In this day and age, there is competing information regarding what is and what is not true. This is especially true when it comes to the difference between Evangelical Christianity and Latter-day Saint (Mormonism). Much of this difference rests upon doctrines and scripture. Having participated in various forums and social media regarding the defense of the Mormon Faith and doctrines, I had to step away. Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had Elder David A. Bednar speak at the 2014 Education Week on spreading the gospel message through social media. In fact, there is coming out a feature documentary titled “Meet the Mormons.” Another aspect of this is the previous campaign of “I am a Mormon” that ran during the presidential election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no doubt spends an undisclosed amount of money for public image advertisements to gain more membership, engage in more conversations about what the Church believes, and to minister and bring people unto Christ. The age restriction for missionary candidates were even lowered to offer more young men and women of the Church to serve the Church in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
All if this is good and well intended.
However, there is an underlying problem that drives individuals away from the Church. No, I am not talking about individuals finding out about information that is published on websites and social media sites that attempt to expose the doctrinal errors of the Mormon faith. Granted, there are those who do often leave the church because of this information individuals come in contact with. There is another force that drives people into an “inactive” member status. Yet, this is not just problematic within the local LDS wards (congregations). It is also problematic within the Evangelic Christian community as well.
This problem is the act of ostracizing individuals and family.
Putting aside the assumption as to whether or not the LDS Church is Christian or not, the reality is that many people who come into a local LDS Ward or a local Evangelical/Protestant/Catholic Church experience a very powerful and valid sense of not belonging. In my own experience, this comes with “Well you have to make an effort to put yourself out there.” And, speaking on my own experience, that is all I am able to do and share here in this article. Furthermore, these experiences are not merely isolated incidents – they are several incidents that have occurred over many years. The other sad reality is that many individuals silently slip away – and no one seems to notice. Or, if they do notice, they do not go and do anything to seek them out and find them.
Typically, the one area where this is most experienced is when an individual or that individuals family calls on their local leadership during a time of need. This is where the sense of being ostracized by one’s faith based community is really experienced. This reality set in (and prompted the reason for this article today) when I spoke with a friend of mine. She confided in me that she had received a food order from her local bishop and ward. However, she has not had any hometeachers (which is a Priesthood calling that all male priesthood holders are to fulfill) and neither had any visiting teachers come by (part of the Relief Society).
One has to understand the functions of these two significant things. Within the LDS Church, hometeachers and visiting teachers are supposed to go out into the homes of each member of their local ward and not only bring a monthly message. This message is contained in the Ensign (The official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). In addition, the Hometeachers and Visiting teachers are supposed to ask if there is any needs the family has. This is typically asked of the father (who is the head of the household). If the person is a single mother or a single woman, they are still asked if there is any need. If there is, then these individuals bring this information back and are to report it to the Bishopric or Relief Society president and then the leadership determines how to fulfill these needs. This all sounds well intended – and for the most part, it works.
Yet, herein lies the problem. Majority of the LDS Wards battle the compliance with hometeaching. Most (in my experience of attending various wards) the compliance record per month in hometeaching is around 30-40 percent. That means, only 60-70 percent of the families and individual members of the local LDS Ward are not being seen by hometeachers. It is a real struggle and many times I have sat in the Elders Quorum class on Sunday hearing the Elders Quorum president or members of the EQ presidency plead with the “brethren” of the quorum to complete their hometeaching assignments. Regarding the Visiting Teaching of the Relief Society, I am not exactly sure on that – however, there may be similar aspects that not all sisters of the local ward are faithfully fulfilling their visiting teaching assignments.
Now, granted sometimes it is hard to get a hold of individuals and families. However, the question is asked, with such lack of effort in going out and reaching these individuals and families, what is in place to work with those who stop going? The LDS Church actually has a plan that they are suppose to implement and work on seeking out those who are no longer active and encourage them to return back to the Church and getting them back into fellowship with other members of the ward. This is where the ward missionaries and ward missionary leader tackles. Unfortunately, one can see the burden and how this all is overwhelming.
How then is it possible that a large church like the Mormon faith have such wonderful messages of hope, inspiration, counsel and guidance allow individuals to be ostracized? Well, many times it is the people within the confines of the local ward.
In my own personal experience, I have been told by a bishop “I don’t have time right now,” or I have called and left messages, even shown up requesting hometeachers and got the “we are working on that”. Six months later and they are still “working on that.” In addition, when it comes to those who are in need of help or assistance because of one thing or another – there is the idea that that person is too much of a burden on the ward. This does not even happen with season members as well. I have personally seen individuals come to a baptism at an LDS Church and it is a very very small gathering (because they do it either after Church on Sunday or on a Saturday). Out of a typical ward membership of say 500, maybe 10 will show up and it is typically the missionaries, the ward mission leader and ward missionaries, someone from the bishopric and a few other local leaderships. Yet, I have been to Evangelical Churches where they have a baptism performed at the time of the service where there are 500 to 1000 people in attendance.
What is the point that I am making here then?
The point I am making here is that while Evangelical Christian Churches typically engage in ostracizing individuals and families, it pales in comparison in how the local Mormon Wards ostracize people. The question that ought to be asked if you want someone to come join you in fellowship and worship with you because you proclaim to have the “fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ,” then why is there a problem in associating with people and serving those individuals who are reaching out and requesting help? In my own opinion, the local LDS Wards need to put the real focus on how they are losing members because someone does not meet their preconceived notions of being successful, having a family, and part of the “Elite” membership group.
Authentic Christianity is not about living the gospel and being around those we are comfortable with. Authentic Christian living is about going out and seeking those who are lost and bringing them to Christ and embracing them and accepting them as part of the family and body of Christ. Even the Savior himself taught that a shepherd will leave the flock of 99 to go out and find that one lost sheep. The LDS Church has had many lost sheeps leave the fold because they have been ostracized from fellow members and the local leadership.