I have been discouraged by friends and family over the years that have been active members of the church and then made the choice to leave the church. Of course, I acknowledge that it is their decision and that they dictate their own choices - and while I may respect their ability to choose, it does not mean that I particularly respect the choice they've made.
I have an easier time with those that have left the church because they made a mistake and feel that they can't live up to the standards that the church asks you to maintain. In a world where drinking, smoking and casual sex is common place; where pornography runs rampant; where the family has been redefined from it's original design - it stands to reason that many will fall running through the gauntlet of society expectations. So I have friends and family members that have taken up drinking and smoking and sleep around and have their morning coffees and don't come to church. I have an easier time with them because: they still believe the church is true. They don't question the validity. They don't look for inaccuracies or ways to disprove the very thing they have been taught since they were young. No, they aren't living the standards. In fact, they are living quite contrary to some of the basic principles of the church. But there is still, even slight as it may be, the basic structure of the testimony they possessed long ago and they can't seem to deny it.
But then there are others, who I just... don't understand. I can't fathom their thought process and how they came to the spiritual (or lack of spiritual) place that they now stand. And yet, I have gotten glimpses into how they reached that point.
It is a testimony-building experience to have questions about the gospel. In fact, that is how a testimony is generally gained. No one has a perfect understanding, and since we believe in personal revelation, it seems (and is) the right thing to do to study for the answer and then take it to the Lord in prayer and receive an answer. I am not well-practiced in this process, but I know it does work. BUT having questions and then NOT praying, NOT studying the scriptures and NOT going to the temple is not the way to get an answer. You may get an answer, but I can tell you, that it isn't going to be a correct one because it won't be based on the spirit. I know that receiving answers requires traits like humility and an openness to receive an answer. It also requires patience and some faith as you do the thing which you are asking about. You don't gain a testimony of tithing without paying it.
A testimony is a very personal thing. We are taught that you can't live on borrowed light. You can't keep going forward thinking that because your parents believe something, you should too. Eventually it catches up with you and you have to figure things out for yourself.
One of the reasons that doesn't work, is because you can't base your testimony off an imperfect person. I received an email from one such person that said the following:
Through study and prayer we have come to the conclusion (in our minds) that Joseph Smith is not who the church presents him to be. And as many Prophets and Apostles have stated, this Church starts and ends with Joseph Smith. Either he is the greatest man who ever lived next to Jesus Christ or this work is a fraud. We have studied his life, his history, his words, and his records, Church documents, etc...This is not true.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..."
Joseph Smith was a man. As such, he was imperfect. Full of fault. Of course the church that he helped to restore would revere him! Despite all his follies, he still brought forth the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. He still translated the Book of Mormon. He brought back the priesthood keys, the saving ordinances, built a temple where endowments can be received and families can be sealed together for eternity! I don't care that he looked for secret treasure, or even if he believed in magic... or that he was sealed to thirty different women (I don't know the specific number and I have my own beliefs on that particular thing anyway) or whatever the accusations are against him! It. Should. Not. Matter. Why would - why should - we focus on the bad, when there is so much good? We aren't going to dwell on the mistakes that Joseph Smith, or other leaders of the church, make because what would the point be? We shouldn't dwell on the mistakes that we make, either. That is what repentance and the grace of God is for.
The keystone of testimony should not be Joseph Smith, or any other man that has led this wonderful church. That would be complete folly, and will most certainly set you up to find fault with something you have believed - nay, KNOWN - to be true.
Ezra Taft Benson said in 1986,
...the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.The church's validity does not crumble with Joseph Smith. I know he was a prophet called of God, but he still made mistakes. Thomas S. Monson, the current prophet of the church, probably makes just as many. And every prophet and leader, whether it be bishop, stake president or general authority, has his own prejudices, life experiences and imperfections that may dictate the things that he says or does. It does not make the church untrue. All it does is prove the absolute necessity for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which we all have access to.
I make mistakes. I have made some serious mistakes in my life. But I do not question the testimony that I have had since before I was baptized at the age of eight. Life is hard, and sometimes it down right sucks. It seems that we are bombarded with thing after thing of pain and toil and in the end, we step in crap just to make it worse. People live with years of cancer. They have children that go wayward for 40 years. Money comes and goes.
None of it changes the fact that God is there listening to us. He leads us with a prophet that he raised up to guide us.
And I know all this, because I know the Book of Mormon is true.
Elder Uchtdorf said,
Have you ever noticed that people can usually find whatever they are looking for? Look hard enough, and you can discover both good and bad in almost anyone and anything. People have done the same with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its beginning.The scriptures: the Book of Mormon, the Bible and the words of modern day prophets (do you know how blessed we are to have prophets on the earth!?) are where you find answers. Don't go seeking elsewhere. If you have questions about the church, turn to the Book of Mormon. Seek your answers there. And then, turn to the promise given in Moroni 10.
merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how aSometimes I think it seems easier to give up living the gospel, so we can focus on living the rest of our lives. I think this is the greatest mistake we can ever make. I can't imagining making life harder than it has to be by giving up the one constant in my life.
ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruthof it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would a
know the btruth of all things.And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may a
And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
And ye may aknow that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, baccording to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,
“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.”
Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ,they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.