One of the most difficult aspects of leaving Mormonism is facing the accusatory questioning of Mormon friends and relatives. Many people who have just left Mormonism are at a loss as to how to deal with such questions. Usually the questions are not really requests for information, but rather attempts at emotional manipulation. Mormons usually prefer to pre-judge the cause of someone's change of belief and assume that they already know the "real" answer to these questions. Here are some of the questions and comments often faced by those who have just left the church, with suggestions as to how one might respond. Many other responses are possible, of course, and an appropriate response would depend on the prior relationship with the questioner and the sincerity of the question.
Q: Why did you leave the church?
A: If you sincerely want to know, I will be glad to tell you. But it will take at least half an hour. And before I start I want your commitment to listen until I am finished, without arguing with me. Shall I continue?
Q: I really would like to hear about what made you leave the church, but can you tell me about it without saying bad things about the church or our leaders?
A: Not very well, because those are the very things that made me leave the church. You will have to take off your rose-colored glasses.
Q: Which commandments weren't you keeping, that Satan was able to tempt you?
A: Two, actually: "Thou shalt not ask questions" and "Thou shalt not think."
Q: Have you been reading "anti-Mormon" literature?
A: Yes: the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Commandments, the Journal of Discourses... stuff like that. It would destroy anybody's testimony.
Q: You know what I mean: have you been reading material written by anti-Mormons?
A: Yes, and I have found that most of it is very accurate, and I have learned a great deal about Mormonism and the history of the church. You should check it yourself.
Q: Why would I want to read "anti-Mormon" material?
A: The missionaries tell investigators that they should actually read the Book of Mormon before passing judgment on it. Shouldn't it be the same way with other books?
Q: I guess living the Gospel was just too hard for you, eh?
A: I "lived the gospel" as well as any other Mormon. The only thing that became too hard for me was having to believe things that were not true.
Q: Being a good Mormon is not easy - all of us struggle sometimes. You've simply taken the easy way out!
A: No, admitting that the church is false and deciding to leave it has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. Acting honestly on one's convictions takes a lot of courage. It would have been much easier simply to "bow my head and say 'yes'."
Q: How can you violate the sacred covenants you made in the temple?
A: Whatever oaths I made in the temple were obtained from me dishonestly, through fraud and coercion. No one is obligated to respect any oath obtained that way.
[For a more in-depth response to this question, click here.]
Q: Why are you so disrespectful of things that we hold sacred?
A: Why are you so disrespectful of things that I hold sacred?
Q: What then do you consider sacred?
A: Truth, integrity, honesty, love for one's fellow creatures, and trying one's best to act justly and do good. (Micah 6:8) Especially truth and integrity. I agree with Emerson, who said: "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
Q: You are tearing down rather than building up!
A: I think it is a good thing to uncover lies and to open people's eyes. I am saying to you the same thing that Mormon missionaries say to investigators: Your present religion is false.
Q: What will you say to God on the Day of Judgment?
A: Thank you, Lord, for showing me that the Mormon church is false!
Q: I mean, when you find out in Heaven that the Gospel is true?
A: In that very unlikely circumstance, I would say, "Lord, that was a really stupid church you set up down there. Only the gullible would believe it! But I'm sure I'll be happy in the Telestial Kingdom - I know a lot of nice people who will be there. And I never did think the CK would be all that interesting, having spirit babies for all eternity."
Q: Without the priesthood, what will you do for extra help when you are seriously ill?
A: I'll get a second opinion from another doctor.
Q: Have you prayed and asked God to give you a witness to the truth of the Gospel?
A: Yes, and that's one of my big reasons for leaving.
Q: Why don't you go back and read the Book of Mormon again?
A: I have done that, and each time it gets dumber and dumber. In fact, reading the Book of Mormon carefully was one of the things that made me realize it was phoney.
Q: This will kill Grandfather when he finds out! What can we tell him?
A: Tell him that it's never too late to learn the truth.
Q: Your testimony was so strong! You had a witness from the Spirit!
A: I realized that it was the very same feeling I got from watching "Lord of the Rings". You mean that movie was TRUE?
Q: You should listen to what the Spirit tells you!
A: The Spirit is telling me to get out of the Mormon church.
Q: It's sad that you have lost your testimony.
A: Actually I have GAINED a testimony: I know, with every fiber of my being, and beyond any shadow of doubt, that Joseph Smith was a fraud, a womanizer and a liar, and that the church he founded is a man-made organization, and that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of imaginary fiction. I have gained this testimony through careful prayer and study, and the Spirit of Truth has confirmed it to me. This knowledge has brought me great joy and peace of mind. Would you like to know more?
Q: Obviously you never really had a testimony of the Gospel.
A: If I didn't, it wasn't for lack of trying. Actually I really did believe it all. Otherwise I would never have paid all that tithing or busted my butt trying to fulfill all those callings.
Q: It's your pride, isn't it! Do you think you are so much smarter than everybody else?
A: Not necessarily. But I think God gave us a brain so that we would use it. I have just dusted it off and started using it, after all that time as a Mormon when it didn't have to do any work. As Galileo said: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." I'll cast my lot with the likes of Galileo any day. He was persecuted by his church, too. But he was right.
Q: You can't prove that the church isn't true!
A: I think it would be easier for me to prove that it isn't true than for you to prove that it is. Shall we try it?
Q: Do you feel a difference now that you lost the Spirit?
A: Yes. Whatever "spirit" that was had me terribly depressed. I feel much better now, thank you.
Q: Have you committed adultery?
A: No, but why would that affect my testimony? It didn't seem to affect Joseph Smith's testimony.
Q: Are you going to start to drink and indulge in other unhealthy practices?
A: I don't know yet - I would sure like to be able to try some of that great wine that Jesus made at Cana.
Q: You know deep in your heart that the church is true, don't you! You are just saying you don't believe it so that you can sin!
A: If I really believed it I would be scared to death to sin. And I really don't want to start "sinning." Do you think I am so stupid that I would give up my eternal salvation just so I could have a cup of coffee or watch an R-rated movie?
Q: How can you turn your back on your heritage?
A: Not too many generations ago my ancestors turned their backs on their heritage, and became Mormons. I am following their example.
Q: What if you're wrong? Have you considered that possibility?
A: What if YOU'RE wrong? Have you considered that possibility?
Q: Don't you feel bad about what you are doing?
A: No. I have never felt so wonderful.
Q: Why do you have to go around telling everybody bad things about the church?
A: Why do you have to bear your testimony in public every month?
Q: Why are you doing this to your family?
A: Would my family rather see me dead of suicide, or insane? Because that is what the church was driving me toward.
Q: So you would rather be happy in this life than in the next?
A: I intend to be happy in both. And if there is no next life, at least I will have been happy in this one. I do not want to die realizing that I have not really lived.
Q: Well, if Mormonism isn't the true church, then which one IS?
A: I'll accept the answer to that question that God supposedly gave Joseph Smith: "They are all wrong - their creeds are an abomination - their teachers are all corrupt - they teach for doctrines the commandments of men..." I checked out AMWAY, but it was too much like Mormonism.
Q: So what do you believe NOW?
A: I believe that life is a journey of exploration, a question to which there may be no final answer, but we continue to learn as we search. I believe that there may not even be answers, and in that case it is better to have unanswered questions than to have confidence in answers that are false. I believe that I can figure out how to live a decent life without someone dictating to me every detail.
Q: God has told me to help you regain your testimony.
A: Your imagination is working over-time. Actually, God has told me that you are a servant of Satan and I should not listen to you.
Q: What will you do when you need something or someone to turn to for spiritual guidance, comfort, and knowledge?
A: First, I have real friends who are not imaginary. Also I have acquired a lucky rabbit's foot, a good luck amulet and a horse shoe over my door. They are all working very effectively, even better than my Mormon garments did.
Q: Well, I suppose we all have free agency, and you have a right to believe whatever you want.
A: Yes, and it is only since I have left the church that I really feel like I have that free agency that Mormons talk so much about. When I was a Mormon I never really felt like I was free. Because I really wasn't.
- Richard Packham
October 10, 2005