According to a recent report, Mormons of the millennial generation are leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in droves. The rate at which they are exiting is double that of the rate at which their parents and grandparents left. For the church, the question is, why? Why are these millennials leaving? For families, however, the question is, how? How can you keep a family together that has been so divided by religion?
Though every family is unique, there are a few dos and don’ts to use to guide you through this tumultuous time. If your house is divided by religion, you, too, may find that you can benefit from the advice of others who have experienced similar spiritual separation.
Regardless of which side you’re on (The Mormon or non-Mormon side), there are a few things you can do to keep the peace with your family:
- Express Love: At first, this may not be so easy to do, especially if there was an exchange (or several) of hurtful words upon the leaving party’s announcement. However, remember that family is family no matter what, and that it is your duty to love one another regardless of members’ beliefs. A person’s decision to practice or not practice Mormonism does not change who he or she is as an individual.
- Set Ground Rules: Before a family gathering, establish ground rules for acceptable and unacceptable topics of conversation. While you do not have to eliminate all religious discussions, you should ban talks centered around conversion or shame.
- Respect Your Loved One’s Wishes: Following one’s decision to leave the LDS church, family members may experience radio silence on one or both ends. This is entirely normal, as both the Mormon and ex-Mormon family members need time to process their emotions related to the fallout. Though you should not cease contact, you should refrain from pestering a loved one to talk to you before he or she is ready.
- Identify Non-Church-Related Commonalities: The church is not the only connection you have with your friends and loved ones. Though Mormonism was a significant commonality for so many years, other hobbies, pastimes and beliefs may connect you to your loved ones. Identify them so you can form a new way in which to bond.
In addition to the dos, there are several don’ts of which you should be aware that may hurt your efforts to reconcile with a loved one:
- Try To Convert “Lost” Members: Previous members of the LDS church will be able to see right through your efforts to reconvert them. Moreover, by sending over missionaries and church-related gifts, you are essentially saying you do not accept a person’s decision to leave the church.
- Judge an Ex-Member’s Character: The religion a person chooses to practice has no bearing on his or her character. Acting as if it does says more about the judgmental person than it does about the object of scorn. Moreover, unkind and unwarranted judgment does nothing more than push a person away.
- Pray or Fast for the Ex-Member: Praying or fasting for an ex-member to return to the church is just as detrimental to your efforts to reconcile as are your attempts to reconvert him or her. Accept your loved one’s decision, and work to come to terms with it rather than trying to undo it.
- Refer to a Member Leaving as a “Loss”: A person’s decision to leave LDS is not equivalent to death, and to treat it as such is both insulting and counterproductive. If you hope to reconcile with your loved one, leave a chair at the family dinner table open, but because you want to and not because your “loss” compels you to do so.
A house divided by Mormonism does not have to remain divided forever. By abiding by the dos and don’ts above, you and your loved ones can work through your issues and come to a tentative truce.