Why Do You Stay?

Nov 11, 2022


Barbara Morgan Gardner

One of my favorite aspects of being a religion professor at Brigham Young University is the opportunity it gives me to talk primarily with young adult members of the Church regarding their testimonies, experiences, frustrations, hopes, dreams, struggles, losses, and successes. I have been overjoyed as I have seen students, friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors exercise their faith and make it through difficult trials stronger and more determined and grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have also been concerned, saddened, frustrated, and even at times felt defeated as I have watched students, friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors fall away.

Perhaps because, like the sons of Mosiah, I, like many of you, cannot stand the idea of even one soul being lost, I began my own personal study of scriptures and talks and conducted inter- views to find out why people leave the Church and why people stay—and how we can help. In my research, it seems that many have written and discussed various reasons as to why people leave the Church but found very little research discussing why people stay. In my interviews, therefore, I began looking for people who had difficult life experiences they were dealing with that had caused other people to leave the Church, but these members stayed. Typically, after interviewing these members about their experiences, most difficult and heart-wrenching, I would simply ask, “So why are you staying?” The answers varied, although there are some extremely important similarities. I’ll share a few of my experiences as I interviewed these members.


  1. With two cups of water in my hand, I sat down at the BYU Creamery across from a student who took me up on an invitation to go with me to lunch. I invite my students every semester to come to lunch and I typically get about two takers. Little do they know it could really help their grade, but that’s for them to figure out. “So how was your mission?” I asked this student non- “I was raped,” came her simple, seemingly emotionless response. “That’s partially why I want to talk to you,” she continued. My own emotions were scattered as I sat quietly intrigued as she expressed in dignified detail her experience of just a few months back.
  2. I quickly glanced down at a text message that came through as I was driving home. “Is this Sister Morgan?” was the simple query. “Yes” was my quick response. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a few questions and I’m wondering if you would have a second to talk?” After replying in the affirmative, and having pulled into my driveway, I returned the call. “I have heard and read and studied so much information regarding the prophet Joseph Smith lately. There are so many things I was never taught in seminary or as an undergraduate student at BYU or in Sunday Why has the Church been keeping this information from us?” “Women’s issues in the church are so frustrating,” she ex- plained intently after our Eternal Family class. “The temple is so confusing and feels so demeaning towards women. It seems that we are told one thing in one setting and shown something completely different in another. Why is there so much confusion regarding women?”
  1. I looked around to find his companion as I watched this young missionary stumble across the street and print his boarding pass at Delta terminal at the Salt Lake Airport. “Can I help you?” was my simple inquiry. With tears in his eyes, he cried, “They dropped me off at the corner and I’m lost. I didn’t know I was going home until this morning. I’m confused, I’m scared, I’m frustrated, I’m depressed, and I don’t know what’s going to I don’t want to be a bad example to my friends and family, I don’t even want to face them. This is all much harder than I ever imagined. If a mission is so good, why would the MTC be so horrible?”
  2. In my office, I sat across the room from a clean-cut, optimistic, intelligent student I had taught now for two semesters. After some small talk, tears began to well in his eyes. “I have dealt with same-sex attraction my entire life,” he quietly began, looking down at the “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this. I would give anything to be attracted to a woman, to live a normal life, to have feelings that other men feel. To get married. To have a family. I’d give anything to be able to follow the prophets. I study my scriptures every day. I pray. I attend the temple, I fast every week, and I serve as much as I can, but these feelings won’t leave me. My parents are pushing for me to get married, but they don’t know what’s happening in my heart. Why is this happening to me? I’m so angry.”
  3. “My husband gave me a blessing that everything would be okay with my pregnancy. I was so excited to be pregnant and start our new I don’t understand how I could have such feelings of peace and hope, and been reassured by the priesthood blessing only to have my daughter pass away shortly after delivery.” After hearing these stories and many others, I have been humbled by their faith and conviction, especially as they answered my simple query: “So why are you staying?” I typically would explain to them that there are those who have been through difficult issues, have similar struggles, and so on, and it has caused those people to leave. “What then,” I’d reiterate, “has caused you to stay?”

The girl that was raped gave an answer I couldn’t believe. “Because even at the moment, I looked at the man’s eyes and saw anger and evil, but I felt God’s love. I knew He was aware of me even in this horrible moment. Now I realize that if it weren’t for Heavenly Father, that man would have killed me that day. God saved my life.” From the student who had just become aware of much more than he had ever known before about Joseph Smith came this reply to my query: “I’ve experienced so much and I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. I couldn’t imag- ine leaving over something so comparably insignificant.” Why did the young woman who felt so demeaned as a woman in the Church stays? She explained, “Because even with all the questions I have and the struggles with women’s issues, I feel that my relationship with my Heavenly Father is solid. Perhaps the members and even leaders of the Church struggle to reconcile women’s issues, but I know where I stand with the Lord and I know how He sees women, and this is His Church, not mortals’.” And so she stays.

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Why Do Stay?