Thank You For Staying

May 18, 2017

As our ward testimony meeting approached the end of the hour, yawns filled the too-warm chapel along with the low rumble of siblings jostling each other, babies crying and the rustle of packaging while someone opened a snack. Do I smell red licorice?

One of the beloved members of our ward stepped up to the podium saying, “I’m sorry. I know you’re ready to leave. But I have just one message: THANK YOU FOR STAYING.”

Muffled laughter erupted from the congregation as he continued, “And I don’t just mean, thanks for staying till the end of this meeting, thank you for staying in the church. There’s a lot of unrest right now. Many people are leaving. As a father, as a bishop, stake president and as a mission president I’ve made mistakes. I know I’ve offended people. I also know some of the doctrines are hard. But we are doing the work of our Savior. Together we can do so much good. Thanks for sticking with us.”

The chapel grew silent as we pondered on the words of this gentle man and listened to the fervent testimony that followed.

We are going through a time of unrest– women’s roles, LGBT issues, concerns about church history and a political climate that questions what it means to be Christian. (Not to mention the it’s-just-painful-to-be-at-church phenomenon, but that’s next month’s post.)

Sometimes, when conversations get heated, I hear members say, “Well if they have such a problem with the church, why don’t they just leave?”

But we need the people who spark debate. We need the people who ask questions and grumble over policy. Sometimes we create such a rigid definition of what it means to be a good Mormon, we forget the gospel is meant to flood the earth, to reach and change the hearts of each one of us. I’ve wrestled with doctrines myself and I respect those who are wrestling in their own hearts.

Together we can do so much good. We need you. Thanks for staying.

 

9 Comments

  1. Reply

    Mynn

    May 18, 2017

    Thank you for this post! I needed it! I look forward to reading the post you mentioned in the near future. 🙂

  2. Reply

    Rozy

    May 18, 2017

    The best answer to questions and struggles I’ve ever heard is a elderly brother’s philosophy of life boiled down to one sentence: “God is in charge and He knows what He’s doing.” I’m thankful for all who stay too. We live out in the hinterlands where the church units are small and members are few and far between. We just press forward with steadfastness in Christ following the prophet.

    • Reply

      malkie

      May 19, 2017

      I’m sorry to say this, Rozy, because I’m sure that you are a great person, and a faithful member, but what you say is **not** by any means an answer, never mind the best answer.

      You are trying to fit a simplistic “solution” to an extremely complex problem. Worse, your solution embodies the problem – some of those who are leaving have concluded that they cannot follow the prophet, or other GAs, for a variety of reasons.

      If the church wants to keep people who are suffering, and questioning, the leaders **and the members** have to come up with real answers and real solutions that address the real questions and problems.

  3. Reply

    David

    May 19, 2017

    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan-it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy.” Improvement Era, June 1945, p 354

    “When the Prophet speaks the debate is over.” N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, August 1979 p 108

    There is no room for debate in the church. Those who raise significant issues are excommunicated. Many are leaving because they know this. They know there’s no hope in staying and trying to get people to accept facts and history–they’ll just get kicked out. So they just stop going. It’s a very frustrating experience and your bishop is a key example why: he keeps telling himself and others that people are leaving because someone offended them or they didn’t want to keep the commandments anymore. Total hogwash. I’ve never met someone who left that left for those reasons. Some people may go inactive for those reasons, but they don’t leave the church for those reasons.

  4. Reply

    Karen Austin

    May 19, 2017

    Thanks for relating this. At times, I feel invitations to pull away or even receive some pushes from others to go away, but I stay. Even if at times I don’t have the logic or the faith, I stay and hope that I can create a path later and that it will all make sense. I am also very drawn to people who sit on the back row, who attend irregularly or who don’t attend at all. Their perspectives are interesting and often very insightful. And even if I listen to people who appear to be the most centrally located insider types, they often wrestle with challenges that make them feel like misfits. I’m happy to read about this being articulated over the pulpit. Cool.

  5. Reply

    Anne Marie

    May 20, 2017

    I always really appreciate reading your insights, Michelle. This post is perfectly timed for me right now. I’m trying to make sense of a situation in our ward, and the words “Thank you for staying” will remain with me.

  6. Reply

    Sarah

    May 21, 2017

    I appreciate this post. I stay because I love the people in my ward (*active” and “less-active* alike). Wards are a good place to practice and hopefully receive unconditional love. I do struggle with some statements and decisions from Salt Lake; I live in hope of more inclusive policies. In the meantime, we can all” be the change ” (sorry, trite) by welcoming all and not judging others.

  7. Reply

    Sherilyn Olsen

    May 24, 2017

    How refreshing and real! Thanks for sharing, Michelle.

  8. Reply

    Sandra

    May 25, 2017

    Kind words. I always appreciate that variety. At times I have been nudged out but more times I have been circled in. The people who welcome include and listen are the people that I want to share a pew with, and those I feel God’s all-inclusive love radiating through.

    Thank you, Michelle.

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