People leave the Mormon church for many reasons. Many members write off people leaving as "lazy" or that he or she had a "weak testimony." However, the motivating factors are typically much more foundational. Mormons leave the church due to the fraught history of the church, current church practices and culture, and personal experiences.
The exmormon subreddit is a popular forum where people share stories, memes and ask for advice on leaving the church. There are over 250,000 members on the forum, and it has grown precipitously in the last ten years. This post compiles some of the top stories on why Mormons became exmormon. Small edits have been made for clarity or grammar.
"It's been only 3 weeks since I read the CES letter and discovered for myself that the church isn't true. I was told I would go through a grieving process and I definitely have/am. It's so trippy how for the first few moments in the morning I'll forget everything new that I've learned. And then some thought will trigger a Mormon response and my brain will knock back with "NOPE. FALSE". I am still getting used to thinking for myself. Harder than it looks when you haven't done it for 31 years.
Then sometimes when I'm contemplating how happy I am now, I start to panic and think about "eternity" and apologist narratives and I'll rush back to this sub or find another Mormon Stories podcast I haven't heard yet just to make sure it wasn't all a dream. Works like a charm every time, so glad I'm not alone."
This is an excerpt of the full story
"Then the AP article came out. I read it and was shocked to the core. The hubris of The Church allowing the most heinous thing I can imagine, the rape of children, to continue for even one moment after it was discovered just blew my mind...
I didn’t know what to do with this knowledge. I googled other sources and the Arizona child rape thing was real, it was real, it was real. How could this be? It was real. The Apostles had been directly involved in the policies that allowed these kids to be raped for YEARS. And this is JUST THE CASE THAT WE KNOW ABOUT!!!
WTF IS HAPPENING HERE?!?!?!
About a day later I read the Gospel Topics Essays because someone on exmormon was blown away by them. I was blown away by them myself!
NOBODY EVER TAUGHT ME THIS, WTF IS THIS???
DID THE RUSSIANS HACK LDS.ORG AND PLANT THIS CRAP HERE???
THIS CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT BE RIGHT!!!!
This must have been about Wednesday the 10th of August. I was texting my shock and horror to my baby sister (whom left The Church a couple of years ago) and she referred all of my disgust and anguish to the CES Letter.
I've spent the past 2 days reading it and pondering it word by word, claim by claim. Last night at approx. 5pm, sitting in my back yard, alone, I finished the chapter on the Book of Abraham. That’s when my shelf broke. I had no idea this was coming, I had no idea why my baby sister was so wrecked after leaving The Church, I had no idea what happened to my older sister’s mind when she left The Church years prior also.
I’ve never cried so hard in my life. Hell, I never cry over anything. Everything I ever knew about the world, the universe, life, death, eternity, it all came apart. Its all a massive fraud. My emotions are still out of control, even after sleeping on it. Right now I am just crushed. I don’t know whats real. I don’t know who I am. All the guilt my entire life trying to live a standard that was all fantasy, all that GUILT. All that time, all the money, my dad’s WHOLE LIFE was all in support of a fraud. And he didn’t even know.
My wife came home and found me like that, weeping, nose dripping, eyes swollen and in such deep shock. How embarrassing. She just held me and that’s all I wanted anyway.
I had read about shelf-breaking via some accounts on reddit, but there is no way to have perspective on it until it happens to you. I didn’t. I thought it was probably drama. It's not drama.
The only thing I know for certain right now in the middle of this crisis is that the love I have for my wife is genuine and real. The love I have for my kids is genuine and real. The intentions I have in this life are good and genuine and real. I don’t believe in anything else, I don’t KNOW anything else. I have to start over and figure out what I am. I don’t know if there is enough time left in my life to un-program Mormonism from my thought processes."
"In high school I had a little bit of a rebellious streak. I am child 8 of 9 in a big ol' family of the lord. My siblings were and are to this day, as TBM as my parents which is to say a lot. So I felt so alone in my doubts. I was mentally waring with my desire to please my parents as my eyes opened to how the world really worked.
I attended a very, very mormon high school in a Salt Lake suburb. I didn't fit in with a lot of the mormon kids and found myself drawn to kids on the debate team and in theater - the micro pockets of diverse teens that also happened to not be mormon. Through a series of events my junior year I ended up in a situation where I ended up topless in a public setting at a school event. I was dumb, trust me I know. We all make mistakes.
I was suspended from school for a few days and when my parents found out my mother forced me into a worthiness interview with the bishop. My car and part-time job were the hostages.
Pleasantries were short and he quickly got into the "why are you here today?" My mother was sitting outside the room waiting for me and she intended to speak with the bishop and make sure I had confessed so I couldn't just lie.
I told him I had gotten into some trouble at school. "What trouble?" he asked. I vaguely told him what happened and I had been suspended for it. I expected him to ask what I had learned, if I felt guilty, those kinds of questions. Instead he proceeded to ask me to describe how I removed my shirt.
"Was the room cold?"
"What kind of bra were you wearing?"
"Were your nipples firm?"
"How long were they uncovered?"
"Did part of you enjoy it?"
These were some of the questions I was asked. The interview lasted nearly 30 minutes and I remember leaving the room feeling foggy and numb. My mother had an interview with the bishop right after so I was forced to sit in the foyer of the church for another 30 minutes waiting for her to drive us home. To this day I don't know what she told him or he told her but my mom seemed fine and satisfied by whatever the bishop said.
Shortly after this I let my boss at my part time job know I was now available to work on Sundays so I could get out of attending church. I refused to ever have another interview with another "church authority" again and I never did. My mom is now in her late 60's and probably wouldn't believe me if I told her what happened that day. The church can do no wrong. I was the sinner and in her eyes the bishop had every right to conduct the interview or administer any punishment necessary.
It's been over a decade since this happened and it still hurts that I was raised this way. Keep up the good fight!"
"We were awarded a contract to digitize all of the records, journals, documents, etc. For the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. Their headquarters is also a museum that can be visited by the public. The museum sits a block away from Temple Square and across the street from the Utah state capitol. Most of the records stored there are available to the public. Some are deemed too fragile (AKA sensitive) for the public and are not indexed with the records.
They had set up a dedicated room, sequestered from the public, for us to operate scanners and equipment. The job also included 'assistants' and 'chaperones' from the church. They were in charge of getting us the day's papers, journals, and records to digitize, as well as taking the digital files and making sure we did not duplicate or store the records locally on our computers or external hard drives. (That felt like a quirky/odd request when we were first awarded the contract--but I can understand why now).
One day, checking on the progress, I walked into the room and found one of the technicians, (a real Peter-Priesthood type—the bland, unquestioning kind that are either wearing a horribly fitting suit or pleated khakis) peering at a journal on his computer monitor. The expression on his face made it seem as though the fabric of reality was tearing around him.
I distinctly remember his eyes moving like a typewriter across the page. As I got closer, he finally looked up in my direction. I noticed that he wanted to say something. Over the lunch break, he showed me the journal of a young girl that had been propositioned by Joseph Smith. It was full of innocence and hope—and confusion. She talked about how Joseph had commanded her to be his secret wife.
I wanted to excuse it away, maybe as some secret fantasy of a girl entering puberty—but there was nothing, absolutely nothing, but hope and ignorance pouring from her writing. I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't dismiss it. I couldn't discount it. I wanted to tell the technician something to make it all right, but there was nothing that I could say that would ever make it all right. We both shook our heads and without the need to acknowledge it, knew that something had permanently changed in us. The day ended, and the 'chaperones' took all of the files away.
I drove away that day, realizing that I had not betrayed my ideals, my ideals had betrayed me. I distinctly remember that it was raining as I drove back home, and the sound of the windshield wipers going rhythmically back and forth. Every time they moved across the windshield to clear the glaze of the rain, it seemed as though I could see more clearly in my own life and my own understanding. Again. And Again. I felt more duped. More robbed. More angry. More free to question. More free to make up my own mind. More free...
It led me down the rabbit hole. The next day, with the access I had, I went back and looked for more records and journals in the fragile (damning/sensitive) records collection. I found others, and it galvanized what I'd felt. There was no going back. My eyes could not close, but my mouth could not open. I didn't know who to talk with.
Later, I tried to express the turmoil to my (now ex) TBM wife of the time. I told her about the young girls. I told her about the married women. She shrugged it off. We were in our kitchen discussing it when she responded that if she was commanded by the church authorities to secretly sleep with another, she would.
...I knew right there and then it was over..."
"My shelf broke about three and a half years ago. I was working for the church at the time as Senior Vice President for Patron and Partner Services for FamilySearch. I had worked there for twelve years and had responsibility for the Family History Library in Salt Lake, the family history centers worldwide, and the relationships between FamilySearch and the partner organizations (Ancestry, My Heritage, FindMyPast, etc).
Long story short, my marriage fell apart and I came out as gay. I had never been a fanatical believer and had issues with many of the church doctrines, although I had been in a bishopric, was Scoutmaster, and had taught Gospel Doctrine for many years. I stayed in because I thought it was good for my kids to be raised with a solid ethical foundation and because I felt like I had experienced a few really profound spiritual experiences.
When I came out as gay I suppose I gave myself permission to read anti-mormon stuff, including the CES letter. When I got to the section on personal revelation and the comparison of the feeling you have when watching Saving Private Ryan, and that this is the same feeling you have when you receive revelation, the last of the items keeping my shelf together broke.
I live in Colorado now and got married to a wonderful man last year. I resigned from the church just prior to getting married. I am the happiest, most at peace, and am finally living a genuine life in so many ways. Thanks for all your posts and support. This is a wonderful community."
"This last weekend was eventful. Our son informed us he is gay.
Quick background: My wife and I stopped attending the Mormon church in August 2018 after intense study revealed too much ugliness to endure. We informed our son (RM, back just over a year) and daughter (HS) of our concerns. Our son continued to attend, our daughter stopped attending with us.
We have suspected that our son is gay for a while. As we have transitioned out, we have finally allowed ourselves to critically analyze everything about the church. Our concerns started with historical events but moved to current activities, practices, and policies.
The church’s position toward the LGBTQ community was not our primary focus, but the more we learned and examined what they have said and done, the more we were troubled by these issues. Over the last month, my wife has gently expressed our concerns about the church’s stance regarding the LGBTQ community to our son. Her hope was to communicate that we did not agree with or accept the messages coming from church leadership and to establish a safe place for him to open up about his feelings. He remained pretty quiet about everything church related until Sunday night.
Our son approached us with his sister in tow and said he needed to talk. We sat and listened. He started by indicating that he thinks he needs to pull back from the church. I got privately choked up. I felt intense emotion not because I saw it as a victory but because I recognized how much pain and suffering that statement represented.
The church has been such an integral part of his life, his identity. Deciding to pull away from the church must have been excruciating for him. I refrained from any emotional display and he continued. He indicated that he needed to pull back due to the church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community because… he is part of that community.
Then he simply said, “I’m gay.” He slowly gave us some details about his road of discovery, a road he still travels. He apologized several times during the discussion, he kept saying, “I’m sorry.”
We stopped him and told him that we understood why he might be compelled to express those words but he had nothing to apologize for, nothing at all. We told him we love him, we accept him, and that we like him. We thanked him for coming to us and opening up to us about his feelings. We hugged. We offered support. We offered encouragement. I don’t think any of us truly understands what this all means, how significant that night really was, but we pledged to support and love each other.
We are a family, united, together. My son is gay."