We all know someone that has stopped going to church. Are you still friends with that person today? Are you extending love to them or is it inconvenient to be friends beyond church? One of the most important things you can do is make your friendships at church go beyond that from the beginning so when bumps in the road do follow you can take Mandy's advice about what to do next. Mandy regularly blogs over at Making a Life a Bliss Complete. Today she is sharing some of her personal experiences to help us be the friend that we all need.
My prayer for my less active friends and family echoes Alma’s prayer for the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon:
Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee (Alma 31:35).
Yes, their souls are precious. They are children of God, just as we are. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that, as loved ones stray from the straight and narrow path. They may start to forget God, but He never forgets them. Neither should we. That is why we must continue to share the gospel with them, in our efforts to bring them back to the fold.
I have learned from experience with less-active family and friends, that there must be great care taken not to be condescending, preachy, or pushy as we do this. For example, when I first noticed my sister start to go less active, I was constantly giving her advice she wasn’t really asking for. I was telling her what she was doing wrong, and why it was wrong, and how she needed to change. I had good intentions, but it wasn’t working. I learned that she would need to come back on her own terms, and in her own time. She had to figure it out on her own, and the best thing I could do was to love her and pray for her. There are many less active people in my life. Over time, I have learned to share the gospel lovingly with them. Here are some suggestions:
- Being resentful of their choices - they have free agency just like the rest of us.
- Nagging or acting like you are better than them.
- Judging or criticizing them or their lifestyles.
Instead, strive to do these
- Find out why they aren’t coming to church, and try to understand it from their perspective.
- Invite them to activities that they will still be interested in: parties, family history, concerts, etc. Invite them to church meetings you are a part of such as baptisms and baby blessings.
- Ask them to pray, read scriptures with you, and do FHE with your family.
- Talk about the gospel around them and share your testimony when prompted.
- Try to find common interests so you have things to talk about together and can be truly interested in their lives.
- Serve them when they need it, with love and compassion.
- If not united in faith, find other ways you can be united –like in mutual respect, interests, and strong family ties.
- Show gratitude and love for them.
- Always look for the good in them and tell them the good you see.
- Be patient, not defensive when they have opposition. Try to answer their questions if they ask.
- Pray for them and remember how much the Savior loves them.
- Always remind them there is room for them in the church (See President Uchtdorf’s talk "Come, Join with Us")
It is important that we live in such a way to have the Spirit. This will help us be better missionaries and friends to these precious souls. We should study our scriptures and the words of the prophets often, so we know how to best answer questions and concerns. We should pray for missionary opportunities, and for guidance in how to share the gospel. The Lord will help us know what to say (See Elder Gardner Russell’s talk, "Touching the Hearts of Less-Active Members").
Even if we do all these wonderful, Christ-like things, those we love may not come back to the fold, or at least not when we hope they will. Don’t be discouraged. They will feel your love and acceptance, and know you truly love them. They will also feel the Lord’s presence more abundantly in their lives.
Find strength and hope from Elder Brent H. Nielsen’s recent conference talk, called "Waiting for the Prodigal":
“May you and I receive the revelation to know how to best approach those in our lives who are lost and, when necessary, to have the patience and love of our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, as we love, watch, and wait for the prodigal.”
God bless you all in your efforts to bring back those who are lost.
Your Turn- What have you do when your friend or family members leaves the church? What do you feel is the most important thing you can do?
Mandy lives in Mebane, NC, with her wonderful husband and three boys. Mandy's family is the most important thing to her other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. She loves to stay busy, and life is never boring. Mandy has a Bachelor's Degree from Southern Utah University in Interpersonal Communication, with a minor in English Literature. For hobbies, she loves to sing, act, play the piano, bake, cook, spend time with friends and family, go shopping, read, write, dance, and even edit other people's grammar. To learn more about Mandy, and how she lives her life, please visit Mandy's Mormon.org profile.