There’s a new buzz phrase that I’ve seen quite often in the past few years, and it involves people’s membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
People keep talking about “staying in” the Church.
There a video I’ve linked here titled, “Why I Stay” on YouTube. Yet another video I found is, “Why I Stay: My Experiences with Questions, Doubts, and a Significant Faith Crisis.”
I’ve seen a social media influencer often state that she receives messages from people who say that she has helped them “stay in” the Church. (She usually shares these types of posts whenever detractors bring up how many of her social media followers have left the church.)
Staying in the Church
One one hand, this talk of staying in the Church is definitely a good thing.
We definitely hear of more people leaving the Church in recent years than we are accustomed to, thanks to social media. In many cases, the messages people share of staying in the church is an attempt to show that there is a place for everyone in this church and that you don’t have to leave. That messaging is definitely a good one.
I want everyone who is in the Church to stay in the Church. I believe The Church of Jesus Christ is where God and Jesus Christ want us to be. When Christ was among the Nephites he said:
And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.
Christ doesn’t want anyone to leave His Church, but at the same time, if you are going to stay, He wants you to come unto Him.
Reasons for Staying
Just as there are various reasons for people leaving the Church, there are various reasons that people stay. As I said above, staying in the Church is what Christ wants, but just “staying”, if for the wrong reasons, definitely won’t bring us closer to Christ.
Here are a few examples of those who have declared on social media the reasons they stay, and they don’t appear to be under the banner of “coming unto Christ.”
I read a comment online recently about someone wanting to stay in the Church for the sole purpose of “wanting to change it.” This person, and many others, view themselves as “change agents.”
Their goal is to change the doctrine of the Church to conform to their worldviews instead of coming unto Christ and changing themselves.
There are others who of course want the Church to be the best version it can be, and also have a sure foundation and testimony. If there are things we can do better, let’s work on them. But true change in the Church won’t come from the demands of those who don’t support the doctrines of the Church and are solely among us to dismantle and create something new.
One influential LGBTQ+ church member recently said that revelation in the Church comes from the bottom up. He suggested we must become louder on certain issues because that is how real change happens. He criticizes the Church daily on his social media accounts and truly believes that by applying pressure the church will ultimately change their stance on marriage and family.
Here is what Elder Dale G. Renlund recently said about the process of revelation:
Demanding revelation from God is both arrogant and unproductive. Instead, we wait on the Lord and His timetable to reveal His truths through the means that He has established.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a democracy. Loud voices won’t change doctrine. However, listening to the still, small voice can change us.
Another comment I saw online recently was by someone declaring their choice to stay because it is their “faith tradition.” If we only stay in the Church because it is tradition, how solid of a foundation is that?
Our faith tradition must become our faith if we are to become consecrated saints that contribute to the building of the kingdom of God. We must become converted and have our own witness of the divinity of this work.
Don’t Stay to Stay the Same
Our goal shouldn’t be to stay in the Church, the goal should be to become. The goal should be covenant keeping. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared this principle in his April 2017 General Conference address “Songs Sung and Unsung:”
Brothers and sisters, we live in a mortal world with many songs we cannot or do not yet sing. But I plead with each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir, where we will be able to savor forever that most precious anthem of all—“the song of redeeming love.” Fortunately, the seats for this particular number are limitless. There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations.
There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it.
With divine imperatives of love and faith, repentance and compassion, honesty and forgiveness, there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there. “Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.
As Elder Holland stated so beautifully, there is room for us all to join with the saints, but we shouldn’t plan to stay as we are. We should plan on becoming more like Christ.
We all have different places we are at in becoming who we need to be, and that is perfectly fine. We should have grace for all who are among us. But if our goal isn’t to become more like Christ, but to dismantle and destroy, we aren’t on the Lord’s side, whose Church this is.
Questions For The Stayers?
Here are some things to consider if you decide to stay in the Church. I believe a serious consideration of these questions will help each one of us decide if we are in this Church for the right reasons:
- Does staying lead you to sustain your leaders?
- Do you stay to follow the prophet?
- Are you willing to feast on truths taught during General Conference?
- Does staying increase your love for church standards?
- Do you stay and cherish the garments of the holy priesthood and other temple blessings?
- Are you more dedicated to keep the 5 temple covenants with all of your heart, might, mind, and strength?
- Are you willing to participate fully in the work of salvation?
- Does staying lead you to regular temple worship where distance permits?
- Does staying make you less critical and more understanding of the Lord’s anointed servants?
- Does staying lead you to defend “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”?
This is obviously a very small sampling of some thoughts to consider, but hopefully it will lead us to consider where our heart truly is.
If your goal isn’t to live a life that agrees with the principles above and you want to change the Church, I would invite you to repent and have a change of heart. Come unto Christ and accept the doctrines of His Church, because they are a sure foundation.
This Will Be Zion
Make no mistake about, Zion will be established. The question that remains to be seen is, will you and I be a part of it?
We must be of one heart and one mind and one doctrine in order for Zion to exist. There will be no moral relativism with false philosophies like “live your truth” or worshiping “how, where, or what you may” among the saints. The law that must be lived does not come from our own heart and mind, it comes from the Lord.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared a message in the October 2021 General Conference that touched on the change that needs to be in all of us:
All who speak in this general conference will all be saying, one way or another, what Christ said to this rich young man: “Come unto your Savior. Come completely and wholeheartedly. Take up your cross, however heavy it may be, and follow Him.” They will say this knowing that in the kingdom of God, there can be no halfway measures, no starting and stopping, no turning back. To those who requested permission to bury a deceased parent or to at least say goodbye to other family members, Jesus’s reply was demanding and unequivocal. “Leave that to others,” He said. “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” When difficult things are asked of us, even things contrary to the longings of our heart, remember that the loyalty we pledge to the cause of Christ is to be the supreme devotion of our lives. Although Isaiah reassures us it is available “without money and without price”—and it is—we must be prepared, using T. S. Eliot’s line, to have it cost “not less than everything.”
Of course, we all have some habits or flaws or personal history that could keep us from complete spiritual immersion in this work. But God is our Father and is exceptionally good at forgiving and forgetting sins we have forsaken, perhaps because we give Him so much practice in doing so. In any case, there is divine help for every one of us at any hour we feel to make a change in our behavior. God gave Saul “another heart.” Ezekiel called on all of ancient Israel to cast off her past and “make … a new heart and a new spirit.” Alma called for a “mighty change” that would cause the soul to expand, and Jesus Himself taught that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Clearly the possibility of change and living at a more elevated level has always been one of the gifts of God to those who seek it.
Please stay in the Church. But please don’t stay the same. Align your will to God’s and be “all in” with Christ’s doctrine – even the parts you don’t understand or perhaps agree with right now. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. I love you, my fellow brothers and sisters!