And this is the first time I’ve ever read anything he’s written.
While I wouldn’t say that there’s an “exodus” of previously faithful Latter-day Saints from the LDS church, it’s obvious that the church is losing what I would call “core” members in numbers they haven’t seen since Kirtland in the 1830s. But that’s not why I love this piece from Brother Henrichsen (I think he fits the definition of a brother, so I’m going with it). It’s the kindness, the acceptance, and the genuine love he shows for those of us who have left the LDS church.
It is easy within Mormonism to dismiss such people as never actually being faithful. But such assertions are false and this tendency or impulse to characterize them as apostates is hateful and cruel. It is also counter the idea of Zion or a community of disciples.
These friends are my brothers and sisters. Not because I view everyone as brothers and sisters in a Christian sense, but because I have come to view them as my younger and older brothers and sisters because of the meaningful interactions I have had with them. I wept when I discovered that they left Mormonism. Not because I view them as lost or because I think they are now going to hell, but because I view their departure as a great loss to my faith community. They are graduates of LDS universities. They are returned full-time missionaries. These are some of the best, the brightest, and the kindest people I know.
It breaks my heart that they have left. I breaks my heart that they felt the need to leave. But I cannot blame them. I understand where they are coming from.
Speaking solely for myself, I’ve been the recipient of so much hatred and venom from people claiming to be believing Latter-day Saints that I wouldn’t believe it had I not experienced it, and at times I have responded badly and unkindly. And it’s not just affected me. My wonderful LDS wife has received threatening letters from some anonymous coward. These things should not be, but I have tried to remind myself again and again that the Mormons I know are, as Brother Henrichsen puts it, “some of the best, the brightest, and the kindest people I know.” They really are. Passages such as the following reinforce what I already knew:
If you are one that says that the egalitarians or liberals who do not like the status quo should just leave, please stop it. This is not a game. This is about the very future of our faith community and faith tradition. They are leaving. If you are glad to see them leave, you do not see them as Christ sees them.
It’s wrong to rejoice when someone loses their faith. As Brother Henrichsen notes, members of a missionary church like the LDS church should be concerned about every member who walks away. Again, speaking for myself only, I know how painful it is to leave the LDS church, and I would not wish that experience on anyone, not even the people who have been hateful to me. Losing your worldview, your social structure, and too often even your family is excruciating. It is not a game. And it’s not just about the future of the Mormon faith community and tradition. It’s about people just like you and me who deserve love and kindness, especially at a time of devastating upheaval.
I’ve said pretty much the same thing many times, but I suspect it isn’t taken the same way from a former member like me. Calls for kindness and compassion for apostates count a lot more when they come from the faithful, so I very much appreciate this one. Part of me wishes his call weren’t so unusual, but again, I think he represents what a lot of Mormons may be thinking but don’t quite know how to say.