https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/07 ... -you-want/
Indeed I think the shame/guilt/fear card so often pulled by leaders (especially local leaders) and family members does more harm than good and is not the answer. It certainly doesn't work for me. A few highlights from Jana:
The first is flat-out fear.... To paraphrase: Don’t be like the virgins in the Gospels who didn’t light their own lamps! These are perilous times, and you don’t want to be caught without the gospel and the rock-solid community of the church. This approach is a basic default mechanism for religion (and humans) in general, but it can be hurtful – especially when people are already in pain. It’s also not very effective.
The second approach is shaming. This letter positions the recipient as the prodigal son and the sender as the worthy, patient father who is waiting for the son to repent. In the beginning it says, “we write to you as friends” and at the end says, “come back and let us be friends again” — which suggests that something has ruptured the friendship. That something is the recipient’s lack of “full activity,” which the senders hasten to reassure the recipient cannot be quite so terrible that she can sink below the light of God. (Um . . . thanks?)
The subtext is: We are not in the least bit curious what those questions or doubts are, or what you’ve been through; just forget about all that. If you can’t pretend that nothing is wrong, we will not be able to remain friends with you.
Nowhere in the letter do the writers express a desire to know what is going on with the recipient; they do not wish to listen, learn, or truly befriend. They seem, above all, to want compliance. They want butts in pews, or at least the coronatide equivalent.
A few people I’ve interviewed so far have come back to church, at least for a time. It’s definitely a minority. And within that minority, I haven’t yet met a single person who returned because fear and shame were effective enticements. What has worked also boils down to two things: genuine listening and innovation.
Really listening to people with doubts and questions is hard. Latter-day Saints are keen on having answers for everything, so this is going to be a paradigm shift. Real listening means we don’t jump in and minimize people’s pain just because we have found an answer that works for us (“Oh, no, there’s a really good reason Joseph Smith married a 14-year-old girl! Allow me to explain!”). Real listening is not so much about providing solutions as it is about honoring someone else’s struggles.
Real listening should also lead to the second thing that works: innovation. If we want to keep church members, we can’t simply dismiss their struggles. A true community of God does not sweep difficult truths under the rug as though the church is a perfect institution that does not need to apologize for its past mistakes and make changes, just like we all do. When we repent, new and wonderful things can start to happen. Repentance is a seedbed of necessary innovation, both for individuals and institutions.
Innovation means being open to not returning to business as usual. To not seeing people primarily as calling-holders, pew-sitters, family-history-indexers, and tithe-payers. For too long we have viewed rank-and-file members of the church in terms of what they can contribute to the organization, and it’s time to start listening to what they actually need from the organization. Sometimes those needs will be in alignment with the church’s programs and priorities, and sometimes they won’t. (For example, I have yet to meet a teenager who is truly on fire about indexing family history names, though I’m sure those people exist.)
If people are leaving the LDS Church, the solution is not to instill fear in them, shame them into compliance, or demand that they keep silent about who they really are and what they think. The solution is to provide an alternative to leaving that is so irresistible that they will be enriched enough to stay.