"I haven't lost my faith," the man told my friend. "But I'm not coming back to church until there is a change in leadership."
Maybe the man was just trying to get my friend off his back. He might have been trying to fool himself into thinking that what he was saying was true. Or maybe he really believed what he was saying. But if past results are any indication of future performance, the man will still refuse to return even after local church leadership changes.
Of course the man has a good reason for his position. Years earlier the man had made a public case against his bishop following a sharp disagreement. When his attempts to rally others to his cause against the bishop yielded minimal results, the man largely withdrew from church activity, vowing not to return until the bishop was released.
But after the bishop was released the man still did not return. Some years later the former bishop was called to serve in a stake position. The man again cited this as his reason for staying away from church meetings and activities.
Someday the former bishop will be released from his stake calling. What will the man say then? I suppose it would be easy for him to say that all stake and ward leaders have been so tainted by their association with the former bishop that it would be better to spend 40 years in the wilderness until all of these unworthies finally leave the ranks of church leadership.
But to what avail? I do not doubt the depth of the pain the man feels. But how are his current actions helping his situation? The years that have passed hardly seem to have been therapeutic. How is this affecting his family? If the man does indeed believe in the gospel, how does his spitefulness serve the gospel cause? How does it improve his relationship with God?
As an outsider looking in I can easily see the mote that is in my brother's eye (see Luke 6:41-42). I'm sure that from the inside looking out, the man's chosen course of action appears positive and rational. Which of us never uses faulty reasoning to justify our favorite sins and indulgences?
I pray for this man. Sincerely. Because the gospel is essentially optimistic, seeing opportunities for spiritual improvement even for those that currently seem unwilling to be gathered with the Savior (see 3 Nephi 10:4-6, Isaiah 54:7). It is this kind of optimism that also gives me hope for my own soul.