To sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE
Though most members stay faithful to the Church throughout their lives, there are those who struggle with their testimonies. We hear of friends and loved ones who are falling away and it breaks our hearts because we know of the incredible blessings they will be missing. We love them. With all our hearts we want them to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel and be with us throughout all eternity.
We may ask, how does it happen? Some who once were faithful are now doubting and leaving the Church. It rarely suddenly happens; it’s usually a gradual process. It’s a process we all must guard against. It is our hope that these points will help the faithful remain faithful. If you have friends or loved ones who have left the Church please know that this is not an attempt to disrespect them. It is simply an attempt to help members hold to what they cherish and believe.
Certainly there are a variety of reasons why people leave the Church. These 8 things are not all inclusive. They are the fundamentals that can help members stay strong. With that in mind, here are a few of the things we have observed that pull people away from the Church.
1. They stop reading the Book of Mormon.
This is likely not an intentional sudden ceasing. It’s usually the gradual not finding the time, even promising yourself that you’ll get back to it, and before you know it you’re out of the habit. Life moves in on all of us and if we’re not careful, that which is most vital will be left behind. So it is with daily reading of the Book of Mormon. Reading and studying the Book of Mormon is profoundly important in maintaining our testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.
President Howard W. Hunter said, “It is through reading and studying the Book of Mormon, and prayerfully seeking confirmation of its contents, that we receive a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth”(Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, p. 151-152). To keep our testimonies fresh and growing we must continue to prayerfully read and study this sacred book.
2. They forget their covenants.
One of the greatest blessings we have in this Church is the opportunity to make sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father. We renew these covenants when we partake of the sacrament. We are reminded of what we must do to be faithful members of His church. President Spencer W. Kimball observed: “When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be ‘remember.’ Because all of you have made covenants—you know what to do and you know how to do it—our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day.” (Quoted by Tad R. Callister, in The Infinite Atonement, p. 287)
When it comes to our temple covenants, if we do not return to the temple often we can easily forget the sacred promises we made there. It’s human nature to forget unless we actively work at remembering what we’ve promised the Lord. These are covenants that bring us peace and ensure that, as we live them, we will be with our Savior and our family throughout eternity. That’s a promise so great it demands our devotion and attention to keeping it ever in our minds and hearts.
3. They listen to those who have left the Church.
Too many have been led astray by listening to people who have a “beef” with the Church or someone in it. Maybe their feelings were hurt by someone in the Church. Maybe they have questions that they can’t seem to reconcile or understand. Some think they are wiser than our church leaders. All have the right to their feelings and opinions. We can respect that.
However, if someone is talking negatively to you about our Church leaders and are belittling you for believing them, they are disrespecting you and beliefs that are sacred to you. Some of those who leave the Church seem to want to lead others away with them. They seek to destroy their faith.
The Book of Mormon teaches us the devil “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2Nephi 2:27) If you have questions, seek answers from the scriptures, the Spirit, and many other faithful resources, rather than from those who have left the Church. Someone said, “If you want to buy a Cadillac you don’t go to a Toyota dealer to find out about it.” The point is, go to the correct source for information.
A friend shared a conversation she had with someone who professed that the Church wasn’t true and that, in fact, there was no devil. She looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “It doesn’t matter one whit what you think. The Church is true whether you believe it is or not. And there is a devil whether you believe there is or not. And he’s seeking to lead you away from the truth. You can choose the devil’s way or the Lord’s way. It’s up to you, but there will be consequences.”
As it turned out, this man changed and became a faithful, dedicated member of the Church and has been for many years.
We suggest that a powerful testimony is your protection. Not arguing or trying to convince people who seek only to confuse the faithful. Testify, then depart in peace, allowing no further argument or allowing of Satan to enter the conversation. Remember these words of Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “[Satan] seeks to confuse and deceive us, to get us on a low road that leads away from our eternal destination.”
That does not mean you have nothing to do with people you care about who have left the Church. Of course you would continue to love them, but you would not allow them to belittle or question what you hold sacred. You may need to agree to disagree and not discuss these sensitive issues when you are together. You can still enjoy each other’s friendship without getting into religious arguments that lead to conflict and broken relationships.
4. They cease praying to stay strong and faithful.
People who fall away cease praying that they will always remain faithful, that they will never be deceived. We must pray diligently for that divine help. We need the Lord’s help in staying strong and faithful to all we know to be true. In this day and age we need His help desperately.
In a General Conference address we were reminded that even our leaders pray to stay faithful. “Shortly before President Heber J. Grant passed away, one of the Brethren visited his home. Before he left, President Grant prayed, ‘O God, bless me that I shall not lose my testimony and keep faithful to the end!’ After nearly 27 years as President of the Church, this was his fervent prayer. His example is a striking reminder that no one, at any age, is immune from Satan’s influence.”
Like President Grant, we, too, must pray always to stay faithful and to never be deceived by those who would lead us away from the Church.
5. They stop going to Church.
Attending our Church meetings, especially sacrament meeting, is vital to keeping our testimonies strong. We need to be there to partake of the sacrament, to be filled with His Spirit, to renew our pledge to keep the commandments. We need to attend Sunday School, Young Women and Relief Society and Priesthood meetings. That is where we are taught the doctrine and share testimonies. We need to be in our meetings so that we may be spiritually fed by and associate with other faithful members.
In his book The Infinite Atonement Elder Tad R. Callister reminded us of Brigham Young’s teaching: “It is one of the greatest blessings we could enjoy, to come before the Lord, and before the angels, and before each other, to witness that we remember that the Lord Jesus Christ has died for us.” (The Infinite Atonement, p. 289) Partaking of the sacrament weekly helps us stay close to the Savior and have His spirit with us throughout the week. This is a great protection in keeping us faithful.
6. They don’t listen to General Conference.
When our Church leaders speak to us at General Conferences they are saying the very things that will help us stay true to the faith. They know how Satan works. They are knowledgeable and up-to-date on what’s going on in the world. They are inspired to say exactly what we need to hear. When we listen with the pure intent of learning God’s will for us we will know precisely what we need to do to stay strong. And how we can help our families and other stay strong.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, explains why we should pay close attention to the messages of conference. “The more we treasure the words of the prophets and apply them, the better we will recognize when we are drifting off course—even if only by a matter of a few degrees.”
When members stop listening to the messages of our leaders they are more easily led away. To not watch General Conference is like someone handing you a valuable diamond, free of charge, and you saying, “No thank you.” Be wise, and listen.
7. They listen to the philosophies of men above the teachings of the prophets.
Some drink up the so-called wisdom of the world regarding social issues that are contrary to the teachings of the Church. Part of this is due to not wanting to offend anyone and some because they are afraid to speak their own mind. In other words they fear man more than God. It’s easy to get caught up in the popular trends of the day. It takes courage and faith to stand true to what the Church has taught.
We must never forget that regardless of what someone else believes, we will always treat them with love and respect. That doesn’t mean we have to accept their philosophies. It simply means we treat them with respect and hold true to our own beliefs.
If we support doctrine contrary to the teachings of the Church we are treading on dangerous ground. Always follow the prophet. That will bring us safely home to our eternal reward.
8. They fail to acknowledge the Lord’s blessings.
When we see the blessings the Lord has given us and thank Him for them it draws us closer to Him. To ignore these blessings puts a gulf between us and Him. It’s not that He has left us, it’s that we are pulling away from Him. To acknowledge Him opens the door for Him to shower even more blessings upon us. Thanking Him daily for all He has done for us will help strengthen our testimonies of His love for us. Thanking Him for our membership in His Church helps us treasure it all the more.
In a General Conference address Elder David A Bednar said, “Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts.”
Gratitude such as this will draw us closer to the Lord and strengthen our testimonies of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By doing our part, as suggested in these 8 points, we cannot help but stay faithful and steadfast in protecting our testimony and membership in the Church. while giving love and respect to those of differing opinions.
We conclude with the words of Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “The Holy Ghost will protect us against being deceived, but to realize that wonderful blessing we must always do the things necessary to retain that Spirit. We must keep the commandments, pray for guidance, and attend church and partake of the sacrament each Sunday. And we must never do anything to drive away that Spirit.” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, “Be Not Deceived”)