As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized just how unpopular the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be. When I was a kid, surrounded by my family and neighborhood of active members of the Church, it never crossed my mind that anyone didn’t like the Church. So the realization that there were people who didn’t want any part of the gospel, didn’t like the Church and even hated it was a painful one.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my issues with the Church. I’ve had times when I questioned everything the Church stood for and believed. When I thought about turning my back on it. When I was offended by stances the Church took. When I couldn’t understand the doctrines, the principles, or the leaders of the Church.
I’ve seen a lot of people deal with the same struggles. It’s tough. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re a member of the Church or not – sometimes it’s hard to understand why someone stays in the Church.
In spite of my own struggles with, and questions about, the Church, I’ve found reasons to stay. It’s a choice, every single time. And it’s a choice all of us face at some point or another. And since I believe that hearing about others’ experiences and choices helps me in my life, I thought that I’d share some of the reasons I stay, in case it helps any of you.
5 Reasons I Stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1. Undeniable Spiritual Witness
There are few things I believe more than that I have received a spiritual witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the reality of my God, and the certainty of my Savior’s infinite Atonement. That witness first came at a time when I didn’t really believe in anything and was questioning everything I’d been taught.
I remember sitting at a campfire, surrounded by people from my ward who were bearing testimony, and I was terrified. The pressure to testify was on, and I felt I had no testimony to give.
But my turn to stand and speak came. So I stood and stumbled over a few words.
Then a powerful love hit my heart. It was like someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and pleaded with me, “You know this. You know that you know it. Please stop fighting it.”
For what felt like forever, I couldn’t speak. The feelings and thoughts were so unexpected, yet so familiar, I was completely overwhelmed. Finally, I managed to speak a few more words and sat down, reeling at the wonderful sensation of belief.
Since that vivid moment, I have been undeniably certain that God is real, He is my loving Father in Heaven, and that He has a plan for me. To quote Joseph Smith,
25 …I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.Joseph Smith – History 1:25
I did not see a vision as Joseph did. But the Holy Spirit made it extremely clear to me what was true. He reminded me that I know truth because I was taught it before this life. That’s why it was so familiar and good to me when I felt it and believed it.
Since then, the Holy Spirit has continued to witness the truth to me. He’s done so in the smallest, most subtle ways, but He’s also done so in more obvious and powerful ways. Regardless of the method, each witness reassures me of the truth I continue to learn and believe in.
It doesn’t matter what any individual in or out of the Church says or does – I know what I believe in. I believe in my God and my Savior. I believe in Their teachings. And I trust Them. Imperfect people won’t change that.
I stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I am certain its gospel is true. I’m certain it has the authority of God. And I’m certain that staying is the best way I can follow and worship my God who is my Father in Heaven.
2. Eternal Hope in Christ
When my grandpa died after a stroke more than ten years ago, it was unexpected, to say the least. But the biggest shock about the whole thing was how much peace I felt almost immediately following his death.
It was still hard, especially when I saw how much my grandma and mom were hurting. And when his usual chairs were empty. And when I sat through the funeral.
But overarching it all was a sense of deep peace.
That was the first major test of my belief in God’s plan for us. And it came only a year or two after that first spiritual witness I mentioned before. But instead of struggling with why it happened or how God could take Grandpa away so suddenly, I found that having something to believe in and having that spiritual witness to rely on gave me the strength to hope and trust that God knew what He was doing. That He had provided a Savior to make all things right.
So I stayed.
When I found myself on my knees realizing that I needed to repent of a sin that had been hurting me for a long time, I was shocked at how much pain sat behind that sin. It was a weight that would have completely crushed me one day – except that I knew I still had a chance to change.
It wasn’t easy. In fact, it took longer to move past that sin than I’d care to admit. But repentance was the one chance offered to me that could give me hope. And when I found that I no longer wanted the sin, that I had finally moved forward and away from the sin, I also knew that I had not done it alone.
I would not have had the strength to do it alone. Trust me on that. I was at my weakest when I realized I needed to change, and if I hadn’t been able to hope that my Savior could and would help me, I’d have never had that strength at all.
I stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because its doctrines and principles, and most of all its God, give me hope and strength that go beyond my own. Because it teaches that my Savior, Jesus Christ, has made it possible for me to try again and again and again to become better and more than I have ever been before. And I stay because that promise has proven itself true over and over – not just for me, but for people all over the world.
3. Effort is Required
A few months ago, I was talking with my bishop, and he reminded me that the most important thing for me to be doing was progressing. That perfection isn’t necessary right now, but movement and growth are required of me.
I needed to hear that because I’d gotten to a point of being very comfortable where I was and staying there. That’s not the easiest spot to get out of because it’s a lot easier to keep doing the minimum than it is to push yourself to grow and to challenge yourself.
Even more recently, my golf teacher pointed out to me that every door is open. We can choose to progress anywhere, but we have to make the effort to progress. (I appreciate a teacher who can give life lessons while also teaching their subject.)
I love this quote from President Nelson:
The Lord loves effort because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.President Russell M. Nelson, quoted from “An Especially Noble Calling,” April 2020
As a member of the Church, I feel that I’m constantly challenged to become better. God expects me to make the most of my life, and I want to do that.
It isn’t easy. We all have constant distractions, temptations, and fears that hold us back. But that growth is a big part of what makes life worthwhile, what gives it purpose. I feel that if God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t expect us to grow and progress. He wouldn’t care what we did. The expectation to progress is evidence that God loves each of us.
In my experience, some of the biggest challenges that helped me progress came from being part of the Church. For example, I served a mission in the Philippines. Learning a new language and culture while going out of my way to talk with and teach people stretched me in ways I never expected. And every calling I’ve had to serve in the Church has challenged me to be better and different than I was before.
I stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because in it I have learned the value and purpose of effort and progress. I stay because the gospel challenges me to progress more than anything else does. And I know that my Father and my Savior are there to help me to progress.
4. Powerful Support System
Several months ago, my parents and I traveled to the Philippines. We went to several islands and in each place we went, we met members of the Church who not only welcomed us but went out of their way to serve and help us. They fed us, hosted us, drove us to our destinations, and shared their testimonies and listened to ours.
After the trip, my parents and I talked about how amazing it is that we can go to the other side of the world, meet up with some complete strangers, and receive so much love and help simply because of the Church. The members in the Philippines were amazing examples of how to serve like Christ, and I don’t hesitate to say that, if given the chance, they would show the same love and aid to people who had never even heard of the Church.
Even at home, I’ve found that my ward can be a great source of inspiration. Ward members set powerful examples for me all the time, and it gives me so much strength to see others around me choosing to stay and believe in the gospel and the Church.
Belief in the Church has also been a support to my family. We gain strength from each other and support each other in our faith and standards. The Church has brought my family together in a way that keeps us choosing to stay together and work through any challenge that comes our way.
I stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it gives me a support system I can rely on. The people alone give a lot of strength and support, but what’s even better is that the Church teaches me how God is where I can turn for support and strength at any time. With the Church, my support system is a solid three points: God, my family, and other Church members.
5. Constant Source of Wisdom
I ask so many questions. Honestly, I feel like I ask more questions every day than I’ll ever find answers for. But a lot of my questions do receive answers through prayer, church attendance, and the scriptures.
It’s amazing to me how, when I pick up my scriptures to do my normal reading, I often find answers to questions I’ve had on my mind for a long time and to questions I didn’t even know I had. And how when I pray, answers come to mind that I’ve been trying to figure out on my own for who knows how long.
I receive a lot of clarity in my life when I rely on the gospel of Jesus Christ and the tools that the Church provides. And having the gospel helps me understand how I can make better choices in my life from day to day.
I wish I had more specific examples of this reason, but the ways I receive wisdom and guidance from the Church, its leaders, its resources, and its doctrines are often small and everyday things. But those little things add up to make a difference in my life and in my heart that is hard to describe.
I stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I’ve felt what it’s like to ignore its teachings and wisdom – but I’ve also felt the positive difference in my life that comes from relying on the teachings of the Church. I stay because the Church gives me so much to learn from and has helped me grow, heal, and find peace.
I stay when I don’t understand the Church’s teachings or stance because I believe that God is the source of its wisdom and teachings – and I believe that God knows what He’s doing even when I don’t understand what He’s doing. His wisdom has proven to be greater than mine so many times, and I’m so grateful for those times when He’s proven me wrong.
I stay because of God. That’s really what this comes down to. He’s the reason the Church exists at all, and He’s the reason I can still trust and believe in the gospel and the Church when everything and everyone else says not to. I trust Him, and I’ll trust Him no matter what.