Saturday, October 19, 2013

We Can't Judge People Who Leave the LDS Church, Even if We Think We Understand Them

I know quite a few people who have had some intense struggles, of various kinds and to varying degrees. I know quite a few who once were active in the LDS Church who no longer are, due to those struggles.  I appreciated, deeply, Pres. Uchtdorf's talk in the Saturday morning session of General Conference this month, in which he said the reasons people become inactive or even leave the Church are more complicated than we often realize and that we need to respect and not judge them.  I only add that this is true if we don't understand but also, especially, if we assume we do.  
The following is one example.  I share it only to illustrate the point I want to make at the end of this post:

I know someone who was unable to live at home for a while during his teenage years.  He lived with friends for a while after he could no longer live at home, and, during that time, he had a couple of incredibly strong spiritual experiences - after first deciding to listen to the missionaries because both sister missionaries were "absolute babes".  (What can I say; he was 18.)        He is highly intelligent, and he "got it" very quickly.  He and I had some long talks, and he really did have some awesome experiences and insights.    He was baptized while living with his friends, then left for college a few months later.

When he first started college, he often walked miles to get to church on Sunday.  However, he had some negative experiences in his new ward that don't need to be detailed here; suffice it to say that they were real and strong and incredibly disappointing to me.   As a result of those experiences and the subsequent lack of the type of support system he had when he joined the Church, he began to return to the life he had lived prior to his baptism.  His dysfunctional adolescence had caused some very serious issues, and, left on his own (even by his new ward), they resurfaced.   I have prayed for him and hoped for him (and still do), but I have seen his actions take him away from activity in the Church. That has not diminished my love for him in the slightest.  

He returned home once for the summer, and his father mocked his inactivity by saying something like, "I guess that Mormon thing isn't working out for you."   His response gave me hope in the midst of my concern. He said to his father, "I'm not living the way I should be living, but the Mormon Church is still the truest thing I've ever heard.  I just have to get myself together before I can live it."  

I hang onto faith that "when he is old, he will not depart from it".  I KNOW his experiences and insights were real; he knows they were real.  I have to trust that God's grace and mercy truly will save him from the results of Adam's transgression in his life - and I see the issues that are keeping him from full activity directly as a result of what he inherited and what he had to "become" to cope - and the experiences he had in a non-supportive environment when he first was on his own.

I believe the Atonement is MUCH more powerful than we often realize. Surely, God understands those whose struggles overwhelm them, in whatever way and for whatever reason, and we someday will "stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers (them); confused at the grace that so fully he proffers (them)." In the meantime, as I said at the beginning of this post, we must love and respect and support and comfort them, if we don't understand and even if we think we do. 


Glenn Thigpen said...

Let's just generalize a bit more. We should not be judging anyone.

Papa D said...

Yup, Glenn - there is that.