Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

My Mormon family may not be forever

Mette Ivie Harrison
Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison

A guest post by Mette Ivie Harrison

Within Mormon culture, there is a hidden threat to the promise that families will be together forever. In the celestial kingdom only those who are fully active members of the LDS church will be invited to enjoy all the blessings of exaltation and the presence of the entire godhead.

So if a child leaves the church, either through inactivity or outright rebellion, parents are left with the belief that their “forever family” is broken—and that this is their fault. We may remind these parents repeatedly that even the prophet Lehi lost children, but many continue to feel guilt.

I understand parents and family members who wish that they remained a whole, intact family with everyone remaining a member of the church. But a part of me feels strongly that this is like wishing that your children remained babies forever. Or that your children never grew up and left home.

That is, it’s not only an impossible wish, it’s a selfish one. No family is ever going to have a homogenous level of church activity. If you congratulate yourself that your children are all active members, be aware that you may be encouraging them not to tell you their actual feelings regarding the church. They may feel pressed into agreement on every issue. Even adult children may worry that they don’t belong and that the love of their parents and other family members is conditional on certain behaviors.

My own parents have gone through two daughters who have asked to have their names removed from the records — one who did so in her twenties, one in her fifties. Both sent letters at the same time to family members, announcing that they were leaving the family, as well. I think they felt that there was no way to do one without the other, or that so many of their bad experiences with the church were connected to family that they couldn’t manage to do either one anymore.

My own second-oldest daughter left the church when she was fifteen. I have come to accept her choice and to see that she is on a path to truth, only a different path than mine. Isn’t that true with all children? She and I are very close, and we sometimes talk about her problems with the church, but often don’t. I love her and I believe she is smart and wise and good.

I don’t think she needs to be a Mormon to be righteous. I don’t know how this will all turn out in the end. I don’t know if this means our family is somehow less eternal. I don’t know if this daughter will be cut out of the celestial kingdom. For all that we Mormons think we understand what heaven is like, I don’t think that we have any idea.

And I’m fine with the not knowing.

Some questions I advise parents to ask themselves:

  • Do you make comments about other parents who have lost children to inactivity or to excommunication or apostasy? What message are you sending to your own children in these comments? Are you demonstrating unconditional love?
  • Is family conversation often about church topics? Are there children who seem to go silent during these times? Are you aware of the real problems these children may have with the church?
  • If there is already a child who has left the church, how do you talk about this child to your other children? Do you give the impression that everything will be better once this child has inevitably returned to the fold?
  • Do you spend more time talking to active children about their church callings than you do your inactive children about whatever is important in their lives?
  • Please don’t wait until your children return to the church in order to enter into a fully connected relationship with them. Don’t wait for them to repent to celebrate their lives.

If your love is truly unconditional, as God’s is, love completely. If you think you can love the “sinner” and hate the sin, remember that no “sinner” feels loved in this way. They feel judged.

Mette Ivie Harrison is a nationally ranked triathlete and Mormon mother of 5, including one missionary in Texas. She is the author of six YA fantasies, including The Princess and the Hound and The Rose Throne. She also has published a memoir of her experiences in loss and triathlon called Ironmom and has an adult mystery coming out with Soho Press in December called The Bishop’s Wife. You can find her at www.metteivieharrison.com or on Twitter (@metteharrison), Facebook, and tumblr.

s a nationally ranked triathlete and Mormon mother of 5, including one missionary in Texas. She is the author of six YA fantasies, including The Princess and the Hound and The Rose Throne. She also has published a memoir of her experiences in loss and triathlon called Ironmom and has an adult mystery coming out with Soho Press in December called The Bishop’s Wife. You can find her at www.metteivieharrison.com or on twitter (@metteharrison), facebook (Mette Harrison or Mette Ivie Harrison), and tumblr (www.metteivieharrison.tumblr.com). – See more at: http://religionnews.com/2014/04/03/leaving-mormonism-finding-way-back/#sthash.mkfXNLu0.dpuf
s a nationally ranked triathlete and Mormon mother of 5, including one missionary in Texas. She is the author of six YA fantasies, including The Princess and the Hound and The Rose Throne. She also has published a memoir of her experiences in loss and triathlon called Ironmom and has an adult mystery coming out with Soho Press in December called The Bishop’s Wife. You can find her at www.metteivieharrison.com or on twitter (@metteharrison), facebook (Mette Harrison or Mette Ivie Harrison), and tumblr (www.metteivieharrison.tumblr.com). – See more at: http://religionnews.com/2014/04/03/leaving-mormonism-finding-way-back/#sthash.mkfXNLu0.dpuf
s a nationally ranked triathlete and Mormon mother of 5, including one missionary in Texas. She is the author of six YA fantasies, including The Princess and the Hound and The Rose Throne. She also has published a memoir of her experiences in loss and triathlon called Ironmom and has an adult mystery coming out with Soho Press in December called The Bishop’s Wife. You can find her at www.metteivieharrison.com or on twitter (@metteharrison), facebook (Mette Harrison or Mette Ivie Harrison), and tumblr (www.metteivieharrison.tumblr.com). – See more at: http://religionnews.com/2014/04/03/leaving-mormonism-finding-way-back/#sthash.mkfXNLu0.dpuf

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

56 Comments

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  • One of the founding stories of Mormonism, is the war in Heaven when God permitted one in three of His children to leave the fold. Why is it that we as parent fell like it is OK if not required to force our own children to go to church, on missions or what to believe?

  • This is a wonderful post. Mette, I agree that compassion and love should be the guiding principles of different levels of activity in Church. We don’t know exactly how faithful parents’ sealings affect their children in the afterlife so there is good reason to be compassionate and loving through and through. And for those who aren’t sealed in this life, I can only conceive of God as fair and loving and aware of our individual circumstances.
    I will say that everything you are writing would be entirely endorsed by the following the doctrines of the Church, even as it relates to our brothers and sisters who are choosing a different path in this life. It’s not for us to judge, just to love. Thanks for this reminder and for helping observant Latter-day Saints see that our doctrine teaches love and acceptance because eternal destiny is not up to us.

  • This is a wonderful post. Thank you for this.

    I think the message that families are forever is a beautiful one. I think many people, regardless of which church they belong to, believe this to be true. I think sometimes we come across, ironically, as a church that teaches families CAN’T be together forever, telling people that unless they do exactly what they’re told they won’t be with their loved ones in the next life.

    We really have no idea what the next life holds. For all our knowledge, I think we are truly still seeing “through a glass, darkly.” So if we treat children leaving the church as a tragedy, I think we’re doing them and ourselves and the gospel and God’s infinite love a huge disservice.

    My kids are all teens and older, still believers, still attending church, but definitely questioning things to varying degrees. I’ve decided that if they decide to leave the church it won’t be something that breaks my heart or changes my relationship with them in the slightest. Because it shouldn’t.

  • I also have a daughter who is not active. She, I think, reached the point where she didn’t feel worthy to be an active member. She is a great woman, mother and friend in my eyes. It is always painful to me when caring active members sympathize with my plight. I am divorced, a single and working mother and now I have had 50% of my children leave the church. What a burden! I see two wonderful girls who have good lives with families that love them and they love. I do have times when I wish it were different, but mostly I am grateful to have a good relationship with my family. The girls are sealed to me and eternal life means loving them forever.

  • Thank goodness Heavenly Father is all knowing, forgiving, loving, and compassionate. Our final judgement is in His hands, not anyone else. He knows our hearts and will help us.

  • I enjoyed this post a lot. I’ve recently left the church and telling friends and family hasn’t been easy, but I didn’t expect it would be. I’ve never felt comfortable in the belief that only one path and one church and one set of beliefs about god can lead to happiness. That makes no sense to me. I’ve found family members to be the most judgmental of my decision, yet they are the least likely to ask why I left or what issues I have with the LDS church. One person told me, “I don’t know to know if it’s not true.” Your post was a bright spot in what has been an otherwise tough journey for others to accept.

  • This went from: “Don’t wish your kids stayed faithful” to “love your kids unconditionally”. The article conflated the two, but can’t you wish your kids were partaking of the fruit while still loving them unconditionally? I mean yeah, Lehi had kids who went astray, and he ached for them to partake of the fruit that would give them happiness, but he loved them deeply and tenderly until death. Might it be a little callous to be nonchalant about your child’s eternal well-being?

  • Brett,

    I can appreciate what you brought up; I was brought up in a different faith than yours and then decided to leave it when I was about 30 years old. I did not join any other faith for 25 years, and then went back to the one I was raised with! I feel that my spiritual needs are better met now and more appreciated than when I was younger!

    I have a very different faith than you had, believe that most of mankind will live forever on a paradise earth and that a limited number of humans have a heavenly hope because they form God’s kingdom or heavenly government; that it will rule over man and bring them all to a perfect state since we are all imperfect now.

    I cannot imagine living anywhere but on earth for eternity because it is such a wonderful gift from God as our home (Psalm 115:15) as well as all the wonderful things on it (including the ocean, the forest and my cat!). I believe the earth will be cleansed of all evil ones and bad conditions (Psalm 37:10,11). Also, many we have lost to death have a hope of resurrection back to life on earth to be reunited with family and friends (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29). I lost my dad to a stroke 20 years ago and can’t wait to get him back!

    The reason I am responding is my family is not happy with the faith I had been raised with. They instead chose a different faith. But I still love them and vice versa. I think and hope they will still be with me in the future on earth (although they believe only in a heavenly hope) and that God will make the correct and righteous judgment on their behalf.

    If you are still looking for truth yourself, I am sure you will find it! God knows who those are who are looking for him!

  • I have always disliked the term “inactive” it is ugly and we would be wise to shy away from it’s use. Just because someone chooses to decrease their activities in the church doesn’t make them any less faithful. I believe when we slap labels on someone such as “inactive” it actually drives them further from the church and It forces us to judge them which is wrong. We must always honor their agency! I know Catholics who haven’t participated in church activities for years but are still very faithful and proud to call themselves Catholics. Lets not forget the parable of the lost sheep.

  • Such a beautifully written post! I totally agree that children should be allowed to follow their own faith paths. I also totally agree that it’s OK for families to share the faith path that works for them. It sounds like all the members of your family are perfect, just the way they are.

  • Thanks for this post! I struggle so much with these issues. I am a convert. My family had NO expectation of religion before I joined. Once I married in the temple and started a family, I thought that my kids would all serve missions and if we did “x,Y,z” the blessing would be to all stay active. My sons, 3 teenagers and 3 under 12, like church and some tolerate it. My oldest is not serving a mission and I was jealous of those mothers whose sons decided to go. Awful feelings to have and I feel so ashamed! I started looking at other families whose kids bore testimony, kids who wanted to read scriptures and attend seminary. Well, my kids don’t want to do those things really. If it wasn’t that my husband is true blue Mormon, I would be one of those “inactives” because the pressure on the mother is too much. I don’t have the guts to tell my husband about my feelings towards the church. It wouldn’t go well. He would blame it on the Feminist Mormon Housewives. Last Saturday I attended stake conference. Before I went in I told myself, “Remember when you were 12 and used to go to the Evangelical Church to hear the sermon. There was no pressure, just joy. Do the same thing”. It was wonderful. I try not to think about eternal families. Life on earth can be complicated and to think that we would “fail” as a family in the eternities, is too much to bear.

  • Ya know, on this site there’s usually nothing but a whole bunch of whining and pining by either unrighteous, uncommitted or confused Saints, and it all gets very old so quick–just like the whining by Lem and Lab. But, this piece really put a hook in me, and I relate strongly to it. I am an active member, having served in many, many Priesthood and instruction callings, and am the father of two daughters–one who went through a real rocky patch a few years ago. But it’s my time spent in my callings dealing with Saints on unsure footing, plus my daughter’s experience, which really lend me to relate to it. The author is 80-90% right, in my opinion, and I hear the Savior’s pastoral teachings in her words. Bless her.

  • I like what you said, Only an Elder, and I am glad that you viewed your daughter with love and compassion and didn’t dismiss her as unrighteousness, uncommitted, or confused just because she was having a rough patch. It would be awesome if that kind of acceptance could be extended by all of us in the church to all of our brothers and sisters, even the whining, pining ones.

  • I like this quote from James E. Faust from a discourse in April of 2003:

    “Let us not be arrogant but rather humbly grateful if our children are obedient and respectful of our teachings of the ways of the Lord. To those brokenhearted parents who have been righteous, diligent and prayerful in the teaching of their disobedient children we say to you, the Good Shepherd is watching over them. God knows and understands your deep sorrow. There is hope.”

    I will never give up hope for my son who has had his name removed from church records. I will never stop longing for the day when he reacquaints himself with the Savior and is able to exercise a modicum of faith. What I do understand is that the only thing I can do at this point is to love him how he is. And that is what I am going to do.

    Thanks for a poignant and well written article.

    Loving your guest commentators.

  • Faust quotes a comforting comment from Orson F. Whitney:

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”

    Hope on, trust on, indeed.

  • You are not sealed to your family. You have the opportunity to be sealed just like you have the opportunity to be kings and priests, queens and priestesses. Those without a Second Anointing are not sealed but have the conditional opportunity to be.

  • A question: Is “unconditional” love still unconditional when given from a safe distance? My wife and I left the church and are still deeply loved and accepted by our families, but on both sides they absolutely refuse to talk about the reasons we’ve left or try and understand our new “path”. To do so I think is seen as unfaithful. So they think they are loving us unconditionally, but only under their terms. This is difficult for us, but from a faithful perspective it’s absolutely correct.

    I think it also relates to the quote Bill provided. This life or the next, faithful service will bring your wayward children back. This is a lovely promise for the faithful, but how can the works of the parents override the choices of their children? What is so essential about our decisions in this life if they can be so completely overridden in the next?

    I’m not trying to be callous, truly, I know there is deeply felt pain over family members who leave. However, the flip side is so many members believe this type of teaching, that they completely structure their interactions with their family based on the ability to have it all resolved in the next life and miss key opportunities now.

    No need to understand wayward concerns, they’ll be addressed in “this life or the next”… no need to go down that difficult path to resolve differences, the other person will be corrected eventually.. “this life or the next”.

    I don’t think this is a good way to operate as a person or a family, I think it accounts for many missed opportunities here and now and this kind of love from a safe distance certainly doesn’t help someone back to the faith. Could be wrong, just my experience and opinion.

  • Mette wrote: “I don’t think she needs to be a Mormon to be righteous. I don’t know how this will all turn out in the end. I don’t know if this means our family is somehow less eternal. I don’t know if this daughter will be cut out of the celestial kingdom. For all that we Mormons think we understand what heaven is like, I don’t think that we have any idea.”

    The LDS church doesn’t teach that people need to be Mormons to be righteous. And clearly there are many things we will not know until the end, even if Latter-day Saints believe to have a little more knowledge on the topic thanks to modern revelation. One thing I’m quite comfortable saying is that speculation about who is admitted to the celestial kingdom is beyond our collective pay scale. What I do find comforting, however, and I would have brought it here if Bill had not already done so, is the quote from Orson F. Whitney which gives hope to all whose hearts yearn for their loved ones to return to the fold.

  • Tyson writes: “My wife and I left the church and are still deeply loved and accepted by our families, but on both sides they absolutely refuse to talk about the reasons we’ve left or try and understand our new ‘path’. To do so I think is seen as unfaithful.”

    Obviously I don’t know your parents, Tyson, but putting myself in their shoes it would be more a matter of being too painful to talk about it than worrying about the discussion being unfaithful.

    Tyson continues: “This is a lovely promise for the faithful, but how can the works of the parents override the choices of their children? What is so essential about our decisions in this life if they can be so completely overridden in the next?”

    I don’t think you’re getting the substance of Whitney’s paraphrasing of Joseph Smith’s remarks.

    The works of the parents don’t override the choices of anyone’s children. But the atoning blood of Jesus Christ has the power to redeem fallen man, to honor sealing blessings and promises made by covenant with His sheep. Those who choose thorny paths may “pay their debt to justice,” and in the process experience pain and suffering of the soul which is actually for their ultimate good, but surely people of all Christian denominations believe the parable of the prodigal son and acknowledge that our loving Father in Heaven unfailingly extends His arms toward His children.

    What better teaching for parents than to “Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”

    This isn’t so much about the works of the parents as it is about the works of our Savior, and His capacity to keep His promises to those who seek to follow in His footsteps.

  • I appreciate your thoughts Tom. It may indeed be painful for my folks, I’m sure it is, but it is very painful on our end as well. The discussions may be painful, do you think the silence and misunderstanding is better? For some it is preferred, I do not think so.

    I also may not have been clear, but when I speak of “unfaithful” it is in reference to actually understanding why I’ve left. It is more convenient and faithful to not listen to or read any opposing views, remain convinced that you have the truth, refuse to look at anything else and stay within a safe haven of prayer and faith. This is my perception in any case.

    As you continue, you lay out a very lovely and eloquent description of the Savior’s grace. In this quote however, this phrase sticks out to me: “divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth” These sealing promises are made based on their “valiant service”. The power to save is the Savior’s, but contingent on the faithfulness of someone else.

    I would guess we’ll continue to disagree on the meaning of this quote, which is fine of course. However, the 2nd part of the question was about the importance of this life. Why grieve so heavily over “disobedient” children if they will be saved anyway. Regardless of how much suffering of the soul they must go through for their own good, from an eternal perspective, it doesn’t matter how much it is, anything finite is absolutely nothing if in the end you are eternally glorified.

    2 Nephi 28:8 uses this idea that the disobedient will be judged, found guilty, beaten with a few stripes, but ultimately saved. (And then goes on to say how completely false that teaching is)

    Let’s not get word tied by the severity of a “few stripes” or real torment of the soul, in the end, it’s the same result. Or is it only for those who have parents who were lucky enough to go through a sealing, the .000 something percent of the world’s total historical population. Or does it apply to everyone because everyone will be sealed eventually, so in the end, everyone will suffer torment of the soul and then be saved in the Celestial kingdom, or at least most of them will? Or is this saving of their children saving to a lesser kingdom?

    Again, I probably sound resentful, but that’s not my intention. These are real questions I have that conflict in my mind with other teachings of the church. This is a lovely quote to bring hope to the faithful, but for me it quickly breaks down when we try to apply it outside of the church or define what it means to be saved or try to enforce the importance of obedience in this life as the brethren very strongly do.

    In any case and regardless if you feel the energy to respond, thanks for your comments and engaging thus far, which is more than I can get from many members I’ve tried to talk to.

  • 2 Nephi 2:11

    Families can be together forever. (pg. 300 Hymns)

    The key word is “can”. The opposite is can not.

    Lehi had a dream and Nephi saw it. Many multitudes of people approach the love of God which is the Tree of [Eternal] Life. Even those that reached the tree felt ashamed or any number of feelings after partaking of the love of God depart from the tree.

    Now what is to be done? Teach fear? Compulsion? No that won’t work. In fact the proper teaching of what parents are to do with wayward children is all there in the Book of Mormon. There are multiple options.

    Lehi and Nephi tried everything. Even the Lord with angels and his own voice. Nothing changed their minds. Sometimes nothing can be done.

    Alma and the sons of the king. The highest in the kingdom fought their parents. Repeatedly.

    Samuel tried to teach the Nephites, the majority rejected him.

    Over and over the teachings are there for most situations in the family or the nation are there on what to do.

    In the end it was all futile. In the end Mormon’s soul was rent with anguish he cried out “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!”

    “Behold ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss. Ye are gone and my sorrow cannot bring your return.”

    Those families that are not whole, the sorrow, the pain and anguish will end. Elder Packard said this life is made up of four T’s.

    Tragedy
    Temptation
    Trials
    Testing

    Each are hard especially tragedy. All die, the ultimate tragedy, even the Son of God died. No one not even God escaped.

    So what is the hope?

    What is the message?

    “This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Moses 1:39

    “And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

  • None of my adult children are active. One of them has had his name removed. None of this makes any difference to me and my wife. Our family is not a church calling, nor do my kids need a recommend to come or call home. Our family IS forever, with or without a sealing ceremony in a sacred building. What seals this family is love. The way we treat each other, the way we care, determines whether we are together at all – in this life or any other.

  • How I wish all of you loving, accepting and thoughtful writers (including those of you who have left the Church) lived where I live or were in my ward. I am so weary of talks that say what people think should be said instead of speaking from their hearts because of fear of judgment or sometimes fear of acknowledging ones own doubts. And it’s kind of sad to feel the silence of well-meaning ward members and friends who are worrying about my sorrow about my own children leaving the Church, instead of having real thoughtful dialogue that isn’t void of ones own doubts. I think it is not healthy for our church to silence people who think differently from established teachings in public. God did not give us these good brains to deny their ability to process. And Joseph Smith did not agree with calling those who expressed different opinions on the carpet either (History of the Church 5:340: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”).

    I think it’s regrettable that it’s the exception and not the rule to be honestly vocal about our doubts and questions in our church. Thank you, Tyson, for pointing out that we should engage our children who’ve left, not to try to convince them to come back but to show them we have faith in their ability to choose truth as they see it.

  • I wish to note that I have no feelings or even knowledge about Methodism and was only quoting Joseph Smith’s comment for his point about inclusion. Please know I am not agreeing with any disdain for the Methodist Church.

  • Hidden threat? What is hidden about consequences? And who can judge why a person left the church? Only mormons can be righteous? Wait, show me in our teachings where that is! No idea what heaven is like? Our meetings and teachings and temples and General authorities are teaching this today and every day. I have felt and do feel peace, love, commitment, harmony, service, joy, kindness, progression, learning, knowledge, etc. We have Prophets and Apostles to answer these questions and have answered them.

  • Of course you can mourn the loss of the relationship you envisioned, the deviation from the path you expected your child to take. That is in no way limited to Mormon parents of non-Mormon children. If you haven’t experienced anything like this, I suspect you are very young or very lucky. Miscarriage, traumatic birth, divorce, spousal death, job loss…just about everyone has to accept that the best-laid schemes gang aft agley.

    So, what do you do when you are dealing with this sort of thing? You talk to people you know understand. You get therapy. You journal. Whatever you need to do to accept the changes and re-orient yourself.

    And you can do that without destroying relationships you profess to care about. Or you can be like a lot of Mormon families – mine included in a lot of ways – who decide that the only child they’ll accept is the version they want. Not the child as they actually are, for all the things you are in awe of about them, the things think are beautiful about them, the things they do that you are completely exasperated by or angry about. You can stop talking to them, because you don’t accept that a non-Mormon person can be a good, real, happy person. You can have spent all those years bringing them from a tiny wrinkled blank-slate newborn to their adult individual selves, all those years of joy and frustration, pride and hurt, day after day, and then you can decide that none of that matters, that they don’t matter, if they don’t have the same view of deities and afterlife as you do. You can stop talking to these amazing people you helped make, you can hurt them deeply, if the most important thing to you is that they believe in your religion.

    It’s been a long time since I was Mormon, but my memory of the story of Lehi is that he never stopped communicating and trying to connect with his children. I don’t think that’s the appropriate example here.

  • Clearing Out The Notebook:

    Fred – You write:

    “if we treat children leaving the church as a tragedy, I think we’re doing them and ourselves and the gospel and God’s infinite love a huge disservice.”

    I see this as 2 separate topics.

    Is it a tragedy when a child leaves the church? Yes. But does that mean we have to treat the child as if “they” are the tragedy, rather than the circumstances, that’s when the disservice happens. I place a great degree of trust in the words of Elder Packer:

    “The measure of our success as parents, however, will not rest solely on how our children turn out. That judgment would be just only if we could raise our families in a perfectly moral environment, and that now is not possible.

    “It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons or daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should.

    “It is my conviction that those wicked influences one day will be overruled.”

    He goes on, in that talk from General Conference, April 1992, to quote Orson F. Whitney, in the April General Conference of 1929 (and as earlier quoted by Bill):

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”

    These words seemed strangely significant to me in 1992, when our oldest daughter was 6. They took on a whole new meaning when she became inactive at age 18. Through all of the parental despair, I held on to those words of Elders Packer and Whitney like a life raft on a sinking ship. And I am grateful that I did not have to wait until the next life to see her return to full activity in the church.

    Brett – You write:

    “I’ve found family members to be the most judgmental of my decision, yet they are the least likely to ask why I left or what issues I have with the LDS church.”

    I would humbly suggest that you might consider that what you are calling “judgment” may simply be how they are reacting to what they see as a tragedy – in the same way that children act out in sometimes uncomfortable ways following the death of a family member or other loved one.

    I’m not claiming to be correct in your particular case..but..maybe it’s worth considering?

    “Sure, you can think that, but it’s best to keep it to yourself.”

    That may be just a bit much to ask. I would grant you that it is certainly possible for otherwise well-meaning people to go overboard…but…I don’t think you can blame folks if it comes up every once in a while. Like many other things, this part of life is like a pendulum..and it will swing both ways before finding equilibrium and rest.

    Kevin – You write:

    “I know Catholics who haven’t participated in church activities for years but are still very faithful and proud to call themselves Catholics. Lets not forget the parable of the lost sheep.”

    Once again, I think these are 2 different topics. I don’t presume to speak for Catholics, but in terms of the LDS patch of the garden that is Christianity, there are precise commandments given in this particular regard. A good source here would be Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants. I don’t think you get to proclaim someone “very faithful” when they voluntarily abstain from the most basic aspects of the faith, such as partaking of the sacrament. Further, Section 58 talks about being “anxiously engaged”. You don’t get to call yourself that when you’re neither.

    Years ago, my home teaching companion and I visited an inactive (there…I said it…I’m just not a PC kinda guy) member, whom we both knew very well from other aspects of life. As we talked about his not having been to church in years, he brought up how he just wasn’t getting anything out of Sacrament Meetings, and how he felt he understood the Gospel better than his teachers either in Sunday School or in Elders Quorum. He opened his computer, showed us years of painstaking research in Ancient Hebrew, Ancient Greek, lots of cross-referenced notes…the product of a mind very much concerned with spiritual matters, at least at the intellectual level. He then asked “so what do you think of that?” My companion replied, with a smile, “I just don’t know how you’re gonna do when you tell God at the last day that you wrapped your arms lovingly around your laptop, rather than around one of your brothers or sisters.” It took our friend a moment to grasp it…and may have been one of the longest silences I have ever endured (full disclosure: I feel that way EVERY time I’m not speaking), but within a short time he started coming back and, if he were to complain today about the Elders Quorum teacher, he’d be complaining about himself.:)

    Ana – You write:

    “I don’t have the guts to tell my husband about my feelings towards the church.”

    Well…seeing as you just told the internet…it may not be too long before you have this conversation.:)

    “He would blame it on the Feminist Mormon Housewives.”

    I blame everything on them! The Dodgers lose? Feminist Mormon Housewives! That speeding ticket? Feminist Mormon Housewives! World hunger? Feminist Mormon Housewives! That flat tire last week? You get my drift…:)

    “I try not to think about eternal families.”

    I try to never forget. If I ever did, I think my behavior would land me in worlds of trouble. It’s knowing that my family can be eternal that keeps me on the strait and narrow.

    Bill – You write:

    “the only thing I can do at this point is to love him how he is.”

    Good brother, I think you’re doing way more than that! You are not only loving him “how he is”, but you are loving him for “how you know he can be.” In that, you are loving him the same way that the Savior loves all of us. He doesn’t just love us “how we are” and leave it at that. He loves us for the potential He knows we have, even if we are currently running from that potential. As far as I’m concerned, Bill, you are a great example of Christlike love.

    Tyson – You write:

    “A question: Is “unconditional” love still unconditional when given from a safe distance?”

    It can be. In some ways, this can be treated in the same way as the widow’s mite. We all love with the degree of unconditionality of which we are capable. If what you perceive as “from a safe distance” is literally 100% of what they are capable of, then that answer would have to be yes. Conversely, someone may do and say all the right things – and give you the feeling that they’re all about understanding you – but unless you can know the thoughts in their heart, you won’t know if all they’re doing is mollifying you. I’m going to go out on a limb and take the position that only the Savior will be judging to what degree our love is unconditional.

    “This is a lovely promise for the faithful, but how can the works of the parents override the choices of their children?”

    In my view, what happens here is that things will be taken in a context born of a perspective greater than that which we mortals are capable of understanding. We may know the time, so to say, but that doesn’t mean we can build a Swiss watch from scratch. Who knows? If you get to the other side and, with further light and knowledge, look back at this life and think “What was I thinking???”, and then, upon further reflection, realize that your decision was based on faulty reasoning, the causation for which may not have even been your fault, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the Lord has provided a mechanism for your family to have your back?

    “It may indeed be painful for my folks, I’m sure it is, but it is very painful on our end as well.”

    Totally understandable.

    “The discussions may be painful, do you think the silence and misunderstanding is better?”

    That depends. Speaking solely for myself, I don’t often shy away from a discussion. Those who know me well might even say that I enjoy a good confrontation. Nevertheless, there have been times – and people – in my life, where I have simply had to say “I’m not gonna go there. It hurts too deeply, and I’m just not up for it.” I’ve had to tell people to whom I was once very close, who have chosen to engage in practices which are abhorrent to me (and for the record, I am not talking religion here, so this is not a “Mike’s friend left the church” thing) and who want to have long discussions about it, “sorry, but I’m just not able to handle the feelings this would generate. Maybe another time, but not now.” I think I’m on pretty solid footing that the Lord would be cool with that.

  • If a child decides to leave the Mormon Church, the church doesn’t wait to start breaking the family apart. To see this, one need look no further than the church’s anti-family policy of restricting temple weddings to only those people who “sustain” the church’s leaders, and pay them 10% of their income.

    The solution to all of this to simply follow the kid out of the church. It’s the best solution all around. You get two-day weekends and a 10% boost in pay, and you can spend more time with your family, doing things the family loves. And if it turns out that pigs do fly, and the Mormon Church is true, at least you’ll all be together in the Telestial Kingdom. And that beats going to the Celestial Kingdom, all by yourself, any day of the week.

  • “If a child decides to leave the Mormon Church, the church doesn’t wait to start breaking the family apart. To see this, one need look no further than the church’s anti-family policy of restricting temple weddings to only those people who “sustain” the church’s leaders, and pay them 10% of their income.”

    In all honestly, the amount of logic in this paragraph is roughly akin to:

    If someone doesn’t like Mondays, then the up staircase fries an egg with football and the back marbles skip to my Lou.”

    Sounds like Jabberwocky? Then you get it.

    “And if it turns out that pigs do fly, and the Mormon Church is true, at least you’ll all be together in the Telestial Kingdom.”

    Except that that’s not how it works.:)

  • Nice article, but the church is complete BS anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Let’s face it, God let Joseph Smith bed 14 year olds and other mens wives (repeatedly) and so you are really concerned that a family member who wakes up and leaves the cult is going to suffer? I doubt it. I think anyone who finally wakes up and learns what a joke the LDS Church is will score better in the end in the eyes of God. There is no intelligent person who will go on a self explorative fact finding mission that would ever legitimately conclude that the church is anything but a complete fraud.

  • It is important to note that church authorized materials never say that families “will” be together forever; rather, the phrase is conditional: “families can be together forever.” Whether it happens or not rests upon the righteousness of the entire family. Also, it is obviously true that you do not have to be an apostate member of the church to live in a way that compromises your side of the covenant.

  • I’m well versed in all the Joseph Smith history: the brown stone, the stones in the hat, the wives, the “treasure hunting,” and I’m still a member of the LDS church. You think that’s because I’m an idiot and that’s okay. There are a lot of things I don’t understand but one thing I do know is that Joseph Smith was an imperfect man just like any other, but he faced extraordinary persecution and handled it in an extraordinary way. I’m not asking for a God to come down on earth just yet, I’m contented with a man who did very well considering his trials and cultural context. Also, I have read the Book of Mormon many times and that combined wih prayer is the bedrock of my testimony. Thanks for your comment, but I just wanted to say that there is at least one person who doesn’t for your over generalized statement in members of the LDS faith. I’m sure you’re a good guy and I don’t expect you to agree with me but I just needed to let you know my thoughts on your absolutist view of Mormons.

  • I once heard a (second hand) report from a neighbor of Thomas S. Monson that said he heard him and his wife yelling at each other and during the argument TSM came outside, got in the car, and as he was doing so told his wife to “just shut up”. That is an imperfect man. Marrying and bedding 14 year old girls and other mens wives behind your wifes back is not an imperfect man. Sorry to burst your testimony bubble. Most of Joseph’s trials were because the masses could see who he really was, a manipulative pedophile who hid behind a made up religion. You can have a testimony all you want. I can think the sun is blue. Facts don’t lie. And you are obviously not well versed in Joseph Smith. You should say you are well versed in the Joseph Smith that the church teaches, as the real man, as witnessed by countless others who had no agenda, as well as court records and marriage records is a completely different person. Again, the facts don’t lie. And acknowledging the facts based on irrefutable evidence does not make someone an apostate.

    I have stated a million times to many members – prove me wrong. I would love to be wrong about Joseph Smith but do not tell me to believe in some made up burning in my bosom that I conjure up to over look the facts. Sorry to tell you God doesn’t work that way.

    And so you know I am an RM, Temple Married, temple worker, bishopric, high council, EQ president. Facts don’t lie. I wish they did though

  • What exactly is an apostate member? Someone who recognizes the truth and refuses to put their head in the sand? Someone who doesn’t follow the prophet? But which prophet should we follow? The one who marries children, the one who says the negro is the seed of cain, the one who changed the temple ceremony 3 times, the one who said blacks will NEVER receive the priesthood, the one who said blacks can have the priesthood, the one who changed the book of mormon over 1000 times? Hard to know which prophet we should follow huh? They keep changing their minds. Man, God is a fickle being isn’t he.

  • Fran, perhaps you don’t realize that the teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) is that this earth we now live on will become the Celestial Kingdom where the most blessed will be physically resurrected and live eternally with their spouses, children and ancestors in the presence of God the Father and Christ. Indeed, Anglican bishop N.T. Wright in his book “Surprised by Hope” affirms that this is precisely what the New Testament teaches about the nature of the Resurrection and our future lives with God. Some of the Christian critics of his book denigrated it by saying that his picture of eternity was very “Mormon”, but his response was that the Mormons read the Bible more carefully than many other people.

  • Chris, if you are interested in actual objective information about Joseph Smith’s plural marriages, I recommend you read the extensive information that is available at FairMormon.org. There is no clear evidence that he actually had sexual relations with a 14 year old, though it was legal for young women that age to be married in many states up until a few years ago. The record tends to show that the “marriages” with the wives of other men in the church were what we now refer to as “sealings” to take effect in the hereafter, but not marriages during mortal life. And there is no specific evidence that he had sexual relations with any of those women.

    The hunger that some people have to portray Smith in the way you do was the target of one of the forged documents prepared by murderer Mark Hoffman, purporting to be a letter from Smith to two sisters who had been sealed to him. Before his forgeries were identified, the fake letter had become part of a biography of Emma Smith, Joseph’s wife. Hoffman did the same thing with other historical questions around Smith’s life, supplying “evidence” that many people were hoping for. You might want to check into the provenance of the sources for your views; they may have been tainted by that fake “evidence”.

  • Raymond,

    Please go read the journal (published as “A Widow’s Tale) by Helen Mar Kimball she makes it very clear the relationship was sexual. FAIR does a good job of trying to hide behind their BS theories, but both of the 14 year old he married said the relationship was sexual and both died fully active members of the church. And NO it was not normal nor legal for a 14 year old to marry a 38 year old man who already had 14 wives. Please get your facts straight before you spew the lies the LDS church tells you. Polygamy in 1842 when he married Helen Mar Kimball who was born in 1828 was illegal according to the Illinois Anti Bigamy act passed in 1832. SO please do not try to tell me it was normal or legal.

    The hunger that some people have to portray the profit as anything but a child molester baffles me. Trying to compare someone who has hard cold irrefutable facts to Mark Hoffman is just desperate. One does not need to stoop to a Mark Hofffman level to expose the church for the complete fraud that it is.

    But if you want to worship a pedophile then go ahead and do so.

  • Hi Raymond:

    It seems like you may have gotten the wrong impression about what most Christians think about the resurrection of the body:
    The physical resurrection of our bodies, and life everlasting on a perfected, ‘heavenly’ earth, with God, is something that the Christian Church has historically believed and taught for 2,000 years. The Apostles Creed, a very early-church creed which is foundational to Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants, proclaims a belief in the ‘resurrection of the body’. I am surprised anyone would be criticizing Wright for believing in the resurrection, as that’s been a basic belief for 2,000 years.

  • I am an active member of the LDS faith. I have always wondered why someone would have an issue with Joseph Smith. The person above has no idea if his allegations are true but somehow knows with out a doubt that he beliefs that our faith is a farse. Chris, you believe that the church is not true and Joseph is not a prophet. Have you gone to find out that your evidence is correct? Or are you just believing what has been posted to you by others. If this argument is only about hard evidence then I invite you to go and search out the veracity of that content. How will you know to believe it? It was so long ago, yet it seems to be so factual to you that anyone who tried to speak against the church is truthful. Also, have you not read the Old Testament about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. The 12 tribes of Israel stem from a plural wife scenario. Is your frustration really with Joseph Smith? Is it with religion in general? Also, regarding the reason for persecution. My understanding is that Martin Luther, Tisdale, Jesus Christ, Peter, Paul they were also persecuted for their religion and beliefs. Does this mean that there was actual underlying lies behind their faith as well? In my opinion you are comparing Joseph Smith with the feelings you have for someone like Warren Jeffs. All of this religion, persecution might seem so silly to someone who has not felt what I have felt. I have felt God’s love. I have prayed for forgiveness and received overwhelming compensation from the Holy Ghost and from those whom I have offended of peace and love. I have read every word in the Bible, Book of Mormon and have seen how interlocked they are. I have seen true miracles and Gods hand shape so many people for the good ( of My faith and people from other faiths). I have prayed and felt the truth of what I have read over and over. Christ taught that truth is light and peace. I have felt both and have conviction that he lives. Joseph Smith did see God and Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith’s fruits are excellent. Christ said by their fruits you shall know them. His fruits have done wonders for the world. The Holy Ghost has said this to me and I don’t expect you or anyone else to understand. You never will understand. You are looking for complicated evidence against my belief and honestly, I respectfully don’t believe you. That just will never work for me after what I have experienced. Life’s answers are simple. The original comment about families was very sincere. As a member of the church, a Christian and friend, I want to better understand how to communicate to my young children about eternal families. My family is not perfect. I came to this blog trying to objectively teach my young children about eternal families. I learned something. To make sure to teach them that the concept of “eternal families” is a journey and that we will stumble very often. if they stray, it will be hard but that we love them and will pray for them often . that we should be aware of other faiths and how we can learn from them. Thanks for the insight!

  • I know you mean well, but I have to point out that you basically just compared us wayward children to Satan. Sometimes we are people who still truly try to have God and Jesus Christ in our lives, and it shows in how we try to treat others.
    I once read a comment somewhere on a blog that said resigning from the church could be the better option than remaining inactive. It’s like a pick your poison scenario: stick around and endure love bombing, cookie plates, being stalked and condescended. Or cut ties officially, and be left alone and finally tolerated.
    I do not believe that active/endowed/temple married/sealed Mormons have the one and only chance into the highest level of heaven in the afterlife, and are the only ones who remain an eternal family after death. I believe all paths lead to home. Everyone will be on the same page at some point.
    It’s easy for everyone to get distracted from living in the present, to enjoy, respect and appreciate life. But that’s the bigger priority here. I want to do that more, and figure out how to genuinely love, forgive and accept my family more. I pray they’ll do the same for me. Thanks, Sister Harrison, for writing this article. It stings to be seen as someone who is making mistakes, is a permanent product of parenting failure and will not receive a “fullness of eternal blessings”. But in my heart, I know that’s not true and I’m getting thicker skin over it. I am hanging onto my belief in God, and hope he believes in me, too.

  • Gold Circle M. Thank you for your comment. I have been bombarded with people doubting and ridiculing my faith and somehow your words strengthened me and gave me some peace.

  • I agree Kevin. I have six sons, all don’t attend church, all are good kind hearted boys. The one that served a mission has never been really active since he got back off his mission and the last few months has started hanging out with people from another Christian church and now he tells me he doesn’t believe Joseph smith was a prophet etc etc, I can see less activity but down right rebellion and a quest to prove the church wrong is hard for me to deal with. I love him regardless and he knows it. I can tell he has been fed so much anti Mormon stuff by this other church, his choice and he is loved by his mother regardless and I don’t look down on him or any of my children. Kinda breaks my heart

  • Why don’t people who leave the church, just leave the church? It seems to me like they just have so much hatred and animosity and are ready to just pounce and hate and disprove etc. Just saying

  • Its so interesting how two people can be in a similar position, read the same blog post, and come away with completely different feelings about it. I didn’t feel as though she was trying to compare us “wayward” children to satan, rather pointing out that according to Mormon doctrine God allowed one of his children ‘satan’ to choose his own path and did not force satan to act a certain way so why should Mormon parents feel as though it is their duty to do this. I think that her encouragement to Mormon parents to truly understand their children and take away the pressure to talk about the church or feel a certain way about it is more important. I wish my parents would be more like this.

  • my name is kendall and I raised my son pretty much alone, although there were some scary times and a lot of fun times I was only 19 when I had him and his father and I divorced before our first year. I absolutely adored my baby. I am now recoving addict. I know in my heart of hearts that God is real and that his son died for my sins and all the other souls. Well my baby turned Mormon when I was in my disease. It’s true that they sneak up when a child is very vulnerable, then take them away from their family’s on a mission. That he has to pay for!! We can’t talk except for three times a year. That was 12’years ago . When he came back from his mission I took him to Hawaii and he had a drink. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would rather feel worse about if his journey would take him through the depths of hell as an alcoholic or the depths of hell as a Mormon . He left the church up until his wedding last August. I love my daughter in law! She is kind beautiful and now a Mormon !! Wth !

  • There seems to be some remarkable people on this site who can have a so called normal warm relationship with their children who have left the Church, I mean left, having their names taken off the records. Despite the constant ridicule, baraging, criticism and disdain they feel for your decisions and choices and behaviour you somehow have a good relationship. I’m not sure how you have a warm, normal relationship with bullying children. I’m yet to find myelf in that place.

  • How can a man who regularly seduced young teenage girls and the wives of other men be a prophet? And he did those things in the “name” of the Mormon god.

  • Have you ever heard of this miracle of modern writing……it’s called a paragraph. I look at this wall of text and all I see is another Mormon nut-job standing on an apple crate. Geez!

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