Why Is It So Hard for Many Ex-Mormons to Join Another (Traditional) Christian Denomination?

RayAnti-Mormon, christianity, church, Culture, excommunication, Happiness, Mormon, religion, resignation, testimony 85 Comments

I had a job a long time ago as the Training Manager at a company that was going through the ISO 9000 certification process.  For those who are unfamiliar with that process, it is an auditing system that focuses on the internal working of a company – looking not at whether a company is involved in “best practices” but rather whether a company is articulating and following clearly defined practices and procedures.  I summed it up at the time as being able to do three things:

1) Say what you do.

2) Do what you say.

3) Prove it.

This process highlights for a company its internal consistency and the comprehensiveness of its formal operating procedures.  Phrased a bit differently than my summary above, it can be stated as a series of questions:

1) Are you able to articulate exactly what you do – and exactly how you do it?

2) Do you actually do what you say you do – in the way that you say you do it?

3) Can you prove to others that you actually do what you have said you do?

That job was instructive to me, as one of my central roles in the process was to systematize all of the written records into a cohesive and simple format – including the creation of operational and training manuals that could be used to evaluate and address the performance of existing employees and train new employees.  It was important that all employees be held to objective standards – and that all employees be judged and rewarded according to the same standards.  It also highlighted something that came to be central to how I view all organizations, how they compete for business and how they are viewed from the outside by both consumers and competitors.

In the area of internal oversight of operations, there have been many programs over the years that have been created to focus on and increase a company’s standing as a “quality organization” (however that is defined).  Historically, these programs can be separated into two types of emphasis: 1) quality control; and 2)  quality assurance.  They are similar in many ways, but the key difference is in the focus on who is observing the company and making the judgment – and how that affects the internal operations of the organization.

With quality control, the effort is focused inward.  It is an attempt to “control” things internally so that mistakes are handled quickly and efficiently – in a way that will not derail the quality of the end product.  It is similar to “damage control”.  It is a natural fit for many companies who manufacture products – whose “business operations” are seen only as a function of the final product that is sold to consumers. In this sense, it looks for what has always worked and clings tightly to an established production system – or approaches change only in terms of how it will help produce the established product more cheaply (at a lower cost).  “Innovation” is a product of “streamlining” – determining what can be eliminated without harming the final product.

Quality assurance, on the other hand, is focused outward.  It is an attempt to “assure” consumers of the quality of something they have not purchased – and, often, that is more intangible in nature.  Companies that provide services fit this category, but so do companies whose products and services are more expensive than others in their field.  Of particular relevance are those companies that combine an expensive product with a service on which the success of that product depends – like software that requires extensive and complex training. Due to the more complex nature of the sales pitch, these companies are looking constantly for a new way to frame their company, making them less likely to rely on “tried and true” methodology and corporate philosophy and more on “innovation” and “evolving business practices” – which manifests itself in looking for things that will alter the final product in a significant way, even if that means adding cost to the production process.

Quality assurance is most relevant to companies who sell largely based on differentiated promised returns (providing either more or different results to the consumer), while quality control is perfectly fine for most simple commodities that will be used in the exact same way as those produced by competitors.  Quality assurance is important for companies making radical claims about their products and/or services; quality control is enough for those who simply are claiming to make the same finished product – and it is most effective when the company simply is selling the same product for a lower price.  (“This is cheaper, but the quality is just as good as the more expensive options.”) Quality control is much easier to manage, and much easier to implement, than quality assurance – but once you’ve seen the benefits of a personal trainer, it’s hard to go back to “just” free weights and sit-ups.

How does this relate to religions?

Within Christianity, there are two types of religions: 1) those that share a fundamental foundation and, therefore, don’t try much to distinguish “major” differences between themselves and other denominations; and 2) those that base their very identity on “major” differences.  This distinction affects how each type of denomination “views” and “markets” itself – and how each type views the purpose of its internal auditing, if you will.

The first type focuses primarily on an internal analysis of effectiveness – which translates into a firm and unyielding grasp on ideas that have worked in the past (on the unchanging and immutable).  Creedal denominations that cling tightly to the past can be viewed as commodity producers – organizations that are trying to reproduce something that has been produced for years, perhaps with a few unique bells and whistles but relatively indistinguishable from other creedal denominations.  They are focused on quality control – tightly managing the parameters of production and closed to “major change” in the process of that production, and, more importantly, to “major changes” to the product itself.  After all, if the finished product is perfect (and perfectly understood) already, why would the denomination even consider radical changes to it?

The second type, however, is based explicitly on its differences – differences that are harder to grasp and need to be introduced and explained (and justified) prior to “purchase”.  This type requires a higher level of investment (is more “expensive”) and, therefore, it must be more aware of “market trends” – be more flexible and adaptable and able to inspire a differentiating vision to justify the consumers’ investment. These religions are willing to make significant changes in how they view the end product – to produce a radically different product that will inspire potential consumers as times change.

Most interestingly, perhaps, is the relationship of these organizations historically.  Creedal religions in established areas tend to compete with other splinters for those that don’t possess the fundamental “commodity”, while non-creedal religions tend to compete for the attention of those who are not satisfied with commodities – whether or not they currently own the “commodity”.  Hence, the creedal religions tend to focus missionary outreach programs primarily on non-creedal populations, while non-creedal religions tend to focus missionary outreach programs on all – including creedal populations. This fundamental difference alone explains much of the tension when Mormonism sends missionaries door to door in areas where nearly everyone already “possesses” the fundamental commodity of Christianity.

Mormonism isn’t selling a commodity; it is selling a high-priced and unique “turn-key” system, and once a turn-key system is experienced it’s hard to go back to using a standard commodity – even if the turn-key system is discarded in search of another one.  Many people who invest great amounts of time, energy and money into a vision that is built on going beyond the common (“commodities”) aren’t satisfied anymore by the common (“commodities”), so if they can’t find an acceptable alternative turn-key system, all that is left is to obsess over the perceived deficiencies in one they left behind.


Comments 85

  1. well, this is a rather thorough metaphor…

    (that I’m now going to ignore for the most part while I draw my thoughts together). I’m going to present a few theories from *my* experiences in the land of unbelief.

    Theory #1
    The LDS church is, regardless of whether it is true or not, very focused on presenting itself as the only logical option. So, as a member of the church, you already know all the other options are wrong. You might not say this (because you want to play nicely with others and say that others “share” part of the truth, or whatever), but functionally, this is the case.

    Even when people leave the church, I think this kind of mindset is one that follows. So, we don’t need to evaluate the rest, because they were already falsified. So, one thing I’m *particularly* interested in, for example, is not atheism vs. theism…but one denomination vs. another or one religion against another. The fact that each religion has its own sticking points against other religions is very telling, in my opinion.

    OK, so bringing this first theory in context with your metaphor…the church isn’t selling a commodity, yes. But its quality assurance relies very much on assuring that the product itself is quality as it does assure that the other commodities are deficient and inferior.

    A subset of this theory (theory 1b, I guess) is that in the church’s attempt to do quality assurance, it has actually advertised terms much differently than they might ordinarily be used. So, really, the church has taught its members to use certain terms or interpret certain scriptures in a way that favors the LDS view but aren’t really compatible with the other views (the commodity.) I know people who are attached to particular brands of smartphones (let’s say BlackBerry)…where RIM does quality assurance to make rabid fans of people…but how it works is they teach those BBers to become so used to the “blackberry” way of doing things that they can’t comprehend the way other smartphone OSes work.

    I think this is particularly true of Mormons, exmormons, and christians. To go from Mormonism to Christianity would involve relearning the Bible in a different way (and, in many cases, a harsher way — “families are forever” and things like that vanish).

  2. Theory #2.
    When someone leaves the LDS church, the kind of disillusionment that they face with the church or its doctrines carry on to other church’s doctrines. Trying to make a business analogy (but not directly relating to your metaphor)…there are enough people who are turned off by all Microsoft OSes based on poor experiences with one or two (e.g., ME, Vista)…so even as there are other options, what actually happens is that these people are critical of the failings of other OSes that are too similar.

    Anyone who’s leaving the LDS church because it’s undue guilt, stress, etc., is not going to want to join another church for much of the same. Anyone who had a strong testimony that was shattered to pieces is not going to want to risk believing in tenuous, supernatural claims.

    Theory #3 (which I really agree with personally).
    When you’re a member of the church, you already get to see the ugly sides of other denominations, who revile you for being part of what they think is a cult.

    So, if you leave the church, even if you come to accept that some of their depictions were true, you’re not going to want to join them because they *insulted* you. This is, I think, the worst failing of groups that want to scoop up exmormons. You can’t expect to bite a hand and then expect it to feed you.

    I think this fits in with the quality control/assurance metaphor like this. Companies that do quality control look inward, streamlining the product so it can be the best. So, what they may have is a product that, as long as you look at it from the company standpoint, is super awesome, but since the company is blinded to the needs of consumers (and perhaps it scoffs at the needs or wants of consumers), their product won’t succeed. For example, I think the Amazon Kindle is such a poor sale because of this. Amazon is very proud and sees nothing wrong with such a streamlined product, and in the process Amazon and co insult outside competitors like traditional books. The problem? People *like* those traditional books, so even if someone finds that carrying paperbacks and hardcovers is hasslesome, the Kindle is so far off of what makes books good in the first place, so people will be unresponsive.

    At least…I hope I got that right?

  3. Great Post Ray
    How I found Mormon Stories was every time I went back to the States (home) for a visit I would find through out the years more and more friends leave the church.
    I did a Google why they leave and found John Dehlins why they leave and what we can do to help them.
    I am really baffled how a Mormon can join another church after they might become disaffected with our church.
    Our Stand and understanding of how the church was started is on the whole is fairly well documented in Mark E Petersons WHICH CHURCH IS RIGHT I don’t think many religions or other faiths if they read this would dispute
    1.That Christ’s Church foundation was based on Apostle and Prophets
    2.That the Apostles received revelation
    3.They were persecuted/died and the last Apostle we hear of is John
    4.The Church drifted without direction
    5.Constantine the great a Sun Worshipper and political opportunist started the Catholic Church
    6.Reformers not happy with what they saw start new religions in protest ie Calvin, Lutheran, Wesley etc.

    I think teaching investigators the above has been a major tool for missionaries either the church needed to be restored back to the earth or God is incapable of doing it. Would he want us to sort through a thousand different Christian different religions to find the truth grabbing some truths from here some from there.

    The dilemma is when you have a rudimentary understanding of how all Christian church’s started and then become disaffected with our church what choices do you have = atheism or agnostic! Or look at the principles and values in our church and stay as a NOM or leave and be a Unitarian

  4. Have you ever read the essay “Jesus and I Broke Up?” by Owen Egerton? It was originally on the Killing the Buddha web site (which is no longer active). I couldn’t find it on KtB, but a google search yielded a copy on another blog. I was going to leave a quote or two that illustrated best the phenomenon of leaving and looking for something else, but I ended up with about five paragraphs. So I’ll just strongly recommend the whole essay.

  5. As a member of a Christian church and former Mormon I disagree that it is difficult for the majority to leave the LDS faith and join a Christian church. It really boils down to whether the bible can be believed, or the teachings of Joeseph Smith can be believed. They are drastically different and after an LDS person begins reading and studying the bible on their own free will, rather than under the banner of the LDS teachings, cross references, and LDS rabbit trails, many come to Christ.

    James… I agree that the last apostle/prophet we hear of is John. Hebrews 1:1-2 “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; There is no longer a need for modern prophets because in the last days we have THE SON.

    How can you say the church was corrupted when there are versus in the bible that say God’s word will stand forever? I have noticed that the LDS faith has a real hard time understand the words forever and everlasting. Refer to the following: 1 Peter 1:24-25 – For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.“… Isaiah 40:8 – The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Matthew 16:8 – And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    I do agree that those leaving the LDS church are skeptical of all faiths. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The bible says it is good to test things to see if they are true, it is more noble to study scriptures daily and make sure what we are being told is true, and it we should test all spirits against the bible because even Satan can take the form of a spirit. Blind faith is not a requirement of the bible. In fact testing the bible is encouraged, as is testing all sources of information.

  6. I think Andrew’s got it, though I’d add that often there’s overlap.

    As a convert, I was drawn to the church because of its differences, because of the doctrines I always believed to be true anyway. I don’t believe I could go back to a Protestant church (etc.) because I’ve fundamental issues with them. And I’m not a fan of the hands in the air, shoutin’ hallelujah bit either.

    So there’s that.

    Then there’s the sensitivities to joining another church and that bit of blind faith that is required in joining a new church. “Apostates” and those who are against LDS scream that we require so much blind faith, but it’s everywhere to some degree. Definitely not a decision to be made in haste, if at all for some. The idea of faith is like getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off (or it’s bucked you off).

    I don’t know if I agree with the insulted thing, though I won’t argue that some do feel the sting of the insults moreso than others. I didn’t grow up in the Church, so I don’t know for certain. We have to remember we’re just as bad about insulting other churches as well (we’re better these days, but not much).

    What struck me as I read this (ok, skimmed 🙂 entry is how much the Church is gravitating toward a more inclusive “we’re all Christians” role. I wondered if this is not just a missionary effort, but a retention effort as well. Who knows.

    I do have to take issue with James’ conclusion of people’s inability to circumvent the conception (of the institution) issue. When a person leaves, they probably know of the different versions of the First Vision, inconsistencies in doctrine, etc. and could very well figure “eh, we’re all a little imperfect in our knowledge” and move on to a different church which, while perhaps misguided on some things, doesn’t require 100% agreement with every doctrine it teaches.

    That said, I’d really like to know what the stats are as to what ex-members do with their spiritual lives once they leave. My guess is most become agnostic at best and athiest at worst…and the Church kind of forces that with their “all or nothing” view of being the ONLY true Church. Though we allow other churches to have some truth, if the one true church is concluded to be “false” why the hell even try pursuing another?

    My thoughts 🙂

  7. Lisa said,”As a convert, I was drawn to the church because of its differences, because of the doctrines I always believed to be true anyway. I don’t believe I could go back to a Protestant church (etc.) because I’ve fundamental issues with them. And I’m not a fan of the hands in the air, shoutin’ hallelujah bit either.”

    I don’t want to be accused of taking this thread from its original concept, but I would be very interested in hearing which doctrines drew you away from the protestant faith?

    BTW… I happen to like the hands in the air, shoutin’ praises to God… 🙂

  8. Joe: I never believed in the Trinity; it made no sense to me. I didn’t like the doctrine that if a person never hears of Christ they’re doomed to eternal fire and brimstone. Those are the major ones. There was also some youth group activities that bothered the absolute crap out of me which reinforced the “I can’t stand this” feeling (once we were all gathered in the chapel. two kids were chosen to be “angels” and they’d come and randomly take us into one of two rooms behind the chapel. The angels taking us = death and the two rooms represented heaven and hell. heaven had cookies. hell was a dark, hot closet)

    That’s the other thing: so much focus on hell and Satan. I swear once my pastor said Satan could be in the back of the chapel. I looked, no Satan. At my nephew’s “dedication” (blessing, basically), the pastor started talking to Satan in his prayer. It was pretty funny, actually. “Satan you’re a liar. LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!”

    No joke. My husband and I were giggling (this was the day after I received my endowments)

    So there’s that. I never did like the holy-roller concept, even though my dad’s church is mild compared to some.

  9. Why is it difficult for ex-Mormons to join another Christian denomination? In my opinion . . .

    1. If you’ve been taught your whole life that all other Christian denominations are incomplete and in some ways mistaken/misguided in their beliefs, it’s difficult to overcome that thoroughly reinforced bias. Thus, non-Christian religions like Buddhism may initially seem more attractive.

    2. If you left the Church because you stopped believing in “Mormon epistemology,” i.e., pray with a sincere heart and receive a burning in the bosom to confirm truth, you may not have yet found a replacement epistemology that you use to discern truth. As a result, you may feel rudderless and like a ship being tossed to and fro with no decisive criteria for truth discernment. Thus, a loss of faith in the Mormon epistemological approach is often accompanied by an inability to feel “certain” about anything anymore.

    3. If you left the Church because you scrutinized Mormon history and found room for serious doubts, you may have difficult joining another Christian denomination if you apply that same eye of scrutiny toward the Bible and the Christian creeds because there is definitely room to doubt there as well.

  10. The problem is also that the Mormon “product” is directly premised on the idea that the other commodities are inadequate and does a fairly thorough job of convincing people that the bog-standard “Christian commodity” is unacceptable. I’ve heard Evangelicals complain before that Mormonism does such a thorough job of undermining traditional Christianity that when Mormons lose faith in Mormonism, they really have nowhere to go except some brand of agnosticism.

  11. Why should they join a Christian denomination?

    You should start by explaining why you think they would or should do it before tackling the question of why they don’t.

    Personally, I have no more reason to join a Christian church than I have to, say, spend a few hours a day following all the soap operas or take up some other time-consuming activity that I wouldn’t find interesting or useful.

  12. CL: Because they still believe in the Christian God and in Christ. Some reject *everything*, but most still hold onto God and Christ. To let go of the Church doesn’t equal damnnation to disaffected members, but a rejection of Christ does. That’s really the thing, I think.

    And religion isn’t always terrible. It’s helpful, even beneficial in many ways. Many leave because they don’t like the strictness of the Church and its insistence that all accept every doctrine as pure. Other churches don’t focus so much on that – they have few core doctrines but you’re free to openly believe otherwise (generally). There are advantages and disadvantages to this, of course, but disaffected members probably find great freedom in it. And they still want some sort of spiritual foundation, a place to go to hear about God and Christ.

  13. When I was going through my brief crisis of faith a few months ago, I thought about this a LOT. Basically, my main question, paraphrasing Peter, was “Where am I to go now?” I voiced some of my concerns to a former Mormon (who now attends a Baptist church)and he said, “When people become disillusioned with the LDS Church, they find that their ‘truster’ has been broken, and they have a hard time believing that anybody else has ‘the truth'”. I think that’s a major factor. Another one may be that the LDS church is highly organized and regimented, and in some cases (depending on local leadership) micromanages the lives and thinking of members to such an extent that people who leave just want to be free from anything they perceive as restrictive or binding.

    And by the way, in case anybody asks, if I had left the Church I would very likely have joined myself with one of the modern, “emergent” Christian churches (along the lines of Liquid Church in New Jersey).

  14. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses.

    I didn’t get into the choices people make about worship when the leave the Church, but I suspect MANY of them end up attending non-denominational churches – where they can continue to worship Christ and Heavenly Father but where they don’t have to feel like they have accepted a particular denomination (with all the theological baggage of that denomination). I might be wrong on that one, as I haven’t seen any research, but it is very similar to those who lean toward Buddhism for its spirituality but don’t want denominational exclusivity.

    I have a hard time seeing people leaving the LDS Church and flocking to the Southern Baptist Convention – for exactly the “insult” reason Andrew S describes. It’s relatively easy for someone to accept that their loved ones are deluded; it’s MUCH harder to accept that their loved ones are headed to Hell – especially when Heaven and Hell are the only options available. That’s something many evangelicals just don’t get.

    James, the teaching of the apostasy really is a powerful concept, and I think nearly all Mormons who have been members for a number of years accept it to some degree or another. That also mitigates against passionate belief in another tradition that denies the apostasy – or denies its importance. Iow, I think even those Mormons who leave and join a traditional Protestant denomination rarely are passionate about that denomination compared to others – which, again, is why I think they gravitate to non-denominational congregations.

    Andrew A, very nice summary. I agree with all three of your points. The last one (about the difficulty of buying into historical inerrancy, if you will) is especially powerful. I am most befuddled by those people who scream about the abandoned speculation of previous Mormon leaders but accept an inerrant Bible. To me, it is the height of inconsistency, but I admit that probably is a product of my Mormon world-view and acceptance of theological and doctrinal evolution.

    Joe P, thank you (sincerely) for illustrating why it is hard for many Mormons to take ex-Mormons seriously. Telling Mormons that they haven’t “come to Christ” is about as effective a way to get categorized and ignored as I can imagine. It simply it too much of an incorrect insult in their eyes to be taken seriously.

  15. OK, I’m sorry to just ignore the meat of this article (the comparison between Mormonism and mainstream Christian denominations), but I’d just like to talk about the title alone.

    The title of this post appears to make two assumptions:
    1. That moving on to some other Christian denomination is such an obvious and natural path that failure to do so requires some sort of special explanation.
    2. Most exmos don’t move on to other Christian denominations.

    I would question both of these. I wish there were real statistical data on what people do after leaving Mormonism — I would be fascinated by it — but there’s not. So I’ll just tell you my (pure speculation) guesses:

    If we define “ex-Mormon” as “someone who was baptized Mormon but does not currently believe/practice Mormonism,” then my guess would be that the overwhelming majority of them do identify as Christian, and attend some non-Mormon-Christian congregation at least occasionally.

    Those that don’t? My guess is that for the most part it’s because they see no compelling reason to join a Christian denomination. Lisa says: “To let go of the Church doesn’t equal damnnation to disaffected members, but a rejection of Christ does.” Exactly — for some that is true. Those who believe that go on to join another Christian denomination. Those that don’t, don’t. No surprises there.

  16. CL: I suppose I forgot to qualify that statement with “For some to let go of the Church doesn’t equal damnnation, but rejecting Christ does”

    I imagine many people become agnostic in a sense that they still believe in God and Christ but don’t really know how it all works and don’t care to adhere themselves to anything which claims to have any clue. They hold to Voltaire’s assertion that “doubt is an unpleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

    I would love to have any stats. I might do some work on that – won’t be very scientific, but interesting nonetheless

  17. Post

    C.L., I’m going to edit the title to reflect the difference between “traditional” denominations and non-denominational Christian churches – since that distinction, I believe, fits into the premise of the post very well. “Non-denominational Christianity” fits better into the same camp as Mormonism than it does in the same camp as “denominational orthodoxy” – meaning it is more of quality assurance group than a quality control group. Non-denominational Christian churches don’t rely on established lines of denominational demarcation; rather, they teach much more of the “freedom from denominational restraint” concept that, in a way, is similar to Mormonism. Iow, an ex-Mormon can join a non-denominational church and hold to his testimony of Christ without embracing any particular “apostate” denomination that condemns her family members to Hell.

  18. Re 14: Lisa, the strictness of the church was always (even now) a plus factor for me. In fact, the lifestyle is a plus for me in general.

    It’s just spirituality in general is the minus factor for me (and a lot of the lifestyle decisions are intricately linked with spiritual justifications; I know…so that makes things hairier). So, if I can’t be representative of the ex population (LOL), then I would just agree with things that as Seth R said in 12 or as Andrew Ainsworth said in 11 — the church does an exceedingly good job at tearing down traditional Christianity (whether they intend this or not).

    so, let’s say there’s an exmember who leaves the church but still believes in Christ and God…well, when you cut away the particularly of the LDS religion, you really *aren’t* left with mainstream Christianity (and ESPECIALLY not evangelicalism, as I believe they’ve talked about many times on the evangelical/LDS LDS Talk blog). Things are so different (as you yourself mentioned some in 9) that you do effectively have to learn a new religion that has a very different focus. So in the end, I actually don’t feel so bad when other groups say that Mormons aren’t Christian, because despite the shared belief in Jesus Christ, we really don’t believe in a whole lot of the same things as mainstream Christians, and I think that is very much a good thing. Traditional or mainstream Christianity seems very…”harsh” and…almost uncaring when compared to LDS ideas about heaven, families, etc.,

    I would like to address some of Chanson’s comments in 13 and 17:

    I guess some of the reason that people assume that exmormons would join other Christian denominations is that assumption that their disagreements are primarily with the LDS additions. So, when people talk about their problems with some prophet’s words or with the BoM or PoGP or something like that, then you don’t really see a criticism of Christianity in general anywhere. So some might wonder: why not go to another Christian denomination. We don’t really talk about the idea that sometimes, it’s the spiritual focus in general that is what pushes people away (and I think if you can come to accept that that is a turn off for some, then it won’t be surprising that atheism or agnosticism is possible. Some members take spirituality as a given in their calculations though, so it doesn’t cross their minds that some people aren’t spiritual and don’t respond to spiritual incentives or motives [these incentives and motives are what back up faith]).

    But yeah, we do need to get a lock on what exactly is meant by ex-Mormon…because it’s true that we don’t even know how many are now traditional Christians, how many don’t believe anything, etc.,

  19. Exactly. In my (completely nonscietific) impressions from talking to lots and lots of exmos, I was surprised by all of the diverse reasons that eventually led to leaving the church. Some of these reasons are highly compatible with moving on to some other form of Christianity (eg. found Mormonism insufficiently Biblical or Christ-centered), others aren’t (eg. doubts about faith-based supernatural claims in general).

  20. If one has come to disbelieve the truth claims of Mormonism, which is based on accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the truth claims of Christianity, which are based on Jesus of Nazareth are even more suspect. Illiteracy, naivete, and magical thinking were widespread in the 19th c. and much greater at the beginning of the CE. Thus although it is easy to perpetrate a fraud now, e.g. Madoff, even with widespread literacy and access to the internet and othe rmedia, it was easier in the 19th c., and even easier in the 1st c.

  21. Getting back to the original analogy, which I really like, Ray, BTW, allow me to date myself a little. Before Windows came out, we all used DOS. The personal computer was so neat an idea, so exciting – no more typewriters, and the programming aspect was easy to fathom, the commands were somewhat straightforward once you knew them, etc. But then, Windows (and other operating systems) made it so much easier. Suddenly it was intuitive and made sense. You still had the same exact computer system, but now this was an application that made it easy for even the least technical minded person to understand how to use it and to access the programs that would make their life easier.

    That’s what Mormonism did for Christianity. And if you decide you don’t like Windows, what are you going to do? Go back to DOS? Stop using computers altogether? Or just complain about the difficulties you encounter with Windows?

    Not statistical or anything, but IME most who leave do one of the following:
    1 – become non-religious or agnostic
    2 – go to a non-denominational Christian church
    3 – go to something more universalist and transcendant like eastern religions, new age thought, UU, or the Oprah book club
    4 – stay LDS and complain on the b’nacle about what bugs them 😉

  22. Post

    Continuing the spirituality discussion, I have found in my very non-scientific observations that many who leave cite the Church’s lack of focus on spirituality. I think I will tackle that in a separate post, since I don’t place that responsibility on the Church – even though I think it teaches spirituality as a core level.

  23. Andrew: It’s a plus factor for a lot of people; it was among what drew me to the church as well. After a while, though, some tend to look at doctrines such as the Word of Wisdom and the intermarriage of culture and doctrine such as what is found in President Hinckleys piercings admonition (some consider this doctrine) and start to think perhaps it’s too strict, too nitpicky and the focus is skewed if not off entirely.

    I don’t mind either when other religions define us as non-Christian. I totally get it, which is why I take issue with our Church fighting so hard for the recognition. But that’s a different post.

    Agreed, though: “mainstream Christianity” does seem very harsh and I rejected it on a few grounds, much of what I mentioned above. I don’t think I could go back to that. I do love the Church for including all in the opportunity for salvation, but I think some leave because it is exclusive as well and they reject the notion that while “families CAN be together forever” most won’t be due to wayward members. And besides, what definition of family? Immediate, original (you, mom, dad, brother/sister) or extended?

    Loving this discussion.

    C. Biden: Agreed.

  24. For many, in my experiance, they don’t so much leave Mormonism as they leave a religious mind set in favor of the type of world view espoused in the ISO 9000 example cited. They come to prefer a world of objective reality and only adopt views that are provable. There is plenty of room for spirituality in such a view. It is just free of dogma.

    It works for business. It works for science. It seems to be how nature operates, and if nature is a product of God, it would seem to follow that is how God wants things.

  25. I don’t have any theories, but have enjoyed the post and the discussion.
    Personally, if I were to disavow Mormonism, I couldn’t become a mainstream Christian because:
    1. all I see from evangelical protestantism is Bible-worship, and I know enough about the Bible’s history to not worship it.
    2. all I see from Roman Catholicism is Mary-worship and a pile of ritual, and though I understand the role of ritual, there’s too much ‘cruft’ in it.
    3. all I see from charismatic denominations is theater, and I think a religion that *requires* street-theater has little else to offer anyone.
    4. all I see from old-fashioned protestantism is… very little. My few experiences with run of the mill Lutherans or Methodists is discussing the latest “Why Mormons are Bad” sermon, and “OMG I just saw the Godmakers in church!” I suppose my experience isn’t too deep in this area.

    There are others (the Eastern Orthodox varieties, other american restorationist churches) which might have to be considered, assuming my faith in Christianity remained intact. If it weren’t I’m not sure what I’d do. Animist shamanism, probably.

  26. I agree with you that most exLDS choose non-denominational Christian churches. I attend one, as do many other exMormons.

    As far as your comment on “coming to Christ” that is exactly what those leaving the LDS faith do (when the come to a non-denominational Christian faith). Its not about church anymore, its not about following the prophet, a pastor, a creed, etc. Its 100% Christ. I do consider that “coming to Christ” from Mormonism. When we have following Christ with our whole heart as an option why would we mess around with anything else?

  27. The above comment should have been directed to Ray… Sorry about that… Too much coffee running through my veins right now… 🙂

  28. Post

    and, Joe, that is what I meant in my comment. To tell most members that you have “come to Christ” more than they have simply because they remain members of the LDS Church just doesn’t ring true for them.

    I can understand and appreciate that YOU have come closer to Christ than you were before, but to turn around and claim that WE are further from Christ just doesn’t resonate – especially when we can turn around and claim that you have drifted further from the Father. and on and on and on it goes.

    That’s the main reason why I prefer to leave it up to the individuals involved and not try to make value judgments about others.

  29. I’m much like N.

    I won’t become an evangelical Protestant because of their Biblical literalism (for a start). They believe too many things that are too obviously untrue.
    I won’t become a Catholic because, although today it’s a nice church full of nice people, the Catholic Church’s history to me precludes the possibility that it could be God’s church.
    I won’t become a mainline Protestant because they don’t seem to change people’s lives anyway.
    I won’t become a Calvinist because I think Calvin’s God is evil.
    I won’t become a Unitarian because what would be the point?

  30. Joe P.

    I am curious what you mean when you say “coming to Christ” and how you feel being LDS interferes with that process? Enlighten me….thanks!

  31. Post

    Jen, I can’t speak for Joe, but most people with whom I’ve talked over the decades who make that claim talk about the need to have a DIRECT relationship with Christ – not one “filtered” through prophets and tradition and buttressed by doctrines of institutionalism. They see a no-intermediary relationship as more “personal” and, therefore, more “pure”. That’s the same message I get from Joe’s comment, and it’s why I believe most ex-Mormons who have spent at least a few years in the Church end up in non-denominational congregations.

    I appreciate that stance (truly), but it simply is too anti-Biblical for me, ironically. Jesus taught that He was the Way, the Truth and the Light – in bringing people to His Father. He preached an intermediary Gospel, and, if the New Testament is to be believed, He established an intermediary church structure with prophets and apostles as the leaders or guides in the journey to the Father through the Christ. I just can’t see the wisdom of eliminating everything He appears to have established in favor of something it appears He never advocated.

    Joe, that might or might not be your view. It simply is what I have heard from others who have said similar things to me.

  32. re 31:

    I can pretty much agree with all of these. Especially the unitarian one. I know I’m probably going to be burning bridges with a lot of UU ex-mormon friends I know, but I think that that couldn’t be for me precisely because it’s so open. I can read stuff about all religions and be so accepting without setting foot in a church that preaches those things.

    This is kinda my same impression of liberal mainline denominations of Christianity. Some good ideas, but the niceness factor sometimes seems to make people wishy-washy.

    re 26:

    I also agree with this one. but, in my opinion, the idea of “spirituality” is already so tainted by dogma that its useless (not for everyone, just for me) to say it is compatible. So, when people are “spiritualist” but not “religious,” I wonder if they just weren’t burned by some organized religion and that’s the reason why. It also goes back into why I wouldn’t be UU or liberal Christian or whatever…it’s like a way to escape the dogma and strictness, and in the end, it misses the essential point of why you’d want to follow religion (or at least, how I perceive it) anyway. I don’t reject that people genuinely feel something with faith/spirituality/etc., but I simply think that whatever it is, it’s natural and not well understood, instead of intrinsically supernatural as some religions success.

  33. Thanks Ray for helping me to understand better what Joe may have meant (if you feel differently Joe please let me know). As I have thought about the life of a sibling of mine who has hostile feelings towards the LDS church, I have considered that at least some ex-mormons may end up in non-denominational congregations because they are wanting to find acceptance and they are able to find it there. Acceptance is a fundamental need and desire for humans and when they cannot find it in a Christian setting such as the LDS faith, then they may leave because it is too painful to deal with on a continual basis. There is a lot of “checking up” done on one another in the LDS faith (home teaching, visiting teaching, bishop’s interviews, temple recommend interviews, etc.) and if you are a member long enough you come to expect others to be checking up on you on a regular basis. I think at least for some who choose to leave the church it can be somewhat related to all the checking up that is being done because it is uncomfortable and even annoying at times. They may feel that they are not accepted by those who are coming to visit them in one way or another. Finding a church that isn’t constantly watching your back and just accepts you where you are at can be very appealing to a person.

    In my opinion, things are set up in the LDS faith with the intention to lead us to Christ. Having a prophet has not affected my ability to have a personal relationship with Christ, but has actually enhanced it, because when the prophet speaks it gives me something to take to the Lord and discuss with Him. For whatever reason a person may leave the LDS faith, assuming they have been actively involved for a time, it seems they would go through feelings of loss for a time, even if they are offended or leave very angry. This could lead them to go to the non-denominational route as well to avoid being reminded of their past relationship with the LDS church. Just some thoughts.

  34. This is a little twist on the scenario. In Georgia, I met a minister who had:

    1. been a minister
    2. joined the church
    3. had a deeply spiritual experience in the temple, confirming his testimony
    4. cheated on his wife and was excommunicated
    5. returned to the protestant church as a minister where he had work experience, continued to teach LDS doctrine disguised using protestant language

  35. Ray, without reading any of the preceding comments, I must congratulate you on the excellent way this article was written. An example of a type 1 religion is protestant. Type 2 would be Seventh-day Adventist. Adventists focus on the differences, namely, that they believe the sabbath day is on Saturday.

    If I could venture my opinion as to why ex-Mormons, such as myself, do not join other Christian churches, it is simply this: As we investigate the history of Mormonism with a critical eye, we have to uphold the same standard for Christianity in general. To do any less would be hypocritical. Mormonism has many bold claims. Christianity, as well, has many bold claims. Most of these claims enter the realm of the supernatural, which suggests to a rational minded person that they are false. It’s like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. What’s the point of leaving one set of organized superstition just to join another one?

    That’s the view from at least one ex-Mormon.

  36. Post

    “Most of these claims enter the realm of the supernatural, which suggests to a rational minded person that they are false.”

    That certainly does encapsulate one common reaction. Thanks for that additional insight, M411.

  37. Ok, I’ve realized that the question isn’t so much “Why do exmos leave Christianity entirely?” but rather “Why don’t the Christian ones pick a specific denomination?” (Sorry, I usually red more carefully before commenting…)

    Your anaylsis of the styles of the different religions is interesting, but there may also be some simpler factors. If you’ve left Mormonism but still believe in Jesus, saying “and I believe that the doctrines of the Baptists are right” (identifying with a specific alternate Christian tradition), is one more step. Not everyone takes the first step (leaving the LDS church), and of those that do, not all of them will take another step on top of that. As N explains in #27, many people don’t see the choices for that additional step as particularly enticing.

    Additionally, if people here know of specific (non-denominational Christian) congregations that have lots of exmos, then there may be social factors (eg. particular congregations in highly Mormon areas may do deliberate outreach to disaffected Mormons).

    And just throwing out one more data point for you: my exmo dad attends a Presbyterian church, but just identifies as Christian, not specifically as Presbyterian.

  38. Post

    C.L., I would be fascinated to see if there are congregations that not only cater to ex-members but actually are made up largely of ex-members – or, at least, have congregations where a significantly high percentage or the congregation used to be Mormon. It would be interesting to see if that alters in any way the things that are taught and the organizational structure – the “practical” aspects of the church.

    Anyone out there know of anything like this?

  39. Sorry, I thought someone here said something about that. I’ve heard exmos mention various Christian churches in the Mormon corridor that have a lot of exmos as members, but I really don’t know anything specific about it.

    Regarding exmos that don’t choose Christianity, I think C. Biden hit in on the nose in #22. I wrote about exactly this point a while ago: “If the church weren’t true, I’d be an atheist” and other things I learned in seminary…..

  40. I don’t know much about exmormons “flooding” another denomination and remolding the practical aspects of a church, but I have heard of an idea (that I don’t know if it pans out).

    I’ve known several people who have said, “If the mormon church isn’t right, then there was no apostasy and the Catholics/Orthodox are correct,” and these people, if they have left, have usually joined the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox or some kind of church like that. There are sayings, of course like, “Catholics make the best Mormons” (and the opposite: Mormons make the best Catholics.)

    So I wonder…of the exmormons (who are still “Christian”), if some do pick another denomination…is Catholicism/Orthodoxy represented well?

  41. “If the mormon church isn’t right, then there was no apostasy and the Catholics/Orthodox are correct,”

    I’ve heard that too. There’s a certain logic to it — if you believe that Jesus gave Peter the authority to start the church, then why not go with a church that traces its own authority back to Peter?

    Of course, there’s a huge variety in which beliefs get rejected and which get retained when someone leaves Mormonism. For example, there’s one guy in Outer Blogness (sorry I can’t find his current blog), who determined that he still believed in the O.T. patriarchs — but not in the divinity of Jesus — and hence converted to Judaism. Hey, why not? I think that part of the reason people assume that switching to protestant Christianity should be the default path is just because it’s so common in the U.S. (I would guess that most exmos in Catholic countries become Catholics).

    Most American protestants seem to take it for granted that all authority to understand/worship Jesus comes from the Bible alone. But really, that is itself a belief (a doctrine) — one that’s not obvious, and one which many Christians don’t accept (see N’s comment #27).

  42. This is an interesting topic, but I would like to know if we have any hard data on where people who leave the church go. I don’t think we can really dig very deep if what we have is largely anecdotal.

  43. Who a person goes to church with has more to do with what they feel when they’re there. The problem then becomes one of isolation for a person who’s lost faith. You feel less and less in common with the believers around you and finally those social ties aren’t enough. Joining another church is problematic because faith in general has suffered and the prospect of joining another community can be pretty daunting. Loyalty to something you don’t believe can be pretty strong sometimes. I could see people being drawn to churches with ritual and liturgy. You could go and worship and then leave and not feel the need to join in with everyone there. It’s too bad because a church is just decent people trying to work together for a common good and can use all the help it can get.

  44. Re 44: I actually think I remember seeing a highly unscientific poll and probably not very representative or useful at all about the attitudes of exmormons. I mean, I don’t really think it’s much better than anecdote, but here: http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/16415/results

    I understand there’s been a more scientific study done about it, but I don’t have a link…wikipedia has referenced it, so I guess if somehow you can find that study and see if it has the information you seek, power to you!

    Albrecht, S.L. & Bahr, H.M. (1983). Patterns of Religious Disaffiliation: A Study of Lifelong Mormons, Mormon Converts & Former Mormons. Journal of Scientific Study of Religion 22 D. pp. 366-379.

  45. RE: #45 GBSmith

    I think you hit it right on the head. Having been raised Irish Catholic and coverted to the Church at age 19, I found comfort in returning to the Catholic Church when I got excommunicated. I did not have to deal with the “social” aspects of Church and instead could concentrate on worshipping the Lord directly through the Mass. When it was finished, I got in my car and went home. I did not have to constantly explain myself to people.

    When I decided to return to the LDS Church, the hardest part was the intrusive nature of the social networking. You are just forced into it no matter how hard you try not to be. The sad part is that you know that the ward members don’t give a real darn about you, especially when you are single and don’t fit the traditional mold. Yet you are still forced to deal with them in your social life.

    RE: #42 and #43

    I think that Catholics do make better Temple Mormons that do Protestants or even life-long BIC members. Upon my conversion, I found the casualness and unstructured nature of the Sacrament meeting to be a difficult thing to handle. Especially the lack of reverence and the lack of focus on Christ.

    When I went to the Temple and experienced the Initiatories and Endowment Ceremony, I really found my peace and comfort. It is just like Mass, I can go and worship the Lord in a Christ-centered ceremony without all the social fluff and intrusiveness.

    And I would also agree that Catholics find it easier to return to Catholicism after leaving the Church because it carries more intellectual weight and its doctrines (while not always logical) are much deeper and more biblically based than Protestant denominations. I do believe that Protestant denominations are very shallow in their intellectual offerings. Most of them emphasize one or two unique doctrines to the exclusion of the weightier matters of mortality.

  46. When it comes down to it, I think there are as many destinations for exmos as there are reasons for leaving. Look at how many former members decide to form or join polygamous sects because they felt Wilford Woodruff sold out. And how many decide to join the Community of Christ because it’s basically a more liberal form of Mormonism (or at least it was before they decided to suck up to Evangelicals).

    I’ve known a few that have joined mainstream Christian churches. I remember reading blog postings from several people who decided to attend the United Church of Christ while the whole Prop 8 thing was raging, and are having a hard time coming back now. I’ve heard of lots of people becoming Buddist and converting to Judaism. Although I don’t think it’s very common in western countries, I don’t doubt that some exmos have converted to Islam and probably think our concept of modesty is completely out of whack.

    I even know of one instance of an exmo who became a full-fledged Satanist. He made the news after he murdered a seminary instructor in Davis county several years ago.

  47. Jen…

    Hopefully this will be as inoffensive to members of the LDS faith as possible. I agree with Ray that I should focus more on my experiences and my testimony rather than assume what other people believe, or attempt to know their heart. I repent of the fact that my comments often contain way too many “daggers” to be loving or even the least bit effective in showing my faith to Mormons.

    For me I saw many things in the LDS church I didn’t approve of. Many very very bad things, and many things that seem good on the outset but ultimately lead people away from studying loving and learning about Christ. The “works” of the LDS faith always led me further from Jesus and away from what I now consider true faith. The entire focus of the LDS faith is “works” based. You mentioned particularly home teaching, visiting teaching, bishop’s interviews, temple recommend interviews, etc. In my personal experience these things are exactly what lead me away from Christ. Those things forced me to attempt to follow a church establishment (one that I now believe strongly is false) rather than actually giving my entire heart to God and following him entirely with total surrender. For me all of the things required by the LDS faith led me further from reading the bible, helping others (with genuine love), and making my family come first.

    So for me “coming to Christ” is throwing off all of the chains of religeosity. It is knowing that I am forgiven and its not about what I do, but what Christ did for me. Knowing what he did for me, and knowing that I will someday see him in heaven, not by what I do, but what he did makes me love Jesus with all my heart soul and mind. If I was forced to love a church or follow a church I know at this point in my life I would have to sacrifice my deep felt love for Jesus.

    I could go into a lot of theological differences, and again resort to a few “daggers”. But, I know that I am nothing compared to the magesty of God, and only God can judge the hearts of men. I also know that theological arguments are rarely effective.

    This week I’ve spent over three hours each day in personal study of the bible and the more I study the bible the more I love Jesus. If I were out home teaching, or having a bishops interview, I would never get what I’m getting now.

    Thats what I meant by “Coming to Christ”. Its throwing everything away. I MEAN EVERYTHING, including religion. Loving and following Christ alone, including praying, worshipping and praising him continually. To him be all the glory… No pastor, prophet, church, denomination, creed, etc..

  48. Joe,

    With all due respect, it sounds like you just want the advantages of the Atonement without any of the work of actually Building the Kingdom. Gospel study combined with recognizing the Saviour’s Infinite Atonement are great but He also calls us to the work of building. Could it be your “throwing off the chains of religiosity” just be a cover for shirking your duty to help others come unto Christ?

    Just my thoughts.

  49. #47 – “The sad part is that you know that the ward members don’t give a real darn about you.”

    I’ve never been in a ward or branch where that is true, and I am sure it isn’t an accurate description of the vast majority of wards and branches in the world. There might be all kinds of issues involved, but “don’t a real darn about you” just isn’t reality in most units of the Church.

  50. Thanks Joe P. for sharing your experiences and feelings. As I think about it from your point of view I can understand where you are coming from and I am glad that you have found what works for you and brings you closer to Christ.

    In the experience I have had growing up in the LDS faith, I too saw things that I didn’t like, and they were very close to home. Because of this it stifled my faith in God. It wasn’t until I got older and pursued the Lord with intensity that I found Him and His love. I have come to appreciate the things we are asked to do in the LDS church through a different perspective. I like the “works” side of things because it tests my patience, my endurance, and allows me to self-evaluate from time to time to see what it is I really desire. As I think of Christ and His life, He spent a lot of time with others and doing things for others. He eventually did what ultimately He would have preferred not to, but because it was His Father’s will, it became His and He accepted it. I feel like doing things that I don’t necessarily want to do gives me more patience, more understanding and more compassion. I do have to allow that to happen and desire it as well obviously, but I guess you could say I like the expectations because I feel like it gives me opportunity to be like the Savior.

    I know that I have found in my life that the hardest things to do are the best for me and my growth. For me, being asked to visit teach and serve keeps me from becoming to focused on myself and allows me the “hands on” experience of becoming a better person. I think about throwing all that away as you have stated and I can’t see doing that without an important part of my necessary growth (that I desire) being stunted. To me “Coming to Christ” is getting your hands dirty and not necessarily enjoying it, but growing from it and discovering in the process that you are more like Him and you are closer to Him because of it.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  51. Shawn… Do you know me? Have you seen what I do? I’d rather not get into the things I do. Its not about what I do. That is my point. The focus shouldn’t be upon me, or my works. Lets focus on Jesus. 🙂

  52. Sorry Joe. I was not trying to offend. I was just trying to reconcile your contradictory statements. But it sounds as if you don’t see them as contradictory so there would be no use trying to talk. We would just be talking past each other.

  53. #49 – Joe P, with all due respect (and I mean that seriously), I believe that’s not how Jesus himself lived or what He taught. It’s really not about Him at the most basic level; it’s about the lost and suffering and marginalized and poor and afflicted and sick. It’s about building the kingdom of nobodies He died trying to build.

    We have NO record of 30 years of study and His personal life. We have a record of 3 years of service and active love and ministering and giving up His own life for others. We see Him blessing and teaching and uplifting and healing and eating and drinking and socializing and fully living. We have some record of His sermons, but, interestingly, we have a MUCH more extensive record of His deeds – His works, if you will.

    I blog too much not to be slightly hypocritically in what I am about to say, but spending three hours per day buried in a book (even the Bible or the Book of Mormon) is NOT emulating the life Jesus actually lived and modeled and commanded us to follow. “Studying Him” isn’t necessarily “following Him” – or even “coming unto Him”. He didn’t say, “Come follow me” from the comfort of a den or a chapel; He said it from the dusty roads and at the water’s edge and on the hilltop – as he moved from place to place in His effort to relieve the suffering and sick and abandoned and neglected and despised.

    Please understand, I’m only reacting to what you said and am, to a degree, being a hypocrite. I simply can’t accept, however, that Jesus would appear to us in our own day and age and extol hours of study and intense focus on pursuing an intellectual or even spiritual understanding of Him as being better than proper Home and Visiting Teaching and service in the community and giving blessings to the sick and participating in communal worship and all of the other “fruits” that you brush aside and reject as “works”.

    This might be a bit presumptuous, so please pardon me, but I think He would respond, “He that seeketh his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Please don’t dismiss as shallow those who, in some small way, lose some of their own lives in the process of performing the “works” you decry. Perhaps they simply are trying to emulate the life of the One they worship and adore as their Lord.

    Monks are the epitome of what you are describing, but they are the ANTITHESIS of who Jesus actually was while He walked His piece of the vineyard.

  54. RE: #47

    Ray, try living as an openly gay man living the law of celibacy in your ward and remaining active. Your perspective may be different.

  55. Post

    Yeah, Shawn, there is that. It changes the whole picture, unfortunately. There shouldn’t be any difference, especially for a celibate homosexual member, but too many members still don’t get it when it comes to homosexuality.

    I’d love to have you in our ward. I guarantee your experience would be different. I know that’s small comfort, but if you ever move to the greater Cincinnati area, let me know. I’ll make sure to find a house for you within our ward boundaries.

  56. I’m not about to extole all of the “works” I do. I’m not going to make a list of my study time versus my time helping people, or expanding God’s kingdom.


    How many homeless people have you taken in? How many men have you helped release their addiction to pornography, drugs, etc.? How many drug addicts have you approached and helped on the street? How many prostitutes have you witnessed Jesus Christ to? How many alcoholic men have you spoken to in a bar and lead to Christ? How many homeless people have you given money to help them on their way? Those are the type of “works” Jesus would do. Not baptism for the dead, home teaching, bishop interviews, endowments, playing church ball, boy scouts, gossip about other members, etc. The “works” of mormonism are not the “works” of Jesus Christ. That is my point. Those works lead people away from Christ not to him.

    I’m not a monk. I’m far from perfect. I definately don’t do everything I could for the kingdom of God. But, I really feel like I’m under attack here. While you and Shawn have no idea of the things I do. You remind me of the judgements, finger pointing, and hypocrasy that made me leave the LDS faith in the first place.

  57. Joe, that last paragraph was totally unnecessary – absolutely and completely unnecessary. As I said in my comment, all I have to go on are words on a page, and I admitted quite openly that I was talking of an ideal I’m not living fully. There is a bitterness in your second to last paragraph that is palpable, and you lump all kinds of things into “works” that no Mormon in their right mind would include.

    As to your question about my activities, I do FAR more of those things than you seem to believe. I walked away from an elite education and the whole world of possibilities to be a teacher, and since leaving the classroom I have dedicated most of my professional life to raising literacy rates and improving the lives of the most underprivileged segments of our society. I’ve crossed inner-city gang lines and done things that I don’t mention to my wife. My house is called “The Hotel” by our kids’ friends for a reason. I could go on, but I also don’t think my “works” save me.

    I do believe, however, that fruit that is produced by a connection to the vine is different than “dead works” – and I believe that faith without **that type of works** is dead, being alone. Based on your last comment, you seem to agree with me; you just decry certain “activities” that you think we classify as “works”. I disagree that they are works, and I don’t know of ANYONE who would classify them as such. (church ball, scouts, bishop interviews, gossip [as works? Come on; that is beneath you.]) I see them as nothing more than social activities, and so do 99% of the LDS members I know. Social activities are important in building familial love and community, but they can be and are over-emphasized by many – inside and outside the LDS Church.

    Again, I return to what I have said in other comments. You are back to blasting incorrect stereotypes, and that undermines your message. The things you recite in your comment are not at all what I addressed in mine. That’s important. I read your comment carefully and tried to respond to the actual words you chose; frankly, you didn’t respond to the actual words I used in my comment.

    All I’m asking is that we be able to talk civilly and openly, without resorting to broadside attacks that don’t reflect what we each write. I think if you slow down and read my last comment again, you will see that I added all kinds of disclaimers to try to show that I was not condemning or judging you – but merely responding to the words you used. I also think you will see that I was speaking of EXACTLY the types of service you asked me about, which, again, shows we probably agree on the basic, fundamental points we are making. I simply think HT and VT and temple work are legitimate forms of godly fruits, as well. On that, I hope we simply can agree to disagree.

  58. Joe,

    This is not personally directed against you. It is discussion of your statements about faith versus works. Your post in #49 lamblasted the “religiosity” of Latter-day Saint works (home teaching, visiting teaching, Temple work, etc.). You stated that you came unto Christ only be dropping those things and concentrating solely on worshipping the Lord and studying His gospel.

    We deduce from your post that you believe works are useless and that building the Kingdom of God is not part of the gospel. Therefore, we are asking you to reconcile that with what the Saviour taught us in the Scriptures and through His example while on the earth.

    We have said nothing about your personal works or sacrifices. We are keeping at the level of your claims that we do not need to worry about works or about building the Kingdom.

    Why are you taking this personally?

  59. Joe P.
    I have personally experienced false judgments and gossip concerning me from members of my faith. It has tested my beliefs to the core and I have on several occasions considered walking away from it all. When I was going through all this I relied on the Lord and I have continued to do so. He has sustained me through it all. I understand very well the feelings attached to being judged and they can be intense, especially when the judgments are not based on truth.

    I am sorry that you experienced this to the degree that you walked away from the LDS faith, I really am. I have had to come to accept that for me it is all about the Savior and as I have had to let go of what others think and say, it has actually made me a much stronger person. I only care about what the Lord thinks now and I like it. I try to always give others the benefit of the doubt and although I am far from perfect, I try to emulate the love that the Savior has for all of us.

    We each, individually, have to decide what Christ means to us and how we will express that in our lives. For me when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the most important aspect of coming unto to Christ is seeking to have the heart and mind of Christ. He is merciful, kind and loving. Hopefully, knowing this will help all of us to rise above our differences and accept one another from where we are at.

  60. Ray,

    Just because you precede a comment with as you said, “disclaimers to try to show that I was not condemning or judging you”, doesn’t make the judging less effective. I honestly believe you are a good, loving, caring person, but your comments often lead me in a direction I don’t want to go…

    Shawn your deductions are false. I’m tired of having words put in my mouth.

    I’m done for now.

  61. My guess is most become agnostic at best and athiest at worst…and the Church kind of forces that with their “all or nothing” view of being the ONLY true Church. Though we allow other churches to have some truth, if the one true church is concluded to be “false” why the hell even try pursuing another?

    Bingo! LDS-ism places an enormous amount of emphasis on having “THE TRUTH,” and I believe this fundamentally impacts anyone who’s been LDS for any significant period of time. By the time I determined that LDS-ism doesn’t live up to it’s advertising as “the one and only true church on the face of the earth,” I had long since ruled out other versions of christianity as unacceptable fictions, due to the fundamental problems I saw in their reasoning and beliefs. Ergo, I certainly wasn’t going to go chasing after a church that I’d long determined was less “true” than the LDS church.

    If you left the Church because you scrutinized Mormon history and found room for serious doubts, you may have difficult joining another Christian denomination if you apply that same eye of scrutiny toward the Bible and the Christian creeds because there is definitely room to doubt there as well.

    Exactly! The historical claims of christianity at large are at least as questionable as any issues in Mormon history. At least we know a person by the name of Joseph Smith Jr. definitely existed!

    Thus, non-Christian religions like Buddhism may initially seem more attractive.

    Actually, Buddhism is not a religion. Buddhism is a philosophy, and is technically atheistic (at least in the sense of any individual, personified deity). That said, I agree that Buddhism is a very attractive alternative. I know it’s the closest thing I’ve found to a truly useful “spiritual” discipline at this point.

  62. Joe, all I can do is apologize. You obviously are deeply hurt and bitter. You keep mentioning “bishop interviews” in your list of “works” – so I am left to infer that you were involved in some painful discussions with a bishop prior to leaving the Church. I can’t change anything from the past; as Shawn said, all I have is the words on these pages – and the words you used led me to believe you rejected all “works” as devoid of meaning.

    Obviously, that is not the case. I am sorry for reading it the way I did – and I am doubly sorry that somehow my comments have brought you pain and led you to places you don’t want to go. They certainly weren’t meant to do so.

  63. Kudos to Ray.

    When my friends invite me to come to their church for short visits, I have no problem visiting. But to change my allegiance to anything else, I just couldn’t imagine.

  64. Nick,
    Is LDS-ism some new bloggernacle convention, or is it a personal convention of yours?
    Are you trying to avoid calling it Mormonism, or is there some other reason?

  65. NOYDBM, Using “LDS-ism” is Nick’s way of articulating his view of the Church’s apostate condition – that it no longer is the church established by Joseph Smith and based on the concepts of the early Restoration (“Mormonism”) but rather a corporation run by brand managers (“LDS-ism”). It’s his way of thumbing his nose at us in a softened, subtle way.

    How’s that, Nick, for a concise summary? 🙂

  66. That’s a little harsh, Ray. 🙂 I consider “Mormonism” to be the religion taught by Joseph Smith. A few hundred competing faiths claim to teach that religion, the largest of which happens to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While that denomination has gone so far as to have “Mormon” as a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., my own study and experience convinces me that the religion currently taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is distinct from the religion taught by Joseph Smith, to the point that I distinguish it as “LDS-ism.”

    In that vein, it might be wise to consider that members of other faiths claiming descent from the teachings of Joseph Smith do participate here. If our language implicitly defines “Mormonism” as the religion currently taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we exclude these friends in a rather disrespectful manner. It’s quite similar to the obsession some LDS members have with being called “christian.” If LDS members object to being classified outside of “christianity,” they should at least be sensitive to the feelings of other Restorationist churches, who feel equally entitled to the terms, “Mormon” and “Mormonism.”

  67. Re: 27.

    Nice list of cartoonish stereotypes you have there. One would think that as often as I hear LDS lament that people stereotype their beliefs, they would try to avoid doing it to others. For the record, Catholcs aren’t “Mary-worshippers” any more than the LDS are “Joseph Smith-worshippers.”

  68. Post

    Well said, Nick. I really don’t like restricting Mormonism to our own church while insisting others accept us under the Christian umbrella. If others accept the Book of Mormon as divinely inspired scripture (however that manifests itself in individual circumstances), far be it from me to not let them be called “Mormon” – especially since we spent so many years trying to shed that nickname.

    I knew you’d fill in the details and simply couldn’t resist teasing you a bit.

  69. Post
  70. “#47 – “The sad part is that you know that the ward members don’t give a real darn about you.”

    I’ve never been in a ward or branch where that is true, and I am sure it isn’t an accurate description of the vast majority of wards and branches in the world. There might be all kinds of issues involved, but “don’t a real darn about you” just isn’t reality in most units of the Church.”

    I’ve never been in an American ward where that wasn’t essentially the case for me and my family. I have mostly experienced ward members “giving a darn” about us only in the more or less abstract sense that people “give a darn” about anyone. But being loved by “the ward members” as individual human beings? That’s pretty much outside our experience.

  71. Nick: “In that vein, it might be wise to consider that members of other faiths claiming descent from the teachings of Joseph Smith do participate here.” I totally agree with you on this point. I have been mulling over doing a post called “Cousins in Mormonism” about the various sects within the Mormon tradition, but I just haven’t gotten to it. Would you like to take a crack at it?

  72. Re 47, 76, etc.,:

    I guess I’m just throwing more anecdotal experience that doesn’t really mean much in here, but I can also say that as far as genuine care, I’ve not gotten that. I’ve gotten people who want to come to my house so they can see my house (but mine’s always more spotless than theirs, so I guess they feel bad afterward).

    I know that some people have camaraderie in the same ward…because whenever those people need to move stuff around, they can get a full suite of members ready to volunteer. I’ve never had so much luck.

    But PERSONALLY, this is really devil’s advocacy, because I really don’t mind if people leave me alone. If I can slip in and out unnoticed, that really is ideal.

  73. #79 – “I really don’t mind if people leave me alone. If I can slip in and out unnoticed, that really is ideal.”

    which probably explains it, Andrew. **huge, friendly grin**

  74. definitely.

    I always feel awkward advocating for more people-centric, service-centric, and fellowshipping-centric church activities because I know that all of that stuff would not pull me in. I’ve already got *one* family and I try to get away from them for semesters at a time :D.

  75. I understand there’s been a more scientific study done about it, but I don’t have a link…wikipedia has referenced it, so I guess if somehow you can find that study and see if it has the information you seek, power to you!

    Albrecht, S.L. & Bahr, H.M. (1983). Patterns of Religious Disaffiliation: A Study of Lifelong Mormons, Mormon Converts & Former Mormons. Journal of Scientific Study of Religion 22 D. pp. 366-379.

    Actually, ProfXM talked about this study a bit in a comment on Main Street Plaza:

    In that article they note that: 42% of former Mormons were drop-outs (meaning they left religion altogether); 58% were switchers (joined a different religion). Of those, 38% of the switchers became Catholics. The rest of the switchers ended up in an array of Protestant denominations.

    He notes, however, that the study is a little dated. Our culture has changed rapidly enough that people’s paths and reasons for leaving Mormonism today may be very different from those of the people who left thirty years ago.

  76. Pingback: Where would you go? at Mormon Matters

  77. Pingback: The church: not spiritual enough? | Main Street Plaza

  78. “I consider “Mormonism” to be the religion taught by Joseph Smith. …my own study and experience convinces me that the religion currently taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is distinct from the religion taught by Joseph Smith, to the point that I distinguish it as “LDS-ism.” ”

    This is an argument Nick and I have had over a long period of time. To be sure, Nick considers many parts of the Book of Mormon’s teachings to be “LDS-ism” and not part of the religion of Joseph Smith and thus not part of “Mormonism”. I would assume most people would disagree with this analysis or at least find it very arbitrary.

    Many ex-Mormons have a narrative where Joseph Smith started out as a pretty standard Christian and then eventually radically changed into something unique and discarded past teachings. I can appreciate this narrative, but it’s ultimately it’s an unbelieving narrative.

    On the other side of this is that if you are a believing Mormon you really have no choice but to build a narrative where all that Joseph Smith taught is fit into a worldview, presumably based on a line-upon-line concept of more being explained over time with previous teachings being approximations until ready for more. Even Joseph had to do this, of course, lest he undermined his own authority.

    My disagreement with Nick, then, is that Joseph Smith never was a believer in “the religion of Joseph Smith” as Nick defines it. Indeed, such a belief in the existence of such a religion is only possible to an ex-Mormon willing to build the unbelieving narrative already mentioned. Thus, as Nick defines “Mormonism” it never existed at all and no one ever believed in it.

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