Musings on Inactivity from Bishop BillBy: Bishop Bill
Something a little different from Bishop Bill this week:
The other day I was thinking about all the “inactive” Mormons I’ve talked to over the past 30 years. In that time, I’ve been an Elders Quorum President twice, a bishop’s counselor twice, and a bishop. By inactive, I mean people that haven’t been to church in months or years. Many do not even consider themselves “Mormons” anymore. I figure that the number would be close to 200 people I’ve met with.
What stood out in those 200 people, is that only 2 of them (a married couple) were inactive because of “issues” with the church doctrine/policy/history. They informed me they were not coming to church because of the Church’s stand against same sex marriage. This was in California during the Prop 22 campaign (a predecessor to Prop 8). We were having stake speakers coming to sacrament meeting to give talks on same sex marriage, kind of a warm-up to Prop 8!
But outside this couple, none of the other people I spoke to ever gave any indication that they were inactive because of things they learned about church history that the church was covering up, or women and the priesthood, or the priesthood ban, or Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Basically, all the things that make for such great banter on the many LDS blogs and forums on the internet were not even known to these people, or if it was, was not the reason they were inactive.
So, why were they inactive? A few were “offended” by a bishop, or other leader, but this was also a very small number. There was not one that went inactive so they could “sin.” For most, they felt the church just didn’t offer them anything. It didn’t provide anything in their lives that that couldn’t get other places. They didn’t have the family ties, the friends, or the community that drive many to come to church each Sunday.
So, it comes as no surprise to me that the church is not too worried about all the uncorrelated history that is available on the internet. The leaders have done a cost/benefit analysis on coming clean on their history and apologizing for past mistakes, and they know that for each person this would help, it would probably damage several others’ testimonies when they learn the truth. They know that very few people are going inactive because of what is on the internet. They also know what I observed, that most people that are inactive just don’t care for church anymore. Those who are inactive have done their own cost/benefit analysis, and in their view, it has nothing (or not enough) to offer them.
Is that what you would expect? How can the church counter the lack of benefit perceived by some? Should it try or just assume they are a lost cause and move on to those who are likely to find benefit?