I work closely with those who “have distanced themselves” from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; however, right now I’d like to take a moment to talk to the faithful members of this church.
If you prefer to watch me share this on video, watch this:
I recognize you may be feeling scared—even panicked—after hearing President Russell M. Nelson tell the world “time is running out.”
Over the past few weeks I’ve heard from your non-believing loved ones; they have received your messages to repent. You’ve let them know that you don’t want them to settle for “second best”; you want them to return to the church.
I get it.
I used to believe as you do.
During that time, my oldest son told me he didn’t want to serve a mission and he didn’t want to go to church. Honestly, I was hurt. “Didn’t he want to be with our family forever?” I wondered.
Besides feeling hurt, I felt confused. I also felt scared.
When people are afraid, it’s difficult to feel love.
My fear didn’t draw my son towards me; it indirectly sent him the message that I didn’t have the capacity to cope with his feelings. He stopped sharing his experiences with me and he completely shut down. Though he was a young man in the prime of his life, he started sleeping up to 20 hours a day.
He couldn’t tell me what was wrong, but he couldn’t not tell me either. He had learned things about the church that were too troubling to face on his own.
It wasn’t until I became desperate to help him heal that I was able to do the impossible: let go of who I thought he should be and what I thought he should do.
When I surrendered my belief that I knew what was best for my son, everything changed.
He felt my love and he began to heal. This was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life and it has forever changed my relationship with my son.
You don’t have any reason to believe me.
Perhaps you want to discount my words.
After all, at this point, I’m also one of those people who has distanced themselves from the church. And Russell M. Nelson, your prophet, just told you that we need more than love to have forever families. But even if he’s correct, the truth is we still need love.
If time is running out, we need love now more urgently than ever!
We take our relationships with us.
One of the ideas in Mormon theology that has always made sense to me is that when we die, our relationships stay the same. The Doctrine and Covenants says, “…that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there…”
In other words, if we want loving relationships in eternity it’s imperative we figure out how to have them now.
In. This. Life.
Temple covenants alone won’t produce celestial relationships. Neither will frantic text messages or spoken words of warning. Fear begets fear.
Though fear may change someone’s behavior, it never changes someone’s heart. Only love can do that.
What’s the desire of your heart?
Though my son and I are no longer members of the church and we no longer believe temple covenants are necessary,we want to be together forever. If we were to ever change our minds about the church, not one thing would need to be different in the desire of our hearts.
Can you say the same in your relationships with your family members who are no longer in the church?
- Do you want to spend time with them now and do they want to spend time with you?
- Do they know you will love them no matter what they decide about the church because you show that love for them now?
- Or, is your whole life so focused on the church that you have forgotten that the church exists to support families, not the other way around?
I would like to suggest to all faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that you don’t spend time worrying about anyone’s eternal mansion until you and your unbelieving family enjoy spending time together now.
Perhaps we need to increase our capacity to love.
It’s so much easier to love people who behave like we think they should. But I believe it’s those who think differently than we do who have the potential to increase our very capacity to love.
Perhaps Mormons and post-Mormons need each other to develop the type of charity that talked about in the scriptures, the kind that “suffereth long…seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked [and] beareth all things.”
You have a family member that misses you.
Not the church.
They want to ask you —
- Will you “bear” my unbelief even as I bear your faith?
- Will you listen to my feelings about the church even as I listen to yours?
- Will you believe that I know what’s best for me even as I believe you know what’s best for you?
If we both try, I think we’d be using this life to create what we all want in the next.
And, if it turns out you’re right about what the next life entails and your loved one doesn’t inherit celestial glory, your non-church going family members will still rejoice for you and be grateful you respected their journey.
Let it be your love they will remember for eternity.
Let’s start where we all agree.
This life is part of eternity.
And we don’t have to wait even one more day to practice loving each other now.
My love to all of you,