Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Don't Give Up Hope

Recently I had the pleasant surprise of meeting an ex-Mormon in the halls of an LDS building who appears to be on his way back. He asked for his name to be removed a few years ago and wanted no further contact with his family. It was painful, but we respected his wish and stopped the visits. Contrary to what one might assume after listening to some antis, we did not "love bomb" him or send a stream of people over to bring them back. But we did and still do love him and his family, and were friendly and cordial when we occasionally met. I don't know the reasons for the change, but what a wonderful change it is to see him coming back with his family. I know some wonderful people who have been tempted with leaving the Church at difficult times in their lives, or who did leave or were excommunicated, and yet came back. And even those who leave and don't come back, like David Whitmer, may still stay true to key parts of their testimony and faith. Don't give up hope for those who leave. Respect their wishes, but continue to minister if they will allow it, and always be available as a friend in spite of religious differences. People do change. Even current antis, like the famous anti once called Saul, can become pillars of faith. Don't give up hope.

20 comments:

Saul said...

Don't give up hope that they'll return, since more people are leaving instead of joining, they're the church's only hope for growth...

Anonymous said...

Have any actual citations to back that up, Saul?

Stephen said...

Gee, antis can't resist acting like trolls sometimes. sigh.

Kirk H. Sowell said...

Response to anonymous:
This post from another LDS blog has a link to a study of LDS conversion and retention which contains a lot of data and is quite good.

I think it would be more accurate to say that in the U.S. about equal numbers are joining and leaving the church. Since many of them do not remove their names for years, there is some nominal growth, but growth from converts is treading water.

Anonymous said...

I have talked this situation over with a few ministers I know through my funeral home job. Many churches will strike your name if they do not hear from you in a few years. That keeps their numbers down. We seem to strike no names from the list therefore our numbers stay up.

Bookslinger said...

Since it _is_ God's official church, people can't be excommunicated or dropped merely for being inactive. I can see how someone who doesn't believe it is the "true church," looks at it as just "dropping" someone, like you would from a bowling league if they didn't show up for a couple seasons.

But it's not an earthly club or an association of mere mortals, no matter who views it that way. Those who have a testimony of the church's "officialness" with God, have a responsibility to run it according to revealed procedure, and with compassion and long-suffering, keeping in mind that it is people's souls that they are dealing with.

I was assigned to call some long-time inactives, who had fallen through the cracks of the home-teaching program. Something like 90% of them still wanted home-teachers and contact with the church, and either _wanted_ to be considered members, or didn't object to being considered members.

I gather that most of the inactive people who still want contact and home-teachers still have some sort of testimony.

I'm a firm believer in not actively _offering_ someone to remove their name from church records. Of course requests for name-removal should be handled quickly and politely. But church members or leaders should not solicit people for name removal.

Anonymous said...

Books of Mormon Indy would not like our Ward at all. An EQ president was praised for carrying around form letters and getting people to sign them to remove them from clogging up the rolls of the church.

Bookslinger said...

Did the Bishop and/or Stake President know about the EQP's form letter?

All wards are supposed to maintain a "DNC" (Do not contact) list. I don't know if there's a field on the MIS program for the ward clerk to flag it.
It would be nice if there were.

Anonymous said...

You bet the Bishop knew about it. He would send the EQ president out to specefic homes to tell the people to get back to church or sign. And he did very well at getting the signatures. the Bishop and the EQ president were upset when the Stake President put a halt to it. The bishop has a reputation as the "hanging" Bishop for excommunication women. 8 women in a row with no men disciplined. One of the excommunications were turned over by the Stake when a number of us testified.

This is the Bishop where the young men said to go out west and get a kind Bishop to get a mission call from.

Mormanity said...

I, too, have been surprised at how many inactive members who have not been to church for years do not want their names removed when the option is discussed with them. Even when they want no contact, many feel some kind of a need to stay a member. It may be a cultural thing, a sense of roots that should not be severed, or perhaps a feeling that the blessings of baptism just might make a big difference after all. And in some cases, those who seemed hopelessly inactive and prime candidates for name removal have become strong members - and I'm glad their names were not removed.

Recently one member expressed a desire to have no contact at all and told another member that she wanted her name removed. I was asked to talk with her and get a signature to confirm that this was what she wanted (guys, it's easy to get out of the Church, at least under current operating procedures). But when given the opportunity to officially have her name stricken from the rolls of the Church, she changed her mind. We'll certainly try to respect the request for no contact.

captveg said...

The only time I ever solicited/offered to have someone have their name removed was once on my mission. My companion and I were with our Ward Mission Leader trying to find people on the ward list that were unknown. Because we had had some difficulty before, we brought with us a little bit more information than usual, which included dates for baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, etc.

There was a gentleman of about 55 years old that we contacted that had no clue as to why he was on our list, and he was not happy at being on our list since he had "been a devout Methodist for all his life."

So, at this point, I explained to him that we had no desire to pester him but only wanted to find the source for this apparant descrepancy. He clamed down a bit and we looked at the records. The date of his baptism indicated that he was 9 when baptized. This confused all of us, until a memory hit him like a ton of bricks: he recalled having been baptized when younger but then not going to church again until his mid-teens (which, of course, was a Methodist church).

We concluded that his parents had converted and he was baptized with them, but then they quickly went inactive or left the church without removing his name. At this point, since he was clearly bound under a covenant he had not been properly taught about, I informed him of his name-removal option.

It was a unique experience that made me contemplate just how serious the D&C 68:25 commandment for parents to properly teach their parents is.

captveg said...

Er...properly teach their children, that is.

Mike Parker said...

Count me as one of those who would like to do a little weeding in the garden of the Lord.

In my perfect little world, I would like to see a Church-wide move to contact all inactive people and ask them if they want to be Latter-day Saints or not. Those who do would be challenged to come back to church. Those who don't should be given a fast track to name removal.

Growth in new members is not evidence of the Church's authenticity. Just because we're baptizing hundreds of thousands each year doesn't make the Church any more "true" than it was in 1830, when we only baptized a few hundred. In fact, if no one joined the Church in 2006, it would be just as true as it is in 2005. What the Church needs is people who are willing to make covenants and live up to them, not more inactive people to add to the home teaching rolls.

Bookslinger said...

In my opinion, people should not be asked to leave the church (via name-removal or otherwise) unless they have actually done something that merits excommunication. And inactivity alone doesn't merit excommunication.

I used to think that DNC's messed up the home-teaching stats, but my understanding is that DNC's are not included in the home-teaching percentages.

Mike, why do you want to see the membership roster weeded of inactives or DNC's?

As long as those people are not bothering or hurting anyone, are not bringing discredit to the church by public or well-known serious transgressions, and are not actively speaking or working against the church, why do something that affects their eternal salvation?

Did you know that people can only get one re-baptism now? In the past, you could get rebaptized as often as you repented. But they changed that. After the 2nd excommunication, you have to wait until you get baptized by proxy in a temple.

Anonymous said...

"Did you know that people can only get one re-baptism now?"
Did you know that during BY's tenure you got babtized every week? Rather than take the sacrament you got babtized on Sunday. The Saints in SL never had to worry too much about taking baths as they would get clean on Sunday.
Don't fret that you can only get babtized twice now adays. It could change back and we can all get babtized as often as we like again.

Diane said...

Jeff said: "Recently one member expressed a desire to have no contact at all and told another member that she wanted her name removed. I was asked to talk with her and get a signature to confirm that this was what she wanted (guys, it's easy to get out of the Church, at least under current operating procedures). But when given the opportunity to officially have her name stricken from the rolls of the Church, she changed her mind. We'll certainly try to respect the request for no contact."

Contact after a request for no contact? A signature? What kind of "religious" man are you? Do you have any idea how bizarre this sounds? And you bristle at the word "cult?!!"

captveg said...

Real mature, Diane. So sorry if we take covenants with God seriously and go through the process to make sure that request for name removal occurs. The person asked for no contact and name removal, and I highly doubt the person who heard this said, "Sure I'll do it myself." No, they more likely said, "I can't do that, but I'll pass word along to someone who can, and they'll contact you to make it official."

Use some common sense, please.

And throwing around the cult word to make you look big. Thanks for the lesson in 5th grade politics.

Mormanity said...

Diane said: "Contact after a request for no contact? A signature? What kind of "religious" man are you? Do you have any idea how bizarre this sounds? And you bristle at the word "cult?!!"

Look, Diane, this member did not contact us directly. We heard a second-hand report that she wanted no contact. That's hardly a basis for removing someone from any organization. To verify this rumor, I was asked to talk to the person to see if that was correct. I hope you can see that this is actually a fairly civil way to handle the matter. Recognizing that she might not want contact, I sought to act delicately. I was very fortunate to meet her at a casual social setting, where we were able to have a pleasant chat for a few moments. Under very friendly and non-threatening conditions, I was able to discreetly mention that we had been told of her request and wanted to repsect her wishes not to have contact. I explained that name removal was an option and asked if she would like that. She thought it over for a minute and said no, she just wanted some space. Cool, no problem. We parted on friendly terms with handshakes and smiles. We have not bothered her since.

Yes, now you know the horrors one must endure to escape from Mormonism.

Mormanity said...

By the way, Diane, your condemndation of what was actually a very civil and respectful action (seeking to verify a person's real desires in order to respect their wishes) suggests that you might have a "lie chart" attitude about the Church. I hope she can put that warped lens down and have a more generous, even Christian, attitude about the Church and its members. It's OK to disagree, but to view innocent actions with such a negative perspective does not become any daughter or son of God. I'm sure you've heard that we're a cult and have thus been given a highly charged negative emotional framework for viewing the Church - but don't rely on those feelings. They can be deceptive.

The use of the "cult" terminology to characterize Latter-day Saints is part of an overt effort by our manipulative enemies to create spooky feelings to scare people away from the Church. Don't rely on these spooky feelings as the basis for an anti-testimony.

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