Family Members Not Active? Have Faith in Eternal Temple Promises

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By Kerry Griffin Smith

As faithful temple attendees, we pray for heaven’s blessings upon our families. Our greatest joys and hopes center upon the promise of an eternal realm living with God again, having our families by our sides. But when those same loved ones choose different religious or moral teachings and different life paths, our eternal hopes might feel shattered.

So what do we do? How do we find peace about a spouse, children, or other loved ones who, for one reason or another, no longer attend church or accept gospel teachings? In fact, some might have bitter feelings toward the church and its members.

Let me suggest four simple ways, based on a lifetime of experiences:

Live Worthy

Life certainly teaches us repeatedly that we are mere mortals who cannot be perfect. We can only press forward and try to do better within our own circle of influence.

Whether a child, for instance, has stopped attending church or is making choices that are questionable or upsetting to you is outside your circle of influence. Their agency prohibits you from controlling their thoughts and decisions, as we all know. But it doesn’t mean their current choices will be their forever choices.

Even church leaders have these types of concerns. President Henry B. Eyring has shared publicly of his angst about extended family members’ choices and their eternal outcomes. A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wisely counseled him: “You are worrying about the wrong problem. You just live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine” (General Conference, April 2019)

If President Eyring has been promised this message of hope and shared it with us, then it’s true! We can have hope for the best possible eternal outcomes. 

Love Even if They Don’t Follow

So many times we might think we can attend church and the temple, serve, do missionary work, and show others all the joy and blessings we receive by doing such things. After all, setting a good example is the most important thing, right? That’s what we’ve all heard.

Technically, it’s true. Being a good example is important. So don’t stop. But realize that others can be happy even if they don’t attend church or do the things you do. Somehow as church members we think others aren’t happy if they don’t come, and that’s offensive to them.

The reverse is also true. Some people have made poor choices and are miserable. Some want help and some don’t. Unless someone wants help, it’s likely best to quietly lead by example and save the suggestions if they ask. Your job is simply to love.

Years ago, we invited nonmember friends to the open house of the Boise Idaho Temple. We lived in the area at the time, and there was much local curiosity about our temple, so it was relatively easy to find people who wanted to see inside. We had a wonderful time showing them around. They were very complimentary. I can think of a dozen people who attended because of our family’s invitations. Not one of them has ever chosen to start attending our faith or asked to see the missionaries. 

Occasionally, these friends would ask us questions about church, which we gladly answered. But overall, they seemed happy with their lifestyles, which were good in many ways, and we didn’t press the religion issue. We were grateful they had chosen to learn about the temple and continued to love them as friends and neighbors.

Friends and neighbors are within our possible circle of influence, of course. But our deepest eternal concerns are understandably for family members. So our efforts to include and teach them are likely more intense, which can backfire if we’re not careful.

If a family member lives in your home and is making choices contrary to your family’s rules, that’s a different story and is up for discussion. But I would encourage any family not to use church attendance as a must, especially for anyone who is rebelling or of adult age. The person will not attend for the right reasons and will likely harbor resentment, which prevents them from feeling the Holy Ghost, testifier of all truth.

Instead, consider asking them how they best feel loved. Then decide how you can love them without being contrary to your morals. So many family activities can focus on neutral boundaries. Just have fun together and love one another. It sounds overly simple, but it will go a long way and possibly stabilize a foundation for a trusting relationship.

Pray No Matter What

I don’t say this lightly: Absolutely never give up on someone. For most of my life, I have prayed for my father, who struggled with alcoholism for decades. It was an extremely hard challenge for him and our immediate family. Finally, at the age of 80, he decided to stop. He hasn’t told us why he suddenly quit “cold turkey.” To say our family feels incredibly blessed and thrilled is an understatement.

He still chooses not to attend church, but we completely understand that one significant life change at a time is HUGE. We continue to wait and pray with patience for him to draw closer to Christ, in whatever ways he chooses.

The key, of course, is understanding that agency is vital to each of us and the choices we make. We can’t “pray away” someone’s addictions. But we can pray to know how to support them or how to love them in a way they’ll accept and appreciate. Each person is different and so is the way they choose to live their lives. If we could know what others are thinking, we might be surprised to learn they are privately religious and spiritual, though they may not outwardly express it. 

Wait with Hope

I’m always a bit envious when another person’s prayers seem to be answered right away. Granted, some of mine have been too. And some things that I wasn’t even praying about have been answered. Generally speaking, however, my biggest prayers when seeking something of eternal value have taken a long time to be answered.

I was single for many years before finally marrying. There’s a decade between my two sons; that’s not by choice. I have had limited eyesight for many years. Struggles with mental health have been greatly helped with medication and counseling, but I’ve never been fully healed without those tools.

You have your own personal struggles. So does your family. Please don’t add the stress of perceived eternal losses to be of incredible angst to you. As a child, when praying and studying about my family situation, I learned that the eternities will be beautiful for my father and for me. 

My mortal mind doesn’t know the “how.” It just knows, because the Spirit has testified to me, that there’s promise. I’m confident that you can know this too. 

Please move forward in your life, love your family, and rest assured that your personal diligence to live in the celestial kingdom one day will ultimately be a blessing for your family as well. 

As President Eyring has witnessed to all of us, “I testify that His plan makes it possible for each of us who has done the best we can to be sealed in a family forever.”

It’s absolutely true—temple promises and blessings are real.

Kerry Griffin Smith is a former editor for the Ensign Magazine who loves to spend time in the temple and enjoys family history work. Discover her digital educational printables and articles at

1 comment

  • Jamie

    Thank you for this message of continue living and loving… I really needed this at this time in a struggle with my children’s decisions to stop going to church. Thank you again for the hope this message brings.

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