They Can Leave But Can’t Leave It Alone?

A common complaint from Mormons about people like me, who have left the Mormon Church, is “They can leave the church but they can’t leave it alone.”  This comes from Joseph Smith and has been repeated and expounded on by LDS Leaders since then.  Here are some quotes on this topic, including a LDS Scripture:

18095293Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.

“But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves. (D&C 121:16–17.)

Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone. (Neal A. Maxwell – Ensign, Nov 14,1980)

It seems that history continues to teach us: You can leave the Church, but you can’t leave it alone. The basic reason for this is simple. Once someone has received a witness of the Spirit and accepted it, he leaves neutral ground. One loses his testimony only by listening to the promptings of the evil one, and Satan’s goal is not complete when a person leaves the Church, but when he comes out in open rebellion against it. (Glenn L. Pace – General Conference 1989)

I love it when people who don’t know me say I’ve been deceived by Satan and have followed his evil guidance; even better when people hear “The Lord’s Anointed” (that’s what Mormon Church leaders call themselves) say it and believe it.

Mormons largely believe people “can’t leave the church alone” because those whom have left really know the church is true and they have to continually talk about it to convince themselves they made the right decision by leaving.  Umm, fast and testimony meetings, anyone?  (Mormons are encouraged to bear their testimonies of how their church is the only true church on the earth, Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon is true, on the first Sunday of each month AND at the end of every lesson they teach in church).  The other reason is Mormons believe those who have left were tricked by lies or “anti-mormon” material on the internet and it has pissed them off, so they become obsessed with it.  There are other reasons but these two cover the main points.

Yes, those are generalizations and some Mormons are more educated than what I’ve just described but from my experience, those people are rare.

Let’s look at why some Ex-Mormons “Can’t Leave It Alone:”

  • The Mormon Church Won’t Leave Us Alone
  • Long History of Whistleblowers in Mormonism
  • Spent a Lifetime of Service, Dedication and Sacrifice
  • Every Ex-Mormon a Missionary
  • Could Mormons Be Obsessed With Ex-Mormons?

The Mormon Church Won’t Leave Us Alone

Virtually every person who leaves Mormonism has family, friends and daily acquaintances that are still very active in the religion.  This creates a constant exposure to a belief system that you now oppose in many ways.  Plus, the LDS Church is very missionary minded, as we all know.  Not only do church members focus on getting their non-mormon friends and family into their church but they also turn their attention and “love” to those whom have left.  This becomes a consistent and sometimes overbearing presence from the Mormon community that you are trying to separate yourself from.  Many Mormons have a hard time separating their lives and relationships from their religion.

Let me direct you to a blog post from my friends at Ex-Mormon Mavens, as Kay la ale discusses this topic in her wonderfully written article, Invasion.

Long History of Whistleblowers in Mormonism

© Josh Sager – June 2012

Since the inception of the Mormon church with Joseph Smith, there have been whistleblowers.  These are not just anti-mormon detractors from the outside but people who were a part of the organization, sometimes in very high positions of leadership, like William Law who was Joseph Smith’s Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The LDS Church.  These whistleblowers have been around because the Mormon church and its leaders have always utilized revisionist history (translation process of Book of Mormon, Restoration of the Priesthood, Accounts of the First Vision), had secretive practices (polygamy, temple, Council of 50) and it was built on the testimony of one man, Joseph Smith, whose character could be called into question given his actions from his treasure hunting days to his death in Carthage Jail, after he destroyed the Nauvoo Expositor printing press and practiced polygamy in secret.

Any organization that has beliefs and practices that can be viewed as harmful, deceitful or false by an individual or group of people, whistleblowers will appear.  This is the case with government, fortune 500 companies and religions.  The LDS Church is not beyond reproach, with its view and handling of women, non-white people, LGBT individuals, private finances and its governmental influence through the organization itself and its members.  Until the Mormon church decides to abandon its revisionist history and become a transparent organization in terms of belief, practices and finances, there will always be whistleblowers.  I am proud to be one.

Spent a Lifetime of Service, Dedication and Sacrifice

Las Vegas 1999I spent my entire life as a Mormon.  It’s unlike most other religions, in that it requires a tremendous amount of your time and finances.  It’s not just a belief; it’s a lifestyle and community with singular focus on eternal salvation through faith and deeds.  I’ve made substantial sacrifices for my belief.  I served a 2-year mission in Las Vegas when I was 19 years old (I’m the tall goofy guy in the white shirt and tie).  My parents, most siblings and all my friends were not permitted to see me get married.  I’ve missed out on some incredible relationships because “they didn’t have my same morals” or were not Mormon.  I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to an organization that used my money to “build its kingdom” through temples, church buildings and other ventures, in the name of “The One and Only True Church of God.”

I’ve referenced the grieving process someone goes through when they leave Mormonism.  It’s real.  You are losing a key part of your identity and it hurts.  You have to work your way through those steps and one of them is Anger.  You’re incredibly upset about a lifetime of dedication and sacrifice for a belief you no longer have and even view as dishonest and harmful in many ways.  We are human and should be allowed to grieve.  There is no timetable for this process.  Each person is different.  Many want to get past each stage quickly so they can “move on” but there are variables and factors that are out of the person’s control which will dictate the time frame.  It helps to have friends and family be sensitive, understanding and supportive during this transition.

Every Ex-Mormon a Missionary

Growing up in the LDS Church I was taught, “Every Member a Missionary.”  This is one of the Three-Fold Missions of the LDS Church – Proclaim the Gospel.  I became very comfortable and confident in discussing my belief with anyone, especially after serving a 2-year mission.

I’m no longer Mormon but I’m still quite comfortable discussing my views and beliefs.  It’s very natural for me and religion still remains one of my favorite topics.  Why would I not want to talk about how and why I changed my beliefs in such a dramatic way?  I’m pretty awesome, my story is incredible and I imagine everyone wants to hear it.  (OK, that was pure sarcasm, please don’t stop reading because I sound like an asshole…)

Actually, a friend of mine, Shanna Gardner, said something that rang true for me and I’m going to quote her because I can’t say it as eloquently (Yes Shanna, I’m even using the quote feature for you!):

When I was in the church I remember wondering why people couldn’t just leave, drop it and move on. But once you leave you finally understand why they can’t. It’s just like if a family member had a serious illness; you’re affected by that illness and become passionate about it just by association even though you don’t have it. Same goes for the church. When family members are constantly involved with the church, talking about church issues, inviting you to church functions and you’re witnessing loved ones involved in the same activities you now believe are harmful, it’s hard to just drop it. Like I said, it almost becomes a bigger passion than when you yourself were in it.

I love that analogy.

Another reason you become an Ex-Mormon Missionary is because of something one of the recent Mormon Prophets, Gordon B. Hinckley said:

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

If people you loved were involved in something you firmly believe is built on a lie and is a fraud, as Gordon Hinckley said, why would you not tell them?  If you believed an organization was harmful and detrimental to society and true happiness in many ways, why would you not want those closest to you out of it?  You would.  It’s almost a daily struggle for Ex-Mormons to hold back and respect the beliefs of their active Mormon friends and family.  It’s a double edged sword in that you love them, so you respect their beliefs but you love them, so you want them to see the truth.

Could Mormons Be Obsessed With Ex-Mormons?

Many people were shocked when I left the LDS Church.  (To be fair, some weren’t)  They made comments like, “He gave such great talks and lessons in church” or “His testimony seemed so strong” or “He was A.P. on his mission, what happened?”  Active Mormons have to go through their own process in accepting their friend or loved one as having left Mormonism.  It can be painful for them too.  It can even become an obsession.  I have people close to me who have spent months trying to figure out why I have left and what lead me down this path.  Some of the speculations and opinions they have can be quite hurtful, when expressed or discovered.  I’ve had people spend hours with me via phone, email or social media, trying to understand or even talk me out of leaving.  I’ve had people form a little support group, of sorts, to discuss my beliefs, actions and direction in life, to a great degree.  Even writing pages and sending it to me, in hopes that I’ll see the light, so to speak.  I could further speculate as to why this has happened but I’d be guilty of doing what they’ve done to me…..  Does telling you this make me sound narcissistic?  I’m sure it does but it’s the truth.

In closing, I will direct this common phrase back to Mormons:

SOME PEOPLE WILL LEAVE THE CHURCH BUT YOU CAN’T LEAVE THEM ALONE.

15 Comments

  1. Beautifully stated! It’s difficult for those inside the mind control of the church to grasp what those who leave are going through. The church really needs to rethink how they treat those who doubt and/or walk away.

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  2. As someone who maintains an ex-mormon blog, I guess I’m exactly the kind of person they’re talking about. The relationship between ex-mormons and those in the church that care about them is so complicated. You can face everything from guilt to vitriol. It’s incredibly difficult to know what to do in those situations, and I’m all in favour of ex-mormon communities that understand these problems. They offer an incredible amount of support.

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  3. As an active TBM married to a former Mormon I found this article helpful in understanding my spouse. The only thing I disagree with is your final statement. “Some people leave the church but you can’t leave them alone”. I have supported my spouse and not put any pressure to return to the LDS church. My spouse can’t seem to leave me alone about leaving the church which I refuse to do. Kraming the “truth” down other peoples throats doesn’t bring peace or harmony to any relationship.

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  4. I came up with my own take on the phrase “you can leave the church but you can’t leave it alone.”
    It is “you can leave the world, but you can’t leave it alone.”
    In googling the phrase to see if anyone else has had the same thought I arrived at your site.

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  5. As always, if you are going to point out a problem, you should attempt to provide a solution. I’d like to know which church you belong to now, if any. If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t the one true church (one God=one church logically) then which is it? Can you turn the same scrutiny you’ve trained on the LDS Church on any other church and not find it similarly wanting? My guess is no, but feel free to let me know what you’ve found. Dissenter is a much more negative term than truth-seeker.

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    1. I am an agnostic secularist. The universe, our world and society make much more sense to me now and I’ve found more happiness than I ever have before. It’s a beautiful thing. Thank you for reading my blog.

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  6. You can leave the church but you just won’t keep your mouth shut about how ridiculous it is. That’s not helping their convert rates at all. 😦

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  7. I think it is hilarious that all of you are taking the very statement you hate about leaving the church but not leaving it alone, and proving it true! You write all over the internet how much Mormons hate those who leave the church, and then with your judgmental fingers point back to the friends you pretend to ignore and hate them even worse. I used to think that Mormons were the biggest idiots on earth. I was wrong, mormons who leave mormonism are even more lost.

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  8. “The Mormon Church Won’t Leave Us Alone” can you hear the little violin I’m playing for you? I’m also drinking some whine while I listen to you cry and pout like a two year old. If you’re going to leave a church maybe you should leave it alone! Steven was so correct! Leave a religion and join or start a new one, but shut your damn complaining traps!

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      1. Well, I do feel that you are a little bit off on a couple of points in your reasoning, a bit of generalizing going on with the “Active Mormons”. However I do understand that sometimes there is a society feeling of having to do certain things that are not as necessary, which I believe should change. But also I think this Thomas went a bit far as well. I believe the best thing would not be to have everyone trying to force one another, through any methods, but really, just showing them that you love them, because any good person knows that we need to treat the way we want to be treated, to say it like the saying.
        I would like to say though, that I think you seem like a pretty decent guy, and actually fairly similar to myself, at least in the awesomeness aspect. (that was also sarcasm, but hope you enjoyed it) But thank you for your opinions, even though I may not agree with all of them, one thing I do thing is true is that no one is perfect, but if we all live to the way that we feel helps us the most, we can get the most out of our lives, and really, I hope you have a great day, and find what you want in your life.

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