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.)
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.”
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)
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!
PS. There are other reasons why people go less active, this is just the #1 reason. And typically this happens because the shame culture is corrupting Mormon culture and people feel judged. Click here for the article about the shame culture.