or a commitment to help other people.
So I think we just need to create more space for people as they’re doing their bests. The Church phrase now is stay on the covenant path, so I use that phrase and say, “If we honor people how they feel and create a culture that they can feel the way they feel as they’re doing the best to stay on a covenant path will keep more people on the covenant path.” Any more you want to talk about belonging? I do want to just mention my brother’s book. I think you know my brother, David.
Richard: David is the owner of the third top listed episode of our 195 episodes. He’s episode 197 and he did a book called “Ministering to Those Who Question,” and it’s called “Bridges.” I would just encourage local leaders to read this book and a lot have, and my brother has told me a lot of good feedback which he’s gotten and it just also addresses some of the things you’re talking about is, when people have questions and you’ve had honest questions, and how do we handle that? I just think that’s an area where there’s just more understanding that we can share with each other just do a better job. Any thoughts on this subject before we go onto our last segment, gifts of faith crisis?
Tim: Well, just the one thing that you said that struck me was this phrase, the covenant path.Traditionally, we’ve talked about the strait and narrow path. Growing up, I think this is not a new insight by any means, but you think of that as a straight meaning, it’s a straight line and narrow path, but strait just means narrow, when you spell it without the GH. What that’s really saying is the narrow path. You have to wonder, I guess, why it’s so narrow, and I think it’s because it’s individual. There’s not really room for all of us to be walking the same path if it’s a narrow narrow path, right? At the same time, it’s not straghit with the GH.
Richard: I love that.
Tim: Right? It’s a winding path. The covenant path for each of us, I think, yes, has certain checkpoints by all means, but it looks completely different for everybody. For a local leader that’s talking to somebody that’s not on their path, it’s just accepting that this is a different path, and by necessity it’s a different path because we’re each on our own.
Richard: Love that. I love the visual of just creating space for people as they’re doing their best. That’s great.
Aubrey: Really quick. There’s this idea in Buddhism, or an image, that I think about a lot. It’s the master pointing at the moon, and if truth represents the moon, then our church is the finger pointing to the moon, right? So the focus should never be on the finger or the person. It’s really at the moon. So I feel like that’s the most effective thing a leader can do, is just … I think Elder Holland really brought this up in conference, just barely, that the point of everything we do at church is to send us to God, and so everything, every single thing we do should be directing us to God.
If it’s not, then we need to look at it and figure out why we’re doing it still. But I think that that’s the most influence a leader can have on me for good, is just pointing me toGod. Usually, that does not … it has never looked like arguing about church history or any of the facts that I’m having issues with. It’s about creating a place that feels safe for me to figure that out for myself. So if I am feeling welcome and loved, I think I can see God at church, and God can work through church, and that’s the most important thing that I think a leader can make space for, and can do as a leader. They have a lot of power in just making it a place that feels welcoming to anybody, and wherever they are in their path.
Richard: I love the visual of a finger pointing to the moon, and the finger is the means to the end, the moon coming unto God. It’s interesting. I thought of my own analogy one morning on a walk, and I thought an island in the ocean represents the moon or coming unto God, and the current represents our church bringing me towards that ocean. But then sometimes that current works against me, and sometimes, in an imperfect culture and imperfect church at times, the current makes it harder for me to come towards that island, and I felt some of that at times and I’ve recognized it’s not me doing anything wrong or haven’t gotten off the right current. So sometimes that part of the visual analogy, that’s been part of my journey to recognize at times there’s been some current work against me and I’ve learned to validate those currents. But then I love your phrase here, generous … I forgot the rest.
Aubrey: Generous assumption, yeah.
Richard: I can’t even read the rest of it. You framed this before we went live, Aubrey. No one’s ever framed … the gifts of faith crisis, which is instead of the positive word you put there. So I’m thinking this segment is talking and you’ve inferred this a lot already. You’re taught this already. It’s just there’s positive things that have happened because of this journey.
Aubrey: Yeah. I really do feel like it has such a gift. It’s not a tragedy or something that happened to us that I regret. I feel like it was a really … it was a refiner’s fire, to use our church language. I feel like the things that have really changed in me, first of all, was just this humility. I think it challenged my ego, and it made me realize how much I liked feeling like I was special and had this thing that not everyone had. It was like my testimony felt like a badge of honor, and not does my testimony, but having this exclusive truth.
So introducing uncertainty to that picture was really a gift of humility because suddenly now the world had valuable truths to offer to, and so I think I’ve really gained an appreciation for the ways that other people connect to God. Some of those things have helped me too, but most of all, I just appreciate this new perspective, and recognizing that people are legitimately finding God in ways that aren’t familiar to me, and I really respect that now and I think that was invisible to me before. So that’s probably the biggest.
I think the other big gift is that I recognized how many ways I had tangled God up with fear, and I think, like I said before, my testimony was really wrapped up in fear, and everything I did at church had something to do with fear. The way I prayed was very fear-based, and so just having to get really comfortable with not being sure anymore was a good way to shine light in all of the darkest places. It made me look right in the face, all of the things that I was really afraid of. So it’s changed the way I pray and try to connect to God, and instead of …I think before, it was a habit to just list all of my anxieties in prayer and even … and that included believes, “Please, please tell me if the Church is true.” I was so afraid. I just needed somebody, I just needed to know for sure. I think that these years have been such good practice in just letting go of needing that kind of certainty and being really comfortable accepting what God does give me. So I value contemplative prayer a lot more than I ever did because it’s a way to not have to make a verbal list of my anxieties and to just sit peacefully and quiet, and try to connect with God and feel open and willing to … I love what Adam Miller talks about, this kind of radical acceptance where you choose to break bread with whatever God gives you. I just love that image, that whatever pops into my lap, I can break bread with that and trust that God is still leading along. I think I wasn’t able to think about my life that way before this whole crisis of faith happened. So just a new way to connect to God, and then I think it helped me to refine what I was looking for. Was I trying to reinforce my commitment to the church, or is my commitment to truth?
Those things had always been synonymous, but when it didn’t feel synonymous, it was good for me to learn how to realize that truth is really what I’m looking for. So I value the church because it has been my vehicle, my whole life, for helping me to find God. But I think just recognizing and facing the things that didn’t resonate with me, that’s helped me to let go of things that didn’t matter, and hold onto the good fruits, and I think the fruits of the church have been almost entirely good.
So experiencing this excruciating crisis helped me to just let go of the bad fruit, and just realize that it wasn’t all or nothing. I can recognize when something doesn’t resonate with me, and when it fills me up with joy, and that’s helped me to find God in a way that I really wasn’t capable of before because I waited for someone to tell me how I should feel. So starting from scratch and building a testimony, little by little, or maybe not building.
I like the metaphor more of digging, like digging for water, just digging deeper and deeper and you get all kinds of rocks and things that don’t matter. But I feel there is still a pathway through all the mud, there is still a pathway to finding connection to God. That’s just made the hardest things about church history more palatable, not because I needed … I don’t need them to be palatable anymore. I can call them. If they feel like mud, it’s mud, and I can still find water there. I can find God somewhere. So I think I really needed this whole experience to just help me find my own very personal connection to God that I just really had never discovered. So those are probably the-
Richard: Those are great.
Aubrey:… the ways it has transformed me.
Richard: You have a wonderful gift of coming up with phrases. I keep writing them down in the middle of all the great big ideas you’re sharing, but tangled up God with fear. What a wonderful … Just the word tangled, that created an instant visual of this fear wrapped around God and how that really isn’t our doctrine, but culturally, and I love how Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk about trying to take the fear.
I love what you just said about that, and a loving God. I think we have too much fear. A lot of that’s generated by the us versus them culture, and I just think Satan uses fear in a manipulative way that God wouldn’t want. I think He would want to defear us in some ways, that doesn’t mean He decommandment us or … It’s eat, drink and be merry. But I really love your thoughts on that.
Aubrey: Well, thanks. Especially in faith crisis, there’s so much fear there, but God is not the spirit of fear, right? It’s power and love and a sound mind, and to me that means diving into a faith crisis when you feel that fear. It means that feeling is not telling you to be careful, that feeling is saying what’s wrong here, and look into it and find …use your mind and the sound mind that God gives you, and shine a light where it feels scary and dark. That has been a pathway to connection for me. Not disconnection like I was so afraid that it would be.
Richard: Yeah. Tim, do you have any thoughts on gifts of faith crisis?
Tim: Yeah, just a couple, although I don’t think I can say it much better than Aubrey did. I think, for me, what I would call authentic faith is probably the biggest gift from faith crisis. I guess I really should put faith crisis in air quotes because I don’t think it was a crisis of faith, I think it was a crisis of what I thought was faith. I guess when you start going through this, like I mentioned earlier, a lot of times coming from a Latter-day Saint background, you’re dealing with this paradigm of knowing.
I think that’s actually part of our natural man and natural woman, is this constant quest for certainty. We just really, really want that. I think in terms of our biological and evolutionary heritage, that totally makes sense, right? It’s like we’re afraid of the dark because we don’t know what danger might be out there. We want to flip on the lights, and we want to know what the potential dangers are that could hurt us, and we apply this to our spirituality as well.
We need to know that the Church is true, and we need to know exactly who God is and what He’s and what our standing is with Him. Because to not know is insecurity, it’s danger, and going through this … But at the same time, it’s interesting because if you take Alma’s definition of faith, once you know, you don’t actually have faith anymore. Your faith is totally dormant. But at the same time, when you actually read the words of Jesus Christ, what he emphasizes is faith, not knowledge.
For me, what came out of this was I guess a vulnerability and an uncertainty to accept that lack of security. I don’t know exactly a lot of things, but I do choose to believe a lot of things. I think that’s really … and I can only speak for my own path, obviously, but I think for the majority of us, for the majority of our lives, I think that must be what God intends, because he talks about faith so much. By definition, it’s a lack of knowledge. When you have that uncertainty, yes, there’s a lack of security that comes with it.
But at the same time, the huge gift is this flexibility and this ability to explore and find your own path, and that’s been incredibly meaningful to me, and Aubrey mentioned a little bit about this, to be able to examine my own conscience and say, “What do I really think about this?” Having not gone through this faith crisis and being stuck in that original rigidity that I had, there’s no room to think that. That’s not only helped me get to know myself better, but I think it’s ultimately come closer to understanding the nature of God who is a loving, like mentioned before … who I truly believe is a loving and healing God.
Ironically, throughout this process, as we’ve stayed and wrestled through this, I’ve found connection with God in the Church, specifically more than I ever had before. There have been several specific instances even where I’ve connected with ward members or connected with something that was said or something that I read, the Church was the direct source of that where I felt particularly connected to God, and that told me that God’s here in this church, and if it’s okay for God to be here, then that’s good enough for me.
Richard: Any concluding thoughts? You’ve done such a great job at this podcast. This is one of the finest podcasts we’ve done. They’re all great, but you two are particularly wonderful insights. Any final thoughts?
Aubrey: Maybe just when we were talking about the generous assumptions around leaders and teachers, I think the other piece that Brene Brown is really … that she talks about in her book is that, yes, you are generous assumptions and you have good boundaries, and maybe this is a good place to bring that up, that if you have a child or you have OCD or a spouse, you need to be asking yourself, “What kind of boundaries do I need around church? And maybe my leader. If I have a leader who just isn’t educated, then what can I do, internal boundary wise or physical boundaries, to keep myself safe and healthy at church?”
Richard: Agreed. Tim, any final thoughts?
Tim: The only thing that I would really want people to take away from this is that, like I said before, our paths all look different, and wherever you are on your path, I respect that as part of your experience. I think there’ve been many wonderful people in my life that have done that for me. Aubrey is always number one. Either when you’re going through a faith crisis or something difficult, find those people around you who respects your path, and if somebody around you is going through it, then respect their path.
I tend to have a fairly universal view. I think it’s impossible for us to judge other people, just because we don’t have nearly enough context. God has all the context, and I think typically, God in His wisdom and with all of that context, He is going to be extraordinarily merciful, more merciful than we can imagine, to all of us. I jus want that perspective, that I think is truly inherent in our religion, to be more broadly felt and talked about.
Richard: That’s great. Say your last name for us, so I don’t mispronounce it.
Tim: Yep, Chaves.
Tim: Chaves, yeah.
Richard: Our listeners know that I’m not very good at learning names and saying them right, so I wanted to make sure you said it. But outside of that, great to have you, Tim and Aubrey. I love the respect you had for each other as you both spoke. You just gave each other time to speak, you didn’t speak over each other. There’s just great chemistry between you.
It’s a model marriage to me for our younger people to have two people like you, where you are in our church, with your faith, with your understanding and your ability to stay. It’s couples like you that give me hope for the future in so many ways. So thanks for all you’re doing on behalf of our listeners. I’ve loved having you on, and this is Richard Ostler signing out another episode of Listen, Learn and Love.