The first step for repentance is always to recognize something is wrong and needs changing. Oddly, that is a more difficult challenge than it ought to be. We all like to think of ourselves as being in the right way. It makes people mad to suggest otherwise.

Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was never intended to be temporary, with people cycling in and then out of the church. Once they come aboard they should stay aboard. The Gospel, as restored through Joseph Smith, has a delightful and expanding source of almost endless truth available to all of us. We were not meant to be bored, flattered and comfortable.  Instead we were meant to be challenged, provoked, delighted and engaged in the relentless search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of God. When we take it and instead make it flat, curtailed and predictable, we often attract only temporary members. People who come for the doctrine at first, and then leave because the new faith offering answers at last to their questions, ends in a repetition of brief and superficial answers to probing questions after a brief cycle of a few years. I wish all men were motivated to study deeply for themselves, but they are not. For such people, they rely upon others to bring them along further and further in the right Path. When they falter because we aren’t teaching them invigorating, challenging material each week, they presume we have nothing to offer. The truth is we have a lifetime of rewarding information available for their endless edification and growth. But, when they will not search into it for themselves, they do not find it.

We make a mistake when we discourage the search or claim they MUST confine what they investigate to our limited approved church curriculum. They get the mistaken impression that is because our official manuals are all the Gospel offers. They presume we are no better informed than are the other mainstream churches, whose memberships are static or dropping.

In our Region of the church (we’re about to have a Regional Conference in two weeks), one of the greatest problems we face is adult apostasy stemming from reading critical things about the church’s history on the Internet. A great number of adults are dismayed when they learn of things from hostile, even bitterly opposed sources working to remove faith in the restored Gospel.  There are some people assigned by the church to investigate this problem, and who are discussing how to address it. I suggested to my stake president that my book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, might be of use. I know of twelve men now who have returned to activity in the church after reading the book. These are bright men, well read and engaged in searching into things which matter to them. They had all reached the conclusion the church was not being honest about its history and therefore ended their activity with the church. After reading the book, however, they decided it was not as they presumed, and the Lord does indeed have a destiny for the Latter-day Saints, foretold by the Prophets in the Book of Mormon and revealed to Joseph Smith.

I have found nothing quite as engaging, challenging and hopeful as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To me it is exactly as Nephi put it: “delicious.” It takes a great deal of effort to make the excitement of eternal truth into something stale and boring. That effort ought to be spent letting the Gospel understanding expand, under the tutelage of a benign church, tolerant of inquiry and discussion that is open ended and tolerant. The discussions are going to happen. Any efforts to stop them will only drive them into places where the truth may not receive an invitation to even contribute.

There is nothing so wonderful as the truths we were handed by Joseph Smith. All those who awaken to his great ministry still “seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under [his] hand.” (D&C 122: 2.) The truth never had a better friend than Joseph Smith. Even when it put him into conflict with all the world, he nevertheless declared the truth. That is because truth compels the recipient to declare: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth. I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; 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.” (JS-H 1: 25.) Praise to the man, indeed!

I could not have repented (at least not in an effective way) if I had not listened to what Joseph taught. In that sense, he brought me to Christ. Therefore, although Christ is the Redeemer and Savior, it was Joseph Smith who taught me how to return to the Lord. No man can save another. Yet there are those we owe some gratitude for the light they brought. Not because they are more than men (for all men are weak and prone to err), but because the Lord worked with them despite their weakness.