By Eric Johnson
For any Latter-day Saint, the idea of becoming a "former Mormon" is probably the scariest, most difficult decision he or she could ever make. To make that decision could very well come at a very high price, affecting not only their spiritual life, but their social life as well. This is especially true for those who work for LDS-run or LDS-owned companies in the Utah region or businesses with Mormon bosses. In such cases leaving Mormonism can jeopardize their job.
Leaving the Mormon faith can also mean being treated less cordially by Mormon family members and friends. It is not at all uncommon for former Mormons to be treated differently or be completely ignored by those whom they love. I experienced such behavior when a friend and I were passing out literature at the 1993 San Diego LDS temple open house. My friend, a former Mormon, noticed two ladies whom he had known from his old ward; he made a special effort to greet them and ask how they were doing. Recognizing him, they stared with disdain. "Shame on you," one of the women said. "When are you going to come back to the truth?" Then they walked away.
I asked him if the cold treatment was a result of the newspapers we were handing out. "Not really," he replied. "I guess I'm used to it. Sometimes I run into people whom I have known for years from my old ward, but too often they don't want to have anything to do with me."
Since friends, family members, and missionaries may attempt to change the minds of those who have just left the LDS Church, it is vital for new believers to get grounded in the Christian faith. If you are one who has left the LDS Church and become a new Christian, the following points should be considered:
- You are not alone. It is important that you understand that you are not the only one who has left the LDS Church and faced the crisis of starting over again. Several years ago we hosted meetings for former Mormons that were attended by about a dozen people. Story after story in testimony during that initial evening were strikingly similar. More than one person said: "I thought I was the only one who went through that!"
- Find a church. A person who has just left Mormonism needs to find a Bible-believing, evangelical church with a body of believers who are excited about the things of God. Every Christian, new and old alike, needs to be surrounded by those who can offer Christian fellowship and encouragement.
- Get discipled. It is best if the discipler is someone who knows enough about Mormonism to help teach you the doctrinal differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity (the book, "Answering Mormons' Questions" can be a help in this area). Other former Mormons who have been grounded in the Christian faith make great disciplers. While Christians with no background in Mormonism and with no knowledge of the LDS faith may be very sincere, they may have a difficult time helping you break through the language barriers and theological differences. If they don't know there is a difference, they may overlook some important aspects. [If you are discipling a new Christian who has left Mormonism you may find it extremely frustrating and even confusing. Be patient and understand that getting the Mormonism out of the Mormon often takes longer than getting the Mormon out of Mormonism].
- Take care of loose ends. Try not to make the mistake of succumbing to fear and not telling your LDS family members and friends, including members from your Mormon ward. While these people will probably not like your decision, you should communicate with these people as soon as you feel comfortable. The bishop of the ward should also be informed. Telling these people is better than having them hear from a second-hand source and will prevent even greater hurt feelings down the road.
Many former Mormons also make it a priority to have their names removed from the LDS Church membership list. There are at least three reasons why this is a good idea. First, LDS missionaries love to tell potential converts how "Mormonism is the world's fastest growing religion" even though it is not. Certainly, if every person who left the LDS Church had their name removed, the numbers would not be as impressive. Second, there seems to be a special psychological freedom for many former Mormons when their names are removed. There is a sense of closure. Third, without an official record as to why a person left, it may be hard for you to convince others why you left the church voluntarily and was not "excommunicated" because of some moral failure (a common rumor that is circulated about individuals who leave),
Getting your name removed from the church records is usually very simple. The process begins by sending your bishop a written, signed request. This cannot be a form letter. Merely asking that church representatives not contact you is not enough to have your name removed. Your bishop will contact you in order to make sure you understand what your decision entails. If he feels that you are sure about your decision he will file a "Report of Administrative Action" form that will be sent to your stake president along with your written request to have your name removed. Once the local stake presidency has reviewed the form and your request they will have the bishop send you a letter that states your name is in the process of being removed. Since normally a member has 30 days to rescind his/her decision, don't expect your name to be removed right away. If, after 30 days the stake president does not hear from you, the form and your written request will be forwarded and your name will be removed. Children having their name removed must also sign a written request that is also signed by the parent(s) or legal guardian. If you don't know where your membership records are currently located you can write directly to LDS Church headquarters. (47 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150)
This letter can give you an excellent opportunity to explain why you have come to such a conclusion. You may wish to include the following points:
- I do not believe that God is a glorified human being, or that men can become Gods (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 43:10).
- I cannot belong to a church which denigrates Jesus Christ by claiming He and Lucifer are spirit-brothers.
- I have found Joseph Smith does not meet the biblical requirements of a true prophet according to Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and Deuteronomy 18:20-22.
- I no longer believe the Book of Mormon is the "most correct book on earth." (You may wish to list some of the inconsistencies between the teachings in the Book of Mormon and Mormon doctrine as it is taught today.)
- I cannot, in good conscience, accept the Doctrine and Covenants as inspired by God in light of the many corrections and errors it contains.
- I also find it impossible to embrace the Book of Abraham as being authentic when credible Egyptologists have agreed that Joseph Smith's "translation" of his papyri was completely erroneous.
- I cannot belong to a church which claims a priesthood that is not based upon biblical principles.
- Since discovering that salvation is a free gift purchased through Christ's death on the cross (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5), I have experienced what Jesus called the "peace that passes all understanding." I now have the assurance that when I die I will inherit eternal life (1 John 5:13).
By all means include a short explanation as to how your former church leaders can come to know the Jesus of the Bible as you do. Be gracious, extending to the reader the same patience and understanding that was shown to you before you came to see the error of Mormonism.
It is not uncommon for the local leadership to "drag their feet" on this matter. Should you not hear from them after a month or so, you should re-contact your bishop to ask about the progress of your request.
While leaving Mormonism may be one of the hardest decisions a person could ever make, there is nothing better than a biblical relationship with the true Jesus Christ. For further reading we suggest two books by Latayne Scott entitled, "Why We Left Mormonism," and "After Mormonism, What?" These books deal with much of the emotional aspect of leaving the LDS Church as well as tips for the Christian who is in close contact with those who have made this decision. Both books are published by Baker Book House.
If there is anything else that Mormonism Research Ministry can do for you, feel free to contact us.
- MormonNoMore.com - "How to resign from the Mormon Church "
- How To Have Your Name Removed From LDS Church Records (Institute for Religious Research)
- How to Remove Your Name from the LDS Records, by Sandra Tanner
- Exit Stories (Institute for Religious Research) - "Personal accounts by ex-Mormons who share their experiences to help questioning Mormons and other ex-Mormons"
- Testimonies (MormonInfo.org) - Large list of testimonies of those who have left Mormonism