Based on some questions that were recently posed to me, I’ve been thinking about how to preserve family relationships during a transition out of Mormonism. About 1/3 of people raised LDS end up leaving, and a good number of those end up in other faith communities. Understanding the pressure that this transition can place on families, I want to share some things to keep in mind if you are in the midst of that transition.
You are not alone
First, you need to realize that you are not alone. Many others have been through this. There are people with similar experiences in many churches, as well as at online forums and Facebook groups, where you can tap into the experience of others.
At the same time, realize that there is no single standard experience. Many variables effect how families will react to your faith decisions. Are you the first one in your family to leave? Is your family especially loyal to their LDS faith? Do you live in a strongly LDS neighborhood or community? What has your attitude been? These and many other factors will play into what your experience with your family might be.
I encourage you to take the initiative to keep relationships going. Because your family members are so identified with their faith, they may see rejection of their church as a rejection of them. It’s up to you to demonstrate otherwise. Also, realize that your faith decisions may be very confusing to your family. Suddenly you’re different, and they probably didn’t see it coming. So your parents or siblings may simply not know how to relate to you. Everyone is trying to figure out how to do an old relationship on new terms. So take the initiative to call your family, to invite them over, to attend family events. You can’t control how they will respond, but you can do your part. As Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
Love like Jesus
It’s so easy for emotions to take over, and to respond to a perceived attack with a counter attack. For many people, this won’t be too hard, because your family will be patient and understanding with you. But if that is not the case, I encourage you to take the high road. Demonstrate your commitment to Jesus by ignoring any insults or cutting remarks they may throw your way. Be patient with the misunderstandings. If you feel rejected, trust God with that. In the Bible, real love is self-sacrificial. There might be sacrifices you will need to make to continue to love your family.
Next week I’ll continue this train of thought with a few more suggestions, like how to set boundaries with your family, how to talk about your new-found faith with them, and how to check your attitude.
But here’s the bottom line for now. At the heart of your spiritual journey, you want to follow Jesus. That means learning to treat other people as Jesus would, even if they aggravate or antagonize you. Make it a matter of prayer. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Get encouragement from others who have been there before you.