“Even in a culture of the religiously disaffected, the toll on Latter-day Saint faithful is alarming. David Ostler’s book does not aim to stem the tide, but to lessen the pain of those on both sides of the faith divide. It is a deeply Christian book that calls upon us all to seek understanding and minister to the wounded.” —Terryl Givens, co-author of The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith
“David Ostler’s Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question is one of the most important books I have read in the past decade.Unlike other good books written primarily to those experiencing a crisis of faith, Bridges is written to those who have been called as leaders, fellow saints, and family members to minister to those who once were included in our circle of fellowship and love but who no longer are. It should be required reading for every general and local authority of the Church and every Latter-day Saint parent or other adult who interfaces with those experiencing what is called the ‘Mormon faith crisis.’” —Robert A. Rees, Co-founder and Vice-President, Bountiful Children's Foundation
With the advancement of the internet, changing worldviews, and the rising generation of millennials, Latter-day Saints today face unique challenges to faith on an unprecedented scale. Unlike most books written to help those struggling with their testimonies, Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question is geared at helping local leaders and family members better understand the sources of these challenges and how to minister to those affected by them. This ministering is done through building bridges of love, empathy, and trust regardless of whether or not someone retains their belief or continues to participate. Author David B. Ostler, a former mission president, utilizes surveys with local leaders and disaffected members, research from social science and religious studies, and teachings from Church leaders to show how Latter-day Saints can work to better support those who have questions and create church environments where all can feel welcome.
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If you’re LDS—especially a lay-leader—read this book!
There are several books geared toward helping—in one way or another—those in the midst of a crisis of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve read most of them and have learned a lot. However, David Ostler’s book, Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question has quickly become the best I’ve read. He states that he “wrote this book primarily for those of us who believe, so we can better understand those of who struggle to believe and those who struggle to maintain belief.”
Ostler makes no bones about the fact that he is an active, believing Latter-day Saint with a testimony of the restoration. Additionally, he states “the suggestions in this book are within the bounds of current  Latter-day Saint standards of practice, as outlined in the Church handbooks, the teachings from our general leaders, and the scriptures.” From my perspective, Ostler makes good on his commitment.
To give context, combined and sequentially, I served as an LDS bishop and in a stake presidency for fourteen years. I absolutely wish I had this book when I first received my callings. Ostler’s book is unapologetically designed for Church leaders. In the book, he provides both anecdotal and empirical information. He has surveyed leaders, active members, less-active members, and those who have left the Church. He provides real-life examples and data about issues facing members with faith struggles. He also drills down and addresses specific issues and the reasons people may be struggling with them (i.e. Church history, LGBTQ issues, unique millennial issues, and a lot more). Ostler provides ideas and principles about ways leaders can minister to women and men in a crisis of faith. He is aware that his book is not a cure-all or an easy fix. Rather, the true benefit of his book is in providing insight into the hearts and minds of these members (or former members) and reminds the reader the importance of listening to and loving everyone.
I believe this book will benefit anyone who reads it besides leaders: family members, friends, and members on the pew. One of the most poignant moments of the book—for me—occurs early in the book when he writes: “If you consider yourself a doubter or nonbeliever, I pray that reading this book will give you hope that we are trying to be more understanding and that your relationships with family members, friends, and Church members can be strong and rich, even with differences in belief. Perhaps this book will help you find belonging and meaning, even without your former belief.”
The only issue I had with the book has nothing to do with the content. Rather, my complaint is in the formatting. I read the eBook and Ostler uses footnotes which contain some great information. For some reason, the footnotes are not hyperlinked which makes it tedious and irritating to track the footnote down and then return to the main text. Perhaps the publisher will fix that in a future version? I hope so. This minor irritation should not dissuade anyone from getting the book—physical or digital.
The book is so exciting and helpful to me that I am tempted to keep quoting the portions that had an impact on me. However, this would essentially amount to re-writing the entire book in this review. So, instead of that, do yourself a favor and get this book and read it!