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Why do people leave the church and how should we engage with friends or family members who leave?

Bill Turnbull

It’s easy to see why this is a Big Question. This is an age of widespread disaffiliation from religion, especially among younger people. And most of us have a loved one or friend who has decided to step away from the church. It’s important to understand why. It’s important to understand how this transition feels from their point of view. It’s important to understand what part we might play, for good or ill.

To explore this question, we reached out to the other side of the globe and  invited our friend Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Aukland in New Zealand.

Melissa sets up the conversation with this really helpful post which includes some great resources to dig into. Then, she sits down with Jana Riess, author of The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church to explore the reasons people leave the church. You can watch that interview here.

Then, Melissa interviews BYU religion professor Rachel Cope about what is challenging the faith of her BYU students these days. You can read that conversation that here.

Melissa also interviews David Ostler about how we as family, friends and fellow ward members can unknowingly contribute to people leaving the flock. David is a former bishop, stake president and mission president and has been researching and writing about this concern as part of his recent church calling. He wrote a terrific book on the subject titled Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question.

As a bonus, we also have this really insightful conversation between Patrick Mason and Spencer Fluhman, prominent scholars and writers who have published and spoken widely on this subject.

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Additional Resources

What to do when loved ones leave the Church

What role do members have to play when loved ones leave? David Ostler with Melissa Inouye

Why do people leave the Church? Jana Riess with Melissa Inouye

What about people who leave the LDS Church? A Conversation with Spencer Fluhman and Patrick Mason

More Questions

How do we reconcile Book of Mormon “problems” with the claim that it is the “most correct” scriptural text? And is it essential that we see the Book of Mormon as truly historical—i.e. written by ancient writers about an ancient people? Could it be some other form of writing—inspired or otherwise?
How can I make sense of our history of denying priesthood and temple blessings to our Black brothers and sisters?
In what way is our church “the true church?”
Our history with plural marriage is really hard to accept. Shouldn’t we just renounce it in past, present and future and move on?
Are there big problems with the Book of Abraham?
Is there conflict between Latter-day Saint theology and evolution?