What to do when friends or family leave the church
Is there any heartbreak more excruciating than to watch a child or loved one turn away from the beautiful gospel truths?
Melanie Sarao (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Ricks College, BYU-Hawaii
Central Florida Mission (Spanish speaking)
Is there any heartbreak more excruciating than to watch a child or loved one turn away from the beautiful gospel truths? Sadly, too many families know what that pain feels like. In our day, Satan is on a rampage, vowing to take as many souls with him as he can on his way to eternal misery. He knows his days are numbered. He knows that if he can only get a person to twist the principles of the gospel from perfect saving doctrines into harsh measurements of inadequacy and shame, he can easily pull them away from the flock.
He is working hard. He and his forces do not sleep. He has succeeded in capturing some valiant spirits.
It is incredibly sad to watch this occur in the lives of our loved ones because we know the healing balm of the gospel through the Savior Jesus Christ is the answer for every question no matter what we are called to pass through in this test of mortality.
Letting Go Of The Iron Rod
So, what do we do when our friends or family choose to let go of the iron rod? First, don’t panic. Know that your loved one is first and foremost Heavenly Father’s child. He understands everything; every choice, every act, every word and every motive. Because of that, He can show the greatest mercy.
Second, remember that we are here on the earth to make mistakes and to learn through our experiences. I have known several people who left the true church for a time only to find their way back later in life with a testimony that has been fortified and strengthened. But if that doesn’t happen, it is no reason to give up hope. The Lord is amazing at making things happen at the right time.
Fall To Your Knees
Third, spend some quality time on your knees. Prayer is a mighty force. I have made the mistake of thinking “All I can do is pray for that person” like it is of little consequence. I needed to apologize to Heavenly Father when I realized how mighty and powerful our prayers really are. We truly have the power to call down the hosts of heaven to assist us on our path. These prayers can eventually soften the hardened hearts or lead our loved ones back into the fold. As we pray earnestly on their behalf, we grow closer to the Lord and can feel His sweet tenderness.
Fourth, refrain from judgment. Don’t create contention or shame them for their choice. Just love and cherish them for their place in your life. When we act out of love, they will feel that sincerity and find a new appreciation for the gospel teachings that you love.
Just a few weeks ago in conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “I promise that as you hear the voice of the Lord to you in the teachings of this general conference and then act on those promptings, you will feel heaven’s hand upon you, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed.” 1
By sincerely doing our best to follow the Lord’s counsel, we can help our loved ones! So, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the “author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) He knows us individually and He will seek out the lost sheep. Miracles will happen as you continue to pray and follow His directions. Angels will be dispatched to help and in the Lord’s timing, you will see how He worked His great work. Listen to His voice and obey. It might be through you that your loved one finds his or her way back.
- Elder Neil L. Andersen, “The Voice of the Lord”, October 2017 General Conference, Sunday Afternoon