I often get the question: “Why and how did I leave the Mormon church” so I wanted to address that in this post. I have to say that this was not something that happened over night; in fact when I look back I can see that it took years. First, let me cover why I decided to leave.
I believe that it is best to start at the beginning. When I was growing up, I believed the Mormon Church to be true and I never questioned it. As a teen, I never drank alcohol, smoked or did drugs and never even wanted to try any of those things. I knew that I wanted to go on a mission and everything that I did as a young man was in pursuit of that goal. I took jobs to earn money, I studied, I would even hang out with the missionaries in my ward. I can still remember that day that I got my Mission call. It was one of the greatest days of my life up to that point. While serving my mission I worked hard and served in many leadership positions. After my mission I also found that I was excited to serve in the church and found myself in leadership positions. I was a great home teacher and a good leader but something kept gnawing at me.
Let’s go back to my mission. You see, where I served, there was a large number of Christian groups. We would often be confronted by groups of people wanting to argue about the differences in our religions. Because of this I took it upon myself to find a way to prove to them that what we were teaching was the truth, but this would have to be done with the Bible. I had read the bible (Old and New Testament) a couple of times before my mission, but now I had a goal in mind as to why I was reading it. One issue that kept coming up was Grace. Well, I knew that Christ died for my sins on the cross, and that because of this I could be forgiven of my sins if I repent of them, so I didn’t see what the big deal was. So I read the New Testament over and over again in hopes of finding that thing that would prove to the Christians that there was more to it than what they knew or had. I read the New Testament 14 times while I was on my mission. It was hard for me to have people not see what I had and how great it was.
So now let’s fast forward a few years to around the time I was 30 years old. I was serving in the Elders quorum presidency and this was about the time I started to question the little things that did not seem to be the way I believed them to be. This was also during a time the LDS church members were told to read the New Testament. I decided that I would read the New Testament without any cross references to the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants . I decided that I wanted to find out just what the Bible said and to see if it really was teaching a different message than what I believed. I found that it was hard using my old Mormon Study Bible as it had all the references, plus my notes from my previous years of study. I then a purchased a KJV bible at a Christian bookstore and started my study. As I studied I became aware that I had not ever understood some of what the Apostle Paul spoke about, the way he spoke about his works being nothing and that without the grace of God that his works were as filthy rags. So I thought here is a person that is perfect; he went from being a Pharisee of Pharisees and living what he thought to be a perfect life, to meeting the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. I would challenge anyone to really read and try to understand what Paul is really trying to tell us in his writings in the Bible. Basically, I found that I would have to say that the teachings of the Bible are correct or that the teachings of the LDS Church are correct. I believe that there are just too many differences. It is easy to have someone tell you what the Bible is supposedly telling you, but I challenge anyone and everyone to search for the true meaning. Hey, the Jews were so caught up in the way that they were told to live that they did not recognize their savior when he stood in from of them. So in short you may say that I left the Mormon Church because of the Bible.
Well, during this year when I was really studying the bible, I started to feel like I did not really fit in the Mormon Church. If I had questions about doctrine I would get the old canned response and then be told that I needed to believe it. Some of my questions were answered, but a lot of them just weren’t answered at all or caused me to question things even more. I found myself not wanting to be a part of this church as much. I found that I did not have the commitment to the Mormon Church that I once had. I found myself just going to sacrament meeting and not the others or sometimes skipping it all together. This caused me to start to question everything. In the long run, I found that the most important part of religion for me is my personal relationship with God. Most of what I thought was the most important part of my life as a Mormon was things that I was having a hard time believing anymore.
One day I moved to a different ward area and it was then that I decided that I would no longer be attending the Mormon Church. I was not easy as word travels fast; I had people call me up from out of the blue and ask me why I was not going to church and some would call me to see if the rumors that they heard were true. That’s another thing that I found. When someone leaves the Mormon Church, it seems the church members are sure there has to be some sort of major sin involved (even if it is made up). So in my case I started hearing from people asking me about strange things they heard about me, “I heard you were taking drugs” or “ I heard you were drinking alcohol” among many other things. The truth is that the only reason was simple that I did not believe.
In the long run, remember that if you leave the Mormon Church, you will most likely not have any of your old Mormon friends anymore and may find you’ll be an outsider in your own family (for those with Mormon family members). That is where I am. I have no regrets, though, I still have my strong faith in God and my relationship with Him is more personal than it ever was and I made new friends as I moved on with my life.
We get lots of interesting comments and emails around here and we thought this one was worth addressing in a post. The following comment came in for the post titled: Organized Religion & Mormon Underwear
"I am a convert and was told up front about garments. It isn't a big secret and it's not really that big of a deal. Lots of religions wear clothing or other items (crosses, etc) that remind them of their religion and the commitments they made to their Father in Heaven. I am really sad that you go out of your way to denounce something that you "don't believe in". If you don't believe in our religion, why are you talking so much about it. Guilt? There is nothing that I HAVE to do or am TOLD to do that I don't want to do. Mormonism is a simple lifestyle and not at all secret...it's called "sacred" and I for one am more than happy to not drink, smoke, do drugs, or even wear thongs....and if that makes me a sheep then BAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!"
Well, I was a convert and garments were never mentioned so I’m glad to hear the Mormon church was up front with someone about such a significant commitment. Most folks would consider being told what type of underwear to wear, especially a type that covers much more than average, on a 24/7 basis to be “a big deal”. Comparing that to something like a cross around one’s neck, etc, is like comparing apples to oranges.
Interestingly, the comments made by this reader are the standard issue, parroted phrases Mormon members are taught to use with those who take issue with certain aspects of the religion. We’ve heard it all before: Asking us why we talk about it rather than leave it alone? Yes, the old standard: “People leave the church but can’t leave it alone” stance. Accusing us of having left due to guilt? Yep, the old: “you must have done something horrible and that’s why you left!” accusation which we addressed in this post. Stating things in the Mormon religion are “Sacred not secret” is a time honored, canned phrase amongst Mormons.
But what was most amusing about the above comment was the statement that “Mormonism is a simple lifestyle”. Being a Mormon and doing all that is expected of you is the very opposite of simple as anyone can see in taking a look at the many rules.
It’s been a while since we’ve written a post. We really do want to keep up with writing for this blog and hope to share more stories and information with readers this year. 2009 was quite a year for Mormons in the news and it was quite interesting for this blog as well. We had so many emails and comments, most of which have been very supportive. Those that weren’t were clearly from current Mormons who stumbled onto our blog, shocked that two former Mormons would dare say anything negative about ‘the church’ and essentially their message was “We should be ashamed”. To that we can only ask; “Ashamed for what?” For simply sharing our experiences, thoughts and feelings? We’ve said nothing untruthful or misleading, which is more than can be said for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as an organization. I also want to point out to readers that neither of us has anything against the Mormon people as a whole; in fact, quite the opposite. We feel that in general, the rank and file Mormons are good people with good intentions but are so affected by cognitive dissonance that they cannot see the forest for the trees. We believe that Mormon members are simply very uninformed and manipulated into believing and doing what they do. I actually feel bad for Mormons because as people who’ve lived that life and are now free from it, we know firsthand what a hugely positive difference it has made in our lives.
As a reader of “mommy blogs” I ran across a blog some time ago that I found very interesting as a former Mormon. Apparently, this blog became an almost overnight sensation due to its hilarious subject matter; a spoof about Mormon mommy blogs. But digging deeper, it’s also a spoof about Mormon life in general as the author shares such ridiculous topics such as whether or not it’s okay to shop online on a Sunday, wear a sleeveless top or two pairs of earrings. I found her writing spot on parodying Mormon life, but was actually shocked to learn the author was and is a current, believing Mormon! It’s astounding to see that people can actually see the ridiculousness of their religion’s rules and requirements and yet still be a part of it. Again, cognitive dissonance at its best. To see for yourself, check out; Seriously, so Blessed!
And please keep the comments and emails coming, we love hearing from our readers and hope to share much more with you this year.
I have been asked many times if the Mormon Church is a cult. Well, first we need to know what a cult is. I would recommend that you thoroughly research any group you are about to join and not just believe what you hear from the group; check outside sources and if you are told by the group that the outside sources cannot be trusted, or are evil, then I would think twice about joining. If the group you are considering claims to be the only organization with the “truth”, or there is no other way to be “saved”; then this should also throw up some red flags. When I was a practicing Mormon and people would tell me that I belonged to a cult, it would ruffle my feathers a little. Then I learned to be more understanding and had the attitude of “if they only knew the things I knew” they would see it the way I did and would know it was true. This was also an area of pride for me because "I had the truth" and others just did not have the ability to see it. I learned to overlook things and believe what the leaders said. It wasn’t until I was on the outside that I could see how deceived I was. Because of that, I am very careful about any group that I join. I think that it is important to research and ask questions to any leader of a group that you are thinking about. A few years ago I had the opportunity to have a meeting with a pastor of a large church in our town. I told him that I grew up in the Mormon Church and that I question everything; to my surprise his response was that he wished more people would question everything and not just be followers. He also challenged me that if I ever heard him say anything that was questionable to call him on it.
Because I’m not the expert on what a good definition of a cult is, I took some information from a site called How Cults Work. I hope you find this helpful in answering the question of if the Mormon Church is a cult.
A cult will have a slick well-rehearsed Public Relations front which hides what the group is really like. You will hear how they help the poor, or support research, or peace, or the environment. They will tell you how happy you will be in their group (and everyone in the cult will always seem very happy and enthusiastic, mainly because they have been told to act happy and will get in trouble if they don't). But you will not be told what life is really like in the group, nor what they really believe. These things will be introduced to you slowly, one at a time, so you will not notice the gradual change, until eventually you are practicing and believing things which at the start would have caused you to run a mile. A normal religious organization would not have any trouble with you moving to another similar organization as long as you stayed in that same religion. Because it is the belief system that matters, not membership in an organization. For example if you were a Christian then you could move from one church to anther and still be a Christian. However cult leaders will tell you can only be "saved" (or can only be successful) in their organization alone. No other organization has the truth, all others miss the mark. So it is not the belief system that decides your future, but it the belief system AND your membership with that particular group.
Be very suspicious of any group that claims to be better than all the others. A religious group may say that other groups following the same religion are OK, but they are the ones who have a better grasp of the truth and they are superior to the rest. This is often just a subtle version of exclusivism.
Cult leadership is feared. To disagree with leadership is the same as disagreeing with God. The cult leaders will claim to have direct authority from God to control almost all aspects of your life. If the cult is not a religious group then questioning the leaders or program will still be seen as a sign of rebellion and stupidity.
When you first go to a cult they will practice "love bombing", where they arrange instant friends for you. It will seem wonderful, how could such a loving group be wrong! But you soon learn that if you ever disagree with them, or ever leave the cult then you will lose all your new "friends". This unspoken threat influences your actions in the cult. Things that normally would have made you complain will pass by silently because you don't want to be ostracized. Like in an unhealthy relationship love is turned on and off to control.
Only information supplied by the cult is true. One cult labels any information against it as "persecution" or "spiritual pornography", another cult calls it "apostate literature" and will expel you from the group if you are caught with it. Cults train their members to instantly destroy any critical information given to them, and to not even entertain the thought that the information could be true. Common sense tells us that a person who does not consider all information may make an unbalanced decision. Filtering the information available or trying to discredit it not on the basis of how true it is, but rather on the basis of how it supports the party line, is a common control method used throughout history.
Mind control cults keep their members so busy with meetings and activities that they become too busy and too tired to think about their involvement.
Time control also helps the cult keep their members immersed in the manufactured cult environment and time control helps keep cult members away from family and friends.
They tell you they are not a cult.
This is a preemptive strike against the warnings from friends and family members which they know will come. In fact some cults go as far to tell you that Satan will try and dissuade you by sending family members and friends to tell you it is a cult. When this tactic is used then often a warped form of logic occurs in the recruits' mind, the "agents of Satan" do come and tell them that it is a cult. So since the group predicted that would happen, the group therefore must be true! Basically if any group tells you that they are not a cult, or that some people call them a cult, then for goodness sake find out why!
Some cults travel door to door during times when women are home alone. They, and this is rather sexist, think that women are easier to recruit and once they have the woman then it will be easier to snare the husband or partner.
In short here is a list of things to look out for… (as taken from “How Cults Work”)
· Single charismatic leader.
· People always seeming constantly happy and enthusiastic. Especially if you discover that they have been told to act that way for the potential new recruits.
· Instant friends.
· You are told who you can or cannot talk to or associate with.
· They hide what they teach.
· Say they are the only true group, or the best so why go anywhere else.
· Hyped meetings get you to meetings rather than share with you.
· Experiential rather than logical.
· Asking for money for the next level.
"When my Mormon friends explain these very things, it doesn't sound psycho."
This statement is particulary amusing when you realize that of course to Mormons it doesn't sound "psycho", they are taught and conditioned to beleive and do things that the average person would not. I think the comments speak for themselves regarding how folks would feel about being required to live that set of rules. Oh, and for the commentor who stated these rules are a choice, well, yes, in the same way you could "choose" not to show up for work all week but I think we all know what would happen in that situation.
We’ve had such a huge response to the post on the list of Mormon Rules that we felt it deserved a follow up. The comments and e-mails generated from this post have ranged from statements of “WTH?” to some obvious current Mormons and defenders of the faith who wanted to tell us that surely the Devil is controlling us and that we’ve got it all wrong. We wanted to clarify that we never intended to suggest that Mormons will be forced to do these things. The list of rules, as we stated in the original post, are the things expected of faithful Mormons in order to be considered a worthy member or a member in good standing within the church. But here’s the thing folks; if you are a Mormon and you do not follow these rules there are definitely consequences. Let’s take a further look at this:
1. Pay 10% aka Tithing.
No one comes to your home and holds a gun to your head while you write out a check. However, each and every member is to attend a meeting at the end of the year with their Bishop known as a Tithing Settlement. During this meeting, the Bishop will present you with a receipt of all the money you’ve given the church that year (for your taxes) and ask you whether or not you are a full tithe payer. Those who respond that they are not are strongly encouraged to get caught up with their payments (aka the “settlement”) at that time. Any “excuses” such as not being able to afford it are met with stern objections about how that is not an excuse, you are cheating the Lord, you’ll receive blessings from paying your tithing, etc. etc. Of course, you can still walk out of that meeting having not paid all or even any of your tithing, but you’ll be chastised for doing so.
2. Do not question Mormon authority.
There are more examples than I can count of those who have questioned the leaders and been disciplined for it, including those who have been excommunicated.
3. Fully believe in and frequently reiterate that you know the Mormon church is true.
4. Pass a worthiness interview yearly so you can attend the temple.
Here’s where it gets interesting. There are Mormons who have never been to the temple and never will go to the temple. But these are the “less worthy” members. They are thought of less than an “active” member of the church. It is significantly frowned upon to not be a temple Mormon, as that is the ultimate goal of Mormons since they believe the only way you will receive the “highest degree of glory” (their version of heaven) is by attending the temple along with marrying, having children and living all the rules of Mormonism.
5. Once you attend the temple for the first time you will begin wearing the special underwear (called garments).
You will be asked in your Temple Recommend interview renewal each year if you are wearing the “authorized garments” day and night. In addition, it is a cultural thing within the Mormon church to check for the tell-tale lines made by garments to see whether or not someone is a worthy, temple going Mormon. Again, those who are not are looked down on.
6. No smoking, alcohol, coffee, or tea.
This is expected of every member. Those who break this rule are expected to confess to the Bishop, repent, and not continue.
7. Get married early. (No sex before marriage.)
Naturally, no one is forcing anyone to marry. But the church does all it can to facilitate early marriage through various singles events and numerous talks on the importance of marrying young.
8. Have children early and have many.
Like getting married, no one is forcing anyone, but they are certainly strongly encouraged (again, through various talks from the Mormon authorities) to begin their families early.
9. Preach to your non-Mormon friends, family and co-workers and try to get them to become Mormon.
10. Do not associate with other non-Mormons (except when engaged in #9 above.)
11. Young Men (age 19) are to serve a two year mission.
This may be “voluntary” but just try to explain to anyone at church that you’ve chosen not to serve a mission but to go to college instead (or whatever your choice may be). You’ll be given such a hard time about how important it is to serve a mission and be thought of and treated as less valiant than those who have served a mission.
12. Women are expected to marry only a man who has served a mission (referred to as a “Returned Missionary”.)
13. Attend all church meetings. 3 hours on Sunday, plus additional meetings for many other things.
Not showing up at church on Sunday is like being a kid in elementary school when the Principal’s office calls your home to see why you were absent. You will get a call from someone at church asking why you weren’t there. In fact, I was once told that the budget was determined by attendance and that when I didn’t show up they lost money.
14. Follow a Dress code for church. Women cannot wear pants. Men should be wearing suits or at the very least a white dress shirt and tie.
The least that will occur are very stern looks from the members and at worst you could be told you are dressed inappropriately and must go home to change.
15. Accept and perform whatever church job (aka "calling") they give you. This takes much additional time.
Turning down a calling is almost unheard of. Of course this is not to say that it has not been done; my wife and I both have turned down callings. We were met with very shocked expressions as to how we could do such a thing. A Mormon member is definitely looked down upon for declining any calling offered to them.
16. Every member is asked to visit other members and teach a lesson out of a manual once per month. This is known as Home Teaching for the men, and Visiting Teaching for the women.
17. Fast once per month [which to Mormons is no food or water for 24 hours.]
18. Sundays are for church only, no “worldly” activities are permitted [this includes shopping, dining out, recreational activities, kid's sporting events, etc.]
So, forget Mother’s Day Brunch, dinner out with the family, or even attending a sporting event (including one your child is supposed to be playing in!) these are all unapproved activities for Sunday. Not that you’d have time anyway with a 3+ hour meeting schedule. Again, you can sneak out and do these things if you choose, no one is going to stop you, however, if you’re caught or you feel guilty and confess, you are definitely looked down upon as a “less active” member who is not following the rules.
19. Wear only very modest clothing: this means no shorts above the knee, no low cut tops for women, nothing sleeveless, etc.
For the worthy member, wearing the special underwear (#5 above) will take care of this automatically. However, it’s not uncommon for a “rebellious” Mormon, fed up with the rules, to either remove their garments altogether or do what’s known as the old “tuck and pin” trick to allow more modern fashions to be worn without one’s underclothes hanging out. Doing either of these things is also looked down upon and something that would get you considered unworthy in terms of being a Mormon in good standing as well as end up in denial of admittance to the temple.