I have lived in six states and attended 16 different wards or branches, in just the last 6 years! I love meeting new people. Because of this I often go out with the missionaries and visit the members. I have met many great members across the USA. And sadly, I know many who are, or who have gone, less active. And it is because they forget this simple truth.
The Church is true, despite the members.
In most Christian churches, you only go because of the members. The Church is less of an institution and more of a social gathering. If you don’t like the members or the pastor you simply find a new church or stop going altogether. For most Christians, the members of their church are ‘The Church’.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is NOT the case. The LDS Church or “Mormon Church” is a framework of doctrine, priesthood ordinances, and covenants. The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself declared that the LDS Church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” It is true because it’s foundations are not people but doctrines and principles, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. Each one of us can, and should, gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. And thereby gain a testimony of the prophetic call of Joseph Smith and of the reality of the Restored Church.
The problem comes when we equate the ‘church’ with the members of the church or the culture. Sure many people a part of the church, but that does not make them the church. If we mistakenly think that the true church will be full of true and perfect people we will quickly be disappointed. We will be even more disappointed if we assume every church leader is perfect.
On this topic Elder Jeffrey R. Holland an apostle of the Lord teaches. “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.” (April 2013, Lord, I Believe.)