Q: I have been a member for four years. We just moved to [a new area] and started going to church at my new ward. Let me state that I went to church in my previous ward with the best church members ever--loving, caring and very glad to help each other out. But some members of my new ward are rude and disrespectful. I've witnessed members of the church make [inappropriate] jokes at a father giving a baptism to his kids and another arrested for hitting the guy making the rude comments. How should I react to this? A group of bad people are in my congregation.  I need help now.

A: Your concerns are serious and I hope I can help you to resolve them. Here are some thoughts:

First, you should privately discuss your concerns with your Bishop.  He has the right to receive inspiration to discern the proper course of action in dealing with these kinds of situations as the Lord would have him do.  He may involve the Stake President or other priesthood leaders to, in a loving way, exhort members to act with respect and kindness towards one another.  If a member has committed serious sin, the Bishop or Stake President may hold a disciplinary council to consider how best to help the member while protecting the innocent. 

Second, once you have made your concerns known to your Bishop, you should forget them and put the past behind you.  Then, begin to work on becoming, yourself, the type of loving, considerate person that you would expect to find in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Your Christ-like actions and example will do more to build up and bless the members of your new "ward family" than anything else you can do. 

Third, when you move into a new ward, it takes time to get to know people.  I encourage you to attend every ward activity that you can. Work to get to know as many members of the ward as you can.  Try to learn people’s names, be interested in them, and look for ways to help and serve them. The more you will serve the members of your ward, the more you, and they, will come to love one another.  I think you will find that most of the members are wonderful, kind and generous Christians.  These words of Jesus are particularly true in a ward family: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35)

Fourth, never let the actions of others get between you and God.  I have two close personal friends who have let that happen.  At some point in the past, they were offended or embarrassed by the actions of a member of the church.  Now, years later, they are unhappy, angry and bitter--missing out on the blessings of the gospel, living without the camaraderie and love of the saints because they have distanced themselves from association with the members.  Most tragic of all, they have severed their personal relationship with their Heavenly Father.  Although they have left the church, they cannot leave it alone and are constantly looking for more negative news to justify their position.  Finally, they are depriving their families of the the blessings of the priesthood along with the guidance and direction and peace found in the gospel, which is so necessary in this troubled world of shifting values.  In these and so many other ways, they have allowed the careless actions of others to severely damage their own happiness.  It's not worth it. 

Consider the following lesson and instructions of the Savior:

My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.  Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.  I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.  And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds. (D&C 64:8-11)

Please remember that, as much as we try, members of the church are not perfect. No one, save Jesus only, has lived a perfect life.  So, we should never be shaken in our faith to discover that members, and even church leaders, fall short of our expectations for them.  Each of us is struggling to overcome weaknesses and shortcomings.  We are imperfect humans who are in church because we want to partake of the blessings and power of the Restored Gospel in our lives, to help us become better people. 

Jesus was often criticized for spending time with and ministering to sinners.  He responded: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)  Likewise, the Church of Jesus Christ in our day is not a country club for perfect people.  Rather, it is a hospital for sinners who are trying, step-by-step to achieve the goal of perfection that Christ set for us. (3 Nephi 12:48)  Each of us is reliant upon the atonement of Jesus Christ for forgiveness and for the strength to become better.  Our faith is that through our determined efforts, combined with the unlimited grace and mercy and power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we will grow in our ability to resist sin, and help ourselves, and others, to increase in light and knowledge.  “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24) 

Please consider also that every member is at his or her own level of conversion and progress in the gospel.  Some may be relatively new to the church; others might be weak in their commitment.  As brothers and sisters in the gospel, our responsibility is to love and welcome and nurture one another.  No matter what their circumstances, we are to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5)

Fortunately, the truthfulness of the restored gospel does not depend upon the perfection of its members. When Moses returned from the mountain of the Lord carrying the laws of God, written by the finger of God Himself, he found his people in a degenerate state of sin, idolatry, and laciviousness. Did this make God's law any less valuable or true?  Of course not.  It simply means that, even though they knew better, the people chose not to obey.  The truth is never affected by the acts of men.

Generally, Mormon people are wonderful examples of imperfect people trying to live Christ-like lives--working and serving and striving to keep the commandments.  But, hard as we try, we continually fall short.  (Hence the need for a Savior).  In addition, there will always be those individuals who choose the path of sin, despite the greater light and knowledge found in the gospel.  One need not look too far to see examples of Mormons who have done terrible things.  They have their agency. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, none-the-less.  Each member of the church must develop his or her own personal relationship with God and will have to answer to Him for our actions and examples. Our testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ comes, not from watching the actions of others, but directly through the witness of the Spirit.  I testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  It is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  True happiness will be ours to the extent that we align our lives with the truths of the gospel.