Shaken Faith Syndrome
I recently finished reading the book, Shaken Faith Syndrome, by Michael R. Ash. The subtitle of the book explains its purpose, Strengthening One’s Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt. Brother Ash begins his book by defining what he refers to as “shaken faith syndrome.” He indicates that members of the Church encountering new information about the Church, its history, or doctrines with which they are not familiar, or come across anti-Mormon literature for the first time, may experience doubt. Such doubt for some “can suddenly mushroom into feelings of distress and anxiety. This turmoil can be set into motion by an argument that seems to present a serious problem.”
The Internet age has brought us a wealth of information, both good and bad. Anyone can create a web site and present their views on anything. Hundreds of web sites have popped up purporting to tell the truth about the Church. Many of these web sites and blogs are hosted by former members of the Church. Some members of the Church have been affected by these web sites and testimonies have been lost.
Brother Ash states that one of the goals of his book is to “expose or inoculate members to potentially troubling issues in a faithful setting, thereby inoculating them against the damage that might be inflicted by critical attacks.” The Internet has exposed many Church members to negative information and propaganda about the Church. Shaken Faith Syndrome recognizes this problem and provides information that can assist Church leaders and members in dealing with this growing problem.
After defining the problem of shaken faith in detail, Brother Ash spends the remainder of the book touching on a number of the issues that arise from anti-Mormon literature or even faithful literature that is not read in its full context. Ash explains that this book is “not intended as a scholarly thesis on all issues relating to an ‘intellectual’ apostasy. Nevertheless it is hoped that the information contained in these pages accurately summarizes the scholarly material that has been produced.”
The first section of the book also covers such topics as unrealistic expectations of prophets, confusing tradition with doctrine, and anti-Mormon disdain for LDS scholarship. The second section provides responses to specific anti-Mormon claims and deals with topics related to the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon. The third and fourth sections deal with historical challenges, including the Journal of Discourses, plural marriage, the temple, and Joseph Smith.
Shaken Faith Syndrome is a fascinating read. Though any of the topics could be covered in greater depth by themselves, this book provides a basis for learning more, including resources. As I read this book, it was my thought that every bishop in the Church should have a copy of this book to aid them in dealing with challenges to the faith.
Our Sunday School classes are designed to build faith and inspire the members to live the gospel. They are not intended to be scholarly discussions of Church history or evidences of the Book of Mormon. As many members receive most of their instruction about the Church during Sunday meetings, they are often unequipped to deal with challenges that may arise. My web site, The Gospel Doctrine Class, has been online since 1998. Since I began posting lesson outlines, I have received numerous e-mail inquiries about various aspects of the Church, some of those raised by historical issues or anti-Mormon literature. Shaken Faith Syndrome is a wonderful starting place for members who have encountered such questions. Shaken Faith Syndrome is published by The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research and is available at their website, http://www.fairlds.org/, or at Deseret Book. More information about the book is available at http://www.shakenfaithsyndrome.com/.