The Deseret News has published the touching story of Rich Millar, a man who lost his faith in the Church and then regained it.
It’s worth a few minutes of your time to read Rich’s story and watch the accompanying video.
Here are the lessons Rich shared with his readers.
Lesson No. 1: Cynicism creates a numbness toward life
Lesson No. 2: We are not alone
Lesson No. 3: Instant gratification is counterfeit happiness
Lesson No. 4: Commandments/laws/rules help you learn
Lesson No. 5: You’re not the exception to the rule
Lesson No. 6: It’s the daily little decisions in life that determine your destiny
Lesson No. 7: You can be guilt-free and clean of your past mistakes
Lesson No. 8: Surprise! Everyone who goes to church is not yet perfect
Lesson No. 9: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle
Lesson No. 10: You get as much out of something as you put in
Lesson No. 11: The Book of Mormon will help you come unto Christ
Lesson No. 12: Weird is a relative term, and often things are only weird to us when we don’t understand them
Lesson No. 13: LDS members don’t think they’re better than everyone
Lesson No. 14: Working in the Lord’s vineyard is awesome
Lesson No. 15: Listen to wise advice and learn from others
Lesson No. 16: Don’t let what you don’t know keep you from following what you do know
Lesson No. 17: Listen to your conscience
Lesson No. 18: I want to share my happiness with others
There are some, like John Dehlin, who push the cynical and statistically unsupported narrative that the real reason people leave the Church is because they discover damning “facts” about Church history and can no longer believe the Church’s claims. While I have no doubt that there are individuals who leave the Church for being unable to reconcile their faith with what they suppose is the truth about the Church’s fraudulent or hypocritical nature, my own experience is that for many individuals it’s much more complicated. I’ve seen friends and extended family members leave the Church entirely, or at least stop attending Church, over “intellectual” issues as well as personal issues (e.g. wanting to live a lifestyle at odds with Church standards, a general “burned out” feeling with religion, disruptions in life or family, etc.), and some who leave because of a combination of both. Anecdotally I’ve heard it reported from others about similar experiences with their friends who’ve left the Church.
Regardless of why someone leaves the Church, it is always important to show love and patience to those who leave. This is easier said than done, of course, since personal feelings are often very tightly wrapped up in leaving or staying in a religious tradition, and passions are often hot on both sides. But it is a Christ-like ideal to strive for at least.
At this point I should also mention that the Christ-like call to love those who leave the Church does not mean those who stay in the Church should timidly surrender when ex-members turn around and attack their former faith or those still in it. We can love those who leave the Church even while defending our own faith and decision to remain in the Church.
Also, although it may be hard, I think hope, even small hope, for a loved one who’s left the Church to eventually return should always be kindled. Maybe that return will only happen on the other side of the veil. Nevertheless, there’s always the hope that it will happen some day. After all, I’m sure there were those who felt Alma the Younger was totally a lost cause, and that his family should never have expected him to return. But we all know how that turned out in the end.
In any event, make sure you check out Rich’s story!
: Be careful in attaching too much weight to Dehlin’s “Why Mormons Question” survey floating out there on the Internet. I’m not a statistician, but I remember enough from my high school AP Stats class and my Math 100 class at BYU to know the following is a big problem. “As the survey sample was not random, the [sic] we make no claim of representativeness or statistical significance in the sample. This survey reflects the views of these self-selected respondents only, although we feel that many points of this analysis reflect the experiences of many people in the Church who pass through a crisis of faith and adjust their beliefs.” (“Understanding Mormon Disbelief: Why do some Mormons lose their testimony, and what happens to them when they do?” 4.)