One of the most difficult aspects of leaving Mormonism is facing the accusatory questioning of Mormon friends and relatives. Many people who have just left Mormonism are at a loss as to how to deal with such questions. Usually the questions are not really requests for information, but rather attempts at emotional manipulation. Mormons usually prefer to pre-judge the cause of someone's change of belief and assume that they already know the "real" answer to these questions. Here are some of the questions and comments often faced by those who have just left the church, with suggestions as to how one might respond. Many other responses are possible, of course, and an appropriate response would depend on the prior relationship with the questioner and the sincerity of the question.
Q: Why did you leave the church?
A: If you sincerely want to know, I will be glad to tell you. But it will take at least half an hour. And before I start I want your commitment to listen until I am finished, without arguing with me. Shall I continue?
Q: Did you leave because someone offended you?
A: No one offended me except for maybe Joseph Smith. You know, how he married 14 year old girls, sent men on missions and then hooked up with their wives, put Emma through hell, that kind of stuff I found to be offensive. Maybe you don't? (Thanks to RfM poster HJG for this answer)
Q: I really would like to hear about what made you leave the church, but can you tell me about it without saying bad things about the church or our leaders?
A: Not very well, because those are the very things that made me leave the church. You will have to take off your rose-colored glasses.
Q: Which commandments weren't you keeping, that Satan was able to tempt you?
A: Two, actually: "Thou shalt not ask questions" and "Thou shalt not think."
Q: Have you been reading "anti-Mormon" literature?
A: Yes: the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Commandments, the Journal of Discourses... stuff like that. It would destroy anybody's testimony.
Q: You know what I mean: have you been reading material written by anti-Mormons?
A: Yes, and I have found that most of it is very accurate, and I have learned a great deal about Mormonism and the history of the church. You should check it yourself.
Q: Why would I want to read "anti-Mormon" material?
A: The missionaries tell investigators that they should actually read the Book of Mormon before passing judgment on it. Shouldn't it be the same way with other books?
Q: I guess living the Gospel was just too hard for you, eh?
A: I "lived the gospel" as well as any other Mormon. The only thing that became too hard for me was having to believe things that were not true.
Q: Being a good Mormon is not easy - all of us struggle sometimes. You've simply taken the easy way out!
A: No, admitting that the church is false and deciding to leave it has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. Acting honestly on one's convictions takes a lot of courage. It would have been much easier simply to "bow my head and say 'yes'."
Q: How can you violate the sacred covenants you made in the temple?
A: Whatever oaths I made in the temple were obtained from me dishonestly, through fraud and coercion. No one is obligated to respect any oath obtained that way.
[For a more in-depth response to this question, click here.]
Q: Why are you so disrespectful of things that we hold sacred?
A: Why are you so disrespectful of things that I hold sacred?
Q: What then do you consider sacred?
A: Truth, integrity, honesty, love for one's fellow creatures, and trying one's best to act justly and do good. (Micah 6:8) Especially truth and integrity. I agree with Emerson, who said: "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
Q: You are tearing down rather than building up!
A: I think it is a good thing to uncover lies and to open people's eyes. I am saying to you the same thing that Mormon missionaries say to investigators: Your present religion is false.
Q: What will you say to God on the Day of Judgment?
A: Thank you, Lord, for showing me that the Mormon church is false!
Q: I mean, when you find out in Heaven that the Gospel is true?
A: In that very unlikely circumstance, I would say, "Lord, that was a really stupid church you set up down there. Only the gullible would believe it! But I'm sure I'll be happy in the Telestial Kingdom - I know a lot of nice people who will be there. And I never did think the CK would be all that interesting, having spirit babies for all eternity."
Q: Without the priesthood, what will you do for extra help when you are seriously ill?
A: I'll get a second opinion from another doctor.
Q: Have you prayed and asked God to give you a witness to the truth of the Gospel?
A: Yes, and that's one of my big reasons for leaving.
Q: Why don't you go back and read the Book of Mormon again?
A: I have done that, and each time it gets dumber and dumber. In fact, reading the Book of Mormon carefully was one of the things that made me realize it was phoney.
Q: This will kill Grandfather when he finds out! What can we tell him?
A: Tell him that it's never too late to learn the truth.
Q: Your testimony was so strong! You had a witness from the Spirit!
A: I realized that it was the very same feeling I got from watching "Lord of the Rings". You mean that movie was TRUE?
Q: You should listen to what the Spirit tells you!
A: The Spirit is telling me to get out of the Mormon church.
Q: It's sad that you have lost your testimony.
A: Actually I have GAINED a testimony: I know, with every fiber of my being, and beyond any shadow of doubt, that Joseph Smith was a fraud, a womanizer and a liar, and that the church he founded is a man-made organization, and that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of imaginary fiction. I have gained this testimony through careful prayer and study, and the Spirit of Truth has confirmed it to me. This knowledge has brought me great joy and peace of mind. Would you like to know more?
Q: Obviously you never really had a testimony of the Gospel.
A: If I didn't, it wasn't for lack of trying. Actually I really did believe it all. Otherwise I would never have paid all that tithing or busted my butt trying to fulfill all those callings.
Q: It's your pride, isn't it! Do you think you are so much smarter than everybody else?
A: Not necessarily. But I think God gave us a brain so that we would use it. I have just dusted it off and started using it, after all that time as a Mormon when it didn't have to do any work. As Galileo said: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." I'll cast my lot with the likes of Galileo any day. He was persecuted by his church, too. But he was right.
Q: You can't prove that the church isn't true!
A: I think it would be easier for me to prove that it isn't true than for you to prove that it is. Shall we try it?
Q: Do you feel a difference now that you lost the Spirit?
A: Yes. Whatever "spirit" that was had me terribly depressed. I feel much better now, thank you.
Q: Have you committed adultery?
A: No, but why would that affect my testimony? It didn't seem to affect Joseph Smith's testimony.
Q: Are you going to start to drink and indulge in other unhealthy practices?
A: I don't know yet - I would sure like to be able to try some of that great wine that Jesus made at Cana.
Q: You know deep in your heart that the church is true, don't you! You are just saying you don't believe it so that you can sin!
A: If I really believed it I would be scared to death to sin. And I really don't want to start "sinning." Do you think I am so stupid that I would give up my eternal salvation just so I could have a cup of coffee or watch an R-rated movie?
Q: How can you turn your back on your heritage?
A: Not too many generations ago my ancestors turned their backs on their heritage, and became Mormons. I am following their example.
Q: What if you're wrong? Have you considered that possibility?
A: What if YOU'RE wrong? Have you considered that possibility?
Q: Don't you feel bad about what you are doing?
A: No. I have never felt so wonderful.
Q: Why do you have to go around telling everybody bad things about the church?
A: Why do you have to bear your testimony in public every month?
Q: Why are you doing this to your family?
A: Would my family rather see me dead of suicide, or insane? Because that is what the church was driving me toward.
Q: So you would rather be happy in this life than in the next?
A: I intend to be happy in both. And if there is no next life, at least I will have been happy in this one. I do not want to die realizing that I have not really lived.
Q: Well, if Mormonism isn't the true church, then which one IS?
A: I'll accept the answer to that question that God supposedly gave Joseph Smith: "They are all wrong - their creeds are an abomination - their teachers are all corrupt - they teach for doctrines the commandments of men..." I checked out AMWAY, but it was too much like Mormonism.
Q: So what do you believe NOW?
A: I believe that life is a journey of exploration, a question to which there may be no final answer, but we continue to learn as we search. I believe that there may not even be answers, and in that case it is better to have unanswered questions than to have confidence in answers that are false. I believe that I can figure out how to live a decent life without someone dictating to me every detail.
Q: God has told me to help you regain your testimony.
A: Your imagination is working over-time. Actually, God has told me that you are a servant of Satan and I should not listen to you.
Q: What will you do when you need something or someone to turn to for spiritual guidance, comfort, and knowledge?
A: First, I have real friends who are not imaginary. Also I have acquired a lucky rabbit's foot, a good luck amulet and a horse shoe over my door. They are all working very effectively, even better than my Mormon garments did.
Q: Well, I suppose we all have free agency, and you have a right to believe whatever you want.
A: Yes, and it is only since I have left the church that I really feel like I have that free agency that Mormons talk so much about. When I was a Mormon I never really felt like I was free. Because I really wasn't.
Curse-free insults to use with obnoxious, pushy Mormons(From a post at the Recovery From Mormonism discussion board)
I can tell you didn't take your medications today.
Do you have a license to give unsolicited advice?
If you prayed about this, I don't think your message got through.
This one is from Sigmund Freud:
"Am I supposed to believe EVERY absurdity? If not, why this particular one?"
I have always believed God gave us brains for our use. Why aren't you using yours?
I have always said, You can lead a Saint to knowledge, but you can't make him think.
Do you know that saying of Jesus, where he said to look first for the board in your own eye?
Look - let's make a deal: I will promise not to stick my nose in your life if you promise not to stick your nose in mine.
You know (chuckle, shake head), that's one of the silliest (stupidest, dumbest, absurdest, nastiest) things I have ever heard. I can't believe you actually said it!
What does your therapist say about that? Or did you skip again this week?
If the response is "I don't have a therapist!" then say, "Well, that explains it! No wonder!"
- Richard Packham
Another frequent comment or question by Mormons is: "Why is it that you people can leave the church, but you can't leave it alone?"
David Burns has provided an excellent response (from his blog, used with permission):
I'm sure you've all heard the saying, "You can leave the Church, but you can't leave it alone." Without exaggerating, Iíve heard this hundreds of times in my life and not only is it rude and hurtful, itís completely inaccurate. Itís time to drive a stake through the heart of this phrase, sprinkle it with tap water, and throw it in the garbage where it belongs.
Letís take a closer look at who canít leave whom alone. There's a huge double standard, as evidenced by the following:
1- Post-Mormons donít go knocking on their neighbor's doors to tell them about Agnosticism.
2- Post-Mormons don't text friends saying, "I noticed you went to Church today. I sure missed you at not-Church. Hope to see you soon."
3- Post-Mormons don't bribe their neighborís kids with treats to stay home from Church.
4- When PBS has a show on about Richard Dawkins, Post-Mormons don't make fancy invitations and invite all their Mormon friends over to watch it.
5- When their Mormon neighbors move, Post-Mormons don't track them down and invite them to leave the Church in their new area.
6- Post-Mormons don't fly across the country to Philadelphia at their own expense and then spend two years trying to get Philadelphia Mormons to leave the Church.
7- Post-Mormons occasionally quote Carl Sagan and Neil de Grasse Tyson, but they donít inundate Facebook with such quotes the week before and after the Nobel Prize for Science is presented.
8- Post-Mormons don't put on huge anti-Mormon pageants every year at multiple locations and invite all of their Mormon friends to attend.
9- Post-Mormons don't secretly interrogate their neighborís children to find out why their parents are staying in Church.
10- Post-Mormons don't drive down to the Church on the night they're having youth activities and say, "Hey kids, we're on our way to the arcade. Do you want a ride?"
11- Post-Mormons never chastise Mormon family members for posting something on Facebook that was too mormony.
12- When a Mormon neighbor makes the decision to stay in the Church, Post-Mormons don't write them a letter explaining the eternal consequences of their decision and telling them that before they make such an important decision they must sit down with them to discuss it.
13- Post Mormons donít give their Mormon friends books by Jerald & Sandra Tanner for Christmas and Birthday presents.
14- Post-Mormons donít send their teenage sons to their Mormon neighbors to collect donations for Post-Mormons that have fallen on hard times.
15- Post-Mormons donít email Brother Jake videos to their Mormon friends.
16- Post-Mormons never look at a Mormon and try to figure out what type of underwear they're wearing (unless the Mormon is very sexy).
17- Post-Mormons never use funerals as an opportunity to teach the plan of natural selection to grieving Mormons.
18- Post-Mormons never write their testimony inside a copy of No Man Knows My History and give it to a colleague while explaining what the book has meant to them and how it has changed their life.
19- Post-Mormons donít turn on a John Dehlin Mormon Stories podcast to listen to when theyíre giving their Mormon friend a ride home because their car broke down.
20- Post-Mormons donít purchase a gift subscription to a Secular Humanist magazine for their neighbors.
21- Post-Mormons donít end all messages, texts and emails to their Mormon family and friends by stating, ďThe Gospel is not true!Ē
22- Post-Mormons usually donít have the audacity to tell a Mormon how they should vote.
23- Post-Mormons donít offer to give their sick or injured Mormon friends a Scientific Proclamation that will cancel the negative effects of any superstitious thinking that may impede their treatment or recovery (Example: Fred, I urge you to go to the hospital immediately and seek appropriate medical careÖ).
24- Schools located in areas dominated by Post-Mormons never send kids home from school for being dressed too mormony.
25- Post-Mormons do not send Birthday cards to their Mormon neighbor's children with a note that says, "Darwin loves you and so do I. We sure miss you when you go to Church."
26- Post-Mormons donít tell their Mormon friends that they're going to hell because they don't believe in the Big Bang.
27- Post-Mormons donít invite their Mormon friends to dinner and surprise them by having also invited two young evolutionary biologists who would like to share a message with them.
28- Post-Mormons donít assume that their Mormon friends are just going through a temporary Mormon phase because they were offended by a Post-Mormon, were accidentally exposed to some pro-Mormon literature, or had the desire to feel excessive guilt for their sins.
29- When they notice a family in their neighborhood has attended Church for several weeks in a row, Post-Mormons don't leave delicious chocolate cupcakes on their doorstep with a note that says they wish you would stop attending Church so often.
30- Post-Mormons don't call a meeting with other Post-Mormons and say, "Hey, lets make a list of all the Mormons in the ward boundaries, and let's think about it and pray about it, and we'll narrow that list down to 5 names, and we'll focus all of our energy and attention on these five people or families, and we'll try to get them to leave the Church.
31- Post-Mormons donít deny Mormon friends and family the opportunity to attend weddings.
32- Post-Mormons donít hold posthumous Church resignation ceremonies for their Mormon loved ones who have passed away.
33- Post-Mormons don't disown their children if they decide to be Mormon.
34- Post-Mormons don't counsel anyone to divorce their spouse because they've decided that Atheism isn't true and that Mormonism makes more sense.
35- Nobody has ever become depressed or physically sick because their Post-Mormon friends and family abandoned them because they were being deceived by God.
36- Nobody has ever begun using drugs or alcohol to mask the pain caused by their Post-Mormon friends who couldnít accept their belief in the Book of Mormon.
37- Nobody has ever committed suicide because their Post-Mormon friends, family and community rejected them because they wanted to marry another Post-Mormon.
So after noticing this very obvious pattern of behavior, let me ask any Mormon who reads this post, ďWho's not leaving whom alone?Ē
Thanks to some anonymous friends for contributing to Nos. 23, 27, 28 & 32.
- David Burns