Yesterday, 150 Mormons Began the Process to Become Ex-Mormons

150 Mormons did something amazing yesterday: They left the church en masse. It was a planned event called a “Declaration of Independence from Mormonism.”

“We’re not doing it out of anger, and we’re not doing it to poke a finger at the church,” said organizer Zilpha Larsen, 36, a lifetime Mormon who has not attended church since 2005. “We’re doing it to support each other in this decision that’s going to cause pain for our families, which will cause pain for ourselves.”

Fed up with their church’s opposition to gay marriage, conflicts with science, racist/sexist doctrine, and its “culture of abuse,” the 150 people came together with their letters of resignation and symbolically pledged to leave:

After gathering in the park, participants hiked a half-mile up nearby Ensign Peak, scaled in 1847 by church President Brigham Young to survey the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city.

At the top, those gathered gave three loud shouts of “Freedom,” cheered, clapped and hugged.

“It’s been a hard journey and this is a symbolic end,” said event organizer Zilpha Larsen, of Lehi, Utah. “I just hope that it boosts people up and helps them feel more comfortable in their decision.”

I hope so, too. More people need to follow suit.

Step one in leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is submitting a formal letter to get off their rolls. That’s what this group did. Their letters will be mailed off soon. It’s tough, it’s emotional, but they made it through.

The next step is dealing with the fallout from family and friends. That’s a little harder. But they have a lot of support from those of us who have left our faith before as well as all of the online communities for ex-Mormons.

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.

  • kielc

    And yet this will get almost no press, while that one atheist blogger who turned Catholic was fawned over by the media.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

      Just telling the masses what they want to hear. Nobody wants to hear about a bunch of religious drones forgetting their place – but they want every finger licking detail they can get about a nonbeliever getting in line with the rest of the sheep.

      • Markdohle

        You know, you sound like someone who belongs to a cult angry that someone has left the fold…..pehaps she is thinking for herself.  Or do you only think people who think for themselves agree with you…..sounds like a sheep fold to me.

        • Brian Adam

          sounds like shes not thinking at all   IMO

        • Patterrssonn

          Your post smells like a sheepfold to me.

    • Markdohle

      Well that is news, not sure an atheist becoming catholic is all that common, or is it?

    • mkb

      Not true actually.  This made it on to the top stories on a neutral aggregator ans the atheist blogger turned Catholic never did.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      And yet this will get almost no press, while that one atheist blogger who turned Catholic was fawned over by the media.

      I’ve seen this story about the Mormons quitting in newspapers all over the country. I didn’t see the story about the atheist anywhere except in the blogosphere (I know it was on CNN, but it was run at a time where not many people saw it). I think the Mormon story has had much broader coverage.

      • http://art.lismitchell.net Pixelfish

        This is the first I’ve seen of it. But so very pleased, as an ex-Mormon who initiated this very process seven years ago. 

  • Gordon Duffy

    It is disgusting that step one of leaving a church involves pleading to be allowed go. I was lucky enough to get out of the Catholic Church before they locked the door and said “no, you cant leave, you are on our books till you die.”

    • http://twitter.com/Arachne110 Arachne

      Why don’t we have a rally of ex-catholics? I would participate. 

      And I may be on the books of catholicism until I die, but that cannot keep me from working against it. What is stronger? A name on a list? Or a politically active agent determined to not let our politics be ruled by religious leaders?

    • Drew M.

       I missed the boat, but I just roll with being a forever-Catholic.

      “Why yes, I am a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, condom-using, Obama-supporting Catholic.”

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/GC4SH7IPMFEQN4MJXQM4G37H4Q James

      Anyone who wants to leave the LDS church can leave whenever they want to. No one holds a gun to your head and tells you that you need to go to church. No one  tells what you do. People maybe you need to act like adults and quit playing the victim that the church is forcing you to go.

  • chanson

    Speaking of online communities for ex-Mormons, be sure to add your blog to Outer Blogness.

    • articulett

       Just read this on Discover about a Mormon “paralyzed by faith”: http://discovermagazine.com/2012/jun/07-vital-signs-paralyzed-by-faith

      • Sarah

        Very interesting.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/GC4SH7IPMFEQN4MJXQM4G37H4Q James

          I’m not sure why 150 people needed to go on a hike and make a big deal out of leaving the church. Maybe they wanted some attention. People leave the Catholic, Baptist, etc everyday so why is this such a big deal. I was inactive from the LDS church for 3 years. I never had any pressure from family and friends that I needed to go back to Church, but I’m glad that I made the decision to go back to church because I noticed that when I wasn’t going to church then I wasn’t very happy. Life seemed to be a lot harder. I now have a lot of peace in my life and I’m very happy because I have been going to church and living the principles of the gospel.

      • Alan Christensen

        For those who don’t know Mormonism from the inside — There’s tremendous pressure for young men (less so for young women) to go out and proselytize fulltime for two years. Not “serving a mission” means you and your parents are failures. It means Mormon women will think you’re not suitable marriage material. It means everyone assuming you have terrible unconfessed sins in addition to the sin of not wanting to go. Going on a mission but not completing it is just as bad. While conventional Christianity accepts that “we are all sinners” and therefore cuts varying degrees of slack, Mormons are expected to strive toward perfection. After all, they call themselves Latter-day SAINTS, not sinners.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/GC4SH7IPMFEQN4MJXQM4G37H4Q James

          This isn’t true. two of my brothers served an LDS mission and two of my brothers didn’t. My parents aren’t failures because two of my brothers didn’t go. It was their choice. All worthy young men are encouraged to go a on mission. Many church leaders didn’t serve an LDS mission. No one is perfect

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LE2HY6WZWCRT6IHXURP7QXBITQ Andy

    Some context for what they’re doing for non-(ex)-mormons:

    Mormons believe in ‘eternal families’: they get ‘sealed’ to their family members in Mormon Temples so that they can live with their families forever in the afterlife.

    When a Mormon resigns from the church, they get ‘un-sealed’, (no more eternal-family).  Their parents will be informed by the church within about 6 months, and anyone who looks them up in the church directory will see that they are missing, which only happens if you have resigned, so it’s not something you can do and just keep quiet about.

    Most of people’s believing family members will feel profoundly wounded, and many will not speak to them again.

    • Jenn

      It is actually possible to keep it quiet.  When my husband resigned from the church, he made it clear that they were not to notify his family, and if they did he would consider legal action.  His family didn’t look him up in the rolls (they didn’t have cause to) so it was 5 years before his parents finally learned that he had left the church, and they only found out because he told them.  

    • http://art.lismitchell.net Pixelfish

      I informed them in my letter that according the precedents mentioned in another comment, that any action taken by the church to inform my family before I did would be seen as punitive, and result in a lawsuit. I know they obeyed that, because I didn’t tell my mom for a few more years, and it was a real surprise to her. Because of this, I recommend pre-emptively coming down heavy, citing the precedents available to you, and letting them know what they can expect if they deviate or try to place church discipline on you. 

  • Alan Christensen

    I’m a former Mormon. (By birth, not by choice.) The Mormon church’s resignation policy is another clue to its cultish nature. The church considers you one of theirs until THEY decide you’re not. Civil law has determined that someone is no longer a church member the instant that member decides he/she isn’t, but the church still resists the idea. While it’s possible to quietly walk away from the church and disappear into the general population (about two-thirds to three-quarters of the claimed 14 million membership have), the church still intrudes into the lives of many former Mormons with the determination of a stalker. In those cases, the only way to get them to leave you alone is to officially cross the line from being merely a lost sheep that needs to be returned to the fold, to a full-blown apostate to be shunned. We don’t see mass resignations of Baptists or Methodists or whatever, because for whatever faults mainstream Christianity might have, they don’t act like cults. They don’t believe they somehow own your ass.

    • LesterBallard

      Aren’t most people in their religions because of birth and not choice? Obviously, some choose to convert, to leave one group of clowns for another, but mostly, we stick with the one that brainwashed us first.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        If you mean broadly, as in Christian vs. Islamic vs. Hindu, than yes, absolutely. But if you break it down into sects, Christians are all over the place. There was a Pew study in 2009 that revealed 44% of Americans (mainly Christians) were currently not affiliated with the sect they were born into.

        The largest shift was from Catholics to various Protestant sects, with the most common reason being a loss of belief in Catholic doctrine. The second largest shift was between Protestant sects, with the most common reason being a change in life circumstance (which shows just how shallow most Protestant religious beliefs must be). The study did not analyze the movement into and out of Mormonism, which would be quite interesting to know.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HUHIP23UNZBYV737J7HU4Y2Z4Q GetReal

    Just WTF does it matter what the Mormon church thinks? If they want to keep you on their rolls, they can go right ahead. Then, their rolls are just as imaginary as their other religious beliefs. It doesn’t mean anything. As long as they can’t force you  to support them,  WTF does it matter?
     

    • Alan Christensen

      Because the church keeps harassing its “lost sheep.”

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/LE2HY6WZWCRT6IHXURP7QXBITQ Andy

        It matters because they use your continued membership to continue to exert control.  They send members over periodically to share a ‘spiritual message’ and invite you back to church.  If you publicly criticize the church too much, they can excommunicate you or ‘express concern’ about you to your family members who are in the church etc.  Resigning can be a way of wresting that control back; kind of like saying “You can’t fire me, because I already quit.”

        That aside, they count anyone still on the roles in the membership numbers that they trot out to impress people with how much the church is growing.

    • MWilson

      Obviously you were not a member. It matters when you have been emotionally abused and manipulated your whole life. It matters a lot when you grew up hearing the Church presidency saying look how fabulous our growth is we have so many members! Then you find out as an adult that really people are leaving and that growth isn’t as fabulous as you were taught. Membership numbers are used as a way to support to so called truthfulness of the church which is one very big reason why the church is so hesitant to let members go. If I hadn’t resigned last fall I would have resigned with Zilpha’s group.

      Maybe you can’t understand if you weren’t raised with it but it does matter. A lot.

    • http://art.lismitchell.net Pixelfish

      As long as you are on the rolls, they A) count you towards the membership numbers they tout at General Conference, B) they send missionaries or home teachers to re-activate you, and C) any kids you have are automatically put on the rolls as soon as a family member tells them of their existence–and believe me, it’s not unheard of for family to try to use the kids as levers to get you back to church. I had friends who had to explain to their kids why they couldn’t go “play with their friends on Sunday” when the invitation to play was an invitation to church complete with snack bribes. D) If you die, and your immediate family are still LDS, your funeral will be used as a proselyting vehicle for the church, as per the Bishop’s handbook of instruction. (Which, of course, you won’t be around for, but is still kind of annoying to contemplate.) And I’m sure there’s other annoyances I haven’t pondered in some time.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    While this is a positive step given the bizarre beliefs and cultish nature of Mormonism, I’m more interested in where these people’s faith will head from here. There’s nothing to suggest that they are giving up their theism, which would be the truly positive action. Will they join some sort of reform Mormon churches, that are more socially liberal but still believe the hoo-hah? Will they join other Christian churches? Will they simply lose their affiliation with any church, but not their beliefs? Will some become atheists?

    What box will they check on the next survey or census that comes their way?

    • Alan Christensen

      Since most ex-Mormons reject the foundation of Mormonism — Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc. — there is nothing appealing about “reform Mormonism,” even if such a thing existed. Most ex-Mormons I know go one of several ways: they abandon religion, remain theist but affiliate with no religion, join a different Christian denomination, convert to a non-Christian religion.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I hope you’re right, and that for many of these people this will be the first step towards a rational, atheist worldview.

        • Alan Christensen

          The people who take the trouble to resign tend to be those who studied their way out of the church (as opposed to those who just drifted away because they don’t want to do it anymore). The studying usually continues.

          I left for the sake of my mental health. I couldn’t say at the time whether the religion was true or false. All I knew was that the constant guilt from failing to be perfectly righteous was causing me to spiral down the drain of self-loathing. Luckily, I had enough clarity left to realize I had to step away, at least for a while, or I’d end up totally dysfunctional, or dead at my own hand. Once my perspective shifted a bit, I had a “Truman Show” moment. My subconscious self was able to break through enough for me to realize I didn’t actually believe in anything supernatural, that it had only been indoctrinated into me.

          • Alchemist

            I’m sorry that you suffered so much at the hands of the community that was meant to provide you with love and support. It always angers me to hear about the sly manipulation of good hearted people, who so dearly want to live a good life, by those that wish to maintain control by instilling self-loathing and guilt.
            Be proud of your strength and clear mindedness. What you have done has taken courage and determination and I hope that this difficult process has led you to a happy and fulfilling life.

      • mike kozlowskyj

        I think once you discover you’ve been lied to all your life, you’re a little hesistant/skeptical to fall for another line of theism, most ex-mormons go atheist.(if my Irreligiosity teachings are true!)

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/GC4SH7IPMFEQN4MJXQM4G37H4Q James

          How have Mormons been lied to all their lives? You claiming to just go atheist shows that your not a very logical person

          • exmonomo

            the whole dam thing is a lie joe couldnt evan remember who he saw in the vision or when he had itor how old he was must of been smokin maragwana..  9 different versions and all a lie as is the book of mormon and the book of aberham  its a lieing cult  hinkley didnt evan know when hofman was telling him a story   money sex and lies 16 lieing profits of fraud

      • NewAtheist

        As a former Mormon myself, I think I can firmly confirm this. I am on a FB group for people like me, raised Mormon and grew up in Mormon-dominated areas. And yes, once us ex-Mormons started really researching the church and its founding, started taking a hard look at how little of the true church history is actually taught to members, how the members themselves are a shining example of the monkey/banana experiment, it becomes so obvious to us. We start to see the patterns in not just mormonism, but other religions, the patterns of abuse, servitude, almost dictatorship-like rule; we look at the world around us, and how much just doesn’t “jive” with religious tenets; we look at the bible and the fallacies it’s built on; we look at science and hard evidence; and we realize: it’s all a bunch of crap! And when you come to that realization, you breathe a sigh of relief, because you’re almost free. But there are two obstacles to overcome: the persecution and disbelief of family/friends, and overcoming a lifetime of conditioning.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/GC4SH7IPMFEQN4MJXQM4G37H4Q James

          This is nothing but lies. The history of the church is taught in church. I would like to see just exact how much you know about the church yourself. You’re probably have heard so many twisted up lies that your blinded by the truth. What is your religion now and do you live it or are you another mediocre person that is  only a member when you feel like it?

          • exmonomo

            they only teach you what they want you to know..but you can find the truth on the inter net  22 things the lds church dont want you to know  check it out  and a hole lot more

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1269062610 Kris Fielding

       I took part and took the final step of resigning yesterday and am absolutely an atheist. I agree with Alan Christensen, that’s been my experience also.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Congrats. I’m reminded of the old chestnut, today is the first day of the rest of your life, but I’m inclined to modify that: today is the first day of your life.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/GC4SH7IPMFEQN4MJXQM4G37H4Q James

        Someday you will regret that you did, but it’s your life and life is all about  choices and consequences. So what religion are you going to pursue now?

    • Douglas Scott

      I quit going to LDS church at 15.  I had a brief fling with Anton LaVey and Satanism just to be rebellious, but from there, discovered Paganism and Wicca by getting involved with Reanaissance Faire type people.  I was a happy Wiccan, a High Priest, no complaints, no oppression for thirty years, and then I looked it over, and decided I had never really believed in the gods, although I loved them as much as you can love a fictional character, and I still do.  I just know now that it’s roleplay, it’s ritual…it’s fun and meaningful in the way that Dungeons and Dragons is fun and meaningful.  Now I’m an atheist, but I still love and celebrate the Pagan holidays, and have as little to do with hellish judeo-xtian-islam as possible.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CKQEXWUDO4UDPBRXPYVVIUOLFI Matt P

    I resigned my membership in the LDS church along with my wife just over three years ago. We are both atheists now because once we started scrutinizing the LDS faith it lead to the same skepticism for all religion. In our exit from the church it is my experience that most of those who leave or resign tend to fall into the atheist/agnostic category rather than going to another christian denomination or other religion all together. One of the comments here asks ‘why does it matter?’, well unless you’ve officially resigned your membership you are still counted on the church rolls as a member and it is a great possibility you will be contacted over and over through the church programs such as home or visiting teaching done by the members. The LDS church keeps it’s membership very much like social security. Each member has a membership number and they try to keep updated information such as your address. Church officials will often contact family members of ‘less active’ members to get current addresses for those individuals as well.

    I also wanted to touch on the resignation process. Because you have a membership number the only way to actually remove yourself from the rolls is to officially resign through church headquarters. We sent our original letter to church headquarters in SLC only to receive a letter back informing us that the resignation process is a local issue and we must speak with our bishop and/or stake president. This is a blatant and out right lie because once they receive your letter you are legally resigned, this stems from the legal precedent set in GUINN V THE CHURCH OF CHRIST OF COLLINSVILLE and the  Norman Hancock suit directly against the LDS church. After receiving the response letter we quickly printed out the same letter this time including the legal precedent as well, had it notarized, and delivered it through USPS with delivery confirmation. We never did receive confirmation of the name removal however I did call HQ and they stated our resignation was official. It was a wonderful feeling to feel free of the church. Of course my mom’s bishop told her I would always be mormon regardless of me resigning.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    This story is apropos too- what’s it like to be a young brown female Mormon.

    and YOU are all white and delightsome to our lord and he has special plans for you in this world 

    “but Neeta here is a Lamanite (the Book of Mormon’s name for the descendants of Laman, who was cursed with dark skin for displeasing god) and we welcome her. They too, if they work very hard can go to the Celestial Kingdom.” 

    http://www.alternet.org/belief/156015/born_evil:_that%27s_what_the_mormon_church_taught_me_as_a_brown_and_female_child_?page=entire 

  • R Sypolt

    I lost faith several years before I formally resigned.  I wanted to simply walk away and no longer associate with the Mormon Cult, but they track you down.  The membership department in Salt Lake City called my Aunts, my Uncles, and any other relatives that were still in the church.  Despite moving 6 times in 2 years due to military and other job related things they still managed to find me.  When I asked the local congregation to leave me alone as I had no interest, the missionaries continued to show up at my house once per month to try to convince me to return.  Resigning formally was a step that I did not feel I should HAVE to take, but in order to stop the harassment I had to take myself completely out of the church. 

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

    what brave people. i wish them the best of luck and offer all my support. 

  • Michael Carpenter

    Hey! I was there. I can tell you (for those who wondered) that most of the people there would consider themselves atheist or agnostic. There was a big group from Atheists of Utah there. 

    Speaking of fallout, now that I’ve resigned my eternal marriage to my (still believing) wife is considered null. While I’m OK with that because I think we’ll be composting in the ground, she’s upset because she thinks that means I can’t go to heaven with her. 

    • puzzled

      How will SHE get to heaven without you, since mormon wives can only get to heaven if their husbands call them through the “veil”!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WC5VCUQTSHKZVSX4DOFG6M6VW4 KyleE

        Puzzled, If she remains faithful, she will be given appropriate opportunity by an all-knowing God who loves his children. Meanwhile, I say she should finish off the legal portion of the marriage that he left spiritually and divorce him.

  • Roberthughmclean

    The LDS is worried about all the “10 percenters” departing and taking their dollars with them. I’d hate to think what it costs to maintain all the mormon disneyland temples popping up. Jees, the steam cleaning alone would empty the coffers. And the gardening! They need ALL the money from ALL the “members” to maintain the illusion of substance.

  • Douglas Scott

    I did this on my own four years ago after 28 years of complete separation from the LDS church.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DQF43GL53RIT2RD2ZPIO7VLMMA Ran

    “Letters of resignation” are NOT tough, nor are they EMOTIONAL.  If you were a lifelong Mormon, all you need do is apply the first rule of what they mormon church teaches you ever since you’re a “Sunbeam” (the age of 5 when you start attending Sunday School meetings) over and over, i.e., “It won’t be at ALL hard to say “NO” to something, if you’ve been practicing it long enough before the situation arises”  When the Bishop (equivalent to a Pastor) was made aware of my wishing to resign from the rolls of the church, he asked for the “exit” interview.  And when he started to become condescending (relaying to me that my choice would cause an “eternal banishment from the sight of god” *cue rolling of eyes*) I interrupted him quite forcefully and stated that I was “courteously granting him of my time” to perform his “duty” and for him to make it quick, else I was prepared to get up and cease indulging his pretentious behavior. He sensed my intolerance to his BS and quickly wrapped up the “interview”. I haven’t been bothered by ANYBODY from the church knocking at my door since. It’s not that complicated a process.  As far as “family” members are concerned – seriously? – Dig into THEIR superficially decorated closet – you’ll find a hell of alot more to be concerned about than your “abandoning” the church.

  • exmonomo

    well it is great to be free from the morg..i am so glad i learned the truth and got out..all they want is to control you and take your money..what a bunch of crooks and they run utah state goverment  the most curupt in the nation..people in illinios should have got em all in 1844 along with josefus smith

  • Gary

    I noticed this item, and thought I should comment. Same thing happened to me. After 15 or so years as a mormon, I dropped out for reasons I have previously mentioned. For another 20 or so years, first, home teachers showed up. I gave them the cold shoulder. Young kids (Aaronic priesthood) showed up once a month with fast offering envelopes. Didn’t give them anything, although I was nice to them…they didn’t know any better. I am sure I was put on the DNC (Do Not Connect) list in the ward directory. Because then only mormon missonaries showed up. Men to see me. Women, which was irritating, who asked to see my wife. Then I finally got disgusted, and told the missionaries they were a cult. That must have been the magic word, since shortly after that, a representative of the Stake president showed up. He says, “if you want to be dropped as a member, you need to send a letter to the stake president stating that. I grew very mad, and told him that “I” determine what church I am a member of, not him or the stake president. And I told him to go fly a kite. So I was dropped. My wife, on the other hand, was too nice. She wrote a very respectable letter to the stake president explaining her beliefs. She got a letter back asking to make sure she knew she would not receive any of the blessings of the church. Basically saying forget “Celestial Kingdom”. I told my wife I would prefer being in hell, than be in a celestial kingdom with Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and all their wives, being God’s over their “spirit children”. Mormon doctrine is wacko. Their secrecy ceremonies of “slit your throat and pull your tongue out by its roots” shows an underlying evil (even though that ceremony was changed sometime after 1975, when we took out our endowments).  The Mormon church specializes in public relations, to portray themselves as mainstream, when they are actually a rigid, mind-controlling group, that uses indirect their control in a very subtle manner. The black issue is the same. When they were building temples in south America, they realized it would be tough to get members to contribute to the temple funds, when the members couldn’t even go into the temple. I say a recent documentary on Mormons, and the reporter asked the head of the mormon history department why they originally had a ban on blacks in the priesthood. He say he didn’t know. Now that is a flat-out lie, denying his own original doctrine. They Mormon leaders are masters of bullshit.

  • John cunningham

    there was no one named joseph smith until after 1892 and ellis illand 2.3 between 1892 and 1945. there was no alphabet during the time period for any of the names of the bible or book of mormon, we do not translate names the sound wouls stay the same. 3 out of  4 have dropped away what is wrong with the 4th?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X