– Guest post today from Desire Truth, I hope you enjoy her perspective as much as I did!
In the LDS church, certain assumptions are commonly made about people who leave the church, especially if they were very faithful believers prior to making the decision to leave. Some of these assumptions include being offended at people in the church, desiring to “sin” and leaving so that we don’t feel guilty for doing it, or that we simply don’t understand the doctrine well enough or we would stay. Honestly, every single one of these assumptions is incredibly insulting to our intelligence and decision-making capabilities. Please give us more credit than that. For those of you who are still faithful and believing, there are some things that those of us who have left need you to know and try to understand, and we would still appreciate your support, friendship, and love. In general, most of us respect your decision for yourself to remain in the church, even if we do not agree with it. We ask for the same respect from you.
One of the primary issues with this expectation of respect from the active believer is that believers actually must go against their own church doctrine, in one way at least, to truly be okay with this concept. On the one hand, you have the teaching that the LDS church is the one true church on the earth, that it is restored by God himself and that every single individual who has ever lived, does live, or will ever live on the earth must choose this religion and be baptized either during this or the next life in order to achieve the highest of blessings that God has for his children in the next life. On the other hand, there is the concept of agency. So while an ex-Mormon can look at a believing, active Mormon and think and actually believe, “Hey, they are making the right choice for them. That’s totally okay with me,” the active, believing Mormon cannot look at an ex-Mormon without thinking, in some part of their mind, “It is so sad. They are making the wrong choice because this church is the only true church. I can respect them for their right to agency, but I am still going to know (think) that they are wrong in that decision, no matter what the reasons for that decision.”
Then when a believer asks a friend or family member who has left for the reasons that they left, but is not okay with listening to anything negative about the church, they are not really asking for answers. All they are doing is searching for confirmation that their own biases and assumptions about people who leave are correct. Then when that person who leaves tells them, “I did not leave the church for its positive aspects, I left it for the negative things I found out about the church,” that believing member can justify their preset biases.
Fortunately, not all church members do this. To those of you who have stuck with your friends or family even after they leave the church, whether or not they are public about their dissent and problems with it, we sincerely thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Leaving the church that many of us were raised in and that was such a massive part of our identity is difficult and heart-wrenching. We have to completely redo ourselves from the ground up in terms of belief, practices, identity, and moral standards. Please know that we did not make this decision lightly, nor was it the easy way out. The very real potential of being shunned and at times, outright disowned, by family and friends is daunting. The church is very exclusive in many ways, and the leaders of the LDS faith continually urge members to attempt to befriend, with the hopes of converting, people they know or meet who are not members of the LDS church. Moreover, upwards of 80,000 missionaries are sent out nearly worldwide continually to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in this pursuit. Please do not attempt to silence us in our need to discuss the church, in both its good and bad lights, if you continue to support and participate in these practices of member missionary work as well as worldwide proselytizing attempts.
As a good friend of mine said recently:
“Just as you would never tell a freed slave not to discuss their difficulties as a slave, or tell a freed prisoner not to discuss the condition of the prison, or tell a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship not to discuss her abuse, or a tell a returning astronaut not to talk about space, do not tell a person leaving a life encompassing religion to just move on and not talk about their experiences within the religion. To do so is asking them to deny and hide a fundamental piece of their story.”
Now to address some of the misconceptions often perpetuated about those of us who leave. As someone who grew up in the church, and who has come into contact with thousands of ex-Mormons, the following are generally true of nearly all of us, though each of us has a different reason or combination of reasons that ultimately caused us to decide the church was not for us. These are what we really need you, as our family and friends, to try to understand.
- Far from leaving hastily or quickly, or from being offended, please understand that the majority of us took time and some serious effort to research the church, from many sources including church published references, before we decided to take this leap. We did not make this decision in haste, nor without also looking at what the church and its supporters (including well-studied apologetics) had to say regarding the most controversial and troubling issues. In general, we did not consult only “anti” literature. We consulted many sources, both supportive and non-supportive, scientific and otherwise, before making our decision. Just as you would not submit a serious research paper for a college assignment that only had one source and supported a single view of the topic, we did not take that approach in our research efforts. I do have a question for those who believe. What do you define as “anti” literature? Is it a scientific article debunking something commonly taught at church? Is it evidence by secular professionals, with no stake in the church, that show how the origins of certain things is entirely different than what prophets have taught? Is it evidence-based research compiled by ex-Mormons who use church sources to show that practices that are no longer done were once called doctrine over the pulpit at conferences by multiple general authorities? Is it direct quotes from previous prophets that contain doctrines, defined as such, that are now completely buried, and most of them unknown by current church members? Or Is it simply anything that shows the church to currently have, or that it has had, negative aspects or results from its practices or doctrines? Please respond in the comments if you can clarify.
- For most of us, our intent is not to drag you down. I have heard that very phrase, or ones similar to it, from more than one person. First, “don’t drag me down with you” implies that you are at a higher or better level of being than I am. It is insulting and presumptuous. The irony is that many of us can tell a believer over and over how much happier and at peace we are, and most of them won’t really believe us, even if they pretend to be okay with it. The reason for that comes from your very own scriptures: “Behold I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” 1 So even if we have a fantastic life, things are going well for us, and we are generally happy and at peace, many of you do not see it that way. You truly believe that because we are not faithful to the church, that we are somehow secretly miserable and are just hiding it. You also assume, as the scriptures say, that we will all be judged. So perhaps you can make peace with it now that we seem to be happier, but you may still fully expect us to be chastised and punished in the next life. Alma 41:3, “And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works;” and then in verse 8 of the same chapter, “Now, the decrees of God are unalterable.” Your very own church’s canon of scripture condemns us for making what we see to be the right choice for us. Those of you who can rise above this and be sincere in your love and support of us, especially when we are doing nothing to intentionally harm other people, we greatly appreciate. Yet you still believe that God will ultimately punish us for making this decision if we do not go back to church at some point. I would hope sincerely that those who believe can at least put this aside enough to love and support friends and family who leave. More about what we really need from you soon.
- Thirdly and finally in terms of misconceptions, those of us who have been church members for any length of time, especially those who were born and raised in the church from infancy on, are fully aware of what we are “giving up” in terms of blessings, both those that are considered earthly blessings and those that the church teaches will be the blessings in the next life for those who stay the course. There is a fundamental issue here that we would like you to try to understand. We do not believe this anymore. While not believing does not make it untrue, I would argue in return that believing does not make it true. The simple fact of this matter is that not a single one of us know absolutely what comes after death. There are stories of NDEs (Near Death Experiences), but they vary somewhat and can also be explained by scientific principles. My intent is not to discount those experiences, but to simply state that we do not know of a certainty that there really is a next life for us after we die. Please do not tell us that you do know these things. Believing does not equal knowing. Regarding current blessings and trials, or positive and negative circumstances and events in a person’s life, you can point to individual people and claim they are blessed or are having trials at any point in their life. But the simple matter of this is that life is often messy. We do not understand the whys of everything. We do not know why a particular individual can smoke for their entire adult life and live to a ripe old age, and on the other hand, an innocent child can contract cancer and pass away from it. Church members are no more exempt in general from problems in life than those who are not church members. Please understand that a few of the claims and common things we hear related to this are incredibly offensive. They include statements such as the following:
- “I can see a darkness now in your eyes/countenance.”
- “Satan has a hold of your heart because you have made the wrong choices.”
- “I cannot believe that you would hurt your parents/family by leaving the church you were raised in.” (The intent is not to hurt family. The purpose of leaving is to find our OWN happiness. We are not responsible for your happiness, just as you are not responsible for ours. Please understand this. In general, we do not blame parents and family for their teachings; most of the time, they were teaching what they knew and believed, and we can see and appreciate that.)
- “You aren’t REALLY happy, you are just trying to convince me/yourself that you are.” (No one gets to judge a person’s happiness level but that person. This is both insulting and demeaning to say to any person.)
- “You just don’t understand the doctrine, and that’s why you left.” (Try us. See if we can’t point out the doctrine just as well as you can, and you may see that a lot of the time, leaving has caused us to do much more research into the church than ever before, along with concentrated prayer and scripture study because it’s what has been taught to us that will give us the answers that we wanted. We are often extremely knowledgeable and well-versed in both current and historical claims, practices, and events in the church.)
We love you, our friends and family. It is true that I would love to see people leave a church that I find incredibly harmful to people who do not fit its very narrow mold. However, even with that sentiment, I am completely willing to respect your decision to remain in the church. Please respect the decision that I, and other ex-Mormons, have made to leave. Whether or not you understand it, know that we made the right decision for us. Please understand that we see things from a different perspective now, but that we understand your perspective. We were there. Many of us were very ardent in our defense of issues that we saw people bring up with the church. We know the church’s answers for all of the issues that plagued us before we decided to discard it as all together more harmful than good, and simply false.
As another wise friend stated:
“I want to tell [active LDS members] my beliefs in no way threaten yours. I am not attacking you as a person because you believe. I am discussing why my feelings have changed.” – Alice Maxwell
Finally, please try to understand that we simply want your love and support, your true friendship. We know the church keeps you busy. Please be a friend to us. Please don’t be scared that our apostasy will somehow rub off on you. If you have questions, please ask us. And most of all, please understand that we have and are still going through some serious emotional trauma in leaving the church. Especially for those of us who were born and raised in the church, or born and raised into other fundamental or Christian-based religions and then converted to Mormonism, there is a lot of learning we still have to do, a full remaking of who we are, and finding ourselves outside of the religion(s) that were all encompassing for so much of our lives. If we speak out in hurtful tones about the church, it is because the church’s practices and doctrines hurt us or others that we know. We have ultimately decided that there is enough negative in the church and we do not want to be affiliated with it any longer. Please be patient with us. Understand we are not directly attacking you. We have serious problems with being lied to by trusted leaders throughout our life and at times, that anger and sense of betrayal can spill over into our tone and comments. Ultimately, we simply want to try to be loved and understood. As Mormons, do you not want the same thing? Does it not bother you when people have misconceptions about the church or its members, and do you not work to correct those? Do you appreciate it when people tell you to be silent about your faith or beliefs? If not, please do not ask it of us. We want to bridge that gap, but in general, we are unwilling to risk the happiness and peace we have found in leaving the church to come back to the church itself. Please do not require that of us in order to still love and spend time with us. Love should triumph over all.
- Alma 41:10, Book of Mormon ↩
I appreciate your perspective. It’s a tough situation for those who choose to stay in the faith and those who leave. I really hope we can build more bridges as I have family and friends affected.
To “know” has a range, it is not so black and white. Do you know Barak Obama? Yes, though only on a shallow level. Do you know your mother? Very well, but still not with a perfect knowledge. I do not assume people who say they “know” mean they have a perfect knowledge. We are all hypocrites, that is part of our imperfections, being human, but a lousy argument for pushing away truth, and so now what? Have you found something better to help understand our existence, or a plan to address everyone’s equal need for peace and joy better than the Mormons do with their temples? I don’t see the logic in having nothing. I am not suggesting this is the reason to be Mormon, but the reason to try and make sense of the things we don’t think are right or make sense. Lay it on us, let’s hear it. Take care.
I have never understood this approach to religion, the idea that this sounds the best so thats what I’m gonna do. Or do you have a better offer than the religion I believe now. It doesn’t make sense to me because its not like shopping for a car with the best features or buying something because the salesman made it sound so awesome.
The salesman could be completely lying or completely mistaken about what he is selling you. Especially because there is no actual proof the car you are buying even exists. So when I hear comments like this it honestly confuses me because it seems like the actual truth doesn’t matter to a person that says ‘what has your belief or lack thereof got to offer?’ I and many others like me aren’t offering anything but truth and reality, truth and reality will never compete with fantasy and make believe. It can’t. So if that is what you want, to live a fantasy till the day you die, there is nothing more to say. Because any truth that comes along that puts that dream a risk will be discounted and tossed aside.
I’m not saying its a bad way to live like that, ignorance is very often as blissful as it comes. Me personally I loath being ignorant, I love truth and learning and reality more than the comfort of thinking I ‘know’ something without a doubt. I think this is one of the reasons the believer would rather not even discuss the reasons the person has suffered the faith crisis they did. Especially if it is someone they trust. Hearing an opinion on a topic from a trusted source puts the dream at risk, there is a sense of foreboding a fear of loss that creates a very real emotional response that pushes away the source of dissonance coming from the non believer.
From your perspective the atheist is choosing belief in nothing. From the atheist perspective they are grounding themselves in reality and no succumbing to the tempting fantasy world no matter how pretty it sounds. Of the two of us, only the one that had faith and then moved past it has experienced both perspectives. I honestly understand how hard it is to see the other side of the coin because I fully remember feeling the deep belief and spiritual witness that made me confident I did ‘know’ the church was true. I don’t see those feelings as confirming knowledge anymore though. I have found they are unreliable when it comes to hard factual truth claims. They go off whenever we feel the current bias we have confirmed. Which basically means they tell you what you want to hear. This is why there are so many different religions and so many different perspectives, everyone thinks they ‘know’ the muslim, the buhidist, the born again and the mormon. they are all sure their god testified to them that they have the truth.
Well I can understand your view point.I dont see the need or desire to believe in something because it makes you feel better or helps you explain the unexplainable(at this point in mans existence).My personal feeling is the truth is better than a fantasy or a made up reality and yes the truth is hard and cold sometimes and more often very hard to take.However my experience leads me to believe that most but not all people would rather have the truth than be lied to.Once trust is lost its nearly impossible to get it back.After all if you lied to me once why would you not lie again.
I agree with you. In Spanish, the verb “to know” is broken up into two verbs. “Conocer” is to be familiar with or to know a person. like “to know Obama” and “to know my Mother”
However, this is not the verb used in testimonies. Rather, the “Ser” verb is. This means to know, have a knowledge of. You say you “Know the church” is true in the sense that “I know how to tie my shoes” and “I know I breathe air”.
So, in Spanish are they using the wrong verb? No… When they bear testimony they are saying “I KNOW” that has always been the intent.
In truth, members should be be saying they “have a belief in” instead of “have a knowledge in”. If you have a shadow of doubt that you are walking on carpet, then don’t say “I know I am walking on carpet.
Don’t try to define words to fit what you would like them to mean. Use the words appropriate for what you are trying to say.
We tell 3 year old kids to say “I know that…” when it shouldn’t even be “I believe that…” and realistically it should be “My parents wants me to believe that…”
If you tell a 3 year old kid to say “I know” something his whole life about something… Even if it is “I know Joseph Smith is a prophet or “I know that evolution is real” or “I know people live on the moon” or “I know Muhammad spoke to God” the kid is going to believe it through and through.
I move that members stop using a wishy washy form of “know” when “believe” is the accurate definition.
I Agree with parts of this blog but not all of it. I agree that we all need to love each other no matter what. I grew up in the church but I also was inactive for many years, and I have recently found my way back to being active. I can see valid point of you but you cannot include every single mormon in that category. I understand where you were coming from when you say that we need to respect you and your decision. Believe me, I do respect you. I’ve lived both lifestyles. But you can’t tell someone what they do or do not know to be true. You can sit here and tell me that 1 plus 1 is 2, but the only reason why that is true is because man made it up. The only knowledge with “truth” of math is because man made it that way. I for one know the church is perfect in every way. Not just LDS church, but any church. It’s man that corrupts it. So don’t make a blog about how you have a problem with a church, when it’s really the people who helped make your decision. If you need confirmation in your life of anything faith related, you need to go to God. Not man. Whether mormon or not, God will answer your prayers.
And you keep comparing knowing with believing and that knowledge is seeing facts. But what about the saying “seeing is believing”? You have to see to believe.
How can the Lds or any church for that matter be perfect when its man that creates it.Religion/God is a man made concept.If you doubt that then you really need to look at the history of all religions and see and truely try and understand how they have changed and been corrupted over time by guess what Man/people/emotions.The reason math to use your example works is because it remains unchanged and can be proven,and guess what math /science gets refined over time as our knowledge expands and new theorys are explored etc where as religion relys on emotion/dogmatic and can’t for the life of it explain much except for thats the way it is, and you best conform other wise your off the island so to speak or better yet if you think for yourself and question our authority which is given to us by this unseen being you will be excommunicated or in the old days tortured and killed for your supposed sins of doubt etc. God incidentially is always broke and always bipolar and mad at mankind for some reason and seems bent on wiping man out starting again and can”t figure out why the same problems keep happening.The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over agin and expecting different result.Not my idea of a perfect being.The idea of God in my opinion is very insulting to my intelligence .If the Lds way of life works for you great I support you in that or any Religion for that matter. However for alot of us who question it we find it sorely lacking.
I *did* go to God and prayed, and prayed hard, before making my decision to leave. I do not appreciate you assuming that I did not do this. How did you know I hadn’t done that? Because you believe that God will always answer prayers? What of the times he doesn’t? What of the times when people in very different religions, with different teachings and even different gods, get the same strong emotions when they pray for an answer? How is your answer any more valid than that of someone who prays to know if Allah is the one true god?
The reason I compare knowing with believing is because Mormons commonly use “know” in place of “believe” when the two really are different. And just because there is a saying of “seeing is believing,” that does not mean that it is true. Knowledge is about being able to observe something, in different environments, that is the same for every individual who replicates the experiment. Since prayer leads people to believe in different churches, and since some prayers are not ever answered with that strong emotion, that does not mean you can state that you know it’s true. You can believe, sure. But knowing is not believing.
I loved the article too. In my extended family we just don’t talk about the church or my inactivity. ( I actually resigned about 7 years ago, I don’t know if they know or not ) i do however believe they feel sorry for me, which I hate. I really wish I could share the article with them but don’t dare. Things are pretty smooth now. On the other hand it feels totally fake. What kind of relationship do really have if everything’s a lie. 🙁
I am still a believer with many family members that do not believe. It is so important that we love each other and respect each other’s differences. I believe that the 11th article of faith is wise counsel for all of us on either side.
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Just as I have the right to worship the Almighty the way I am most comfortable, my family members deserve the same respect.
What I have found most helpful in my relationships is to leave some things alone. If discussing the church is something that is causing a wedge between me and a family member I would rather not discuss it. I would like to find things that we can build on. Sometimes it hurts me to hear people’s anger about the church that I love. It is okay for me to ask that person to not share their frustrations with me. They have ever right to voice their concerns and be heard, but it doesn’t mean that I have to be the one to hear it. I think it is okay for that person to ask me to not share my testimony. I have every right to share it, but if the person I am speaking with doesn’t want to hear it I need to find a more appropriate avenue. We need to find common ground. There are so many positive things that we can build on instead of focusing on the negative differences among us.
As long as you are willing to respect them and not push your testimony or opinions of the church or especially their lives onto them, and not expect the same in return, then I can respect that and hopefully other ex-Mormons can as well.
It gets frustrating when we come across well-meaning family and friends who think it is perfectly okay to frequently discuss church things with us, and yet will not listen to us telling them our feelings or problems with it. Facebook is one of the best examples of this. If you, or other active Mormons, post pro-Mormon things on your own wall, then you do not have the right to ask ex-Mormons to post things on their own walls that paint the church in a negative light. As long as both sides have a voice and respect others’ right to theirs without trying to silence the other, then it is fine and can work.
Very well worded and nicely put re feelings of Exmormons.We should not be surprised that family trys to make you feel guilty or bad or even silent about leaving after all most of us both in and out of the church were taught by most parents that “if you dont do this what ever it is you wont get to play etc”.So guilt and shame and coersion has been taught to most of us since we were little and most of us were taught we need to fit in(even if we know we dont fit).Sad but true human nature doesnt change much for members and non members.Thats why imho its quite exhilerating to be your own person with your own thoughts and not subject to arbitrary rules that change with time.or really insulting comments like Translation doesnt mean Translation as an example(there are so many its quite amusing to read or learn about).It proves the point that the brethren believe most people in the church are mind less sheep and sad to say but true most are however that is their choice and thats ok if thats what they choose.Be good ( I am really trying to be the person my dog thinks I am).
Liked the article – seems like lots of ex-mormons/NOMOs have very similar feelings. Too bad most of my our TBM friends/family won’t read a blog like this and most of us (at least myself) are too scared to stir the pot by posting it somewhere like FB.
…Note: I’m not the author, but I’ve been using this username in the comments of this blog (See my comment in the previous post, Shun Happens) and other Mormon blogs for months/years (I particularly like it as my middle name is 1 letter off from either Desire/Truth)… anyways I guess they say “imitation is the best form of flattery” so I should be flattered (but most likely you didn’t even notice) ;). [Note 2: is there anywhere on the blog to contact the Profet/blog?]
Thanks for the article!
That is funny. As the author of this post, I had no idea that you used this name frequently in other places. One of my names is also only a letter off. 😉 I hope you are able to at some point share things with your family and friends. It is hard to get to that place though, and not everyone can. Best of luck!
you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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What on EARTH are you sharing this here for??
Brilliant. I really appreciate the nod at the redefinition of the word “know”. If testimony bearing in the church could change just that one word know to believe, it would change so very much about the culture of the church. No one knows what happens when we die.
Precisely. And to take it to the next step, why does a Mormon get to say they “know” their church is true, or any of its doctrines, and be taken any more seriously than someone from another faith who also “knows” that their church/religion is true? If both church members received a confirmation through their feelings, why is one more valid than the other?
Just As I cannot tell you what to believe, you cannot tell me or others what it is that I KNOW. You are judging and making assumptions about me just like you are asking me to stop doing about you. Please stop being so hypocritical. Thanks.
How do you “know”? Is it just because that’s what you’ve been told? If you teach a dog to sit but use the command bark. It will think that bark means sit.
I CAN actually tell you that no one can know what happens after death. Near death experiences would be carbon copy if this were the case. Knowing involves a sure thing, not a feeling, no matter how strong that feeling is. As far as things like knowing the church is true, or that a person is a prophet, faith is involved in those as well. Faith is not knowledge. It is a belief in something.
And here’s a question you might answer. If you have prayed and “know” that your religion is true, and a person of another different religion has done the same, which one of you is right? And how do you know?
Beautiful! Loved it. Thank you.
This is fantastic. I’ve never understood family asking me to keep my experiences with the church to myself. One family member told me my actions were causing embarrassment among family members because I was vocal in my exit from the church. But you’re right that’s not fair for members to ask when they support the church’s extensive missionary program that asks millions of people to question their own beliefs.
Yes. This is exactly why I included the quote that compared it to others who suffered from various serious problems in their lives. It is just a different kind of pain and hurt, but is no less valid than the others. All of them require the survivor to heal, and healing starts with addressing the cause of the pain and then processing through it. If that survivor is silenced, none of that pain gets healed, and they will continue to suffer all so that those who do not want to hear it can remain in their comfortable bubbles.