Why would someone leave the Mormon church?
8. The LDS church has no true doctrine, or history.
Doctrines of �Blood Atonement�. Doctrines using the �Mark of Cain� as an excuse to deny blacks the priesthood and temple marriage, and to condemn mixed-race marriage. Doctrines that �Adam is our God�. Doctrines regarding the �Condescension of God�. Doctrines of the Native Americans being of Lamanite descent, and that their skin would lighten once they accept the gospel. Numerous doctrines regarding polygamy. Doctrines of men living on the moon and sun. Doctrines regarding birth control. Doctrines of �The Whore of Babylon�. Doctrines and personal oaths involved in the temple ceremony. Doctrines that Joseph Smith would sit in judgment upon us. All of these things, and many more, were fundamental to the beliefs and sacrifices of the saints in the past. Now they are cast off as irrelevant, or in some cases, as damnable heresy.
What�s worse however, is that in an attempt to cover up the past, the LDS church re-writes its doctrines and its history to make things more palatable for readers today. Instead of reading how Joseph went to his death firing 3 shots from a pistol (wounding and perhaps killing with each shot) we read how he went as a lamb to the slaughter. In the modern lesson manuals for church, Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders are terribly misquoted, and the reader is discouraged from cross-referencing other, more historic church approved sources. It�s hard to believe how the doctrines and history have changed in just the past 30 years.
9. The LDS church is an abusive organization.
At the beginning, violent groups such as the Danites, and the Avenging Angels, with their press burnings, intimidation and assaults on church members, and fighting feuds with local villagers, actually benefited and were even condoned by LDS church leadership. Local leaders were permitted to push, trick, even castrate men into surrendering their wife or girlfriend to polygamy. Some leaders enforced �blood atonement� for sexual sins. Of course the LDS church also created the Mormon Militia, which in conjunction with local LDS leadership, conducted the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In this heinous crime, which Brigham Young apparently did not condone, but also did very little to prevent (and made no effort to bring to justice), over 100 unarmed Non-Mormon men, women, children, even babies, were promised safety and protection, then led away and murdered in cold blood by obedient priesthood holders.
More recently, the LDS church shuns violence in favor of mind-control. The ultimate expression of this is the LDS mission program. Virtually all young men in the LDS church are pressured to join this program, from age 19 to 21. The first month or two are spent in the Missionary Training Center (the �MTC�), where missionaries are assigned a �companion�, and surrender all personal rights and privacy, depend completely on the organization for all needs, then follow a strictly regimented schedule, and a written list of rules. The MTC is surrounded by security fences, and patrolled by security guards in van and on foot. All entrances and departures are carefully screened. The missionaries are immediately isolated from their family members and friends, and will remain so (including time in the field) for the next 2 years. During that time, individuality is stripped as everyone must sport a similar hairstyle, may not have a beard, mustache, earring, or tattoo, and must don the missionary uniform; LDS temple garments underneath, covered by their dark suit & shoes, white shirt and conservative tie, and their nametag. Missionaries are not called by their first name (or even their temple �new name�), but rather �Elder� (or �Sister�) and their last name. Repetition is a common tool, as missionaries in the MTC study language and doctrine around 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Guilt is another tool, as missionaries are encouraged to confess personal problems to their Branch President (who sometimes request explicit graphic detail, as I found out) that might �distract� them from the work. Information and entertainment are off-limits, as missionaries are banned from reading the newspaper, magazines, or any books that are not specifically approved by the church. Listening to the radio or watching movies or TV are also against the rules, as are listening to music or singing non-LDS songs, using the phone, fax, e-mail, or the Internet, or writing home more than once a week.
All of this continues as missionaries reach their target destination, where some serve under overtly abusive, reckless and neglectful Mission Presidents. Their rights are routinely violated as they surrender their passport, their financial documents, and their mail to the mission office. They�re issued fanatical new rules beyond even their MTC training. In my mission, (in [some third world country] through all of 19XX and 19XX) for example, mission finance rules often reduced the Elders to poverty, sometimes without hot water, refrigeration, indoor toilets, sufficient food, or even a phone. Care packages were limited to two (2) per year (until many parents complained about this at Christmas). Private mail was opened and read by Zone Leaders, with approval of the Mission President. Missionaries were repeatedly screamed at and shouted down by the Mission President personally, sometimes in public. Rules were piled on top of rules to the point that they covered every possible topic, and often contradicted each other. Bizarre missionary goal programs, one named �The Plan of God� and other tearful rants from the Mission President (for example, how it would be better to go home in a casket than leave our riot torn mission early), created a hopeless, cult-like atmosphere. With this in mind however, I must give some credit to Apostle X, who (although hardened on other issues) was concerned enough to contact my Mission President and have him shut down [some third world country] mission before anyone was killed.
Still, for most missionaries out in the field there is no recourse in such a situation. When something happens where a missionary must appeal to a higher authority, communiqu�s to the Area Presidency, Apostles, or First Presidency are just kicked back to the Mission President unanswered (even unopened), a clear message that there are some positions that answer to no one. Most missionaries lose contact with their friends back home, including girlfriends or fianc�es, who may have been their main reason for even going on the mission. Visits from family or friends are not permitted, except during the return trip home. Many missionaries return in poor health and with severe depression or other mental disorders because of their mistaken trust in mission leadership. However Mission Presidents are rewarded, even promoted (as mine was, to LDS Church Headquarters, and then, to train new Mission Presidents), based almost exclusively on their baptism and finance numbers rather than the well-being of the missionaries under them.
Authoritarianism is also a problem for common members, through what can be a voyeuristic interview process, bad council, or just poor personal skills on the part of the leader, with no path for remedy. Many who confide in their leaders to resolve abusive situations find the tables turned against them, due to the sexism, nepotism and favoritism which is rampant in the church. Wards are determined by strict geographic bounds, so members that have a conflict in their local ward aren�t allowed to attend somewhere else. During my time at church-owned Ricks College, I experienced continual authoritarian abuse, with the most severe case being where they actually chained the fire doors shut to keep students from leaving the dorm at night. In addition, the school gained a reputation for taking advantage of private confessions disclosed by LDS church Bishops, as well as organizing an intricate informant system reminiscent of those in fascist or communist countries. At Brigham Young University, the authoritarian purge of intellectuals has become so widespread that the school faces censure and repeated criticism for its loss of academic freedom. To a large extent, the victims of local authoritarian abuse are women, who lacking the priesthood (just like blacks 25 years ago), have absolutely no authority, no voice, and no respect within the church.
In my case, experiencing so much abuse (especially on my mission) has only made me stronger. But for many others however, it has done unspeakable harm. In Utah, a state where around 70% of the population is LDS, the suicide rate for youth (especially in �Mormon suburbs� as some call them) is unbelievably high, approximately twice the national average. Meanwhile women there are taking approximately 65% more anti-depressant medication per capita, compared to other American women. How sad that just as in the past, the church still refuses to acknowledge or correct the role it is playing in any of this.
10. The LDS church has no real authority.
The Book of Commandments, Joseph Smith�s first attempt at the Doctrine and Covenants, is clearly missing any reference to the restoration of the priesthood, which supposedly overlapped the many other �revelations� that this book contains. As its contents were brought forward into the Doctrine and Covenants, it becomes quite obvious that many of its �revelations� were modified after the fact to make it appear as though they originally included heavenly visits restoring holy spiritual keys. Even direct quotes from God in the Book of Commandments are blatantly altered in the Doctrine and Covenants to add a history of priesthood restoration and authority, where none had originally existed.
In the modern LDS church, authority is the product of local culture, or local leadership’s understanding of vague and conflicting advice from Salt Lake. Of course when things don�t work out, no one holds higher leadership responsible, since the only written evidence, the Church Handbook of Instructions, isn�t even available to the common member. When direct instruction turns out to be wrong, it�s discarded as a misinterpretation by the members, or human error on the part of local leaders. Concepts such as �Milk before meat� and �Lying for the Lord� offer an excuse for LDS leadership to tell members whatever is convenient, regardless of the truth. The story changes so often, there are really no doctrines in the church that are �unchanging and absolute�.
Only obedience to the living Prophet remains a constant. When Mormons don�t agree with what the Prophet is saying, they�re told to pray about what he says. If this doesn�t resolve their doubts, they�re told to pray again. However when the Prophet turns out to be wrong, suddenly he was speaking �as a man� instead of �as a prophet�. When a member of the church quotes a past Prophet to stand for their beliefs, they�re reminded �heed living Prophets over dead ones�. But what this really means is that the words of the current Prophet, since he will be dead someday, are temporary. This directly conflicts with the concept that God is absolute and unchanging, and undermines the claim that the LDS Prophet is �God�s mouthpiece here on Earth�.
In the end, the LDS church is about obedience to the rule, rather than doing what is right. Such primitive morality has led to such bizarre outcomes like proxy temple ceremonies for holocaust Jews and for Adolf Hitler, and later, their cover-up. More typically though, such thoughtlessness is the cause of the earlier mentioned abuses within the church, and its organized persecution of fringe groups (such as feminists, intellectuals and homosexuals). Sometimes I wonder if �Free Agency�, perhaps the most precious doctrine of the LDS church, has any chance under the current leadership. Clearly, subverting the most powerful idea of Mormonism creates a false sense of order, power and authority for those who run the organization.
Despite all of this, I�ve tested the promises of the LDS church. I gave Mormonism more than a fair try, around 25 years of my life, and I never got what was promised. The times that I most expected blessings (on my mission, and praying in the temple soon after) provided the most conclusive evidence for me that the LDS church just isn�t true. Everything good about Mormonism, I learned before I was 8 years old. I should have quit while I was ahead, but better late than never.
During my life as an adult, I’ve had a chance to try something different, and found more “blessings” outside the church than I’d ever have imagined. I found myself while I was literally fleeing everything I knew to get away from Mormonism, which had taken so much away from me. In the times I had the greatest difficulty with the church, I found the most incredible Mormon woman, and she married me despite our religious differences. Although the church saw fit to put this married couple on trial, we supported each other through all of it, and have remained happily married now [several] years so far. Certainly we would have it no other way. We now have the most kind, generous, gentle, thoughtful son, with almost no influence from the church. Our new daughter is happy and healthy too; no priesthood blessings required. I enjoy my career, which provides well beyond my needs, and is allowing me to help literally change the world. I value my time, because I know it’s limited. I cherish every day with my children, because I’m not counting on some fairy tale to make them my children again later. I know my new friends more deeply than most that I knew from church. I have the deepest love and respect for my wife, because she loves and respects me more than some organization. We really enjoy our time together, because we understand and support each other. More importantly, we make our own choices. We do what we want, when we want to do it, and it has only brought us joy. Looking back, it’s not that I’m doing things much differently, it’s just that my goal is different. What I seek now are the true rewards of life, experienced with my wife, my children, and my close family and friends. The contrived lifestyle of Mormonism cannot even compare to the satisfaction and joy I find out in the real world with those who I love. Some would say “wickedness never was happiness…” and to them, I would say this is the most certain proof that my leaving the church (many years ago really) was the right choice. For me, leaving was difficult at first, but I’m much happier now than I ever could be while I was a member of the LDS church . Now it’s time to take the next step, have my choice officially recognized, and lead my family to a happier, more fulfilling life.
Cc: Bishop X, President Gordon B. Hinkley
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