If there are any members or former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints out there that have ever left the Church because of being seriously offended, this is the one message I want you to take away from this article:
Please don’t let my imperfections be the foundation upon which you judge the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I know you’ve been deeply offended. I’m sorry this is even an issue that has to be addressed. Maybe it was a Relief Society sister, maybe it was someone in the bishopric or maybe it’s the entire ward. Maybe it’s something that happened years ago, or maybe it’s something that is still happening now.
Frankly, we members can be mean. We can be judgy, nasty and prideful. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. There’s no hiding it. It does no good to pretend there’s not a problem. It is a problem.
I know it’s hard. I’ve been there. But please, do not leave the Church because of it.
Our membership should not be dependent on the behavior of other members
I have the deepest sympathy for my fellow Mormons who have suffered at the hands of our own. That said, our membership should be dependent on our testimonies of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel—not the righteousness of the members.
The baptismal question is: “Do you believe the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith?” It’s not: “Do you believe the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ are true inasmuch as the members are true to it?” Fortunately, that’s not a thing.
The Church has a social aspect to it, but it does not claim to be the world’s hottest social club. It claims to be the restored church of Jesus Christ. That’s why we need to be there. The bishop could spit directly into my face but it wouldn’t disprove my belief that this is Christ’s restored church. It simply proves that my bishop is a punk.
Frankly, God did not design the gospel for perfect people. He designed it to perfect a fallen people. Leaving the Church because there are sinful people within it is like leaving the hospital because there are sick people in it. Of course, it’s not fun when the guy in the next waiting room seat sneezes all over you, but you’ve got your own medical issues to take care of. The hospital is the place to be to do that.
The same thing happened in The Book of Mormon
You can find offensive people in any church, but I digress. I can’t justify inappropriate behavior, but I do find some expanded perspective in the words of The Book of Mormon. It turns out that members were oftentimes punks there too.
And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.
And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.
And it came to pass in the commencement of the ninth year, Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people.
And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—
And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
Look at that first verse. Helaman makes a very clear distinction between the church of God and the people who professed to belong to the church of God. There’s a difference.
The problem is with the people, not the gospel. If we sacrifice our participation and belief in the gospel because of member impropriety we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
Punk members are all over the place in The Book of Mormon. The Bible is also replete with them. Even one of Christ’s closest disciples, an apostle, betrayed him. That’s pretty offensive, but Christ’s teachings were and are still true.
So, what do we do when members offend us?
How can you go to church and feel the spirit if you feel unwelcome, judged and offended? That’s a great question, one I’m not qualified to answer for you. Take it up with God. Ask Him through sincere prayer how to best implement Christ’s teachings in your situation.
As you seek revelation to know how to move forward, remember this counsel from Christ himself:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
May God bless you on your journey.