What’s This Mormon Thing?

Hostile Anti-Mormon posts subject to editing or deletion

Why Do Mormons Leave The Church?

Posted by JLFuller on July 5, 2008

It is easy to blame people who loose their testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel as we understand and teach it. Sometimes we say they just didn’t try hard enough or they allowed their weakness to lead them astray or have some other reason for explaining the phenomenon. But it isn’t just Mormons who leave. Certainly the 300,000 former Baptists in the Deep South had their reasons for converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I suppose there are about as many reasons as there are people who convert – at least as they see it. In some cases the Holy Ghost provides the confirmation we seek but probably not in each case. 

 

Years ago, a prospective member had to wait a year before being baptized.  Even today members who marry outside the temple have to wait a year before being sealed. It may be a worthiness thing but I have to think most need time to contemplate and thoroughly understand the step they are taking. The implication is people make decisions based on incomplete or erroneous information. That is part of the  human condition. I think there is a higher order of understanding where such judgments are made with Divine help and to get there we have to get better control of the natural man. Not everyone is ready at the same point in their lives. I talk a little about that below.

  

Others say about former Mormon’s they evangelized that when presented with the truth, as they understand it, it resonated. Maybe thier version did resonate for some. But thier story is still just their version of the story we present. They have an opinion just as we our version. It resonates among some too. We humans look outside ourselves when unsatisfied with life. We seek answers to our questions. We want someone to fill in the blanks and be a source of truth. We want someone we can absolutely trust. We want someone to relieve our burden. It goes beyond just looking for greener pastures. We want certainty where uncertaintly exists. Anyone who can convince us he knows the way can have our allegiance. That makes being a Mormon harder – at least until we gain control over the natural man and achieve a plain where we can have the constant presence of the Holy Ghost.

 

No one wants to believe he messed things up, is not good enough or strong enough or, as is the the case with some Mormons, does not believe he will ever receive the Holy Ghost’s confirmation. So he may look at the brighter or more positive things the other guy presents and think it could be better. In one way, that is a positive thing. It makes us willing to try new things in an attempt to live a better life or in some other way improve our lot. 

 

But is it the Holy Ghost telling us to abandon our previous Church and go looking elsewhere or is it just us abandoning our discomfort with what we have become? Maybe it is something else. I suppose we all have to discover the answer ourselves. Anti-Mormons and legitimate critics alike lay claim to having the truth about the our Church and seek to prove we are not what we claim by what they believe is the unseemly behaviors of the founders of our Church. Some claim Brigham Young or others settled doctrinal questions 150 years ago despite what we teach these days. It is a favorite pass time. They protest and parade and make loud pronouncements about what they have found or what someone wrote. 

 

I think most members agree that if the Church is the restoration of the Gospel of Christ in its fullness, it should be able to stand a close inspection of all aspects of its history and leadership. I don’t disagree with that entirely. But I am old enough and well read enough and have sufficient understanding of the human condition to know that not everyone can handle the truth in all its bareness. But just as the truth must stand on its own merits, we may not be able to adequately judge the merits with the information we have.

 

That is where the Divine assistance comes in. Without it all we see is what others see. Without it, members with tender testimonies are challenged beyond their ability to understand the entirety. Without it they are left to make these judgments with only the aid of the understanding of men. I suggest that judgments with eternal significance are too important to make this way. Without Divine assistance we would make the same judgments others make when they rely solely on man’s understanding.

 

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13 Responses to “Why Do Mormons Leave The Church?”

  1. jackg said

    JLF,

    I was wondering how many former LDS members you interviewed or talked to find out why they left the Church. And, do you think they are functionally representative of the entire former LDS population?

    “But is it the Holy Ghost telling us to abandon our previous Church and go looking elsewhere or is it just us abandoning our discomfort with what we have become?”

    Personally, I wouldn’t say the Spirit of God told me to abandon the LDS Church. Initially, it was God’s grace active in my life that took me out of the Church. And, today, I believe the Spirit is revealing to me the truth about the Bible and its role in bringing the unadulterated message of salvation to humanity. It is the “Good News” that Jesus died and rose again, overcoming death and bridging the great divide between God and humanity that was caused by original sin and personal sin. As this happens, my belief that the LDS Church is not all she purports herself to be, mainly the only true Church on earth, strengthens.

    “That is where the Divine assistance comes in. Without it all we see is what others see. Without it, members with tender testimonies are challenged beyond their ability to understand the entirety. Without it they are left to make these judgments with only the aid of the understanding of men. I suggest that judgments with eternal significance are too important to make this way. Without Divine assistance we would make the same judgments others make when they rely solely on man’s understanding.”

    I agree with you that “judgments with eternal significance are too important to make with only the aid of the understanding of men.” The issue I have with this paragraph is the inference that those who left the Church did so based on the understanding of men, and that their tender testimonies couldn’t hold up. I didn’t have a tender testimony, but I had a testimony that I now believe was based on half-truths and avoidance of facts. I understand that you’re okay with Adam/God doctrine and blood atonement and polygamy as teachings that are not considered to be official Church doctrine, today. My bigger issue is that the missionaries do not ever address these issues as part of the history of the Church, and converts are made based on the withholding of vital information that should go into such an important decision. Even though you don’t have issues with such former teachings, others might, and it seems to me that it’s a bit unfair that a prospective member is not given the historical facts to pray and decide for themselves regarding these issues. I believe that I have received Divine assistance that has led me to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which invariably leads me away from the LDS Church. I have made my judgment with regard to the LDS Church, and I did not make it based on the understanding of men; rather, the truth was revealed to me through God’s word known as the biblical text and confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    For me, with regard to the Bible, the LDS Church works from what I believe to be a faulty premise not consistent with historical Christianity. How can one work from the premise that God is not powerful or capable enough to maintain His word through generations of a fallen and broken humanity? The history of the judges shows that God does His best work through the least likely of vessels. The amazing thing is that God takes a fallen humanity as a partner in His work of redemption. Everything He does, He does through the most meager of means and the weakest of the weak. But, He still does it. Preserving His word is no different. Divine assistance will aid us in understanding the Bible, but surely would not lead anyone away from it.

    The bigger premise that seems unfathomable to accept is the premise that God’s plan of salvation was somehow dependent on sin. I don’t believe this is an issue of me trying to “understand” everything, but an issue of discernment. “And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:22-25). This is a message that says God’s plan of redemption depended on Adam to sin. And, it also suggests that Adam’s existence in the garden, when he had full fellowship with God, was somehow lacking because he needed to know misery to know joy, and that he somehow needed to know sin. Ultimately, men were not created solely for joy. Men were created for relationship with God, and from that relationship comes joy. This BOM passage suggests that Adam did not have joy being in the presence of God, which to me seems to be unfathomable even to suggest.

    So, I think the issue of this article goes deeper than why do Mormons leave the Church, but why do former members stay away from the Church after they have left. The Spirit of God is working in the lives of those who leave. I understand that you believe the Spirit has blessed you with a testimony of JS and the everything the Church purports herself to be. So, maybe the real question is who is following the true Spirit of God? Surely, we can’t both be following the Spirit of God and be so diametrically opposed on issues with such eternal significance.

    Looking forward to your response.

  2. Jack
    That is a lot to address. I may not be the guy to talk about some of what you ask. I will address a couple of things here. My experience with former members is based on discussions with people on my caseload over the years, their family members and those I came across in other ways. I suppose I talked with 200 or 300 Mormons or so who were willing to talk about how they came to leave the Church. There may have been that many more of other denominations too.

    I read statements submitted to the court by interested parties. These were pre-sentence reports with comments from parents or other loved ones who talked about religion a lot. Of the roughly 3000 people I supervised over 20 years about 15% or so were LDS. I did that many or more classification reports (risk/needs assessments) on clients for other staff where I had to read the PSI. I probably wrote another 200 or 300 PSIs. Again the average percentage was 15 to 20% depending on which part of state they came from. Most were not active members to begin with and had little or no testimony and an
    on-going problem set that was even more challenging than religion. I did a few hundred classification reports for inmates in the prisons too where I had to read their files and interview them. As a board member and employee I had to screen and interview applicants for four community release facilities.

    I interviewed several dozen people over the years who were active card carrying members when they lost their membership for behavioral reasons. Two or three were bishops or men who had been in a bishopric. At least one was a counselor in a stake presidency There was a high councilman or two and one man was a temple worker. All of these people were in those positions or had been shortly before they got into trouble. I addressed religion with every client if for no other reason than to develop a case plan. As you know, these are opened ended questions where I let the other fellow talk. It is inappropriate for the interviewer to talk about himself so most didn’t know I was LDS. Most didn’t care to have any contact with any church so I didn’t go beyond just asking.

  3. As you understand it, what is necessary to be saved?

  4. “The bigger premise that seems unfathomable to accept is the premise that God’s plan of salvation was somehow dependent on sin.”
    That isn’t the LDS understanding. It wasn’t sin but transgression that Adam and Eve committed, which is different. Transgress means to go beyond a limit. Sin is to break a law of God. They are used interchangeably but we understand them to be different. The American Heritage dictionary says transgress means: To go beyond or over (a limit or boundary); exceed or overstep: “to make sure that her characters didn’t transgress the parameters of ordinariness”

    “Ultimately, men were not created solely for joy. Men were created for relationship with God, and from that relationship comes joy. This BOM passage suggests that Adam did not have joy being in the presence of God, which to me seems to be unfathomable even to suggest.” How can one know joy unless you know what it is not? Can you know what dark is if all you have is light?

    “My bigger issue is that the missionaries do not ever address these issues as part of the history of the Church, and converts are made based on the withholding of vital information that should go into such an important decision. Even though you don’t have issues with such former teachings, others might, and it seems to me that it’s a bit unfair that a prospective member is not given the historical facts to pray and decide for themselves regarding these issues.” You assume your understanding of Church history is correct. I suggest you don’t have the whole story. You are doing what many Mormons do and that is accepting opinion as doctrine. It only makes sense that people are brought along slowly. This information has been out there for generations. To suggest converts have never been exposed to Church history is not accurate. Missionaries answer any question posed to them. Every new member I talk with is interested in manner of Church history. It is talked about openly. To suggest we don’t is just plain disinformation.

    Why do former members stay away? There are lots of reasons, but I suggest most don’t want any religion. I suggest those who leave our Church were never very far in anyway.

  5. Jackg
    Do you know of any legitimately peer reviewed work done by the anti-Mormons?

  6. jackg said

    JLF,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. It sounds like you have talked with a lot of people that have left the Church. I hardly know anyone who has left the Church besides me.

    Have you heard of or read the book “One Nation Under Gods” by Richard Abanez (I think his first name is Richard)? Anyway, he wrote a book about LDS Church history, and actually was allowed to access Church archives. As with all history, there will be different perspectives and slants. I think it’s fair to say that an argument can be made for all perspectives.

    “How can one know joy unless you know what it is not? Can you know what dark is if all you have is light?”

    I understand that you’re trying to help me with this by posing these questions, but this works from what I believe to be a faulty premise, mainly that Adam did not experience joy while in God’s presence. I find that hard to be accurate. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    No one can come to the Father except through the Son. One must believe in Christ, His death and resurrection. Everything after that (good works) is in response to God’s grace in our lives and to be a witness to others.

    I do not know of any legitimately peer reviewed word done by anti-Mormons? I’m new to these blogs and discussions.

  7. JLFuller said

    I think the case planning was where most people opened up about who they were and how they thought they fit into the world. Religion was not directly addressed. When writing a CP, the client is asked about what resources he has and we jointly built on them. It made no difference which church a client attended but if they had a preference we sometimes included participation as a componant. It was ususally for developing a new network of friends and access to differnet social occassions. Doctrine was seldomly discussed unless the client brought it up. But the standard was 33% me talking and 66% the client. This was the clients CP not mine. So that is how we got into it.

  8. JLFuller said

    “No one can come to the Father except through the Son. One must believe in Christ, His death and resurrection. Everything after that (good works) is in response to God’s grace in our lives and to be a witness to others.”
    Mormons do all those things but yet you don’t consider us Christians. Of course we think there is more to it than what you wrote but everything you talked about is found in our theology. Do historic Christians have the last word on who is and who isn’t?

  9. jackg said

    JLF,

    I agree that the language is often similar. I will admit that I like the language of Mormoni 10:32-33. The problem is that I don’t see that this same viewpoint is espoused in LDS teachings that are based on works-righteousness, such as holding a temple recommend. With regard to whether or not LDS are to be considered Christians, I think the answer lies in established dogma, which includes the trinity. I would think that differing views on the trinity lend themselves to differing perspectives on Jesus Christ. Ultimately, God will have the last word on who is and who isn’t a true disciple of Christ. As LDS, I considered myself to be Christian. I would never dare tell my children they were not Christians; however, I believe that they hold to heretical teachings that changes the view one has on Christ. I believe Christ to be our God, our LORD, our Savior, and the author and finisher of salvation. I believe He completed the work of redemption on the cross. I don’t believe He merely put us in a position to save ourselves through works and ordinances.

  10. […] Mormon Thing?” blog, asked – and answered – why he thought Mormons leave the church.  In the posting, he suggested some leave becasue their original commitment was based on “incomplete or […]

  11. JLFuller said

    Jackg
    I have not read the book but I would be interested in what his opinion was of what he read. If he is a legitimate historian he may have osmething wothwile to say. BTW, I just recieved Dr. Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus. It is facinating. So far, it is well worth reading.

    About the Trinitarian thing you talked about above – it is easily proved and documented that it is a fourth century doctrine contrived by men and was not supported by 1st century Christians. The NT doesn’t support it. They were political accommodations forced by the Roman Emporer.

  12. nephi said

    I have been mormon for 4 months now, the church rules! Check oout my blog: realmormonism.blogspot.com

  13. sandrar said

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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