It has been almost 2 yrs since I left the LDS church. In that time I have noticed some interesting things. In speaking with my LDS friends , both in "real life" and "online" I have picked up on a trend ( for a lack of a better word) that I would like to write about.
There is a tendancy, for some LDS to hold beliefs about "why" members of the LDS church resign. Sometimes these beliefs are in fact valid, but many times they are not. In fact there are some "myths" out there about "why" we leave. I thought it might be helpful to discuss those reasons, with the hopes of dispelling the myths.
First of all, the "myths".................
I have noticed that some LDS "may" think former Mormons have left because:
1. They have been offended.
Ok, this one is what I think is one of the silliest reasons and myths around. Why? Because one can be offended in any church, not just the LDS church. Goodness knows people are people -- whether LDS or not. People say and do hurtful things, and are often times insensitive. LDS are not immune to such behaviors, and it's not a reason to ultimately leave a given faith.
Was I offended at any point in my time in the LDS church? Sure, I was! Was that a reason to leave? NO! I would not leave a church simply because someone there says something or does something that is insensitive. Have I been offended by Christians? Heck, yeah! It happens! Church denomination set aside... it happens... both in and out of the LDS Church.
I was a Mormon for 19 years. Yeah, my feelings got hurt from time to time, but that was not the ultimate reason why I resigned. In my 2 yrs since exiting the LDS faith, I have met many former Mormons both online and in "real life" and I have yet to meet someone who resigned because someone hurt their feelings. I am not saying it "can't happen".... I am just saying I don't know of someone personally who left because of this reason.
Honestly, most former Mormons I have met, including myself ... took their faith very seriously. They did not expect perfection from other Mormons, and certainly did not have unrealistic expectations that Mormons were a "perfect" people. I for one would have not left simply because someone hurt my feelings. I took my former faith much more seriously than that. I was committed to what I believed at that time was "the one true Church" and would not have resigned based on some insensitive remark from a fellow LDS.
2. We just didn't "get it"......
I hear this reason probably more than any other reason for leaving the LDS. I have ran in a number of LDS who when they hear that I left the LDS faith, assume I just "didn't get the LDS gospel" . They make the assumption that I really didn't understand the LDS doctrines & faith or I wouldn't have left. Instead of just agreeing to disagree and wishing us well, they just assume we weren't listening all those years, didn't study the LDS gospel and just didn't understand. Can I just say how ridiculous this argument is? Especially for those of us who served full time proslyeting missions, spent years in the LDS church teaching doctrinal classes ( such as Sunday School,Gospel Doctrine, Seminary, RS. Priesthood, etc.) .
Many former Mormons also spent their lives in the LDS church. From the time they were born they were taught LDS doctrines & faith. To be told they didn't "get it" well , that is a bit insulting.
Just because a person chooses to leave a particular faith , does not mean they did not understand it's founding principles and doctrines. Actually the opposite is usually true. It's because they did "get it" ..... that they ended up making the choice to leave.
Most former LDS I know, studied the LDS gospel deeply. In fact, their study led them to find things that were deeply concerning to them. Contradictions in LDS doctrines, and challenging aspects of LDS history have led many a LDS to question their faith. This is true for those who question in other faiths. When I was a Roman Catholic, there were many aspects of the R.C. faith that troubled me. From their non biblical teachings and traditions , to their emphasis on ritual I was disturbed enough to make the choice to leave the R.C. Church.
I have met few former Mormons that left without studying the LDS gospel deeply! Many not only took a deep look at their former faith, but also spoke with their eccliastical leaders, such as their local Bishops, Stake Presidents, Insitute teachers, apologetic leaders from FAIR and other LDS apologists before making the choice to leave the LDS faith. Like me, they wanted to try to make "sense" of the contradictions in doctrine and the troubling spots in LDS history.
To say " we didn't get it" it is to imply that because we made the choice to leave, we never really understood it to begin with. May I say how wrong this assumption is? For many of us, we did get it , and we simply did not agree with it. We chose something different. Whether that was Biblical Christianity, or whether that means to simply exit and not affiliate with another faith.
3. The LDS gospel was too hard to live.
This "myth" is almost laughable. Believe me, being a Christian is so much more difficult in many ways than being LDS. Loving your enemies, doing good to those that hate you & forgiving your LDS family members for shunning you is no easy thing! The LDS gospel may be rule ridden, but that doesn't mean it's "hard" to live. It is also insulting for those of us who truly did committ to living the LDS lifestyle and gospel. Most former Mormons who are now Christians, truly did love their faith and tried sincerely to live it to the best of their abilities. I have also run across a number of them who served faithfully in their LDS church callings, from Bishops to Sunday School teachers to former Temple Presidents and Mission leaders. They didn't leave because it was "too hard".
4. There is some unrepentent sin that was committed .
This is another "myth" that is floating out there with some LDS about "why" some of us leave. Maybe for some this may be true, but I have yet to meet a Former Mormon who left, because of some "sin" they didn't want to repent of!! Goodness knows there are plenty of LDS who stay LDS, sinning set aside! We all can agree we are sinners. For all have fallen short and have sinned. LDS and non LDS. Many LDS sin and "stay" LDS .
I did not leave the LDS church because of some awful sin I committed, that I was unwilling to repent of! Good grief! This "myth" is probably the most insulting of them all. Not only that but terribly judgemental.
The above "myths" are just that..... Myths..... they are simply not the truth, for the most part on why we leave. Yeah, perhaps there are some who may leave for the above reasons, but for the most part those who I have spoken to , this is simply not true!
I would encourage those who remain affiliated with the LDS church to perhaps take some time to really try to understand "why" people really do leave. I believe it will be helpful to them, because the truth of the mattter is Mormons do leave, and they will continue to leave. Who knows, it may be one of your loved ones one day. A child.... a spouse.... a parent... may very well choose to leave the LDS Church.... what will you do about it? Will you be upset? Will you try to understand them and reach out to them with compassion? Will you just make "assumptions" about why they left?
May I suggest the approach of trying to make steps to understanding? If a loved one leaves the LDS church, they are still your loved one are they not? Just because they choose to leave the LDS Church does not mean you need to excommunicate them from your life? Why not try to understand where they are coming from? I can assure you that if you do this, you will build bridges and your relationship will have a better chance of weathering the storm.
As a former LDS, ( I was LDS for 19 yrs) I would like to share with you the following reasons that people may leave the LDS Church for. This list is certainly not inclusive, but it may help you to understand a little more and perhaps help you to build bridges . Who knows, it may be your child or spouse one day who chooses to leave... why not equip yourself with some tools to help you navigate the situation... in any case, all LDS know of at least a few former mormons, whether they be inactive members or former Mormons who have resigned. This may help you understand them a little more. These reasons are based not only on my own expierences with leaving, but on the expierences of the many former LDS I have run across thru the years.
Reasons why LDS may choose to leave or resign from the LDS Church:
1. They simply found something else.
Yes, as hard as that may be to graps for current LDS, some Mormons may simply choose to attend another church or faith expression simply based on the fact that they found "greener pastures". This is not an insult to your faith. Please don't see it that way. It just means that the LDS church is not a "one size fits all" orginization. What works for one, may simply not work for another. That is just human nature. Many former mormons choose to disafilliate with the LDS church simply because they found something that works better for them. That may be another Church or Faith, or it may simply mean they don't want to affiliate with any religion what so ever. Please try to not be offended by that.
I recall a friend of mine who when I told her years back I had left the LDS church because I had found something that ultimately fills my needs more adequately, her response surprised me......... " oh that can't be.. nothing is better than the LDS church! You can't find anything better!" Ok, well that may be very well for her, and her family, but that is her personal choice. Just because she feels that way does not mean others agree. For me personally we have found a church that is staffed with better teachers for my children, offers a more alive and relevant worship service and offers a multitude of ministry opporotunities. Why can't current LDS simply say : " Hey, I'll miss you at church, but I wish you the best!"
The fact of the matter is that the LDS church does not have the corner on the market on Sunday School teachers & worship music. What works for one family, may not work for another.
2. For those of us who have embraced Biblical Christianity, we ultimately have placed our trust fully in Christ and not in a religious denomination.
This is a reason many have for leaving the LDS faith. They have found that the grace of Jesus Christ is enough for them. They do not wish to place their trust in a religion or Church, or the church's ordinances, but in the person of Christ . This reason would definately be one of the main reasons I left personally. I simply came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ, and His work on Calvary is what I need to place my trust in.
3. They have studied LDS history & doctrines and have found discrepncies and contradictions.
This is another common reason I come across for leaving the LDS. Many of my former LDS friends began their journey "out" by studing the LDS doctrines at length. They could not reconcile the contradictions, and so chose to leave. It happens. It is a valid reason for leaving any faith. When one can no longer embrace the doctrines of one's faith, many are not willing to continue to affiliate with that particular faith expression. They resign.
When I realized that Joseph Smith's accounts of his first vision contradicted each other, it greatly disturbed me. Instead of putting it on a shelf as some choose to do, I chose to study it at length and made the ultimate discovery that Smith was not being honest. As a former Mormon, I could not reconcile this part of LDS history, and ultimately this played a part in my choice to resign.
This reason is a common reason why many former Mormons leave.
4. A spouse or loved one exposed them to another faith, and they ultimately made the choice to resign from the LDS church.
Though not as common, as the other reasons stated above, I do from time to time run into a former Mormon who did ultimately choose to resign from the LDS , because they either married a Christian or because a friend or loved one introduced them another faith expression.
5. They just don't "believe it" anymore.
I hear this a lot from former LDS...... ultimately they just didn't believe any more in the doctrines and LDS Church. Perhaps it was a combination of searching doctrines, or just a slow demise of their former faith -- they ultimately just didn't believe anymore. I don't want to get too specific as to "why"... because I have ran across so many reasons, but I think it's fair to say that a great many former Mormons leave because they simply don't believe anymore.
As you have read thus far, former Mormons leave for various reasons. Each one's exit is unique..... but the bottom line is that for most of us who are former LDS, we do not leave for the "myths" stated at the beginning of this post. We don't leave because we are offended, or because it was "too hard" to live. No, for most of us, we have chosen to resign after deep study, prayer, and really a heart search. For most of us who were at one time LDS, we sincerely believed the LDS Church was all it said it is. We did not take delight in leaving. Many of us, left behind a spouse or children or loved ones. We did not embark upon our journey out with light mindedness and flippantness. No for most of us the decision was wrought after deep soul searching and months if not years of questioning and prayer.
Instead of embracing the "myths" why not try to really understand "why" we left? Why not communicate with compassion and an attempt to understand? I can promise you when you do so, you will build bridges with your loved ones, instead of alienating them.
Remember it may be your child or spouse that in the future leaves the LDS church. Why not try to understand them? I think you will find that when you do so, you will be better equipped to navigate the changes in your relationship and build bridges towards understanding and mutual love & respect.
" I hope my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me."
~ Psalm 19:14~