One Thing Every Mormon Should Understand Before They Go Less Active

One Thing Every Mormon Should Understand Before They Go Less Active


I have lived in six states and attended 16 different wards or branches, in just the last 6 years! I love meeting new people. Because of this I often go out with the missionaries and visit the members. I have met many great members across the USA. And sadly, I know many who are, or who have gone, less active. And it is because they forget this simple truth.

The Church is true, despite the members.


In most Christian churches, you only go because of the members. The Church is less of an institution and more of a social gathering. If you don’t like the members or the pastor you simply find a new church or stop going altogether. For most Christians, the members of their church are ‘The Church’.


In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is NOT the case. The LDS Church or “Mormon Church” is a framework of doctrine, priesthood ordinances, and covenants. The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself declared that the LDS Church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” It is true because it’s foundations are not people but doctrines and principles, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. Each one of us can, and should, gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. And thereby gain a testimony of the prophetic call of Joseph Smith and of the reality of the Restored Church.


The problem comes when we equate the ‘church’ with the members of the church or the culture. Sure many people a part of the church, but that does not make them the church. If we mistakenly think that the true church will be full of true and perfect people we will quickly be disappointed. We will be even more disappointed if we assume every church leader is perfect. 


On this topic Elder Jeffrey R. Holland an apostle of the Lord teaches. “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.” (April 2013, Lord, I believe.)

"Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we." ~ Jeffrey R. Holland





Taking offense vs Keeping Covenants.


When we understand that the church is not the culture or just the people, but also a framework of doctrines, Priesthood ordinances, and covenants; we won’t let an offense outweigh a covenant. One of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed is someone who forsakes their covenants because a leader or member was offensive.


I have witnessed leaders and members say and do horrific things. They’ve done them to me and my family. The actions of a Bishop put my dad in prison! But, I will not let the actions of man outweigh the covenants I have made with God. Or my mom for example. When she was investigating the church she received a witness it was true. Her first Sunday at church she found out that the Bishops daughter was the girl who was always bullying her at High School! Instead of letting that become a roadblock or a reason not to get baptized she held to the truth and was baptized. And I am eternally thankful for that! 


The choice is simple, will I choose to be offended? Or will I choose to keep my covenants? It is one or the other. We can not stay offended at Priesthood leaders and keep our covenants.
On the topic of taking offense, I refer to Brigham Young, who taught. “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”

“He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” Brigham Young


Why would taking offense make you foolish? Because you either take offense or keep your covenants. I have never met someone who has chosen to be, and stayed, offended and not gone less active; either in their testimony or their activity. With that knowledge taking offense is always foolish!


Try and let others try! 


The purpose of the Church is to help convert us to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And David O. McKay taught “The purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better.” Understanding that a Saint is only a sinner who keeps trying is key. As we try, we should let others try also!

“If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites”

Dale G. Renlund (April 2015, Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying)


"If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites" Dale G. Renlund


Because we are all sinners, the church will always be full of sinners! But let us keep trying so we can become saints! Truly the church is a hospital for sinners! And just like you don’t go to the hospital looking for healthy people, don’t expect everyone at church to be perfect. Let us reach out in love to those who are less active and bring them home!


the church is a hospital for sinners!


PS. There are other reasons why people go less active, this is just the #1 reason. I am currently writing another article about the #2 reason. Docrtional Misunderstandings.

If you liked this article, you’ll love 7 principles of personal revelation every Latter-day Saint needs to know!

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  1. Thank you for posting this today. It is again a testimony builder that Joseph Smith was a prophets and the gospel of Jesus Christ is true!

    • Exactly. Most members I’ve found that go less active fall into one of two categories. They’ve either taken offense that a church leader/member, past or present, was not perfect. Or they have a doctrinal misunderstanding.

      This article clears up the offense issue and I am working on one about doctrinal issues

  2. Honestly, I am considered inactive/less active because I am not at church most Sundays, even though I have a calling on the Enrichment committee that I fully embrace, and, before that, I was our ward’s Family Promise coordinator. I didnt stop attending church because of another member or doctrinal issues, but simply because I used to work 50-70 hours a week. Now that I am no longer working I still rarely attend as I was finally put on disability and can no longer go out on my own, and, even on the rare Sundays my husband has off, most days my disability causes me terrible pain, weakness and fatigue.

    • I knew a man in New England who worked 3 weekends in a row and then had 1 off. He almost did not get baptized but then when he realized God is not saying make all 4 but make the 1 you can. He realized he could do, what he could do. So he was baptized.

  3. This is so far down the list of reasons. Do correct research. John Dehlin has already gathered information from thousands of people who have left or gone in-active.

    • Amen, Brother Joe. Calling it the “number one reason” with no research to back that up is snide and judgmental.

      I have left, both physically (at least half the time, so ‘less’ active than before, when I was primary president and hated my life) and emotionally. It has ZERO to do with being offended and 100% to do with the church’s lies and coercion.

      Don’t belittle those who pull away or even leave completely by pretending to understand their experience.

      • YES!!! There are so many false teachings about Joseph Smith. About polygamy. About gender. It’s crazy! I’ve been a member my whole life. Temple recommend, calling holding, active member. I had questions and got on FairMormon and down the rabbit hole I fell. Wow. Historians for the church don’t even deny terrible things happened. Finding out that the church you’ve dedicated your life to is a fraud is an awful awful thing.

        • I have studied intensely the life of Joseph Smith. And whereas it was not the story I was told when I was growing up, the fact still remains. I have knelt in the sacred grove, I asked the Father if he really appeared there. And I can not put to words the divine witness from Deity I received. I Know that Joseph was called of God and is the Prophet of the restoration.

          • “the restoration” – this always makes me chuckle inside. There was no baptism for the dead in the temple in either OT or NT times. There was no “endowment” in these times, as has clearly been shown by Mormon authors and historians. The church was not “restored”. Joseph made it up (with some help from others).

  4. I’m an in active member and wasn’t either of the suggestions you mention I think more a misunderstanding as a single mom holidays are always tough for me and my family that’s when I need help the most our bishop made an agreement that we would clean the church every Saturday we asked him could you please call us and remind us he never did and help stopped I also have a son who’s severly disabled and on life support to which I and my family help care for him that’s another reason why we as a whole family cannot be there and the bishop does not understand this I want to be I need to be there but my family is my number 1 prioritie I just wish they would understand me and my families situation

    • Ask to have the sacrament be brought to your home, yes, every week! I watch the BYU sacrament mtg program on Sunday morn & then the Spoken word. My husband had a stroke and so looked forward to the priests coming to our home.

  5. this is great! i love this is true that every member should know before they choose to become less-active..

  6. This kind of cracks me up. “One thing everyone should remember….!” One thing! And then, at the very end: Oh, there are other things. I’m currently writing another piece about Thing Two.

    There are a hundred Things. Let’s stop talking about Things, and start listening to People. Let’s make Sunday School a safe place for a person to say what they believe and know, and what they don’t believe and know.

  7. From the perspective of a believing LDS, there really isn’t a good reason to “go inactive”, right? So, setting that aside for a moment, consider those members who, because of actions of fellow ward members, only find attending church to be a source of anguish. It is one thing to stop attending because someone offended you it is something else to stop attending because being there is hurtful.

    A great follow-up to this post would be to explore what we can do as LDS to make sure everyone in our wards/branches feels wholly welcomed and embraced.

    • To be frank, part of my inactivity is exactly like you said, that being there is hurtful, because listening to people talking about being or getting sealed to their spouse brings so much hurt that I avoid the issue. I value my relationship with my spouse but for whatever reason, he has not made our temple sealing a priority. I got tired of arguing about it. I am a convert and have dealt with depression the last few years. I have been inactive the last couple of months trying to get under control. My church activity was the LAST thing I put on hold. My bishop gave me a calling I can do from home which helps me feel like I am still a part of our ward and stake. I am getting better. I just have to figure out how to deal with the hurt caused by this issue.

  8. I’ve never expected leaders to be prefect, but I’ve experienced a bishop purposefully harming members of the ward. The stake was involved, and the matter resolved but I feel like I can never regain the trust I once had in leaders. I’ll never say the church is true, yet i know the gospel is!

    • Just remember that the church is true despite the members. Don’t let the actions of men cause you to forsake your covenants with God.

  9. I’m not sure it is wise to tell a person who is considering leaving the church because they feel offended that they are a fool or that they don’t value their covenants. Perhaps a better approach would be to go to them and show them you love them and don’t want them to leave. The attitude of this article is the reason people who already feel unloved in a ward find it so easy to stop attending. Most members of the church find it easy to call out strugglers, but rarely take serious the reason for the struggle, let alone reach out to comfort the struggler (you know, comfort those that stand in need of comfort).
    By the way, I completely disagree that the church isn’t “the people.” That’s exactly what the church is – people. The Doctrine of the church is about Christ. No people = no church. No people = still Doctrine.

    • To clarify, I love the members. I enjoy their fellowship. I believe in the members. It’s the church that I am struggling to believe in.

      • This. I love my ward friends, and friends from other wards I’ve lived in. It has nothing to do with being hurt or offended by individuals. Two other couples I know who have left in the past 18 months (one resigned, other stopped attending altogether) both left because the historicity is false and because the policies/doctrines don’t reflect the teachings of Christ.
        It’s not ‘doctrinal misunderstanding.’ It’s FINALLY understanding, finally looking behind the wizard’s curtain and realizing he was just a horny dude banging his teenage housemaid in the barn and hunting for treasure all his life.

  10. I like the last part THE CONCLUSION, it deepening your wisdom of a true church sinners which you’re right you can’t find perfect people in the Church, his because they’re there to become perfect…

  11. I respectfully disagree with this. Christ has asked us to be His hands and do His work. There are gospel teachings (the doctrine), and then there is the church (the people). Both are necessary. Yes, I agree that leaving the church because you are offended by someone is on you, not them, because taking offense is a choice. But church culture is often not welcoming and inclusive, which is something people need almost as much as they need the doctrine. We need a community of believers, but often what we find is a congregation of pretenders. We don’t bare one another’s burdens, because we can’t even bring ourselves to share what our real burdens are. We are too busy trying to appear perfect, or at least not appear weak or flawed. When people leave the church, it’s often because the church (us) failed them. We failed to be real with them. We failed to include them. We failed to know them, or to let them know the real us. “And we are the body of Christ. But if we are the body, why aren’t His hands reaching?”

    • I agree that often times the members make it hard. I am actually writing a post about ways we can make church welcoming for the Active, Less Active, and Non-member alike.

      • Maybe be upfront with them about actual church history and doctrines while they’re still considered “investigators,” most of whose “investigations” reach no further than what missionaries are trained to tell them. Nip it in the bud kind of approach.

        • I am in favor of this also. This is why I am an outspoken advocate of explaining our history and practices. I am not a fan of the old ways where they sanitized history. I want to know the nitty gritty.

    • We represent Christ’s Church. We take his name upon us. But how does that permit us to judge others, or to say someone is inadequate? We don’t know the trials and disasters others have had in their lives. They may not reach out to us because they were abused as a child, or any other number of earthly trials they have not yet been able to overcome. Each of us must reach out the best we can. If we do our best, it is good enough for Christ. I don’t think we should be criticising those who can’t do as well as we think they should.

  12. I have a testimony of the gospel and I enjoy my fellow ward members. I’m not offended by doctrine or people. I simply can not keep up with all the projects & programs & parties & dinners. I attend church to strengthen my knowledge and testimony, I don’t need constant interaction with others. My goal is to attend church once every month. Once I achieve that goal, I’ll work on my Temple attendance. I’m not “inactive” or “less active”, I’m doing the best I can. I find it unfortunate that it’s necessary to label or categorize members of the church. I believe that doing my best is enough for my Heavenly Father. I’m not trying to please anyone else.

    • Work from where you are at. Understand that the programs are secondary to the covenants. Keep your covenants and strive to renew them weekly.

  13. Um … Jesus never said this. What he said instead was “by their fruits ye shall know them.”

    I think it’s unfair that when Mormon celebrities make the news, all the big LDS websites and the Deseret News jump on it and hold them up as an example to the outside world. But when a Mormon con artist or sex offender make the news — or when I tell people about what my Mormon parents are like — suddenly everyone is quick to distance themselves. No matter the circumstances.

    Perhaps the next time you are tempted to take offence at something “the world” says about you and your church, you should “consider the beam in thine own eye.”

    • Only an intellectually dishonest person would equate the actions of a few rogue membres disobeying the commandments as the ‘fruit” of the church. And when it comes to Mormon Celebrities I actually am not a fan, too often they speak down to others and act better than other people.

      • When I was about 16, I was too nervous to raise my hand to oppose someone being called as the Young Men’s leader. It was such a huge deal to do that — I’d only seen it done once in my life — and what if I was wrong? Just because the kids called him “Brother Testes” and “Brother Molestes.” I mean, they were from public school so I expected them to make dirty jokes. Right?

        (I was homeschooled, and autistic on top of that.)

        Later on I was called as an instructor, and was assigned to give a lesson on the importance of honouring and sustaining church leaders. I felt impressed to add that acting on this prompting I had to oppose, back then, could have saved a lot of kids, because I found out years afterwards that this man had been arrested for sexual abuse. I bore my testimony that it was important to listen to the Spirit, and to take seriously any concerns you might have.

        I was released from my calling right afterwards.

        I’ve met a lot of good people in my time in the Mormon church. I’ve had people come up and thank me for being brave enough to speak up on their behalf, or just for being the only one to ask if they were okay. But the way that the institutional church is set up discourages people from speaking out the way I did, or from questioning what may be harmful or abusive authority. So I would actually say that the members are true, but in many cases the church organization is not.

        • I am sorry for your isolated experience, but that is not how the church should be run, and it is not how it is run worldwide. There are bad apples, but it is not realistic to think that God would insolate us from the mistakes of man. Look at the Kirtland period, a lot of bad and dumb things happened.

  14. There are a lot of things active members need to understand about why people go inactive. In my experience (and most I know) it had nothing to do with other members. At all. We could all learn a lot by listening to one another. Problem is most active members think they have it all figured out already. 🙁

    • Well, the only experience I have is my own, and of the 100+ Less Actives I know only a handful don’t fall into categories 1 or 2.

  15. sixteen wards in six years? that is the most I have ever heard! you must be a pro at meeting new people.

    sorry to hear that a bishop had your dad to prison. how did that happen? did the bishop lie about something?

  16. How do I overcome not being able to get to Church? I struggle going anywhere, not just Church. I have to leave home once a month to get my medication and I usually do a month to 6 week shopping at the same time. (I go to a smaller town in the opposite direction to the Chapel.) When I get home, the relief is enormous. My nearest family are 500km away. The chapel a good half hour away and that is where the majority of the members live, in a town of about 10,000. The town where I live has about 250 people & I’m the only member. I have no home teachers and we are a small ward, in number of members, in a HUGE ward in area… about 300km x 500km, with just 2 Elders as missionaries. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression, anxiety & borderline personality disorder. How do I fight this evilness in me which prevents me getting out and therefore to Church?

    • In a situation like this, I would say speak to your Bishop. Explain your desires, concerns and ask for his guidance. Then follow what he asks you to do.

      • Last Friday I began counselling thru LDS Family Service via Skype. The therapist said I have agrophobia. She also said, the great thing is that it is curable, with her help. That is the best news I have heard in many years and the first of these mental dramas which can be cured. I am pleased there is a cure 🙂

  17. “In most Christian churches you only go because of the members…the church is more of a social gathering.” I’ve spent the vast majority of my life outside of Utah. I’ve known countless non-LDS Christians who are devoted to the cause of Christ. They are faithful, they love, they serve. They are hopeful and kind. They believe. Truly, they do. To make such an egregious stereotypical statement about Christians outside of the LDS church is beyond the pale. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve heard this unflattering view of non-LDS Christians made by their Mormon Christian brothers and sisters. We need to stop this. Now. Please don’t comment back about the Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist neighbor you knew 20 years ago (or currently know) for whom this was/is true. Surely you realize members of other faiths can always find Latter-day Saints for whom they could say the same thing.

      • Thank you, Jeremy, for your prompt response. Latter-day Saints “go to a church” for the fellowship as well. Christians who are not Latter-day Saints attend the church of their choice for the same reasons Latter-day Saints do: they believe, deeply, in Jesus Christ as their Savior, they believe the doctrines taught in their church, they believe there is priesthood authority, they want to stay true to the commitments/covenants they made at their baptism. To say “most Christian churches” are “less of an institution and more of a social gathering” deeply diminishes the religious experiences of non-LDS Christians and diminishes those institutions as well. It diminishes the commitment so many non-LDS Christians feel for their belief systems to suggest that if these faithful people don’t like the members/pastor of their congregations they will simply “find a new church” or “stop going” altogether. This has not been my experience as I’ve been blessed to know so many of these faithful individuals. (I have known a few non-LDS Christians who have done as you describe. I have known a few LDS Christians who have made the same choice.) Thank you for considering my point of view.

        • I’d say the big difference is 90% or “most” Christian churches believe that you are “saved” once you accept Christ. They don’t believe in covenants. To them, Church is a place of believers to gather, worship and help others find Christ.

          Whereas all of those elements are also present at a LDS service there is the added belief of the Sacrament renewing all of our covenants, that is the real reason we go to church. To renew our covenants.

          So if I was Baptist (my Grandpa was southern baptist). I’d believe I was saved. Nothing else needed. Going to church would merely be a place to go with friends and worship God. If the pastor rubbed me wrong, I’d find a different baptist church in town and go to it instead.

          • Jeremy, I’m wondering where your information came from that 90% of Christian churches believe you are saved once you accept Christ? Fifty percent of all Christians worldwide are Catholic. I was raised Catholic. This is not Catholic doctrine. My husband was raised Episcopalian. He tells me this is not Episcopalian doctrine. My Methodist friend tells me this is not Methodist doctrine. Nowhere close to 90% of Christians believe this. As a Catholic, I weekly received “Holy Communion.” It is considered a holy sacrament by Catholics and absolutely a source of renewal in the same sense of LDS’s renewing covenants. Surely we are not going to dismiss what is considered a holy sacrament and sacred experience to so many faithful individuals because they may not use the words we use to name and/or describe what is going on! I am baffled by this need to dismiss and diminish the sacred experiences and beliefs of other faiths. It takes nothing away from Latter-day Saints to acknowledge that people of other faiths have wonderful things going on when they worship, renew, and ponder the doctrines they deeply believe. To insist they don’t do some or any of those things makes us appear very small. (And over the years I have been acquainted with more than a few Latter-day Saints who were ‘rubbed the wrong way’ and found different LDS wards to attend.)

          • I should’ve clarified. I was referring to Protestant Churches, not Catholic churches.

  18. Sometimes bitterness was not an obvious choice. People are complicated and one day you realize you’ve become something you never believed in being. Sometimes or maybe more frequently than we know bitterness is a defense mechanism. I hold no grudges and point no blame. Life is life and we all are all doing the best we can to get through it as best we can. I find that I have built a wall so tall I can’t get over it. I go to church because it’s a commandment not because people are perfect and I include myself in that. But I have no friends no home teachers or visiting teachers. No one knows how to help me because it seems mormons are blissfully happy. I don’t blame anyone for not being willing to climb the wall I’ve built. I wouldn’t have time either. But it’s a lonely place to be. I also know it’s no ones else’s responsibility to fix me. I don’t know what to do. I do know this church is Gods true church and as hard as it can be I will continue to do my best to keep the commandments. Thanks for the article.