An Ex-Mormon Husband and Wife Explain Why They Left the LDS Church

Over at Mormon Stories, there’s a compelling story of a husband and wife who left the Mormon church after many years:

In this episode we interview John and Brooke McLay. John served for 14 years as an employee of the LDS Church Education System (CES). In this capacity he served as: a seminary teacher and principal, an institute teacher and director, a BYU Education Week speaker and an EFY Director. John also served as a member of a stake high council, and was serving in a bishopric during the months leading up to his decision to leave the LDS Church. John and Brooke resigned their membership of the LDS Church in August of 2011. This is their story.

There are four parts and each of them is nearly 1.5 hours long. I had watched a few clips but not the entire thing. Still, Part 3 discusses John McLay’s decision to resign and Part 4 is called “How the LDS Church Education System (CES) Harms the Church and Its Members”:

Reader Chris writes:

While John McLay is not strictly an atheist (though he appears to be considering that option) I wanted to bring your attention to the story of his family because it’s a heartbreaking example of the suffering many people face when they publicly renounce their faith…

The McLays have also endured considerable financial difficulties upon quitting the church (and John his job). They have foreclosed on their house and John is still struggling to find employment.

If any of you have been through the situation before, or you see any parts you think we should all watch, please leave your thoughts (or the relevant timestamps) in the comments.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    How can anyone say that Mormonism isn’t a cult? In any credible religion you could just stop attending church and walk away. Yes, Islam has life and religion inseparably intertwined, and some Protestant sects have a high degree of social control, but within Christianity, Mormons take that to a whole new level. There is simply no life outside the church and every tiny aspect of life seems to be controlled by them

    • craig

      “credible religion” = oxymoron.

    • Marco Conti

      Lately I have been doing a lot of research about Mormonism. It is appalling how a completely fabricated religion with so many contradictions that it makes the old testament look like a pristine example of logic and common sense can take such hold.

      Of course, the beginning of the LDS church are no more or less false than Christianity, it’s just that when it started they had newspapers and a court system and the paper hasn’t degraded yet. But that means that any existing Mormons and possible converts really have no excuse to join this farce of a religion.  Christians at least can claim the sands of time as an excuse and debunkers have to contend with the same lack of documentation as the believers do. 
      The LDS is pretty much all out in the open for anyone wanting to spend an afternoon at the library and on the internet. 

      It is funny that this article brings up the Mitt Romney ad. 
      “Is it possible to strongly disagree with Mormonism and still vote for Mitt Romney?”

      Sure, they both believe in implausible gods and they share the same delusion. Too bad that each believe the other is going to hell. Just wait for when the evangelical get a load of planet Kolob. That’s crazy even by their standards.

      • Sundancer056

        The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church on the earth. You could save yourself a lot of research by simply reading the Book of Mormon and asking God if it is true. If you will do so, you will receive a witness that it is true by the power of the holy ghost.

        • Bsdanielm

          The mormon church is a fraud.  Joseph smith stole wives from other married guys.  He even married teen kids.  Dont believe me? Please refer the Utah Family records.  JS was a kiddy F###er

  • Bo Tait

    Very brave people. The inspiration for change reaches far outside the walls of the mormon church.

    I just can’t believe he didn’t get himself fired! DUDE! Unemployment is your friend. I get he was trying to be as respectful as possible, but man. Family needs first. Take some extra criticism from the community and keep a roof over the heads of your children. Of course, hindsight and all that. They were under tons of pressure and just wanted to get out as quick as possible. 

    • classof91

      I think he stated in the interview that his integrity would not allow him to do that, and I admire him for it!

  • Adam

    Probably not the appropriate place to note this but: the pop-up ads need to go.

  • Anonymous

    For more great ex-mormon stories check out:  http://mormonexpression.com/voices/
    (–most become agnostic or atheists. )

    Also, the exmormon foundation has audios of all its conferences. http://exmormonfoundation.org/conference2011.html

    And there is an “I am an exMormon” series of videos on youtube.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ExmormonFoundation

    I grew up around a lot of Mormons and I think ex-Mormons makes some of the finest skeptics. I love all deconversions stories, but ex-mormon deconversions are my favorite.   
     
    (Ha– there’s an ad for “Why Evangelicals should support Mitt Romney” on this page)

  • EJC

    I come from a very small, isolated southeast Alaska community. It is my home (well, I now live in California) and I know very well what these people are going through. Here is my story:

    I was born into a Catholic family, but I figured out the bullshit of the Catholics at a ripe young age — around 7 or 8 — and rebelled hard against being made to go to Church School twice a week. I mean, I got booted out of those classes on a routine basis, so much so you could have set a watch to it. Anyway, the fianl straw as a youth came when the priest was conducting a class on the origins of the world, and asked if anyone could come up with another idea versus the ol’ Magic Tree/Talking snake BS [my wording], I raised my hand and gleefully said “evolution”. This was the mid 70s, and MAN did the priest freak out on me….Okay, now then, I basically just went along with what I had to do with my family, but as I got older I simply gave no thought nor credence to religion. It was not like I was actively being contrary, I just never gave it any thought.

    Okay, so in my little town, I grew up helping people out. Shoveling walks when the neighbors couldn’t, plowing driveways, and as I gained traction into my first career, I would make sure that any kid who couldn’t afford gear for backcountry trips had it, and that once a season, I would volunteer with the Yukon Mounties (my town is right along the border between Alaska and BC/Yukon) taking disadvantaged youth on wee long kayak trips up the Yukon River…

    Several years ago, I finally spoke out vis-a-vis a huge cross that would get put up every holiday season up on the hillside, on public land. Everyone had suspicions I was an atheist, but when I went to city hall and filled out a complaint about the cross, that was the final ‘nail on the cross’ so to speak.

    All of the sudden, people who I have been there for since a child, people who I have helped, and been friends with for a lifetime, turned on me. I became a town pariah overnight. Seriously. There is only one grocery store, and if you want to eat, you have to shop there. The amount of nasty comments, cold-shoulder shunning and mean-spirited BS I was dealt simply stunned me. Again, these are people I have known my entire life, and people who I would routinely help. It was what you do in a small, isolated and hash-climate community!

    The Chief of Police is a born again Southern Baptist, and I became his target. I received tickets and harassment from the police. Within three months, I got as many tickets. Now, as a frame of reference, in 20 years prior, I had NEVER had one single ticket. You do the math.

    The local paper did a full page Op/Ed piece, lambasting me, and the idea the cross had to be removed. I contacted the Alaska branch of the ACLU, but it took them two years before they could possibly do anything about it. During those two years, I finally had enough. I was never invited to any parties ever again, and all those “friends” no longer called, stopped by, or asked me to go skiing/fishing/climbing etc…

    One of the more bitter incidents came from a single Mormon mother who had two kids. They had little to no money, and before this incident, one Christmas, I made sure each of the kids had iPods under the tree. No matter, as the mother became one of the most vociferous and outspoken people against me (her kids weren’t, as they still were really cool and polite to me in public – telling me there was huge conflict inside them vis-a-vis the cult of Mormonism).

    Finally, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. Seriously. I moved. I was pretty much “run out of town on a rail”. I still own property there, and I go up once a year to check on it, but fuck them. I will always love the area and wilderness of the area, but I could give on lousy fuck about the people there now. And that sucks, because this is my home town.

    So yes, I know fully what this couple is going through. It has been my experience in life, that the least trustworthy and most acidic people are Christians (for the sake of the story I am including Mormons in this category). They will turn on you in a heartbeat and fuck you over.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

    I come from a very small, isolated southeast Alaska community. It is my home (well, I now live in California) and I know very well what these people are going through. Here is my story:

    I was born into a Catholic family, but I figured out the bullshit of the Catholics at a ripe young age — around 7 or 8 — and rebelled hard against being made to go to Church School twice a week. I mean, I got booted out of those classes on a routine basis, so much so you could have set a watch to it. Anyway, the final straw as a youth came when the priest was conducting a class on the origins of the world, and asked if anyone could come up with another idea versus the ol’ Magic Tree/Talking snake BS [my wording], I raised my hand and gleefully said “evolution”. This was the mid 70s, and MAN did the priest freak out on me….Okay, now then, I basically just went along with what I had to do with my family, but as I got older I simply gave no thought nor credence to religion. It was not like I was actively being contrary, I just never gave it any thought.

    Okay, so in my little town, I grew up helping people out. Shoveling walks when the neighbors couldn’t, plowing driveways, and as I gained traction into my first career, I would make sure that any kid who couldn’t afford gear for backcountry trips had it, and that once a season, I would volunteer with the Yukon Mounties (my town is right along the border between Alaska and BC/Yukon) taking disadvantaged youth on wee long kayak trips up the Yukon River…

    Several years ago, I finally spoke out vis-a-vis a huge cross that would get put up every holiday season up on the hillside, on public land. Everyone had suspicions I was an atheist, but when I went to city hall and filled out a complaint about the cross, that was the final ‘nail on the cross’ so to speak.

    All of the sudden, people who I have been there for since a child, people who I have helped, and been friends with for a lifetime, turned on me. I became a town pariah overnight. Seriously. There is only one grocery store, and if you want to eat, you have to shop there. The amount of nasty comments, cold-shoulder shunning and mean-spirited BS I was dealt simply stunned me. Again, these are people I have known my entire life, and people who I would routinely help. It was what you do in a small, isolated and hash-climate community!

    The Chief of Police is a born again Southern Baptist, and I became his target. I received tickets and harassment from the police. Within three months, I got as many tickets. Now, as a frame of reference, in 20 years prior, I had NEVER had one single ticket. You do the math.

    The local paper did a full page Op/Ed piece, lambasting me, and the idea the cross had to be removed. I contacted the Alaska branch of the ACLU, but it took them two years before they could possibly do anything about it. During those two years, I finally had enough. I was never invited to any parties ever again, and all those “friends” no longer called, stopped by, or asked me to go skiing/fishing/climbing etc…

    One of the more bitter incidents came from a single Mormon mother who had two kids. They had little to no money, and before this incident, one Christmas, I made sure each of the kids had iPods under the tree. No matter, as the mother became one of the most vociferous and outspoken people against me (her kids weren’t, as they still were really cool and polite to me in public – telling me there was huge conflict inside them vis-a-vis the cult of Mormonism).

    Finally, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. Seriously. I moved. I was pretty much “run out of town on a rail”. I still own property there, and I go up once a year to check on it, but fuck them. I will always love the area and wilderness of the area, but I could give on lousy fuck about the people there now. And that sucks, because this is my home town.

    So yes, I know fully what this couple is going through. It has been my experience in life, that the least trustworthy and most acidic people are Christians (for the sake of the story I am including Mormons in this category). They will turn on you in a heartbeat and fuck you over.

  • Virgin Rose

    Mmm yeah… I said this earlier on another thread, but when you leave The Church (as they call it), you have to be willing to risk losing your family, friends, spouse, and even your job. Especially if you work for The Church, they simply don’t tolerate differences of opinion. The leadership has even come out recently and told the faithful to avoid any religious information on the internet (even pro-Mormon info), and to only follow the written material distributed by The Church in manuals.

    I was lucky enough to reason my way out of the religion at the age of 15. Because of this, I never went on to marry a Mormon or have my job security contingent on keeping Mormon overlords happy. I also have a wonderful family that chose not to ostracize me. But I do stress that I was lucky.

    I would add one more website for anyone who is interested in the issues ex-Mormons face: http://www.exmormon.org . There are hundreds of stories and archived discussions, written by people trying to recover from the process of extricating themselves from The Church. The information on that site and the thousands who post there were incredibly helpful to me in trying to figure out how to live once it was time to start living on my own.

    I cannot put into words how exhilarating it is to get out from underneath that religion, and live as an unrepentant atheist! :)

  • Anonymous

    I skimmed through parts 3 and 4 and their story is both courageous and hard to watch.  When I left the church almost 16 years ago, my family told me that I was breaking up the family and how could I leave the church and that our family is not eternal anymore.  It’s been a difficult time but most relationships with family have been repaired and we are all on better speaking terms.  The hardest was when my mom was dying of melanoma in 2006 and days before she passed, her last wish was for me to return to the church. I had to be honest with her and tell that was not going to happen.  My sister tore me a new one and asked why didn’t I just tell her that I would to make her feel better.  I told my sister that being dishonest with my mom, no matter how hard the answer was to her, was not part of my ethics.

    My friends who I grew up with in the church have mostly turned away from me.  We are still facebook friends, but rarely chat.  Many of us have a lot more in common than just our growing up Mormon, yet they shun themselves from me on many levels.

    The church is an ingrained system of repetition, which is hard to shake even after 16 years of being gone.  It’s a system that is programmed in you over the years and takes time to get rid of.  The freedom and relief that I felt after leaving the church was much more liberating and refreshing than the anguish I felt while trying to be a person that I knew that I would never be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527580163 Elizabeth Klein

      It’s fascinating that the people who believe in the afterlife are the ones implying, “Go ahead and lie to her, since she is on her deathbed.” An additional response to your sister’s attack could have been, “If you believe she is going to heaven and will look down upon us, won’t she know that I have lied?” Of course, regardless of her knowing, I wouldn’t have lied either.

      But ugh! Unbelievable!

      • Anonymous

        That would have been a great response.

        Also unbelievable was my sisters suggestion that I marry my girlfriend the day after my mom died because “my husband is a bishop are we are all here as a family”  Warped on way too many levels.

        My response to her: “i don’t want my anniversary being the same date as when mom died.”  She conceded that made sense.

  • Anonymous

    I skimmed through parts 3 and 4 and their story is both courageous and hard to watch.  When I left the church almost 16 years ago, my family told me that I was breaking up the family and how could I leave the church and that our family is not eternal anymore.  It’s been a difficult time but most relationships with family have been repaired and we are all on better speaking terms.  The hardest was when my mom was dying of melanoma in 2006 and days before she passed, her last wish was for me to return to the church. I had to be honest with her and tell that was not going to happen.  My sister tore me a new one and asked why didn’t I just tell her that I would to make her feel better.  I told my sister that being dishonest with my mom, no matter how hard the answer was to her, was not part of my ethics.

    My friends who I grew up with in the church have mostly turned away from me.  We are still facebook friends, but rarely chat.  Many of us have a lot more in common than just our growing up Mormon, yet they shun themselves from me on many levels.

    The church is an ingrained system of repetition, which is hard to shake even after 16 years of being gone.  It’s a system that is programmed in you over the years and takes time to get rid of.  The freedom and relief that I felt after leaving the church was much more liberating and refreshing than the anguish I felt while trying to be a person that I knew that I would never be.

  • Anonymous

    I skimmed through parts 3 and 4 and their story is both courageous and hard to watch.  When I left the church almost 16 years ago, my family told me that I was breaking up the family and how could I leave the church and that our family is not eternal anymore.  It’s been a difficult time but most relationships with family have been repaired and we are all on better speaking terms.  The hardest was when my mom was dying of melanoma in 2006 and days before she passed, her last wish was for me to return to the church. I had to be honest with her and tell that was not going to happen.  My sister tore me a new one and asked why didn’t I just tell her that I would to make her feel better.  I told my sister that being dishonest with my mom, no matter how hard the answer was to her, was not part of my ethics.

    My friends who I grew up with in the church have mostly turned away from me.  We are still facebook friends, but rarely chat.  Many of us have a lot more in common than just our growing up Mormon, yet they shun themselves from me on many levels.

    The church is an ingrained system of repetition, which is hard to shake even after 16 years of being gone.  It’s a system that is programmed in you over the years and takes time to get rid of.  The freedom and relief that I felt after leaving the church was much more liberating and refreshing than the anguish I felt while trying to be a person that I knew that I would never be.

  • http://twitter.com/_mikeweber Mike Weber

    She quotes Tim Minchin in the second video. This made me smile immediately :)

  • Shaun

    I found many parts of the second video interesting. I found
    it inspiring the way he has started to question his faith and the teaching of
    Mormonism.

    Parts of the video I found interesting were (these are all
    approx. times all in the second video):

    34:00 where their 8 y/o son realizes the how adam and eve
    could not have populated the earth.

    41:00 – 43:40Talking about Joseph Smith and coming to the
    knowledge that everything the church teaches is true and if you can’t believe
    that then the problem is yours. Keep listening until 48:00 to learn more about
    how emotions can be used to manipulate people.

    50:00 – Talking about critical thinking and how it’s not
    embraced.

    1:00:00 – 1:13:00 Great example of a student he had about
    Noah’s flood. He continues about various other things talked about in the CES
    and not passed along to students to think about critically.

    1:11:00 – Talking about a missionary having problems
    believing and how he could not continue and how he was ostracized.  Sad part at 1:11:45 how this missionary
    couldn’t make it work in his head.

    1:15:00 – Talks about Hitchens and Sam Harris as things he
    has read.

    1:16:00 – Their love for truth no matter the consequences.

     

     

     

  • Michael Thelen

    Hemant, I think the clip you’re looking for is this (50:46 – 50:50):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PillN8z7MRY&t=50m46s

    When I heard her say that, I knew I had to post it here.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Haha! I love it :) Thanks!


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