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  • Writer's pictureDominic Schmuck, Ph.D.

Leaving the Mormon Church: Why, How, Resources, Help.

Updated: May 6

You might be reading this in hopes of understanding why your family, friends, or loved ones would ever consider leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the LDS or Mormon church). Perhaps you yourself are questioning aspects of LDS teachings and seek insight into others' experiences or guidance on navigating a transition away from the church. If so, I aim to address these questions in this article.


Mormon cou

To provide you with some background: I grew up as a member of the LDS church, served a mission in Idaho, studied at BYU, got married young, and worked as a psychologist and faculty member at BYU. Later, I disaffiliated from the church and established my own private therapy practice. I am also a member of the Mormon Mental Health Association, a secular organization dedicated to providing science-based treatments with cultural sensitivity to individuals across the spectrum of involvement with the LDS church and related denominations. Much of my work involves assisting clients across the Mormon faith spectrum, ranging from active members to those who have removed their records. Consequently, I can offer insights drawn from both personal experience and clinical practice to address why people leave, steps to consider when leaving, and available resources.


Why are People Leaving the Mormon Church?


Some might assume the answer is straightforward and rooted in 'laziness', but the reality is much more complex. Why people leave the LDS faith is as tangled as a bowl of spaghetti and there is no way I could untangle every reason. What I will do, is address the most common themes based on years of listening to the stories of my clients and friends. These are individuals who, for decades (even up to 70+ years), held an unwavering belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, investing their hearts and souls into its teachings and community.


It's crucial to recognize that most who leave the Mormon church as adults loved being Mormon. They loved the church's value of family life, service to others, and so much more. Even when they had doubts, they hung on, trusting that things would eventually make sense. When confronted with questions, they sought reassurance from trusted, church-sanctioned sources, hoping to reaffirm their beliefs in the church. But no matter how hard they tried, it just didn't add up.


Below, I'll outline the most common reasons people give for leaving Mormonism. It's important to note that I present the most common reasons for leaving Mormonism from the perspective of someone going through this process.


Historical Inaccuracies

Many church members hold a positive view of church history, often inspired by stories of faithful ancestors or pioneers. Growing up, they might have encountered occasional whispers about "anti-Mormon" literature, which they were taught to dismiss as lies. However, as adults, finding out through church sources that the "anti-Mormon lies" weren't lies at all, can be a rude awakening. Learning about historical discrepancies related to scripture or church teachings, like the challenges surrounding the Book of Abraham, scientific evidence contradicting Book of Mormon stories, or polygamy, can shake their foundational beliefs. They might have also believed in unchanging doctrines, only to later learn that what a past prophet said to be a revelation from God and eternal doctrine, is nowadays considered heresy.


Trying to make sense of what one has been taught about the historical accuracies of scripture and church teachings, and learning how it doesn't line up with historical facts, calls into question many other beliefs people had about the church, and about what they believed to be true.


Differences Between Personal Beliefs/Revelation and Church Teachings

Sometimes, individuals leave the church because they find that their personal beliefs or revelations do not align with official church doctrine. For instance, they may struggle with teachings that seem incongruent with their understanding of a loving God, such as the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals or the belief that drinking coffee could bar someone from the celestial kingdom. Their view of a loving Heavenly Father does not align with the possibility of being eternally cut off from His presence, as is apparent in the church's teachings of the kingdoms of glory. Some individuals also begin to question whether the misogyny prevalent in the Mormon church is truly inspired by God or merely a reflection of human-created patriarchy disguised as divine will.


Over time, people may come to realize that the church they believed in and the personal revelations they received do not align with actual LDS teachings. For many, this also calls into question the process of revelation in general, as many religions, including most of Christianity, rely on revelations and personal witnesses to justify their teachings. However, that is a separate discussion.


Personal Experiences not Aligning with Church Promises

Another prevalent reason for leaving the church is the disparity between members' real-life experiences and the blessings they were promised. For instance, a bishop may receive divine assurances from his leaders that faithfully carrying out his duties will strengthen his family ties, yet despite his utmost efforts and faith, his relationships deteriorate. Similarly, a sister missionary is promised by her stake president while being set apart that her faithful service will lead to her father's return to church activity before she finishes her mission. The sister missionary dedicates herself completely, exhausted but resolute in her faith. However, her father never returns to church. Despite knowing that she had done everything she possibly could, the sister missionary still questions herself instead of the revelatory promise, "Did I make a mistake? Was I not good enough?" Only after years of deep reflection and similar experiences might she entertain the idea that perhaps she wasn't at fault; perhaps the issue lies with church leader's promises.


Similarly, there are those who didn't find joy in participating or being members of the church, yet remained active and faithful for decades upon decades. They believed in the church as the one true church. They believed in the church's teachings that finding "true happiness" is only possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ (aka the Mormon church in our context). However, despite their best efforts and faithful service, happiness eluded them. In fact, delving deeper into religious practices such as studying the Book of Mormon often led to increased despair and unhappiness. It was only after they began to consider letting go of their religious beliefs that they discovered a sense of freedom, joy, and happiness.


Immoral Behavior by the Church and its Leaders

Others leave the church because they observe immoral behavior among its leaders. Church leaders, particularly the prophets and apostles, are expected to embody moral and Christlike behavior. While no one, even those who have left the church, expect them to be flawless, they do anticipate them to set a good example of ethical conduct and engage in good moral behaviors. When someone personally witnesses senior church leaders covering up instances of child abuse and other misconduct to preserve the LDS church's reputation, it often triggers significant doubts. Witnessing abuse at the hands of high-ranking church leaders who continue in their callings while dismissing or even punishing the abuse survivors further fuels such doubts.


Observing apostles and prophets refrain from apologizing for past mistakes that caused significant harm, despite preaching the importance of repentance and apology for individuals, raises concerns. Similarly, discovering the church's involvement in concealing illegal financial practices and accumulating hundreds of billions of dollars, while advocating against materialism and emphasizing charity, raises further doubts.


How to Leave the Mormon Church


There is really no simple answer to this question. People approach the process in many different ways, because they find themselves in many different unique circumstances. Some individuals have strong family ties within the religion, while others do not. Some may have neighbors and friends who are predominantly Mormons, while others do not. Below, I'll share some general ideas and considerations, keeping in mind that each person's situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You might feel the need for answers and guidance, especially considering that the LDS church often provides clear directives. However, life is complex, human psychology is intricate, and there is no single 'right' path forward.


Take Your Time

This is crucial: take your time. You don't have to make abrupt decisions. Take as long as you need to contemplate and ponder your path forward. You might experiment with attending church when you feel inclined and skipping when you don't. Pray when it feels right, and don't when it doesn't. Explore what feels authentic and meaningful to you. You don't have to disclose everything you're going through to everyone immediately. Avoid rushing into trying everything you were previously restricted from doing. Take it step by step.


Find Your Own Path

Find your own path! For example, It may sound unconventional, but you can leave the LDS faith and still choose to attend the LDS church. You have a world of options ahead of you. If certain aspects of church involvement bring you joy or fulfillment, continue engaging in those aspects. Whether it's attending services or participating in church activities, the decision is yours alone.


You don't have to start drinking, but you can. You don't have to drink coffee, but you can. You don't have to start having sex at every opportunity, but you can (but please educate yourself about safe sex... Mormons don't talk about sex and generally don't provide any good and helpful sex education). You don't have to get a tattoo because you are an ex-mormon, but you can. The choice is yours.


Communicating with Family

This is a very difficult topic to address with A LOT of nuance. Generally speaking, with your spouse it is a good idea to address concerns sooner than later, so they don't feel betrayed. Generally, they want to be a part of your journey. They may not want to hear your concerns or ridicule of the church, however, they likely prefer knowing where you are at with your beliefs. They probably wouldn't appreciate being surprised one day by a huge life-altering decision that affects not only you but your whole family.


When it comes to relatives and siblings, most people find success at telling them via a letter or an email. Most people don't want to have debates in the heat of the moment. A letter or email gives people time to think and process before connecting with you. And most commonly, the recipients of your email will never reply anyways...


You can also choose not to say anything at all to your relative and simply act non-chalant and factual. Imagine you are visiting your family again and they say "Hey, church is starting, you need to get dressed." You might say "No, I'm not going." Many Mormon families are very conflict avoidant, and so acting non-chalant and factual in the moment might actually do the trick for you. Maybe you suddenly have a coffee maker on your counter as family members come to visit. They may never mention it at all, but surely get a hint. If your family is not conflict-avoidant, this method might still work for you, but likely lead to vastly different reactions than what I described here.


General Tips for Communicating

Engaging in debates about LDS church doctrine or history often leads to unnecessary conflicts. It's generally better to communicate your decision to leave without delving into specific reasons unless the other person genuinely wants to understand. Setting boundaries and maintaining positive relationships should be the focus.


How to Inform Your Ward About Leaving Mormonism

You don't have to make a grand announcement, but you might feel uneasy about discontinuing your church attendance while still holding a calling where others rely on you. When such thoughts arise, remember that you are a volunteer.... Your service is voluntary! There's no obligation to continue if the church no longer aligns with your beliefs. The best advice I've come across is to take control of the situation:


Inform the person over your calling that on a specific date, you will no longer be fulfilling your calling. This date could be as soon as this coming Sunday or a month from now. Avoid giving your church leader the opportunity to prolong your service by asking you to stay until they find a replacement. This has historically led to some people remaining in their calling for months on end, because their leader continues to not find a replacement. If you are mentally ready to step down, you can do so decisively.


You can convey the information about discontinuing your calling through an email or in person. If the recipient of your message inquires about your reasons, you can provide a general explanation like, "After reflecting and seeking personal revelation, I feel it's best for me to take a break from my calling at this time." If they press for more details, calmly assert, "I'm not comfortable discussing my personal reasons". If they persist, you have the option to end the conversation or reiterate your boundary about personal reasons - over and over and over again... and over again until they stop.


You can also stump them and be honest by saying, "I no longer believe in the church, but I am willing to give you a month to find a replacement for my calling." If asked for reasons behind your disbelief, you can either politely decline with, "I prefer not to discuss my reasons at this moment," or you can be honest about why you no longer believe in the church. The first option generally keeps the conversation shorter than starting a discussion about "why," but the choice is yours.


Resigning from the LDS Church

You don't have to resign, but you can! Resigning provides some who leave the church with closure and can prevent unwanted church visitors - except the LDS missionaries. They can surprise anyone at any time with an unannounced visit.


If you want to resign, you have a few options:

  • Meet with your bishop and have them do the process for you. For some, this step might be emotionally very draining.

  • Go to the Quitmormon website and have them submit an official letter to church HQ for you.

  • Submit an official notarized letter to church HQ

  • Some have reported success in emailing dataprivacyofficer@churchofjesuschrist.org. You can find further instructions about this method in this reddit post.


If you want more details about resigning, simply go to the ex-mormon reddit and search for "resignation". You'll find numerous examples and more specific instructions regarding what needs to be included in your letter or email.


Resources for Mormon Faith Crises


Stories from Others who have Left the LDS Church:


Books about Recovering from High Demand Religion:

Healthy Sexuality:


Events for Healing and/or Community:


Need More Help? Consider Therapy or Coaching


At this moment, you might feel overwhelmed and lost, unsure of where to turn or what steps to take next. The uncertainty about your beliefs and how to communicate with loved ones can be daunting. Perhaps, you are even afraid of losing relationships. Nothing about your situation is straightforward, but there is hope.


As a secular therapist, psychologist, and faith transition coach, I've guided numerous individuals through their Mormon faith crisis and transition. Every person's journey is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to moving forward. I can assist you in making sense of your experiences, identifying your values, processing your beliefs, finding healthy ways of communicating with those around you, and empowering you to make decisions that align with your true self.


Seeking help isn't about pressuring you to stay in or to leave Mormonism; it's about supporting you in finding your path, meaning, purpose, and cultivating a fulfilling life.


To begin working with me, you can call/text (385) 200-0204 or email dominic@truupsychology.com. You can also schedule a free 15-minute consult here. If no timeslot appears through the link, then I likely have a waitlist. Call/text/email instead.


I can work with clients in over 40 PSYPACT participating states for therapy, and anywhere around the world for faith crisis coaching.



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