We LOVE when Leo Winegar joins us on Saints Unscripted and this time was no different!
In this episode, Leo talks about how to reconstruct your faith after it is deconstructed. Going through a deconstruction of faith (or a breaking down of certain things you thought you believed) is very, very difficult. But it is certainly possible (and a valuable experience) to learn how to reconstruct your faith! Leo breaks down how reconstruction looks and how to navigate the reconstruction phase.
Jake: I talked to Leo on the phone. It was awesome because not only was I receiving help as in, “Oh, try to look at it from this point of view or from that point of view,” but Leo, exactly what you said, someone to just be there for you, listen to you and love you. And so from my point of view, I think that was the best foundation for my process in reconstructing.
Kaitlyn: Hey, everyone. We’re back here on Saints Unscripted. Thanks for joining us. We are with Leo again today. We’re super excited to have him. And Jake has joined us as well. So-
Jake: Hi. I took Justin’s spot.
Kaitlyn: He’s brought his cool red glasses and his awesomeness with him. So we’re really excited. This is an episode that is kind of a follow-up, almost like a part two to an episode we previously did where we were talking about deconstruction, a word that sounds kind of complicated, or it’s like, “What is deconstruction?” You can see the video. We’ve got it linked here. I don’t know if it’s below or on the screen, but you will find it. And I am going to give a brief summary about deconstruction and he will give me a grade on how well I learned this concept last time. But basically, it’s when we have words that we learn, whether it’s in life or in the church, and we’re talking about the church specifically, and sometimes people come into… They learn new things about this word. Maybe it’s prophets, or maybe it’s revelation or something. And it kind of takes on a new meaning for this person. This can be both good and bad, but it can change the way we think about words. And so that can attribute to kind of breaking people’s faith down, maybe more like a faith crisis, or it can go the other way as well. So I don’t know. How did I-
Leo: It’s good. Yeah.
Kaitlyn: Was that… Okay.
Leo: That was great. Yeah. You can say it’s a process.
Kaitlyn: It’s a process.
Leo: Deconstruction is a process and it’s kind of a neutral word, and we talked about this in the previous video, but so much negativity surrounding this idea of studying non-church-approved sources and for a good reason, but people go through this process where they learn new information that challenges their previous beliefs, and that feels like it’s a tearing down of your belief system. So deconstruction is what we talked about in the previous video, and that’s basically what it is.
Kaitlyn: Okay. That was very well said. And now, we’re going to talk about the other end of it, which is reconstruction.
Leo: Right, right. So when people go through challenging information and go through a process of deconstruction where they stop believing in the way they used to believe, for example, believing that the prophets have priesthood keys, believing that the scriptures are divine, the word of God. A lot of people start to believe that the church is not true the way it claims to be. And so there’s this… In some former member communities… I’m not here to blame or to label anybody to be mean. I just know that in a lot of former member communities, there’s this idea, this narrative that once the toothpaste has been squeezed out of the tube, where you’ve learned all this new information about church history or whatever it is, and you start to deconstruct your belief system, that there is no way, feasible way to rebuild, reconstruct, and make the church up and allow the church to work for you.
Leo: And I think that narrative, while it may be true for some people, it isn’t true for all people. And so I’m an example. I’m grateful to my savior and to many people who helped me. I went through a very dark night of the soul, faith crisis, and through the help of many people and through the help of my savior, I was able to reconstruct my belief system. So the church definitely works for me again and I believe in all the core doctrines of the church again. And so we can talk about what that process is like.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. What is that like? How does it work?
Leo: Well, it takes patience. It takes a community. If it’s just a community of one, if it’s like a spouse, your spouse is believing and you are starting to doubt, or you have the other way around, your spouse’s doubting, you need someone to talk to. And you can work with just the Lord through prayer, but I think that, as we see in so many ways in life, he works through other people. So we need to… And even angel. We need a few angels to surround us and to help us. And you want people to understand the issues that you’re dealing with and they can help you to reframe or to understand things differently.
Leo: So I’ll give you the example again, is my example of prophets. So I grew up in the church thinking prophets are nearest to God of any person on the earth. And in a lot of ways, I think they are. They are very holy. They’re sanctified men who have been called by God to lead and to receive revelation for the church. And I believe that to this day. I still believe that, but I also see them as very human who see through a glass darkly still. Even though they’ve received the sacred calling, this mantle to receive every revelation, they still are mortal. They still have a veil. And so prophets can make mistakes. So that is something that I was able to reconstruct maybe a little more nuanced view of who prophets are and their role in the church and in the world. And that’s allowed me to see in a more healthy, realistic way, but I still believe that they’re true prophets. So that’s my example of prophets of reconstruction.
Kaitlyn: So it’s kind of like you have this Lego set that is just beautiful to behold. You’ve just got it out of the box, brand new. And then it gets broken and you’re kind of super upset about that. But the reconstruction is kind of rebuilding it in a new light almost. Maybe you’ve re-imagined how this Lego could look and it’s kind of new and improved. That’s kind of what I think of when I thought of-
Leo: Lego master.
Speaker 4: I am a master builder.
Leo: Lego master doesn’t have to have the rule book, right?
Jake: But what if you keep trying to rebuild something, Leo? What if you keep trying to reconstruct this and you don’t like what the Lego looks like? So you keep kicking it down and you keep going back to square one.
Leo: Yeah. I mean, it’s a process for everybody. Some people as part of their reconstruction process, they reconstruct outside of the church. They reconstruct in ways that involve spirituality that doesn’t involve Jesus Christ. And there’s a lot of people who find meaning in Buddhism, meditation, things like that, and they reconstruct in different ways, but they have to reconstruct with some kind of belief system. As people, as humans, we need beliefs and something good. And if it’s just in the divinity or the goodness of humans around them, then that’s what they reconstructed.
Leo: But within the church context, within our church especially, as I’m someone who’s able to reconstruct within the LDS church, I think that’s possible and that’s something we should seek after and be patient. If we’re reconstructing and it just doesn’t make sense, I would say, lean on people who have reconstructed within the church and go to them. I’m one person out of many who have experienced reconstructing their belief system, and we can help people. We have a lot of videos that we’ve produced. And I’m with Uplift Community of Faith, and we have a lot of resources and people who understand how difficult it is, and we can help people to kind of reframe all of these complex or issues that we deal with.
Kaitlyn: So it sounds like a big part of this is just being willing to communicate and to listen to those who are going through something like this, if you’re on one end or the other. Just kind of allowing that conversation to happen, and that’s kind of how people learn and can reconstruct their beliefs. So communication, I don’t know, being willing to listen. Are there any other things that we can do to help maybe if there’s like a family member that might be going through this?
Leo: One of the analogies we like to use is climbing together. So if someone’s down in a pit and they’re struggling with the church and they’re trying to reconstruct the best they can, they’re reading their scriptures, they’re praying and they’re really trying, but all you do as a loved one is you toss down articles from a website like FAIR or something or Book of Mormon Central and say, “This will fix your problem on the Book of Mormon,” or “This’ll fix your problem with Joseph Smith,” or Brigham Young or whatever it is. And we’re not really sitting down and looking at the person in the eyes and saying, “I love you. I want to be there with you. I want to climb with you. Put my arm around you and we’ll do this together.” If we’re not getting to that point, then it’s a lack of empathy.
Leo: So we need empathy. We need to show true love, unconditional love and say, “No matter where you go, our relationship matters.” That is the most important message I think we can send to anybody. Even to ourselves, we can say, no matter where I end up, if I ended up in the church or out of the church, I’m questioning, you should tell yourself that you are loved. You are valued. And the people around you love and value you. You may not feel like it because sometimes people… Like a parent who has a child who begins to doubt, sometimes the parent reacts poorly. That does happen in the church where they are kind of aggressively tossing the articles or saying, “Repent. Get back with the program.” And that messaging can be very unhelpful sometimes for people that are questioning.
Leo: So if that’s happening to you, just know that they still love you and they’re going to be with you at least for the rest of your life, as far as you believe now, but you should be willing to at least accept loving relationships the best that you can and try to work with people. Even in the church who are very traditional in their beliefs, you should still try to try to work with them and try to listen to them, work with them, climb together as you try to reconstruct your beliefs.
Kaitlyn: I love that.
Jake: I think you answered that great about trying to build something and just not liking it at all. Anyway, and I guess, I didn’t know if I was going to share anything personal for me, but I do know that… Because I do the podcast, right? And I’m trying to go through this right now, trying to reconstruct something, and I can’t find that good Lego piece. Maybe someone needs to give me a guide or something or make a Millennium Falcon. That’d be cool too. But I just… And I remember you said people share these articles, “Well, look what Ferris said about the historicity of the Book of Mormon or anachronisms, or Joseph Smith polygamy.” And you read that as logically, okay, that makes sense, but the feelings are still there, the feelings of hurt or betrayal or being deceived or lied to, or just overall your foundation being taken out from under you. Or yeah, I guess since we’re talking about deconstruction, I’m still deconstructed that those things didn’t help.
Jake: And so, I mean, one thing, several months ago, almost a year ago, probably a year ago by the time we release this episode, is I talked to Leo on the phone and it was amazing because… Yeah. It was awesome because not only was I receiving help as in, “Oh, try to look at it from this point of view or from that point of view,” but Leo, exactly what you said, someone to just be there for you, listen to you and love you. And so from my point of view, I think that was the best foundation for my process in reconstructing. And so hopefully, as I see this, how can you help somebody with this? And I think from my point of perspective, that was exactly what I needed.
Leo: Yeah. So we need revelation. That’s one thing that our church teaches, right? Personal revelation. And a FAIR article or a Book of Mormon Central video or Saints Unscript… Or even this video, if we provide these answers… And these are personal experiences or things that are valuable to us or to the scholars that produce the material. The apologetics is built on scholarship from church scholars. And that may not resonate. Like you said, it kind of still feel dark or feel like you were deceived. And so ultimately, people can surround you and love you in the church and help you to reconstruct and provide new ways of thinking, new ways to see material, help you to re-examine your assumptions or your expectations, but ultimately it needs to be from God. The best answers that I’ve ever received have been visions. I’ve received some visions as part of my reconstruction process. I’ve been praying about a particular topic, wrestling with the material, with church history, the actual documents, reading stuff, thinking about, until I’ve actually received an actual vision, and I can give one example.
Leo: So I was struggling with Joseph’s polygamy. That was probably my biggest topic. I really struggled with it. And one day, I was preparing this kind of this apologetic message to someone who was asking, “I’m struggling with Joseph’s polygamy.” And I said, “Here’s some things to think about based on some of the stuff I’d been reading about apologetics.” Right? The defense of the church. And the spirit stopped me and I was frozen. I couldn’t type. I wasn’t talking to the person. I was typing to the person. And I stopped and I was frozen, and I had a stupor of thought. And I said, “Okay. That’s weird.” So I got down on my knees and I started praying. I said, “Heavenly father, I need to understand polygamy. I guess I’m struggling here.” And the spirit said to me, “You do not understand of that what you speak.” But I wasn’t speaking. I was typing. So it was like, okay, but he got the message through to me: You don’t understand of what you’re trying to share.
Leo: And it was very clear. Those words are very clear. And then I said, “Okay. Well, help me to understand.” And I had a vision. I saw Joseph and Emma in their bedroom talking, working through this topic together. And it wasn’t like Joseph was out gallivanting around hiding this from Emma. It was them talking and trying to wrestle through it together. He was honestly working through it with his wife, and Emma was honestly struggling with it and trying to work through with Joseph. I didn’t see anything more than just a kind of a blur, but I knew it was them. The spirit said this is Joseph and Emma in their room talking. And there’s no real historical evidence about that. They don’t ever say in their journals, “Joseph and I talked through the evening about his plural marriage,” and there’s not a lot about that. Right? It’s all about kind of who said, “What about this and this?” and different people getting married.
Leo: But that kind of evidence for me straight from the spirit was so powerful to know that Joseph loved Emma and tried to speak with her in private as best as he could about his practice of plural marriage. So there’s an example of some revelation I received that basically nailed the coffin shut on plural marriage for me. I know they struggled. I know Emma struggled tremendously. The women struggled with it. And that doesn’t solve that, but I at least know that Joseph was a good man. He was called to practice this to the best that he could, and Emma was involved in the process.
Jake: Wow. Okay. Well, I mean, I think we’re close to out of time, but I was… That answered a question I was going to ask. So I don’t have to ask anymore. It was about what if my reconstruction does not fit within the church, and I guess I just have to reconstruct that with God and-
Leo: He will guide you.
Jake: … move forward and he’ll guide me. Wow. Cool.
Leo: If you stay close to Christ, that’s everything. Stay close to Christ.
Kaitlyn: Stay close to Christ.
Leo: He will guide you through that process. Yeah.
Kaitlyn: Well, that is awesome. Thank you so much, Leo, for joining us today. Loved talking about this reconstruction idea. Basically, no matter where you’re at in life, things can be rebuilt no matter where you’re at, and I just love that.
Jake: If you want to break down your cool Lego piece because it doesn’t work for you, make a Millennium Falcon or make a… Even the Legoland, they have… Has any of you been there? I think I saw this cool Aladdin genie thing. Crap. I can’t remember.
Leo: Well, the new Lego series, right? They actually blow up Legos. What is it called? The new Lego… I think it’s Netflix.
Kaitlyn: Wait, what?
Leo: But there’s a Lego building competition.
Kaitlyn: Oh, I thought you’re talking about the movies or something.
Leo: My kids loved it.
Jake: Oh, the Lego competition. Yeah. It’s like a-
Leo: It’s the… I don’t know. It’s the-
Jake: Lego master. I don’t know.
Leo: They kind of did the Batman. I don’t know the actors’ names, but he did Batman-
Jake: Will Arnett?
Leo: Yes, and he’s the host-
Jake: Oh yeah. I’ve seen it. Oh yeah, yeah. I’ve seen it.
Leo: … in this Lego competition. And then the series, they had a bunch of Lego explosions. So there you go. There’s your deconstruction.
Kaitlyn: Okay, cool. Perfect. I love it. Oh my gosh, Legos. Remember, Legos and Jesus. Okay? Okay. Thanks everyone for joining us today. Like, subscribe, follow us, leave a comment if you have any thoughts and we’ll see you next time.