JOEL - Why don't they just leave? It's not quite that easy. Most members who leave the church feel that they do not want to have any more contact with the church at all. But if there names are still in the records of the church, then it is the responsibility of the Bishop and priesthood leaders of the ward to continue to call on them from time to time. For this reason they want their names removed so they won't be "bothered" or "harrassed" anymore by well-meaning Church members. Of course harrassment is not the intention of the active church members, but this is how those former members perceive it.
The experiences that members have when trying to leave the church varies. For some it only takes a couple of months. For others it may take several months depending on the circumstances. The member must first send a formal letter to their Bishop asking for removal of their name. If the Bishop is convinced that the member is certain about their decision, he sends the letter, along with a form, to the Stake President. If the Stake President agrees with the Bishop, the Bishop is then asked to send the member a letter informing them that their name is being removed from the church. The member then has a 30 day waiting period (in case they change their minds) before their letter and the form are sent to Church headquarters to officially remove their name.
If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president has evidence of transgression that warrants convening a disciplinary council, he will not act on the request until Church discipline has been imposed or he has concluded that no disciplinary council should be held. So, depending on the circumstances and on how quickly things are done, it could take at least a few months before a name is officially removed. This length of time is probably what they are referring to when they say they are having a difficult time leaving the church. Also, these people have perhaps been offended and are bitter or upset about some experience they may have had and these feelings tend to amplify their frustration during the name removal process.
Many times a Bishop feels it is his responsibility to make sure the member understands and is certain of what they are doing, and to perhaps give them some time to think about it more, before he proceeds. This can also add to the amount of time it takes.
JANIS - Why do people feel they have to persecute the church and its members after they decide to leave it? How do you remain so nonjudgmental about things like that?
JOEL - One of Satan's purposes here on earth is to do all he can to influence people to contend against the truth. The main reason why people leave the church is because they have either lost the testimony they once had, or because they never had a testimony in the first place. People who are in this situation are very susceptible to the influences of Satan and others who do not believe as we do. Some of the symptoms of their lack of testimony are; inactivity in the church; forgetting to pray; being easily offended; committing sin; low self-esteem; and a contentious disposition. They might start listening to others who have had similar problems and begin to believe the lies and false accusations of those who are critical of the church. They may become bitter because of something bad that happened to them and, because of this, they conclude that if the church were true, that would not have happened to them. They blame the church or the gospel as the cause, rather than realizing that, even though the church is true, it is made up of imperfect members who make mistakes. After they leave the church they then may feel a constant need to find criticism and fault in order to help justify their decision to leave. Their persistence in doing this is fed by the underlying fear that they might be wrong.
I am nonjudgmental about these people for two reasons. First, it is not my place to make judgments on anyone. That responsibility belongs to Christ alone. What I have explained above are generalizations based on what I have heard and have seen myself. But I do not really know what those people are thinking or feeling and I do not know what experiences they have had that brought them to their decision to leave the church.
Secondly, as I have mentioned elsewhere, there is a saying that goes, "Only the confident can afford to be calm and kindly; only the fearful must defame and exclude."
I just don't let those things bother me because I am confident in my testimony of the gospel which is strengthened by the witness of the Holy Ghost that I have experienced so many times. The strength of my testimony overpowers any doubts that might try to sneak in because of what is said by those who are critical of the Church. In this regard, I am nonjudgmental because I understand that those who have lost their testimonies have lost the ability to just ignore the bad things they hear about the church. They have lost their faith in knowing that someday we will have the answers to all the questions.
I don't have all the answers yet, but I am confident that all questions will eventually be answered by God when we see Him again.
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