We must accept that each child of God has agency and will choose a unique path.
It’s painful to see close friends or family reject the gospel, especially if they once had a strong testimony. However, if we have an extremely negative reaction, we can push our loved ones further away from the gospel and from us. In the article “Rescuing the Lost,” BYU professor Roy Bean explains how to express that we understand and respect others’ decision and, most importantly, that we love them unconditionally. Here are some common mistakes to avoid in this tricky situation:
- Don’t assign blame. It’s natural to search for what caused a person to reject the gospel. However, we shouldn’t blame ourselves, the person leaving, or anyone else. An individual relationship with Heavenly Father is complex and extremely personal. Professor Bean describes a couple who blamed each other for their daughter’s choice to leave the Church. Because of the blaming, “they had drifted apart instead of pulling together in their time of need.” Pointing fingers doesn’t invite the presence of the Holy Ghost and won’t make the person come back to Church. Instead of blaming, we should simply express that we understand and respect the person’s decision.
- Don’t let the decision define your relationship. Loved ones shouldn’t feel that we only care about them in terms of the gospel. Don’t bring up their testimony constantly, but also don’t avoid mentioning Church at all. We should make an effort to spend quality time with them in activities everyone enjoys, and we should talk with them about things that are important to them. They should know that we love them and value the relationship, no matter what path they take.
- Don’t despair. It’s upsetting to see people we care about choose to stray from the gospel. Remember that God deliberately gave us agency and that he expected us to make some wrong choices. God has a plan for each of our loved ones and a plan for us as well. He knows us all individually. He loves the people we love. Just as the father of the prodigal son waited, God waits patiently for the return of those who stray. We can be patient as well if we maintain an eternal perspective and trust in God’s plan.
Read Professor Roy Bean’s article, “Rescuing the Lost,” for more guidance on how to react when loved ones stray from the gospel.
—Makayla Okamura, Mormon Insights
feature image by harlie marten
Read Naomi Hurd’s article “Faith Divided, Love United: Looking within to Bring Your Family Together” to learn about her personal experience struggling with family members who left the Church.
Read the article “Love: The Key to Helping Lost Sheep” for Shelisa Baldwin’s insight about the power of showing love to those who are struggling with their testimonies.