Chapter 8: How are prayers answered?

The concluding section to the manual begins,

Our sincere prayers are always answered. Sometimes the answer may be no, because what we have asked for would not be best for us. Sometimes the answer is yes, and we have a warm, comfortable feeling about what we should do (see D&C 9:8–9). Sometimes the answer is “wait a while.” Our prayers are always answered at a time and in a way that the Lord knows will help us the most.

A while back, Brent Beal at Doves and Serpents ran a pair of decision trees that illustrate this well. First, we have the surface church story:

If you press a little, you will see that the process is actually something more like this (less of a tree than a bush or maybe a briar patch):

Speaking from some experience, it can be very frustrating to be on the receiving end of these kinds of arguments. With so much emphasis on belief in the propositional truths of Mormonism, those who are finding the standard model inadequate often feel pushed to the edges of the community.


For me, my faith transition has been a bitter-sweet thing. On the one hand, I feel a great deal of relief to have broken out of patterns of thought and belief that too often narrowed my perspective and made the world a smaller, uglier, and more frightening place. I felt trapped in the recursive logic of Brother Beal’s decision diagram, and somewhat paradoxically, my whole spiritual life is so much richer now that I have left a lot of that behind.

On the other hand, I do feel a loss. The sentiment is reflected in the words of a poem and title of a really interesting blog: “We were going to be Queens.” I am told (the original is in Spanish or Portuguese or something) that the poem is all about looking back on childish dreams. The simple belief that I am gradually letting go of is brimming with a lot of beautiful and hopeful ideas, and it is not always easy to accept that they are gone.


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About Brad

I am a rather typical — or perhaps just not atypical — example of a 21st century, “uncorrelated” Mormon. My “Mormon Story” is (I have learned) rather cliche. I was raised by goodly parents, we went to church, followed the letter of the word of wisdom, abstained from the baser elements of the culture, etc. I served an honorable mission, enrolled at BYU, got married in the temple, and never seriously doubted until beginning a PhD program far beyond the Mormon corridor.

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