a convert to the Mormon Church, and within it spent many
years of happy memory among loving people. Because of Mormonism
I have met human beings who were more gracious, generous,
and kind than I could have imagined.
been enriched by the opportunity to serve and be served.
I have been inspired by a theology that taught, “freedom,
intelligence, knowledge and love as the great values.”
I can never forget these good things.
the years passed, however, I was dismayed by church authorities
condemning intellectuals and historians who openly discussed
troubling issues in church history and practice. They made
urgent calls for obedience and conformity, reflected in
repeated statements by my local leaders in sacrament meetings.
Ward members seemed more afraid to express honest thoughts
and feelings, and church meetings felt oppressive. This
violated the freedom, intelligence, and love I prized.
I discovered that threatening and abusive actions condoned
by authorities, including violence, were not unusual in
Mormon history. I could not believe that the plural marriage
so zealously practiced and preached by the nineteenth century
Mormon prophets was required by God.
participating in church, and could no longer identify myself
as Mormon. I resigned about four years ago. I found grief
on the road leading from the spiritual home and people I
loved, but I also found an empowering sense of freedom that
gives me zest for the future.
Joseph Smith himself once said, “It feels so good
not to be trammeled.”
the time I was becoming disenchanted with the Mormon Church
my seventeen year marriage was also unraveling. I had four
daughters, and deeply loved my wife and children. Then I
experienced a divorce which shattered my security and turned
my world upside down. I struggled to keep my self-esteem,
my emotional balance, and some semblance of order in my
crumbling family. As my children nearly went to pieces,
so did I. These challenges tested me to the core.
reflecting on these events, I have been struck by similarities
in the challenging tasks of leaving a marriage and leaving
the LDS Church. Participation in Mormon community, like
marriage, affords nurture, support, and belonging. The committed
LDS believer labors with church “brothers and sisters”
in an environment of intimacy and sacrifice. The disillusionment,
emptiness, and sense of betrayal one feels when leaving
a beloved religious community parallels the bitter experience
of losing love in divorce.
I struggled to survive as a single parent, grief and loneliness
nearly overwhelmed me. Fortunately my in-laws stayed warm
towards me, but my familiar activities and my circle of
friends dropped away. When friends and family become alienated,
familiar roles disappear. New skills and new sources of
personal support are essential. As time passed and crisis
finally turned back into routine, I gained my balance in
the roles of single parent and single man. I experienced
pain, but gained strength. With increasing perspective I
felt confidence my life, and compassion for my ex-wife.
a religion can be as life changing as losing a love. When
our spouse is gone, anger and grief shock us with their
power, whether or not we sought the divorce. Leaving the
LDS Church is not as intense, but perhaps inflicts an even
more long lasting sense of social dislocation, as family,
friends, and community reject our new beliefs and identity.
Work, social gatherings, and family activities constantly
draw us back into Mormon attitudes and rituals, as we also
try to cope with guilt, shame, and loneliness, and build
new habits for an independent life. We feel spiritually
unworthy when we can no longer believe, as we feel unlovable
when we have lost love. We become angry at the ecclesiastical
system that has conditioned loved ones to fear, pity, or
rejection reactivates our childhood fear of abandonment.
We wonder if we will ever find love or faith again. Whether
your loss is marital or religious you have lost your future,
and you no longer know the meaning of your past. Your transition
will not be complete until you discover a new interpretation
of your past, and a new purpose for your future.
As you move on, life poses you new questions. Will your
disillusionment bring embitterment, or enlightenment? Can
you let go of your ex, and develop functional ways of relating
to each other that minimize stress and harm? What hopes,
what ideals, will now guide your life?
who divorce have more ready models of successful transition
easily at hand. They readily encounter divorced people who
have survived. They can get sympathetic advice from divorced
friends. They may establish relationships to meet needs
their spouse could not. They can readily find advice books,
and support groups both before and after they separate.
recently, few men and women moving out of Mormonism could
readily find understanding friends or helpful support groups.
We had few, if any, healthy public models of leaving Mormonism.
Even inactive Mormons cannot conceive of leaving the church.
Mormons have little concept of what it means to be an ex-Mormon.
The most prominent scriptural model is Korihor, the lying
and dying anti-Christ from the Book of Mormon. That is neither
helpful nor realistic.
seekers cannot be reduced to such comic book stereotypes.
We need new and healthy models of what it means to leave
the LDS Church. We need help from others who have already
experienced this loss to find our way through territory
that we do not know. The growth of ex-Mormon internet community
and establishment of support groups are therefore important
developments. Before we even know what we want, we benefit
from the example, support, and thoughts of others with experience.
Their insights are reassuring. They help us to feel better
about ourselves. Even though we feel uncomfortable with
Mormonism, most of us will not comfortably fit into another
in divorce, however, it may not be a good idea to jump into
another relationship. We may only be running away from ourselves
when we do that. Recovering well means allowing yourself
to experience feelings without self-censorship.
should not join a group that pressures you to stifle your
honest reactions. Do not wear the straitjacket of any ideology.
Reflective thinking, stepping back from the feelings of
shame, guilt, anger, etc., is also mandatory. Integrating
the lessons of your past into a new and more personally
authentic way of thinking, feeling, and living may take
years to accomplish.
from open minded and sympathetic members of another church
may help, but not at the expense of lying to yourself. You
can learn much about yourself by facing your fears squarely.
You will find courage you did not know you had.