I regularly receive letters from very brave members and leaders of the Church who have realised and accepted that the foundational claims for the truthfulness of the LDS Church are false. I know from personal experience that it takes an incredible amount of courage to write these letters, because one inherently feels disloyal to the Church and one’s family & friends within it, as well as feeling guilty for questioning the faith.
They also risk their changing beliefs being revealed to other people, both known and unknown, if confidentially is not maintained by the recipient of the letter. Plus there is the risk of being forced to go through Church Discipline, often leading to excommunication for apostacy, if one’s disenfranchisement is discovered by higher authorities in Church leadership.
I know how important confidentiality is, particularly where family members feelings are concerned, so I am very careful to maintain absolute discretion.
It takes amazing humility and a desire to live with integrity and honesty to try to live an authentic life following their change of beliefs. I empathise with the dilemma they face, so much so that I am often driven to tears as I read these letters remembering my own experience three years ago.
One of the dreadful aspects of changing one’s beliefs about Mormonism is how we are held hostage by the Church regarding our family relationships.
Many members and leaders of the Church are leaving their former faith, including some who were Bishops, Stake Presidents and counselors. They feel a desperate need to reach out for emotional support during the painful crisis of faith and transition out of Mormonism. I realise the feeling of being trapped by a sense of responsibility to those we are called to serve in priesthood leadership roles can be almost overwhelming as one’s beliefs change. I felt like a hypocrite for weeks as I anxiously sought for the truth of the new information I was discovering about the historical foundations of the First Vision etc. whilst I continued to serve the members of the Ward to the best of my ability.
At the time of my own faith crisis I desperately wanted to communicate with other bishops who had been through the same process of faith transition in order to gain insight into my situation and how I should handle it.
After a frantic search on the internet I did come across a few Bishops whose own stories inspired me. Chris Tolworthy’s, Simon Southerton’s, Ken Clark’s and Bob McCue’s stories inspired me and gave me hope. As did many other members’ transition accounts including Lyndon Lamborne, Arza Evans and my own brother David Bloor.
What I didn’t realise at that time was just how many ex-Mormons there were and how many wonderful support groups there are for transitioning and ex-Mormons. John Dehlin and Mormon Stories was very helpful just after I resigned as a bishop
Unfortunately many people are so afraid of a backlash of repercussions from the believing members of their family should their identity be revealed, that they don’t join any support groups.
I believe that the fear demonstrated in this situation is a sure sign of a belief system which does not optimise human wellbeing and foster the best in relationships. Surely any system established by an all loving Heavenly Father would value His children’s freedom of expression and would encourage their individual efforts to think rationally. I believe any God who places conformity & obedience above individuality and agency is an oppressive dictator who deserves to be despised like similar human counterparts. Any religious system which claims to be established by such a repressive and despotic God should be considered in the same way we now regard the brutal totalitarian regimes of the past. They do not foster the best human wellbeing.
There is a desperate need in people to be open, honest & authentic. The Church belief system creates a culture of shame, guilt and fear if a member doesn’t follow the prescribed and expected path of thought and behaviour. Rather than fostering the best in human emotional & psychological wellbeing, it promotes obedience and fearful compliance. Holding to hostage the most intimate of relationships in a person’s life on the simple basis of a change in beliefs about God and the afterlife. Holding itself up as the paragon of virtue in regards to promoting family values and familial bonds above all others, yet at that self-same moment undermining those things which support them; honesty, integrity, trust, authenticity and confidence, and replacing them with feelings of guilt ridden hypocrisy, nervous anxiety and fear.
These wonderful people who have the courage to recognise and accept truth, are left cowering in the shadows instead of enjoying their new found freedom from false beliefs and superstition.
It’s a cynically cruel & twisted form of control which denigrates & corrupts the idea of agency, and tries to force its victims to cower & conform.
I am reminded of the inspiring quote by Daniel Goleman:
“Self-deception operates both at the level of the individual mind, & in the collective awareness of the group. To belong to a group of any sort, the tacit price of membership is to agree not to notice one’s own feelings of uneasiness & misgiving, & certainly not to question anything that challenges the group’s way of doing things. The price for the group in this arrangement is that dissent, even healthy dissent, is stifled!
“In order to break through the cocoons of silence that keep vital truths from the collective awareness you need courage. It is the courage to seek the truth & to speak it that can save us from the narcotic of self-deception.
“It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, & those who suffer have no power.
“To break out of this trap requires the courage to speak truth to power!”
Members in this frightening situation need our utmost respect, empathy and support.
Please let me reassure everyone in the position of facing this transition of belief that, like a rebirth, transitioning out of Mormonism is initially painful, but life Post Mormon is wonderful!
No one can walk their paths for them, and no one can judge these members in the direction they choose. Each journey is personal and unique.
What should each person do as a member or leader in the Church with new disconfirming knowledge?
It’s a really tough decision to make when trying to pursue a path of integrity whilst at the same time wanting to avoid hurting loved ones.
Many people feel trapped by the situation and often stay silent, whilst internally they are being torn apart with guilt because they know they are not being truly honest with themselves and those they love the most.
I tried to do this myself, but I only managed it for a couple of weeks. The emotional strain proved too much for me. In the end it’s a very personal decision. The only people who know what to do in any particular situation are those it affects, taking into consideration how one’s close friends and family will react.
My only advice to them would be to “take one’s time & be very understanding and gentle with others who don’t yet know what you know.”
Having previously been faithfully committed True Believing Mormons, those who are now transitioning are in the favourable position of knowing how True Believing Mormons think. Sadly TBMs don’t know how a disenfranchised member thinks. Which means we have the ability to show them compassion, even if they react defensively and aggressively to what they perceive as a threat.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to always react positively because quite often, especially at the beginning of one’s transition, there is a lot of emotional frustration and even anger at feeling conned and abused. Almost every human being is susceptible to amygdala hijacking where the automatic fight/flight mechanism kicks in and we lose our calm composure.
But I found that being forewarned of the potential difficulties is reassuring and increases the likelihood of success in one’s interactions with member family and friends.
Though the situation for transitioning Mormons is difficult, it is full of promise and wonderful new opportunities.
Just like in Plato’s Allegory of The Cave, those who leave The Cave are shocked by what they saw of the beautiful real world outside, so too will the transitioning Ex-Mormon. There are many parallels with the story of Plato’s Cave to Mormons in transition, including the way in which our member friends and family will react.
Living outside of the Mormon Bubble or Cave is worth the effort, frustration and pain of making the transition. And just like in childbirth the initial pain experienced by everyone involved is soon replaced with overwhelming joy by most of us.
There is often a temptation of rushing back into the Church (like in The Cave) to try to continue living the Mormon fantasy. We remember the good times we had with friends, the wonderful experiences of compassionate service to others, our emotional highs and connections to other people within the Church, and some of us just can’t bear to tear ourselves away. It’s completely understandable.
Personally I think truth matters. There is more than enough to experience in this world that is real without forcing ourselves through psychological contortions in an effort to make a religious con work for us.
I believe authenticity is paramount in relationships. Developing non-judgemental, compassionate, patient, honest & loving relationships with others is my goal. And that includes with Church leaders who try to exert their assumed authority over me. It’s not always possible due to amygdala hijacking on one or both sides, but I try.
This is wonderful! It’s great to point out those who are suffering in silence. While that time was brief for me, it was awful. Thankful for bringing this light!
Thank you Kemari. You are a light for those who are leaving.
Steve, this is very thoughtfully and compassionately written. Only those who are walking the road understand the value of the process, and the freedom of clarity. Thank you.
Thank you for the compliment.
I sincerely hope my post helps others.
Great Steve. Have also put on my fb sites. Badly needed.
Thank you Robert. Your own story is inspiring.
Steve – leaving Mormonism can be a deeply painful process but for me – even though painful and at a huge cost – it has enabled me to learn like I’ve never learnt before. People need to have hope that things will be healed, not necessarily the way we may always want, but to a place where things are honest and real. It can get better. I appreciate that you no longer have a belief in God. And I am sure from what you say that gives you happiness which I’m happy for. I think for some doubting LDS this is a frightening thought though. They can stay LDS because they think it is their only way to maintain belief. My story is different to yours in that I have maintained belief in a greater power (I have no definition of what) I practise this through living Christian values and enjoy my C of E community. Was Jesus really resurrected? Who knows? I wasn’t there. Despite knowing the holes in the bible, the faults of religion, the need for human beings to have certainty. I’ve also done my fare share with Neuro Science too. My belief is that science cannot explain purpose. Neither can it explain love. Rather it is our own responsibility to develop belief systems that help us achieve our highest self. Not harming ourselves or others and gaining peace. This is a personal thing with lots of different answers. It is not black and white. The mysteries of life are without answers. As people look into the face of the real authentic Mormonism they have to decide what is the path for them. What is their truth not another’s ideology. Some have the courage to walk away but I also think it requires courage for some to stay. We all need to show love, compassion and understanding to everyone where ever they are on their personal journey. There are lots of paths to take. It is my hope that the LDS church will show more compassion to its members, take less of their time, less of their money. Less guilt and showing respect to individuals privacy about personal issues. It’s a big hope!
Thank you for all that you do Steve. They are beautiful acts of love and compassion.
Karen, You have been, and continue to be, such a tremendous inspiration to me of strength and compassion. I truly value your friendship and respect your sincerity. Thank you for beautiful and encouraging comments. Love to you and your loved ones this Christmas Season. Steve
What a wonderful, mutually respectful dialogue between two friends who happen to have different views about certain metaphysical issues! So what if people disagree about some things—it would be a boring, flat world if we didn’t.
Great post, too. My only gentle critique would be that all the boldface makes it a bit difficult to read. But it’s worth doing so. This in particular matches with my own experience in a fundamentalist Christian sect, though it has no connection whatsoever with Mormonism: “The Church belief system creates a culture of shame, guilt and fear if a member doesn’t follow the prescribed and expected path of thought and behaviour. Rather than fostering the best in human emotional & psychological wellbeing, it promotes obedience and fearful compliance.”
Reblogged this on Miguel in Belgium and commented:
Thank you Miguel
I am a practicing Mormon and have studied immensely lately the anti Mormon angles and perceptions and upon coming across the article it has hit a nerve although personally I have an objection:
My objection is the church has two demographics two sides of a coin, the good and the bad, and doctrinally the more I try to disprove the “doctrine and covenants” and other materials wrong I come to only deepen my knowledge of the restored gospel.
Now let’s migrate to the bad side of the coin the PEOPLE within the church have created since long before I was born a sociological separation or segregation from that of the world ( your cave or bubble that yourself referred to ) where norms or traditions not set up by the church but founding or predominant members of the church have done and by doing so has given people like my father and older generations a narrowed view on what’s right and what’s wrong. socially being forced to question those that question or bicker about those with adjacent views or who are falling away from what they hold dear to them although there is no malice in the backbiting the harmful fruits of said actions come to fruition and that one person or family falling away has an extremely negative transition from member to non member.
Now my point is culturally within the church our predecessors have set a standard of how we engage in and out of the church. I see now a thrist for knowledge from the youth etc of various other views and concerns which ARE given space to address them.
there seems for me not a massive upheaval in the way things are done but slight changes of the chains of conformity.
For myself I have studied the Koran and various other religions and even separate denominations within the Christian religion I love standing up and quoting other religious leaders.
A change to my my cultural surrounding, of what I hold close to my heart, is only going to change if people make a stand within the sociological realm of influence and not outwardly pointing defects from the sidelines.
That’s just my view I hope not to offend i just felt that you was condemning the whole church on generalisations and I felt I had to say my peice thanks for the perspectives you threw my way.
Good for you, investigating the Mormon church, along with other religions! Those of us who have been true-believing Mormons have investigated the church, not through anti-Mormon angles and perspectives, but through church history written by true-believing church leaders and members, along with historical records of the time. Many puzzle pieces, that are typically left unassembled by the average LDS church member, are put into place through this investigation.
The Church of the Lamb of God, or in other words, the true-believers in Jesus Christ, never left this earth. D&C 84 says:
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.
49 And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
The world has groaned under sin and a darkness of our understanding since Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden, not just since Joseph Smith decided that the priesthood left when the disciples and apostles of Jesus died.
D&C 48 is talking about the covenant of the priesthood. In 1 Peter 2: 5 and 9 it states: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” You see here that all of us who come out of darkness into the light of Christ, (not some religion) are a royal priesthood. There have been true believers in Christ since he lived and died, and that knowledge has never left the earth. The “restoration of the gospel” through Joseph Smith is a fallacy.
When you truly search the Bible, you see the changes and twists Joseph made to the teachings and writings therein. He truly counterfeited the true gospel with another gospel. “The One True Church”, no matter who says it, whether Catholic, LDS, Muslim, Protestant etc., is not an organization of some religion, but a relationship with Christ.
Yes, the Mormon church is changing with the times, to be more palatable to the masses. This was never what Jesus was about. And now the church is relenting to the historical information, undeniable these days through readily available info on the Internet, that Joseph used a stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon. By the way, this was the same stone he used to look into the earth to see where treasure was buried, directing those with the shovels where to dig.
Here’s a link to this quote by Terryl Givens, Mormon scholar:
“If you’re 45 years old and you learn for the first time that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon with a peepstone, you have every right in the world to feel betrayed. “Why wasn’t I taught the truth in seminary or in Sunday school?” I haven’t heard a good answer to that. And their really isn’t any excuse for the church not to be moving faster to revise and update and make more truthful and full those manuals that convey our history to our children and adults alike. …
If you want polygamy in heaven, or 7 or more virgins when you kill yourself, you know where to go.
When did Thomas S. Monson ever prophesy?
John-Paul, when you talk about the Gospel I would respectfully ask you to refer to it as the LDS gospel. Christians all over the world do not recognise the LDS version of the Gospel as the one taught by Jesus Christ. When the women came in adultery Jesus did not hold a disciplinary council, nor did he interview teenage girls and ask about their sexuality. The LDS is a different experience for everyone. The people of the LDS are devout well meaning. I wholly reject that it’s the people that are the problem rather from my perspective it is the institutional church that is based on power and control. Jesus was a liberator that taught love not rules – any non LDS theologian would confirm he never had a church. Don’t give your independence of thought away. As I sit with young women who have attempted suicide after feeling defiled by disciplinary councils I don’t blame the men, who without being obeyed to do it, never would. This is tragic. I wish they had the courage to say NO I won’t be involved in this and follow their instincts but they are unable. It’s so easy to blame the people, the culture, and leave an institution scot free. It was the greatest shock to me how non Mormons congratulated me and are so joyful for my escape. No non Mormon has advised me to stay. Even my GP said he was so pleased I’d left. Ask the question why there is endless websites of support for Mormons leaving and none for the Church of England? One is viewed as a religion the other as a sect. I hope it continues to bring you happiness please recognise for many this is not the case. The time demands, money donations and rules for others are a struggle. And many simply do not recognise it as Jesus Christs’ gospel of love. Wishing you peace and happiness in your journey in life.
Hi John-Paul, Thanks for your comments. Though, as always, I am shocked at the way believing members find it impossible to see or comprehend that their Church could ever be at fault. Yet I thought and acted the same way as a faithfully serving Bishop when defending the Church. It seems bizarre to me now as I look back at a Church I used to love that I now see people suffering from a belief system which causes fear, guilt and shame through the inculcation of subconscious biases, phobias and prejudices. The evidence this is happening is obvious to all those who are neutral. Psychologists and cult-recovery experts deal with the consequences. Tragically even the suicide statistics for young people in Utah who are LGBT are evidence of a belief system which is not helping human beings thrive. We should be very wary of any organisation which tries to exert undue influence on its members by fear. Unfortunately there are many members of the Church who are suffering from the abuse of power by their leaders. I’m in touch with many worldwide who are desperate for some hope and courage. They often cannot speak up for themselves, so others like me, Karen & others need to speak up for them. It is unfortunate that when inside the Church it is almost impossible to see the damage it is doing. “Self-deception operates both at the level of the individual mind, & in the collective awareness of the group. To belong to a group of any sort, the tacit price of membership is to agree not to notice one’s own feelings of uneasiness & misgiving, & certainly not to question anything that challenges the group’s way of doing things. The price for the group in this arrangement is that dissent, even healthy dissent, is stifled! “In order to break through the cocoons of silence that keep vital truths from the collective awareness you need courage. It is the courage to seek the truth & to speak it that can save us from the narcotic of self-deception. “It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, & those who suffer have no power. “To break out of this trap requires the courage to speak truth to power!” ~ Daniel Goleman Neither Jehovah’s Witnesses nor Mormons will recognise or acknowledge they are members of an organisation which practices ‘undue influence’ over the minds of it’s members. But each group of people will recognise the other as doing so. I’ve been quite shocked by the attitude of faithful members and leaders to those who change their beliefs. Instead of treating them like Christ supposedly taught, as if they have become ‘spiritually blinded’, and so in need of an increase in love, they more often than not recoil in fear and push the questioning or disenfranchised member away. I see this is institutionalised. I don’t see this as being at all Christlike. All I can see are actions driven by fear! I thought that Jesus taught we should give aid to the ‘Spiritually Blind’. According to Mormon beliefs someone who is losing or has lost their testimony is ‘Spiritually Blind’. As I talked with my ecclesiastical leaders after I resigned as Bishop I did not feel like they perceived me as ‘Spiritually Blind’, nor did I once feel like they wanted to help me regain my testimony. Not once did my Stake President try to stop me resigning as Bishop. He did however ask me several times why I wasn’t resigning from the Church too, and right in front of my then believing wife, who was in floods of tears for fear she had lost her Eternal Marriage. I actually don’t blame the individual leaders for their apparent indifference to our ‘Spiritual Blindness’. I blame the undue influence inherent in Mormonism which uses fear to maintain the belief system. Institutionalised! When the leader’s testimonies are challenged by our questions or disbelief their minds automatically act in self-defence, by virtue of amygdala hijacking. A form of self-deception. From what I’ve personally experienced both as a serving bishop and through my own resignation, as well as from the anecdotal evidence of thousands around the world it is very apparent that a pattern of behaviour is occurring generally based on leaders feeling the overwhelming need to protect the Church. This is an emotion driven behaviour based on fear without any sort of concern for the individual welfare of those who are suffering. With the benefit of looking at the Church from a little distance nowadays, it seems that the objective of the Church in running BYU and in sending young people on missions is to promote compliance & conformity, at the same time as denying the individuality of people with particular needs & the individual potentials of its followers. If we acknowledge the Church is indeed a construction of man/men and that the doctrines & policies are based on an irrational superstitious belief system rather than objective reality, it becomes easy to see how this would deny its adherents the authenticity they need to foster wellbeing & promote their individual potentials. Experienced cult recovery experts & psychological therapists are seeing the very negative emotional trauma of people trying to live in a false reality caused by this religion. This is especially true of authoritarian, hierarchical religions where conformity, obedience & orthodoxy are emphasised. If the Church truly valued the Christlike compassion it avows, then Bishops and Stake Presidents around the world would be concerned about the emotional welfare of those who are going through the trauma of the faith crisis. Hopefully one day this will be the case. For now we continue our campaign. I don’t blame the members, I hold the institution responsible. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. Steve
I’ve been talking to a couple of Mormon missionaries recently and it staggers me how anyone can believe this is true in the first place. All this talk of gold plates, angels, visions of Jesus, and John the Baptist coming down to help ‘restore the truthfulness to the bible’. Come on! It was immediate from the get go that Mormonism, like all religions, is a product of man rather than God. Its just more obvious with Mormonism because it began relatively recently. Having said that I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the church members. I agree with the Word of Wisdom, indeed they helped me kick my coffee addiction which I’ve had for years, and I like their ‘Proclamation on the family’ too. Modern, secular Britain seems to sideline the nuclear family so its refreshing to hear an organisation stick up for the family for a change. There are a lot of things about the Mormon church that I’ve grown to know and love while I’ve been investigating for the past few months, but its very expensive (10% is a lot!) and I can see this thing snowballing out of control if I actually went ahead and got baptised. Its sad really because I love the emphasis on music and the people I’ve met have been so kind, but I just can’t bring myself to hand over large amounts of cash and so a load of things I don’t believe in.
Didn’t you have a lucky escape?!
The fact that I, along with millions of others, believed such bizarre stuff just goes to show the gullibility of human beings.
The psychology of belief is fascinating. People are capable of believing just about anything.
That’s why I am a campaigner for rationality now.
I think society is evolving and people are beginning to replace irrational fear based superstition with evidenced based reasoning in ever increasing numbers.
Hi Steve, thanks for replying.
As an investigator I’ve heard some really unusual stuff over the past few months! Some Mormons believe that the bible can be taken metaphorically for example while others believe it should be taken literally, so when I questioned a missionary about Genesis 9:29 “Noah lived until he was 950 years old” all she could say was that she believed it because its in the bible! I understand why faith is an important as it can be uplifting, but I would find faith in total nonsense nonsense a very tricky (and exhausting) juggling act, especially if I was expected to defend it to protect the church.
We also watched a Mormon xmas video where the people of America were apparently waiting for birth of Jesus Christ. I’m no historian, but I reckon there’s zero evidence of Christianity in the Americas before the Europeans showed up around 1500. I don’t believe native people of America knew or cared about Jesus because he wouldn’t have been a part of their cultural heritage. Yet in Mormonism contrary to the all evidence Amerindians are descendents of Israel, so presumably they would have known what was going on in the Middle East.
I’ve also heard missionaries claim they can trace their ancestry all the way back to the Lamanites! I knew the church had a big genetics programme, but I assumed it was secular. Never in a million years would had I have guessed they would use it to support official church doctine. This is a tragic waste of resources. People struggling to pay their tithes and keep a roof over their head should have their contributions treated respectfully, not squandered in this way.
I don’t want to knock everything about the Mormon church as there are some really great aspects to it. The sense of community, focus on music and some of the moral teachings for me would be enough to give it a go. As a lifelong atheist I can now even justify prayer and belief in God thanks to the people I’ve met, they can be emotionally beneficial concepts if they’re used wisely. I have met a kind, sincere group of people who have used the gospel to strengthen their families, aid their careers and reach out lovingly to those around them. I can’t dismiss this. But at 10% it just doesn’t seem like value for money and I don’t know how I would cope intellectually with the issues I’ve outlined.
I joined in 1987 – I don’t consider myself gullible at all, but at the time I was a very vulnerable and quite lost 19 year old. I went on to marry a RM who had served in the UK mission in which I was baptised. We had an unhappy marriage for which neither of us was equiped. He was still a student and the pressures placed on our marriage and two tiny children, both financially and in terms of the service required (particularly by my husband, as we were in a small branch) contibuted massively to the demise of our marriage. Before we ended the marriage, I had already started to question my decisions for joining the mormon church and accepted the fact that my desire to believe it and want all those lovely ‘truths’ to be real had allowed me to ignore my intellect. I decided to just leave it all behind and am glad I did. Years later, while reading posts on a website publishing some of the early church’s actions and behaviours, I found myself feeling incredibly uneasy and wanting to look over my shoulder, wondering who knew what I was reading and how much trouble I could be in for my enquiries. I realised right then that I had been somewhat brain-washed, and had had a lucky escape.
There are beautiful things to learn from all faiths, but I have realised that organised religion is not for me. My motto now is just ‘be good’. And if one day I can’t manage that 100%, I just try harder the next.
Thank you for this blog and for sharing.