This article was previously published on Ty James Knight
There’s a phrase in the LDS community that’s used almost too casually these days-
“Oh he left the church a long time ago.”
Or-“She doesn’t want anything to do with the church anymore.”
We may know someone who has either talked about a family member who does not go to church anymore, we may have in our own families someone who has “left the church”, or we ourselves have decided that the Mormon community isn’t the path we feel is the right one for us.
In each scenario, the person found outside the Mormon “community” may feel ostracized or less than because of the pressures of belonging and solidarity with the doctrines and cultures of the LDS church.
Too often, I fear that the first reaction to someone experiencing doubt or anger, fear or frustration with regards to Mormonism, is to try to cover up the issue by telling them, in effect, “this too shall pass, just keep having faith.” While that advice is not necessarily bad, it can be construed in a negative way sometimes.
Things happen to everyone, hard difficult things, and faith can be shaken, often lost, never to return again. So what is to be done?
Listen. Don’t try to “fix” them.
We can recite scriptures, tell them to pray, attend church, (all good things), but sometimes the person no longer feels a desire to do that, so the mistake made is to try to push back and say “But this is the right thing to do!!”
It may be the right thing for some, but for others, what’s needed is for someone to listen.
Listen to their side of the story, cry with them, try understand what they are experiencing. Make them feel like their voice is heard.
I have had conversations on the phone with loved ones who said they no longer felt included at church, felt like a finger of shame was constantly pointing in their direction, so they, in turn, left the church they grew up in.
Was that an easy thing to do? No it was not. They felt alone, felt judged by those around them, felt the fear of not being accepted.
So when I had this conversation, I initially was going to express my thoughts to them, share spiritual experiences, but I felt like I needed to listen. I spent the next hour hearing the hurt, feeling the pain and loneliness, finding out a whole new side of the story I had never heard before.
I started to understand what they were going through. It was definitely an eye opening phone call, one that has stayed with me my entire life.
Those who have left, from my experience, didn’t feel understood, they felt preached at. They didn’t feel loved, only resentment.
Are there instances where there was an outpouring of love and support, and still the person left? Yes there have been, and you know what? There should still be an outpouring of love and kindness, understanding and charity no matter what the outcome. As a Christian I feel it is my responsibility to always show love first, no matter what.
There is power in silence, power in lending a listening ear and sometimes it is OK to have differing opinions on things. If the ultimate goal is to “change” or “fix” someone and their challenges, then we have failed.
We should love first, listen second, and always be there for them.