Inside The Mind of An Inactive Member

young-woman-studying-scriptures-919086-galleryThe last nine months, I’ve been studying the scriptures with a study buddy. We use an online site that gives us a daily reading assignment with a question to answer. We do the reading separately and answer the question. Then we discuss our answers and talk about what we read.

Recently, we had an interesting discussion about Alma 7:15: “Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you. . . .” The study question was: “How does fear affect the repentance process?”

My answer: “It is terrifying to think that in attempting to lay aside every sin that you will fail. It is actually easier to keep the status quo and accept the fact that you are not going to heaven than to think about failing in the attempt. Fear also affects our repentance when we fear man more than God. We fear what our peers think of us, and how our family perceives us.”

My study buddy asked me what I meant by this. My response: “When I was inactive, I had myself convinced that I wasn’t going to heaven. I was actually fine with that because it was easier than going back to Church. I know that sounds amazingly weird, but quite often that’s the way inactive members think. It’s excruciatingly painful to even consider coming back to Church, so you just accept the fact that you are not going to heaven.” (Note: I know that it is politically correct to say “less active”, but as a former “inactive” member, I personally think the term “less active” is annoying at best, and possibly patronizing or even condescending. I’m a woman who tells it like it is—which gets me into trouble a lot, but it is what it is. Let’s not beat around the bush.)

It is extremely difficult for an inactive member of the Church to explain his/her feelings to someone who has never been inactive. If you have never been in that position, you have no concept whatsoever of the thoughts and feelings of someone who has left the Church. That is why it is a sticky wicket for us to try to reactivate people. We must reach out to them, but it has to be done in friendship and love, not with accusations.

hummingbird-851281-galleryThe June 2015 issue of the Ensign has a great story about a hummingbird that was rescued. Parallels are made in the story about the rescue of the bird to the rescue of inactive members.

In the hummingbird article, some observations were noted.

  • Often, as we reach out to the less active, our efforts don’t seem to make a difference. But the love we offer does slip into the cracks—like the nectar into the unmoving beak of the hummingbird—providing spiritual nutrition that one day may produce results.
  • At times we can’t go further on our own; we need a kind, caring hand up.

  • Sometimes people get tangled in the cobwebs of sin or addiction and need the help of a friend or priesthood leader and the Savior’s assistance to get free.
  • We need regular spiritual nutrition in order to endure, else we run out of spiritual strength and fall victim to evil influences.
  • The hummingbird kept hanging on. Literally. Hanging on made all the difference. At times, we must simply endure in faith as we deal with the painful and sometimes horrible challenges of life.

    (William Hoggan, “The Hummingbird Rescue”, Ensign June 2015).

couple-taking-treats-to-woman-176205-galleryThese are all very good points. I would add that the worst thing you can do is to make someone your “project”. Be a friend because you want to be a friend. If you are not sincere, you will make matters worse and add fuel to the fire. Don’t be a short-term friend who goes away in six months because you don’t see progress being made. It took me 20 years to return. I could spot someone who wanted me for a project a mile away. Don’t be preachy; be a friend. Don’t love on condition that they return to Church; love because they are children of God.

The “hand up” and “spiritual nutrition” referred to above don’t mean lectures and criticism; they mean sincere help—sometimes it’s just a shoulder to cry on. If you are a trustworthy friend, sometimes the person will ask to talk to you about a matter of spiritual concern. When that happens, make use of the opportunity to discuss gospel principles without making light of the person’s feelings. Remember that no question or concern should be belittled, and no child of God should be made to feel small, stupid, or inadequate.

Inactive people are usually “hanging on” for dear life. They don’t know what to do or where to turn. Just as they are hanging on, so must you as their friend. Hang on to them for dear life because they are drowning. If you saw someone dangling from a rocky cliff 100 feet above a rushing river, your instincts would demand that you grab an arm, hold on, and don’t let go. Those who are not attending on Sunday are literally dangling from that cliff. Please don’t be the one who stands by taking pictures of the fall with a cell phone and posting to Facebook, “Gee, that’s too bad.” Drop the phone and grab an arm.

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Laurie White

Laurie White is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California.She often writes as Tudie Rose.You can find her on Twitter as @LaurieBee, and as @TudieRose.She writes a weekly column for LDS Blogs.

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108 thoughts on “Inside The Mind of An Inactive Member

  1. Jessica Spieth

    I loved this article. At the moment my little sister is going through inactivity with the church but has recently shown interested in reading the book of mormon with me. How can I do this? What study guide did you and your friend use?

      1. Isabelle S.Lata

        I liked your article. But when I see the word “Inactive” what do the Church really mean by this. Inactive…Paul describes member as the body parts every body part has a function…say for example an ear lobe it is very inactive part to look at [however in animals it is always flicking and twitching :-)]but if you cut it off what will happen…yor face will be distorted. Ear lobe is there to give shape and design to your face. So there maybe some members who may not be as active as most maybe due to their age factor maybe due to their family commitment.. not every one are as young as our Apostles and Prophets, that does not mean they are inactive…they are still fulfilling Christ mission wherever they are, not necessarily within the church premises. After all Jesus told his disciples go out into the world…and proclaim the gospel. Most of us as LDS wants to stay within the sphere of the Church and the temple but the hungry are the lost souls in the world not within the church. Those who are in the Church are saved and know the Gospel yes I agree most need scripture lesson only if they never knew the scripture before.
        I came into the Church knowing the scriptures but did find those lost manna which was missing and have been active as a teacher now I stay home not really “active” in the way church wants me to be but I still am active and don’t like when people use that word inactive…because none of us members can never be inactive…because the Spirit will not allow even praying is a very active part of a member, if nothing else pray that is activity of the highest calling.
        Thank you sister for your article great to read it. I still think LDS members has to broaden their thoughts and mind and this can only happen if they branch out into the society other than their own. I have a lot of opportunity to share the restored gospel even encourage people not of our faith to live a good life and being a good example to them sharing my caring and loving attitude not physically but spiritually in words and letters. And one day probably they will meet the missionaries and get baptized. Sowing the seed is now.
        Most activities in my church is the replica of activities in the society and sometime that makes me wonder. Are we bringing the society in the church or are we taking the gospel to the society. Paul to the letters to the Corinthians warned the church for the very thing. I know the Church is the restored of the Lord but I will not be pulled down by the influence of any as the Christ that I know is the Christ of the poor, the needy, the rich and the wealthy. All his followers are active despite of being described as ‘inactive” by the church bishop or the presidencies. I don’t like the word inactive even the dead in flesh are actively alive in the spirit world or even prison. Use of word makes a difference and that is why every word spoken should be considered well before speaking and this does not happen in churches. They still create divisions by using words inappropriately. There are much hurt within the church walls then being outside it’s walls and they name it as a learning process.
        Well there are people in the different stages of learning and most times we just have to keep a lot of patience…for their sake that they may also become like those who have already passed through the fire so as to say. And the worst I have seen in my church is when they look to you for example and not to Christ Jesus. I hate when women in my church name me after a deceased sister and tells me to stay as an example for younger people. That is not me I stand for myself I know where I came from and where I am going in Christ ad that is sufficient for me. I am not a show case or show piece. My relationship is with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and that stands till I pass on to my destiny. The scripture are the word of God that keeps me going…I do not worship man but God in Spirit and truth. If any one sees me as an example Praise be to God at least He has opened his/her eyes to see so. I love my heavenly Father and He loves me and through the atonement of Jesus Christ He has opened doors for me to enter and that sufficient for me. His Church is on earth and is looked after by his servants and that is all good one servant will come and then another and another until He returns and makes everything new again. Every one has a calling to do one thing or the other not necessary to do the same things, So may our Heavenly Father bless His children wherever they are in church or outside of church, as He sees right in Jesus Name Amen

        1. Laurie White Post author

          Thank you for your comments. You have taught me something. I had never thought about the word inactive in that light. I will be thinking about that for a while — so thanks for that. “Are we bringing the society in the church or are we taking the gospel to the society.” I love that!

    1. Sarah

      I have read all of the comments and I there is one common denominator in so many. “Anger” anger that I have once felt. There was a time that I struggled with going to church. In fact I hated it. I would leave feeling annoyed, unworthy, and overwhelmed. Then I had a life changing experience. I found myself at the bottom of a huge mountain that I had just tumbled down. I ended up in a mental hospital for 7 days. Which changed my life. I realized while I was in there how ungrateful I’ve been. I blamed everyone else for me not feeling worthy enough and overwhelmed. I hated the church for taking so much of my time. “How dare them ask me to help teach others the gospel of Christ and serve of others!” I blamed the church members for making me feel like I I would never be good enough. I was annoyed with “churchy” people. Thinking they were judging me. When in fact I was the one judging them and assuming they were thinking they were better than me. I guess you could say I found myself having a “change of heart.” I went through a LONG and difficult repentance process and church discipline. I not only used the atonement for sin, but I also gave my anger, insecurities and doubts to my Savior. I know longer feel judge, or judgement. I am no longer angry with others answers and testimonies. I let them help and teach me. I no longer am angry about priesthood. Instead I searched and learned more about it and found understanding. It is not given to men because the church thinks men are better than woman. We are taught we are all daughters and son’s of god created equal. We all have a role to play in Christ’s church. Being bishop is no more important than being a sunbeam teacher. (Which I am and I love it) Personally I’m glad I don’t have that responsibility.
      This is Christ Church and it teaches us love, service, kindness, tolerance, obedience, humility, meekness, and all other attributes of Christ. They are all teachings of Christ. Are we as Saints perfect in all these teachings? “NO.” We are all weak and made strong through the atonement of Christ. Should we be taking one of these teachings at a time and try to be more like our Savior, absolutely. I no for me the most liberating thing I’ve ever done was looking at me. I took everyone out of the equation and was really honest with me. I now have peace I have never felt before. The anger, the guilt, the judgement, and the feeling of being overwhelmed is gone. This took a lot of obedience, love, forgiveness and time. I still have a mountains to climb, but no longer feel overwhelmed with the journey. I am completely enjoying it. Now when I go to church I remind myself I am going to HIS church. I am serving HIM when I am serving in my callings. I love the his church.

      1. Laurie White Post author

        Thank you for telling your story. Yes, anger and bitterness is a big part of this. I was a very bitter person for a very long time.

  2. Laurie

    I loved this. I was inactive for about 20 years also. You explained my thoughts and feelings exactly. I’ve been back now for almost 20 years but the scariest part of that was the first time I walked back into church. So glad I did!

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Yes, that first time walking back is horrible. Glad you are back!

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thank you, Dora, for bringing that article to my attention. That’s a great article, and I had not seen it before. I agree entirely that there is a big difference between sin and moral weakness. Guilt is destructive. A good bishop once told me that Heavenly Father had forgiven me a long time ago, and it was about time that I forgave myself. Forgiving ourselves is not easy, but it is crucial. 🙂

  3. nancy

    I have a friend who did some serious things when he was younger but stayed active in the churchuntil his weaknesses caught up with him. he said he accepted not going to heaven because the thought of confessing his sins was too overwhelming. He left the church and joined another but now is disaffected with it.

    Laurie how did you Come back to activity in the church? What changed?

    1. Laurie White Post author

      That’s the $64,000 question. There’s no short answer. Life is a growing experience. I left when I was only 17. By the time 20 years went by, I was married and had four children of my own, and a stepchild. There had been enough “life experience” that I realized I needed to forgive (myself and others) and move on. There were a series of events that finally pulled me back. In a short comment, I can’t give much detail, but my 9-year-old son wanted to be baptized. I asked him what he knew about the Church (to make sure he knew enough), and he talked for a long time — bearing simple testimony to me. That was the start. Then, my last child came only after a time of infertility. When she was born, I remember looking at her and realizing what great blessings my Heavenly Father had bestowed on me. There were other things, but eventually I just wised up and realized that it was time to come back.

  4. Sarah N

    As an inactive member you made me cry. Everything you said is true, thank you for making me think. I live an hour from Sacramento, want to be my friend? haha

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Oh, no tears. 🙂 I would love to be your friend. Feel free to friend me on Facebook, and we’ll get to know each other.

  5. MT

    Thank you so much for this article. I was the first person to join the Church in my family. It was a hard decision that has caused some rifting in my family. Like you, I tell it like it is and it gets me into trouble as well. I appreciate the advice because I had a very close relative join the Church via my missionary efforts, but now is inactive. I’m saddened by the choices being made by this loved one; however, I know I need to reach out even though I know I am being avoided. I appreciate the advice as it is confirmation to me about what I was feeling I need to do. Thank you for writing this piece. I’m glad you are back to activity. God be with you!

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Being the first in the family can be difficult. While my family were converts, we did have LDS heritage two generations prior to me, so we didn’t have near the problems that a lot of people face when they join the Church. Stay strong. Your relative who is now inactive — patience is the key. Treat this person with the same respect you have always shown prior to the conversion and prior to the inactivity. Respect this person’s agency. Set a good example, and answer all questions as honestly as you possibly can. All the best in your efforts. 🙂

  6. Sara stamp

    Not all less active or inactive are burdened by sin or hanging on for dear life. I refuse to think that the only truly happy people on earth are in church and everyone outside off it is desperate and on the brink .. Especially if I think of the kind of people in my ward that are not exactly the poster picture of happiness!
    I am a reluctant active member, meaning I have no problem whatsoever with the word of wisdom or other kind of sin, (of course I do sin, but when I do it is involuntary, And when I realise I did something wrong, I am truly sorry and try to avoid it in the future) I read scriptures, pray from the heart and strongly believe in the teachings BUT I HATE going to church, I still do, but it no longer makes me happy or fulfills me. I do feel the spirit there, as much as I feel it in my home or when I pray… That is not the issue, but church at this stage for me is a chore , something I HAVE to do for the sake of my kids of the people that rely on me on Sunday, it is one added responsibility and duty, i especially can’t stand the lessons, where everyone knows the “right” answer and regurgitates them just to get brownie points… Honesty is out of the window.. Hypocrisy reigns supreme and I can’t stand it ..

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Sara. I did not mean to imply that the only happy people are members of the Church. My parents were converted when I was a kid. My family was quite happy prior to joining the Church. I was not burdened with sin when I became inactive either. I think what I’m saying here is that the thread that binds us to the Church is a very flimsy thread that can be broken very quickly if we are not careful. I think we all “hang on” every single day. I had a recent calling that I struggled with, and I just “hung on” until the situation was changed. This mortal life is all about keeping ourselves together, really.

      I totally hear you about Church being a chore at times. I have been there. I do have a suggestion about the lessons, because I have been there too. I find that the most “honest” answers are those that are given in the Primary room. When the walls start caving in on me, I am always blessed with a calling in Primary (where I am now). You may want to talk to your bishop and see if that’s a possibility for you. Pure basic doctrine is taught in Primary, and you don’t get more honest answers than from children.

      1. Pam D

        I too was an inactive member of the church from my late teen years until I was 29 years old. It took me until then to come. back to full activity in the church. It has been such a blessing to me. I also love being in Primary. The children are amazing, and I learn so much. Sister’s, I am 55 years old and I don’t think the feelings of indaiquacy go away easily for some of us. Women are usually harder on ourselves and make comparisons that we shouldn’t be making. Our Heavenly Father love us unconditionally. Thankfully as I get older, it is easier to ignore what others think or say and to attend church because I love the gospel. Best wishes too you both.

    2. susan

      Hi Sara: as an adult convert, I’ve gone thru a few stretches of “going to church because (insert reasons why), not because I want to”. I was never sorry 🙂 But your comment about the answers to lesson questions being regurgitated struck me. I used to have a problem with that, as well. Then because I got to the point where that feeling was interfering with MY spirit, I did two things. 1. I started answering honestly and boldly, sometimes with questions, sometimes with personal anecdotes. “Be the change you want to see…” 2. I stopped myself from constantly assuming I knew what the other person was thinking. I don’t. Perhaps their answer was truly an honest answer — it’s not my call. Our wards are full of imperfect people at different points in progress and with some horrendous baggage. And yet, we persevere. It’s a miracle!

    3. Norma

      I really appreciate this perspective as they are my same thoughts. Not everyone who is inactive is “hanging on by a thread”. I am “less active” (I attend Sac. meeting occasionally) but have no desire to participate more. I don’t feel like I’m hanging on and I don’t feel remorse or guilt. I’m not sure that being an active member is the guarantee or only way to feel peace and happiness. So this really was an assumption by the author that we are all hanging on. I’m confident that there are many like me out there, likely MORE like me than those who are hanging on. I have difficulty and it is painful to me when these assumptions are made and when “pat” answers and formulas are preached at church. It is less painful to stay away and why would I want to hang on in any way when I go away
      feeling less than and that I don’t measure up? These feelings are in large part due to members’ insensitivity and assumptions about why I don’t attend church.

      1. Laurie White Post author

        Thanks for sharing that. This is how we all learn. I definitely agree that being an active member is not a guarantee of happiness, nor is being inactive a guarantee of unhappiness. I was quite happy when I was not active. My concern is that you feel “less than” or like you don’t “measure up” when you come to Church. Please don’t feel that way. Heavenly Father knows who you are, and He loves you just the way you are. We are all imperfect mortals just trying to make it through. I don’t know your situation, but I know that a lot of unmarried singles feel this way, as well as those who can’t have children. I also know a lot of converts who feel they can’t “measure up”. We don’t have to compare ourselves with anyone, and nobody should be comparing us with anyone else. The only one we have to answer to is God. Thanks for taking the time to comment, as that’s who we all learn.

  7. Jo Ann Townley Smith

    Bored in Sunday School? Attend Gospel Principles class where you will get to know & feel strong spirit of members coming back & non members investigating the church & newly baptized members. Lso full-time missionaries. It’s amazing the sweet feelings you develop towards them & how your own testimony soars

      1. Jacquelin

        Thanks for your beautiful message and spirit. I am so inspired by you. Thanks for the hope and the honesty. I am so glad that you are writing and sharing. You are an angel!

  8. Lynne

    I haven’t been to church regularly for just over 9 years but I don’t consider myself inactive. My struggle is with my physical health and mental health (panic attacks) . When I do make it I prefer to do it under my own steam so I can leave if I am finding it too much so only go when I have money for the bus (& money is tight). I agree though it can feel like I’m a project as when I do attend everyone says they’ve been thinking of me- it is so hard not to snap when they say that as apart from a regular letter from my visiting teacher it is rare that I get contacted. Recently I was added to our relief society Facebook page and finally getting more interaction that way and now get to hear about activities most held when I’m working but it is good to hear about them.
    I think the thing that I would advise is don’t just think about people find a way to get in touch. I know I was a missionary project for a little while as every time I turned round the missionaries were popping by with a spiritual thought and suddenly nothing. Like I said for me it is health that has got in the way and having recently had an operation to hopefully solve a problem I am hoping it won’t be long before I am fully recovered and hope I can overcome my panic attacks (partly caused by my worry that my body would let me down). Hoping to be back by my birthday in October

    1. Laurie White Post author

      I’m so sorry you are having such a hard time with your health. Feel better soon! I’ve heard of others who felt they were treated as inactive when they had health problems. It’s not easy. Yes, I totally agree that we all need to get better about contacting on a regular basis those who don’t come. Again, feel better soon! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  9. janet mitchell

    I am an inactive member by choice. I was a convert to the church and as such grew up with the belief that i am just as good as any man. My parents told me i could be anything in this world if i wanted it and put in the time and effort to achieve my goal. So it is very hard for me to go to a church that tells me i am not as ggood as any man and that my opinions on how the church should run mean nothing because i do not have the priesthood.
    I do not think i am destined to go to hell for not going to church. I am a good person and try to help anyone that needs it. I dont judge them ( unlike most members ) but just give love and support.
    God is everywhere and as such i do not need to go to church to be close to him.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      I too, am a convert. My mother was a non-practicing Methodist, and my father a Christian Scientist. The rule of our home was that we had to go to “some” church “once in awhile”. Our parents didn’t care what church we attended, and we didn’t have to attend every Sunday. I grew up going to church with my friends — a lot of different churches — until the LDS missionaries came.

      Please understand that holding the priesthood does not make one any better than anyone else. I am a very vocal woman with a whole lot of opinions, and they matter. I make my voice heard loud and clear; you can mark my words on that one.

      Obviously, I don’t now think that I would not go to heaven if I hadn’t come back to Church. This was something that I had convinced myself when I was not active. Remember, I was very young when I left. By the time I came back, I was married with children. I had learned a few things along the way. I also believe that you can be close to God outside of the Church. There isn’t a day in my life that I have not felt Heavenly Father’s hand in my life. I will tell you that I’m glad I’m back, and that I wish I had never left. I hope someday that you will change your mind and come back. If not, please know that your Heavenly Father loves you, and that others care about you too. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      1. Robin C

        . May I suggest a book by Sheri Dew, Women and the Priesthood. ( Not related etc etc or affiliations ). Very good explanation of Priesthood. Many quotes from general authorities and scripture.

    2. Merethemum

      I have had quite the opposite experience. My years in the church have taught me that I am as special to my Heavenly Father as anyone else…male or female.
      In fact it’s probably made me a little bit arrogant in that I sometimes believe His daughters are even more special! 😉 (Perhaps thats a puffed up pride issue I need to work on…hehe).
      Much love to you though…I hate hearing stories of women who feel otherwise.

  10. Kay

    Thanks so much for writing this article. I’m actually right there, right now. For the last year or so, I have struggled with certain church cultural/doctrinal issues…and in the midst of my spiritual weakness committed a big sin. I have taken the leap to confess to my bishop and am now undergoing church discipline. Church was hard for me to attend, but it’s almost impossible now. I have enormous regret about the sin I committed, and want to go through the repentance process. But I feel like I’m at the bottom of that mountain and looking up. I am riddled with crippling anxiety by every Saturday night and I almost never make it to church unless I have a meeting with my bishop. I already struggled with church attendance before, and I already didn’t like the temple much. I want to be left alone. I’m a very private person and it already took everything I had to get other people involved in my struggle (and I admit, there are days when part of me wishes I hadn’t and that I could just “take my chances” with God at the end of life, similar to your words in this article.)

    I want to come back deep down, but I feel like it’s an insurmountable goal.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Oh, please don’t feel that your goal is insurmountable. I have several good friends who have come back after Church discipline — two after excommunication. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it is easy, because it was hard. I watched their struggles. They will tell you that it was worth it.

      I can also relate to the Saturday anxiety, as I went through that when I first started to come back. More of a struggle was learning to take the sacrament again. I didn’t feel worthy of the sacrament for a long, long time. Take the regret that you are feeling and turn it into a positive. Look at the lessons you have learned. I took the lessons that I learned and taught my children (and others) what “not” to do. Many of the articles that I write are still teaching from my own worst example.

      Good luck with your return. You will be in my prayers.

    2. Lucy G

      Continuing to attend church while going through the discipline process was easily one of the hardest things that I have ever had to go through. It was awful. I felt a sour pit in my stomach just thinking about walking through the doors, and held my breath when I walked in to the chapel. I cried every single week, sometimes several times, and was emotionally drained long before I walked out of Relief Society at the end of the 3-hour block. In the end, I only knew that I had to get through it in order for life to feel normal again. I couldn’t let anything or anyone (not even myself) stand between me and temple blessings. I wanted desperately to know that I was forgiven and could finally have a clean slate. And not one person inside of the building could make me so uncomfortable that I would stop. “It will all be worth it in the end” — that was my mantra. And it was. And it still is. 11 years later, and my life is so happy and fulfilled that the pain of that time seems much more than a lifetime behind me. Stay strong! You will be so glad to have finished climbing that mountain.

      1. Laurie White Post author

        Thank you for sharing that very personal story. I’m glad you made your way back. You are wanted, loved, and needed.

    3. Carly

      I also went through an excommunication. It was the saddest time in my life and the hardest, but I kept thinking I was the one who messed up, so I needed to make it right.

      I don’t know why somehow we think that others are judging us, or fixating on us, sometimes I thinking our conscious makes us feel that way because we don’t feel right inside, we know what we have done or not done, therefore we think others can see it; but the truth is that most people in church do care and most of the time aren’t judging. I also kept telling myself that the covenants I made and broke I made with Heavenly Father and not with other members or people, so I needed to care more about what God thought of me and not others.

      Every time I walked in church I try to see the good in people and that most of them did care about me, especially my leaders. Now that I’ve been back for over 20 years, most of the time I don’t know who around me is in this kind of situation or not. It isn’t something I’m not looking to find out and most people aren’t either. I just try to love everybody. I just see my brothers and sisters who are also trying to live a righteous life, who have weaknesses like I do. I have to say this, there are good people everywhere in this world, but the best people I know are MORMONS.

      I wouldn’t know where to go if I left the church, I personally don’t see any options out there. I love the gospel and my heavenly Father and Jesus. I just want to grow spiritually to be with them someday and the church is the best place I see that can help me do that.

      Your goal es doable believe me. I know it seems like a mountain, but just take it one day at the time and it does get easier. One day, it will all seem a bad dream, so remote, so blurry and far away.

      Best to you and may Heavenly Father bless you with his tender mercies and may you find the strength to keep on going.

    4. Sue

      Dearest Kay,

      Your letter touched me deeply! Keep going; it’s worth it and you’re worth it!

  11. Nadine

    I am inactive and had a hard time reading this, but not because it had anything to do with me feeling the same way. I was born and raised in the church. I was even accepted into BYU Idaho. I made a bad decision a few months before I was set to go to school. I was called into the bishop’s office and was scolded, reduced to tears and was told I was an embarrassment to my family. Then told to clean up my makeup and say the opening prayer at my seminary graduation. Another bad bishop later and I went inactive. To this day, I am not embarrassed, ashamed, worried about returning church… I simply choose not to go. I have a wonderful life with a wonderful family of my own. I still continue to believe certain things the church taught me. But me being denied Heaven when the time comes because I don’t have a celestial marriage… I don’t believe that. I believe I will be with my family in Heaven. I respect others views and testimonies but I don’t want members to pity me because mine aren’t the same.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      The reason you went inactive was much the same as why I went inactive. There were bad decisions made by several different people. I was 17 when I left. I graduated from seminary and then dropped out for 20 years. It was also my decision to stay away. At some point I realized that all of the people I was angry with were no longer in the picture. I had moved out of the ward, out of the city, and out of the state. Some of the people had passed away even — and there I was still choosing not to go to Church. I finally realized that my relationship with my Heavenly Father and the Savior was more important than the grudges I was keeping for people who didn’t matter. I don’t pity you at all for your inactivity. Religion is a very private thing. I do hope you will return because you say you still believe certain things the Church taught you. That’s testimony, and it is important. I hope at some point you will reconsider and come back. However, if you don’t come back, please know that you are loved by your Heavenly Father, and that many people care about you. Thank you for being willing to put it all out on the table here. That takes courage.

  12. Rachelle

    Loved this article. You speak to me and my experience. I too am a convert – of 38 years now. I went to BYU, was married in the temple, and had a beautiful baby girl – then infertility hit. It was a struggle to stay active for the next 20 years- I still don’t like attending baby blessings- but I did. Then I had a hard time in a ward with an insensitive Bishop. I still stubbornly stayed. A job change and my daughter going on a mission made it easy for me to go inactive. I will always appreciate two sweet visiting teachers who reached out to me but didn’t pressure me for 6 years. About five years ago,a non-member friend was asking me about being LDS and when I called myself “inactive” she asked why. I explained about if you don’t go to church and don’t have a calling you are considered inactive (I too hated the term less active)- she pointed out that I still lived all of the standards of the church, didn’t go to bars, didn’t cheat on my husband, didn’t to drugs or gamble so WHY didn’t I go? It started me thinking and within a few months my husband and I were back at Church every Sunday. (My sweet returned missionary hasn’t had an inactive period at all) It is sometimes harder to go back than it is to walk away. We need to be accepting whenever someone who is inactive shows up to church and NOT be the “where have you been!” type.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad you are back! Isn’t it ironic that it was a non-member friend who was the force behind your return? Wow! That is a VERY good friend! Keep that friend around forever! Yes, I totally agree that we need to be more accepting of those who return. The old, “You’re here, and the ceiling hasn’t caved,” is not at all funny — and it is nobody’s business where they have been. The only thing that matters is that they are here now. Thanks, again, for taking the time to share your story.

  13. Adele

    The hummingbird article was written by my stake president (who used to be my bishop and is a friend to us :). I have been thinking about it too and how it relates to my visiting teaching route. Thank you for writing this! All of your replies on fb are so kind and genuine– what a way to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Maybe they are people you will never meet in person, but you can reach out to them all the same.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      You tell your stake president that his article is wonderful! It obviously inspired me to write mine. Thank you for your kind words. I truly appreciate it. 🙂

  14. Ed Yager

    Touched by your thoughts, thank you. We have been concerned about, and frustrated with the typical responses. We have seen a high councilman refuse to continue driving a teenager to YW with his daughter when he found out that the mother was living with her boyfriend. Wards that label certain inactives as DNC (do not contact), and others who assign HT,s and VT,s just to actives, and who hold what they call “community events” but then announce them only by email or Sunday programs. I appreciate how hard it is to return….especially hard for excomminicants regardless of their attempts to repent and stay active. We saw in the past week an older sister return for a Sacrament meeting and she was smothered by a few Ward officers who knew her…clearly made a spectacle. We need help in this critical process. Thank you for your efforts.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Wow! So reminiscent of my own past. Young Women leaders would insist on driving my children home after activities (even though I was perfectly willing to come and get them). Then they would tell my kids what an awful ghetto neighborhood in which we lived. (It’s not a bad area, actually. These were YW leaders of some wealth.) It used to irritate my kids, and infuriate me. Yeah, we really need to find a way to do all this better. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  15. Emily

    Keep in mind too… don’t be quick to label someone inactive.

    I’m currently listed as inactive due to church attendance being very low on my part. This sometimes makes us a project, which can be irritating, or someone trying to educate me or my husband. The fact is… I have aspergers. Sometimes it’s painful to go to church, the lights, the people, the crowd, the noise, the floor, the clothing I feel like I have to wear, the feeling of condemnation if I don’t wear panty-hose (I know, but I was raised you ALWAYS wear pantyhose, at least knee highs, but they irritate me, so it’s a lose-lose situation for me), the shoes (no one wants to see your comfortable boots…)… the classes are shoulder to shoulder… painful. My relief society sisters coming up and putting a hand on my shoulder, something that works well with my mom, make me cringe. Forget about the people hugging me. Then there’s things like if I try to talk, I use the wrong words and people misunderstand me. I typically end up sitting there silent, not even trying to talk, thinking deeper thoughts.

    Seminary and Institute were easier. Smaller classes, we all had a good buffer of space, and there was time to talk. I graduated from Seminary, but participated in the Institute class at my University (which was only Book of Mormon) for 5 years in an effort to try and get the university to allow an Institute Building to be built… so I didn’t graduate, but I independently studied the other classes and at any other university I would have graduated. The singles ward was quieter, they understood space because they were seeking it too I think, and it was smaller. Getting married and going to my family ward found me in a ward that had grown significantly and was overwhelming.

    When my kids were babies, I used them as an excuse to walk into the hallway and go to the nursing room to sit in the quiet. I still try to use my youngest as an excuse to hang out in nursery rather than going through classes, and if the week is hard on me then church is too hard to go through. There’s no sin. There’s no feeling that they have nothing to teach me, I know they do and I might have things to teach them too. I’ve had people offer to pick me up, but that only increases the anxiety so I decline. Others have messaged me practically begging about wanting me to come and if there is anything they can do… I point out that unless they can change the size of the church, the noise, the smells, the lights, then there’s not much they can do. I’ve read how others skype from the parkinglot of the meeting house so they can participate, and I’ve tried to work up the courage to ask the bishop if I can go to the nursing room and just stay in there with my family, or a small classroom or something… even the foyers tend to get crowded with people. I’m still trying to figure out a solution.

    My dad has dyslexia and he suffered for years not wanting to go to priesthood meetings because they often would read the scriptures together, and he couldn’t. It wasn’t that he hated the priesthood, or that he didn’t value it. But the anxiety.

    These invisible disabilities may be making someone inactive. Just something to keep in mind. Don’t label someone inactive in your mind, and that you need to activate them. Just label them as a friend, and learn about their struggle, and see if there’s anything you can do. Assume that there’s good reasons for them not going to church and that they’re trying their best.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Oh, I’m so glad you took the time to comment! I have family members who are autistic and have some of these same issues. When they were children, they were allowed to sit quietly in the foyer. That was way before Skype — but that may be an answer for not only you but for others who have these issues. I loved your last paragraph! I will add to that (not only for disabled people, but for everyone) that in addition to assuming there are good reasons why they are not going to Church; ask them. Then be prepared to really listen to the answer. Listen with love and understanding; not with judgment. Thanks again for your great comments. I hope you are able to find a way to better participate soon. Don’t be afraid of that Skype conversation with your bishop. He just might be amenable to that.

  16. Lynda

    I’m so thankful for this article. I have a 12-year-old daughter that struggles with faith and activity in the Church. She feels like the girls in Young Women are “fake” and she doesn’t trust them because she sees how they act when they are away from the observing eyes of family and other Church members. She is told at Church things like “we missed you at …” but is ignored and shamed by the same girls at school. Your article is amazing. It’s an answer to my prayers. I’m sharing it with my daughter’s Young Women’s leaders. Perhaps they can make it into a lesson some Sunday or a talk at Church. Again, thank you.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Just so you know, I was in the Young Women’s program when I left the Church at 17 years old. I finished seminary because I loved it, but the last six months of high school, I stopped going to anything other than seminary. The Young Women’s program is hard, simply because teenage girls can be very cruel. I’m convinced it is hormonal. While that was not the only reason for my leaving, it certainly played a role. Good luck with your daughter. Please, please encourage seminary when she is old enough. Seminary literally saved me. It gave me the basics of the gospel that I could not forget when I went inactive (even though at times I may have wanted to forget them).

  17. Grandpa Chet

    Token male reader here! We were told almost immediately after my baptism (wife and middle daughter joined months before I would) that there’s not one of us who isn’t two Sundays from going inactive. “I’ll never do that,” I thought.

    Lo and behold, depression and health became wonderful excuses to skip church, and then skip church again! Happened several times, never lasted more than a few months at a time, but I kept wondering why it was so easy to slip away – and so desirous to stay away.

    Thanks for answering those questions for me, though I doubt you knew you did. Our circumstances, our thoughts, are significantly different. (Males and females are, I’m convinced, entirely different species who are co-incidentally cross-fertile.)

    And thank you for the GREAT lesson, because I’m hobbling around our little old folks’ apartment complex, to find and visit some inactive or active members. Or, considering my own faults, some FELLOW inactive members.

    *jeep! and God Bless!
    —–Cranky old Grandpa Chet

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Love it! Thanks! So I have to confess that I realized a couple of years ago that if my husband were to suddenly pass away, it would be quite easy for me to go to Sacrament meeting and then go home to avoid Relief Society. I’m terrible with women (as you’ll see in another comment, my husband was hysterical a few years back when I was called as Relief Society president). After some self-analysis, I have promised myself that if my husband dies before me, that I will NOT becoming partially active. We all have our little nooks and crannies that Satan loves, don’t we?

      1. Justme

        Often inactivity comes because we forget that the Church is not about “us” and “them” but about us and God, Christ and the Holy Ghost. Focusing on personalities who are struggling with their own sins (including being judgemental or hypocritical) only leads to reasons for walking away. When we realize it isn’t “them” we are walking away frm but our “covenants” with God and his Son we might be less anxious to walk away. But it is hard to focus on the right things when so many “natural things” block our ability to see, but the key is always to look past those who seem so anxious to offend to Christ who is so willing to help us see them and ourselves for who all of us really are. Church life is like being on a roller coaster–we all have our ups and downs–but those downs are fewer when we remember that it is Christ who is sitting next to us for the entire ride.

        1. Laurie White Post author

          There lies the crux of it, right there. It is so hard to understand when you are in the middle of it (I know), but it is really worth putting up with other people in order to stay in Church. It really does come right down to whether we fear man more than God — but when you are right in the thick of it, perspective just isn’t there.

  18. Meredith

    I do have to comment that not all of us who are inactive are that way because they fear going back to church. I am someone who just does not like to be around a lot of people. I’m very much an introvert who prefers to be alone. I have gone through periods of inactivity simply because I did not feel like going to church and being around a lot of people. I wasn’t struggling in my faith or testimony at all, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t go to church because of my sins, I just didn’t want to deal with a bunch of people. And when members would come looking for me to bring me back to activity, it made me want to stay inactive even more. Some people are not struggling at all, they just want to be left to themselves.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      That’s a really good point. Every person’s situation is different. While I have found comfort in friendships in my ward, it has taken me many years to do that. I’m somewhat of an introvert myself. To make matters worse, I get along famously with men, and I struggle with my relationships with women. (That was quite comical when they called me as Relief Society president a few years ago. My husband was hysterical!) I also can relate to pulling back when people come looking for you, because I did that too. I do hope that at some time in the future you will see your way to coming back. I’ll tell you my little trick I used when I was inactive. I would come in 5 minutes late for Sacrament meeting, and leave just prior to the closing prayer. That way nobody could talk to me. 🙂 (I’m going to be in trouble with people for telling you that. LOL!) Come back! We love you!

    2. LB35

      I am kind of an introvert myself and can feel overwhelmed by the crowd sometimes. I suggest sitting in the foyer during sacrament meeting. And for Sunday school, try finding a small class like gospel essentials or a specialty class your ward might have like temple prep or family history. Maybe even offer to teach a small primary class- talk to the bishop about your situation and he can find a way for you to grow and be active even if crowds are a problem for you. I have found that there are some surprisingly easy ways to feel I have my space, even when 400 other people are around. Sure it can be hard, but why cut myself off from the blessings of taking the sacrament each week just because I feel uncomfortable in a crowd, not to mention the opportunity to go to the temple? Good luck.

  19. Deborah Ledgerwood

    I’m an inactive member due to health problems and anxiety attacks in large groups. I keep up with the larger church through the internet and my local church through FB and friends.

    There are times when I’m able to attend church. Like another commenter I get the I’ve been thinking of you comments. I too want to ask when they are going to visit or call. At times I feel abandoned by those who professed to be my friends.

    I continue to study and learn. At times I feel lonely, but I have a very good life. No matter the problems I have in my life they will never out weigh the blessings God has given me.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      We really need to get better at reaching out to those like yourself who can’t come to Church for health reasons. I know there are some in my own ward. I was thinking of someone just this morning, and have not yet picked up the telephone. I promise to do that before the afternoon is done. Thank you for continuing to be faithful in the gospel. Also, thank you for taking the time to comment — and to remind me to call my friend.

  20. Julia

    I sit here trying so hard to hold back tears. Thank you for writing this. The fact that it found itself in my emails today is so meaningful as well. I unfortunately have been inactive for many years. I left for several reasons that looking back seem so petty. Unfortunately it was people’s preachyness and need for me to be their project that kept me away. I never lost love for the church or our gospel and definitely not for our Saviour and Heavenly Father. I tried my best to stand firm in my beliefs and not stray too far off. I am now married and a mother and I feel the urgency of sharing this beautiful gift with my non LDS husband and for our daughter. Today I was somewhat attacked and my husband was called “thin skinned” by complete strangers online. Sadly it was on an LDS Facebook group. Not only did that turn my husband off but it took me back to the 18 year old me that felt hurt and misunderstood by people that are suppose to be my brothers and sisters. How can our Gospel teach such beautiful things and love for one another yet members judge other members when there is a difference of opinions or of interpretations? Your article and a lengthy conversation with our Heavenly Father gave me an answer. We are all human AND children of God. Thank you so much again for restoring my faith in our wonderful LDS community that understands that we are all different and have different circumstances but ultimately want the same and love the same gospel and Heavenly Father and Saviour.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Oh, I’m so sorry that you were treated so badly. It is so difficult for us all to put aside our own life’s biases and intrusions and just treat each other like children of God. I don’t know why that is true, but it seems to be. We talk of striving to be a Zion people, and then we treat each other horribly. I’m glad that you found some amount of comfort in my article. Please know that you are loved, wanted, and needed. We are a terribly imperfect people, but the gospel is true! I hope you are able to get through all of this and find the peace and comfort of the gospel. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  21. LB35

    On my mission I met lots of people who were less active and had some success in working with them. Most of my baptisms came through working with them; either baptizing their children or their friends. I learned that it was much more effective to ask about the good experiences they had had in the church and how they felt when the missionaries taught them years ago. These questions were always much better at creating an atmosphere where we could all feel the Spirit than when I asked why they quit coming to church. There was often no real need for me to know why someone dropped out, and if there was, the reasons were shared once the person felt they could trust me.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Yes, trust is the key to having those hard discussions. I will say, though, that sometimes inactive people just need to vent their grievances. Once they have vented to someone (sometimes many someones), healing can begin to happen. I do agree, though, that having them feel the Spirit first is very important.

  22. aharon smith

    What about people who struggle with the perceived hiding that the church has done of the church history? Like Joseph Smith having many wives, the book of Abraham being found not to be in the scrolls that Joseph Smith copied them, and the appearance that Joseph Smith copied the temple ceremony from the masons? How can we help people who feel like they got duped or lied to by the church rather than feel guilty?

    1. Laurie White Post author

      There are many reasons why people leave the Church, and this is one of them. My short answer is, I don’t know. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is accepted on faith. If someone can’t swallow the Joseph Smith story, they are in trouble when it comes to building testimony. I think we have to accept everyone’s individual agency to believe it, or not. We have to accept everyone’s individual agency in the Church’s history, or not. Religion is an extremely personal thing. You can’t tell someone what to believe, and what not to believe.

      1. Mark Harrison

        I have been reading you responses to the post they are great. fortunately I have never been inactive I look mean and so never bullied. before I joined the church I had a criminal record and a violent past. I have had much forgiven and that drives me I have seen friends drop off first its because of offence, then comes questions about doctrine then almost past feeling. Prayer study and remembering were I come from helps me. I have seen a gradual decline in friends a feeling of being the church but not of it. I don’t work in the church for bishops or stake presidents or the other members they are all imperfect I support them but when their human frailty shows.
        its ok there is only the God head who will not let you down.
        I work for Jesus I never joined for them and I will not be pushed out by them
        please keep up the wonderful responses

  23. Merry

    It’s been very interesting reading all of the experiences written on this page. And many I can relate to. I was raised in the church but went ‘inactive’ around the age of 16. I decided that the world had more to offer than the church. Little did I know of the heartbreak that I would experience over the next 20+ years. It was a difficult to come back to church, but I had reached a very low time in my life and that’s when I decided to read the Book of Mormon again. It was the first time that I read the book where it struck me with such force that I knew that it was true, and there was no denying what I felt. It took me close to 2 years before I decided to go back to church. I wanted to be sure that I could live the standards and not fall back into my old ways. I am so glad that Heavenly Father knew that I was ready to come back and he allowed his spirit to touch me at that time. As Joseph Smith once said in his testimony of the first vision, I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it. After many years back in the church, I feel the same way. Walking back into the church for the first time was difficult, but I knew the gospel was true. I told myself at that time that there would never be anyone (in the church or out) who would take me away from the church and the gospel again. I realized that people are imperfect but that the gospel is true and there is no denying it. We have our agency and everyone has a right to decide what they want to do with their life. I know that I have a personal relationship with the savior that I would not trade for anything. No matter what someone in the church might say that I find offensive or hurtful, it matters not. I can keep going on with my membership in Christ’s true church regardless of what others may think or say. For those who say they are bored with church, I would suggest that you consider where you are with your scripture study and temple attendance. Realize that this is your walk with Christ, and no one else’s. No matter what is happening at church with other members, in the end when we all go to the judgement bar, it is not other’s imperfections that will be judged, it will be ours. If you are doing what the lord has commanded, and you have repented, you will feel very welcome and humbled. I’m not telling anyone here how to live, but I know that if I don’t feel the spirit at church, it is because of something I need to change, not someone else. It’s not for me to judge as I don’t know what trials someone else may be having. Christ teach’s us to love one another, regardless of their real or perceived imperfections.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am amazed at the response here. So many are willing to come forward with their own personal stories — but more importantly, what they learned from the experience. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  24. Stephanie Christiansen

    Thank you very much for this article. It’s straightforward and no sugar-coating. This will surely help me and others as we do our part in the service of the Lord.

  25. Verlyne

    Please, please do not continue to perpetuate that old adage about those who leave doing so as a response to sin.
    When I left, I was the most faithful I had ever been. I was a recommend holder, and had not missed more than one week at a time in years.
    I left because my answer to prayer was not the same as yours. I left because I no longer believed it was true. I left to honor my own integrity.
    I am not now, nor have I ever been hanging onto the side of a cliff by my fingernails. I am the happiest I have ever been, and have no intention of ever again voluntarily submitting to the torture that is weekly church attendance.
    Some of us ‘inactives’ are at peace with our inactivity, and resent being painted with such a broad brush as you employed with this post.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Oh, not all people leave because of sin, and I didn’t say that. I didn’t leave because of sin either. I’m glad that you are happy, and I wish you well. As I’ve said in other comments, religion is an extremely personal thing. We can’t (and shouldn’t) tell someone what to believe, and what not to believe. Obviously, I hope that at some point, you will change your mind and come back, but if that is not to happen, I wish you all the best.

  26. Sheila

    Thank you for all the heart felt comments. I am a Relief Society president and find I walk a thin line with what to do about inactive sisters. Do I contact them? Am I bothering them? If I leave them alone will they think no one cares about them? Should I bring cookies and a note, leave them on the porch and call it a ‘contact’? I don’t know all the answers, but I do know the Lord wants us as his disciples to invite all to come unto him…that is the bottom line. We are not trying to turn someone into a project, but simply letting them know they are not forgotten and that the kingdom of God needs them if ever or whenever they are ready to participate and help with the gathering of Israel. We are helping to prepare for the Lord’s second coming and need all the help we can get! Many who do not attend meetings are helping with this gathering in their own way. The Lord knows this and he loves us all, no matter what! What we give out comes back to us, I do know this. Love is eternal. Christ is our ultimate example on how to love. May we all have the help we need to become like him and to become who he designed us to be. Man (meaning all people) is that he might have joy!

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. When you are confused about what to do in a situation, pray. Pray hard. The answer will come. Also, if you get thrown a curve, don’t let it bother you. Sometimes people just need to vent. I was assigned as a visiting teacher a few years back to an inactive sister. She reluctantly made the appointment. When I showed up, she reluctantly let me in. The first words out of her mouth were, “I’ve had visiting teachers before, and when they find out how ornery I am, the don’t come back.” I looked her square in the eye and said, “Well, you’ve met your match, because there is nobody as ornery as I am. I’ll be back.” She is still inactive, but we are fast friends. I love her to pieces.

    2. Gaye

      A bit late on this, for I just found this article. Sister Sheila, please don’t stop trying to visit the inactives. I felt your love for the sisters you oversee through your comments. Tell them exactly how you wrote it here – “simply letting them know they are not forgotten and that the kingdom of God needs them if ever or whenever they are ready to participate and help with the gathering of Israel. We are helping to prepare for the Lord’s second coming and need all the help we can get! Many who do not attend meetings are helping with this gathering in their own way. The Lord knows this and he loves us all, no matter what! What we give out comes back to us,”
      Many just need to know they are not forgotten.

  27. gudri

    Having experienced three distinct periods of “less activity,” I can see that you’ve written genuinely about your experience. But neither of my experiences with “leaving the flock” and returning have to do with fear of not going to heaven or failing. While you have every right to write from your perspective about your experience, lumping all inactive members in the Church as having the same reasons for leaving is invalidating and puts up a further roadblock in helping them return because it creates a stereotype and misconceptions about the real people involved. Absolutely, we should genuinely love and serve people. But if motivation for loving and serving others is anything other than seeing them as equal to us and deserving of those actions and feelings just because they are human, we are already guilty of making “projects” of them.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      You are correct that writers write from their own experiences. I have talked to many people, however, who have similar experiences. Having said that, there are many reasons why people become inactive (or less active). I do realize that. Every single situation is different. I think my whole point was to try to get people NOT to make a project out of those who are not attending Church. My whole point was to say just love them. I’m sorry that point didn’t come across for you. The last thing I intended was to stereotype anyone.

  28. Alyson

    Often I hear LDS members say that apostates leave, but just can’t leave the church alone. This post is a prime example of why that is often the case. Your post is naive and condescending. We who leave are very happy, and we are very happy to be out of the church. You wouldn’t believe the numbers of forums where postmormons gripe about all of you believing we are really lost and miserable, and that our souls await your finding us as lost sheep. We don’t. We aren’t. We don’t want to be reactivated. We didn’t leave to sin or because we never had a testimony. Many of us had active temple recommends when we made the excruciatingly painful decision to leave the church. We left because we dared to believe our doubts were the nagging feeling from our conscience, not Satan, because things were wrong with what we saw. It dawned on us that feeling things doesn’t prove anything. We left because we discovered hard, undeniable facts about Joseph Smith, the history, the Book of Mormon, and the leadership which we couldn’t condone. We left because we see very little of Christ in the institutional church. Please quit judging us. We have found real happiness outside of the church. We’re not in “Satan’s grasp.” We continue to be good, loving people who raise our children with high morals and ethics. We still take lasagne to sick neighbors. We do things because they are right, and not because we fear the wrath of a jealous God. We love because it is right, it is noble, and we discovered there are many truths in the world. It may be shocking to discover, but we feel sorry for all of you.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      As I’ve said repeatedly in responses to comments, every situation is different. First, I’m not shocked at anything. I’ve pretty much heard it all. 😉 I’ve also said repeatedly in these comments, that we can’t (and shouldn’t) tell people what to believe, or not to believe. Everyone has agency — even God won’t take our agency away.

      Second, I don’t consider you or anyone else lost, broken, or unhappy. I did not consider myself lost, broken, or unhappy when I was inactive. As a matter of fact, I was quite happy. I also know that there are lots of good people out there who are not members of the Church. As a convert, I have seen many. I grew up going to many churches. My mother was a non-practicing Methodist; my father a Christian Scientist. The rule of our home was we had to go to “some” church “once in a while”. They didn’t care what church we attended, nor did we have to go every Sunday. I have also known many good people who don’t attend ANY church. The whole point of my article was that we need to love people — all people. Don’t make someone your “project”; just love them. I wish you well. Thanks for taking the time to comment. We need everyone’s perspective, or we will never get this right.

  29. Ken

    Although I am a man in the greatest Church on Earth- I have had my problems and have been on the outside looking in, and wishing and hoping to get my membership back. I have membership now and value it very highly. Priesthood and temple blessings will be restored soon. My LDS fiance reminded me that my testimony has remained constant despite my weaknesses.
    The thing for me was to stay focused on the prize of the Celestial Kingdom, and to keep moving toward that objective. Life has been a struggle for me, because of bad choices, and some things beyond my control. I am responsible for my life and now I am making better choices. My ward members have been nice to me. I kept going to church no matter what, and that has been a good thing for me.
    I do believe that Satan has been trying to keep me down and that the Lord has been trying to lift me up. I am very grateful for the Lords help. I am seeing things as never before, and I feel the victory coming on. I will go out of this world as a winner. I am looking forward to serving a mission of some type with a spouse at my side. We both want to serve a mission. The last seventeen years has been tough, and now I can honestly say that the rest of my life will be the best of my life. This article and the comments have been eye opening and very encouraging to me. THANK YOU.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thanks, for taking the time to comment and to share your story. Each one of these stories is important. I’m amazed that so many people are sharing. The way to build Zion is to trust one another, share experiences, and lift each other up.

  30. LC

    I will tell you exactly what is going on in my inactive mind: The LDS church is bogus and wrong and I have been scammed. The way you have written, with no ill intent, sheds light on how YOU felt when you were inactive. I found it pretty patronizing.

    It suggested that if only somebody would be nice to me, I would come back to church. It just isn’t real but rather part of the fantasy that members have about non-members, ex-members and uninterested members. This isn’t meant to be mean, but I just don’t think your experience begins to explain much more than your experience.

    And truthfully, when LDS people really believe me or grasp that I am not returning to church, they generally no longer care. “Love them so they come back,” isn’t the same at all as “Love people.”

    Best of luck to you, thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      You are right, of course. Writers can only write from their own experience. I will tell you that I’ve talked to a lot of inactive members who feel the same as I do. However, every single case is different. As I have said in several responses to comments, we need to remember that everyone has agency. Not even God will take away our agency. Religion is a very personal thing. We can’t (and shouldn’t) tell someone what to believe, or what not to believe. Thanks for taking the time to comment. We need perspective from all sides — or we will never get it right. Best of luck to you, as well.

  31. Jeremy Barnes

    Great article.

    I don’t like using either ‘less-active’ or ‘inactive’
    They are just members who haven’t been to church in a while.
    No labels.

  32. chili

    I always liked the term: “Jayne Or Jack Mormon”, to denote inactive members.–When that term was used, there no such thing as being politically correct.–It was, what it was…

  33. Elizabeth Colley

    I joined the church in 1975 and have been active since then. Has it been easy? No,sometimes hanging on has been so hard because of circumstances. I have five children eleven grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Only two children are active which means I have lost several grandchildren to the gospel as well as three children. A son passed away in 2009 due to drug addiction and it has been a thorny path. But I have hung on through “thick and thin” because the church is true. There are those who could have caused me to go “away” from the church because of their words and actions but I have come to learn that because we are members does not mean we are perfect, that includes me. I have been able to overcome others weaknesses but some of my family have not and strayed from the truths and wandered. I fully understand why and try to be the example to them and love them unconditionally.
    I strongly believe that Christ who is our judge is fair and although I have had to sit and listen to lessons and talks that seem to imply if you don’t get it right here forget it I somehow could not envision a loving God in that way. And then I read the statement from Joseph Smith the Prophet who said and I quote ” 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 world 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 fathers heart 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” What wonderful words.
    I would like to appeal to all Bishops RS Presidents all members to stop judging and start loving. Love unconditionally. The church is not a hotel for the converted but a hospital for sinners . We all need each other.
    To help with my personal grief I who am not really an author as such wrote a small book for my remaining children called “If Only” and many members and non members and less actives have read it and have been touched by my story. If you feel it may help you I have now put my book on Amazon and Kindle. I hope it will touch you as it has many others. The important thing is to remember “The Church is true” My love to you who are strong and to you who may be weak. God bless Sister Colley

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I love that Joseph Smith quote! I had not heard that before. My stepson was not active when he was killed in 2007. Ironically, the week before he died, he had called his bishop to make an appointment to get his life back in order. He made an appointment for a Sunday, and he was killed the Friday before the appointment. I have always been grateful that at least God knew where his heart was. The thing about it is, God always knows our hearts. My gratitude should be that our family knew his heart. I know that he has come back into the fold in the Spirit World. I know that. Thanks for commenting.

  34. Marion Davis

    I am an adult convert to the LDS Church in my early 20s. I was single and living in an area of the south east that was called “The Mission Field” because there were so few members spread over a large geographical area. The branch was small (usually there were maybe 20 attending a meeting) and the building was 40 miles away from my home. I had been a member for only a short time when an elderly brother took me aside after sacrament meeting (we had two separate meeting in those days for you young ones) and gave me some advice regarding the Church. He said “Do not ever let the members keep you away from the Church.” He then shared a brief testimony with me. At the time I was puzzled about his advice but now (50 years later) I fully understand what he was telling me and I have been grateful he followed the promptings of the Spirit to share that with me. It was the best advice I have ever been given because it has helped me through some challenging experiences with a few members.

    The one point I would add to his advice is “Don’t let yourself keep you away from the Church either.” I was raised by parents who loved our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and raised their children in righteousness and so when I heard the fulness of the Gospel taught, I recognized it immediately. I love being a member of this Church, and grateful for the opportunity to continue to grow to be more like my Savior.

  35. Liliana Lung

    Thank you for your article, it really touched my heart.
    I am somewhat of a recent convert, having been baptised only 6 years ago. The first 2 years were amazing, the Spirit was so strong with me that I was a soaring new member and then depression hit me and the path down sin lane started. Amazingly enough when I was able enough to get out of the house church was always the first place I wanted to go and made sure I went. Being there as always made me feel good. I was there with a bent head and in a corner (far different from my usual, lifelong bubbly self ) but hearing the talks and receiving more from the Gospel somehow eased the pain in my heart.
    Now, the depression has been treated but I don’t seem to find the strenght to go back to being that soaring new member. And yet, going to church, whenever I can make it, still brightens my day.

    I read all the comments here and without naming any specific posters I would like to share my opinion/lessons learned at church on some of the points put across.
    – I see the word “inactive” in two diferent perspectives: inactive at church and inactive in the Gospel. Going to church meetings is part of the Gospel teachings but alone it will not garantee your salvation. On the other hand, being inactive in the Gospel will surely result in someone not going to Heaven – the Gospel is the way back to Heavenly Father, church is just a means for us to get a bit more understanding of that. Being inactive in the Gospel is in fact the real dangerous one.
    – When I was baptised, in a foreign country, with no family or lifelong friends around, in a completely diferent, much colder, culture than my own, members at my ward were not very good a fellowshipping. Every Sunday for my first 3 months I struggled to get to courage to go into a place where I felt so lonely most of the time. The Gospel message kept me going back and eventually I just started saying to myself ‘You are going for yourself not for them. It is your salvation.’ I now live far from that ward but by the time I left those people felt more like family than friends. They secretly helped me have my son over for my 1st Christmas there by raising money for the plane ticket and sending me Secret Santa supermarket baskets – I had spent the previous 3 Christmas working 1500 miles away from my son.
    – When we start failing in what we know we should be doing we become more judgemental of ourselves and others. We feel more justified in our failures by finding faults in other as this way we can focus on condemning them instead of finding a way to correct ourselves. We also become prideful. We don’t ask for help – form of pride. And we don’t give other people the chance to serve us – another form of pride. Service is an essential part of the Gospel, as our Saviour constantly showed us, so we need to put our pride aside and start serving and let others serve us. They won’t always do it in the way we think is right but they are still doing it the best way they can. We can always say to them that their methods are not suitable for us and that will give us and them a chance to both serve and be served and to improve as human beings.
    – Being an example to others of righteousness is not something to be mad about. The Gospel is all about being an example. The same way Christ was an example to us, we are an example to our children and to others and there is nothing wrong with being praised for being so. Yes, what really matters is our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father but this relationship is not perfect until we have the same kind of relationship with our brothers and sisters here on Earth.
    – Everyone has diferent reasons to leave the Church (institution). History is not perfect because men are not perfect. I will not defend or attack Joseph Smith because basically I was not there to see what happened. Yes documents are proof and all that but history is too subjective for me to base my salvation on it. Call me naive but all I need to know is that the Book of Mormon is true, and I surely had my answer on that, and that Joseph Smith was the man chosen to get this Book and this message available to us, everything else he did in his lifetime is between him and Heavenly Father at the right time. People often point their fingers at others for “accusing them of things they dont know” or “being judgemental” but they are doing just that regarding someone who is no longer here to defend himself. I base my salvation on the teachings from the Book he got for us and I am grateful to him for that and for going through all he did for this Book to still be around today, the rest I leave to Him who knows best. As a sidenote, accepting Joseph Smith as a Prophet was the hardest thing before my baptism, I just could not grasp the idea of putting a man like him on the same level as Moses or the Apostles from the Bible.
    – And now here’s a few question to hopefully make some of you think. Why is it that “inactive” members who are “happy” to be out of the Church feel so insulted when a writer talks about one of the reasons for inactivity(maybe the biggest reason)? Pride maybe? If you are as happy as you say why are you even going on obviously Church related websites? Yes we are all free to do what we want and we are all free to believe what we want. I heard this somewhere: ‘No one can offend us if we don’t let them. In the end it is our choice to be offended by the word spoken’. Could it be that deep down the reason your offended is because you are actually not as happy, or should I say complete, as you think you are?

    Sorry for the dissertation 🙂 And if there are any mistakes please be gentle, english is not my native language. Love and a big hug of thank you to Laurie and everyone who posted because every single one of you said something that struck a cord in me and made me remember all of these things I posted and that I had forgotten.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      I love this. Thank you. You said it all. I especially love this: “You are going for yourself not for them. It is your salvation.” Absolutely perfect. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Hugs to you, too! 🙂

  36. Pingback: Fair Mormon Podcast: Inside the Mind of An Inactive Member - Mormon Women Stand

  37. Tim

    Thanks for sharing you story. I like hearing about diverse experiences. I was curious that you made the generalization: “The greatest myth in the church is that people leave the church because they have lost their testimonies.” Your experience has been the opposite of mine in almost every way. Thankfully I’ve never had a negative encounter with a church member and find it hard to believe the kind of hypocritical alcohol and drug use that you described. Instead, every inactive church member I know personally (enough to know their motivations) has left over faith issues—either never feeling spirituality in the church or having a faith crisis over things like Joseph Smith’s character and the historicity of the Book of Mormon. It may be that my academic background puts me in contact with a different group of church members than what you’ve experienced. I’ve always thought the myth was that people were offended or wanted to sin, and some research supports this. (Is it possible that you made the contrary statement as hyperbole to counter claims by John Dehlin or others on this topic?) Actually I would expect more people to have troubles with being offended or church standards (human nature being what it is), but I just haven’t encountered this much. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Interesting. Thanks for commenting. I guess we have just had two completely different experiences. I obviously write from my own life experience. As for John Dehlin, I have no idea what his thoughts are on the subject.

  38. Josh

    Full Disclosure: I am not a woman. However, I do follow this blog regularly.

    I stopped going to church in late 2009. Why? I became very angry at God. In early 2010 I discovered several underlying mental illness issues that had actually been manifest in my life since I was a young child. How they escaped my detection until my late 20s is another story for another time. Suffice it to say they did. My anger at God was misplaced, but that didn’t make it any easier to come back to church.

    I look at cripples in wheelchairs and sometimes wonder if they have an advantage. No sane leader looks at them and says, “You’re not living your end of your covenants because you can’t walk. Stop thinking you can’t walk and just get out of your chair.” My illnesses create a strange reality, and were it not for Jesus Christ I would feel incredibly alone. Many things about our beloved church (and any church for that matter) are the antithesis of my illness. The bright lights, handshakes, shared tray of bread/water, echoing noises, crying babies, crumpling papers, hard metal seats, and whispering voices multiplied by hundreds during sacrament meeting equals a weekly panic attack at church (I’m high on the ASD scale). Every anticipated handshake, anticipated invitation to a social occasion, anticipated call to say a prayer, or anticipated awkward conversation equals yet another weekly panic attack. This is a small sampling of my own story. This is not a solicitation for sympathy. This just sets the context of my next statement.

    Despite the issues I experience, I have a pure knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost of the truth, and I have a deep desire to live God’s commandments. All of them, including Sabbath day observance. But the reality is we don’t have “reasonable accommodations” yet for mental illness the way we have ramps for wheelchairs. And I don’t know that I would even ask for that. All I want to know is a) where do I stand with God, b) does God want me to subject myself to this torturous experience each week despite the anguish, c) can I forgive when others misjudge me?

    I’ve worked very hard to come back. Each bishop I encounter along the way has been amazing, yet some have been ill equipped to discuss mental illness. The impression I get is usually that the conventional wisdom is that mental illness is a fad, or a scam, or a construct that requires that I simply reteach myself how to think correctly. I wish that were true. Maybe it is in some cases. I don’t know. The kind of love and support I need is NOT that phone call or visit from a ward member. Rather, it is a systematic desire to understand people with mental illness coupled with a clear set of expectations for our behavior.

    My testimony of gospels truths including Jesus Christ’s living reality, His atonement, His calling of latter-day prophets, and the truthfulness of all our canonized scripture has burned in my heart all along. This is a trial of faith. We all go through trials of faith. During this period of severe trial, I continued to bear my testimony. I continued to strive to lift others up. And I hoped with all my heart for a day to come where I would feel enabled by my hope in Christ to completely repent of my inactivity. I hope that day comes for me, and I hope it comes for each and every one of you.

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! That took a lot of courage. I don’t know if you’ve read all the comments on here, but there are several other similar comments. This is something that we need to address in our wards and stakes. Not every illness is visible to the eye. Someone suggested in an earlier comment that possibly those who suffer from panic attacks could ask the Bishop’s permission to Skype Sacrament meeting. I don’t know if that would be allowed, or how it would work, but you might want to look into that. I definitely agree that we need to find better ways for people in similar circumstances to participate — and we certainly need to stop making assumptions as to why people are not attending. I’m glad your testimony is strong, and that you are no longer angry at God. (I’ve been there — different from your situation — but I know that feeling.) Thanks for taking the time to comment and weigh in on this discussion. It is extremely important that we keep this dialog moving.

  39. JD

    I enjoyed the article. I have some thoughts from a couple of different angles.

    I have never been inactive in the sense that I stopped going to church. But there have been stretches of time that I have not been “into” or “active” in the church. That is what I may consider “less active” vs “inactive” where there is very little if any contact with the church. I was kind of “less active” in that I felt/feel like you describe, that it does not matter to me if I go to heaven or not, that it is too hard and I don’t think it will be worth it, that there will be other good people around me, etc. So I do have a good idea what some who have stopped coming to church. It is a challenge to hang with this work (I guess that is one reason the call it work).

    On the reactivation front. I LOVE people. I work to help people change their lives’ as a mental health professional. I approach people wit the hope they will come back. I admit I feel sad when they don’t show interest or signs of coming back. I sometimes stop, not because I want them to be a project, but I am worried as an introvert and such, that I will further alienate them by trying to be a part of their life. I sometimes wonder if they want my friendship, so I back off, wondering if I have done the right thing by leaving or by not continuing to engage them. I now this has much to do with my own flaws and insecurities, but here is a perspective from one who cares about people a lot, and their happiness and salvation mean a lot to me. I am still trying to find that balance at times.

    Welcome back to all those that have left but come back! To those still on their way, keep it up, for those on the cusp, jump back in and hang on for the ride! For some like me who have taken steps down the exit path you never thought you’d take, don’t quit trying to hang on. I have heavy doubts and questions I never thought I would, but I refuse to quit and will keep going due to what I know, rather than what I don’t. Thanks for reading :).

    1. Laurie White Post author

      Thank you for that perspective. You brought up a good point about sometimes going to Church and yet not really being active in the gospel. I know exactly what you mean, as I’ve been there too. When I was released as Relief Society president in my ward, I was exhausted. I didn’t realize how tired (and spiritually beat down) I was until I was released. I didn’t even want to go to Relief Society, but I did. A wise bishop called me into Primary where I was able to feel the sweet Spirit, as well as the innocent testimonies of the children. It took a while, but I was finally able to “actively participate” in the gospel again.

  40. Pingback: Helping Returning Members | Mormon Again

  41. JC Clark

    Throughout my life I have been “active “in my heart and soul and in my service to the Lord and the gospel. My faith in the gospel is why I breathe. To those who do not see me in church, I am a “sinner”. When I have been blessed to have a home teacher,they always approach me as if I have an “ax to grind” or that I am uneducated in the gospel. I have been on the” inactive list” a good deal of my adult life, not because I want to be. I would have liked nothing more than to be back when I was teaching young women in the ward and taking them to camp. It is not what the Lord had in mind for me. For several years I had the full care of an elderly father, totally invalid mother and the care of a grandchild as well as our own children. My husband had the care of his invalid father and elderly mother to care for at the same time and he had a demanding full time job.There were different diets to prepare, physical therapy, bathing, doctor appointments, medications to keep up, shopping to do, bills to pay, as well as the care of three homes and yards. We began by asking for help,then praying for help,we then begging for strength,then pleading what to do, as we were exhausted.We could not care for our loved ones and keep up with our church activity. There were not enough hours in a day and no one willing to help. The answer was clear, what would our Savior do? Some of Christ’s last words were to ask John to care for His mother,not take her to someone else to care for her. President Hinckley observed,”A mother can care for six children,but six children cannot care for one mother.” I would not trade a moment of those difficult times for anything. I felt the strength the Lord gave me. I felt His Spirit near me. I was blessed to know my mother’s spirit in a way I would never have had the opportunity in another setting. I saw my father’s love and dedication to my mother in the most trying times. My heart was touched by the unique love my husband and his father shared. My testimony grew as I began to understand God’s plan for eternity in ways I could not have understood in any other way. I learned about loving in unselfish ways that I did not know I possessed. I learned to appreciate the goodness and dedication to the Lord in my husband and have gratitude that he was a blessed man who held the Priesthood and knew how to be worthy of that power to heal and give comfort and peace. We had our scripture study as we cared for them, we had the Sacrament together.To this day I doubt anyone we knew why we were not seen in” Holy Places”. Be careful, dear sisters, that we do not to assume that those who do not share the pew in church are hiding or committing sin. Perhaps they too worship only in a different way or they need to learn about Christ- like love,perhaps they have not experienced it . Christ blessed the sick on Sabbath,though it was a serious sin “against the rules” in that place and time. There are those who are ill and re physical pain that keep them from attending.. I am one of them. “Observing” them we may find we are like the “Twelve Blind Men Of Hindustan” as we may observe something, but we will never know what the elephant looks like. We should not judge if their pain is different from ours.Picking at our brothers and sisters only serves to alienate them and demeans us. If our brothers and sisters are not attending church, we must show them increased love and we should not say, “If there is anything you need, let me know” as that is patronizing and insincere. We must be a true friend for all the right reasons. The BYU show,”The Story Trek”, teaches us that each of us have a story, each of us have good in us and most of us are approachable. It proves we cannot judge a book by it’s cover. Even the toughest of us need to be validated. We may not work miracles but we will soften or fill a heart that needs us. We must first plant a seed of genuine love and acceptance if we want to have our brothers and sisters grow in the gospel.

    1. Laurie White

      Great comments! There are hundreds of reasons a person may not be in church on Sunday, or be in church but not accept a calling. I totally agree that love and acceptance is the answer. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  42. Euna Rugg

    Great readings. It is past my bedtime, but I just could not stop. Thanks for all the comments that were given, strengthened my faith and testimony. I love the gospel. It is truly a blessing to know the love Heavenly Father has for us. May God bless all of you with Peace, Joy and Happiness every day.

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