Leaving the Mormon Church
I was once a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as “Mormons” or LDS. This is my story of how I became a member and why I decided to leave the church. Unlike the majority of Latter Day Saints, I had no family or friends that were Mormon (LDS), but became interested in it because of a man I was dating at that time, and the strong character traits I saw in him, which he attributed to his Mormon religious upbringing. I also knew that Donny and Marie were LDS. Other than that, I knew nothing about this church..
I expressed an interest, and the man I was dating quickly gave my name to the Latter Day Saints missionaries. These young men or women, usually age 18-20, leave home to go on their mission right after high school. They receive no pay or support from the LDS church, but live on the money that their family and donations from friends are able to provide. Most are on very limited incomes. I was immediately impressed by their dedication to the LDS church. I later learned that going on a mission for two years is expected of most young LDS men, and they are taught to plan for it from a very young age. The man I was dating had also gone on a LDS mission, but he said the main reason was his family and church members expected it of him.
These young LDS missionaries made an appointment and came to my house to do a series of discussions over several weeks. Each LDS discussion is planned, and the missionaries are well schooled in the script to use for each discussion. The discussions are basically watered down versions of Mormon doctrine, and are carefully worded not to raise any red flags that might cause someone to reject the teachings of the LDS church. At the close of the discussions, one is pressured into agreeing to be baptized. I was asked to set a date now, so that plans could be made. I agreed. It was as much a result of my visits to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints during that time (and how kind the people were to me) as it was the teachings of the Missionaries. I admit I didn’t ask many questions during the discussions, but at that point did not know what to ask.
I learned that before one can be baptized, an interview must take place. Another young missionary, one that was not involved in the discussions and could therefore be biased, comes to do the interview. You are asked questions regarding whether you agree to uphold the heads of the LDS church, tithe, attend Sunday meetings, and not have sex outside of marriage. You agree to abide by the “word of wisdom” which is a teaching that was given to Joseph Smith, who began the Mormon Church in the 1800’s that forbids coffee, tea, tobacco, or alcoholic beverages. I have always been a soft drink partaker, and that was allowed, I was told. The most interesting questions I was asked during this interview involved whether or not I was homosexual or had ever had a sex change. I am very clearly female, so I thought the missionary was kidding when he asked this, but he was dead serious, and it was on his written list of questions to ask everyone.
The Latter Day Saints baptism ceremony is nice. The person being baptized and the priesthood holder (man who has achieved the level of priest) wear white jumpsuits, which are provided. Family and the church members are invited to attend. Several present talks on various subjects, and much of it is aimed at winning over any non-Mormons who might be in attendance. Baptism is done by immersion, and they are very serious about total immersion. If any part of the body is left above the water, even a hand or elbow, it is repeated. Then the women of the LDS church who form the “Relief Society” usually prepare refreshments for a small reception afterward.
At the next Sunday LDS church service, the new member is asked forward to “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The new LDS church member sits in a chair at the front facing the congregation, and several men who hold the priesthood lay their hands on the head or shoulders of the person and say a prayer. There is no speaking in tongues, etc as in Pentecostal churches. Mormons believe speaking in tongues means almost unnaturally being able to learn a foreign language in a short period of time, of particular use to the missionaries.
During the LDS Sunday service, the church family, called a ward, meets together for Sunday school, a sacrament meeting, and these are followed by Relief Society for the women and Priesthood meeting for the men. Sacrament service is begun with announcements, followed by two or three songs from the hymnal, prayer, and then sacrament is passed. Young boys do this, and it is blessed before the passing by a specific prayer that must be repeated verbatim or be repeated until it is correct. After the sacrament, different members present “talks” about the subjects they have been given ahead of time. There is no sermon by a minister, as the church members do the service. No offering plate is passed, but members place their tithe in a white envelope and pass it to the bishop, who is the equivalent of a lay minister without pay, or one of his counselors, men who are appointed to help him. All the men except visitors or new members, who don’t know better, wear dark pants and white shirts. The women all wear dresses. Children are kept in the service, and the children are usually very well behaved. Mormon families tend to be large, and it is not unusual for a family to take up an entire pew.
New LDS members go to a new members Sunday school class and learn from a specific book for that purpose. A chapter in it is covered each week, and the lessons go for a year, and then begin again at the first chapter. It is in these lessons that new members tend to find out exactly what they were not told during the LDS missionary discussions. Some of the Latter Day Saints beliefs surprised me, including God having a physical body, God and Jesus being two separate beings, baptism for the dead, and the belief that God was once a man who progressed to being God by living “the principle”. The principle basically says that in the celestial kingdom, the highest level of heaven reserved for Mormons, men have multiple wives and have marital relations that result in multiple spirit children. If a man and his women are successful at this, they can achieve perfection, become gods, and have their own planet where they will be deity. One must be worthy of this, live a life of perfection, which Mormons believe they can do if they just strive for it daily.
It was about the time all this came out in LDS Sunday school lessons that I knew I had made a terrible mistake and that I had to leave the church. I knew enough about the bible to know that to say one can be equal to God is blasphemous. I knew this church, no matter how nice the Latter Day Saints people are, was not for me. I went to the internet to find advice from some of the ex- Mormon websites on how to leave the church and make a clean break. I wrote a letter to the LDS stake president (several LDS wards make up one stake), and said I had changed my mind and wanted my name to be removed. I was sent a reply saying this was such a big step that I was to be given thirty days to decide for sure and if the LDS church did not hear from me in that length of time, my name would be removed from church rolls. I was also informed by other LDS church members that only people who “have the truth” and then leave the church are sent to outer darkness, which is the Mormon equivalent of hell. At that point, I figured I would rather fear God sending me to hell for blasphemy than the Mormons assigning me there for leaving the LDS church.
After I sent the letter, all of the newfound friends I had made in the LDS church immediately stopped calling or coming by. However, from time to time the new LDS missionaries who cycled through would drop by to try to change my mind. I politely declined their visits. Joining the Latter Day Saints church was not a hard decision, but it was an uninformed one. When I asked why I was not told all the other doctrine in the beginning, I was told one could only be given milk until they are ready to receive meat. I personally believe they know they will turn people away if they know of some of the beliefs the church holds, and they figure by the time you do find out, you’ll have made friends, settled in, gone through the baptism, and hate to quit at that point.
I know my article will offend some people, especially if they are LDS, but this is my experience told as factually as memory permits. I am not out to change anyone’s mind, but if anything, to help others know what questions they should ask in the beginning of their interest in the Mormon church. I’m sure the LDS church would rather have members who have looked at the options and KNOW this is the right path for them. Blindly following the teachings of any religion without a lot of personal study of the doctrines and history of the church from a variety of sources, church members as well as others, is not a good idea.