FPR has a three-part series (Part One, Two, Three) discussing Mormon pedagogy and the various "stages of faith" postulated by James Fowler in his book Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development. The FPR posts provide an interesting discussion as they relate to LDS teaching. My question is why so many people accept Fowler's stages or categories as anything other than psychobabble.
Now I say that with some hesitation — I know some bright and friendly people who seem to think the "stages of faith" categories actually exist and are analytically useful rather than being merely descriptive. [That is, they help explain with reference to independent data why people appear to think or speak differently about religious, moral, and philosophical questions or change their opinions on these subjects over the course of their life.] But there are also people who think the Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator classification of people into sixteen different personality types identify categories that actually exist and are analytically useful. And there are also people who think astrology and the twelve signs of the zodiac classify people into twelve different categories that actually exist and are analytically useful.
The problem with the stages of faith model (or at least how it is used) is that it takes one generic personal narrative — "I used to be part of an organized religion, but after I achieved personal enlightenment I became disenchanted with the compromises and juvenile teachings so prevalent in organized religious institutions" — and elevates it to a prescriptive model, which it then applies judgmentally to all persons.
However, there are a variety of other generic personal narratives that are as valid as the Fowler narrative. Some start with self-centered spirituality, then move toward active membership in a religious community. Some start with self-centered hedonism, then move toward a more community-oriented perspective, whether religious or secular. Some start with self-centered hedonism, then move toward self-centered spirituality. Some people just piss their whole life away as self-centered hedonists. There's nothing in the Fowler approach that justifies using the Fowler narrative (rather than any other) as the basis for prescriptive classifictions and judgments, or that defends the method of constructing a One True Narrative in the face of the obvious fact that individuals display a variety of diverse human personalities that approach spiritual and religious questions quite differently.
Anyone who has links to critical discussions of the Fowler model (and I know the literature has a lot of discussion of the model, both supportive and critical) is welcome to post them.