As I get older, I see more and more people fall away from their faith in God. For me, it has happened in waves.
The first group to fall away was composed of those looking for a way out, those that for whatever reason disliked the culture or lifestyle faith promoted and willingly left.
The second wave, which has been more common as of late for my friends and associates, is composed of people who genuinely have fought to secure their faith, but feel unable to do so because of their prevailing doubts. These people want to believe in something bigger than themselves, but in spite of their sacrifices and painstaking efforts, still face a reality in which they feel more doubt than faith.
I have thought a lot about both of these groups. These are not bad people. In fact, the closer you get to these people and situations, the more I realize that I fundamentally do not believe that "bad people" exist. No one wakes up in the morning and immediately thinks, "Today, I'm going to be as violent, angry, stubborn, close-minded, immoral, impatient, and irreverent as humanly possible." People just aren't wired that way. Just like you and I, everyone wakes up and does his or her best to make sense of difficult questions and situations that frankly do not make sense.
Understanding people like this, we can sympathize with this first wave, that simply feels like a greater happiness is available outside of the realm of faith. The more interesting of the two groups is the second: if God exists and has answers, why does he let the drifting minds drift on?
This is an undeveloped thought. It is one I have thought a lot about in my life and likely one that will reoccur as long as I live. We know that God, even in his infinite wisdom, weeps because of his inability to curb the agency of men more fully. My mortal tears for these second wave friends and family members are far less perfect than Heavenly Father’s, but my heart goes out to these men and women who, like a young Joseph Smith, felt doubt in the knowledge they had and insufficient answers to their rapidly turning minds. I have learned that we are all vulnerable, and that faith is possible and real, but how we help those who have given their all is something I will continue to seek out.