the Big Exit Letter (BEL)

Thanks to chanson’s weekly round up, I read this post about Carson N. leaving. It reminded me of my own experience. My wife and I didn’t send emails, we sent letters in the mail. But the anticipation of the response from family was pretty intense. And one family member’s response was exactly what we feared – my mother called after receiving our letter and yelled at me for about 30 minutes, saying all sorts of horrible things, then hung up on me. We’ve never really talked about that phone call, but we’re on better terms now. And, in the years following that incident, my mother did say at one point that she would have rather that we had simply stopped attending and not told anyone, including her, than send out a missive telling everyone our intentions.

In hindsight, I question whether our approach was the best approach. In one sense, it probably was – for us. We were able to make a clean break from the religion. We were out; everyone knew we were out; and we had no commitments we had to break (for the most part).

But as far as impact on family goes, I wonder if this was the best approach. I don’t think it would have been as much of a shocker to my family if we just slowly drifted out and didn’t make a big deal out of it. Our reasoning at the time was that we had to be honest with everyone involved, particularly ourselves. But honesty “isn’t always the best policy” (I see that now). I’m sure our parents would have eventually figured out that we were not going to church and were not interested in Mormonism during our visits home, and I’m sure it would have led to some awkward conversations when we indicated that we didn’t want to say prayers or attend services with them. But our very loud rejection of their religion was probably a lot for them to handle all at once. If we had eased them into it, would things be different? Or, better reflecting my actual thoughts, “If we had eased them into our disaffection, would our exit have gone SMOOTHER?”

The other reason I think about how we left and whether it was the best approach is because the “big exiting letter” approach is so Mormon and so “cult-ish”. When a Catholic or Episcopalian drifts away from their religion, they simply drift away. I’ve spent the last year interviewing people who are “Nones” (no religious identification). A couple were Mormons (recruited through my friendship networks), but most were not. For some, when they finally told their parents that they didn’t want to attend services anymore, the parents were disappointed, and some were even a bit hateful (former Southern Baptists have had the hardest time with this), but most had a frank conversation and then it was basically not much of an issue after that.

That Mormons feel obligated to write a letter (1) saying that they are leaving and, (2) defending that they are leaving, says some interesting things about the Mormon mindset and the Mormon religion. First, it suggest to me that Mormons give a lot more power and authority to their religion than do lots of other religious people. To Mormons, the Church is a big fracking deal! You can’t just ignore it. You can’t just walk away when you realize how offensive it is. You can’t just disappear from the Church’s radar.

You have to freak out! You flip it the bird, tell it off, and warn it to never come back! That suggests to me that the Mormon Church functions more like a bully than just some annoying friend. You don’t ignore bullies. You beat the crap out of them in order to get them to leave you alone, a la Casey Heynes:

But it also suggests something about those trying to leave. They are locked into a mindset in which the religion has power over them. They have to reject that power, and that requires an actual act of rejection, like writing the “big exit letter.”

Now, not all Mormons leave that way. There is a great deal of speculation as to how many people are leaving the religion every year, and my guess is that, of the many who do, most do just drift away. But many of those are recent converts who never did give the religion the kind of power that it has in the lives of those raised in it. Yes, the Church tries to “bully” these people back by tracking them down and periodically sending someone to get them to come back, which reflects the authoritarian attitude of the religion – “we are in control here,” “you leave under our terms,” “it is our church, not yours.” But most of those who drift out don’t buy into it and simply continue ignoring a pesky religion they dabbled with for a short while. But for those of us who really bought it, who really believed it, and who gave our power to the Church, what do we do?

So here’s my big question: Is the “Big Exit Letter” (BEL) necessary for victims of LDS, Inc.? Or should we just drift away?


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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44 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    I never sent a letter or email to my family but the letter I sent to the Church was very satisfying. I didn’t include any reasons why I’m leaving – only that our relationship was over and not to call again.

  2. Dave says:

    My experiences are pretty recent. I have been open with my parents through the entire “trying to strengthen me testimony” to “I have doubts” to “I’m going to figure this out once and for all” to finally “I’m pretty darn sure the church isn’t correct” phases of my deconversion process. My mom’s family is not big on secret-keeping, so the situation has become pretty well-known through the grapevine at each step.

    So far, this seems to have worked out for me quite well. My parents know how serious I’ve been about my search for truth, so they don’t condemn me. I got a “no empty chairs” letter from my grandparents when they found out, but it wasn’t mean. I don’t know if this is all a product of having a nice, relatively open-minded family, or having them know the situation throughout the process, or a combination of both.

    At this point, I’ve encouraged my mother to talk about it all she wants. I’d rather people find out through gossip than have to awkwardly explain things over and over.

    Just my two cents. Probably not a good idea in many families, but it seems to be working out in mine.

  3. Kari says:

    We did just the opposite – no letters or grand announcements. My parents knew that I had issues with religion and the church going back years. We had stopped going to church for about a year, when my parents were coming to visit and asked if they should time their arrival to go to church with us or if they should go to their home ward first (they live fairly close). I was able to tell them that if they wanted to go to church they could go either place, but we wouldn’t be going with them as we had stopped attending. My mother was on the verge of tears her whole visit, but nothing was said. My mother has never spoken to me about it. My father has asked on a couple of occasions why I no longer believe, but otherwise we haven’t talked about it.

    The only sibling I have flat out told is one brother who left the church when he was 18. The other four siblings are all active, and while I’m sure my parents have mentioned it to them, they’ve never commented or asked.

    Whether this is easier that “the big letter” or not, I don’t know. It certainly causes some tension, which is probably more perceived than real. What I do know is that I’ve never considered myself a “victim” of the LDS church, and never felt the need to make some sort of symbolic gesture by writing such a letter.

  4. Carla says:

    From what I have seen, it seems that if you just “drift away,” people in the church get to make assumptions about you a lot easier (as in, well they must have been corrupted by sin/read anti literature), whereas if you write a letter explaining how you feel and why, you at least get some say in how people perceive your rejection of Mormonism.

  5. chanson says:

    In my family, my older brother John wrote a BEL, but I did not, and neither did my younger brother Ben. John wrote and printed up a little blue booklet entitled “The Word of Reason” explaining the case against the CoJCoL-dS. I don’t know how much of the family and extended family received copies, but I still have one. (Aerin — did you ever see a copy of this booklet?)

    You could observe that — since John did it — Ben and I didn’t need to. But, really, I never would have sent out a BEL, even if John hadn’t (and I doubt Ben would have either). My position was essentially (1) my non-belief is not about them, and (2) no matter how well-reasoned it is, a BEL won’t convince them I’m right or even to respect my decision not to believe, so why open up an unpleasant discussion that I don’t want to have with them?

    But then, the question remains: why did John write a BEL? (And formally resign from the CoJCoL-dS?) One might guess that since he’s gay, he wanted to be doubly sure that people understand that the problem is the CoJCoL-dS, not sin/temptation. But I don’t think that was the reason for writing it. I think it’s simply a question of temperament.

    Also interesting to note: Of the three of us, John is the only one who has gone on to join a different LDS religion (the Community of Christ, see his BCC profile). Ben and I are both still just plain old atheists.

  6. Chandelle says:

    I feel similarly in that I wish I’d handled it differently. My partner and I left together, and we announced it simply by pulling his parents aside for a private meeting and saying it straight-out. Before the meeting we made a pact that we wouldn’t be drawn into discussion or debate and we wouldn’t explain our reasoning, because we were confident that they’d come to their own conclusions anyway and explaining ourselves would just cause pain and set us up for an argument and judgment. His parents did not respond well; my MIL said she’d rather see him dead and wondered how our family would survive without a priesthood holder (snort). They were extremely frustrated that we wouldn’t offer an explanation and in retrospect I think that is something that caused the greatest rift between us. I think it was quite a shock when we left and they’ve tortured themselves wondering why it happened.

    I’m not sure it would have made a big difference to explain our reasoning… but I really don’t know. I do know that my guy still wonders, four years later, if he should write a letter outlining his experience. By and large my in-laws never mention it, but my MIL did say once that she hoped he would explain himself before she dies. I feel like such a letter would just open old wounds, and since nothing is going to truly satisfy them short of us being re-baptised, and they’re never going to consider our reasoning valid, it’s hard to see how this would help.

    I have no regrets about coming out definitively as ex-members. I think that was important. I considered just drifting away, but I saw so many conflicts ahead… our kids coming up on their 8th birthdays, temple weddings and church-centered family events, prayers before dinner… It’s definitely more difficult, at first, to be straight-forward, but in the long run it makes things easier.

    I think you made a good point about the Church acting as a bully in our lives. I resigned primarily to get my children’s names off the records. For me it wasn’t so much an act of indignant rejection or taking back my power — I just wanted a definitive legal document severing the relationship so they wouldn’t come around sniffing after my kids.

  7. Seth R. says:

    I’m in the drift away, but never try to hide how you feel about things camp.

    Big dramatic exit letters always struck me as highly prima-donna-ish behavior.

    But then again, I’m half ethnic German (dad’s side). We don’t really have much patience for dramatic public displays. Doesn’t matter if it’s at the pulpit during Fast and Testimony meeting, or other flashy behavior. Our reaction is usually internally to say “get a room or something.”

  8. Chino Blanco says:

    I wonder if birth order matters? I’m the oldest son and grandchild in a family that used to be very authoritarian. I’d like to think that being a loudmouth about religious doubts and decisions helped the younger kids in my generation feel a little more free to choose their own paths.

    “You dont ignore bullies. You beat the crap out of them in order to get them to leave you alone.” That sounds about right.

  9. Seth R. says:

    I ignored them.

    And it my case, it worked out alright.

  10. Ms. Jack says:

    If I stopped believing in Christianity, there is no way in hell I would send a letter to my evangelical and other Christian relatives letting them know I was done. That would be hella weird. If they don’t talk to me about religion often enough to find out for themselves, they don’t need notification.

    At best, I would send a brief note to my denomination asking to have my name removed from their membership records. Protestant denominations usually purge their records of inactive members from time to time, so even that wouldn’t be necessary, but if it were a church like TCoJCoLDS that keeps lifetime records, maybe I would.

    I definitely wouldn’t write one of those letters listing off every issue I have with the religion. No offense to anyone who has done that, but I have to agree with proxfm that these BELs are a distinctly Mormon (ex-Mormon?) phenomenon. Besides, chances are that the only person at Church HQ who’s going to see your letter is some bored records clerk who deals with so many BELs that he’s become accustomed to tuning out most of the complaints, so why bother? Keep it short and sweet, save precious minutes of your life and his.

  11. Andrew S. says:

    I have “drifted away” both with respect to parents and the church…so no letters to either of these.

    I can sometimes see the point of sending a resignation letter to the church, but I don’t get sending a letter with grievances and whatnot…and I don’t get trying to rile up family with it.

    Then again, my family’s dynamics are just different. A letter would be strange indeed.

  12. profxm says:

    Ms. Jack… It’s good to know my take on this for other religions is accurate. I’m basing it off the many people I’ve met who have left religions other than Mormonism. Whether they joined a different religion or just gave up religion altogether, none of the people I’ve met who were never Mormons wrote a BEL. They just left.

    Which, of course, leads to: So, why do some Mormons do this? I really think it is the bully/authoritarian dynamic. You have to make the break and make it clear it is a break with the religion.

    To all the others who have commented – thank you! All have been insightful and helped my think through my ideas on this.

  13. aerin says:

    @chanson – no, I never saw the booklet. Now I wish I had! I’ll contact John to see if he still has a copy.

    I think part of this depends on how families communicate. I don’t think you can get around the gossip. From my understanding, it’s said I left because of some bad (non doctrinal) teachers I had. No matter how reasoned my arguments might be, I never really understood mormonism or gave it a chance. So why bother?

    I think it must be different when one leaves as an adult, possibly after going on a mission or getting married. Many mormons are not like your relatives Seth, they will confront people and want to know why they left (some may even call to repentance). Does it make sense to wait for that confrontation (if it happens) or be proactive? I don’t know. I’m just observing I know some mormons who aren’t able to mind their own business. They’re not the only ones, fwiw.

  14. chanson says:

    Chino — I think there may well be something to the birth order idea. John was the oldest in our family and the oldest grandson in the (huge and hugely Mormon) extended family — a role he took quite seriously, especially when he was younger. (Note: there was one older granddaughter, but as a child it mattered to John that he was the oldest grandson.)

    Aerin — Please don’t ask him for it. He’ll probably not be thrilled that I mentioned it on the Internet… 😉

  15. chanson says:

    continuing to Aerin — I think you absolutely have a point that it’s different when one leaves as an adult. If you went on a mission and started a family as Mormon, then your parents naturally have the idea in their heads that they’re going to help you raise your family Mormon, and that’s something you have to discuss with them. In my case, I stopped believing as a teenager while still at home, so by the time I graduated from BYU, my immediate family already knew very well that I wasn’t interested in continuing in Mormonism. And I wasn’t really close enough with the extended family to feel it necessary to tell them about my disbelief.

    And if you want to see “The Word of Reason” — just come to Switzerland and visit me! 😀

  16. Seth R. says:

    Don’t get me wrong Aerin. I would be confronted over it. My dad is similar to Carson’s dad in some respects (yes, I have been reading Carson’s posts – just haven’t commented because I figured he wouldn’t appreciate it terribly). So yes, he would be on my case if I stopped going.

    Heck, he’s already on my case just for not adhering to the Gospel According to Bruce R. McConkie. I get a lot of suspicious remarks about whether I’m

    But he’d still consider a public announcement weird. And so would I.

  17. Seth R. says:

    should have read: “suspicious remarks whether I’m “working hard” in the Gospel, etc.”

  18. Andrew S. says:

    I get a lot of suspicious remarks about whether Im

    about whether you’re…what?

    A liberal gay “apeaser”?

  19. leftofcentre says:

    Interestingly, after I watched the video of the bully-boy getting the stuffing knocked out of him I watched a follow-up video where the bully claims he was also bullied. Do you think the church’s bullying of apostates (or anyone with dissenting opinion, really) is in any way related to the feelings they may have over being singled out as the really ‘weird kid’ in the school of religions?

    As for the exit letter, I’ve composed dozens of them in my head. I think that the church and I have a strange relationship, one like childhood sweethearts who had spats in the sandpit. I would recognise them if I bumped into them on the street but there would definitely be nervous laughter if I caught them up-to-date with my life…best to just leave things be.

  20. profxm says:


    It’s certainly possible that the “bullying complex” comes from the fact that Mormonism is still seen as being weird. Mormonism is very much engaged in an effort to develop its “brand” and “identity” at the moment. Threats to that identity are not treated very well (just ask the FLDS). That would probably include apostates, too. Though I also think this explains why the church has recently stopped excommunicating high profile dissenters (not all of them, but most of them): they don’t want to be seen as a bully, even though they are acting as one behind the scenes (e.g., Peter Danzig:

  21. leftofcentre says:

    I have seen the Danzig video. It was almost criminal what the church put the Danzigs through and to that end, I think that public renunciations of the church are important for individuals to take themselves forward and away from the source of their perceived misery. As a group effort, however, I wonder whether letters or videos of ex-mormons don’t just add fuel to the collective fire of the bully feeling like he/she’s being teased, again.

    The LDS brand or identity, to most people on the outside I’ve spoken to, looks quite shallow and contrived. It doesn’t ‘feel’ real no matter how many testimonies you throw in as a way of differentiating yourself from the Methodists. Objectively speaking, I think that recruiting and retaining members with money and credibility is key to Mormonism’s survival and I don’t think the church is succeeding with outdated methods of recruitment, such as proselytising and the soft-focus/piano music/backlit photo and illustrations approach. If I were their PR consultancy firm, I would definitely suggest they do things differently. Of course, I won’t ever get the chance to be their PR firm, so I’ll save my ideas for the Methodists.

    Just curious, profxm, do you think that making a definitive public statement about leaving Mormonism has a possible relationship to the public testimonies that Mormons are encouraged to share?

  22. Seth R. says:

    Yeah, ask the FLDS if they feel bad about the LDS Church not embracing them. They’ll probably look at you blankly and say “what are you talking about – we don’t want to be embraced and accepted by those apostates!”

    Oh, and incidentally, the whole bullying thing isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. I actually was bullied on occasion as a kid. Some of that was not justified at all.

    But as an adult looking back on it – I now realize I brought a lot of it on myself by being, frankly, and insufferable little dickhead. I was arrogant, unpleasant, and tended to think I was much better than everyone else around me, and was completely lacking in social grace at times. I didn’t really care about other people. And after middle school, I was so paranoid about other relationships that I avoided them completely for most of high school – living in my own little delusional world of self-superiority combined with anxiety.

    And with perspective, I realize that at least half of it was self-inflicted. Possibly more.

    We tend to self-fulfill our own prophecies about the world.

  23. profxm says:


    Not your best defense of LDS, Inc., ever.

    First, the FLDS may consider the LDS to be in apostasy, but they do readily accept their shared history and see the LDS as possible collaborators, not as the enemy. Except when the LDS Church tries to get law enforcement to crack down on them. That pisses them off. But, otherwise, the FLDS have much less anonymosity toward the LDS than vice versa.

    Second… You’re really trying to suggest that those who leave Mormonism deserve and/or deserved the bullying? I know a guy, a college professor, whose dad was a college professor at BYU. My friend, I’ll call him “Mitt” for fun, left Mormonism just after college (at BYU) with his wife. They didn’t want to cause waves, so they just stopped attending and didn’t resign. Over the next 15 years, every time they would move, the church would find them and send members of the ward over. Some times those “friendly” visits included rather aggressive attempts to get them back to church – sneaking into their yards, leaving lots of messages on phones, disregarding the stated lack of interest, repeated contacts, visiting teachers and home teachers, etc. It wasn’t until my friend threatened to sue them (and then I told him about how to resign) that they finally left him alone. And, mind you, this friend and his wife had said nothing about Mormonism pretty much to anyone since they left. They wanted to be left alone. Period. You may have been a self-righteous a**hole growing up who deserved to be put in his place at times, but Mitt isn’t. He’s a nice guy who just wanted to live his life without Mormonism. And the church wouldn’t let that happen. Tell me that isn’t bullying…

  24. Seth R. says:

    Yes, yes.

    You have horrible anecdotes. So does the other side.

    How about the Mormon woman I had email correspondence who spends every evening being emotionally harassed and belittled by her ex-Mormon husband. He’s currently on a campaign to convince his teenage son that his own mother is an idiot. Every time she leaves for church he makes hurtful and angry remarks to her. It’s gotten bad enough she can’t even have her friends from church over with him around.

    But in his mind HE’S the victim here.

    No, he’s just a hateful jackass.

    See – two can play at the extreme anecdote game.

  25. profxm says:

    So, this guy deserves/deserved to be bullied by an institution? Or, maybe, the fact that he was bullied by this institution is why he feels such hatred for it? I don’t see many ex-Episcopalians being vindictive toward current Episcopalians. I wonder why?

    The beauty of your “extreme anecdote” is that it actually works toward my argument: When some Mormons leave, it’s a major deal. And, for some, they really, really hate the institution they left – because it is so authoritarian.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to defend the guy in your anecdote. I’ve never done that and never would. But the real question is: Why is he doing that? Why is he so angry at the religion? Why is that, Seth?

  26. Seth R. says:

    profxm, are you hanging out on any atheist vs. Christian venues other than ones devoted to Mormonism?

    Well, I am.

    And believe me – the ex-members over there are just as angry. In fact, unhinged rage seems to be a common theme any time you have a religious fundie leaving the flock – in any denomination.

  27. Seth R. says:

    And your reaction profxm has just reminded me that nothing – absolutely nothing – pisses people off more in our modern culture than questioning their victimhood status.

    It’s like the most prized piece of real-estate in human identity these days, apparently.

  28. kari says:

    What exactly is institutional bullying anyway? I have to admit I have a hard time even understanding this concept. Isn’t all bullying personal?

    Certainly the LDS Church has a culture that easily allows for ecclesiastical abuse with an unwillingness at all levels for corrective action to be taken. Is this what is meant?

    profxm, is your anecdote really about bullying? Annoying behavior and intrusion into personal space doesn’t constitute bullying. There’s a difference between a someone who’s a bully and someone who’s just simply a pain in the ass.

  29. profxm says:

    Seth, I’ll just add one word to clarify:

    “Justified” unhinged rage.


  30. Seth R. says:

    Well, if we’re all playing the victim-card here, do I get to play it too?

  31. profxm says:


    I wasn’t really trying to suggest a one-to-one comparison between the LDS Church and a bully. I was really suggesting that it is “bully-like” behavior that people who leave are responding to. They feel like they have been victimized and therefore feel like they have to respond in dramatic fashion (a la Casey Heynes). For lots of people, the LDS Church doesn’t give off that vibe. But for some of us, it does (myself included).

    Accepting your distinction between “bully” and “pain in the ass”, I’d say the LDS Church is closer to the former than the latter. A pain in the ass annoys you. A bully forces you to do things you don’t want to do and causes you harm. Serve a mission. Give 10%. Believe X. Etc.

    True, it is a voluntary institution, but when you’re in it, does it feel that way? It didn’t to me. And the harm I experienced when I left (mostly from my family who remained Mormon) was pretty serious – accusations of adultery, statements that my wife and I leaving was more saddening to my wife’s parents than having one of their other children die young, etc.

    A pain in the ass would mock me. A bully says mean, damaging things. I get more of a mean, damaging vibe from the religion than a mocking vibe.

  32. profxm says:

    Sure, Seth. Play a victim card. How have you been victimized?

  33. kari says:

    Maybe I’m just a little bit different than the typical ex-mormon, but when I was an active member of the church I never felt it was anything but voluntary. There was the family and “societal” pressure to serve a mission, but I certainly never felt forced. Why do you think our situations and feelings are so dissimilar?

  34. profxm says:

    Attending church in my family growing up wasn’t “optional”. If you said you didn’t want to go to church, you were literally told that was not an option. And if you insisted, the response depended on your age: If you were young, you’d be spanked. If you were older, you’d be kicked out of the house. That is not a voluntary association.

    And since my oldest brother did, in fact, get kicked out of the house once he stopped participating in church and smoking and drinking, we all believed that our parents’ threats were real (’cause, well, they were).

    And since that same brother didn’t serve a mission, the rest of us were convinced that we would – and we all did (I have 8 siblings; there are 6 boys and 3 girls; 5 of the boys served and 2 of the girls did).

    Another illustration of the forced nature of “religious” participation was scouting. My parents made no distinction between church and scouts, and they really didn’t need to considering our ward sponsored the local scout troop and everyone in the troop was in the ward. It was a rule in our house that you didn’t get to drive until you had your Eagle. My two oldest brothers got theirs before they turned 16. My third oldest brother didn’t. He didn’t drive until he was 17. I got my Eagle when I was 13, just so I wouldn’t have to face that issue.

    I’m increasingly aware of the fact that other people were not raised in a home like mine. And, while I’m complaining about the restrictive nature of my family life, it wasn’t all negative. I have plenty of good memories. But, Church was not optional. My mother has gone so far as to say to me, since I left the religion, that, “When I criticize Mormonism, it’s like I’m criticizing her.” She draws no distinction between the two. She is more than just “Mormon.” She is “Mormonism.” My father often put religion (and scouting) before family.

    So, maybe my issues with “Mormonism” are really issues with my family. But I have to wonder how much of the behavior of my parents is due to my parents and how much of it is tied to them being Mormon.

  35. Seth R. says:

    My eight year old daughter absolutely loves going to church. She likes meeting with her friends there, she likes the change of pace from being at home and interacting with different people (we homeschool), and she even likes the lessons and songs.

    Even I have been a little disconcerted at how much she enjoys it all – because I don’t recall that I liked THAT much.

    She’s the one always badgering ME to have family prayer, scripture reading, and Home Evening.

    We’ve never had to bother with “forcing” our kids to go to church. Because it’s just an assumption in our house that church is what you do on Sunday. No one questions it. But they aren’t teenagers yet either. So we’ll see how that holds up.

  36. Andrew S says:

    Earlier in the topic, Seth said, “Unhinged rage seems to be a common theme any time you have a religious fundie leaving the flock.”

    But isn’t that interesting? Why do we have so many “religious fundies” leaving Mormonism? I’d say plenty of peoplein the church grow up to believe that a fundamentalist approach is the only legitimate approach. This sets them up for betrayal eventually, if they don’t loe their fundamentalism, Mormonism just DOESN’T work well as a fundamentalist religion.

    People who make it through Mormonism well (whether they stay in or leave) do so either by virtue of overcoming fundamentalism (e.g., NOMs, liberal Mormons, etc.,) or by avoiding certain life nuances (e.g., TBMs who stay TBM rather than becoming jaded exmos)

  37. Seth R. says:

    Andrew, I’ve heard variations of this theme from other Christians.

    I just got off a mainline Christian forum today where one of the people there posted the assertion that Young Earth Creationism is “causing” more atheists.

    Fundamentalism can lead to a dangerously brittle and inflexible worldview. When it snaps, a lot of upset and anger usually accompanies it.

  38. profxm says:

    I think that’s getting toward the point I was trying to make. I was raised as a fundamentalist Mormon. My parents taught a literal interpretation of scripture. I was told that the prophet literally spoke with god, as did all of my church leaders. The world I lived in when I was growing up was bounded on all sides by Mormonism. When that snapped, it was a BIG DEAL. And it warranted, in my mind, a BIG EXIT LETTER.

  39. Anony says:

    profxm, your experience closely parallels what I’ve observed in my in-laws. They ARE the Church. Rejecting the Church meant rejecting them. Their love is conditional, predicated on church attendance and adherence to various rules. Growing up, the siblings who have left the Church (4 of 6) agree that church was not an option, baptism was not presented as a choice, a mission was certainly a requirement, attendance at BYU a strong recommendation, dating outside the Church not even a consideration, and Scouting was, as you say, largely indistinguishable from other religious service.

    My SIL converted her Catholic husband so she could get married in the temple, knowing that her parents would reject her if she did not. The conversion didn’t stick and they ended up divorcing a short time later. Another SIL was allowed to move home after her divorce only if she promised to attend church. Another B- and SIL, having openly left the Church, are renting a house from them — they tried to put it in the contract that they weren’t allowed to drink alcohol on the premises. If they could have insisted on church attendance as a contractual obligation I’m sure they wouldn’t have hesitated to do so. Is this bullying? I’m not sure. I’d think of it more like petty intimidation, or simple manipulation.

    Nothing much matters to my in-laws except their religion. I don’t think they hace any interests or activities that are not related to Mormonism. So to leave the Church is not only to reject them, as people, and to reject the whole family, as a unit, but also to sever the relationship outside of basic blood ties. Without the Church they no longer have anything in common with their children, which only serves to reinforce the feeling of alienation on both sides. Is this a consequence of bullying? I’m not sure. I think it’s just how things work in such an insular environment. The drive to conform is intense, and families and communities have no use for those who violate the rules of conformity.

  40. patriotboy says:

    I left the Church 20+ years before sending the BEL. It wasn’t a big deal for me. My family knew I had left and wasn’t coming back.

    I finally sent a BEL for political reasons: to protest the Church’s opposition to marriage equality and their support of torture.

    Funny thing, my mother new about it within a week. I hadn’t told her.

  41. Amber says:

    The difference between most religions and the LDS religion is that you don’t have to be an ‘active participating member’ to participate in family functions. I realized that The Church wasn’t all it said it was in February of this year, I have a sister getting married in May in the temple. I am unwilling to pretend that I’m something I’m not or that I believe something I don’t to attend. Because my entire family will be there my not going inside will be noted. I felt the need to explain on my terms- not let them make assumptions about my ‘worthiness’.

  42. Jonathan says:

    I wrote a BEL, and I’m glad I did.

    Mormonism plays such a big role in how my family relates to each other that I wanted to make it clear where I stood. I didn’t go into reasons why so much as saying that I was out.

    If I didn’t write a BEL, I’d still have to explain at some point why I wasn’t going to pray at my in-law’s FHE, why I wouldn’t help give a blessing, why I wasn’t going to be at a temple wedding, etc. The BEL was like ripping the bandage off all at once instead of the torture of pulling it off one little bit at a time.

    On the flip side, a lot of my exmo family members immediately opened up to me and my relationship with them improved, I’m guessing because I wasn’t going to be a judgmental dick with them anymore.

  43. lina says:

    i dont have much to say about my life because i was having allot of problems in my matrimonial home.right now am so happy that everything is OK by me because a truthful caster real save my soul am so happy.if you have any type of problems just try email him;

  1. April 7, 2011

    […] feel right to say I’ve “left” the church, since I haven’t sent any Big Exit Letters) I haven’t really talked to many members I’ve personally known about it. My parents […]

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