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.

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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.

  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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.