“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?” – Supreme Leader Snoke
Admittedly, I had been dragging my feet on writing this post until I read Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent article, “In this new era of doubt, will a stronger Mormon faith emerge?” (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 13, 2016), in which she pondered whether recent efforts by the LDS Church to address doubt has “slowed or halted the faith-crisis trajectory,” and whether it is possible for the church to emerge from this age of Internet-enhanced “faith-crisis” as a stronger faith. These are compelling questions. I believe that the LDS Church can emerge as a stronger faith with a caveat that it will need to be done with an increasingly ecumenical awareness. For many of us who have emerged from the fires of doubt, our sense of and appreciation for Mormonism is with the recognition of where Mormonism fits within a larger history and community of religious expression, rather than an affirmation of exclusivist assumptions. In other words, while I vigorously applaud the recent efforts of the church (particularly through Deseret Book Company and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University), I see what has been produced as one step in what will ultimately become, for many, a larger journey towards personal and communal sanctification as part of a “living church” in the universal sense.
Let me back up. Over the past few years, several books have emerged within the Mormon community shedding light on and offering pastoral empathy towards the topic of doubt. Led by the prolific and highly-literate Terryl and Fiona Givens, The Crucible of Doubt (2014) was a milestone for Deseret Book Company. Not only because it became a top seller practically overnight, but because it legitimized the often-stigmatized doubts and questions that many Latter-day Saints experience. That same year, the Maxwell Institute published Adam Miller’s short and personal Letters to a Young Mormon as part of its newly-branded Living Faith Book series, which has been publishing a series of candid, approachable, and relatively short books that try to balance faith with reason. Sam Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances (2014) and Steven Peck’s Evolving Faith (2015) are also part of the series. The latest installment, Planted (2015) by Patrick Mason, offers a pragmatic look at the role of doubt in faith, focusing its energies on remaining engaged (“planted”) in the Mormon faith community while processing through the church’s sometimes challenging history, culture, and political orientation. Significantly, Planted was the first Maxwell Institute book in the Living Faith Book series to be co-published with Deseret Book Company, making it also a worthy follow-up to The Crucible of Doubt.
These are great first steps in regaining a sense of hope, validation, and community. The next step, I think, is a deeper engagement with the practice of faith (orthopraxy) that many find lacking in our weekly church meetings. Discovering our spiritual practices as Latter-day Saints within the context of the global Christian community outside of Mormonism has been reinvigorating for many. For an example of this, I turn to another Maxwell Institute product: The Maxwell Institute Podcast, hosted by Blair Hodges, which goes out of its way to broaden the conversation of Mormonism into the larger ecumenical community . Similarly, writers at the popular Mormon blog By Common Consent have launched the “Mormon Liturgy and Lectionary” series, incorporating the scriptural canon of the Latter-day Saints with the Christian Liturgical Calendar. The Mormon Society of St. James hosts annual pilgrimages to significant religious sites throughout England and Europe (if I only had the budget!). I see an increasing number of younger Latter-day Saints observing traditional Christian seasons such as Lent (which we are currently observing) and Advent. Even I have begun observing the liturgical calendar as well as performing “fixed hour” prayers based on the rich language of the Complimentary Psalmody supplemented with Mormon-specific readings . Additionally, many Latter-day Saints are finding meaning in exploring the ancient practices while still being immersed in contemporary Biblical and historical criticism. For example, the Contemporary Studies in Scripture series (Greg Kofford Books) features talented Latter-day Saint authors such as David Bokovoy and Julie Smith who are respected in the fields of Biblical criticism, literature, and comparative studies . It is entirely possible for Latter-day Saints to remain deeply engaged in the orthopraxy of their faith tradition without demanding a fundamentalist perspective.
Something seems to be stirring within the hearts of many Latter-day Saints, rising from the burning embers of faith that have survived the raging winds of doubt. By looking at the ancient practices preserved within many other faith communities (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, etc.), many Latter-day Saints have found deeper connections with their own practices of prayer, fasting, tithing (almsgiving), Sabbath day observance, partaking of the Sacrament (Eucharist), administering blessings, and temple ordinances. A “post-faith-crisis” Latter-day Saint who has remained committed to her Mormon heritage is as likely to post a video or meme on Facebook from Pope Francis as she is President Uchtdorf. It is an awakening—a realization that the “Old Ship Zion” is not the only boat in the vast sea of faith; and that we share much commonality with our devoted sisters and brothers within the global faith community.
True, many of us leave. It has always been that way. But I hope that those of us who have chosen to stick around, despite our full awareness of the challenges and complexities inherent within our faith tradition (casseroles and Jell-O molds, notwithstanding) are staying with a more inclusive, humble, and profound view of Mormonism’s place in this world . If we are to emerge through the age of doubt as a stronger church, it will be because our definition of “the Living Church” is extended beyond ourselves to all who seek the sacred path upon which we are fellow sojourners.
 For example, the most recent Maxwell Institute Podcast episode featured N.T. Wright, the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England.
 A common warning from Mormons against liturgical prayer is that they are “rote,” but many Latter-day Saints are finding deep beauty and meaning in the Psalms and Common Prayers that express our devotion and despair in poetic words that we otherwise would not think of. For another example of the Mormon scriptural canon being used in a liturgical setting, see From Beyond the Farthest Hills, a blog intended as a resource for Community of Christ congregations. It is noteworthy that the Community of Christ has, over recent years, placed more emphasis on the Christian Liturgical Calendar.
 While there are far too many books published on Mormon history to mention in this post, I will point to Mike McKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat’s From Darkness Unto Light as a recent example of the cooperative effort between BYU’s Religious Studies Center (RSC) and Deseret Book Company that explores the complex topic of Joseph Smith’s translation and publication of the Book of Mormon using sources that have been published by the Joseph Smith Papers. As another example, see this article on Mormon women’s history initiatives within the LDS Church History Department, including The First Fifty Years of Relief Society being published later this month by the same imprint (Church Historian’s Press) as the Joseph Smith Papers.
 For my summary of Mormonism’s place in a historical, cultural, and religious environment, read my short “Conclusion” on Mormonism In Context.