Why I want you to stay: A letter from a Mormon

I think the hardest business in the world is that of loving someone.

But it’s inevitable. From the moment we’re born we attach to someone like a plant’s roots wander for water, wrapping ourselves around laughter and friendship and similarities and bonds. People are everything to us.

And how ironic that because of that we experience the greatest joys–and the greatest pain.

with grandbabies

During the time that I’ve kept this blog I’ve seen stories that have changed me and I’ve made friends from worlds away who have uplifted me. And I’ve also seen my share of doubts, skepticism, even people struggling with their faith or the reason they’re even alive. I’ve loved people I don’t even know and I’ve teared up over those who have wandered away from a God they once loved. And that was the price of having this blog–of simply being human in general.

So you can say that this letter to you, whoever you are, is a long time coming. I’ve had the title scratched down for a while, almost scared to write it until some members of my own family began the back-stepping, the I-don’t-know-if-this-church-is-for-me journey.

All I want you to really know is that I want you to stay. Even if we don’t know each other at all, even if this is your first time reading my blog and even if you’ll never be back to it–I just want you to know that.

And it’s not for reasons you might think.

members at church

While I was on my way to Denver a few weeks ago I was boarding my plane when I saw my stake president sitting a few rows ahead of my seat. We waved and smiled and the whole “Wow it’s a small world” conversation ensued for a minute or two. Then we landed, spent four days with family, and life went on. But as we were headed back to Seattle, lo and behold there he was again on our same plane. But this time, he was sitting right next to us.

I didn’t tell my husband this, but I knew exactly why he was there.

After a bit of small talk he turned more serious.

He asked what our opinions were on how to best convey the difference between the culture and the gospel for members. How do we tell them that the gospel is EVERYTHING–that the Savior lived and died for all of us–that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith for those of us in THIS time who need that light to get back. How do we explain that?

joseph

I was embarrassed to tell him I don’t know. That I’m struggling with seeing people I love doubt something they once believed. It hurts me to see the Savior fade away into some kind of illusion. And I have nothing to help them. I have no idea what to do!

That’s when he turned to Enos 1:9-10 and I realized that the struggle to have those we love remember God extended way back, long before Christ.

“Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.

And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments.”

“Don’t give up on them,” he finally told me before our plane landed. “They’re worth it, aren’t they?”

mom and ash

And that’s why I write to you today.

It’s not about me being right or having all the answers for you. Because I don’t. It’s not even about you having all the answers in this life. Because you won’t. It’s about you being worth the reward.

You are worth the wrestle because you are worth Heaven.

I remember, almost seven years ago now, learning about the Book of Mormon for the first time, seeing the temple for the first time, feeling the waters of the baptismal font for the first time–and although I didn’t know it all, I knew one thing: It was all true. And that’s how most of us begin. But then over time people offend us. Lessons can hurt us. Things become familiar and the stories not as exciting. Sacrament meeting becomes routine rather than a sacred ordinance and suddenly we go a week, two weeks, three weeks, without getting on our knees. We go a month or two without church.

And we start to wonder if it’s true simply because we’ve stepped far enough away that everything begins to fade and blur in the distance we’ve created.

far from God

That will happen to almost all of us. There will be a day when we have to be converted again. But you are worth walking back.

Turning away is a statement that will only hurt yourself. Forgetting where you’ve come from and the journey the Savior took to pick you up out of that place will only plunge your further into the world where almost everyone else lives nowadays, immersed in things that just won’t last.

Let’s talk real here.

You don’t like where you are. It’s confusing there. It’s sad. There are no real answers. But it usually feels safe. Safer than vulnerably putting your soul and heart on the line, safer than maybe not making it with the rest of your family. Safer than trying–only to fail. Right?

I get it.

But you are worth remembering why you came, no matter how long ago. You are worth the kingdom. You are the rightful heir.

I sometimes struggle with missionary work because I don’t want people to think that I just want to be right. I don’t want to seem “judgy” or pushy or God forbid, “holier than thou”. And I struggle because more than anything, I just want those I love and those I don’t even know to feel how it feels to have the comfort of the spirit when someone you love more than anything slips to the others side. I want you to feel how it feels to sincerely repent and feel entirely forgiven. I want you to know how it feels to see a prayer answered and to know exactly why it was. I want you to know how it feels to dress in white and see God in the faces of those who simply believe like you do with a faith that exceeds knowledge.

twirling skirt

I want you to get there with me.

And I will wrestle for you and plead for you and believe in you and cry for you. Jesus always tended to care for the 1 lost sheep out of the hundred, and that’s our burden to continue.

Because I love you, whoever you are. You are beautiful. You are SO needed. You are worth it.

And if you don’t hear it from anyone else, I want you to hear it from me.

I want you to stay.

67 thoughts on “Why I want you to stay: A letter from a Mormon

  1. How incredibly touching and beautiful. In our world, we are being trained to walk away from whatever doesn’t work NOW. Marriages. Careers. Friends. Dreams. Beliefs. Even children. Thank you for a heartfelt message of “no it’s not perfect” but yes, staying (in so many things) is worth it.

  2. Oh, Kayla, how perfectly timed your message is for me. And how perfectly stated. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is parent my adult children and watch them make choices that are hurtful. I’ve never given up on them and I never will, but my heart aches. Thank you for putting words to my feelings. You’re amazingly amazing!

  3. This made me cry. It was so perfectly, exactly what I needed today. Thank you so much for this. Please, just keep doing what you’re doing.

  4. That made me cry. That really hit home for me. I was someone who was “loved back” into the fold.

    If people had not just been there for me, answered my questions, and let me be angry at God, I would not have begun the difficult process of returning. It was the hardest, but happiest thing, that I have ever done.

    If my little sister had not just been an example to me and loved me, and if my mom had not finally accepted that I may never return to the fold and begun to love me as I was and to encourage me to be more than I was, I would have written Christendom off as a bunch of hypocritical liars. Because of them I was willing to listen to the missionaries I had originally spoken with to argue about theology. …

    So, yes, love is the key. Cheers. 🙂

  5. I have loved every post of yours. More than any other blog. But I didn’t love this one (and please! No snarky responses) from others). This is the part that may have touched others but bothered me. “You don’t like where you are. It’s confusing there. It’s sad. There are no real answers. But it usually feels safe. Safer than vulnerably putting your soul and heart on the line, safer than maybe not making it with the rest of your family”. That’s a lot of assumptions. I’m not sure why so many Mormons think that if you’re not active, you must be lost. Sad. Confused. I know many non members who are happy. Probably a lot happier than many members who beat themselves up over every little thing or feel small compared to others. It’s not an “us and them” world. The sooner LDS people realize and accept that there are GOOD, HAPPY, LOVING, SUCCESSFUL people of other faiths or of no faith the sooner we can relate to them as equals. You’re an amazing blogger, wise for your years, and can relate to many people but I don’t think it’s fair of you to project how you think people feel who are contemplating leaving the church which is what it sounds like you’re doing with the “you are…..” There’s no set of circumstances or feelings that are the same. I love and appreciate your sincere efforts to “save” people but not your approach.

    1. Thank you for this comment. My decision to leave Mormonism was heartbreaking and absolutely not taken lightly. It was not because of boredom, feeling offended, church culture…our any number of reasons members tend to gravitate towards. It is, plain and simple, because I HAVE to be true to what I believe. Comprehensive study of early church history and following the spirit have taken me away from the church that I once loved. I hold no hard feelings. I accept that the Mormon church is the right place for many.

      My heart aches the most when people who I used to call family, my brothers and sisters, belittle my spiritual journey. My journey is just as valid as yours.
      I love God. I am happy. I am where I need to be. It is BECAUSE I am “putting my soul on the line” that I had to leave. My soul could not remain in a place that didn’t feel right.

      1. Many times we as members of the church are happy when someone chooses to join us. But we forget to be happy for them if they feel more fulfilled elsewhere. It’s hard because of the beliefs we have(which you know I’m sure). But I wish you the best of luck going forward. 🙂

      1. My life is lovely, and of good report and praiseworthy… OUT of “the” church. Seriously.
        Not mad, offended, bored, or longing to “sin.”
        I’m just clear on my own belief system, which is every bit as valid as yours.
        P.S. and I’d like you to leave the church. It’s josephsmyth.

  6. I don’t comment usually, but I so incredibly needed this. I am getting married in a few weeks for the second time, I have had a lot of weird thoughts, the old feelings of worthlessness, non deserving of who I am marrying. It’s unexplainable and a very long story, but story short I was married for 17 years, temple marriage, returned missionary, who a few years in battles addiction, committed adultery. My answer to get divorced was a sacred miracle that I have even written to our church leadership about. Like most people wait years for answers, I got mine in the temple at just one session, that was over 6 years ago. You would think getting your lightning bolt answer would make you stronger, it should have. What came after has been nothing short of hell on earth, a child almost being killed in a accident with an impaired “father” and would have had I let him go, raising 3 kids on 10$ an hour with no child support or alimony, being told it was my fault he had to cheat, watching my kids get the same mental abuse, turning to a system that gives him more rights then he ahold have, people telling me it’s easy to be a single mom, “free health insurance ” etc…. Never for me, and never used them, to hard to qualify. Losing a home you can’t pay the mortgage for and on and on and on. I turned away because 1) guilt- putting my kids through this when I should have stayed and made the best of it 2) anger- why would a god tell you to leave a family only to have the next 6 years be a living nightmare? Finally dating, but it taking him 4 years to decide to get married…. YET in it all I haven’t attended church because of feelings… Turning point…. My very dedicated, wise, good lds daughter came to myself and fiancé and said, I want to be sealed to you both. My fiancé has stepped in where her “real dad” hasn’t…. I’ve worried, about coming back, the long road it will be, the repentance process, it scares me to death, but crying while reading this informed me that I need to find my way back, humiliation, putting pride aside, it’s a testiment and more then needed right now! Thank you doesn’t seem appropriate, yet that’s all I have, so thank you……

  7. Thank you so much for writing this! I guess God really does work in mysterious ways because this is exactly what I have been needing to hear for a long time!

  8. I have no words for how absolutely perfect this is for me today. You have put into words what I have felt, but have struggled to coherently say for a few years now to one person that I hold most dear. Thank you. Thank you very much.

  9. Kayla, this is a very sweet post and I feel your heart throughout the words written. I do however, feel the need to reply because I wonder if you realize that your remarks can seem a bit harsh and narrow to people who have not stayed or are choosing to stay for other reasons than their belief in the “church” part of the “gospel” of Jesus Christ. The past few years I have seen friends and family members make changes about their religious views. At first, I felt very much like your post but over time I have taken the time to educate myself on the real reasons many people nowadays are leaving or are living confused and searching again for truth. I have seen well meaning family members judge their own family including their children and spouses instead of living with the unconditional love that our Savior so selflessly and continuously taught. Many questioning members possess a humility that if we take the time to talk to them we would have a better understanding of what is in their hearts. The church through essays published on LDS.org, additional information added to CES lessons very recently as well as other means is making attempts to be more open and honest with members. It is hard for people who have lived in the church all their lives to learn about things that they have never been told or actually taught quite the opposite up until now. Many people certainly have no need to repent simply for questioning things about our church. Pres. Uchtdorf has admonished this many times in his conference talks and other venues he has spoken. How important for us to live with an understanding heart. Free agency is a blessed gift we have in our lives and honoring other’s choices is an act of love and a way to validate to our Heavenly Father our own understanding of this valuable gift of choice.

  10. I am an exmormon. I’m not here to fight or lead you astray. I simple want you to understand some things about me and other exmormons.
    I did not leave the church because I was offended or because the lessons hurt me. Church was not routine for me. I studied the BOM and I prayed. When the church published the new essays about church history I read them and they did not sit well with me. I continued to study and eventually felt that the BOM was not true, which lead me to believe the church wasn’t either. I want you to know that it is hard to leave the church and it was not something I took lightly. I wanted to believe it was true. Knowing what I now know I cannot simply choose to believe it in good conscience.
    I also want you to know that I am not sad or confused. I am Happy! My life has not fallen apart because I left the church, it is better than it’s ever been.
    Again, I don’t want to start a fight or debate. My intention was simply to add some perspective. I think you are a wonderful person.

    1. exmormon:

      While I cannot agree with your decision to leave the church, I appreciate that you took the time to share something so personal, and to share it in a respectful way. Too often I see doctrinal differences tear people apart and start bitter fights. Thank you for your honesty and kindness towards those who believe differently than you do.

      1. If you truly want to understand, you need to realize how insufferable statements like “While I cannot agree with your decision to leave the church” are! It simply is inappropriate to even consider that you need to agree or disagree. It is as if we were to disagree with your decision to marry in the temple or baptize your children. Would you not be taken aback if that we were to state such a thing?

        We former members become so frustrated with the parochialism so pandemic within Church culture, but we also have to remember we used to have that same attitude, and yet so seemingly unobservable to members.

      2. srlowther: Perhaps I didn’t word that as well as I could have. I was saying that I don’t personally feel that Mormonism is wrong and that I should leave the church. So I disagree in that sense. If that was the right decision for ‘exmormon’ , then I cannot judge them. The comment I posted was to compliment them on having a non-combative approach to their opinions , which is more than I can say for you.

      3. “The comment I posted was to compliment them on having a non-combative approach to their opinions , which is more than I can say for you”.

        Oh Ellen. The irony.

  11. Powerful post. Thank you for remembering why you stay, and for boldly and lovingly doing some blogging “soul wrestling”. From the comments it’s obvious you were following the Spirit 100% on this one. ♥ It’s true by the way, we all wander and easily forget where we should be and why. I’ve been off and on the path. So grateful the Lord, and my earth angels never gave up on me. That’s why we need to keep reaching out and putting arms around each other. We can’t do this alone. #LoveOneAnother #ItsWorthIt #BecauseofHim

  12. I am glad that your post comforted some, but I must comment that your view of why people leave the church is completely flawed and placed in your mind by the church leaders. I know this because I’ve been a member my whole life and I’ve heard it straight from the prophets mouth. But for now let’s focus on what you have said, “I just want those I love and those I don’t even know to feel how it feels to have the comfort of the spirit when someone you love more than anything slips to the others side. I want you to feel how it feels to sincerely repent and feel entirely forgiven. I want you to know how it feels to see a prayer answered and to know exactly why it was. I want you to know how it feels to dress in white and see God in the faces of those who simply believe like you do with a faith that exceeds knowledge.” You first state that others “slip to the other side.” What other side? Satan’s side? If you’re on the side of God(which you think you are because you believe your church is the ONLY true church) then the “other side” is satan’s side….what you’re insinuating is that every other religion or belief is of Satan, even if you have left the church is still believe in God. I have had prayers answered, fully repented, have felt completely forgiven, I have even felt a burning in my bosom and all of those experiences occurred between me and God…..not me, God, and the church. I did learn how to pray from church and how to be a nice person, but to give a church(any church), a man-made organization, credit for things where all the credit should go to God. Don’t you think that’s a sin in itself? I have dressed in white and done the temple baptisms and I never truly saw the face of God in others until I left the church and humbled myself in believing that I don’t know the full truth! Once I did that I started focusing on the similarities of different religions and different cultures. Once I saw others for who they really were(not “inactive” or “non-members” but human beings) I then truly saw the face and love of God in every person I meet. I am much happier out of the church. I have always been faithful, miracles have happened because of my faith and prayer. But it takes true faith to feel lied to your whole life, question your beliefs, question the existence of God…..and come out the end of that terrible experience with no help from the church, but my God only. Not everyone who has left the church is lost. And not every one who has left the church needs your “help.” Once you realize these things, then you will truly feel love for your fellow men who have turned their back from the church….just remember we only turned out back because now we are facing towards our path, and our God.

    1. By slip to the other said I meant to die. To slip to the other side of the veil. My dad died a year ago and I’m grateful for the comfort we all received in that time.

      1. Kayla, I think most readers understood you were referencing death and the afterlife. 🙂

  13. The problem, Mrs. Lemmon, is that, in my opinion, for every person who shares your view of doubt and people who want to leave, there is at least one who holds the exact opposite view. Meaning that I think a huge number of people would love to see anyone who does not accept everything the church has to offer 100% without questioning a single thing leave and never return. Or, at the very least, sit down, shut up, not say a word, but open the checkbook. Quite sad, really.

    Perfectingasaint.wordpress.com

  14. I hope you know that this article has changed my perspective. Despite the various responses that you are going to get from it in the coming days, know that for at least one person you made a difference.
    Thank you!

  15. I appreciate the sentiments and the foundation of love from which you wrote this. Your good intentions are very admirable, but EXTREMELY frustrating for us former members.

    Believe me, we are very much aware of your mindset. We at one time had that mindset, and we pitied people who “strayed” from the Church as well. As David O. McKay said, “Old people know more about being young than young people know about being old.” We know more about what it is like to pity and feel sad for members who feel inclined to take a different path. You know, been there, did that, bought the T-shirt….

    There is a huge myth that is perpetrated during Sunday lessons that speculate why people leave. They are almost never right. It is quite irritating to have to deal with these delusions time and time again. After a while, we just tend to roll our eyes, shake our heads while sighing. As long as this happens, your efforts to reach out to former members will produce no tangible results even with the best of intentions.

    But there are excellent examples from devout members to follow. My member friends who have remained close follow a principle that keeps our relationship intact. That is, there is no pity offered or needed. There is no sense of loss, because we are not lost even though “every fiber of your being” says it is so.

    Former members are quite aware of the elitism that make up a good part of belonging to the “only true church”. It is so unfortunate that it exists, and even more unfortunate that devout members seem totally oblivious to it. Those members who manage to maintain friendships with former members don’t project that elitism. It is simple, unconditional love and respect. We are not emotional and spiritual cripples any more than you are.

    If you want to know the answer to maintaining a good relationship with someone who has apostatized, it is quite simple. Respect the decision, all facets of that decision your friend or family member made to leave the Church. Grant us our agency with reservation, without pity, without judgment, even without concern for our salvation. Just love us. Let us meet you with the same terms, and we will resist the temptation to pity you, to see you encumbered with the restrictions and stress from which we freed ourselves. It is that simple.

  16. Kayla,

    I think that you are a great writer and I am glad that your writing has touched the hearts of many people and also has added new rich experiences and relationships to your life. I appreciate the acknowledgement that there is a difference between LDS culture and LDS doctrine. I feel that the differences between the culture and doctrine can at times be very muddled. I also acknowledge how frightening it is to see loved ones and family members struggle with their faith in LDS teachings, their testimony, and/or leave the LDS church. I have watched as some of my siblings went through their own faith crisis and leave the church. This was very painful for me and it was so difficult to fully empathize with them and understand their point of view. It was like we were seeing the gospel, doctrine, and even the world through completely different eyes, when we once shared the same view. It can be frightening and difficult when both parties can be so certain of their own positions and beliefs that now differ.

    There are a few points that you made in your post that I was concerned by and was wondering if you could clarify (some of these points have been addressed in previous comments but i feel that it is important to share my own views to add emphasis on a few key points). I will first write out the quote that I am referring to and then my questions, concerns, comments, etc.

    -I am interested in this paragraph:

    (But then over time people offend us. Lessons can hurt us. Things become familiar and the stories not as exciting. Sacrament meeting becomes routine rather than a sacred ordinance and suddenly we go a week, two weeks, three weeks, without getting on our knees. We go a month or two without church. And we start to wonder if it’s true simply because we’ve stepped far enough away that everything begins to fade and blur in the distance we’ve created.)

    Granted, some people do leave the church or faith out of frustration with members, some of the monotony of church meetings and lessons, and some of the painful things that can be taught in lessons. I am glad that you raised this point. However, I feel like this viewpoint is overly simplistic because many people are leaving the church due to the problems that they find with LDS doctrine, church history, book of Mormon historicity, and multiple other issues. The church has begun to address these issues in their recent essays that are published on lds.org because of the number of people who have voiced concern over them while maintaining membership, or who have left the church due to them. From my experience, the majority of people that I have spoken with as to why they left the church have addressed these issues as their reasons for leaving.

    -this paragraph as well:

    (Let’s talk real here. You don’t like where you are. It’s confusing there. It’s sad. There are no real answers. But it usually feels safe. Safer than vulnerably putting your soul and heart on the line, safer than maybe not making it with the rest of your family. Safer than trying–only to fail. Right?)

    I do not agree with you when you say that those who have left the church (at least I feel like that is who you are referring by saying “you”) are not being vulnerable or putting their heart and soul on the line. I am confused how you came up with the idea that it feels safe to be confused, to not like where you are, and to have no real answers. None of these experiences sound safe or has ever felt safe to me in my own situation. I am also confused at how it is not “putting (a doubting persons) soul on the line” when they know that according to Mormon theology, if they are wrong in leaving the LDS church or disbelieving fundamental Mormon theology that they are putting their eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom at risk as well as multiple other blessings. I feel like that is a more risky and vulnerable place to be in than trying to forget your concerns, shelf your doubts, and act like everything is fine because it would ease the tension within a family as well as within ones own mind. Are not the members of this persons family taking the “safe” position by not trying to understand their loved ones concerns and viewpoints, listening to their confusion, giving them the benefit of the doubt that their concerns may be valid, and trying to approach them from a point of openness and understanding; instead of labeling them as a person who is not putting their heart and soul on the line because they aren’t changing to conform to the views of the family?

    I just wanted to clarify some points and to give another viewpoint for some of the people who have struggled with their faith or have left. Once again, i think that you are an amazing person and i am glad that your posts have brought comfort to many people.

  17. Nice dose of tribal shame in the disguise of love.

    Copernicus didn’t like where the truth landed him either..did that make it wrong. Those who discover the truth have always been shunned. Some people need to live truth rather than comfy lies.

  18. Unfortunately the mindset that is a consistent theme of your post; that you have to be a part of the LDS Church to experience true happiness, is flawed. It limits your vision and scope of the human experience to that which can be seen through only your experience and biased, “One True Church” lens. It is also incredibly presumptuous. Happiness exists EVERYWHERE. You don’t get to say the happiness you experience is more valid because it exists in the framework of the Gospel, because it simply isn’t true. For some people the Mormon gospel isn’t EVERYTHING. Maybe family is everything, or a spiritual connection to nature is everything, or a connection to the human experience is everything. The love you profess to have is conditioned on your pity for those who do not think like you, or do not value the same things you do. That is not love. True love is not conditioned upon anything, it’s given freely regardless of the circumstance, belief system or values of those to whom it is given. Also, the majority of people that leave the Church do so, not because they were offended or hurt, but because their belief simply evolves. That doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. It simply changes, and that’s ok.

  19. Small comment on your statement, “All I want you to really know is that I want you to stay.”
    Shouldn’t all you want is for others to find happiness, wherever it might come?

  20. Kayla,
    What clearly shines through on your post is your love. I do think you genuinely are expressing love for others and want that love to be part of the solution. I am sure God loves your efforts.
    I have had a faith crisis and consider myself to now be in transition. There are plenty of Mormons that have a faith crisis and leave and are bitter with the church. God loves them and still wants us to love them just as much as everyone else – member or non-member or former member. I think you get that. I do know some that when the wall comes crumbling down that they fall all the way into atheism. God wants us to love them also. Not as a project or assignment to “fix” them – but to love them as God does.
    But there is a group that I don’t feel you understand. A few have already made their attempt to explain themselves. I have spent time with many of these fine people. Some I admire and feel are some of the most admiral people I know. So far the vast majority of the individuals I know desperately want the “church to be true”, but are disturbed by issues. Many of these individuals are kind and do not speak of their issues openly both because they are not confrontational people and they also don’t want to hurt anyone else’s testimony. Some of your friends are trying to be nice to you and not bring up the items that hurt them so much. So they suffer feeling alone. I can tell you that it is NOT just a lack of desire or just being bored – nor is it because they want to sin. I personally still go to church, pay tithing, fast offerings, volunteer at most every service opportunity, serve as a counselor in a bishopric, and I LOVE my ward and the members. I would ask that this sin and lazy excuse to stop being mentioned as a reason people leave (see fall conference talk by Pres. Uchtdorf where he said almost such). The current set of people leaving are NOT people that want to sin and be lazy.
    I will say one other thing. Since my faith crisis, I have not felt closer and more genuine in my relation with my Savior. My most fervent prayer was PLEADING with God to tell me if he was leading me because it was so hard for me to let go of some parts of my Mormon beliefs. At this point I do think I am staying a Mormon and an active Mormon. But I do see things different. I am 100 time more interested in helping the pain and suffering of all his children – and I don’t care much about if they end up becoming a Mormon or not. That is between them and God. I just need to help them. I also have to say that my relationship with my Savior has become more important to me than my relationship with the church. I feel more prepared to meet my maker. In fact I don’t stress over “judgment day” and instead look forward to giving the savior a big hug.
    I have taken the time to write as it clearly comes through in your blog post that you do have the love of Christ in you. I have tried not to “talk down to you” and if any of this comes across this way, please accept my apology. I only want to bring understanding. And thank you for your blog. Even though I have some ‘issues’ with it, we DESPERATELY need to have more of these conversations. Real conversations.

  21. How ridiculous! How can you say you know I don’t want to be where I am when you don’t even know me! After leaving the church I have been happier than ever before. I went to the temple and as strong as I ever felt the spirit, it told me this was not right. Do a little research, even start with the newly published church essays. Because really you are saying this choice is so easy right. The easy thing would be to go back to that religion but I can’t go back to ignorance, I don’t want to live a lie and teach my children lies. Don’t dare imply this is an easy route. I’ll be your shoulder when you realize you were apart of a cult.Go on, delete my comment, church doesn’t want you to think differently right?

  22. Lots of comments = clearly an important message.

    Thank you for your beautiful post. I’ve wondered how to help family or friends who struggle with doubt (whether external or internal) allow themselves to embrace the fullness of Gospel blessings, and this helps. It’s clearly touched many who needed to hear that message right now, and some of their comments were wonderfully uplifting.

    Reading some of the other long and, often, angry comments (come on, guys–it’s an invitation to remain with/return to the fold; if that offends you, if you feel the need to “debate” someone who offers you an invitation *on her blog* rather than just moving on with your life, it says much more about you than it does the author), it’s reaching many others who really need that message, too.

    1. I think the anger comes from being misunderstood or from feeling judged. A lot of Exmormons like me hear ourselves described as those too lazy or sinful to stay active, so it’s frustrating to hear that repeated online in what is intended to be a loving post.

      I think some commenters are a little mean, and some come across as angry. But the majority of us exmormons are nice people who are longing to be understood.

  23. Morality, sense of worth, happiness, etc. is not tied to a belief in any particular deity. If you feel that you gain these things from Mormonism then good for you but don’t assume that everyone else needs Mormonism to be fulfilled (from an ex-evangelical).

  24. I would also like to add my voice to many other “exmormons” that have commented. I never once went inactive, or was lazy in praying, reading scriptures, attending church and the temple. I spent time studying the gospel, and consequently began studying *where* the doctrines originated (the CES Letter is a good place to find a information about the history of the doctrines). I have come to the conclusion that the gospel and church are definitely not “true.” Many good things exist, but they are definitely not “true.” I think it is a grave assumption that those who have left are not happy, are confused, or got bored with the routine. If you are interested in my story, I think it is extremely similar to many others, and I have been very open in sharing it- http://sharethesmithlove.blogspot.com/2014/12/leaving-church-jessicas-story.html?m=1

  25. Leaving the LDS/Mormon church was THE BEST decision I everade in my entire life. I was married to a returned missionary in the temple, very obedient, faithful, served in the presidencies in Reliefe Society, Young Women’s and Sunday School… but learning the truth about the actual historical and truth claims of the false church led me to finally think for myself and live and love authentically. Life is hard whether you are in or out of the church. But despite the hardships, living true to myself and in an element of truth was worth resigning from the church.

  26. I have not much to say other than that I am incredibly impressed with your calm and brave ability to write things that matter in a way that will open you up to such extreme vulnerability and criticism. And you’re doing it anyway. I know you read the comments and I know they must (some of them) feel hurtful, at least in some small way. And you’re doing it anyway. I love you for that.
    Some day I will be able to meet you in person and kiss you on the forehead and tell you what an answer to prayer you were for me. Today you made a difference and made someone feel like they aren’t invisible. That they do matter. I love you for that.

  27. There is so much Joy and forgiveness outside of the LDS church, and I pray that one day you will find it. You could do so much for God with the passion you have, don’t let the LDS church keep you from that. I don’t know you, but I honestly hope you find the peace and joy that is waiting for you when/if you leave the church.

  28. My husband was a branch president and I was teaching early morning seminary when we left the church. We didn’t just fall out of the routine or get out of the habit of going to church. We researched church history, our curiosity triggered by the recently released essays, quietly published on lds.org. we were shocked and dismayed by what we learned in those essays, and even more disappointment followed as we sought answers to the questions we were left with as a result of the essays.

    We were mormons solely because we believed the church was true. We left the church because it is not true. We were asked to stay and continue serving in our callings, but we value our integrity. Truth and integrity wouldn’t allow us to stay.

    Ultimately, we have discovered that for us, life is better on the outside. I feel it is healthier for my children too. Personally for us, I’m so glad we left.

    I dearly wish mormons would understand this. I wish they would understand that people leave the church for legitimate reasons and often find a better life outside the church, just as others stay and feel their lives are better in the church. I wish there was more genuine respect and acceptance for individuals to do what is best for them and am understanding that one size does not fit all. Because mormons are always trying to get inactives or those who have left to come back to church, instead of just really having a genuine love and respect with those people and the choices they have made, it makes it nearly impossible to have a genuine friendship.

  29. I left because the institutional Mormon church is unthinkably cruel to people with differences. And I couldn’t abide my time, talents, or resources being used to cause their suicides.

  30. I can tell from your post that you’re a good writer, but I couldn’t not challenge you on your line of thinking. I’m an Exmormon who hasn’t officially resigned but who no longer attends church. You have made a lot of hurtful assumptions about why members decide to leave.

    I was a very active, completely committed RM, and the church was everything to me. I had all of these plans to serve a mission with my husband (who I was sealed to) and spend the rest of my life serving in the church. Learning about the church’s history changed everything for me. I experienced depression and anxiety, alienation from friends and family, and other things that made my departure from the church close to unbearable. My husband left and divorced me; friends unfriended me; and I considered suicide at times.

    If anything, it would have been easier to stay. But I felt that leaving was a matter of integrity.

    It’s difficult for me not to feel angry about things like this that belittle my and others’ experiences. I know you’re not trying to be ignorant and wrote this from the heart. But I strongly encourage you to get to know those who have left the church and get a better idea of the very real issues people like me grapple with

  31. CESletter ……read it and find the light of truth and happiness. You can live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but you don’t have to be in the Mormon church to do so.

  32. Do not assume that the alternative to Mormonism is a life without Jesus. It is not an either / or proposition. Many that leave Mormonism after investigating the truth claims of the LDS church become Christians with a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. It happens a lot.

  33. Thanks for your kind words. I am an active member, but I am really disappointed in the way the church is handling the gay and lesbian thing. They are asking our gay brothers and sisters to remain celibate and not form lasting intimate relationships. More and more LGBT youth are dying because of the church and its teachings. I cannot imagine a loving Heavenly Father and beloved Savior denying or not embracing ALL of us.

  34. Kayla,

    While I can appreciate how well-intentioned and sincere your post is, it is pretty far off the mark. It makes some incorrect assumptions about why most of us who’ve left the LDS church leave. For most of us it is because we’ve learned that the doctrine of the LDS is not true, and in many ways is harmful. Most are like me, we left after months or even years of painful study and prayer, trying to find a way to make it “true” because it is so painful. A great number of us have lost family and friends because we decided to be true to ourselves and leave. Go to YouTube and search “Top 5 Myths and Truths about Why Committed Mormons Leave the Church”

    And know this- exmormons still love those who stay

  35. “I get it”

    No no, you actually don’t. You are projecting what you think are the reasons people leave. You should probably try to have a deeper understanding of that actually because what you have done is built a big strawman.
    And then tried to hug it.

  36. If you haven’t seen it already, perhaps you would be interested in a survey conducted in 2011.

    The survey addressed “people who once believed that the Church is ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30), but who no longer believe that it is.”

    A total of 3086 anonymous, self-selected respondents were included in the final analysis. The results are not statistically significant but may be representative of others who no longer believe. They seem representative of non-believers who have commented here.

    Respondents noted 21 general factors or issues.

    12% of respondents had fewer than 5 issues.
    41% had 5-15 issues.
    46% had more than 15 issues.

    The general factors that respondents rated the most significantly to disbelief were
    74% – I ceased to believe in the church’s doctrine/theology.
    70% – I studied church history and lost my belief.
    70% – I lost faith in Joseph Smith.
    65% – I lost faith in the Book of Mormon.
    50% – I lost confidence in the general authorities.

    The least significant five general factors were
    12% – I received a spiritual witness to leave the church and go elsewhere.
    7% – I or someone I loved was abused by someone in the church.
    6% – Lack of meaningful friendships within the church
    4% – I wanted to engage in behaviors viewed as sinful by the church.
    4% – I was offended by someone in the church.

    There is a wealth of individual, verbatim responses about why the person no longer believes.

    The fact that many believing Mormons view “Desire to sin” and “Being offended” as primary factors is …viewed by many of those struggling with a faith crisis as naïve, uninformed, and unhelpful.

    Example: Respondent 3129 (Male):
    Wake up and stop assuming people who leave do so because they are offended or want to sin.
    Look at church history and all it’s inconsistencies and you will find the answer. I left the church. No one offended me. I enjoyed the ward members and still consider them my friend. I obey the law of chasity and WOW. I am faithful to my wife. It’s the history and it’s not just a single issue. They compound each other until you realize something is fundamentally wrong with the picture and the stories you have been fed and the emotions you have been feeling were all based on falsehoods.

    Click to access Why-Mormons-Leave-Comprehensive-List-February-2014.pdf

  37. How can you think we feel safe by leaving? It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I had to stand up for my integrity and for what I think is right. I would give anything for members to understand why we leave, but it seems like most don’t understand until it happens to them. I’ve served faithfully my entire life, but once I realized the foundational claims of the church weren’t real or true, I had to get out. Please don’t assume we’re sad when we leave. I am SO grateful to have found the truth. But being misunderstood is painful. I hope one day you and the rest of the church will understand us and appreciate our dedication to doing what we feel is right.

  38. Thank you so much for creating this blog. I am truly grateful given that I was in a place not so close to my Heavenly Father. I am also a Mormon and my testimony was perhaps is still hanging on by a thread. I will definitely share these articles with those I love. Thank you again.

  39. Dear Kayla,I’m not am mormon but I really enjoy reading your blog as I get strenght and comfort out of it. After after this post and all the different reactions to it I thought hmmm…how is she going to respond? And because you haven’t written on the blog I just want to say with these sentences:Kayla, I want you to stay too! Here on this blog. As an ‘outsider’ to your church I naturally can’t takes sides in any way to the subject above. The little I maybe understood is that it’s really about trying to understand each other, about acceptance and in the end – to learn from each other. I wish all the best to you, with love from Germany, Nina

  40. As a former member of the LDS Church I wish to respond to several things from your post.

    “I’m struggling with seeing people I love doubt something they once believed. It hurts me to see the Savior fade away into some kind of illusion. And I have nothing to help them. I have no idea what to do!”
    If you believe in agency as a defining principal of this mortality then you may begin to stop struggling with others who make different choices than you would. Everyone has unique characteristics and experiences which lead each of us to personal values and choices. To presume that your choice is better or more righteous or more valid than anyone else’s is presumptuous, paternalistic and condescending. I believe this mortality is a gift to grow and develop and change. Those things happen only when you are true to yourself or as some would say authentic to self. When we push obedience as a defining principal whether in our children or in member of faith, it is stunting to growth and development. The requirement of strict obedience as an overarching religious principal is no different than Satan’s plan of compulsion.

    You bear a sweet testimony of conversion and your beliefs in the Spirit and and temple and The Book of Mormon.
    I can appreciate that. I love feeling the Spirit. I have witnessed these warm feelings both within and from outside the Church. But your testimony has no more validity than any other person’s personal testimony. Tens of Millions on this planet bear testimony of spiritual experiences that vary from yours. Many others claim that the Spirit is not real or can be reduced to biological synaptic transmission. The point is I value your right to your testimony of your beliefs. I disagree when you presume your testimony is more valid than mine someone else’s.

    “You don’t like where you are. It’s confusing there. It’s sad. There are no real answers. But it usually feels safe.”
    How could you possibly know this about me? You are projecting your personal fears and emotions on others. I don’t meet many former Mormons who didn’t claim to have less guilt and more happiness after leaving the church. Less, judgment, less pigeon-holing, less oppressiveness and less feeling conditional love. Many find truly loving and supportive friendships and carry on in their spirituality and prayers and readings. Don’t presume to understand what it feels like for those who have found a different path.

    “I get it.”
    You don’t get it at all. You have no possible idea what it feels like to walk in someone else’s shoes and you never will. No one can. That’s why we aren’t to judge others, which is exactly what you are doing here. You are judging others as if your values are correct and theirs are not. Can you not grant that others have every right to their beliefs, just as you have a right to yours. Without malice, attacking or even “sorrow” for their poor plight. There are so many unique and personal experiences and prisms through which to interpret life, religion, morality, ethics and politics . You have your strongly held beliefs which you arrived at presumably though sincere question, and answer. Attacking someone’s religious beliefs is a blatant form of attempting to control someone else. Showing “sorrow” for someone else’s beliefs or behaviors is just as controlling but much more damaging because it is couched in love. But it isn’t love because you don’t respect their personal decisions. Love would allow you to be happy for others or at a minimum to respect their choices. Respect means acceptance of other’s agency, morality intelligence and spirituality, especially when it differs form yours.

    “I just want those I love and those I don’t even know to feel how it feels to have the comfort of the spirit when someone you love more than anything slips to the others side.”
    Are you presuming that those who leave the Church do not have the ability to feel the Spirit? I know Mormons have been conditioned to believe this. That only active, worthy members of the LDS Church are allowed or entitled to the influence of Holy Ghost. That’s an interesting premise and goes a long way to understanding your position. I disagree with it. I feel far more spiritual today than I ever felt as a devout, lifelong member of the Church. When I finally made the decision to leave the Church I felt an extremely strong personal confirmation that I was doing the right thing, for me. Please stop with presuming you and Mormons are the only people on earth with an ability to receive inspiration and personal witness and confirmation of beliefs. If that is true God must not love 99.999% of all people who have ever lived on earth.

    “I want you to get there with me. And I will wrestle for you and plead for you and believe in you and cry for you. ”
    I would prefer you not cry for me. That doesn’t feel good to me. it feels judgmental, that you know that you are right and you know that I am wrong. It is presumptuous of you. I don’t write this to convince you to change your beliefs. I am simply asking that you respect mine. Respect me. Respect that people who leave the Church do so for a variety of reasons and they are usually deep and well thought out and prayed about. The Church teaches us to pray for confirmation and study it out in our minds. But when some get a different answer, members of the Church are taught that their answer must be wrong, or they must not be living worthy lives, or they have been deluded by Satan. Because if you truly had an answer from God it would be just_like_my_answer. And it’s not easy leaving the Church. It’s ridiculously difficult. Those who leave are continually judged, placed on ward and stake activation efforts, or some are excommunicated, which is present day shunning. Disfellowshipping or excommunicating are meant to shame and isolate people until they either see the light and repent, or, if they don’t, they are left and cut off. You realize that if you leave the Mormon Church you are leaving behind almost all of your family and friendships. It is horrifyingly painful socially. And social interactions, relationships, people, as you mentioned, are a prime source of joy and pain in this life. Please don’t contribute to other’s pain. Please continue to maintain friendships and family relations void of dispensing judgment and conditions for continuance with them. This is especially hard for Mormons who are fearful of living around sinners and non-believers and who are so busy and working out their own salvation. I know you are trying. I wanted you to hear a different perspective. Peace and love.

  41. Where’s the punch here??? Cause I’m NOT dipping my cookies in it!
    My advice…..worry about yourself!

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