Lately I’ve been getting messages from people explaining to me why their friend or family member has decided to leave Mormonism and the LDS Church behind. They write with their hearts broken, unable to find the words to convince them to give it another look. While there are many reasons why a person might leave the Church, none of the following 5 reasons should be one of them.
1. Being Offended
Can you imagine what a tragedy it is that so many people stay home from church, withdraw from activities, and many times leave the church because they’ve been offended. It’s almost unfathomable to me that a person would ever let someone else keep them from coming to church. We’ve all been offended. There are people out there that have no clue, and are rude. They say and do things that can hurt your feelings, make you mad, and make you never want to come back. They’re oblivious in their actions and you’re left wondering, “why would I want to be around this person” or “why would I want to come to church with these people?” In saying that…we’ve got to keep in mind that we have the power to choose whether to be offended or not. Many times, if we’re offended in one place, we’ll no doubt be offended in another.
If you find yourself being offended often, then ask yourself an honest question; “Do I get offended often in other aspects of my life?” You’ll probably notice that it’s people in general that bug you, not just Mormons. Unless you just bolt yourself inside your house and buy a golden retriever, no matter where you go, you’re going to run into people that bug. Weird people are everywhere…in every church. Look at this fact as an opportunity to be Christ-like and forgive those people that are not being very nice to you…but don’t leave the Church because of it. It’s not worth depriving your kids, your friends, and everyone else within the Church…not to mention the Lord all the blessings of your presence at Church because of one oblivious person, and your choice to be offended.
2. Not Understanding The Doctrine
If you were going to help your kids build a tree fort…you probably would have them centralize their fort near or around the trunk of the tree. Unfortunately, too many people skip the basics and go right to the farthest branches of the tree to try and get a quicker, better view. The branches are weak and unestablished, and placing to much weight on them may result in a nasty fall. Just because you don’t understand something right now, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. People hear about one obscure quote here or there and jump ship. If you hear something that seems strange, ask yourself; “is it really?” Is there a possibility that it just seems strange because you haven’t heard it before? It’s our human nature to balk at things we’ve never heard before. Just don’t let your initial reaction to something you hear for the first time overpower the many times that the Holy Ghost has confirmed truth to you in the past.
People quickly forget how logical it is that the restoration took place, and how illogical it is that someone like Joseph Smith could have came up with all of it on his own. They forget about their foundation and ignore the superstructure of the gospel to focus on a few statements that have not been fully explained or understood. “God never damned anyone for believing too much” explains Joseph Smith. “But He did damn people for unbelief.” (TPJS)
Do you remember the last time you had a physical ailment and you spent all night on Google trying to diagnose yourself. Deep down you’re looking for some sort of research that gives you comfort and puts your fears to rest…but the more you research the worse you feel. Odds are, your physical diagnosis is way off track. Just ask any physician how they feel about Google. Many times, the longer you spend on Google, the farther you are from the truth when researching Mormonism. Sadly, the voices of angry people are much louder than the voices of the happy and content.
We live in the information age. You can get your hands on almost any information you desire. The Church is an open book. I hear people that are leaving the Church because they hear a “doctrine” (which is probably not even a doctrine) that was talked about long ago. Because they are just finding out about it, they assume that the Church has been lying to them or trying to “cover up” what they’ve now learned. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. All of the things that “come out” are things that the Church published themselves. It’s right there in Church publications. If the Church wanted to “cover up” they wouldn’t have printed it. Just because something isn’t emphasized in our everyday classes, doesn’t mean anyone is trying to hide it from you. We just might not have enough information on the topic and it is therefore deemphasized in order to reduce confusion. People forget that the restoration is not complete. We are in the middle of it! Just hang tight and things will be revealed.
3. Its Just Too Hard
3 hours of church? Callings? Meetings? Keeping the sabbath day holy? Tithing? Word of Wisdom? 2 year mission? These are just a few of the things that get people going down the path of leaving the Church. The church conflicts with some things that people want to do and that bugs…right? So why not search the internet for something that will somehow make the Church not true. Then I won’t have to do all that stuff…right? Look…its hard to be a Mormon. It’s not supposed to be easy. It wasn’t easy to be an early Christian, to go around drawing fishes in the sand because you were scared for your life. There are a lot of demands and a lot of perceived limitations. Joseph Smith said that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”
For the last two years, I’ve been teaching early morning seminary. That means that I’m up at 4:30 am, prepared and ready to give a lesson to 30 plus teenagers. Then I work all day because I don’t receive any financial compensation for my Church service. I get home as soon as I can to spend time with my family and then I’ve got to get ready for another lesson and to wake up early the next day. Saturday is sometimes free, but then its off to Church on Sunday. It’s tough…but what else would I be doing with my time!
I’ve thought about this long and hard. What is the alternative to all of the things I listed above. If I didn’t go church for 3 hours on Sunday, then what would I be doing? Well…I could get in a football game. Did that make me happier? If I don’t have a calling…where do I find as many opportunities to serve others? Serving others is universally recognized by doctors and psychologists as being good for your health and a precursor to happiness. I guess callings can’t be a bad thing then. Sabbath day observance? “But it’s my only day off” you might say. Well, what better than to spend that day dedicated to spending time with family and relaxing? You’d like to be 10% richer and not pay tithing? You’d probably spend that money on something frivolous anyway like 98% of Americans do anyways. (There are studies on peoples spending habits that back that up) Why not donate to a worthy cause like the Church? “The word of wisdom keeps me from having fun!” Oh really? Do I even need to go into this one? A mission? Where would I be without this? (Me personally) On top of all of this…if your going to believe the Bible or be a Christian, then it requires you to attend Church, keep the sabbath day holy, pay a tithing, treat your body like a temple of God, and be a missionary! So even if you were going to leave the LDS church, you still have an obligation to do these things if you want to be a Bible believing Christian!
As the African proverb goes, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” If deep down your leaving because it’s too hard, then picture how hard it must have been for the early Christians to keep the faith in their day.
4. Anti-Mormon Literature
For me, much of the anti-Mormon literature that comes up is in fact more evidence of the Church being true. I have been grateful for much of it because it has caused me to reflect on issues that I did not previously consider. I’ve even become friends with the people that bring it up for discussion. It’s alright to be friends with people that disagree with you. There is no reason we can’t respect people’s opinions and still be friends.
But what you have to realize is that no anti-Mormon literature is unbiased. That is why it is called “anti”. Similarly, you’re probably not going to get an unbiased opinion from a devout Mormon either. Christ underwent the same scrutiny. The anti that was published about Him would make even the most loyal follower of Christ question their Christianity. But we don’t give it much attention because we know that it was written by His enemies.
If you’re presented with anti-Mormon literature, then its only fair that you research both sides equally and tenaciously. When I come across something “strange”, I research it and then sit on it. I ponder it. I don’t assume anything and I don’t jump to conclusions. I won’t make a rash decision on the matter. I consider all of the things that I currently accept and believe and then ask myself why I would be unwilling to believe the topic at hand.
For instance, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a Urim and Thummim and a seer stone. That is generally known and accepted. Then someone out of the blue tries to make Joseph Smith look like a freak by painting a picture of him burying his head in some “magical hat.” A seer stone or Urim and Thummim is referenced in Exodus 28:30, 1 Samuel 28:6, Num. 27:18-21, Ezra 2:63, Neh. 7:65, Ex. 28:30, Lev. 8:8 and in Revelation 2:17. The Hebrew transliteration of the names Urim and Thummim equate to “lights” and “perfections” respectively. So think about it. If you’re translating during the day with the assistance of a stone that gives off light, then why not put your face in a hat in order to create darkness wherein the light could shine?! Would it sound less weird or more acceptable if he used a blanket over his head instead of a hat?
This is just one of the many classic examples of something that just needs to be thought through and not exaggerated. In our day we say, “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” But Christ said it better. Don’t “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”
Many times, sin leads people to one or more of the items listed above. As much as we don’t want to recognize it, sin is a big deal to people. Our spirits are declaring war on our flesh when we sin. We physically feel bad when we do bad things because the light which is within us has been diminished. The effects of sin can take us in one of two directions. It can humble us to repentance, or it can stir us to anger, frustration, and irritability. If a person is unwilling to repent, the natural inclination is to prove that God isn’t real or His Church isn’t true. Therefore you’re off the hook and you don’t need to feel bad anymore. Guilt is present…and it must be removed. You either remove the commandments that caused it to be a sin or you ask Christ to remove the sin. If you are too embarrassed or proud to admit your mistakes then the four items above become attractive ways out of the Church and thereby away from the guilt. It is hard to repent, so it might seem easier to justify the Church being false and find a church or way of life that doesn’t hold you accountable for your actions.
I love the LDS Church. I haven’t found anything that makes more sense. I sin, I see anti-Mormon literature, the work is hard sometimes, I don’t understand every single thing that has come out of every Church leader’s mouth, and I’ve been offended a time or two…but the things I know…I know…and that is why I keep coming back.