Why do some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go inactive?
It boils down to a lack of testimony and conviction, but often the spark to stop going to church is some negative experience -- usually with a church leader.
A bishop offended or embarrassed the member somehow.
In the case of one of my grandfathers, he traded his two prize plow horses to a friend, who was also his bishop, for a tractor. The machine broke down almost immediately and was no good. So, he took offense and stopped attending church. This continued for decades and he sadly passed away, being inactive.
In the case of one teenager, his bishop stopped him from attending his seminary graduation for a minor sell-confessed moral problem. He took offense that he missed a once-in-a-lifetime event. He was also upset that the prior year, two older boys in the ward did graduate from seminary, even though they stole yearbooks from the local high school and were prevented from attending their own high school graduation. He stopped going to church. His circle of friends even switched to less active members or even non-members.
In another case, a man in his mid-30s went inactive in the late 1970s for something his bishop did. It seemed like the man could not even recall exactly what the bishop did, but he was still mad about it and hadn't been to church since then. That former bishop has long since passed away and about a dozen bishops have served in the ward since then.
For still another case, a man in his late 50s, a smoker and inactive for many years, tried to come to church regularly five years ago. However, he could not stop smoking and said felt like an outcast at church, because of his smoking habit and within a few months he stopped coming again.
These tales are sad.
I'm not saying things that what church leaders do is the only cause of inactivity, but it is certainly one of the key causes. I'm also certain no church leaders plan to drive any members inactive, it just happens with human failings. Yet, I'm also certain church leaders probably work on missionary opportunities a lot and probably mostly ignore the negative -- that things they do could drive someone way from the church.
Obviously in many cases, members are perhaps looking for things to take offense at.
Someone once said that Sampson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. Sadly, the testimony of some members today is killed the same way.
Once a person stops attending church and doing what they should, their testimony decreases.
Still, this illustrates the grave consequences -- good or bad -- that church leaders can have on members' lives.
Church leaders could strive to be more sensitive to avoid doing things that members could take offense at. There is no way to avoid all such offenses, as some are silly and overblown, but bishops who are too strict and on a letter of the law crusade -- may do some serious damage -- especially to young adults.
I feel that some people, who are inactive, may not be forthcoming and also don't want to seem so shallow by revealing their true reason for going inactive -- that someone offended them.
So, they hide behind some so-called church history inconsistency, or similar things as their stated reasons.
They want to appear intellectual, but in reality are nothing of the sort ...
In 30 years of meeting inactive members in my stake, when I get people to really open up, the spark or cause of their inactivity can more often than ANY OTHER reason be traced to taking offense at what some leader or member did or said.
That's a sad reason for a substantial amount of inactivity, but still true.
NOTE: This article and all of the NighUntoKolob blog are NOT an official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are the author's conclusions and opinions only.