Note: The following was originally printed in the May/June 2023 edition of Mormonism Researched, sent bimonthly to financial supporters of MRM. To request a free subscription to Mormonism Researched, please visit here.
Not only have I had the honor of serving our gracious Lord as a missionary to the LDS people for over 40 years, but I have also been allowed the privilege to speak to many who have separated themselves from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have always been fascinated as I listen to them tell of their spiritual journey and what it was that originally compelled them to dive deeper into their former faith, only to find that what they had committed their lives to was not based on fact.
Some of those I listened to have come to a saving faith in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament. They often tell of different and sometimes amazing experiences that ultimately ended up at the same rugged cross. In their search for answers, they were found by a Jesus whose righteous works were enough to forgive them of their sins, free them from their past guilt, and instill a hope that eternal life in the presence of God was a secure destination because their “ticket” had nothing to do with their inadequate selves.
Some who have left the LDS Church have not had such an experience. Many in this latter category are understandably hesitant to give their life to another religious belief, knowing that the organization they defended previously was not trustworthy as they were led to believe. I get that. But what I don’t understand is why people who once claimed to be “true Christians” could abandon Jesus when that betrayal starts with Joseph Smith. And while I fully acknowledge that their LDS view of Jesus was hardly orthodox, I’m still puzzled as to why, when they found out Joseph lied, they decided to jettison a faith in Christ as well. A church or a false prophet? That I can understand. But Jesus?
Statistics show that many who leave Mormonism will embrace atheism, little realizing (or admitting) that this is also a religion, complete with dogma and a worldview. Those who are smart enough to realize that to be absolutely sure there is no God you really need to be omniscient, settle for agnosticism. But does either offer a satisfactory answer for the one who asks, “Is this all there is?”
A common thread I have found in conversations with those who leave Mormonism is that they came to the conclusion that “The Church” was not true. Their reasons are often varied, but not usually singular. It may have been nonsensical doctrines like eternal progression or the notion of a deity who is among a long line of deities, always less powerful than the myriad of deities who preceded him. For others, it was realizing that Joseph Smith had no ability to translate ancient languages, causing doubt in both the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. For some it was Smith’s immoral behavior and how the LDS Church defends his “marriages” to married women and young girls.
Many have told me they left Mormonism because they found that the “only true church” of D&C 1:30 was not true at all. So when I hear of people, some who profess to be Christian, tell me that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day is just another Christian church and that it, like many others, is a true church, and I am wrong to think otherwise and even more wrong to act on that assumption, I think back on the many conversations I’ve had with those who left, and how insulting a claim like that must be to them. I’m not implying that people who insist the LDS Church is a Christian church are purposely accusing former Mormons of ignorance, or worse, lying, but the fact remains, Mormons don’t normally risk alienation and sometimes persecution by friends and family when they leave a church they believe is true. They leave because they believe it is false. We should listen to their stories and do our homework, lest we unwittingly give them the impression that their decision to leave was wrong and unnecessary.