Maintaining family relationships while leaving Mormonism (part 2)

I’ve been thinking this month about how to preserve family relationships during a transition out of Mormonism (see the last 3 posts). When one family member changes their faith identity, it can put a lot of pressure on family relationships, especially when the family is very loyal to their faith. With that in mind, I want to share some things to keep in mind if you are in the midst of that transition yourself.

Set boundaries
If you don’t want your parents sending the bishop / missionaries around, say so. If you don’t want them to give you LDS literature or try to reactivate you, say so – kindly and lovingly. You may have to keep reinforcing those boundaries over and over again. They want you to change your mind because they love you – to them that is the best direction for you. But it’s your life, so you get to decide what you will accept from others and what you will not. Communicate your boundaries clearly and lovingly, then firmly but gently stick to them.

How to talk about your new faith
You may have opportunities for real faith conversations with your family. When those opportunities arise, share how much Jesus means to you. Talk about your experience with him. Put the emphasis on his grace and unconditional love – not on all the problems you’ve discovered with Mormonism. If you do have opportunity to talk about the problem issues, do so with great gentleness. Remember how hard it was for you to first learn some of those troubling things. Don’t get frustrated if your family doesn’t listen. You never know what wheels might be turning within someone’s private thoughts.

Check your attitude
Jesus warned that family opposition should not be a surprise for those who follow him. In Matthew 10:34-36, he said:

“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’”

Don’t make this a self-fulfilling prophecy! I’ve know people who have used these verses as vindication for all kinds of negative behavior toward their families. Your family may well react with antagonism simply because of your faith decisions. Just make sure it’s not because you’ve been a jerk. I realize you may be upset about things you’ve learned. You may feel lied to or betrayed. It’s easy to come out breathing fire. It’s natural that you would want to shake up your family to open their eyes to what you know. But be careful. Be kind and gentle. Don’t burn your bridges by being negative and inflammatory.

But if they choose to burn their bridges with you, because of your faithfulness to where Jesus is leading you, remember Jesus’ promise in Matthew 19:29:

“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.”

The heart of the matter
Here’s what it boils down to: in your faith journey, you want to follow Jesus. That means learning to treat other people in a way that honors God, even if they antagonize or reject 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.

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