Sacrament Talk: Compassion For Those Who Leave

“Compassion for those who leave” -

I presented this talk to the ward members in sacrament meeting as an attempt at helping to prepare them for my upcoming resignation as their Bishop.

Knowing that compassion eases one’s own pain I hoped it would ease the members suffering at the shock & stress of my resignation.

The talk was really well received by the members.

Sacrament talk Helston Ward, Sunday 9th January 2011.

If I had my rathers I would prefer not to have to give this talk today.

It’s about a topic which makes me feel uncomfortable and will probably shock you, as it did me.

Even as we discussed this issue as a bishopric this week my counsellors and I were very emotional.

The General Authorities have told us for years to prepare for trying times ahead. I have been asked as your bishop to prepare you for these trials.

How strong is your testimony?

On what is it based?

“And now as I said concerning faith- faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen which are true.” Alma 32:21

“Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Would your testimony stand up to indisputable evidence to the contrary?

We have been warned that in the last days many of the elect will leave the church.

The General Authorities have warned the Bishops, through the Stake Presidents, to “Prepare for a mass exodus from the church, even from the leadership.”

Many faithful, devoted, and dedicated members are leaving the church they once loved due to “unintentional consequences of their search for truth”.

These were people who were fully committed temple going, tithe-paying members.

In 2009 it is estimated that over 83,000 members left the church.

Many members, including leaders, are resigning their membership, NOT DUE TO SIN OR WEAKNESS, but due to reading or listening to something which changes their PERCEPTION OF TRUTH.

Can our relationship with those who leave the church withstand these changes in THEIR BELIEF?

It’s only natural to feel awkward about the situation. To not know what to say.

The relationship with my own brother and sister-in-law, David and Louise, has suffered as a consequence of their decision to leave the church.

I have found it very difficult, as have my parents and the rest of the family.

We believe that, because of their actions and disbelief, they we will no longer be a part of our eternal family. THAT REALLY HURTS!!

Its a very emotionally charged subject.

But it’s becoming a common problem. Most of you here have loved ones, including friends and family, who have trodden this path. Or we know of someone.

It’s far too easy to be judgemental, or even to fear those who leave.

I have certainly found this to be the case for me. I rarely associated with my brother, his wife and children, or spoke with them. I found it too difficult to discuss things openly and be candid for fear of getting into an argument.

Sometimes we fear they will adversely affect the testimonies of our children.

My relationship with them has been made even more difficult because I am also their bishop and have a role to play to protect the church.

But it’s often even harder for them. Have you ever thought how it might feel to be THEM?

I have recently talked with some who have left the fold, and have read accounts from others. The common feeling is one of “loneliness” and “of not being understood” by people whom they once called brothers and sisters.

Imagine for a moment what it must be like. “The best way to understand someone is to try to put yourself in their position”.

Imagine that “Everything that you had thought about yourself, others, and the world was built on a lie! All the time you were growing up you felt different and did not know why. The way you looked at life was based on who you thought you were and on what you believed to be true.” Your world would just crumble around you! You would not know what to trust, let alone who to trust! You would have to re-learn almost everything; the way you interacted with others, your values and more.

What if every major decision you made was based on what you thought was truth? There would be so much fallout your head would be spinning! You would most likely experience ‘rage’, ‘despair’, ‘grief’, ‘sorrow’, ‘anguish’, ‘more anger, mistrust, confusion’, and run through a ‘whole gamut of emotions’. The longer you were members of the Church and the more you genuinely believed it to be true, the more severe the trauma coming out. Someone who had been LDS all his or her life will experience greater hardship than someone who had been a convert of only a year or two. But even those who leave after just a couple years experience a great sense of loss when they leave. Leaving Mormonism is not as simple as waking up one morning and deciding to rip up one’s temple recommend. It doesn’t come after hearing or reading a couple negative things about the Church; if it were just a few contradictions you could easily readjust your thinking or put them on a “back burner” to deal with later. For an active, believing Mormon to conclude that Mormonism is not true takes a long and painful time of intensive study, prayer, deliberation and soul searching. Many risk losing family, including their spouse, children, and extended family, as well as their best, maybe only, friends.

Some who leave say it feels like a death in the family, or a divorce.

Jim Whitefield, A sixty year old member from Norfolk, who had served in many leadership positions in the church, left the church just a few years ago says this:

“If ever members could comprehend that in reality for someone of my age (sixty in February 2006) -retired and with no one to talk to except my wife, you actually end up with nothing. It is an excruciating decision to make and not one of choice. I would far rather try to believe, it is so much less painful. To keep your family and friends, you just sit on the back row for once and say you have had a nervous breakdown or something and can’t cope with callings; you would get away with it and still have a life. But for me, it would have been a lie. It takes courage to admit the truth to yourself and then to others and to be willing to accept the consequences of that decision and your subsequent action upon it. In reality, you lose most of your family and all of your friends as they have no time for you because you no longer move in Church circles, which means that as you are not there with them, they don’t bother with you; even the ones who say they mean to, as subsequently they are kept so busy in the Church that they never have or make any time for you. There is also fear, as you are of course considered apostate. I have moved from being known on first name terms by well over a thousand members who personally knew and respected me, to a number of true friends that I can barely count on one hand. Staying close to the Church, making no real friends outside since I was fourteen years old didn’t even leave old school friends available to me, having lost contact decades ago. My decision leaves me with “no life, few family and friends who care about me and a very difficult future. Members have said that it is my own fault. I actually had some very critical and somewhat unkind phone calls and abusive letters from local leaders and so called friends in the Church who should have known better. I was almost suicidal after my first wife’s death and this was another equally distressing moment in my life, leaving me feeling that way again. I destroyed those letters in a flood of tears.”

As I said before, their perception of truth has changed!

He goes on to say:
“When someone joins the Church, if they are ostracised by family and friends due to their new found ‘faith’, they at least have a new ‘family’ to welcome them, within the Church. When you leave, there is no one there for you. You are alone.”

I found that shocking. But he actually vocalises the feelings of many who leave the church.

It also made me feel guilty for the way I have treated others including my own family. My own brother who I love!

David said to me recently. “You know what is hardest, it is that even family will not listen”. He says “I don’t want you to believe me, what I want is for you to listen and try to understand me.”

“If I say that sheet of paper is black, and you say it’s white, at least you’ve listened. You may not agree with me, but at least you now understand my beliefs.”

How can we cope with this dilemma? We believe in UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, but find it hard to accept those who choose to follow a new path.

Jesus said “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13: 34

Luke 6: 27-34 The Saviour said in the beatitudes, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:”

What is compassion for others?

The origins of the word ‘compassion’ come from the Greek patheia, meaning to “bear/suffer” and cum meaning “with”. It means to suffer with, or to empathise. To feel the sorrow or pity for the pain of another.

You can feel compassion, and show compassion.

There is a true story of how Russians showed compassion to the German soldiers after they had captured them during the 2nd World War.

“Stalin ordered 20,000 German soldiers to be paraded through the streets. The onlookers gazed with hatred at their enemies; they were clenching their fists. But then all at once something happened to them. They saw German soldiers – thin, unshaven, wearing dirty blood-stained bandages, hobbling on crutches or leaning on the shoulders of their comrades, and walking with their heads down. Suddenly an elderly woman in broken down boots pushed herself forward. She went up to the column, took from inside her coat something wrapped in a coloured handkerchief and unfolded it. It was a crust of black bread. She pushed it awkwardly into the pocket of a soldier. Then from every side, women came running towards the soldiers pushing into their hands bread, cigarettes, whatever they had. The soldiers were no longer enemies. They were people.”

A beautiful quote from Sogyal Rinpoche about the power of compassion:

“Evoking the power of compassion in us is not always easy. I find myself that the simplest ways are the best and most direct. Every day, life gives us innumerable chances to open our hearts, if we can only take them. An old woman passes you with a sad and lonely face and two heavy plastic bags full of shopping she can hardly carry. Switch on a television, and there on the news is a mother in Beirut kneeling above the body of her murdered son, or an old grandmother in Moscow pointing to the thin soup that is her only food……Any one of these sights could open the eyes of your heart to the fact of vast suffering in the world. Let it. Don’t waste the love and grief it arouses. In the moment you feel compassion welling up in you, don’t brush it aside, don’t shrug it off and try quickly to return to “normal”, don’t be afraid of your feeling or be embarrassed by it, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted from it. Be vulnerable: Use that quick, bright uprush of compassion – focus on it, go deeper into your heart and meditate on it, develop it, enhance it, and deepen it. By doing this you will realise how blind you have been to suffering. All beings, everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them all in spontaneous and immeasurable compassion.”

Life sometimes can be difficult. That doesn’t mean we can’t find peace and joy.

Jesus Christ said. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Paul reminds us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”

Isaiah 55:12 “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Proverbs 12:20 “Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace is joy”.

Romans 15:13 “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

If you look around this room and see who’s here, then imagine some of us may not be here in a week, or a month, a year or two. I want you to know that whatever happens I will love you. I will have compassion for you.

I thank you for all your support and love for me over the years.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Resignation Letter as Bishop to Stake President

Letter to Ward members notifying them of my Resignation as their Bishop

Leaving The Mormon Bubble – The Anguish Of Transition

13 Responses to Sacrament Talk: Compassion For Those Who Leave

  1. Nancy Beck says:

    Wow. I wish I had written this.

  2. I wonder why it took me so long to discover this Sacrament Talk: CompassionFor Those Who leave

  3. chris says:

    I’m not LDS, but have a family member investigating, so have read a lot. Solely from a human perspective, I think it’s so sad that you actually had to say that. It wouldn’t just occur to people to treat each other with that kind of respect and understanding?

    • SteveBloor says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Shockingly once the Mormon mindset has taken hold it can be difficult for some people to use the compassion they were born with.

      In circumstances where a loved one leaves the Church, or even questions its teachings, quite often they prioritise the Church over their loved one.

      Loyalty to the Church takes presidence over family & friends.

      I did not expect that to happen with my friends & family, but tragically it did.

      I recommend checking out the website of cult recovery expert Steve Hassan. http://freedomofmind.com

      I wish you and your family well,
      Steve

  4. Your words are so true, the members are afraid to maintain contact with you when you leave because they are afraid of repercussions from other members, there are cliques in all churches,but particularly so in the mormon church, the leaders at stake level appear to set themselves above the members like some sort of hierarchy and when you have serious questions they turn there back on you and label you apostate, I have experienced this recently but they don’t want to talk or consider your questions, they would do better if they would just listen, even if they didn’t agree, lots of the doubt could be dealt with and members would be more likely to stay , my advice to any investigators is get out while you can because it’s not true it’s just a myth, don’t fall for it however nice it may sound

    Crusader

  5. Pingback: My Reasons For Supporting Tom Phillips in His Fraud Case Against President Thomas S Monson | Steve Bloor's Blog

  6. EParker says:

    This is a beautiful talk and puts into such eloquent words the stigma and loss that leaving the church brings. I have found that I experienced this twice when leaving the church and when coming out as a lesbian. Surprisingly coming out was far easier than leaving the church. When leaving the church there is no support group or meeting to go to. The contacts of an entire life are lost or severely damaged. When coming out at least there is support and groups to get help from and it`s nothing as bad as the isolation after leaving the church.
    Thank you.

  7. Pingback: Steve Bloor: Compassion for Those Who Leave

  8. Holly says:

    You said this letter was received well. I’m wondering if you can expand on that. How do your ward members treat you now? Did any of your ward follow suit? I am in a year of discovery of these difficult church issues, and am having a very hard time. It is so so sad I can’t talk it out. I just want open dialogue with family and friends. But at the slightest talk of anything, eyes get big, and “We’ll never know in this life” gets said, and subjects get changed. It is true, the stigmas etc. For the doubter in the church are so evasive. I had no idea I was like this before until my crisis of faith. Suddenly after a couple months of discovery of church history issues the thought occured to me it might not be true, and my eyes have never been the same. I view everyone so differently.
    But I don’t want to be shunned. I don’t even know that I want to leave at this point, but I want to be able to talk about issues without everyone gasping for breath and baring their testimonies to me, or ostracizing me. So so crazy this church that teaches to love…so many lessons on love…and yet we don’t even see what we do to the doubter and apostate. So sad.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Holly,

      It’s a very difficult situation to be in as a doubter. One of our goals is to try to encourage the Church to be more open and honest about the controversial issues so that when members start questioning that their friends in the Church are still accepting of them.

      But this General Conference didn’t help in that regard. It seems very Orwellian to promote “diligence and obedience” leading to intelligence.

      My Ward members got very emotional and empathetic towards their own ‘lost’ friends and family members when I presented my talk.

      Unfortunately, after they learned of my resignation as Bishop and with the subsequent damage limitation by the Stake Presidency and others, I was cast in a bad light. As an Anti-Christ like Korihor. Fear took over and they shunned me and my wife. They still do.

      It may have been something to do with how open, honest & public I was with the reasons for my departure?

      For anyone else choosing to leave I world suggest a gentler path. A slower and quieter way out. But for me as a bishop I felt I needed for the Ward members to understand my reasons without ambiguity.

      • Holly says:

        So sorry. Thank you for your wonderful reply. Like korihor…ugh. its just awful. The church was good and wonderful, I just did not even see this aspect behind it at all. I was completely blind to this. You arenlucky your wife is beside you. My husband will discuss things with me, but he’s still a TBM and after about 20 minutes of discussion, it either ends in an argument or we have to agree to diagree and stop talking. I noticed that about this general conference. Last conference Uchtdorf said some promising things (although it seems everyone in the church only noticed the doubt your doubts part and not the other half of his talk). But this one was not too helpful to me in my predicament.

  9. Dave McGrath says:

    Steve: Beautiful words. I needed them even though I left the church years ago. Thank you.

  10. Kirsty says:

    I’m going through this right now and your words are PERFECT. I have felt so lonely and so lost. I had a complete identity crisis, I had to learn what was me and what had been brainwashed into me. Almost without exception, family and friends have judged and deserted us. Judged us.
    We discovered the Church’s policy on concealing of paedophiles and have spent the last year talking with the Europe area presidency to try and reason with them that not reporting of known paedophiles is both immoral and dangerous. As a previous bishop you may have experience of this, being forbidden by the Church’s legal helpline to report to the law of known child abusers. Our law does not respect Priest Penitent Privilege and has not for 120 years, yet I have heard first hand of past bishops being instructed this is law. The law leaves it to your morals and choice; the church handbook instructs you do not report unless the Law says other wise.
    As it was, the Church left minors for a number of months in the same home as this paedophile, who unknowingly to them had also been abusing the minors for a number of years. The Church believed the lies of a confessed paedophile over protecting innocent children, after another victim came forward and reported to senior church leaders of the paedophiles past. He was a high priest, serving on the bishopric over primary at the time – they did not even release him straight away, but even when they eventually did, he was punished with a WARD disciplinary!! Needless to say, we have not left quietly. We have been publicly described as Anti-Mormon and apostate, following which there was a public recommendation to ostracise and avoid associating with us. If that’s Christ like, then I don’t think much of Christ. All for stating FACT. FACTS the Church don’t want it’s members to know, trying to protect other innocent children.
    I don’t even know how I feel about the Doctrine itself, I have been a member my entire life and have never doubted. But I do know with my whole heart that a church which allows a known confessed paedophile to continue living under the same roof as minors, with access to grand children cannot be under direction of God, they are either corrupt or were never true in the first place.

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