“People leave the Church, but some can never leave it alone.”
We’ve all heard this phrase a million times. Heck, I’ve said it angrily plenty of times.
Last week I had a conversation with a woman who left the Church over 20 years ago, and I learned something new about this idea.
What was learned is simple: Of course, they can’t leave it alone. Can we really blame them? Do we really want them to?
Hopefully, everyone in the Church at some point feels loved and accepted—as everyone should in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hopefully, everyone at some point feels the burning of the Spirit and swelling of testimony we all hunger for. Hopefully, everyone at some point feels the important role the Church plays in the administration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, some people feel hurt by either members or the Church itself. Others may feel let down by policies or teachings. (If you’re thinking, “It’s their own fault for letting their feelings get hurt or offended,” for the sake of this piece, let’s say feelings aren’t legitimate or illegitimate; they just are. Even if someone chugged a gallon of water five minutes ago, they are still allowed to feel thirsty. If they’re thirsty, they’re’ thirsty. If feelings are hurt, they’re hurt.)
In some cases, the people who feel hurt decide it’s healthiest for them to leave the Church. Sometimes those people feel at peace and sometimes they don’t. As I have tried to put myself in their shoes and think what it must feel like to be hurt by, in some capacity, the Church that they once loved, served, and sacrificed for, I feel nothing but compassion and love for them.
The next time you see a modern-day Saul or Alma the younger make a negative comment about the Church, before you get defensive—the Church will be ok; it can handle negative comments—focus on trying to feel Christ’s love for this person. As much as you may wish they would leave the Church alone, the truth is heaven will never leave them. Be like our Savior and Heavenly Father and really try to feel and understand, even on the smallest scale, the pain this person must be feeling. As you do so, I promise you will be able to feel His love and you will be better able to play a role in helping them feel His love, too.
I know it is never fun to hear someone speak negatively about the Church we love so much, but let’s remember what Jesus asked us to focus on: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” ( Matt 22:36-39).