Protecting the Flock

Jesus with the Little Children

As our family read from Romans this week, I was struck by two verses which differentiate between those who are struggling with faith they wish to retain and those who are actively attempting to destroy faith.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations….

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ…,

Romans 14:1, 16:17-18

There are those who tear down with words. Then there are those who destroy in more disturbing ways.

The Church has launched training, which is mandatory for those who minister to children and youth. This training can be accessed at

All may take the training, which becomes part of one’s Church “training jacket.” The training must be re-taken every three years to maintain eligibility to minister to children. As all become trained, we will be better able to detect and prevent inappropriate behavior.

Paul’s counsel to the Romans was to help them understand the difference between earnest questions and calculated attacks, counsel we do well to consider in our day.

The Church training on protecting children and youth is to avoid those instances of inappropriate behavior which so harm children of God and further provoke those wanting to condemn God and His people.

Let us so live that we are fully acceptable to God and those who are His, no matter how those in the great and spacious building might mock and jeer.

Why does it hurt so bad to walk away from the Church of Jesus Christ?

Jacob Z. Hess

This is the second of a seven-part series, “Recruiting Alma the Younger (starting with an initial piece exploring attachment injury in relation to faith struggles).

“Excruciating”…“the worst pain imaginable”…”I couldn’t believe how much it hurt.”

It’s not uncommon to hear language like this from people walking away from activity, life and membership in the Church of Jesus Christ.  One dear friend of mine wept as she described the pain of separation, repeating multiple times during our visit how some of the new things in her life (coffee, tank tops) “didn’t take away the pain.” 

So, I asked the obvious question that came up, “so, in a previous stage of life when you were happy and active in the Church, this kind of deeper inner pain and lack of peace would have been taken as a pretty good indicator that something is off – and maybe God isn’t behind the direction you are going, right?”

“Oh yes, but not anymore,” she and her husband replied – explaining that they no longer believed in the existence of a Holy Spirit that guided people with internal promptings: “No, we don’t believe that anymore.” 

I found this exchange simultaneously fascinating and troubling.  Here was a precious family (and dear personal friends) taking momentous steps down a path that felt downright excruciating… And yet, rather than seeing these deeply conflicted feelings as having any message or import (as would have jumped off the page for them within their previous faithful narrative), they denied any higher or deeper meaning in the pain from within their new way of interpreting the world. 

Stories we tell about pain. I first became interested in how we make sense of (and narrate) pain when I interviewed people saying conflicting things about depression: “Prozac saved my life” insisted one woman, while another mother told me, “Prozac led to my son’s suicide.”

How could two people with similar experiences (medication for serious depression) arrive at such profoundly different conclusions and interpretations?  That same core question still fascinates me today about other contested, difficult issues (including, most recently, in relation to sexuality, gender and faith). For instance, what leads one person to adopt one way of thinking about the pain of walking away from the Church of Jesus Christ, and another person to adopt a profoundly different way of thinking about essentially the same thing? 

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