The third stage in recovery is known as bargaining.Wikipedia says:
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle.
People leaving the church pass through this stage as well. The difference is that the LDS church co-opts this phase of grieving and provides bargains for the individual. Comments such as:
“Spend an equal amount of time reading the scriptures as you do on doubting study and you will never fall away”
“Did you have enough faith?”
“Pray and increase your faith and these problems will resolve themselves”
As well as many scriptures where God directly chastises early church members for doubting, such as Martin Harris and Joseph Smith Jr. when they lost the 116 pages.
These statements and others similar to them encourage the bargaining time period to be extended. Individuals may give up tremendous amounts of free will, time, money and other resources in order to “not lose faith” or to illustrate to themselves that God is testing them.
The encouragement of the bargaining phase to be longer is a pernicious aspect of the church. Individuals are not encouraged to come to their own conclusion, grieve, and move on. Nor are they encouraged to move beyond bargaining. Trapping people in a situation feeling like they can bargain with God is not only unfair, but it is psychologically harmful.
The willingness to give up anything to have a confirmation of the spirit. Ignoring real issues in order to push one’s self into “Faith”
Most common symptoms
Dramatically increasing scripture study time, suddenly trying to pay back-tithing or refusing sexual activities that were common previously. Also sudden changes in diet related to the Word of Wisdom (I’m giving up not only caffeine, but meat as well!) can be an indicator although these can also be related to other eating disorders too.
Typical phrases in conjunction with this phase
If I pray enough, I’ll get the answer
I used to be so faithful, and now I’m not so sure
I’m sure there is an answer, I’ll ask God when I die
I doubt sometimes, but I’m doing [X] activity more now, so I try not to worry about it.
How to move on
The first step, it must be said, is to realize that despite whatever church leaders have said, God does not bargain. The scriptures actually show little indication of a “Bargaining god”, and what they do show, instead shows a domineering personality. God commands, He does not negotiate.
If you realized that there is no God, then you understand the futility of the bargaining and probably moved on to depression.
One method to move on is to set concrete, measurable points for God in the negotiation. If He doesn’t keep His end of the negotiation repeatedly, one will typically move beyond the bargaining phase. Yet many members will point out that one “Cannot tell God what to do”, pushing the person in this phase back into a limbo state.
Another method to cope while in this phase is to say that one will begin to live without the church until God intervenes. Some percentage of people will have some occurrence that will seem like divine intervention and they will return simply because of random chance, but the vast majority of people will realize that God does not reach out or bargain, and that instead, they are going to have to determine their lives, right and wrong, etc. themselves.