I learned from David Ostler that there are three main reasons why people leave the Church:
1- Mistrust about the Church and its Leaders.
2- Feeling that one doesn’t belong in their Ward or at Church.
3- Feeling that the Church doesn’t address the issues that are most important to them.
I can relate to the second one. I work with the youth right now and I always tell them about when I was their age. I had giant, frizzy hair. I was very dark from being in the sun so much with my father’s Italian skin tone. And it was only me and my Mom who went to Church on Sundays. I never felt like I fit the mold or that I really “belonged” at Church.
I remember living in Utah for a semester of College and had those exact same feelings re-surfaced. I didn’t look like everyone else and never felt like I belonged. I can’t pinpoint any specific examples of why I felt that way, but I just did. I always had a strong relationship with my Heavenly Father and that is what kept me going to Church.
Maybe there are times when you don’t feel like you “belong” at Church. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t quite live up to all the expectations of others. Maybe you have tried to put yourself out there and have only felt judged and unaccepted. Maybe since your spouse has stopped coming, church doesn’t feel the same or people have treated you differently. David Ostler helps us understand why this happens:
Wards are full of people just like us, imperfect and with different backgrounds and experiences. It’s hard for some ward members to understand our differences and they may have limited experiences and understanding of difficult issues. Some may try to say the right thing, but just don’t know how. They may judge and make hurtful comments. Some are so certain in Church beliefs, they can’t understand how one could not believe. They may even look for the secret sin which explains away our differences. In these kinds of settings, it’s difficult for us to express our true feelings because they don’t seem welcome. We learn that when we express what we really believe, we can be met with judgement and rejection.
Even though this is happening to wards all over the world, if you were to strip everything away and get to the foundation of this Gospel, it is only about our Savior Jesus Christ. That’s it. And you belong to Him.
Many of you have strong testimonies of your Savior and of the Gospel, so don’t let the culture chase you from where you belong. I had a sign made for all my Young Women that said: You Belong Here, Welcome Home. I hung it up to remind them that no matter their background or what they believed in this moment, they belonged here at Church. I want to offer those same words to you and some others I tell my girls to help them take ownership of feeling like they belong:
Stay true to you.
Stay true to Him.
Be what you wish others would be.
Always remember that you are not alone. Many feel the way you do.
Your voice matters at Church, even if Heavenly Father is the only one who hears you.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God; it never was between you and them anyway. -Mother Teresa.
Always remember… You Belong Here, Welcome Home.
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