25 Things NOT to Say to a Loved One Leaving the Church (& what to say instead)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW is the owner/director of Wasatch Family Therapy, a popular blogger, an online mental health influencer, a local and national media contributor. Dr. Hanks’ new book The Assertiveness Guide For Women (download a free chapter) helps women find and use their authentic voices to improve their lives and relationships. Julie and her husband are the parents of four children. Visit DrJulieHanks.com for more tips on facing life’s challenges and to schedule coaching sessions. For therapy services in Utah visit WasatchFamilyTherapy.com. Connect on social media with @DrJulieHanks.

Finding out that a loved one has stepped away from Church activity or no longer believes in the Gospel can bring up a broad spectrum of emotions. Intense and often painful emotions can make it difficult to know what to say to your loved one about their choice to leave the Church.

These conversations are particularly painful because our family and community identities, religious rituals, cultural traditions, and vision of eternity are tied to having shared spiritual beliefs and practices.

When Mormons don’t know what to say, we may default to what we’ve been trained to do. We start teaching, preaching, and bearing testimony. This is an important and urgent missionary opportunity, right? Wrong.

Why? Because, even though teaching, preaching, and witnessing come from a place of love and concern for your loved one, it will most likely be perceived as judgmental, condescending, unloving, disrespectful and rejecting to the one on the receiving end. Ironically, in our effort to rescue the perceived “lost sheep”, we are likely to push that sheep farther away.

Personal agency is a foundational principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As adults, we get to fully exercise this agency, including the ability to define our spiritual beliefs religious practices. As active members, we should respect personal agency of other adults, even if it is not what we would choose for them or for ourselves.

Here are 25 things to avoid saying to your loved who is experiencing a faith transition (even if you believe they are true):

1) Are you reading your scriptures, praying, and attending church?
2) You are destroying our eternal family.
3) You are under the influence of Satan.
4) If you leave the Church you won’t be able to be with your deceased child in the
Celestial Kingdom.
5) How could you do this to me?
6) Your children will suffer and your marriage will fall apart if you leave.
7) I’m so worried about you.
8) I weep for you.
9) I don’t feel the Spirit when you’re talking.
10) Just don’t think about your questions and that everything will work out.
11) I just have faith that it’ll all work out and you should, too.
12) Is there a sin you need to confess?
13) Oh, I’ve been through that phase. You’ll come back.
14) I’ll come visit you in a lower kingdom in the next life.
15) So you’re an “anti-Mormon” now?
16) You’re just choosing to doubt because it’s trendy. Everyone’s having a “faith crisis.”
17) I never thought you would become an “apostate.”
18) You would be able to have another child if you were attending church and paying a full tithe.
19) You will never be truly happy without the Church.
20) I’ve studied Church history, too, and it doesn’t bother me.
21) Your countenance is dark.
22) I hope it doesn’t take a horrible tragedy to bring you back to the Church.
23) You were never truly converted. You must have never had a spiritual witness.
24) I fear for your eternal salvation.
25) It would have been better for you to never be born than to have the Gospel and turn away from it.

A loved one’s choice to leave the Church should never be a reason to reject them. Anyone who shuns their loved one or blames them for ruining their eternal family or eternal friendship are themselves damaging the relationship. The scriptures teach that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (D&C 130:2). There are no eternal families or eternal friendships without first having…a relationship.

Now that you have an idea of what is not helpful to say to loved ones, here are 25 things to say instead:

1) I love you.
2) We can believe different things and still be close.
3) I trust you to do what is best for you.
4) I want you to be happy.
5) What can I do to support you right now?
6) I know you didn’t make this decision lightly.
7) I respect your integrity and your strength.
8) You will always have a place here, no matter what.
9) I can’t imagine how hard this has been for you.
10) Tell me more about your journey (and then really listen).
11) I’d love to read the Church essays so that we can talk more.
12) You have legitimate concerns.
13) The world needs more people like you.
14) If anyone asks me about your decision, I’ll tell him or her to talk to you directly.
15) Your relationship with the Church has nothing to do with our relationship.
16) My love for you is constant and unconditional.
17) Even though I believe in the church, I believe you when you say you don’t know if it’s true.
18) You’re a good parent, son, daughter, etc.
19) You are a good person.
20) I’m not worried about you.
21) We all have our own unique paths.
22) Agency is an amazing gift.
23) I don’t understand where you’re coming from, but I want to.
24) I don’t know what to say.
25) I am here for you.

The most important things we, as a believers, can do to support loved ones who have stepped away from the Church are to listen to them, to learn from them, and to love them. I believe that those who leave the Church offer active members opportunities to learn and grow in significant ways that are crucial to our eternal salvation. By learning how to remain connected to loved ones in spite of disappointments, disagreements, and differences we are afforded opportunities to deepen our capacity to love and further develop our commitment to following the Savior.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this, Julie.

  2. Thank you!

  3. Is there no credence given to the idea that leaving the church is a form of betrayal?

    Marriage for a latter-day saint extends beyond a commitment to each other. Vows are made to God with the sacred expectation by all parties (God, spouse) that they’ll be kept.

    That doesn’t mean harsh judgement should be harshly given but we shouldn’t tenderly love people out of the church either. All you need is love isn’t our mantra without understanding that true love can’t be divorced from commandments and covenants.

    Individuals make mistakes and they need time and space to work it out between them God and the help of a spouse. That help won’t come from berating them, but ignoring the serious fracture and betrayal in the relationship with “I love you anyway” is only half an answer.

    The list of that 25 ideas is flawed if it doesn’t come with the expectation that ultimately any movement away from the Lord is a tragic mistake.

  4. The positive statements are what critics of the President-elect are supposed to say to Trump supporters and to Mr. Trump directly, right? Seriously, I think it is worth a try, particularly as the inauguration is approaching.

  5. HD: “leaving the church is a form of betrayal”

    And what do you call the many years of false or distorted teachings (and not just about our history) from the “church” that promised us it was the “true” church? Is it betrayal to seek out the truth wherever it can be found and distance oneself from the source of too many falsehoods or errors?

  6. HD- Your comment highlights a fundamental problem with the way many members respond to those who withdraw from the church- that is the assumption that the decision to leave the church is synonymous with “distancing” oneself from God. For many (perhaps most) people that is simply not true. It is assumptions like yours, and the harsh judgements that follow, which allienate and push people away. Your approach does profound harm to people and relationships.

  7. HD, you may or may not be correct about your loved one and that their loss of faith is a betrayal. But, the point is, if you damage the relationship, even if and when they repent and come back to church, that relationship is still damaged. You may never regain their trust because when they were going through a painful time, you thought that you being right was more important than love. No, Jesus said over and over that love is most important. He taught by example to love the sinners, not tell them that they are sinners. Telling them that you think they are sinners just makes you a judgemental sinner. So, maybe they repent and you are the one who betrayed the relationship by being a judgemental prick. Just think about your own sins and love others and you are following Jesus. Think about the sins of others and think you have any right to judge them and you are the one who betrays the relationship with your loved one and your relationship with God.

  8. HD, your reply becomes exhibit A as to why this list is desperately needed. We are commanded to above all, love unconditionally. Full stop. Any modifier, clarification, explanation you put on top of that is a judgemental condition, the kind Christ Himself spent His ministry eradicating.

  9. Thanks for this. My family is going through a huge transition right now. One of my siblings left the church a few years ago, the other left after the church shut down the legal marijuana legislation in Utah (he has chronic pain). I don’t think I ever put my foot in my mouth using that first list, but I could no doubt do a better job of using the second list.

    I would be very grateful for a column or discussion on how to handle it when a family member not only leaves the church, but *does* become increasingly negative, even anti- towards it. How do you balance your own spiritual uncertainty with your family member’s hostility? Do you invite those family members to baby blessings and baptisms? Do you attempt to discuss the church as a family or just avoid the topic altogether? How do parents balance the grief and guilt after being told that if you just teach your kids right, they’ll do right? How do you reconcile spiritual memories (seeing that person go on a mission, get married in the temple, bless their baby) with their current bitterness and negativity? Do you just let the lengthening silence push you further and further apart?

    I’ll be honest, I’m struggling.

  10. Thank you Julie!
    Re: “The most important things we, as a believers, can do to support loved ones who have stepped away from the Church are to listen to them, to learn from them, and to love them.”

    I agree, but church leaders have given opposite admonition. They don’t want believers to listen to or learn anything from people who have left.

    “We should disconnect immediately and completely from listening to the proselytizing efforts of those who have lost their faith, and instead reconnect promptly with the holy spirit.” (Elder L. Whitney Clayton, April 2016 BYU Commencement address).

  11. HD, Thanks for your thoughtful and sincere comments. Yes, a loved one leaving the faith is often experienced as form of individual and collective betrayal. The betrayal definitely needs to be addressed, but that is not the FIRST thing that the person leaving the Church needs to hear. If you start a conversation with “I feel betrayed by your choice” it will almost certainly push them away. I’m not suggesting that the betrayal should never be addressed. I’m suggesting it’s not the most productive initial response.

    I think you bring up some excellent points and some that I see as very problematic. For example, “The list of that 25 ideas is flawed if it doesn’t come with the expectation that ultimately any movement away from the Lord is a tragic mistake.” I don’t believe that movement away from the Church is always a tragic mistake. I believe that it often *feels* like a tragic mistake to those loved ones who are still active in the Church. “That doesn’t mean harsh judgement should be harshly given but we shouldn’t tenderly love people out of the church either.” I have never known anyone who was tenderly loved out of the Church. I am curious to know what that looks like.

  12. ^^ Julie drops mic……

  13. imreadyformycloseupmrdemille says:

    I think part of what HD *might* have been trying to articulate, is the concern that someone who affords great gravity to their covenant-keeping feels when they are confronted with a love one choosing not to keep those covenants. If there is spiritual power afforded those who keep their covenants, then there is assumed to be a spiritual vulnerability associated with breaking them, and if you love someone then that is a real concern and fear. But I can’t see a constructive way to articulate that to them, especially at the onset of the development. Having the concern (and praying about the concern) seems to me to be a very separate thing from expressing the concern to the loved one without an abundance of loving and supportive expressions first (and probably for a long enough time to establish them without question, prior to trying to breach any such conversation).

  14. I still attend church Sundays but don’t believe many of its teachings now. However I still believe in God etc and identify as a believing Christian. The Bishop and his counsellors know as do some close friends. They are supportive. I am the only member in my family so that makes it easier in some ways. The church teaches us to be honest and I couldn’t pretend to believe in what I didn’t. I don’t know where my faith will lead-I look at this as an evolution of my faith. But I like this list and it makes sense to me.

  15. @Imreadyformy…
    Just because someone leaves the Church doesn’t mean they are breaking them or don’t take their covenants seriously. It may be hard for orthodox saints to understand how you can keep baptismal and temple covenants ourside of the Church, but there are those who do so.

  16. The ‘covenant breaker’ line seems like unrighteous dominion with a dash of blackmail. Making deadly serious covenants at the age of 8, then going through the temple in your late teens, not even knowing what you’re about to promise is problematic. It doesn’t seem ethical to hold that over people’s heads for the rest of their lives.

  17. I have a son that has stepped away from the Church. I find it is best for me to confine myself to “my job” as a parent, which is to love him, his wife & our grandchild. I have a Savior, as does my son, & altho I will pray for our son & his family, & keep their names of the temple prayer roll, the Lord gave my son his agency, & it is not my place to take it away. I am a convert, & the Lord was perfectly capable of helping me find & cross the bridge to His church. I am comfortable leaving my son’s salvation in the capable hands of the Lord. My job is to love my son; I can do that.

  18. Well done, Julie. Thank you.

  19. anon nona says:

    These recommendations goes both ways.

    Those that leave the church need to be careful of what THEY say to people who still attend church. Especially to family members.

    I am the only child of my parents who stayed in the church. The harassment by so called family, and the hateful things they said, and how they treated me was terrible. I finally cut myself off from all of them. I was tired of them constantly picking fights with me and their condescending attitudes.

    Last year at my mother’s funeral, in an LDS church, and after the funeral, these arses could not resist getting their digs in at me.

  20. A couple of years ago, after absorbing the implications of some of the Gospel Topics Essays, I slipped into something of an existential crisis that I’m still working through. HD seems to think that ignoring the elephant in the room while adding another dose of dogma and guilt will motivate us to put both of our feet back in the boat. But because trust has been compromised, that rebuke isn’t as universally effective as it used to be. Some of us need the therapeutic release that comes from expressing to our loved ones (without judgement) what the additions/corrections to Church history have done to the foundation we built our lives upon. Bless you, Julie, for your thoughtful guidance.

  21. A good friend of mine with whom I had served in the leadership of a high priest group drove four hours to support me by attending my baptism in another denomination. At an informal reception afterwards he gave me a warm, congratulatory hug and then said, “I can really see the darkness in your countenance!”

  22. Thanks Julie. I think your suggestions follow what President Uchtdorf said in conference:

    One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”

    Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.

    Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.

    In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.5

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/come-join-with-us?lang=eng

    It is also consistent with this article by a convert, whose father continued to love him unconditionally after the convert joined the church, and, when all four of the convert’s children left the LDS church, the convert decided to follow his own father’s example, and continue to love them and support them unconditionally. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/06/my-fathers-loving-example?lang=eng

  23. Thanks for this Julie. And DavidH–very touching–thanks!

    I think what is confusing to some/many LDS people–particularly family members of those who have left–is what constitues condoning “sin?” They still love their ex-Mormon family member but feel if they stop “preaching/teaching” and simply ignore/accept choices their family member makes they themselves are committing a sin.

    And, as others have pointed out it is very difficult to be around someone who has left and has now taken on the role of “converting” others to his/her new “ex”status—pushing hypercritical and negative views onto those who remain active.
    (Fwiw neither of these pertain to any of my own personal experiences)

  24. Thanks, Julie. Good work.
    To some of the critical comments, I find myself wanting to coin a response:
    “some things that are true are not very useful” (Dallin Oaks) –> “some things you think are true are not very useful” –> “some things you think are true will damage others” –> “some things you think are true will damage others and destroy relationships.”

  25. If you are a committed member of the church, it is frightening when someone you love separates from the church. Our faith is not a free-standing thing; we always lean on others for strength. With loved ones questioning their own faith, it can be a struggle to keep our balance. Even if our testimonies seem secure, there are other parts of our lives that can become less stable when a loved one leaves the church.

    When we’re scared, we often lash out at others. That seems to be a natural thing. A kind of self-defense, I guess. The statements on Julie’s bad list can be a way of setting up a wall to protect ourselves. We say something hurtful, and then we justify it by telling ourselves that we are trying to help. And the wall we’re building becomes very effective, but not in the way we intended.

    Julie’s list of good statements sort of presumes that we can be strong in the face of a personal crisis—that we can be steady, patient, stalwart. Well, we don’t always feel strong, but it’s really important at first to squelch the fear. Just remember that the things you say should always be kind and loving. If you do that, then eventually you’ll have an opportunity to add another statement to Julie’s good list: “I’m scared about how this might affect our relationship, and I don’t want to lose you. Can you help me with that?”

  26. stephencranney says:

    In general agree with the list and OP. However, people promoting such an approach need to be wary of coming off as challenging LDS truth “true and living” truth claims. Promoting a reconciliatory approach within the framework of the orthodox perspective would be most likely to be effective. From the Mormon perspective, not all religious trails get up the mountain, and trying to convince TBMs otherwise is crossing its own line.

  27. Hi Anon, You raise some great questions. Thank you. I’ll answer some briefly and likely write about them in a longer article some time.

    Q: “I would be very grateful for a column or discussion on how to handle it when a family member not only leaves the church, but *does* become increasingly negative, even anti- towards it. How do you balance your own spiritual uncertainty with your family member’s hostility?”
    A: Boundaries are key. You can be loving and inclusive AND say “I understand that you have a lot hostility toward the Church. I love you, and I’m not in a place where I can understand and empathize with your hostility.”

    Q: “Do you invite those family members to baby blessings and baptisms?”
    A: Yes. Leave it up to them to attend the event or not.

    Q: “Do you attempt to discuss the church as a family or just avoid the topic altogether?”
    A: Depends on the relationship, your comfort level, where you are and where they are. Sensitivity is required, but you don’t need to avoid Church topics altogether. Your loved one can excuse themselves from the conversation if they feel uncomfortable. This is the lesson of relationships — how do you stay true to yourself while maintaining your connection with others.

    Q: How do parents balance the grief and guilt after being told that if you just teach your kids right, they’ll do right?
    A: Recognize that that is not true. That our children belong to our Heavenly Parents. Their journey is their own. If that equation was true our Heavenly Parents who lost 1/3 would be drowning in grief and guilt for eternity.

    Q: How do you reconcile spiritual memories (seeing that person go on a mission, get married in the temple, bless their baby) with their current bitterness and negativity?
    A: Recognize that where they are now doesn’t negate any of the past experiences that you’ve shared together. It’s also helpful to remember that we are on an eternal journey of growth and your child will not stay where they are forever.

    Q: Do you just let the lengthening silence push you further and further apart?
    A: No need to have lengthening silence with a loved one, unless that’s what you have both agreed to that. The sooner you can accept that your adult child’s choice isn’t about you, the easier it is to hear their pain and love them through it.

    Hope this helps. This is hard stuff…and that’s where the most important spiritual lessons are learned. Hugs to you on your journey.

  28. GST, Ouch. Hard to believe he couldn’t think of anything encouraging to say. Wow. Often the comment, “I see darkness in your countenance” or “I don’t feel the spirit” is a way for highly religious and not very emotionally aware people to say “I’m uncomfortable right now” or “This is new for me and I feel awkward.”

  29. This is perfect! Now could you help those who have stayed in the church know how much we have studied? Years! How absolutely untrue this church is and how much we’ve been lied too? I was born with this brainwashing it took 52 years before I figured it out. I am so much more spiritual now. I’m so embarrassed that I was relief society president for so long. Please open up your brains and hearts!

  30. Ron Hathcock says:

    These should be obvious to us, but we’re too conditioned by our culture (not the Gospel!) to try to win arguments. But why win an argument if it means losing the relationship and the love that once united you?

  31. Thank you Lane for validating anon nona’s point that this problem can cut both ways…

  32. My challenge is I’m getting whiplash from changing positions. “Don’t treat me any differently. Just talk to me about everything you used to” so I follow the request. Then, “Why are you talking about that to me?” I explain I didn’t want to treat this individual any differently as requested. Then the response comes “I changed my mind about that”. Also “If you have questions about where I stand on something, ask me directly.” So when I follow this advice “Why are you asking me questions…it’s none of your business.” So when I remind this individual that I was told to ask questions directly, the response is given that they changed their mind on that as well. I am never clear on what the latest thinking is so I just try to follow #16 & #25. I understand it’s a process but you can see how confusing it is for those of us who are sincerely trying to understand.

  33. Tiberius you are so correct! I’m sorry that was the worst and mean comment. Sometimes the anger comes out, so sorry! Kindness is key!

  34. Anon

    Im sorry that your going through this and have gone through it. I am one of those that “left” the church. Not because of questions about the Teachings but because of the crap that I saw while I was away from home after I turned 18. No I did not serve a Mission but chose to join the military. I never lost my Faith in the Lord nor lost belief in the Church. The way my family treat me as brother son nephew and so on isnt the way that either list really states but there are parts that have been used and still are being used. At this point I dont know if I will return to the Fold or not. The best thing in my experiance is to treat your sibling the same as you have treated him your entire life. The sibling has not changed and nor have you. Let them know that they are always welcome to join whatever activities are going on no matter what.

    My family dont hesitate to talk about the faith with me and know why I have chosen not to attend. What you may try is to talk to the family member and see if you can work your way to letting them know that you will always be there to listen to whatever they want to talk about. In time they will let you know what caused them to leave the church and become negative or anti toward it. Above all be patient with them and give them your love and support in what they chose to do. It is my opinion that you will find out what is/was/will be going on for the sibling.

    And just so you know I “left” the church right after I turned 18 and for a long time was very negative towards it and was for a long time.

    I hope this helps you at least a little bit.

  35. I would add to that list, ” I will pray for you.” As if I needed “saving”.

  36. @ Lane: Adam Sandler from the movie Spanglish:

    “Its just pretty wild to say something to somebody and have the other person just concede the point, I’m dazed here.”

    Seriously though, major props for being cool and secure enough to do that (apologize for the tone, not implying that you retracted the basic belief therein). I felt a twinge of guilt over the snark of my rebuttal right after I hit submit.

    My friends can think I’m crazy and/or brainwashed for my beliefs, and I can not even begin to understand where they’re coming from in their secular worldviews no matter how hard I try, but we can still laugh about old times over coffee/hot chocolate. To quote SW Kimball, it’s God’s Church, I’ll let Him worry about it.  

  37. Not sure if it’s appropriate to add a link, but my friend has a series of guest posts on her blog from married couples where one spouse left the church, how they’re making it work. (First post is by a couple who started out married life with only one in the church, so just scroll down a bit).
    http://www.marriagelaboratory.com/blog/category/faith-transitions/

  38. The problem is that while I can honestly and genuinely say #1 and #4 (as well as some others), I’m surprised at how many of the others I cannot genuinely say. I guess I’m supposed to realize that represents a short-coming in myself, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. For example, #2 may not be entirely. It’s hard to be feel as close to someone who rejects something that means so much to you, especially if it’s something you both shared previously. That source of closeness is gone. And it sucks.

  39. Sorry, I was referring to the second set.

  40. Thanks for the thoughtful replies, Julie and Fish. It helps.

  41. Julie, my friend was joking.

  42. A very timely topic. Thanks.

    Something I would like to understand from the perspective of people who no longer believe in the “Church” (in quotes since I’m not sure what each person means by this term) is how one goes epistemologically from not being sure the Church is “true” and having uncertainty to actively believing that it is not true. For example, Mormons have a narrative about how one gains a testimony, generally through some sort of spiritual manifestation. Is there an equivalent of spiritual manifestation for unbelief? What is it that for some people pushes uncertainty to conviction of untruth? Asking to try and understand better.

  43. I would avoid saying 2-25. I would find a way to lovingly encourage a loved one’s re-engagement with the scriptures, prayer and taking the Sacrament.

  44. karenmfifield says:

    I hope to hear this in general conference one day!

  45. GJS. What if the loved one leaving the church IS engaged in prayer, fasting, scripture study and regularly partaking of the sacrament? Not everyone who leaves the church does so because they don’t have a belief in Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, etc. You might want to listen to a loved one’s reasons for leaving before jumping to conclusions and lovingly advising them about how to regain spirituality they haven’t lost. Hense, why #1 is included on the list.

    Natalie. This might be a hard and too brief answer to your question but some come to the conclusion that the church is not true when they discover truth. Much of what we teach as truth in the church is many times just tradition and not truth. As an example, several stories in the ” My Heritage” Sunday school manual are misleading and neglect facts to construct stories that inspire belief in the “Church” or paint the church with a glowing light. (Picture a ransom note made from letters and words in a true story cut and spliced together to create a totally different message.) When members are exposed to “things as they really are”, it is jarring. Many compare the experience to discovering that Santa Claus is not real.
    .

  46. Tiberius, I would be very interested in the source and/or context for your quotation from SW Kimball. I can’t find it.

  47. Kevin Barney says:

    gst, I could always see the darkness in your countenance, even when you were LDS…

  48. @ JR: My bad, it was LeGrand Richards who said it: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1994/06/wisdom-and-order?lang=eng

  49. Thank you Robin, for being you, strong, loving, kind, good, generous in thought and deed, full of charity, honest, open, and so talented. Thank you for being so patient with me. This article is good.. Thanks for posting. It takes humanity to a higher level of what true charity is. We are all on this journey together as free agents. Each journey is unique and as we honor and respect our differences, we will grow in understanding toward wholeness. I do and will always charish everything about you. I love you, mom

  50. I like what Julie’s presented in this post. I respect agency. Agency is a gift from God. When someone uses their agency to leave the church they are exercising their gift from God.

  51. Janae – I would say in response to your comment on mine, that lovingly discussing scripture study, prayer and the Sacrament is not jumping to conclusions, but would be an essential part of a response when having a grown-up discussion of why a loved one might wish to step aside from Church activity. No conversation of this nature can ever be fruitful unless it is in the spirit of Section 121 – persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness. I don’t think conversations in such a spirit are would be ” judgmental, condescending, unloving, disrespectful and rejecting to the one on the receiving end” as the original blog post describes. It does behoove the person seeking to understand and to give succor to the loved one to be as immersed in scriptures, fasting and prayer as they would like the person they are seeking to encourage to be.

  52. These are good ideas and ones I certainly need to practice. But as the wife of someone who has left the church, I believe the list isn’t quite complete. The list needs to go both ways. What about the list that says what the person who has left the church should and shouldn’t say to their loved one who still believes? Some of the comments I receive from my husband are way worse than anything I have said to him. In addition, where is the responsibility and ownership for their actions? I completely believe my husband has the right to choose his path, but his choice affected me and our children, and no one has told him he needs to take responsibility or even acknowledge how his choice has affected those around him. Because of his choice, and because I have chosen to stay married to him, I have to attend church and the temple without my spouse. I no longer have the priesthood in my home, my children don’t have their father to perform sacred ordinances on their behalf. I will not be able to be a temple worker or serve a mission with my spouse. Home decisions are no longer made by prayerful discussion and I’m belittled if I pray about a decision before making it. Where is the list to remind the ex-mormons that their loved ones are hurting from their actions and they need to be just as understanding, loving, and tolerant as they are asking us to be?
    I know I need to work on things, but I’m not the only one.
    Please publish a list of things they should and shouldn’t say also.

  53. This is an interesting discussion. Betrayal trauma works both ways. The person who left the church is often bitter because they feel they have been deceived. When they reach out to either share what they think they have found, or to warn other people not to be hurt the way they were, they are again rejected. (This is what I see Julie trying to help us through, not pushing a hurt person farther from the emotional safety net they need to process their new reality in a healthy way.)

    At the same time, the support person/system is hit with an unexpected betrayal of its own. As active members of the church we expect certain foundations to be in place, such as temple covenants and shared activity in church. The trauma of finding out a partner no longer believes in something our lives are built around is really scary. The easiest solution seems to be to go back to how things were instead of ahead. We blame the other person for the betrayal we feel, not a good place to offer support from.

    I went through a time when I was trying to discover what parts of my “testimony” I really believed and what was just the result of childhood learning and social conditioning. There are a lot of voices on the internet to turn to, some helpful in finding answers and others that are great at reinforcing feelings of betrayal. My husband, who I would have considered to be the less active of the two of us, gave me exactly what I needed- a place to process new ideas without being condemned. He let me know that he would keep our children in the church no matter what I decided to do personally, and he let me share with him some interesting things I was learning, without me thinking I could “convert him” because he wasn’t looking for anything else at the time. Through this, I learned that his love for me was not conditioned on my conformity to specific actions or beliefs. His acceptance made our relationship more authentic, and I was more willing to be cautious in my approach to finding my faith and sharing controversial perspectives with my children, out of respect for him. The times he tried to tell me what not to do, it felt extremely controlling and I wanted to go my own way regardless of his feelings.

  54. My wife had some difficulty posting this comment:
    “Betrayal cuts both ways. If we consider that a valid objection when someone leaves the Church, we certainly should understand that objection when someone joins it. I joined the LDS Church while in college; I was the first person in my family to join. My parents felt betrayed and rejected. I had rejected them and all that I had been taught in Sunday School, Bible School, etc. At no time in my journey did anyone in Church acknowledge this common dynamic affecting converts. Instead of offering support when I spent Mothers Day or Easter Sunday with my family in their church, I was repeatedly admonished of the dangers of skipping Sacrament Meeting. This LDS cultural behavior signals a fundamental arrogance, lack of respect for those in other religious faiths, along with refusal to understand and accommodate the needs of the Outsider (i.e. convert).

  55. “…lovingly discussing scripture study, prayer and the Sacrament is not jumping to conclusions, but would be an essential part of a response when having a grown-up discussion of why a loved one might wish to step aside from Church activity.”

    I think the problem isn’t discussing scripture study, prayer, etc.. I think the problem is putting pressure on another person to study their scriptures, pray, etc. That pressure of ‘do it the way the church tells you to’ or ‘conform to the church’s way of thinking’ is something a person struggling with the church has to figure out. It can be the center of someone’s struggles. So when someone is fighting with just that and a well-meaning active member steps in and kindly, lovingly puts pressure on the person, it causes all kinds of negative reactions inside the person feeling the pressure. I like to ask myself if I can love without pressure or expectations.

  56. Anonym:

    You can keep some covenants outside the Church, including, I believe, the most important ones. However, some, like consecrating everything one has to the Church, are basically impossible (or at least extremely improbable) to keep as a former member.

  57. I understand HD concerns. When a person marries in the temple they promise to live the teachings of the church and be an eternal family. If even one person bails, no eternal family. This is especially worrisome for a woman because she can be sealed to only one person. Then the woman faces the prospect of being sealed to someone she may not even know! It takes huge amount of Christlike love on each side to navigate thru this. It can be done but the more orthodox the believer the harder it is.

  58. Jayna Lindsay j says:

    As a mother of 2 children who have “left
    The Church”, I have a problem with
    #13 & 20. I DO NOT Believe the world
    needs more people that give up the
    Church of their ancestors who gave
    up so much so that we can have all
    that we have.
    I could never truthfully say #20. We
    have never said any of the things on the first list! But are you saying
    that we should say the things on the second one even if we don’t
    really believe it?
    Thank you for addressing this issue!
    Jayna Lindsay

  59. Dragon Lady says:

    Great article. It’s so hard to hold back, particularly as a parent, when you think your adult children are making a mistake. I’ve been on both sides of this. My adult child left the church, and I was in a position of having to do my best to handle my own devastation with grace. The thought I kept having as I went through it was that I had to decide what kind of relationship I was going to have with him. Did I respect him? Was I going to allow him to make his own choices? Did I still want to be involved in his life and be someone he could come to and rely on in his life? Or did I want to create a situation in which he would see me as overstepping my bounds and being overbearing? When he told me about his lack of belief, I could tell he was scared what I would say and do and how this would affect his standing with us. It wasn’t easy for him, but he’s a great person, and I’m still so proud of him. It’s not my job (now that he’s an adult) to exert my will on his life or even to insert my opinions about his choices when unasked. He’s going to make mistakes just like I did, but it is his life.

    Likewise, I was on the receiving end of a very hurtful attempt by my mother to correct me about the church, even though I haven’t in fact left the church. We have different perspectives on things, which makes her think I’m anti-Mormon which I am not. She is very critical of my life choices and of me. I haven’t actually left the church, although there are things about it that bother me, but she still chose her version of the church over me. That’s how relationships end. I don’t really see any path forward, and that’s probably fine with her. It feels like it’s all about her. I reallyhope I’ve avoided that mistake with my son.

  60. Natalie,

    Many people who determine the church isn’t true describe it as their “shelf breaking.” As in for years, you put all the things you don’t understand or agree with on a shelf in the back of your mind, and one day you add one more thing and it all crashes down. Common shelf breakers are Joseph Smith polygamy or the CES letter, but there’s a wide variety. Sometimes this is after having questioned for a while, but sometimes it comes out if nowhere. The whole process is very individual, but pretty much every exmormon I’ve talked to can point to one moment and say “that’s when I realized it wasn’t true.”

  61. HD, thank you! I share your concern. The list seems to be based on the assumption that the Church is not the only path to salvation in the Celestial Kingdom and that leaving the Church brings no negative or eternal consequences. I understand how someone who leaves the Church would make that assumption, but no faithful latter-day saint believes that. Certainly we should be kind and respectful to those who leave the Church, but for many faithful members saying many of the things suggested on this list would feel completely dishonest. For example, apply this list to finding out a family member is abusing drugs and you will quickly see how silly it is (“What can I do to support you in your drug abuse right now?” “I trust you to do what is best for you.”). It seems like these two lists offer a false dichotomy where our choice is either to be rude or to lie. I would like a list that describes how we can kindly express concern about a choice we know is wrong. We must follow the counsel of Elder Oaks and balance love and law. These lists do not do that.

  62. Funny story, true story: A year ago I was trying out a new therapist. We had a handful of sessions (3-5, I can’t remember the exact number) when we both found out that we were Mormon. Living in Michigan it’s always best to assume that someone ISN’T Mormon, so for a couple minutes it was kind of neat. But the revelation came because I had started to talk about how I was (and am) inactive and the reasons for my choice to take a voluntary leave of absence from active participation.

    After the first blush of excitement, my therapist began to interrogate me about my standing with God. Frankly, it felt a lot like a temple recommend interview–was I praying, reading my scriptures, the works. She clearly felt that the coincidence that had brought us into each other’s orbits meant that she was supposed to bring me back to God.

    After the session, on my drive home, I laughed to myself that I it was a good thing that there were things she didn’t know about me yet. The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became. As luck would have it, I was leaving on a 2 week vacation, enough time for me to decide to cancel all future appointments.

    So that’s my story. And, yeah, for future reference, if you’re a mental health professional you should probably NOT react the way my former therapist did.

  63. Mark and HD – The notion that leaving the church is the same as being a drug abuser is where the relationship will certainly go off the rails. It IS a terribly harmful thing to treat someone who is daring (yes, daring!) enough to go through their faith crisis and leave when they know most of their friends and family will disapprove and distance themselves from them like they are a drug abuser who is throwing their life away. People who leave still need their loved ones’ love and support. Well meaning folk who keep saying the items listed in the don’t list like yourselves cause more harm than good, and WILL convince people leaving the church to distance themselves from you. That is, if you haven’t made that move yourself already. If items on the do list are a lie for you, don’t say them. But come on, please be respectful enough to avoid the don’t list as well. And stop treating people who leave like lazy, drug addicted heathens!

  64. I can think of one way that drug addicts and people in a faith crisis are alike: they both need to be loved without boundaries or conditions. As do we all.

  65. To love someone without limits is not the same as to indulge that person. But when it’s hard to tell the difference, always err in favor of love.

  66. I think Christian’s observation, referencing Elder Packer’s (in)famous observation that not everything which is true is useful, above is an important one.

    The fact that I believe that the church offers the surest path to salvation does not automatically mean that it will be a useful thing to say at all times to all people. As others have pointed out, in some situations, declaring that truth has the potential to drive people even further away from it. If you believe that the church offers the surest path to salvation, then the last thing you would want to do is drive people further from it, or invite them to go from just questioning the church to setting their faces against it like a flint because of well-meaning, but not very empathetic, comments from members.

    If you can’t say something because to you it isn’t true, then by all means don’t say it, but I think there’s a good deal of truth in our mothers’ lesson that if we can’t say something kind, in most cases we probably shouldn’t say anything at all.

  67. Charlotte says:

    Natalie, thank you for wanting to understand! It’s very individual, but I’ll share a little about my story. I was an active member until my late 30s. Believe me I fully understand the pain and disappointment my family and friends are experiencing because I used to believe as they do. It breaks my heart that my change in beliefs is causing others pain, that is the last thing I want!

    My change in beliefs was primarily from learning new information and coming to the conclusion that I do not believe the truth claims of the church. It is more of a factual logical decision where it comes down to to my not believing the Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham are translated ancient scriptures or even “inspired” works and therefore I no longer believe in the church. I have an extensive list of problems I have with the church in addition to this, but if I do not believe the primary truth claims I just can’t believe in it.

    As I was researching, thinking, and analyzing all of this, I did feel what I used to label “the spirit” quite strongly testifying to me that this was not the true church. It was as strong or stronger than anything I felt as a member of the church. However, after studying how people all over the world have the same feelings and experiences about their religions as members of the LDS church do, I do not use that as the primary basis of my decisions.

    I have tried to be as loving and respectful of my friends and family that I can. I do not want to destroy their faith. It hurts that believing what I believe makes others think I am “negative” and “anti” rather than having a different religious opinion. My family doesn’t believe why I am actually leaving even though I have explained it. They are sure that I am just “offended,” don’t understand things correctly or am deceived by Satan. Even if someone believes you are deceived by Satan, it is most unhelpful to tell someone this- LOL.

  68. matthewscottkern says:

    Thanks Julie.

    The core message to me is: treat the individual as a rational adult that you respect and care for. Avoid anything that shows superiority or accusations, because let’s be honest we are all in this mysterious thing called life together.

    Key ingredient: epistemological humility

  69. 67 comments makes this a hot topic. I’ve read only a few of the comments and I haven’t followed any of the inevitable conflicted conversations. I had much the same experience as Megan with a woman my therapist asked me to consult, who turned out to be LDS, as I discovered when I talked to her about the damage I had received as a result of patriarchal church culture. She didn’t lecture me, but the emotional temperature dropped to frosty in a moment, and we had troubles from that point on. Since dealing with my church issues wasn’t my main reason for seeking therapy, we were able to navigate through it, with my therapist’s encouragement.

    Speaking only for myself, I reject the term “faith crisis.” I have made some changes with how I relate to the church, but my faith remains largely intact. I still have faith in Christ and conduct my life as best I can according to His direction, but at church we are sidetracked with our idolatry of the ideal family. Since I refuse to accept myself and my family as less-than, I’ve stopped participating with the enthusiastic fervor I once had, and feel a sense of loss over the discipline that was the side benefit to all that participation. But I have well-honed skills for dealing with such anomalies, so I manage rather well without it being a crisis. I welcome any heartfelt inquiries that come from a place of respectful concern from family or friends, and I can tell that there has been attention given to my situation, but no one has spoken directly to me about it. It would be mystifying if I didn’t understand it so well.

    Another thing I understand is that some people are more fragile than me, so I respect their continued faithful fervor and try not to impede their journey. Even though I can’t unsee things I have seen, and have taken a divergent path, we can still honor the bonds of family and friendship, and deal with each other with respect. Diversity is a good thing in one’s life.

  70. Also worth noting here, Marquart and Shepard’s Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of the Twelve shows that Joseph Smith for the most part remained on friendly terms with the members of the 12 that left the Church. Good example for how we should approach these issues.

    I think the C.S. Lewis approach has helped me here: people end up where they’d be happiest. A Bill Maher who loves the single life is simply not going to be happy in the LDS Celestial Kingdom given that its defining characteristic is family without end. God doesn’t want people to embrace the gospel because of threats or guilt trips, but because they want what the gospel offers. If they don’t want it, I’m a bit befuddled but that’s it, I don’t feel threatened, and I’m sure God certainly doesn’t either. Many of the people in the telestial kingdom probably think that the telestial kingdom would be funner anyway.

    If we’re serious about agency, we can’t pay lip service to it and then obviate it with extreme sociocultural pressure and emotional manipulations. Those strategies are more likely to backfire anyway.

  71. Thank you for this excellent post. I agree that this is the right course of action to take. Unfortunately, there is a large body of LDS teachings strongly suggesting the kinds of statements/questions you say should be avoided. I fear that unless these teachings are dealt with in some coherent fashion (either by the Church collectively or by a member individually) the behavior is not likely to change much.

    So, besides your excellent prescription, I think individuals need to be made aware of the sometimes competing tension between the individual growth and totalistic mindsets of the Church. Once they are aware of this tension, they can (I think), more easily choose to embrace a growth mindset and reject a totalistic one.

  72. What does you say to someone who rejects post-Protestant Secularism, the apparent religion of the author and the most of the commentators here?

  73. I would remind them of this site’s policy against questioning the religious devotion or worthiness of one’s fellow saints. I doubt it would work, but I would give it a shot.

  74. What does you say indeed.

  75. Many of my family and friends who are devout LDS reject post-Modern Secularism so I have lots of experience maintaining relationships with them. It’s not hard at all when one values people above policy or principles. People are of infinite worth; luckily most of us don’t have authority to judge each other’s policy and principles.

  76. Kenzo: “I would remind them of this site’s policy against questioning the religious devotion or worthiness of one’s fellow saints.”

    I apologize for violating this policy; I was not aware of it. The opposite, in fact, seems to be the norm here at “By Common Consent”: several of the posts here, including this one, “question the religious devotion or worthiness” of several groups of what I presume are “fellow saints”. This particular post questions the “devotion or worthiness” of the family and friends of those leaving the Mormon church.

    In the past few months, the primary purpose of several posts at “By Common Consent” has been to air misgivings about the “religious devotion or worthiness” of the following groups:

    -Mormon church officials
    -Mormons who follow Mormon church officials
    -Mormons who voted for Donald Trump
    -The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

    Overall, the group whose “religious devotion or worthiness” is impugned most seems to be “Mormon church officials”, trailed closely by “Mormons who follow them”. These two groups have been eclipsed as targets of late by “Mormons who voted for Donald Trump”, but this seems to be an understandable and temporary aberration following the American election.

    I may be wrong: my comprehension may be as bad as my grammar (hat tip to Hawkgrrrl). On the other hand, some websites I have visited selectively enforce similar policies to ensure a certain continuity of opinion. I have a hard time detecting this, due to a congenital defect that cripples my sense of social nuance. If I have misjudged this site, I apologize again.

  77. Catherine Totten says:

    Marrying into a family with members belonging to various religions, including Jewish, as well as Christian, I learned a very valuable lesson. It is sometimes difficult to understand others beliefs, making it easy to discount their validity or sincerity instead. Several family members were upset about my being “Mormon”, and even more upset finding my husband, their son, was now a baptized member. Over time we became familiar with everyone’s different beliefs, and found very much in common. The most valuable thing for me to learn was the sincerity and devotion they each felt for their religion. It was the truth they lived their lives by. They are every bit as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine, and I gradually learned that having those sincere core values are the guideposts of peoples’ lives. My sibling in laws have all raised good upstanding families who make a difference in the world, and who are raising upstanding children themselves. They are righteous people in all the ways that matter, although have no interest in joining our church. What they have is complete respect and love for our family and the lives we live, as we do for them. Religions appeal to different people for different reasons, and I think we have to accept and respect that people’s feeling of truth and doctrine can be different, and it doesn’t make them less or bad. Our family is active LDS, the rest of the family is a variety of religions, and they’re all active in each of theirs. I don’t know what this will mean on the other side, and how everyone will be judged, but I know I want to be judged for loving all my family, and supporting them in their efforts to live their lives as good people the best that they can. I think it is the same inside our church. We teach and lead, but the journey is individual and Heavenly Father loves us all as we travel through the path of life. I can not know what is in a member’s heart, if they decide they have to turn away, but I know I can find a place in my heart to accept, value and love them, and give the benefit that they are trying to find their way through life as honestly as they can, and not judge them as bad or failing. Someday we will have all the answers, but in the meantime, I believe our job is to lift each other up wherever we can, even in the painful areas where people are questioning or leaving the faith.

  78. I DO NOT Believe the world
    needs more people that give up the
    Church of their ancestors who gave
    up so much so that we can have all
    that we have.

    Coming from a Mormon, that is hilarious.

  79. When my husband started to become anti-church I didn’t know how to respond. It would have been helpful for me to see that this was his personal choice, his personal challenge and didn’t affect me or our relationship. There was a lot more going on than I could see and more than he could handle. He suicided. I have since had 2 children leave the church and don’t really know where I stand on church doctrine. All I feel sure of is the importance and endurance of love and our family relationships. I do trust my children to make good decisions for themselves. I do believe that their life journey’s will be right for them. And I very strongly believe that my job as mother isn’t to tell them what they should do but to support them completely so that they can make good decisions for themselves. This life is hard enough already let’s be there to love and support each other as we each do the best we can.

  80. Keith Sims says:

    My son also left the church, and now lives a life apart from the doctrines that he learned. I do not know if he will ever return, although I hope he will. It will affect our eternal relationship, but rather than being distraught, I put our relationship in the context of the whole of existence. In the pre-existence, he was not my little son, but he made the choice to be with me in the here and now. He is a grown man now, and it is his choice to decide the path he will take, leave, what-have-you. It must, however, be his decision. I can bear my testimony, and I continue to do so (in a way that doesn’t distance him), but he must choose whom he will serve.

    Regardless, I see many positive qualities in him. I like and love him as my son and as a person, even though he may not choose the course I have chosen for myself. I don’t know what lies ahead for eternally, but while I can in this life I will love him all I can, and do my best to let him know it. As for judgment…well, that’s not reserved for me, and I’ll not entertain the idea to pursue it this life.

  81. I am a free-thinker and my brother is a straight arrow. We have pretty much broken most of these suggestions and worse. (He excommunicated me from the church once). But we agree at the end of the day we are always brothers. We also used to play a form of basketball against each other where just about any foul imaginable was missed by the hypothetical referee and it was more like a brawl. But at the end of the game we were still brothers.

    One important question we cannot seem to get close to answering is how big is the problem of people leaving the church? I think it is huge, maybe as much as 30 to 50% of the church. I look at retention in wards like mine where baptisms are high, like 30 or more, and 90% of them are gone in a year or two. I see dozens of names of people moving in who never show up for church. I think we are losing more than half of our youth.

    My brother thinks this problem is small, less than 1% except maybe higher for new converts the first year or two. Even 1% of 15 million is 150,000 people and they could make a lot of noise. He says upwards of 90% of the boys in his ward and stake go on missions and come home to marry nice girls in the temple. Some members are flaky but still support the church to various degrees. The Kingdom rolls forth with a few little mutts yapping on the internet.

    I think the answer to this question is important. If the faith crisis problem is small then these kind of discussions are not that important. If it is a big problem, then more needs to be done than what we are doing now.

    Any way reliable data can be made available? The fact I can’t find much makes me think the problem is huge. Otherwise, they would be bragging about the successes.

  82. Aussie Mormon says:

    “I look at retention in wards like mine where baptisms are high, like 30 or more, and 90% of them are gone in a year or two.”

    I think much of it is down to demographics.
    If you’re near a university you’ll get students baptised who will leave at the end of the year/course and not have their records updated.
    Unfortunately you’ll get some who get baptised because of the missionaries, and as soon as the missionaries are transferred, they stop coming.
    I feel that some people get baptised before they realise what getting baptised into the church actually means, and think of church as something nice with nice people, but otherwise not that important for them.

    For my area at least, it doesn’t so much seem to be a faith crisis, but more a I-have-better-things-to-do-than-to-go-to-church-for-three-hours-each-week crisis. (I’d guess this explains a lot of the youth drop out.)

  83. I don’t know if I’d call this reliable, but in my area (northern Calif) the retention rate of young adults is 14%. And that is straight from my stake president’s mouth.

    I’d add though that if it weren’t a problem, we wouldn’t hear about it so much at church and conference.

  84. A mom who has lived it says:

    This is a real problem. I’ve lived it more than once. It is heart wrenching…

    But as I read all of the “what to say instead” I can’t imagine that I would have said those things to my kids when they left the church. If I had I would be lying to them and to myself. Yes I can still stay close to my kids if they choose to leave the church but with leaving the church comes a whole big life I don’t understand. Yes I can love them unconditionally, but it does (and there is nothing that can really not change this) effect the family, myself, them, their siblings. Yes I’m sure it had to be a hard decision for them, but then again sometimes it isn’t, but it is hard for me as a mom. Agency is an great gift but I don’t really want to praise them for using their agency wrong. I don’t know what to say, is just that you don’t know what to say that is positive.

    This article is written to not offend the person leaving…. It is only written to make the one leaving feel better. As one who as lived this several times and still wants a relationship with my kids, It is totally unrealistic. I couldn’t lie to my kids like that just to make them feel better about a bad decision and life that I can see, in hind sight, hasn’t helped them be better people. I love my kids but it still kills me to see their lives and how leaving the church has hurt them tremendously.

  85. Hi mom.

  86. Dragon lady says:

    Mom who has lived it: I’ve lived it too and I have to say that I think we as parents overrate our hindsight. As parents, we have to be the one who bears the most responsibility in making the relationship positive going forward, and yes, that entails not offending our adult children who choose to leave something we hold dear. We have to hold our children more dear and respect that their life is their path. Pray for them. But don’t drive them further away with disapproval or controlling behaviors.

    It’s only lying if you can’t get your head and heart in the right place first. I found that I was the one who had to change to be able to love better than I had before. Loving and respecting an adult child is a different matter than loving a dependent minor.

  87. Bill Smith says:

    I think many of us as members equate “church” = “Christ”.
    While I didn’t think I did this, I found this to be true of myself to a small degree when I found out that the church is not, and has not always been honest with the members. Its important that if a family or loved one leaves because of problems they have with the church, we don’t equate that to them having problems with Christ. They are not the same. The church is ran by imperfect men, who make mistakes. They are NOT infallible. Its easy to turn the church and its leaders into idols. Elder Cannon said it best:

    “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop; an apostle, or a president; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place, they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend upon God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside…Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men.”
    Elder George Q. Cannon
    Deseret Weekly, Vol. 42, No. 11, Mar. 7, 1891, p. 322

  88. Gail McIntosh says:

    I honestly don’t think there should be a list. It’s the Holy Ghost that will guide. HE has the “list”….20 years ago, I was inactive – and complaining about how I could not find a spouse and the “church” was all about families and marriage…I struggled…then my sister said to me “YOU are in charge of your own salvation”. That stung a lot…she was right. I was glad my sister followed the Spirit and said what came into her mind because that is what the Lord wanted me to hear. That set me on a path to full activity after that. That was 20 years ago…For me, sorrow turned to joy, and I let all that pain go. She listened to the Spirit guide. What do you think the Apostle Paul did when he went back to strengthen the members he baptized? It was always the basic principals of the Gospel. Worth studying….look it up…We are human…we all make mistakes…sometimes it takes bearing a strong testimony…sometimes it’s just love…no lists please…pray to receive how to love someone like the Savior – perfectly…and sometimes that can be rebuke, and sometimes it’s just patience and longsuffering….Remember, HE is still parenting all of us…

  89. Scott Workman says:

    From my reading of these comments, what seems clear is that every situation is different. I have a son who became militant in his views against the church a few years after serving an amazing 2 year mission (he is unrecognizable today). His very anti rantings reached extended family and friends. Many were very offended so we issued sent an apology to family members for
    his behavior. Big mistake on our part for doing that. He caught wind of it and has accused us of “shunning” him. In our effort to protect the other people we love, we are now viewed by our son and his girlfriend as “unloving” and “judgemental” and they want our apology for wronging them. We’ve done what we can to “smooth things over” but three years later they’re still angry and suspicious, still mock the church and mock the core values we espouse. They choose not to be with us.

    There is nothing more heart breaking than when a child chooses to abandon his own family and the principles of the Gospel. How do parents process that? It’s real easy to make suggestions about what to say and what not to say. I’m not sure we could have done anything differently other than to keep our mouths shut and wait. We’re still waiting, and hoping.