Are you an Inactive Member of the Church? Come Back!by -
Are you a member of the Church who’s not attending Sunday meetings? Do you long for the sense of community, spirituality, and stability you once knew as a practicing Mormon? I frequently receive emails from inactive members of the Church who want to return. To you seekers, I want you to know that the Church needs you. I bet you need the Church too. If you need help coming back, request a visit from Mormon missionaries. They’d be more than happy to help.
Why do people go inactive? Based on the many emails I’ve received, I believe there are four main causes: loss of a testimony, sin, social concerns, and the “first-year syndrome.”
Loss of a Testimony
Sometimes people loose their testimonies even when they sincerely want to believe. Some members fail to spend enough time cultivating their faith through scripture study, pondering, and prayer. Sometimes people read blatantly anti-Mormon literature and mistakenly take it seriously. Still others “discover” aspects of Mormon history that shake their faith, especially when that history is presented through a tainted anti-Mormon lens. If you’ve lost your testimony, I want you to know that there’s still a place for you in the Church. We’re all on different parts of the same spiritual journey. Please read my essay entitled “What if I Lost my Testimony…” to learn why you should come back.
If you’ve lost your testimony because of anti-Mormon literature or because of biased interpretations of Mormon history, you should know that there are two sides to every story. I encourage you to visit the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), an organization dedicated to countering anti-Mormon claims about Mormon convictions and history. Additionally, feel free to email me if you have questions. Never forget that the world’s foremost experts in Mormon studies, PhDs like Richard Bushman and Terryl Givens, are faithful members of the Church. There is always room for belief.
Some members of the Church mistakenly think that all who go inactive do so because of personal sin. This idea is far from the truth. Nevertheless, it is true that some leave the Church because of sin. Remember, the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a sanctuary for perfect saints. There is not a single member of your ward or branch that is not a sinner. How ironic that some leave the Church at the very moment when they need it the most! Jesus Christ is ready to heal you. He can make your scarlet sins as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Forgiveness is available to all who come unto Christ with a broken heart and a real desire to change.
If you are burdened with sin, go to your bishop or branch president. Open your heart to him. Tell him you desperately want to make things right and to enjoy the blessings of full church activity. Your good bishop can guide you back to the right path. He can help you regain the peace and joy you once knew.
Sometimes people leave the Church because one of their fellow members offends them. The sad reality is that Mormons are not perfect. In fact, we’re far from perfect. Some of us really do lack social grace. Some of us on occasion really are offensive, though usually unintentionally. In the end, Mormons are human beings, and every human community of consequence has some obnoxious members. If you’re only willing to be a member of a perfect community, you will spend your whole life searching in vain.
Given that all human communities are flawed, why not return to the Mormon community that once provided you with spiritual fulfillment? Why deny yourself the blessings the gospel can offer just because another member once offended you? Come back. We need you. We love you. I bet you need us too, even with all our imperfections.
I’m convinced that most people who leave the LDS Church do so within one year of their baptism. I have a dear friend who joined the Church and fell quickly into inactivity; how I wish she had invested the time and effort needed to build a stronger testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a society that expects instant gratification, that expects everything to be “on demand.” Spiritual growth does not come at the press of a button. If you wish to add greater spiritual depth to your life, you must invest time and effort. God blesses His children with a testimony only when they work for it.
Mormonism works so wonderfully well for so many people. It can work for you too, if you give it time. Return to the Church. Talk with your bishop or branch president about your concerns. While you’re waiting for your testimony to grow, remember that there are many secular reasons to be Mormon too! In time, God will help you grow firm in His gospel, and you’ll come to see the Church for the beautiful, strengthening, uplifting force that it is.
Don’t do it Alone
If now is the right time to return to full Church activity, you don’t need to do it alone! Request a visit from the missionaries; they can help you come back. Locate the Mormon chapel nearest your home, and visit with your local bishop or branch president. Tell him that you want to come back to the Church but that you need help. I pray that you may find the peace and joy that I have found through living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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