These are excerpts from messages posted to an internet mailing list whose members share their experiences of having been members of the Mormon church (LDS Church). Although the names of the writers have not been included here, they are on file. Only minor editing has been done to clarify abbreviations, or correct grammar or spelling. All these items were written during 1999

Terms which may be unfamiliar:

TBM: devout Mormon
Ward: local parish unit of the LDS church
Bishop: lay pastor of a ward
BYU: Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah; the largest of the Mormon church's chain of colleges
D&C: The "Doctrine and Covenants," one of the books Mormons accept as scripture, of equal validity as the Bible
Relief Society (also "RS"): the Mormon women's organization
Primary: a Mormon organization for children under 12 which meets once a week; not the same as "Sunday school"

References to "this site" and to "Eric" are to the internet web site Recovery From Mormonism, and its subscriber mailing list, operated by former Mormon missionary Eric Kettunen.

[comment by a former Austrian Mormon woman, translated from German:]

This religion is the master of its members, in an almost perfect way! The way a good rider is master of his horse. Reins not too loose, but not too tight; no spurs, but gentle pressure of the heels - sometimes more, sometimes less, whatever the situation requires. Result? The "horse" always has the feeling of being free, and yet is still being directed! Add to that the "keeping busy" therapy that all sects practice so perfectly, so that one has little or no time for one's own thoughts. And the "intellectual touch," which gives one the feeling of being able to justify everything by using one's own intelligence!

A couple of listies have mentioned the immense rush of freedom that came when they cut loose from all that smothering oppression of the morg, and that was true for me, too. What a relief! I no more want something to replace the morg in my life than a cancer patient wants something to replace the tumor that has been cut out. Fifty years in the morg was hard enough to work my way out of, but it's a nightmare for anyone who had even a few months tied up with it.

I had quite a discussion with one of my sisters the other day. She has rheumatoid arthritis quite badly, and she told me of a thirteen-year-old girl who is crippled with it. The elders had blessed her that she would get well, and now she's wondering why she isn't getting better. This, to me, is complete cruelty, if not downright evil.

[from a former Mormon whose wife is still Mormon:]

Not very long ago, my wife was out for the evening, and I was tucking my little ones into bed. I told them both that if they wanted to say a prayer, they could say one in their heart, or just think about all the good things they did that day. My oldest child is a very sensitive boy. He asked me if I ever prayed. I told him that I did not believe in prayer, but I often would sit and think about the things I did that day, or the things I had to do tomorrow. Then this seven-year old boy asked me why I did not go to church. I told him that I did not believe in the things that were taught at church, and that it was always important to keep an open mind. The poor child burst into tears and said: "Daddy, how will you ever learn how to be nice?"

This truly broke my heart, as many of you can imagine. I started to tear up a bit myself. I collected myself though, and asked him if he thought I was a mean dad. He said no. I asked him to tell me what it was that I had done that showed him that I was not nice. He couldn't think of anything. I gave him a big hug, and told him that I loved him, and that being nice really had nothing to do with going to church. I think we bonded at that moment.

When I left the room, several childhood memories came flooding back to me. I remember excluding kids from games at recess because they were not Mormon. My parents not wanting me to hang out with kids who were not LDS, especially dating girls who were not. I truly had a holier-than-thou attitude, and for the first time I could see so clearly where it had come from. I vow that my kids will never feel that way. I hope I can teach them enough to allow them to question, question, question.

[from a woman reflecting on her experience as a Mormon missionary:]

It IS funny how we looked at people, deadly serious, and explained those stories as if they were REAL! But the part of the story that sticks in my craw is when it turned deadly PERSONAL. As in, "You don't have a testimony? Then you must be sinning somehow." Or, "Whadya expect? A MIRACLE or something?" Or, "Your Dad's still not a member? You must not be truly living the gospel as you should be. You've got to try harder." Bam! You're dead! Killed on the long road to spirituality. So much useless trash in God's eternal plan of salvation and maybe if you fast and pray long enough this week, he'll let you back into his good graces. I finally realized no Mormon has a chance in hell of feeling loved for long by his/her Mormon god. And all that stringent living for nothing! I should have gone out and sinned BIG TIME for all the grief I went through over relative trivia like feeling guilty over not wanting to be Young Women's President.

First, let me give you a place to read the doctrinal basis of this better, since I know I'm not going to do this right: "Blood Atonement".

Second, let me apologize for not having written this earlier; if the truth be known I was kind of hoping someone else would do it so I wouldn't have to even think about it. I also apologize for any overwhelming emotion I put into the story - I haven't sat down to put it into words in almost three years.

Blood Atonement was taught very extensively by Brigham Young. It is a doctrine that preaches the belief that some of man's sins can only be forgiven by the shedding of his own blood and are not covered by the crucifixion of Jesus. Is this still being taught? Not out in the open or in the public meetings, but in quiet places where the die-hards get together to plan (god only knows what!), it is still being taught. How can I say this with pure conviction of heart? My children and I are one of the results of this teaching. Let me explain.

Rodger and I became members of the Mormon church in 1992. We were very quick learners and moved up fast in the ranks. By my second year I had been called to teach the Gospel Doctrine class. Rodger was in the Navy and had a six month cruise to do. At this time, unknown to me, he was writing to some of the people in the ward discussing doctrine at length. When Rodger got back, things were not the same - he was mean and vindictive. It was impossible to be the wife he needed or wanted. I went to the bishop and got the same ole "if he needs help he will come to us" and a pat on the head. After a while he started accusing me of cheating on him. He even called in the bishop to see if he could feel if I was being unfaithful. This went on for a year and a half. The military pulled him out of the house and put the children and me under protective order when he got violent, giving him counseling and then sending him home because I begged and begged them to.

One morning Rodger went to work and after a doctor's visit with our youngest son I got a phone call. It was Rodger, asking me how the appointment went. We talked for awhile and he told me he knew I wasn't cheating on him and that he loved me. He told me he loved our children and was the happiest man on the earth because we were going to be together forever. I told him I knew this, because God would not separate us as long as we are faithful. Rodger's response was that he understood what God wanted of him, and was prepared to do whatever it took to be with us forever. I told him to go back to work before he got in trouble. Rodger replied he was already in trouble.

And then there was a noise, and My Rodger was gone. I ended up calling his command when he didn't answer me. They sent out emergency forces to were he was. Rodger had killed himself. The devastation was complete for my children and me: we had no idea why.

A lot of priesthood holders told us that he wouldn't go to hell because he hadn't known right from wrong when it happened. It wasn't until later when I was going through his personal effects from his room on base that I found the letters and the writings on the blood atonement. I also learned the night of the body viewing that he was seeing a young lady from his work and she was pregnant. I couldn't have children any more (a decision we had made before joining the church). That bothered him afterwards. I guess she was his solution to no more children, and the killing was to save our family a place in the Celestial Kingdom.

Welcome to my nightmare. Please forgive me if I don't finish this letter in a proper manner, but I'm not feeling very proper at the moment. And I don't feel very proper when I hold my children and they cry for the father who left them with no understanding. My current fiance is wonderful - he has helped us through a lot, but he knows that this is a pain that will never go away because the hate will never go away.

There are times like now when I would give anything to stand tall on a mountain and yell for all to hear me: Run! Run! Please dear god run, or those around you will die! Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well! Please run, or you will be like me... nothing left... nothing but memories that you can't touch and a heart you can't trust.

- Valerie

+++++    In Memory: Rodger D. Humphries   +++++
July 1996

[Valerie asked to have her name and her husband's name included here]

[a comment on the above post:]

I was where Valerie's husband was in allowing the church to destroy my self-esteem to the point of self destruction. And it was well intentioned people who taught as doctrine things that were no more than word of mouth opinion that placed me and others I know in jeopardy of our lives. My brother at 22 was taken up Provo Canyon and had his head caved in by overzealous Mormons who thought they were protecting the church from an apostate. His real crime was mental illness. It is the hate we feel that causes most of the problems we experience in life. I have very bad days when I read about the calloused loss of human life over religious beliefs.

Your story reminded me of the tragic story of what happened to my friend's mother. Her husband was a big muckity muck in our local ward. He was also known for his string of affairs. Finally she couldn't take it anymore and went to see the bishop about it. The bishop told her it was her fault, that she was a bad wife and apparently wasn't performing her "wifely duties". She went home, wrote her kids a letter and then promptly killed herself. The one place that she hoped to get love and support from, blamed it all on her. She was a wonderful, loving woman and it was such a tragedy. Her husband brought his girlfriend to the funeral and the the Mormon good old boys didn't even blink...in fact, they were socializing with her like nothing was wrong at all. What a great, wonderful, family oriented "church", huh?

I lived in a tiny, 98% Mormon town when I had my awakening out of Mormonism. Our ward was about four blocks by four blocks with only three non-mormon families in it. When I quit, it was as if all my "friends" disappeared! Sometimes I would see them on the street during the week or at the grocery and they would say, "Where have you been? We'd love to have you come back to church so we can SEE you!" I'd say, "I'm still here, living next door, come visit some time." Then, I'd never see them again! Only two friends from my former Mormon days turned out to be REALLY my friends. We still correspond today, ten years later -- we just have this big area regarding the church we kind of sidestep or refer lightly to in our emails.

I always believed I was evil and unworthy because of my doubts and lack of faith. I never fit in with mormons and inside I knew it and would ask myself what was wrong with me. I would ask myself why am I such a bad person. I was scared of my parents and all the church leaders in authority. I never had to be disciplined because all they had to do was raise their voice and I would feel bad. I have been depressed most of my life and it has always centered around mormonism and how I am not worthy.

[a woman's last interview with her Mormon bishop:]

My bishop did request a meeting with me and because I had been a member 28 years and, because I became a Christian when I left, I did have the meeting with him so I could witness to him.

We met for about one and a half hours and he said two interesting things to me:

1. If I decided to stay in the Mormon church (which of course he wanted me to do) he would have to ask me to not mention any of the things I had found out about the church (even though he did acknowledge that some of it was true). If I did talk to anyone about it, I would run the risk of being excommunicated.

2. When I mentioned that I felt the Mormon church did not pay enough attention to Jesus, he responded by saying that one can pay too much attention to Jesus and then other important things fall by the wayside.

I left and never looked back.

[from a former Mormon who was converted to Mormonism as an adult:]

Yes, we were lied to. And yes, Mormonism was completely misrepresented to us. We also sacrificed SO much. Many of us lost our non-mormon families because of the lie. They didn't get to come to our weddings, and some of them never were able to forgive us, just as many of your Mormon relatives haven't forgiven you for leaving the fold. We lost much and sacrificed much. And just because we had a choice, does not mean we were not taken in and fooled by the church, just as if taken in by any huckster. And the church stole much much more from us than just our money.

Seeing fellow Mormons, unless they've been formally excommunicated, as anything other than holy and good, is impossible for Mormons to do. I've watched my mom, good TBM that she is, insist on doing business with ONLY fellow Mormons because she "knows" they are the only kind of people who can be trusted. Yet, among them, I've met a fair number of scoundrels who promise work they don't deliver on, take money that doesn't belong to them, lie about the quality of goods and services, yet hold positions of "trust" on high councils, bishoprics, stake presidencies, etc. I myself, when I was a Mormon found myself disbelieving when told about some misbehavior of a fellow church member. "They must have gotten their story wrong." Or, "We need to wait until all the facts are in." Or, "Surely, the other person was trying to make the church look bad." I breathed them all! Because admitting, truly admitting, that the church is full of average people, not saints, would have broken my testimony that the church was a perfect, true church, ruled over by a divine god. And when you're already stressed to the earlobes trying to keep up your facade of perfection in front of the bishop and everybody else, the LAST thing you need is some outside evidence that all is rotten in zion!

Over the years, just from my own personal friendships/relationships with various women & men in the church, I have heard many stories regarding sexual predation and abuse in Mormon homes and at church by fathers, church leaders and church employees. Some of the stories are simply beyond belief for most members of the church. What's the point of telling you this? If I am ONE person who knows multiple examples of this, just multiply it by whatever figure you choose, because we'll never know how many stories exist out there. I have had a feeling for many years that there are thousands of stories never told (not a phenomena unique to the church, by any means), but I also have personal knowledge of how horribly emotionally and spiritually abused the "victims" can become by the "church" as it protects its image. I personally know a teenage victim who finally sued the church after months of trying to get the local leaders to acknowledge the repeated abuse by a church employee (who had also abused many others in the neighborhood). End result? He and other victims were paid millions to go away. His TBM family left the church totally and forever, after years of faithful membership.

One of the things I like least about the mormon church is when you say one plus one makes two and they say you're deceived by satan or that's just your opinion.

I find it odd indeed that an individual would want to maintain a belief system that couldn't withstand scrutiny. I, personally, find that the better my belief system can withstand an assault, the better a belief system that I have. In science, for instance, no one ever is allowed to make statements without said statements being challenged. If you are going to make an assertion, you had better have evidence to back up that statement. It's a totally different environment than what I grew up with in religion, where questions were discouraged and a lack of faith a sin. Coming from a religious environment into a scientific environment takes some getting used to. One has to develop a thick skin rather quickly if one is to survive emotionally.

Mormon PR is flawless. The indoctrination is bit by bit, and oh so subtle. The information control is filled with smiles, the authoritarianism couched in love. And all the while children are warned about pride -- lest they should think for themselves instead of following the prophet. A rare child may escape the snare, but I fear that most will never know it was a trap. They grow up programmed to think they decided to be mormon all by themselves. I was teaching my kids by tacit implication things I never meant for them to "learn". Thank (insert appropriate deity or principle here) I woke up before their programming was complete.
[from a new exmormon:]

I was a 100% TBM: returned missionary, temple marriage, Elders' quorum instructor, etc. In Fall 1996 I found Eric's website from a search on "Mormon" at yahoo.com. I read things that I could not ignore and did as much research, studying and praying as I could.

I just received my letter from the Bishop stating that my name has been removed from the records of the LDS church as per my request.

The exodus was very painful, and it cost me my marriage. Once I knew, I couldn't un-know, and I feel that my life is richer and more open to truth.

Are there some of us who would go back to the church if some major changes were made?

To answer my own question: I would never go back for any reason. Aside from the fact that at the present time I feel no need to worship any god in any setting (this could change over time, who knows?), I feel the LDS church is founded on lies, has grown through lies, and continues to lie about major points of doctrine. This is something that no amount of doctoring can fix. No matter what good comes from the church, it's rotten from the inside out. It's based on something that never happened, period. Why would I want to be a part of that?

[from a young man graduating from high school, still living with his Mormon parents:]

I recently posted about my dilemma with leaving the church and being expected to go to BYU. I've spent quite a lot of time thinking lately, trying to figure out what the best course of action would be for me now. Discovering the truth has been bittersweet -- it is incredible to finally see things as they really are, to be able to view the world as I see it, not having to alter my thinking to fit that of the church. My whole life I have been living a lie -- not who I am, but who the church wanted to make me. Now that I am finally discovering who I really am, it is aggravating not be able to actually be that person. It's like being stuck in a cave your whole life, finally seeing the door to the real world, but not being able to go through it. Anyway, obviously I'd prefer to just get away from the church altogether, but that's not really an option right now.

I hate to say this, because it sounds so judgemental, but over the years I noticed that the people that the missionaries brought to church who were baptized were sooo needy - emotionally, financially, socially. They were quite a ragtag bunch for the most part, with only a few exceptions. If you have little money, and aren't the most popular family on the block, and these good looking guys come knocking at your door with messages of blessings and happiness - well, it's no wonder people like that fall for it. I can remember many times someone (including me) saying, "Can't they find a regular family?" I think the answer around here was no.

It was when I was a freshman at BYU that I realized, with the help of a dear friend, that the only reason I believed the "burning in my bosom" came from God was that the church had told me so. Around the same time, I began to experience that burning feeling towards things that were distinctly against Mormon teachings. Suddenly, the emperor had no clothes, and my whole world -- including my identity -- came into question.

I didn't leave church for doctrinal or historical reasons, really. I left because I felt (and still feel) the church wants to bend the will of all of us to its own ends. I was depressed, suicidal, and hardly felt I had a sense of self left. The questions I did have about the church opened up my thinking enough that I started to believe my own thinking and my own answers were important - and we know how well the church tolerates that! So I left.

Life post-mormonism is delicious! No stressful Sunday mornings preparing for the 3-hour yawn. Instead, visits to the local markets, gardening and family outings where we can buy an ice- cream now! No guilt over not doing enough in family history, VTing, callings, activities etc. No more tithing!!! We are travelling much more now - beats watching temples grow!! So much more time to spend together, which is a major factor in a peaceful, contented home. No worries that the kids aren't measuring up to the strict church standards - who cares if they swim on a Sunday!! We still luxuriate in being free each day, and it is heaven.

I totally rejected the church 14 years ago (while I was still serving as a counselor in the bishopric). My family has been loving and often supportive (even though the Mormon church is dominant in their lives). I have family and friends here and in other places, but during the past eight months I've discovered others through the internet who have parted company with that church and I recognize that, even though I care about my biological family, my real family is here on this list. I have felt so much love and caring here, so much honesty and clarity of thought.

There is no value in life except as we find value within ourselves. WE place value, grow it, feel it, know it within ourselves. Someday I will die and my body will turn to dust, and later this planet will become superheated and life here will end. So what? I love this amazingly beautiful world as it is, as it is right now. I love the rain falling on the desert outside my window. I love the knowledge I have of science and history. I love being able to walk and see and smell and hear (music is so powerful for me at times). Yes, I too have been depressed a bit, but there are so any chances for doing good (and such a great need for it) that - even though all the people I manage to touch in any way will someday be dead and forgotten - I just joy in doing - doing whatever I do. (Yeah, I get so exuberant that some bullshit creeps in; heck no, I don't really enjoy every moment of every day).

[a young woman's feelings of change, after leaving Mormonism:]

I have discovered something amazing about myself--I can think! I have a brain and can use it! I am competant in decision making, and happy, and talented, all on my own! Don't have to blame god anymore for the bad stuff or give him/her/it credit for the good - I am finding that I love my life, now that it really is my own!

I married a wonderful guy in the Salt Lake temple, had two sons (fearful I'd be judged harshly for not being able to have any more) and did my best to be the perfect mormon mom. I suffered from seemingly endless health problems but continued to accept more and more callings as I believed that to be the only way to prove to heavenly father that I was 'worthy to be healed' of my debilitating back pain.

Fast forward ten years till I was is so much pain I couldn't leave the house. One sunday morning, not having been able to attend church for three months, I suddenly felt this feeling I'd never before experienced. For the first time in my life, my mind unclouded by mormonism, I felt the swell of self identity and I began to formulate opinions. I was able to admit to and combine all the aspects of the church that had never set well with me. Sitting there in the livingroom with my husband in West Jordan, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that 'the church' WAS NOT TRUE. And as I realized I wasn't sitting in church that day because I was too ill, but rather because I knew it wasn't true, I felt my seven year back pain begin to melt away.....pain that even morphine couldn't relieve. In the space of about 3 1/2 hours my pain drained almost completely away! I have never looked back. Our names are off church records and I've never been so healthy and happy. We've gone on to 'live' life and try our best to heal the deep wounds inflicted upon our family by the church.

There are things that are not truthful but innocuous. Mormonism is not one of them. Mormonism is beyond "not truthful". Mormonism is an extremely authoritarian system that is harmful to those who don't 'fit'.

For me personally, mormonism was easy. I never had any desire to smoke, drink, or have sex with anyone other than my husband. I love being a stay at home mom. I'm too lazy to publish a paper. I 'fit' nicely.

I eventually opened my eyes to the harm that could be done to those that don't 'fit'. The mormon god requires obedience to "proper authority". Only through this obedience can one be reunited with loved ones in the next life. Talk about force through coercion and fear! It worked for Joseph Smith -- teenage girls and other men's wives slept with him to secure salvation for their families. It works today. Gay mormons deny their essence; mormon scholars abandon publication; mormon women eschew natural leadership tendencies -- in obedience to proper authority. Grown men and women parade around the temple in green aprons and silly hats repetitiously watching the same dull movie over and over and over -- in obedience to proper authority. Mormons in California will donate large sums of money to prohibit committed marriages between same sex persons -- in obedience to proper authority. To be with loved ones.

I find any extremely authoritarian system dangerous, whether or not it is "true". I don't believe the mormon god exists. If I did believed he existed, I would not submit to his tyranny. I would fight for a better world -- a world of love and acceptance for all. If I found out tomorrow the mormon god existed I would fight him with every fiber of my being, just as I would fight Adolf Hitler if he were here today. Just because a god is all powerful would not make him worthy of worship. The mormon god is a small-minded bureaucratic tyrant. Damn him.

The thing is, that Mormonism is not just 'a church'.

It invades every fibre of a persons being, it takes the mind and thoughts of a person, moulds them to its own agenda. Mormonism dictates ones every waking thought, feeling and emotion. It tells one what to think and not to think, feel and not to feel. It dictates how ones sexuality should grow, develop and along what lines it should be channeled.

It is totally, totally manipulative. As this is based on lies, untruths and manipulations and twistings of facts, doctrines and histories this can be summed up in one word: ABUSE!

This is why folks need a recovery process and also a place such as the exmormon.org site and lists such as this.

The mormon church has the ability to rob a person of his identity. Depending on the particular person and his particular experiences as far as the church is concerned, damage levels can vary from slight to mind-bending. Many of us find it incredibly healing to share these experiences with and give support to each other. Speaking for myself now, I've been at this for less than a month and have found its healing qualities comparable in many ways to professional therapy, anti-depressants, self-help books and the like. The church did a lot of things to damage our souls, so I guess it takes a "lot of things" to help us undo that damage.

Trying our best to 'follow the church's teachings' led both myself and my husband to 'unhealthy' behaviors toward one another that we weren't even aware were taking place, until after the damage was done. It seems as though the harder a person tries to "be" mormon, the more difficult that person is to get along with, and that doesn't do a whole lot for a relationship.

I'm 37 and would give anything to go back to age 19, IF ONLY to relive that much of my life having nothing to do with the mormon church.

It could be argued that that church brings hope and a moral code to some people who are missing both. That it allows some people a chance to put their lives back in order. That it supplies that village of adults so badly needed in raising children and so often missing in our disordered social systems. That it provides solidarity for families and a social safety net for believers. That it encourages the work ethic and promotes other American values. That it links peoples of far places and provides people with a vision of the world being larger than their own immediate lives. Those things can be argued.

But to base one's life upon the dictates of a group of liars and deceivers just doesn't appeal to my sense of what should be. To rob from the poor and the rich individuals to build up a colossal and dominating and all-exclusive organization whose aim first of all is to perpetuate itself and its warped sense of what is real and its lies and deceits is immoral. The church further weakens traditional societies that have already been hammered by centuries of slavery, colonialism, Christian preaching, exploitation, and American-inflicted sense of inferiority. Instead of bringing people together, as it claims, it very often divides families, separates families from neighbors, divides Mormon neighborhoods from those of all other faiths (or absence thereof).

The word cult is too gentle for this organization, for it is much larger and much more powerful than that four-letter word connotes. It sets standards that in many societies are impossible to attain. And they haven't the background to know which of the many standards they need to obey to be acceptable and which they can greatly bend and which they can totally disregard as being too vague or just ideals that humans can never attain. In so doing, it flatly destroys lives--especially in foreign countries.

As a newcomer to Recovery from Mormonism, I am completely amazed and humbled that I have allowed myself to have such tunnel vision for twenty years. I realize that not only was I brainwashed, but that I did the majority of it to myself. I'm now 50, single and drifting - although not in a bad way - and hope the rest of my life is spent with my eyes wide open!

Mormon people are not evil, they are the victims. The evil is that church -- that authoritarian system that enslaves gentle people trying to do what is right. I no more blame mormon people for falling for that cult than I would blame grandma for losing her savings to a con artist. Joseph and Brigham created a monster to satisfy their lusts and need for control. The monster grew in desert isolation -- a circumstance that cannot be repeated with today's communication capability. Innocent women were lured to Utah -- promised that polygamy was not practiced. Innocent babies were born and trained to "know the church is true, and that 'current president' is a prophet of God." Obey, obey, obey. Obey, or lose those you love. Obey or God will abandon you. The people are victims. The system is a monster. A subtle, lying monster, appearing wholesome on the exterior, dripping with blood and lost dreams within.

I work as a psychiatric social worker and have long since noticed the fine line between psychosis (losing touch with reality) and dogmatic religiosity. Some of the Mormon men I delved into the mysteries with had crossed that line and come back and others were on their way out of reality. Plug in some manic depression with this type of religious hype, self righteousness, narcissism, extremely judgemental attitudes, grandiosity and belief that we are Jesus's special people and you have the recipe for disaster. Most of the men who I considered on the edge of reality were also mean spirited and ass holes to their wives and children. It seemed that lacking the internal self esteem or self monitoring and feedback skills, they used religion as an artificial way of relating to the world and their loved ones. Pretty sad situation. It seems that if you have a fanatic Mormon you have someone who has no true identity, but is just renting one for about 10% of his or her gross annual product.

When I decided to go to the temple, I abstained from smoking and drinking for eight or nine years (and gained a lot of weight); but then I started to 'backslide' again. I deluded myself into thinking I was an alcoholic and started going to AA meetings. Now, my mom IS an alcoholic and she is very active in AA. After I left my spouse (non-Mormon) and the church and started living on my own, she was amazed at the change in me. I lost weight and started really taking care of myself. I was finally happy and relaxed. She also noticed that I did not have a drinking problem. It only seemed that way when I was in the church. She said I definitely was NOT an alcoholic. And now I know I'm not. I live my life my own way; it is a lot different from Relief Society, a lot less fattening and a whole hell of a lot more harmonious. It is tough trying to be someone you are not, to fit the mold. It was damaging to my very soul. I've been let out of prison - yahoo!!

[an ex-Mormon woman tells of a conversation with her former husband, who was never Mormon and who, during their marriage, had tried to convince her that Mormonism was false]:

Last night we were chatting via email and he said that you don't have to be in a gang to be killed in a drive by shooting and that you also don't have to be a mormon to be hurt by mormonism. That really touched me deeply. I had no idea that he had felt so much pain; I just saw him as someone who was trying to get something over me.

Thank you to whoever started this list. I wish I had had it in 1980 when suicide seemed the only way out. I never tried it, but thought of it often because I thought it was my fault, and that my children needed to be brought up in the church. Thank God I realized in time, it wasn't me that was in error, but the church. I lost a husband, but saved my children from the brainwashing of the mormon robots. Thank you for being here, I truly am grateful.

[from a psychologist and former Mormon:]

Mormons define themselves as always telling the truth or having the truth, and when something enters their brains that is contrary to that notion it is ignored, fought against, or distorted. One of the things I did as I was getting out of the church was to note the contradictions between one thing the church would say and another thing the church would say and then say to myself that since the church contradicted itself, I was free to choose.

Once a person starts deconstructing the church - looking for inherent contradiction - it all unravels. Unfortunately for devout Mormons, since they have based their identity on being church members, unraveling the church story unravels their identity as well. When we are members, the church is a huge part of that self-narrative we call our identity, and contradictions and counter-stories set off profound psychological shocks. I joined the church in large part because I wanted to be part of that larger story - to be written into something meaningful. I expected, however, that it would not be a work of fantasy or science fiction.

But, just as it was difficult to tell a non-member what it is like to be a mormon, it is equally as difficult to tell a mormon how it feels to be an exmormon. Once you get through the first big wave of anxiety, there is a feeling of joy that almost explodes through your being. It is like you finally get your eyes open, and you lighten up on yourself and others. There is also some grieving, because of the lies you were duped by. There is some anger because of the damage done to you. But, you realize that you will never be duped again, and you have to feel free because of that. Free and content, and eager to explore the world all over again with a fresh, clean mind.

As I've matured, I've learned that I was indoctrinated and manipulated into believing that strong emotional experiences happened because of the church and its truthfulness. These experiences I was told to interpret as a witness that the church is true. Well guess what? I still experience these strong feelings and spiritual things. I just interpret them differently now.

Mormons are so nice. Young mormons really are incredulous when questioned about even basic things like Joseph's multiple sexual encounters. They really don't know that happened. They really do think its an "anti- mormon" lie. That church is doing a very good job of rewriting history. I can easily see how people can be taken in by that church. Mormonism seems so normal compared to the Moonies or Heaven's Gate. But the core is the same in all three: an extremely authoritarian group whose leader is the ONE representative of God on earth.

[from a woman who just received notification that her name has been removed from the membership records of the Mormon church, at her request:]

Wow... I can't believe it. I'm happy to have it done. I'm proud to say that I was able to identify the falsehoods, stand up to them, and make a stand against them. I will always be a cultural mormon because of my family ties. I, however, am not a mormon. The reason I am not a mormon is because it is not true. I don't wish for it to be true (as I once did.) I do not want that association in my life. I aspire to never allow anyone or any group to shame me like that ever again.

Quiet and at Peace,

I left the church originally because I divorced a nonmember, and tried to reenter the comfort zone of my childhood, so I started attending church again. The rumors and gossip abounded around my ward until it became unbearable for myself and my parents. Suddenly I was an adulteress, and wicked woman who could not please her husband. In reality I had been badly abused in my short lived marriage, and escaped with my infant son, and came home to my parents to put my life back together again.

I spent the next 20 years running from the church. Every time I moved, the visiting teachers came calling. I hated the church, and hated the hypocrisy of it's members, but until I found the Recovery from Mormonism web site, I never studied the history and doctrinal changes that make up this church. It was such a huge burden lifted off my shoulders to find out that I wasn't running from God's church, but running from mind control and mis- information. I always had questions about the teachings, but as you know, those questions were answered by pray harder, and have faith.

I can hardly stand to be around my TBM family, with me being the only one with a clue. It's bad enough that I have the lingering remnants of brainwashing making me feel like an outsider, but the constant "comments" by some of them trying to bring me to my "eternal senses", with that Mormon attitude, is enough to make me want to never go back for even a visit.

It makes me angry the that church causes such division in families. If you ask me, they have done as much to destroy the family in this day and age as factors usually blamed such as TV, mother's working, technology etc. Of course since the foundation of Mormonism is a lie, it is no surprise they actually believe the lie that Mormonism is Pro-Family.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen the phrase, "This too shall pass" written in caligraphy, framed and hanging on the walls of Mormon women's homes that I know. My Mormon sister and her best friend share their stash of valium with each other, in case one's supply runs low.

When I was entrenched in the Mormon lifestyle, I was miserable for a lot of those years, and really hated seeing "This too shall pass!" I wondered why it was necessary to even be suffering or enduring hardship in the first place - after all, where were all those wonderful blessings we were promised for keeping the commandments? Yeah, yeah - we were being tested to see if we would "endure to the end." That was another phrase I learned to HATE! That, and being told what "sweet sisters" we were, repeatedly in every meeting, just so we wouldn't forget it, I suppose.

Well, I began to not feel sweet at all, and began to really resent the expectation that whatever crap we were dealing with at home, in our families, and in our church community, would be fixed if we remained sweet, worked harder and became more prayerful, and above all, kept the tithing coming. The attitude shoveled at us was always, "This will pass, once you have proven your worthiness."

For more comments from former Mormons: Voices 1,   Voices 2,   Voices 3,   Voices 4,   Voices 6.

For more detailed stories from former Mormons about their leaving Mormonism, go to the Recovery From Mormonism site.

Comments: packham@teleport.com

©  1999 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included