Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a person who has been a member in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chooses to leave the Church and then hardens his or her heart against what he or she believed and practiced before, becoming “anti-Mormon.” Termed “ex-Mormons” by some, including themselves, the Church has but one view towards them: one of love and open arms if the individual desires to return to full fellowship in the Church. Even if a member of the Church is excommunicated for behavior which opposes the Savior’s teachings, the attitude of Church leaders is one of love and support, encouraging that person to repent of his or her sins and seek a return of all the blessings that are offered to all faithful members. However, it is not uncommon for individuals who have either rationalized their sins or weaknesses, or who have become offended, to harden their hearts against what they once knew to be the truth and to then try and find fault with former leaders, attacking the Church as a whole. When the Church was restored, the Lord gave several revelations warning His people against the dangers of apostasy. In the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says, “And the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people; For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:14–15
). Faith in and fellowship of the current prophet of the Church is essential, because a core principle of the Church is that of continuing revelation. This principle teaches members of the Church that the prophet is the mouthpiece of the Lord, through which the Lord can communicate with us continuously. However, all members are absolutely encouraged to gain a personal witness of the truthfulness of prophetic guidance by gaining personal revelation upholding such. The chain of command in the Church is well defined, as is the specific area of stewardship for any given person. Bishops are over wards, stake presidents over groups of wards, then high councils, area seventies, apostles, and, finally, the prophet. People are called to positions in the Church through inspiration to higher leaders. Especially in local service capacities, members may struggle with their callings and need the sustaining help from the people within their stewardship. However, if a person finds fault with his or her leaders, that individual is on the road to apostasy, because he or she is refusing to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in leaders’ stewardships.
Joseph Smith said, “That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p134).
There can be many different reasons for individual apostasy, including but not limited to: personal sin without repentance, conflicts between Church members, faultfinding in leaders, assuming authority where there is none, and seeking revelation outside one’s sphere of responsibility. It is a too human trait to refuse to take responsibility for one’s own actions, and it is therefore infinitely easier to place blame for one’s unhappiness on anyone or everyone else. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not profess that its members are perfect, but the principles and foundation of the Church are the Lord’s, and therefore are perfect. Those who leave the Church are always welcome to come back, provided they complete any necessary steps of repentance. The gospel of Jesus Christ is of love, forgiveness, and repentance.
Are Mormons Blind Followers?
Several recent studies, including from the Pew Forum, have found that Mormons are different from members of other Christian faiths, in that the most active and dedicated members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are also the most educated. This goes some of the way toward putting the lie upon those who call Latter-day Saints blind followers. Another can be discerned from the MormonWiki article, “Mormon Youth,” which cites studies that show why Latter-day Saint youth are more likely to retain their faith and church membership than youth of other Christian sects. First, they participate in church service and leadership from a very young age, and second (and more important) is that they are encouraged to find a personal testimony of the gospel through personal revelation from the Lord. This personal witness is usually stronger than any philosophical reasoning and can see a person through a multitude of faith-challenging experiences. If a person who begins to doubt, or who faces confusing trials in life, goes to his or her knees and prays diligently for understanding, the Lord is willing to bless that person with the revelation and sustenance necessary to revitalize the person’s faith.