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Why I left the Mormon Church

It has been a few years since I stopped believing in the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). I officially resigned one year ago (2017). I have certainly gone through the motions of what can probably be called the grieving process. However, I am now at a point in my life where I am truly at the acceptance phase and feel like I am finally moving on from my religious upbringing. But how did I get to this point? Let me tell you it has not been smooth sailing or an easy journey.

I was never going to fit in with the culture of the Mormon church. No matter how hard I tried I was never good enough, pretty enough, or quiet enough. My parents accidentally raised me as a feminist. As far as I can remember I have been able to distinguish what is fair and what is not. My earliest memory of being able to tell that things were not fair or equal was when I turned 8 years old and entered the Achievement Days program, which is a program for girls 8-11 years old. I wanted to be in cub scouts but unfortunately, I was not allowed to be in the cub scouts. In Achievement days all we did were crafts. I hated crafts as a child, still detest them as an adult. I could never grasp why the cub scouts did more fun and adventurous activities while we girls had to color another picture. I made my concerns and protests known but nothing ever changed.

I could not wait until I turned 12 years old so that I could finally enter the Young Women's program. Surely that was the program where everything would be better and I would finally start feeling more equal to my male counterparts. I turned 12 and my hopes and dreams of more equal treatment were dashed. The Young Men's/Scouting program had the boys participating in far more fun and adventurous activities than the Young Women's  program. I was older and thus was easily able to determine that the Young Men's/Scouting program received more money than the Young Women's program. Why that was the case was still to be determined. Afterall, I was repeatedly told that boys and girls, men and women were equal in the eyes of God and in the church. However, I was beginning to see that that was not the case. Unequal funding was a clear message that the boys were more important than the girls. As a budding feminist that did not sit well with me, I would voice my concerns often during my years in the Young Women's program to no avail.

When I graduated high school and moved out to Utah for college I was incredibly excited. Finally, I was going to be among my religious peers. I was eager to learn what it would be like to be surrounded by people who shared my same faith. I will add here that I grew up in  Minnesota and Mormons were a tiny minority religion. What I quickly learned, however, was that I would be forced unwillingly into a fashion contest. The culture in Utah is one of perfection. One had to not only be righteous in spirit but outward appearances were also a reflection of how righteous one was. Women wore the latest fashions and the latest hairstyles. It felt like a beauty contest and one I could never truly compete. Minnesota culture is very different and laidback, far more accepting, and well...there is a reason for the saying "Minnesota Nice." I bought a lot of new dresses and make up all so I could play the part of a righteous Mormon woman. It was exhausting and expensive. Everyone felt fake, plastic and I struggled with making real friendships. The real friendships I did make were far and few between.

What is surreal to experience are the shallow relationships people have here in Utah. I could never fully grasp why people seemed unable to dig a little deeper and form closer and more meaningful friendships. And what I mean by that is being able to maintain a friendship past the visiting teaching stage, and being able to keep a friendship despite a change of ward boundaries. Ultimately, to have a friendship that extends beyond the church.

 My theory is that the Mormon church encourages its members to remain as little children, it discourages members from experiencing life outside of the prescribed parameters of the faith. It tells the youth to refrain from dating until 16-years-old and then only date in groups. Then once they turn 18 they are thrust into the world of marriage and are heavily pressured to marry young. Many marry their first real boyfriend or girlfriend without having any substantial experience in dating. Mormons are discouraged from watching anything with sex or nudity and you will see a large number of Mormon adults who are obsessed with Disney movies. The young single adults, the single adults, and the mature single adult programs are always supervised by married couples. Again, adults are being supervised. Their activities include similar if the not same activities given to the teenagers. Once a couple is married they are still not enough until they have children--this constant battle of never feeling adequate enough or adult enough actively encourages people to remain stunted in their emotional growth.

Back to my story...

I married at 22 years old. I was considered an old maid by then. I was married in the Bountiful, Utah temple. I had been promised in my patriarchal blessing (a special blessing that is revered and cherished and is supposedly unique to each person)  I received when I was sixteen years old that everything would make sense for me about this life and my part in this life once I went through the temple. I was very eager to do so because I had so many questions and felt so out of place in the church.

 As I entered the women's changing room so I could receive my endowments I saw something horrifying. The women were dressed in outfits I had never seen before. The first thought that ran through my mind was, "Oh my god I'm in a CULT." The women were wearing all white and their heads were covered in veils. It frightened me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run away. But, I wanted to marry my husband and my loved ones were able to enter the room with no weird looks on their faces. So, it must have just been me...right? I was the weird one who simply did not understand. I pressed forward.

The endowment ceremony was weird. Really, really, weird. Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. Seriously, the temple prep courses did not mention ANYTHING like what I saw or experienced. There were a lot of handshakes and there was a lot of chanting. My mind kept going off about cults and secret combinations and how this was very wrong. Then the part came where all the women had to veil their faces. A panic came over me. I have never been able to have my face covered comfortably, it always sends me into a panic because it obstructs my ability to breathe. I did not understand why women had to veil their faces and the men did not.

Once I entered the celestial room and was able to unveil my face I felt so much more comfortable. I had so many questions after what I had just experienced and I was eager to receive some answers. Unfortunately, the answers were either unsatisfying or no one had a real answer. Why did women have to veil their faces in the presence of God but men did not? Why did men covenant to serve and obey God but women covenanted to only serve and obey their husbands? Did this really seem equal to the women in my family? None of them had any complaints or seemed to indicate any feelings of concern or discomfort. It was on me again. I was the weird one. I was the problem.

A few days later I married my husband. I did not know the man who married/sealed us. I barely knew or did not know many of the people who were in the room with me. I had to wear the ugliest outfit to get married in. I was not married in my beautiful dress that is in my wedding pictures. I cried at the end of the ceremony. Why did I give myself to my husband but he did not give himself to me? This was not the experience I was promised. This was not the princess fairy tale I was sold throughout my youth.

One day I stumbled upon a movement within Mormonism, Ordain Women. Ordain Women was an answer to my prayers. My entire life I felt alone and that I was the problem, that I was the only one who had doubts or questions. When I found this group suddenly I wasn't alone. I was able to find men and women who had similar ideas and questions as I did. I thought women should be able to have the priesthood, too. I remember I even prayed about it and felt an overwhelming peace wash over me and it confirmed to me that women should indeed have the priesthood. It confirmed to me that God wanted women to have the priesthood. But my church did not agree. The church leaders disagreed very publically. They even excommunicated one of the leaders of Ordain Women. It was heartbreaking.

My outspoken support of Ordain Women caused quite the stir among family and friends. I had people openly mock me, chastise me, and even told I was going to hell. I had people who I thought were my friends abandon me, they unfriended and even blocked me from social media sites.

When I was still in school I studied to be a historian. Part of my education was learning how to effectively and thoroughly research. Growing up in the Mormon church it was explicitly discouraged from looking at sources outside of approved Mormon sources. Anything that puts a bad light on the church is considered "Anti-Mormon literature." As a historian, I was taught to look at information from all sides in order to get a clear view and understanding. This conflicted with what I was taught in church. However, I found a loophole, I was able to research using only Mormon sources but I was able to find information that was certainly never taught in Sunday school.

I found essays on the official LDS website that confirmed what I was originally told were anti-Mormon lies. I read about Joseph having at least 5 different versions of the First Vision ranging from angels, to just God alone, to apostles, etc. If I ever saw God it would not be an experience I would forget details about, especially the major characters of who told me to start my own church. I read about how Joseph did not translate the Book of Mormon from the Gold Plates but rather put a rock into a hat and then put his face into the same hat and "translated" the Book of Mormon. I read about Joseph Smith and how he had over 30 wives, some as young as 14 years old while he was in his 30s. I knew even in the 19th century marrying child brides was uncommon and even frowned upon. Polygamy was always a sore and uncomfortable part of Mormonism for me. It was in the past and the reasons for it were varied. But I was never taught that Joseph Smith started polygamy. I was taught that Brigham Young had started it and it was because there were so many Widows. It's hard to believe it was because of the Widows when Joseph Smith was marrying children and the wives whose husbands were still alive but conveniently sent away on missions. There are other essays ranging in topics and can be found on the church's website here.

As I continued my research I eventually stumbled across the CES Letter. Upon reading this letter and looking at the cited sources, I came to the conclusion that the Mormon church was not true.

It was not an easy decision to accept. I had to first be open to the idea of the church not being true. It took me years to be able to open my mind enough to be able to even consider it. Once I was able to research information with a truly open mind that I was able to absorb all of the information. I had seen similar information in my life before but it was just anti-Mormon lies at the time. Once I had a more formal education I was able to look at information with a steady and clear mind.

I had experiences in my life that really challenged my acceptance that the Mormon church is false. I was taught that these feelings and experiences was called the Holy Ghost testifying to me that the Mormon church was the one true church. I had to research more about these experiences. I learned about a theory called Emotional Elevation. It explained the scientific reasoning for these religious experiences that people have--and why even those of differing faiths have the same feelings.

To get to this part of my journey was incredibly painful. I lost many friends. I lost any chance of having a close friendship with some in-laws. I actually recently found out that I am not allowed to be alone with my nieces or nephews because of my faith change. That last part has been extremely hard to swallow. I have cried a lot over it. Just because I no longer identify as Mormon does not mean I am an evil person. I actually get to choose my own morals--not ones forced upon me by others. I choose my actions and my beliefs because of my desire to be a good person. I choose my morals not based on fear of damnation or on the hopes of an eternal reward. Being denied closeness to my nieces and nephews on the basis of a difference of religion is intolerance in action. It makes me feel like a criminal when the only "crime" I have committed is believing in one less god than they do. Despite my extensive experience and knowledge in childcare I am tossed aside and disregarded because I don't believe in Mormonism.

Today, I am an agnostic atheist. I feel no strong emotions of anger or rage after being lied to my entire life. I have resigned from the Mormon church. I wasn't sure I would be able to get to a point where I do not feel a strong desire to browse the ExMormon subreddit or join ExMormon online communities. I feel at peace and ready to continue my journey into acceptance so that I can finally move on from my religious upbringing. I am learning every day and I will probably experience setbacks like the one above--because people can be cruel, and I can still be triggered by known and unknown past experiences.

I did not leave the Mormon church because I wanted to "sin." I did not leave the Mormon church because people were shallow and mean/offensive. I stayed in spite of those experiences. What finally drove me out was learning the real history--not the whitewashed safe history that I was repeatedly taught year after year. I left because it could be demonstrably proven false with plenty of evidence.  I believe in being true in all things, I believe in having integrity in all instances, and I could not justify being lied to or continue giving money to an organization that held familial salvation on condition of belief.

 I am imperfect. I am flawed. I am okay. I am happy. I am comfortable with who I am. I love my life. I love my babies and I love my husband. My husband and I have grown only closer since the loss of religion. We choose each other. Life is quite beautiful when you're living in the now and allow yourself to experience all of the joys and sorrows that life can bring.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story! It's not a very common occurrence that I get to read something that felt like my own words, especially on a topic like this.


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