Yes, I left because I was offended.

A few months after my husband and I moved from Arizona to North Dakota, but before we had officially resigned our membership, the Mormons tracked us down, as they are famous for doing. (FSM help any Mormons who need to enter the witness protection program.) I wasn’t home when they came calling, but my husband answered the door and the exchange went something like, “We’re just checking to see if there’s anything we can do for you.” “Nope, we’re just fine.” (Shut door.)

Soon after, we received a letter in the mail. The gist was: We stopped by your home but were not received. The bishop of your former ward informed us of your “situation” (I had been re-baptized after being excommunicated, but hadn’t had temple blessings restored), and we are eager to assist you on getting back to the path of eternal progression and returning to your Heavenly Father.

Enclosed was a copy of a conference talk by Elder David Bednar: “And Nothing Shall Offend Them.”

I read through Elder Bednar’s experiences visiting inactive members:

As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences. Most of the “less-active” people I have ever visited had a discernible and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

My reaction was a stunned, “You think that’s why we left?!”

Leaving the Church over offense is portrayed as something akin to a stubborn, pouty child, whose pride and fragile ego prevent her from doing what deep down she must really want and know is right. And if the Church were really all it was cracked up to be, indeed, ‘twould be silly to forfeit all that bliss over the foibles of imperfect members.

I didn’t ditch the Church because some blundering member hurt my feeling, but I admit it: there is much about Mormonism that offends me. I wouldn’t continue a relationship with a person I found persistently offensive. Why should I apply different criteria to an institution?

The notion that the only way I get to be with my husband in the afterlife is if I agree to have trillions of babies forever, and even then I might have to share him with a few other women, is offensive.

Being told that if my views and feelings conflict with Church leaders or doctrine, I am by default wrong, is offensive.

Being strongly “encouraged”–if not outright “commanded”–to oppose a civil rights movement that would allow people that I love to be able to call the people they love family, is offensive.

Being told that racist policies of the past weren’t really racist is offensive.

Finally, there’s the whole claim to authority and the idea that priesthood leaders speak for God. I think I could cut LDS leaders a lot more slack if they would come out and admit that they’re just human beings doing the best they can, but they claim they’re getting revelation right from God, for what God wants for us here and now. Church leaders have made many changes since the Church’s founding, and for the better, but where they lose their credibility for the claim of receiving revelation is that when it comes to positive change, they always seem to be behind the curve compared to the rest of the world.

So, please, don’t claim to know when you don’t. And don’t claim to be talking to an omniscient God when it’s pretty obvious that you’re making it up as you go. That’s called lying. And being lied to is offensive!

So there you have it. I was offended, and that’s why I left.


Writer. Poet. Teacher. Journeyer. Living in North Carolina @leahiellio

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22 Responses

  1. Andrew S says:

    Great twist on the old assumption!

  2. Lisa says:

    Yeah. Pretty much.

  3. Bob says:

    I agree___the Church does most of the offending.
    I think that’s why no one will talk to me about Vardis Fisher___maybe the greatest Mormon writer. That was his conclusion.

  4. Craig says:

    I left too because I was offended. Offended that I wasn’t acceptable the way I was, but had to change who I fundamentally was in order to be acceptable to an “all-loving” god. Offended that my basic human needs weren’t important, whereas the needs of straight people were paramount. Offended that my mother was treated my entire life as a piece of chattel and not a human being simply because she has a vagina. Offended that I had been massively lied to my entire life about the history of the church.

    I left because the entire church hierarchy proved itself over and over to be manipulative, deceitful, inauthentic, sexist, homophobic, and callous to the feelings of anyone who had experiences which didn’t match up perfectly to the expected norm. I left because I didn’t have any other choice.

    And I’m glad I did, but at the time, I would’ve stayed if I’d been shown the least amount of true compassion and acceptance, and rationality. Instead I was berated for not being blindly obedient, and for daring to demand equality and and healthy human relationships.

    I am now an atheist who opposes all religion. But I wonder what I would’ve become if I’d been treated with respect and my needs would’ve been acknowledged as authentic and good.

    I have to say, I’m grateful for the callous treatment I received at the hands of Mormonism, else I might never have discovered who I truly was, or how satisfying a reality-based existence is.

  5. bonoboi says:

    cool post. thanks!

  6. Molly says:

    So very well put. All those lessons they give about apostates who are “needlessly” sinning, full of pride, or offended overlook the fact that sometimes it’s evidence of good moral character to be offended. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and dishonesty are offensive.

  7. Infidel753 says:

    What it all boils down to is arrogance. The letter you received and the stance toward Mormons who have left, are oozing and suppurating with arrogance and condescension. Their attitude is beyond offensive — it’s smug, preening, and crudely controlling. And that’s not confined to Mormonism. I’ve seen the same again and again, from representatives of many established religions.

    Maybe it’s more obvious to me because I had the good fortune never to have been religious. Who do these people think they are, to talk down to everyone else like that?

    As you implied, you wouldn’t continue a relationship with an individual who displayed such smug, superior, bossy arrogance. It’s no wonder that some people won’t put up with such traits in a religious institution. The wonder is that anybody does.

  8. David Myhill says:

    Very balanced Leah, very clear,

    I always imagine there is a echo of GOD here an echo there. No church or faith has a monoply on God. Take what you can, give what you can and move on.

    Yours is the more lonley path but perhaps you are closer to God than you have ever been.

  9. JD says:

    One of the tools of many religions is to get people tight-knit and to fear the consequences of leaving. I think part of it is to plant their assumptions of why people leave, and use pressure of those around you to keep you “in”. So if you leave, you’re supposed to be a horrible, or tortured person and you also lose your friends and social life when that happens. It’s probably an intentionally self-fulfilling prophesy because you lose everyone in your life as a consequence for leaving.

  10. Jeanmarie says:

    I wasn’t offended when I stopped going to church 25+ years ago, I was just tired. Tired of bending myself into a pretzel trying to harmonize my spiritual longings and the church teachings I’d absorbed, with my rational, skeptical mind and the lack of real evidence for the truthfulness of the church’s claims. After awhile I no longer thought about the church much at all until the past year or two. I had missed the drama of the ousting of the September 6 and various “prophets” dying and being replaced. What caught my notice again was Prop 8, and seeing “8: The Mormon Proposition” really galvanized me, to the point that I wrote to the church headquarters last August and resigned and asked for my name to be removed from the membership rolls of the church. They tried to bullshit me into going to the local bishop, but I knew I didn’t need any permission to leave. I tore up the pamphlet they sent that was supposed to help me reconsider. Before I got around to writing to them again, they wrote and said that in accordance with my wishes my name had been removed.
    So, come to think of it, I didn’t leave because I was offended, but I did eventually formally separate myself because I was monumentally offended by the church operating disingenuously to pressure members into fighting to take away civil rights from some of our citizens. That really offended me, and I think I was right to be offended.

    Now, a few months later, I find I’m getting hooked on ex-Mormon blogs, Irreligiousophy podcasts and basically reconnecting with part of Mormon culture — the snarky, freethinking parts!
    Great post, thanks.

  11. This was a very interesting article. As a stake president I would have to agree that a lot of members leave the church because they have been offended. The rest seem to leave because they want to sin.

  12. Leah says:

    President Paternoster, yes, I’m very much enjoying my life porn, coffee and general debauchery since leaving the church. I do plan to repent before I die, just as soon as I can quit suppressing my testimony.

  13. Well Leah I do hope that you don’t procrastinate the day of your repentance for too long. I would counsel you also to please stay away from green tea as it can be quite hard to give up when you return to the fold.

  14. Tom says:

    After reading Bill Paternoster’s remarks and perusing his blog I really can’t make out if he’s for real or someone trying to be funny.

  15. kuri says:

    He is someone being funny.

  16. Tom says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the place where I have my total church experience (my local ward) is the Church in reality. It matters not what’s going on in Salt Lake, St. George, London or Frankfurt. So, when someone says to me, when I’m have difficulty with the behaviour of my local administration, that people are not always ‘true’ but the Church always is,well that is no consolation to me whatsoever. I’m a member of a ward thousands of miles distant from the glitz and wonderfulness of a fully functional pioneer Utah ward (yes, I know many of them are far from ‘wonderful’), so it doesn’t matter to me how wonderful THEY are if the totality of my Church experience here where I live is not a nurturing one. My reality is here in the Church’s slowest, though one of its oldest, establishments and it’s here and in this environment that I must decide if the Church is ‘true’ for me. So yes, if my local priesthood offend me then I see nothing strange or unworthy about separating from them if my being amongst them is an offensive experience for me. Life is too short.

  17. Tom says:

    Interesting discussion about the above Bill Paternoster:

  18. JD says:

    It didn’t occur to me that it’s supposed to be funny. Paternoster means something, but there are people with that name too. Now that I think about it and see the discussion at the link above, I’m guessing he’s a Poe. For those unfamiliar with Poe’s Law, it’s when a parody of fundamentalism becomes almost indistinguishable from real fundamentalism.

  19. kuri says:


    That’s why it’s such good satire: it’s (usually) only a very slight exaggeration of what a real stake president might say. By showing us how absurd a slightly exaggerated stake president is, President Paternoster shows us the absurdity of many of the things taught by real stake presidents and other LDS authorities.

  20. Chino Blanco says:

    For what it’s worth, I agree with kuri. Prez Bill is a hoot and the crew over at Mormon Mentality have outed themselves as a bunch of humorless meanies.

  21. Brethren I would counsel you to please concentrate on the words being spoken at General Conference rather than perusing web sites such as this.

    President Paternoster

  1. May 2, 2011

    […] and its justification that I’ve seen…ever. They reminded me of Diane T’s and Leah E’s accountings of what about Mormonism is often offensive to the ex-Mormon, former, or […]

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