A Call to Repentance – Stop Inviting People to Leave the Church

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As online discussions concerning dissent and apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have grown during recent months, I have seen a good number of faithful, believing members of the church wrongly encourage other members of the church to leave and find a different religion, or to start one of their own, because they have come to believe things that are contrary to the teachings of the church.

We need to stop it.

I understand the reasons why we say these kinds of things. Believe me, I know the frustration. It is easy to say, fine, if you don’t believe that God is leading His church through His apostles then go find some other church.

But saying that is wrong. If the church is true; if it is the only church with the authority from God to perform the ordinances of salvation and declare His will– and I know that it is– then we don’t want people to leave the church and join some other. We don’t want them to go off and start their own churches fashioned after their false notions.

We want them to stay, to repent, to abandon the false frameworks of interconnected ideas that lead them away, no matter how compelling those ideas seem. We want them to accept the authority of the apostles, and to develop confidence that they are true messengers of God and that He actively guides the church through them.

We recognize that they have agency to choose otherwise. But we should sincerely want them to choose the church, and to choose it not on their own terms but on the Lord’s terms.

So I encourage all of you, my dear allies in defense of the church and the apostles, to stop telling people to leave the church. Invite them instead to reconsider their false beliefs; to open their minds to the possibility that they are mistaken. Invite them instead to plant the seed of the words of the living apostles in their hearts, and not cast it off because of unbelief. Invite them to stay and submit to the authority and teachings of the church.

If they choose to leave, then we cannot stop them. If they refuse to repent and abandon their false doctrines, they may be excommunicated for apostasy by the proper authorities, for their own good and the good of the church. But our invitations should always be to repent and stay or to repent and return.

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5 Responses to A Call to Repentance – Stop Inviting People to Leave the Church

  1. Bonnie

    I’ve thought about writing something like this for months. If you read the experiences of prophets – and I think we are intended to envision ourselves as prophets – once their calling and election is made sure they are filled with a desire for others to experience the love of God. Never, ever once do they write anyone off. In fact, if Zenos is to be taken at face value, they argue with the Lord to advocate saving people from being cut off. We show ourselves incomplete disciples of Christ when we are more concerned with the purity of the Church than the salvation of souls, for which that Church was constructed. We can rest assured that God is watching out for the purity of his Church, and he will make it clear when people have crossed a line. That is not our role, thank the very foundations of heaven. If we have stepped over a line, then, as you say, we should repent.

  2. Here’s the thing…
    The church does not expect blind obedience, nor is such necessary in this church. The whole system revolves around two-way communication with God at every level. This is not just a claim or a hope, but it should be routine and expected from President Monson all the way down to our youngest children. As far as our religion is concerned, activism is nothing except a pointless and fruitless end-run around humility and prayer. I encourage all to put away the pens, protest signs, and activist websites and take their petitions to God where they belong…in the prescibed way that every active member of the church should be familiar with.
    If a person has become so hardened that the answers just aren’t getting back through to them, then I testify that the problem is within themselves at some level and that they need to clear that blockage through repentence. Again, folks should seek a personal testimony of the things about which they disagree instead of expecting the church leadership to go against the will of God.

  3. On principle I agree. And yet, I can see myself having made these comments. And here is my rational.

    On a hypothetical situatoin where a leader of the church or a church policy is contrary to my own ideas or wishes. I do this test. I take out my testimony and check. And the confirmation that the Church is still true, Jesus is still the Christ, and He is still leading the Church is still present.

    At that moment, I can discern that either, I am wrong, I have missunderstood the words/meaning of what is being taught, or there is a lesson that I have yet to learn.

    If in the past, I have said, “If you don’t believe the church leaders are directed by God, why are you still a member?” its intent was not to drive out the unbeliever. Its intent is to prompt the examination of testimony that I have spoken of.

    To question ones faith is a good idea. We need to remember why we believe what we believe. And I encourage and invite all to regularly take a look at your testimony, and keep it fresh and bright.

  4. J. Max Wilson

    In case it wasn’t already abundantly clear, I am not saying in this post that we shouldn’t tell people that the doctrines they are teaching are false and that if they persist in them it will lead them out of the church. And this post was not meant in any way to suggest that the church’s disciplinary actions toward apostates are wrong– I support them completely.

    But I do think that our warnings should be intended to invite those in apostasy to change and stay. If they choose to leave or be excommunicated rather than repent, then so be it. But we should at least be encouraging them to repent rather than take that route.

  5. J.Max – thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been dismayed at so many disparaging comments in general on the internet toward church members whose views are different, whether it’s about women wearing pants or having opinions that aren’t the standard Sunday School answers.

    I appreciate your efforts here toward encouraging civility, including toward those who’ve been publicly chastened by the church this week. As Churchill famously said when he was criticized for his deferential letter to the Japanese Prime Minister: “Courtesy costs nothing when you have to kill a man.” While I don’t personally see excommunication as necessary in these particular cases, I respectfully acknowledge that nobody asked my opinion or cares what I think. :)

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