Most active Mormon friends and family tell me they are annoyed & some even say they are offended because, though I have left the Church, I don’t seem to be able to leave the Church alone. They say things like, “Now that you’ve left the Church why can’t you just live your life and leave us in peace to believe what we want without asking questions or making comments on Facebook etc.”
They don’t attempt to engage with me or discuss any questions or concerns I have. Just tell me to “shut up” or “go away!”
I understand this attitude because I was at one time one of them.
I can now see things from the other side.
In this post I have tried to consider the reasons for many ex-Mormons to continue to take an interest in their previous faith. These are insights I gained whilst discussing these issues with my ex-Mormon friends including Mary Vogwell & Judith Elizabeth: –
When someone has grown up in the Church & spent decades living the precepts & standards of the Church it isn’t easy to just walk away & forget it.
When all the major decisions in one’s life have been made around the Church’s teachings, when who you are as a person is intimately connected with the Church, it is very difficult to tear oneself away & ignore one’s past.
I have found it very difficult to ‘just stop thinking about it’, as if by flicking a switch I can suddenly become a non-Mormon with no references to Mormonism in my life.
No-one can understand the emotional existential crisis that this crisis of faith causes unless they have experienced it themselves.
It’s almost impossible to stop caring about the faith of one’s whole life upto that point in time.
It would be like asking someone to forget their past & stop thinking about their own personal memories of childhood & growing up. To ask someone to completely distance themselves from the experiences which made them who they are and just focus on who they are now!
Often those who cared the most about the Church when they were members, find it the most difficult to leave & have attachments to the people they love & care about, as well as attachments to the Church they used to love more than life itself & more than they loved their own families. It was the Church which gave life & families context, & gave them their purpose for life.
Having sacrificed a huge amount financially, and given the majority of their spare time in hours of faithful service, leaving the Church leaves a massive hole in their lives.
Leaving the church has been likened to leaving a spouse, there are similar covenants of loyalty in both sets of circumstances. Most divorcees who leave a spouse go on analysing the relationship for months or even years, trying to work out what went wrong & what went right. They need to work out how they relate to the world as a single person once more. The longer & more devoted a person has been to their spouse, the more difficult the transition. Some even go on maintaining platonic feelings for the former spouse.
It doesn’t help the transition for the ex-members when the active members are told by the Church that “the most frequent causes of apostasy are failure to maintain strict standards of morality, taking personal offense (real or perceived), marrying someone who is of another faith or who is irreligious, neglecting to pray and maintain spirituality, or misunderstanding of the teachings of the Church.”
They are told, “People leave because they expect Joseph Smith to be infallible, so when they discover he was just human they are shocked.” But in reality members’ expectations of Joseph Smith the man are raised to such a high level by the Church itself, with the end result that most members believe he was almost perfect! This is how he is portrayed by the Church in books, on Church films & in Conference talks.
So, when members find out Joseph MARRIED 11 women who were already married to other men, some of whom had husbands who were away on missions, it is a VERY BIG SHOCK!
That is ADULTERY!
When they learn that Joseph Smith married girls as young as 14 years old, it is another OFFENSIVE SHOCK!
That is CHILD SEX ABUSE!
When they discover Joseph Smith dishonestly deceived his first wife Emma about these illegal relationships, again they are SHOCKED!
That is called LYING!
If the Church taught the members the truth in the first place then they wouldn’t feel LIED to & DECEIVED!
The Church teaches its members that apostates feel guilty & therefore seek to justify their actions by attacking the Church & becoming enemies to the faith. That the fruits of apostasy are bitterness & anger. When actually it’s only the natural reaction of normal, good, honest, committed people to feeling conned & deceived by an organisation they loved with all their heart, mind, might & strength.
The people who “don’t leave it alone”, were probably the most dedicated & caring members who took their religion & Church service seriously, so are now feeling the most deceived & hurt by the lies.
The painful emotional turmoil caused by this experience is compounded by feeling isolated from & shunned by the friends and family they love the most. They want to share this burden with others, to discuss the shock & profound disappointment, but those closest feel they cannot listen because it offends them to even consider it may be true.
So the grieving members are left to suffer in isolation.
In every other traumatic experience of life their friends and family are there for them, but in this crisis of faith, which causes so much intense emotional pain, they are left to deal with it alone. Often feeling blamed for being offended in the first place. The victim is blamed for feeling victimised.
But what is worse is that their LDS family and friends are not completely responsible for their shunning actions because they have been taught to avoid contact with the apostates, & because it is too painful for them to contemplate that their loved ones could be hurt by the Church they love. So the active LDS are also victims of this situation too.
An ex-Mormon friend shared her feelings about this situation with me recently:
“Why can’t I leave the church alone? I gave 38 years of my life to it, I placed my eternal furture in it, all my goals in life were set around it, how I lived every day was set by its standards. Then I found out its roots were rotten at the core, and its all fake after that. The pain this caused me, the panic attacks, the tears, the loss of community, the loss of friends, the feeling of not knowing how to cope, where to even start or how to even start each day. The trust I’ve lost, the feeling of “what is there now?” Then to try and talk to members about any of this, any words coming out of an “aspotates” mouth are automatically lost on a member, they won’t hear you because of the simple fact “that you dared to leave”. I’ve told some LDS friends. I love them enough to share my “truths” with them, just like they feel they must share the “gospel”. And, when they find out the truths I’ll be there when it all falls apart for them. They’re going to need a friend who cares and who understands. I would really, really hate for any of my friends to go through what I’ve been through. But I believe in the coming days my friendship will be needed as truths are revealed, and acceptance of those truths find their way into peoples lives. I also don’t want to be told, “why didn’t you tell me”.” ~ Judith Elizabeth, Texas.