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The Craziest Thing to Hear After Leaving Mormonism

By Lane Wagner on Mar 5, 2022

I grew up a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormon Church for short. I went to church weekly, paid tithing, and even served a 2-year proselyting and service mission in Paraguay from when I was 18 until I was 20. A few years after returning home, I ended up leaving the church after a long process of research that led me to the conclusion that the Mormon Church almost certainly wasn’t “the true church”. The reasons behind my departure I’ll save for another time, but suffice it to say that since leaving I now label myself an agnostic atheist.

Before getting to the “crazy thing” that prompted me to sit down and write this article, let’s set the stage by discussing how different kinds of people in my life responded to the news that I was done with religion.

Active members of the Mormon Church

Almost all of my and my wife’s extended families remain active members of the Mormon Church. Needless to say, they weren’t excited to hear I was leaving, but unlike other fundamentalist religions, Mormons these days are quite compassionate towards members who leave. You’ll rarely be shunned, though I’m not going to say it’s impossible. I never experienced anything like that. On the contrary, the attitude of the remaining active members becomes one of sympathy - you’re now a lost sheep that needs to be led back to the fold. For the rest of my life, I’ll likely continue to be told that I just need to re-read the Book of Mormon and say daily prayers if I want to be blessed with a newfound testimony of the truth claims of the Church.

To be honest, I’m not even annoyed when church members ask me to read an article from the current Prophet that they think I’ll find “interesting”. I actually like reading those kinds of things, whether it’s of Mormon origin or from any other religion. I love learning about what people believe, and I try to be open to changing my mind again if I find a new piece of evidence that’s sufficiently compelling. After all, it was open-mindedness that led me away from the Church in the first place. I even love talking to missionaries if they knock on my door. After all, I know exactly the questions that are most interesting to ask.

Let me explain what active Mormons often do that does annoy me.

Others who have left the Church

When you join people on their side of any ideological aisle, they get excited. After all, now you’re part of their tribe. I found that I need to be careful when talking to other ex-Mormons, because attacks on the Church can often become exaggerated, and I’m not interested in claims that aren’t true, even if they support my conclusion that Church’s claims are incorrect. Besides, when I’m later talking to faithful members, the last thing I want to do is bring up something that discredits the church, but that turns out to not be true. All that does is reinforce their belief that ex-members are just disgruntled and makeup stories to paint the church in a bad light.

Other atheists or agnostics who have never been Mormon

I love discussions with non-believers who have never been members, primarily because they usually are just so fascinated to hear about what the Church is like on the inside. Many people know a thing or two about Mormons, but there are an insane amount of misconceptions, or things that have just changed wildly in the last 100 years that people don’t know about. In return, I love hearing their stories about whichever religion they were brought up in if they had one. It’s just nice being able to discuss religion from the outside, without having to walk on eggshells to keep from offending people.

Non-Mormon religious people

Here’s where I have my primary bone to pick today and to be clear, I’m talking about Christians. I’m generalizing my experience with various groups of people throughout this article, so please don’t think that I’m saying everyone out there acts this way. I’m also not sure how non-Christians would respond because I haven’t had many conversations with them about leaving Mormonism. However, I suspect it would often be quite similar.

To frame the issue, here’s a summary of how the “I left” conversation goes with another atheist:

The interesting thing is that when I speak to Christians, they say the same thing:

I get confused here because in my mind the Christian still believes crazy shit, just of a different flavor.

I want to point out, at first I was annoyed when this would happen. Now I find it fun. I mean, it still bothers me that they think this way, but I genuinely enjoy diving into the ensuing conversation. My next question is usually, “I agree, but I know you’re Christian, which part of Mormonism do you find particularly crazy?”

The theme of the conversation can vary wildly at this point. They can talk about how the Church used to be polygamist, how black people were denied access to the priesthood, how Mormons believe ancient Jews migrated to the Americas, or how Mormons dare to add a third testament to the Holy Bible. The thing is, from my perspective, of the four main books of scripture I believed in as a Mormon (The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine and Covenants), The Old Testament by far makes the most outrageous and supernatural claims.

If you want to tell me how “nuts” it is that Joseph Smith was visited by an Angel in the nineteenth century, you’re first going to have to explain to me why the entire Earth flooding ~5000 years ago is more believable. If you want to tell me that it’s insane that Native Americans came from Jerusalem, you’ll need to tell me first how it’s perfectly reasonable that Moses parted the Red Sea and summoned an Angel of Death.

Anyhow, as I said, I’m not mad about this. I love having these conversations, and the people I’m referring to are still great friends of mine. However, these discussions are bonkers to me. If you believe in the supernatural without evidence, I guess that’s fine, but if you tell me that your beliefs are “normal” while another religion is “wacko” I don’t think I follow. I’ll need to see some evidence for that.