“What seems to be proved may not be embraced, but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” – Austin Farrer
“Let us be articulate, for while our defense of the kingdom may not stir all hearers, the absence of thoughtful response may cause fledglings among the faithful to falter. What we assert may not be accepted, but unasserted convictions soon become deserted convictions. ” -Elder Neal A. Maxwell
In this information age, when so much is available at the click of the mouse, many of us have experienced the heartache of loved ones leaving the Church because they came across aspects of our history and teachings of Church leaders that they couldn’t reconcile with their understanding of the Gospel. Frequently, but not always, this information comes from biased sources with the agenda of tearing down The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints piece by piece, member by member. Some say they feel betrayed, believing that the Church has “covered up” the imperfections of its leaders as well as teachings that have later been abandoned.
This is why Michael Ash’s frankly brilliant book, Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, ranks among the most important books I’ve ever read. With reason and facts as well as a firm testimony, Ash provides the history and the doctrine necessary to answer criticisms that could shake the faith of Church members and investigators. Ash seeks to convince no one; he’s quick to acknowledge that only a witness of the Holy Ghost, received through prayer, study, and keeping the commandments, will convert seekers of truth. However, as demonstrated in the quotes above, Ash acknowledges that criticisms which go unanswered may cause some to close their minds and hearts to the possibility that the claims of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ might actually be true.
Ash, a prominent LDS scholar who owns and operates MormonFortress.com and is on the management team at fairlds.org, answers tough questions about plural marriage, Book of Mormon geography, temples and masonry, changes to the Book of Mormon text, different accounts of the First Vision, methods of the Book of Mormon translation, troubling statements in the Journal of Discourses, DNA evidence and the Book of Mormon, and much more. He also defends LDS scholars from unfair criticism while laying out their credentials, demonstrates that the Church has openly examined the issues it allegedly covers up in its own publications, and points out the danger of confusing tradition with doctrine.
The book is written in an intelligent and engaging tone; though it’s full of facts and rational arguments, it’s far from dry. In fact, it’s utterly fascinating. I found myself trying to find time to pick it up whenever I could, as excited to crack it open as I am when I find a good novel. Though I didn’t agree with every single conclusion Ash draws, it’s worth noting that he doesn’t expect readers to, as he clearly demarcates those things that are history and doctrine from his personal speculations about the same. The author seeks to demonstrate how Latter-day Saints can be critical thinkers and devout believers simultaneously. For those looking to fortify their testimony (with history, doctrine, and reason supplementing, not replacing, faith and spiritual witness) Shaken Faith Syndrome is highly recommended and is, in my opinion, a must-own for every gospel library.
For more information on Shaken Faith Syndrome, please visit the book’s website. It can be purchased from Deseret Book, the BYU Bookstore, and Amazon. For more from Michael Ash, please visit Mormon Fortress and FAIR-LDS.
For more from Jonathan Decker, please visit www.mormonmovieguy.com