Join Margi, John, and Carah as we discuss different approaches to telling loved ones about your loss of faith. Please share questions, lessons you’ve learned, and suggestions in the comments below.
This episode is part of our new “Gift of the Mormon Faith Crisis” project on Mormon Stories Podcast, where we will share tips and tricks for navigating, healing, and growth after a Mormon faith crisis.
If you would like to see this sort of content continue, please become a monthly donor to the project.
We have never felt the need to “announce” our decision to resign. Part of that decision was in watching others deal with the backlash of their coming out. However we are very open to share when people ask. I have found peace in setting healthy boundaries, being mindful of the intent of questions and pausing before responding.
3 years later and our family is much happier and healthier. There is hope, but it’s not a race. Just take it one day at a time, and do what is right for you.
I hope this “reply” goes to John at Mormon stories. I don’t my experience as having lost my faith. I see it as expanding my faith or learning gaining faith in my inner self or learning how to get out of my own way. Some religions use the term let go let god. I’m done believing in a god and I’m more convinced science will be able to explain it some day. I believe this let go let god has more to do with quantum world. Also, I see leaving the religion I was endoctrinated in is more like graduating from a university. I would love to see religions help their followers graduate then hold that religion as an alma matre. Ps. I purposely spell endoctrination with “e” because it’s kind of like the difference between ensure vs insure. Endoctrinate to me implies man made vs something from a manmade god.
I’d love to know how to address spirituality in a way that an agnostic like me can meet my wife halfway who has also left, but still believes in god, and desires to pray at home and have Jesus in our lives where I don’t necessarily believe in that anymore. It’s hard because she feels a lack of spirituality and needs that, but I’m not sure how to meet her there because one, it’s triggering for me, and two, I’m not quite sure where I sit myself with spirituality. Still trying to figure that part out. But I know I don’t believe in a deity or Jesus being a divine being. So prayer is awkward since I believe I’m praying to nothing.
Watch fuel project know your enemy on YouTube. I was in your shoes for years
John asked me to post this here:
I was VERY lucky in that other members of my family were also faith transitioning at the same time as me. We didn’t know it until we came out to each other.
What I still struggle with is how to deal with feeling like I need to forgive my parents for “not knowing any better” and anger for raising me in a cult.
Mutual respect and healthy boundaries are important. WhenI left, I wrote an email and simply said I did not believe anymore and had my reasons why (no listing of issues within the email). I told them if anyone wanted to ask me why, I would have a two sided open and honest conversation with them. Otherwise, they could just respectfully let me have my journey as I let them have theirs sans harassment.
If they are questioning and genuinely concerned, they will come to you and ask why. Most don’t care about the issues. They are happy where they are at. Let them have that. Don’t bombard them with historical and other issues. If they want to know they’ll ask.
I prioritize what’s important before my conversations and interactions. What’s more important, that my mom knows about the rock in the hat or that we have a good relationship. If they are letting you be, let them be in peace. Learn to live with the discomfort and nuance that you won’t see everything eye to eye.
The only time I make a stand and say something is if I feel it is very important and lives depend on it. I’m vocal about my stance on lgbtq+ issues and how I think the church is wrong because I have loved ones and friends who are affected by the abusive doctrines and policies the church propagates in regards to that subject. I want my queer family and friends to know I stand with love and them and that I’ll call it out. It’s not to give the church trouble, but to stand with those I love.
Currently I am coparenting with my ex who asked for divorce almost immediately after I left the church. Compromise and redirect are very important. I realize my kids learn that their father is lost but I try to let them figure out what spirituality means to them as individuals. I don’t ram things down their throats. I ask questions and let them think about the answers. The only time I call out the church around them is with subjects like the church’s lgbtq+ stance. I let them know where I’m at and why. But many others, I let them figure it out and only weigh in if they ask me
I am very excited you are doing this!
I was raised TBM, served a mission to Chile in 1991-1993, married an RM in the Seattle Temple. We have four kids. The abuse started on our wedding night and I felt trapped. I endured every abuse, mental, emotional, physical, sexual, financial and spiritual. As children came into the marriage, the abuse only got worse. When our oldest was two the physical abuse began toward him. I was so terrified of him, of feeling powerless, unable to leave, and kept hoping he would change and improve. After all, we did everything ‘right’ by being RM and married in the temple. It had to get better, right? Nope.
I didn’t leave until he nearly killed our oldest, after 17 years of marriage. I got a protection order at the courthouse and drove three states away to my widowed mom in Provo, Utah. We have stayed here, for family support. It has been six years now since I left. My two middle kids have chosen to move back to their dad. Their dad was diagnosed with my daughter’s therapist while she was in residential therapy for suicidal ideation after two attempts, as a narcissist sociopath.
I have the oldest and youngest with me. My oldest left first, he is now a Norse pagan, and bisexual. My youngest wants to still go to church but fights me going on Sundays. I know that I am being judged for him not going, he will be 11 in December and with the new church guidelines could be a Deacon then. His dad will be expecting it. So will my TBM mom. I don’t know what to do. I no longer believe in the church. It started with me being an ally for my son, and then I stumbled on your podcast and saw Jeremy Runnels interview and read his CES letter. That was the jenga piece I removed that tumbled everything down. My family knows, they are mostly respectful but little subtle things will be said where I know they think I’m just reacting to my life and that I don’t really have a lost testimony and they can help me find it. My brother who is in a bishopric in California now, will text me and give me ‘helps’ and bear his testimony to me, saying he is doing what he feels dad would want him to do. He really believes he is doing the right thing, so I say nothing about the manipulation attempt and just thank you for demonstrating your love and concern for me. My sister just listens and challenges my claims, wants me to show her the proof. I have done so, she refuses to read the things though. I think she is afraid that she will leave ultimately if she does read, since she is more nuanced and looks at the scriptures as allegory and not literal. My other brother is too wrapped up in his life with children to bother me much, thankfully. He will reply when I bring up a question I want him to ponder though. He literally wrote a published book about his hero, Brother Joseph, and was editor for Joseph McConkie. So he’s about as TBM as they come. And he currently works at BYU as editor for their publications.
I’m scared though to tell my ex that our son won’t be participating in priesthood advancement. How do I navigate that? Divorce decree gives me 100% decision making on education, medical and spiritual, yet I find myself still so ‘cowed’ as my mom put it. I am still so scared of him.
Heidi, your story touches my heart! I experienced something similar, but with less dire results. I wonder if your ex and your mom would understand allowing your son to choose for himself & not to pressure him. If he chooses not to be ordained now, he can always change his mind in the future. I think 11 is a good age to begin to have more authority over one’s own life, especially with such large decisions.
My ex has not been diagnosed as yours has, but he exhibits many narcissistic traits. These traits led to unrighteous dominion, abuse of our children, and his eventual arrest and excommunication.
@Mormonstories, I see these traits in many Mormon men and wonder (outside of and in addition to genetics) what role the Church has played in teaching, excusing, ignoring, and/ or encouraging narcissistic behaviors in its men. It would be a fascinating study.
I’m struggling with how to tell my family I’ve lost my faith. And also how do I tell them how badly I’ve been treated by local leaders. It’s part of why I want to leave now….of course there is more than one reason.
My faith crisis started years ago in fact I became inactive years ago due to mistreatment by a bishop…(I was inactive for almost 7 years ) and then came back only to slowly learn truths hidden by the church and again being treated badly by local leaders because I started asking questions, and then they started treating me differently and then we had disagreements and I ended up in the bishops office and stake presidents office often for speaking out. The issues this last year pushed me over the edge ….and I moved ….
I recently moved because I no longer felt safe in my last ward and stake boundaries due to some horrible behavior from my bishop and stake president.
My big faith crisis, after coming back to the church started in 2015 and then got worse in 2016 and for the last few years Its been a huge struggle…I tried to stay strong but after what happened this last year and what I was put through by local leaders …I became very afraid , sad and anxious and felt the safest thing was to move.
I have not been to my new ward and I refuse to do so. Family keeps asking how my new ward is….I’ve told them I’ve not been back since I moved …I do not know how to tell them where i am at in this journey. How to tell them I’m done ..but not only that tell them other things about me that I ve never shared before… Some friends and some family know about my faith crisis.. but telling all my immediate family is scary.
1. The longer I wait to tell my family (really just my mom) the more I feel that I should tell them less. Initially I felt like I needed to have everything worked out for myself- I needed answers to all the “where are you now/what about this or that” questions. The more I waited, the more I felt I needed to tell them. The BEST thing I think I could do is avoid truth claims and doctrinal points. It does neither party any good to try to convince the other side of what they know- often times believers dig in their heels, and those leaving feel more pushed away and the divide between the two increases. I plan to stick to the way the church effected me, my mental health, and my feelings. Then there is less to be right and wrong about.
2. The fear is REAL! My older brother left the church 8 years ago and made his relationship with my mom almost impossible. They go through times when they don’t have contact for months on end- I think they’re currently over a year at this point. Because I lived with my mom through a lot of this time, I know the way she talks about him to other family members and relatives. I know the underhanded thinking she has when things don’t go well in his life; it’s always a “maybe this will bring him back to the church” thought FIRST, rather than genuine concern for her child. The end of last year when things for really bad, he gave her an ultimatum to choose either him or the church and she told me “I guess he’s not part of our family anymore”. So I know the impact that leaving the church COULD have on my familial relationship, which genuinely scares me and makes me put off having an open discussion about it. How can I move beyond the fear? I know there will be disappointment and loss on her part, and I am at peace with that, but the potential of losing my whole family is real. Help!
As a fresh exmo within the last few years that has been hiding from my family my true self, how do I explain to parents (as an adult child, married and not living with them) that I have left the church and most importantly that it is not THEIR fault? My parents have the “if my children don’t succeed I have failed them” mentality and I have not figured out how to adequately describe that this is MY choice and MY journey. They blame themselves for “not teaching us right ” if we do not meet their expectations in many aspects of my life..
My husband and I went from being progressive/PIMO mormons for many years to leaving the church during COVID. Our kids are 9 and 11, and they also are no longer interested in attending. We have only just came out to our families in the past few weeks. My family is progressive and supportive of us. My husband’s family is TBM and their response has been that we are free to ruin our lives, but we are not free to ruin our kids’ lives. They have indicated that they will do everything they can to influence our kids in the direction of the church. We live several states away, so we don’t see them often, but I am not sure how to navigate the stress of this and how to protect my kids from confusion/indoctrination. I really do want to have a loving relationship with my in laws.
Don’t be surprised if family or friends take personal offense of your faith crisis or loss of faith. Psychology is a strange thing. It doesn’t usually follow logic. We are literally raised hearing testimony after testimony over and over at church and church events. We develop this strange thing where we internalize what others say and make it like we’re saying it too. It really is a cult psychology. When someone outside of our religion criticizes our beliefs, we throw up a wall and get defensive. When someone we view as one of our own does this, we often times get offended. Even if this person isn’t criticizing the beliefs but simply voicing their own doubts, we often times feel personally and deeply attacked. That is why we should never approach a coming out with the expectation those listening will really be understanding or even remotely agree. When I came out, the first thing my parents asked was if I was calling them fools!
John – you asked me on the Youtube video introducing this topic to leave this comment here:
In my experience, coming out to family / friends was much easier via email. It allowed me to be more planful in crafting such an important announcement to the people I love. It was also helpful to receivers of the message as they were able to read the message and take as much time as they needed to process it and respond more thoughtfully. Coming out via phone call or in-person may lead to reactive, unhelpful, or even angry responses from the receivers.
I chose to send a brief e-mail to everyone telling them I had resigned my membership because I had learned the Church was not true. I also listed a few things I really disliked such as polyandry, JS polygamy with teenage girls, and being lied to for 40 years by Curch authority. I told them I still have the same personal standards and ethics I have lived my life by, and I still believed in Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible. I strongly affirmed my love for all my believing relations and my desire for those relations to continue, and asked them to let me know if they wished to continue their relationship with me by e-mail. My final paragraph listed the books, CES letter, gospel topics and Letter to my Wife where they could read in greater detail about the reasons I chose to resign. I also included the links for some YouTube videos of you and Grant Palmer. Over the next week, I heard from everyone. The e-mail gave them time to get over the shock, explore my reasons, examine their feelings, and gather their thoughts before they responded. It eliminated the hurtful comments that could have been said in a knee-jerk reaction to shocking and sometime hurtful information. It also gave them time to pray about what their response should be. I did not lose a single relation that was important to me, although some of them have changed. As time passes, I find they have gotten back to a more relaxed and comfortable place. Give it a year. Even bad feelings get better as they see you are still the same wonderful person they have always loved. Do me a favor….stop saying ‘lost your faith’. It is so negative. You have not lost anything. Instead you have gained a perfect knowledge of real truth, set yourself free from an oppressive and judgemental cult, and taken a gigantic leap of faith in trusting yourself. Hallelujah!! I have never been happier or loved all people more freely than I do now. Be patient with yourself. All the anger and stages of grief eventually disappear. God bless you for the great work you do thru your podcast. My prayers are always with all those who are transitioning. Thank you.
I am still going through the mixed faith navigation. I can say that one thing that really help was a quote from Russ Nelson – My wife was digging into me on issues and really I don’t remember the specifics but I finally pulled out this quote and really she stopped talking and stared at me for a solid minute. It was a very long silence. Then she stated something to the effect – ” you are right… you have your agency.” That was the start of some great progress. She listens a bit more and I don’t bring a bat to conversations to bludgeon. We are still processing. We do have post church de-briefs. I value my marriage more and children and she is starting to see that and realize that too.
I think this quote needs to shouted from the roofs. It speaks to more than telling other peoples story. More than someone unknowingly or knowingly saying these X # of reasons are why people leave. It speaks to more than truth claims or believability claims. It speaks to the allowability of people to draw their own conclusions and the absolute need for members to respect that, recognize that, honor it and stop with the guilting and fearing.
Anyway on to the quote from Russ.
How can we have freedom of religion if we are not free to compare honestly, to choose wisely, and to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience? While searching for the truth, we must be free to change our mind-even to change our religion-in response to new information and inspiration.
Please – go read the entire quote so I am not accused of taking it out of context. Honestly I think context and conversation makes the quote worse. With one simple question – does this perspective and advice not apply to mormons. Are we not “free to compare?” If our honesty is questioned is that not committing the fallacy of No True Scottsman? If our freedom to change our mind and beliefs are questioned or rejected by believers and leadership – is that then a denial of our agency.
One more item – Steel Manning. What is it? and how can we use it to assist in our conversations with TBM family friends and neighbors. Dialogue not debate.
I returned from my mission early due to mental health issues, and my parents told me that I need to move out so I’m not a bad influence on my little brother. They also made me break up with a previous girlfriend who was not a member saying I wouldn’t be allowed over at their house. They have made it clear that they chose faith over family…how do I tell them I no longer believe when this is the case?
After meeting with bishops privately for 2-3 years about my losing of the faith, one night I was watching a sitcom with my wife, after our 3 kids were down sleeping—and I burst out sobbing, out of no where, like I was broken. Something on TV must have triggered my brain, which opened the flood gates and ultimately lead to me coming out to her about my lack of faith.
Prior to this moment, I had not said anything to her contrary to the church or my faith in it. We had been married in the temple 13 years and I had only cried in front of her maybe once or twice before. I had served a mission, and I thought the church was the only way forward. I didn’t talk to anyone about it, other than the bishops in each of our previous wards during these 2-3 years. Like the Imagine Dragons song “Smoke and Mirrors” I wanted to believe so bad, but my heart wouldn’t let me do it anymore.
Looking back at this moment, now five years since, I think my wife was more open to hear me out initially, as she could see that I was humbled and broken. If I had come out to her aggressively, angry, or even slandering our shared faith and beliefs, I don’t think we would’ve been able to talk through my broken heart in the faith.
After coming out to my wife, we started meeting with our local Bishop and eventually the Stake President, together. In fact, after meeting with them for over a year, it was my wife who ultimately recommended that I remove my records, as she understood it as a necessary step in my faith journey.
I think the most important thing I learned over the years, is to respect the beliefs of my friends and family and to not try and persuade them otherwise. I needed to stop trying to coerce my wife and others to draw the same conclusions about the church as I did. I realized that I couldn’t even force myself to believe in the church, so how could I expect others to alter their beliefs for me? I realized this important concept while meeting with our third marriage counselor, after the first two recommended we divorce. In fact, the first marriage counselor, who is LDS and a full-time professor of marriage and family therapy at a local college, introduced us to a divorce attorney and said that there was no other way. Little did he know, that our love and connection would grow stronger and deeper through this process, than we could have ever imagined.
Now, speaking from the other side, I would do it all over again. I have never felt so authentic, genuine, and free. Also, somehow this experience ended up filling me full of love and gratitude for everything in my life. I am definitely more present in the moment, take less for granted, and have more patience and understanding for myself and others.
Patricia – The weird thing to me is my loved ones don’t ask me why I left or why I feel the way I do, even if I offer the info, they don’t want me to talk about it…
Elyse – It’s both cathartic and hard to tell loved ones. It can be freeing and important to face those fears. But you’ll see who is really there for you. I was surprised who handled it well vs who handled it poorly.
One of the best pieces of advice I pulled from mormon stories episodes is not to get into detail. If you bring up a specific point your family will want to argue that point with you or will feel attacked. I kept it very general. I told my parents I disagree with the doctrines of the church and when they asked which doctrines I told them I didn’t want to get into it with them.
I would also not out yourself if you are completely dependent on your parents and believe they would kick you out.
FWIW, the early episodes of the Wardless podcast are really good ones for this. 5 and 6 on telling family and friends in particular, but lots of good stuff one negotiating the practical aspects of transition throughout. What I liked best was the format–a panel of people discussing their different experiences, mistakes, things they got right, things they learned. Because no two people are dealing with the same bucket of relationships, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to go about these conversations. The panel did a good job of affirming that no one has a handbook, that every situation is unique, and that your solution isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. That said, there ARE pretty universal mistakes to avoid, and they did a good job of calling a number of them out. For anyone looking for more to help them think through their own approach, these are really helpful.
I am not Morman but I relate to many stories. I am from south Mississippi and as you know it is the Bible Belt around here. I was baptized Baptist but currently still member with non-denominational. In 2020, my teen and I were have discussion. It led me to research and going down a deep rabbit hole. It started with my love for LGBTQ community. Long story short, I have lost my faith and it was painful. I’m still dealing with this. I have not told my family.
Thanks for sharing, Renee.
I would be interested in knowing what your rabbit hole looked like. The Mormon rabbit hole is relatively easy to find and navigate (the facts, I mean) because so much of the history is researchable and falsifiable. I would imagine yours was quite different, albeit no less painful.
Best of luck to you!
First of all, thank you for covering this topic again at this time. I wish my faith transition/journey would have started with how to navigate a faith deconstruction. My faith transition started during Covid. The opportunity of working from home and no church led to self reflection and addressing some of the issues/questions/problems I had with the church that were problematic (BOM evidences/archaeology). My learning and faith transition started with the CES and then Mormon Stories Podcast and discovered there were a lot more issues than the accuracy/truth of the BOM. It was extremely hard to tell my husband that I didn’t believe anymore. It was a lot harder to tell him that I didn’t believe than it was losing my faith/beliefs. I was terrified and afraid to tell him because I didn’t want to hurt him and I didn’t know how he would react. After months of holding it in, I couldn’t anymore. He already knew something wrong. It all became too heavy and I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Once I told him, it felt like a heavy weight had been lifted. He was very receptive and open to listening to my thoughts and the truth I had learned about the church. Come to find out, that he has doubts and issues that trouble him. He says he doesn’t know if he will ever have his name removed from the church or not because he wants to continue to support TBM family members (parents/siblings/our son). It makes me feel like he supports them but not me. It has been really hard lately, and I try to have patience, but I have come to the conclusion that he probably will never change his mind and I need to accept that.
I have been on the path out of the church since 2008. I was careful to allow my wife to find her own path which took a bit of time, but we are now on the same page. The pandemic gave us the space we needed to assess the value of the church in our lives, and after trying to make it work, we decided about 2 months ago that it was time to step away. We live in California, and all of our family is in Utah, so except for 2-3 visits a year, we have more or less been able to keep our crisis of faith hidden from our family over the years.
My wife recently disclosed our decision to leave to her sister and mother with whom she has a good relationships with. It was, of course, very difficult for them, but they showed a lot of love and understanding which was appreciated. She did not want to talk directly to her brothers (she didn’t feel comfortable being so vulnerable with them), and so she asked her mother to talk to them about it. Her brothers are very upset and offended that they didn’t get the news directly from her, and it proved to be pretty difficult for her mother to have the conversation with them. We will see if/how this will be resolved in the coming weeks/months. We understand that there is still a lot of work to go here, but my wife has felt liberated by not having to hide this any more.
My situation is a bit different. I have very orthodox parents, and have built a very good relationship with them during my adult life. I am extremely hesitant to come clean about my feelings of the church out of fear of what it might do to the relationship. I am bothered at the thought of always having that elephant in the room every time we talk with them. I talk very seldom to my siblings (maybe twice a year over the phone and 1-2 times a year in person), our relationship is cordial at this time, but I anticipate some awkwardness in the future.
I personally, feel a lot more comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings in writing, so I have considered letting my parents know by sending an email. Every time I have told someone this, the unanimous response is that it is a bad idea, and that I should do it with a phone call. Has anybody had experience with telling a close loved one they are leaving the church through writing (I noticed some previous comments said that it worked out well)? What are the potential cons of doing it this way? I may decide to tell my parents either in person or over the phone, but don’t really feel like calling my siblings one by one. In that case I may send an email to all of them, though I am still undecided.
My best friend introduced me to the church when she joined. Hubs and I joined ten years later, firm in our decision. Our mainstream-Christian families on both sides were wary of our decision so we were under the religious microscope for three decades. All this time, best friend (who’s always lived in another state) and I have been in close contact. Our phone conversations always included gospel topics. She currently works at an LDS temple. Two years ago, I made her aware of my dissatisfaction with priesthood leaders and inappropriate conduct, and my resulting inactivity. Now, daughter and hubs have both withdrawn their membership. I’m about to, my shelf-breaker being the essays and how sketchy the information is presented–just enough to stay within “truth,” but also withholding the damning part of truth. I fear telling my best friend about my separation from the church because of all the extremely spiritual experiences I’ve had and shared with her. I know she’ll bring those up. I can’t deny them either. But I also can’t deny how much more I’ve learned in these past many months. I don’t want to disrespect or lose my best friend. But I don’t want to be disrespected myself for gaining new knowledge and having my eyes opened.
We lived in a mixed faith marriage for years. Although my husband always still came to church he was struggling. We have a great marriage but if he brought up any faith issues I would shut him down right away. I didn’t want to hear it. Our life was going along great and I didn’t want to rock the boat. We have six kids and a few grandkids. Our youngest just graduated last year. We’ve sent five missionaries out and 3/4 of our married kids were married in the temple. We have one adult kid out of the church but the other 5 adult kids are in. Although I wouldn’t say our family is orthodox. We hold temple recommends and for the most part try to live the gospel but luckily we live in the real world and talk about some issues with the church. Especially LGBTQ issues. My faith was shattered this year when my youngest daughter left at home MTC. She really struggled with a lot that was taught in there. I blamed my hubby for her leaving. It was hard.
My youngest told me Her seminary teacher had a huge affect on her thoughts. She thought he was the coolest and had listened to his Mormon story. I decided I would listen to it so I could better understand what she was going through. Well my shelf came down hard. I had known a lot about church history over the years through my hubby. But like I said, life is good, Why change things? But THE HURT IN MY HEART AT the thought of how hard Marc was trying to work to answer these kids questions ect…and then was so shut down was too big. I was so crushed that our leaders would let this happen. I spent the next few months trying to negotiate out in my mind what was happening. Crying for days. Reading a ton!
After months of this and a BUNCH of Mormon stories. I’m feeling better. BUT I have no idea how to face this with my kids who married Into TBM families and are all doing well. My side of the extended family all TBm’s. I also have so many friends in the community and clients that are TBM’s. It just seems easier to keep living the lifestyle here in happy valley bubble. I really see that as my only solution. The blessing is My hubby is thrilled and our relationship has been so much better. I have also had some real one on one talks with my kids. Not about leaving but just trying to feel them out. I’m no longer sad. I see this as a huge blessing. I feel an even greater love for everyone now. I can now see through new lenses and love it. Just trying to figure out how this will all pan out in the end.
It’s super hard when you have actually raised great adults in the gospel and they are all doing great things. I’m thankful for many of the teachings and teachers that influenced my kids and helped my mothering skills. The programs, their missions, their extended families. All great! So as a non believing Momma now. I’m staying in for now but with a healthier relationship and my eyes wide open. I no longer believe anyone can say “I know” and I’m ok with that. Just trying to slowly figure out what I want to think I know. :)
Thank you John Dehlin. This podcast saved me months of therapy I’m sure. You are doing a great thing! Carry on and know this former TBM Momma is a big fan.
Q: Less than two months ago I was a full-time employee of the Church doing work that attempted to reduce suffering. I left my job in large part due to loss of faith and I didn’t want to renew (lie for) a temple recommend. Most of my large TBM family does not yet know of my disillusionment the church and with life in general because of choices made based on “religious beliefs.” One family member was employed by Church History Dept and BYU. My fears are probably irrational, but it still generates significant anxiety to simply come out and be transparent with them. I fear that my relationship with them will forever be altered in a negative way. My own family may be falling apart as well which could land me in a position of needing their help. There’s anger and sadness deep down due to feeling betrayed and making poor life decisions based on an illusion. Should I just tell them all and get it over with or should I wait for them to ask me what’s going on? Thank you.
I’m sure I handled mine badly, but for the life of me I can’t imagine doing it any better. My sister’s and I were raised by pretty rigid Mckonkie Mormon parents in the Mormon corridor but outside of Utah. I have many uncle’s and aunts. I only ever had meaningful exposure to the ones that remained faithful. I hardly know my apostate uncles.
I had a very hard and rapid faith crisis at 40 in a very conservative rural area, far from family. We had been keeping in contact via a family group text string including all of our spouses. One sister of mine is a first responder like me, and we had bonded closer due to our greater exposure to some of the harsh realities we confront in our jobs. When my faith crisis coincided with her marital crisis, we were able to give each other a safe place to download our harshest new understandings. She ended up leaving Mormonism at the same time I did.
I agonized over a very long letter telling my family the ins and outs of my faith crisis and non-faithful conclusion. It contained no references to any “faith challenging information” or sources. After asking some exmos in my orbit to review it, they correctly advised that very orthodox members would likely not read it. Instead I “came out” to them over the family text string in a statement shorter than this comment. It was a love sandwich that mentioned there was a clean and safe letter to them if they cared about what I thought and had become. I was clear that there was no “anti” material in the letter.
Reactions were not great. Hard barriers to discussion were immediately instituted. Over the next month I attempted to message to each of them individually to express how hard it was for me that none of them would read my letter. Within a few months, every interaction turned antagonistic in the family text string. Comments, jokes, or questions that never would have caused offense before became mortal insults and I realized fairly quickly that they were incapable of thinking of me free of the apostate narrative they have been raised with. I excused myself from the family text string to give them that space and to disengage with a method of communication that was no longer beneficial or effective.
Two years later I have limited contact with parents. That contact is shallow and tense. I am no contact with at least 2 other sisters. I knew leaving the church and telling them about it could result in a severing of the relationships. I’m sure I will no longer be an uncle who has contact with more than a dozen nieces and nephews. I knew it was worth protecting my children from abusive indoctrination. I would do it again. But it sucked.
I have spent the past few years painfully deconstructing from being the most strict true believing Mormon in my family. I pushed myself to be as ‘faithful’ as possible for over twenty years and a major cause of that was that I was terrified that something was wrong or broken in me. I have come to understand that I am asexual and that is the main driver in these fears as I grew older and especially through nearly a decade in young single adult wards. I now find myself in a situation where I find a long elusive comfort and self confidence in my own self acceptance but I am still working through some trauma from years of people trying to ‘help’ or ‘fix’ me. I have been lucky with most members of my family losing faith or gaining a more nuanced and accepting faith before I reached this point. My older brother is a different story. While I have been pretty open with the rest of my family I have been avoiding serious conversation with my brother. Over the years our interests have diverged and we have drifted apart. I wish I could be closer with him, but the past few years the only meaningful interactions I have had with him stem from him reaching out to help me or devolve into him trying to help or fix me. He loves me and in his mind I can only be happy if I am following the “Plan of Happiness” which would require me denying who I am. I am concerned that coming out to him about my loss of faith or my sexuality will only push him to seek to fix me more and stir up more of that trauma for me but I also want to rebuild my relationship with him.
Dr. Dehlin, what sort of support system is there afterwards for a family? For example, maybe a counselor or therapist you’d recommend a family to see? Support groups? Events? Thanks so much. We are just getting started and would love to have some support after we lose so much.
After I had discovered that the church wasn’t true after 40 years, yet still attending and trying to decide how to break this news to ward member friends and family, I had the experience of being in a room at church with a friend and as I was feeling all this, one friend unknowing of my situation told me he had received a copy of the CES letter from a relative that week, and proceeded to tell me that they were liars and idiots, and could not understand what was wrong with them. I was stunned, and didn’t really know what to say. Then some other friends, who were my priesthood leaders came in, and the same story was relayed to them… their response was similar and things were added, like they are just unfaithful, they want to sin, they are deceived, how could anyone read that or question… I sat there still quiet and felt like I wanted the world to swallow me up. I did not feel that any of those things that they were saying about this other person were the case with me. I knew right then, right there, how my friends really felt about people who have left or were questioning the church. I felt I had no place to go, at least with them, if that was how they really felt. I get it, I understand the conditioning, and perhaps I once would have said the same, but I still have not been able to tell most friends in the church. Luckily i have family who have been more understanding. The most difficult thing in the whole navigation of your faith in the church being destroyed is how to break this news to others, especially if you know how they view those who doubt.
So many things I could say and ask, but the hardest thing for me about this topic is what it reveals about relationships. Growing up in an orthodox family, marrying into an orthodox family, Mormonism is the way of life. This has been a long process for me, and it still took another five years after I had stopped going to church to leave my espresso machine out on the counter for visiting family to see. We do not live close to family so for a long time, I would just put the coffee machine away to avoid the confrontation. I think there needs to be a comic relief pause and an “out of the fish bowl” check here that a coffee machine can illicit more of a scandal than appearing topless at the dinner table. But in Mormonism coffee is eternal damnation. Over the past year of leaving the coffee machine out it has been a mix of who will say something and who does not. I have to practice a lot of self compassion (thank you Kristin Neff) that a simple machine warrants so much anxiety and feelings of being unworthy. This process has been such a big part of my life that it is hard to not talk about it with people I love and I thought loved me unconditionally. The silence is what hurts the most. For a church that claims to focus on the family and eternal salvation; when no one says anything about the ticket to hell on my counter, I question if they even care about me. Or do they even believe it? If they don’t think I am going to hell than why are they still participating in this organization? Or if they do believe they don’t care enough to say anything about me going to hell? I have to stop myself there because I start down an unhealthy circular thinking pattern that can hijack me for hours. It is a lot for just a small appliance to reveal.
Living in another state than a lot of our family, my husband and I had a lot of discussion of how to respond to the family texts of “When is (our sons name) getting ordained? We want to make sure to book a flight.” Most of the grandparent visits centered around Mormon Milestones. These are the little moments that can cause so much torment. Or how do you let the Grandparents know that we are not raising our kids to serve missions so when their only praise is going to the grandchildren that are serving missions or going to BYU, it effects their relationship with our kids. I hate these conversations because I do not want to know or expose any more of the conditional love. It is a lot to carry.
I had my “Faith Crisis” 40 years ago. I went through the motions of a Temple marriage, temporarily wore garments and had my kids blessed and baptized. Two of my kids served missions.
I have never fully disclosed my religious position to my children. My husband knows and he’s on the same page. I have such deep wounds but know exactly where I stand, (I have not changed my position in 40 years.) I hold my beliefs as very personal and not up for debate.
When someone in my family would tell me to put on my garments and go back to church, I ignored them. When someone suggested I give up Mormonism all together, I ignore them. I have told my kids for years, “Im a kool aid sipper.”
It’s worked for me.
Now my kids are grown and married, I’d like to tell them where I stand and how I got here. How should I approach them? Written testimony? Take them to dinner? Please let me know.
My biggest issue with speaking with my TBM family is that they always have a “trump card” that is that God says it this way so there’s no other answer. They 100% believe they are the one and only true church that has the whole truth and everyone else is wrong. It doesn’t matter what I say cuz they are always right. They have their own spiritual experiences that confirms this and there’s nothing you can do to change their mind.
This is such an interesting as well as difficult issue, since everyone’s circumstances are unique to some extent (dealing with other humans can be tricky). However, the success of Mormon Stories speaks to the value of personal experience. I don’t think I really have much to add, since given my situation.
I grew up before the internet and did not have a faith transition until I was in my 60s (I am now 74). I am fortunate in some ways since I did not have my loss of faith until my faithful parents had died and my 5 children were adults.
The only thing I have to say is that timing of when and how to communicate a faith transaction can be really important. In 2018 I sold my business and retired. I decided that I was at the point I had to sit down and tell my believing wife. However, the month I was closing out my business she became very ill and died 8 weeks later. I was never able to have that conversation with her. So, in my case I regret delaying that conversation and there are some things, that I will never know.
I have come out to my children and the response has been mixed. Most just do not want to know what caused my issues.
I left about 18 months ago, but only resigned officially around 1 month ago, my wife is very supportive and knew that I didn’t have faith in the church anymore, well before I did.
I was a convert, my parents and siblings were actually overjoyed when I told them I had left. From the day I first met with the missionaries my parents were very skeptical and my in-laws are in a mixed-faith marriage so there was no heat there either.
The hardest part for me is continuing to support my wife’s faith in the church and her callings, especially given the churches stance on lgbtiqa+ and the recent BYU talk by Holland. Whilst my wife doesn’t support this agenda & a lot of their teachings, just knowing that she pays tithes to an institution that has that stance hurts.
The timing of this episode is so synchronistic with my life right now. I’ve been in my faith transition for about 5 years. My in laws are my neighbors (small town Utah) and my father in law is the bishop. My husband is still in and his family is very close. They have known I have been “out” for almost 3 years and refuse to have a conversation with me.
I always hear about families who are so disappointed or who accept it and still love them- but how do I deal with family that refuses to talk about it with ME? Especially as the bishop, and after presenting the offer to have a conversation about where I am and why – in a kind, respectful and loving way multiple times – he won’t talk to me. Neither will me mother in law. They just ignore the situation when I’m present and then only bring it up to my husband or ask my kids questions when I’m not around. They usually don’t say much but it’s just ironic because my mother in law have my 30 year old husband the whole “I love you and I’m worried about your family’s salvation and that you aren’t raising your kids right” lecture.
So- my question is, do I keep waiting for them to address it (which I doubt they ever will) or should I write a letter, just show up one Sunday evening and say, “listen!”… what is the best and healthiest way to handle this for everyone involved?
I’ve stopped attending church for some time now, but am struggling to know how to let my parents and family know. They still picture me as their perfect LDS son who served a mission and attended BYU. I’m now well in my 30’s and am unmarried largely because I am lgbtq+ and dating women has never worked out (It’s surprising how not being attracted to the opposite sex does that haha). I’ve tried explaining this to my parents, but they insist that someday I will find the “right one” and get married in the temple just like my patriarchal blessing promises. I just need faith!
I know eventually as I keep dating guys or when my membership records get moved back to my parents from inactivity, they will inevitably be faced with the truth. My own faith crisis was incredibly painful. I was a completely faithful member for the longest time, but the extreme self hatred and guilt I felt towards myself eventually opened me up to the possibility of the church being false. Learning more about church history and thinking rationally about it’s teachings sealed the deal.
Both my parents are very devote members and typically serve in local leadership positions. They are conservative orthodox members and I fear that knowing the real me would lead to an extreme response on their end. I love my parents deeply and want to keep that love intact, however the system they are in teaches them to show that “love” in very hurtful and divisive ways when children rebel against the covenant. I also don’t want to damage my parent’s faith either. They rely heavily on it as their main source of purpose and mental stability. My mom often struggles with depression and anxiety and wont seek help for it, rather she relies on her faith. I wouldn’t want to shake her from that as it could be potentially catastrophic.
Do you have any advice on how to handle the situation? I know it would be much better to tell them myself before them finding out by some other means first. Thank you John and everyone else involved for all that you do! You didn’t cause or fuel my faith crisis. I discovered you afterwards and I love listening to all of your lived experiences as I navigate my own.
Should one wait until they’ve made a decision before communicating to friends and family? I’m a 53 year old TBM raised in southeast Idaho. I have one adult son who is atheist now and another who just believes the church is false. My husband & other kids are all in.
I never had doubts or even questions until reading the Gospel Topics essays as prep for the seminary class I was teaching. I have a lot of questions, concerns and doubts, but I also want to remain in the church. I can’t just put these things on a shelf. For some reason, I just don’t feel like that’s a healthy approach, so I long to have someone to talk things out with.
We’ve been counseled by Pres. Nelson not to rehearse our doubts with other doubters, but I fear that sharing them with believing members will either alienate me from them or create doubt in them. Part of me doesn’t want to be responsible for that, while part of me wants to “warn my neighbor.”
How do I know when it’s safe to share, how much to share,and with whom to share while I work through these feelings?
It really helped me to research and learn the separation of religion and spirituality. I am a spiritual person and can find my own path. Religion is totally different and for me was toxic.
Also, spirituality is so personal and is no one else’s business. This knowledge helped me set healthy boundaries with family and friends as I went through my faith crisis.
Therapy. I needed and still need professional help to break the toxic thought patterns I still have after a life spent in the lds church/cult.
Having siblings that have left also has been the biggest help, for so many reasons. I am lucky. We all left at different times, but supported each other always. Friends, fb groups, anyone to talk to, message, listen is key.
Short and sweet, there appears to be a need to help seniors navigate this when they are the ones leaving, I want my kids to be comfortable moving through life, member or not. We are done with the church, but our kids don’t know, I believe some suspect , I had a bishop handle me in an effort to silence me, and it didn’t sit well with them, but there are lots of us that are leaving ahead of adult kids who are raising good families. What do we do to not be a threat to our loved ones?
I won’t pretend to be able to answer your question because I can’t, but I find the issue fascinating.
Your kids got Mormonism from you. Why should it be hard for them to get further light and knowledge from the same source??? Now that you know better, you want to do better.
This whole concept amazes me because although I do not expect that adult kids should automatically change beliefs when their parents do, I do expect those adult kids to automatically listen to their parents and find out, why their parents beliefs changed. In other words, “Kids, if you learned Mormonism and became Mormon because we taught it to you, you need to continue learning from us, including and especially why those most sacred beliefs would change. We’re still your parents, still love you with all our hearts, and still want all the best for you that life has to offer”.
Thanks so much John and Margi for doing this podcast! I am looking forward to listening in today at 2:30. I knew 5 weeks ago that I was going to resign from the LDS church or, as RFM would put it, that I was “graduating” from Mormonism.
I am the youngest of 6 children. My parents joined the church together in their early 20s and have sacrificed so much for the church including paying tithing when money was so tight and starting a branch in a small town even though they were both so painfully shy. I served a full-time mission in Hong Kong, graduated from BYU, married in the temple, made it a priority to attend church every Sunday with my husband and our 3 children, and always thought of myself as a hardcore Mormon, so to say. In Dec 2019 my husband and I separated. I think God knew another big separation was coming for me, and that was the separation of me from the LDS church.
So far I have told one of my oldest sisters who is an active member and my older brother who hasn’t attended church in years that I am resigning from the LDS church, and I feel a lot of support from them. I’ve also hinted to my other 2 sisters that I am questioning things in the church and may not keep attending. But to this day my parents are unaware of my decision—just this last Sunday, in fact, my mom invited me to a friend’s live temple endowment. I am afraid to tell my parents because I worry that they’ll be saddened by my decision and that they’ll be sad that my young children will no longer be raised in the church. I simply don’t know how to bring it up to them or if I even should; however, a friend of mine who knows my parents well encouraged me to tell them and said I might even find in them an ally. I also dread the thought that some of my family and friends who are still active in the LDS church will look down on me to some degree, will think I’ve lost my way, and will hope that in time I’ll come back into activity; but on the other hand, I recognize that how they feel is obviously not something I can control or should be worried about.
I am also afraid to tell my Bishop in part because I worry that he’ll think I am making a mistake, and that I won’t find the right words to share with him about why I’ve made this choice. And once I tell my Bishop then I am afraid that people from the ward will approach me about my leaving and that I won’t know what to say and/or I will get so nervous and emotional that my words will come out wrong and they’ll think I am not resolute in my decision even though I am. I guess ultimately I worry about being misunderstood. How many times have we heard people in church say that people who leave the church “just forgot” about the temple covenants they made or what not, but that is so not true! I am very well aware of the covenants I made in the temple, but I simply don’t believe there is an eternal, divine meaning behind them and I believe they contradict Christ’s teachings that we read about in the New Testament.
If people do ask me why I left the church, one thing I really want to stress to them is to learn to trust themselves and their own intuition more than they trust say their Bishop or some other “priesthood authority.” I never was good at sharing my LDS beliefs with friends. I think a part of me thought why would anyone want to take on all this responsibility! But now I feel like I have a message I am excited to share.
There is so much more that I could say but I’ll leave it at this. Thank you!
My question is if I know that I am no longer going to attend the LDS church and would even like my records removed, do I tell my parents that I am going to “resign” from the church or might it be better to slowly introduce them to the idea by, for example, saying something like “I am reevaluating beliefs that I always took for granted and considering whether I think it best for my children and I to continue to subscribe to the LDS church’s teachings and doctrine”? And then later tell them I’ve continued studying and pondering and have decided to no longer attend church. Thank you!
Believing members notice a “change of countenance” of those who lose belief without fully realizing what they are witnessing is a person who is processing Stages of Grief—including traversing stages of Anger and Depression. Often, the paradigm that they hold is that the “change of countenance” has to do with either the Adversary, loss of the Spirit, and/or sin and choosing to be offended.
So, in engaging with believing members, it can sometimes be helpful to express our experience of processing Grief from our lost belief, lost community, and often, loss of sense of identity and belonging. To the extent that believing members can expand their paradigms to recognize we are processing Grief, it can be helpful.
Believing members also witness individuals testing behavioral boundaries as we are processing Grief and a loss of belief. This can be problematic for us when find ourselves in deep Grief, while also testing behavioral boundaries with alcohol, drugs, sex, tattoos, clothing choices, etc., because sometimes the “escape” part of the experience while we are in deep Grief can reach levels of individual disfunction. We are going to want, or even need to test boundaries as part of our deconstruction process. And, it often can be really healthy too.
So, in engaging with believing members, it can sometimes be helpful to express how and why we make choices to test behavioral boundaries so as to not feed into the fears of the believing members with whom we desire to maintain an ongoing relationship with trust and emotional intimacy.
In the end, it can be helpful to recognize that believing members have specific fears and experiences of Grief related to their friends and family losing belief. They can include that we will blow up our lives, that we will be under the influence of Satan, that we will destroy our marriages and our children, etc.
So, in engaging with believing members, it can sometimes be helpful to address those kinds of things directly.
So, for example, I told my Mom that I started drinking coffee, that I had an occasional glass of wine or other alcohol with a dinner, but that I wasn’t using those things to escape from my experience of Grief. I told her that I supported my wife in her activity in the Church because I saw my wife thrive in her participation. I told my Mom that I would not attempt to proselytize her, and asked that she not attempt to proselytize me.
As far as the reasons go, I expressed that after studying the Church’s Essays, and I went deeper into the study of Church History, my views about the Church had changed and that I no longer believed that either the Church or the Brethren were what they represented themselves to be, nor that Jesus was at the head of the Church. I expressed that if she wanted to know more, I would likely just make suggestions of things for her to read. If after reading them, she wanted to talk about what she read, that would be fine.
My experience and what I have witnessed is that attempting to crash the shelves of family and friends is almost always counterproductive and damages relationships.
This is super helpful Anthony. Thank you.
I’m loving these episodes. After going through all the reason to disclose or not to disclose to my dad, I think it’s best to not disclose. One of my kids will be turning 8 next year and I’m sure I will be asked when the baptism will be. We live a few states away so we are able to dodge other family rituals but I feel like I’ll have to disclose eventually and so now I’m not sure on if I should be proactive, or if I can come up with a part-truth response to keep the illusion going. He’s in his 80s and I think he could live another 10 years and so there is only so much I can do before it will become inevitable to disclose.
Just watched the episode with role-playing the bishop interview. Flash back! I recently had that happen to me. Here is what happened.
The bishop wanted to “check in” with me in to find out “how I was doing”. I did not respond to his first two messages requesting a meeting (I did not need to speak with him and was not going to inconvenience myself due to his random request). When we eventually met he asked all the open-ended questions. I left things very vague and told him things were fine. I did finally relent and disclosed the truth that I had had some hard times in the past when I was pretty angry and hurt by the Church but that I was really happy where I was with the Church right now (deacon quorum advisor, keeping quiet and under the radar supporting my TBM wife). He told me how much he wanted to help everyone progress. So he asked if we could go through the temple recommend interview questions together. He read them. I listened without answering each as he went along. At the end he put down the book and he just looked at me. I told him I was not seeking a recommend. He asked what was preventing me and I gave him the longest most uncomfortable silence he had ever seen (I was enjoying every moment of it). When he cracked and spoke I just replied, “I don’t want to get into that.” I think I only had to say it twice. He thanked me for everything and told me how great I am, sneaking in a few more attempts along the way. I was pleasant and thanked him for his kind words and for all he does for the ward, but offered no additional information. That was it.
A month later I was released.
I know this podcast was a while ago but I am finding it so helpful.
I “left” (in quotations because it was a 3 year process) 30 years ago and quite literally there was no support for me. In fact I realise that I was “the good” exmormon because I left and left the church alone. It wasn’t until a series of situations where the church would not leave me alone that I finally started to really research and learn (that seems backward but I came from deconstruction of Christianity and religiosity as a whole. When that faltered, everything else did.) Everything bubbled to the surface and I had delayed anger. It was awful.
One thing I realised was that even as an exmormon, I had allowed the church to control my narrative. I felt enormous guilt for being angry, for no longer being the model exmormon. That was a bitter pill to swallow.
One thing that this podcast series has taught me is that I will never be able to control how Mormon family perceives me. It will always be through a Mormon filter. Now, I can either beat my head against that brick wall or accept that it is simply a fact.
Now, 30 years on, I need to find a way to let that go—not for them but for me. I need to reclaim my narrative knowing that I cannot have all things the way I want it to be.
I also have to accept that the level of intimacy I want with my siblings is not the level that they want with me. We are not close and although that hurts terribly. It is what it is.
And from their perspective I would not be surprised that they feel if only I came back to church it would be different—they could re-embrace me.
I wish I had done this work a long time ago. Although it’s never too late.
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