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 2000.

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.

As I grew up in the church I was told over and over not to masturbate. It was evil and took away the spirit. It seemed I spent my whole youth feeling guilty. I had to go to the Bishop several times, being humiliated to have to confess my sins. I remember the horrible feeling when nature took its course, it made me feel so evil. How about the time I broke down on my mission and started masturbating. I was told that I was responsible for the souls I couldn't baptize because I had lost the spirit. Wow - what a huge guilt trip. I thought I was going to hell. I lived the real-life Clockwork Orange.

After I left the church, none of my LDS friends wanted to have anything to do with me! These women who were my 'sisters' and 'best friends' for almost 20 years would walk past me and not speak, even if I spoke to them first. Guess it was that being cast into outer darkness thingie....or whatever, and they were afraid. Afraid of the unknown, afraid of being an outcast themselves or jeopardizing their own church membership. I left the church voluntarily, so it wasn't even like I was excommunicated or disfellowshipped either. When I see people now that I know I must have treated that way in the past for leaving the church, I tell them I've left and apologize and ask for their forgiveness.

When I was on my mission, our mission guidelines instructed us missionaries to buy the newspaper, go to the vital statistics page, and get the names of people who had had a death in the family, people who were newlyweds, people who had a new baby, etc. We were instructed to go visit them and use the "would you like to know where you came from" (the new baby people), "why you are here" (for those just married), and "where you are going" (for the family of the dead). We were instructed not to mention anything about the newspaper, but rather make it appear as if we had been inspired to seek these folks out. Deceptive? Without question. Unethical? Without question. Indeed, a good number of missionaries (to their credit) found it offensive and refused to use it. Others did use it. That the Mormon church uses such deception would, of course, be of no surprise to anyone on this list.

Of the people I had a hand in baptizing on my mission, I will hazard to say that virtually all of them had some gaping hole in their lives that they were desperately wanting to fill. We just happened to drop by at the right time. After baptism, and after the hole eventually got filled on its own, probably 90% of the people I baptized dropped out of church activity. But, by god, the church had their names on the membership roles.

[A comment on the previous comment:] BINGO. As a former missionary, I agree completely. Yeah, we tried to talk to successful and intelligent people, but we ended up baptizing refugees, nut cases, and people that thought we were cute. And we knew it.

I should have listened to the spirit when I prayed Moroni's promise, and the answer was always NO NO NO! Worse yet I had lied to myself, and that hurt the most.

I was thinking tonight (that dangerous habit of mine!) and realized something very important to me. Two years after deciding to investigate Mormonism and seven months after I last tried to set foot in a Mormon chapel trying to be an "active Mormon", I am finally able to rid myself of the extreme and unreasonable self hate and anger due to a bad choice I made back in 1992, to become a Mormon. I realize now that I did the best I could with the knowledge I had and that I grew despite the restrictions I allowed that cult to impose on me. Today, I am a stronger more tolerant and compassionate person and I am feeling more grounded and confident in my abilities and relationship to deity. I choose to be involved in the community around me. I am working on myself and am building a circle of friends based on common interests and goals. I am accepting myself as an imperfect being and am changing the things I can and dealing with the rest. I am a work in progress.

I was baptized in the church when 8 but it wasn't until I was 16 that I found any value in the church. But soon it became the single most important thing in my life, and the corner stone for all of my ideas, plans, and personality. I began reading the scriptures nightly, going to seminary, church, writing a journal, paying my tithing. Any way I imagined that God wanted me to act I acted. In return I found a sense of importance, a tap into the secrets of the universe, and a sense I would be taken care of for eternity. I went from failing out of school to a 4.0 my last two years of high school. I taught myself the piano, and was alive with the search for knowledge.

But it was this same passion that betrayed me. My break from the church had more to do with my adherance to its ideas than out of a convenient denial of them. I began reading books like Ayn Rand, Sartre, Hesse, Potok. When I made it to college I began meeting people who were not mormon. I began my study of philosophy. More and more I grew from listening attentively to what was said at church to being impatient, frustrated, or angry at the emptiness of their ideas, or the constant need to reconcile what was spoken with what I read and more importantly, what I've studied as gospel beforehand.

My parents divorced when I was five years old, and at the time my Mom was a major TBM. She wouldn't have considered leaving my father if not for the fact that he had been beating her up for years, and then she found out that he'd also had a child with another woman while they were married. She finally decided to leave when she caught him having sex with our 17-year old baby-sitter. My mother was six months pregnant with my little sister at the time. She went to the bishop because she didn't have any money or anywhere to go with three little kids, and she needed help to get out.

The bishop told her that there is never a good reason to break up a family, and she would get no help from the church if she left. He said that if my father was beating her and sleeping around, then she just needs to try harder to please him and initiate sex more often. Luckily, my grandparents (the paternal ones, no less!) found out about the abuse and helped Mom find an apartment and gave her some money so she could get out.

It didn't stop there, though. The next Sunday after she left Dad, the bishop announced in Sacrament Meeting that my mom had abandoned her husband and "spit in the face of God" by breaking her marriage vows. It was our last week there, since we'd moved into a different ward, and the old bishop called the new one and told him that my mom shouldn't get any help from the church because of what she'd done. Luckily, the new bishop was slightly more progressive and was willing to help out on occasion as long as she made all of us show up at church every Sunday.

When I left the Church, I asked to voluntarily have my name removed from the church records. They tried excommunicating me first because of a letter I had written to our children explaining my feelings and concerns about the Church. When the leaders found out that that excuse would not hold water they then asked me to turn over to the Church all the documentation we had accumulated that proved the Church to be untrue, or the so called anti Mormon literature re Church history. They asked me to do so immediately. I refused, telling them I would not, because we wanted to share that information with others.

They then called for a church court and excommunicated me for apostasy for not turning the documentation over to them. We had dedicated our lives to the Mormon Church, always giving 150% of our time, talents, finances, and support. When we realized there were real problems with the Church, we were serving in the Manti Temple as assistant supervisors and I was also serving as a counselor in the Bishopric and my wife was serving as counselor in the Relief Society Presidency, all at the same time. We had given all we had to the Mormon Church, and just because we started questioning and had some concerns, they decided we were no longer welcome. We were treated as though we were never even a part of their organization, and ostracized without even a thank you. The Stake President gave me the opportunity of staying in the Church if I chose to, but in order to do so, I needed to repent and go back to being submissive to the leaders, and absolutely not to question authority or doctrine. We were tired of not being able to study and then discuss and ask questions.

Mormonism for me caused manic depression. When I was manic I thought it was the holy ghost and when I was depressed I thought that it was because of my incredible unworthiness (masturbation and sexual thoughts). Gave up mormonism and now I live in a happy place inside without the huge, near catastrophic mood swings. Does mormonism cause depression? I wonder...
Hi, This is to let everyone out there know that I have left the church after being born in the covenant and having my endowments two years ago. I have sacrificed family and friends for this, but it was a move that should have been done several years ago. I have two small children and they need to know that what I did was also done for them. I have a feeling of peace and belonging now that I never had as a mormon. My family has disowned me and the only friend that I have is my best friend who is still mormon. It sure does make me feel good to know that there are others out there like me that I can talk to.

You know what? I am SO proud to be a thinker, an individual, an APOSTATE! I am so proud to be counted among those who broke free instead of following the herd! Sometimes it just hits me that if I hadn't followed my inner voice, I'd still be there dissecting turds in Gospel Doctrine class, or telling young girls how special it is to be married in the McTemple. Sometimes my spirit literally CELEBRATES the freedom that I have given it!

I was going to show my mother how to live a perfect life. Since she'd married a non-Mormon I was going to marry a Mormon in the temple to show her that if she'd only done "the right thing" to begin with, her marriage problems and the split religion household would all have been cured. Instead, I got in the church so deep that I couldn't leave because of pride and fear of admitting I was wrong! When I eventually left the church at age 40, I was in such intense mental and emotional anguish from being super active on the outside yet still not having a testimony on the inside that admitting I'd been wrong was the least of my worries. My sanity and the strength and emotional health of me and my five children became top priority.

As a Mormon, I had to keep my thinking compartmentalized. One of the great strides I made in getting out -- I remember the feeling of Ah Ha! I had that day -- was I realized I didn't believe what I said I believed, I didn't feel what I said I felt, and I didn't do what I said I did. I was living in a fantasy world about myself. Then I asked myself why I acted that way -- fatal for my testimony -- and it was because I was afraid! I was afraid I wouldn't be liked, I wouldn't be loved, I would be alone and lonely. Then I started paying attention to what I really believed, what I really felt, what I really did, and I saw that the church and I are not a good fit. I had to lie to myself to be a Mormon. So I stopped.

It is always a mind stretching experience to get out of our comfort zone and do something totally different. If you continue doing the same thing, you will always get the same results. A rut is a grave with both ends knocked out. Living without the LDS church is like climbing out of the hole and declaring that you believe in "Life before Death."

That was the huge contradiction in mormonism for me... that on the one side they say "you are of infinite worth" and then every sunday you go to church and the speakers remind you what a piece of unworthy shit you are because you don't do this that or the other well enough.

If your business was booming, they'd say it was because you were paying your tithing.

If your business failed, they'd say that you needed "some growth" and "will learn something from it".

But because you weren't paying tithing it is SO easy to find fault.

I joined the church 20 years ago and have struggled for all those 20 years. I finally threw my hands in the air last year and decided to stop all the usual "things": tithing, prayer, scripture study, fasting, etc.

Guess what? Nothing changed except that I'm 10% richer! No lightning bolts. The earth didn't open up and swallow me. I'm fine. And I'm happier.

Tithing opening the windows of heaven is a load of malarky.

As some of you know, I am still a church going woman. But, I am not happy with the church and I am reading and studying to decide what I actually want for the rest of my life. So far in my reading, I am not leaning toward staying in the church. But at least I am not comtemplating suicide like I was a couple of weeks ago. All of you deserve thanks for that. You and your postings have helped me a lot.
Here are a few things I've learned since I moved out of the Mormon Bowl (AKA Salt Lake Valley):

You CAN be a "good" person and not be LDS.

You CAN have a good relationship with your family if you're not LDS.

Those are big ones for me. I assumed, growing up, that every person who wasn't LDS was automatically a smoker and a drinker, lived in a dysfunctional house, and was just a Bad Person in general. I thought they were all miserable but most of them probably didn't know why.

Well, since I moved here to Louisiana, people still seem happy to me! What a shock! And my boyfriend's family is much closer and a lot LESS dysfunctional than mine! Double shock! I thought they would be wallowing in misery, but they are not. And they are Good People. I thought only Mormons were Good People. Phew, knock me over with a feather.

I remember looking at GBH and some of the apostles while they spoke at a conference just before I truly began to question the church. I remember thinking: "There is just no way that these uptight and self-righteous old men communicate with any Deity. They all lack the compassion, love, and mercy that Jesus represented in the scriptures."

One of the main reasons I began to doubt the church was that the leaders were always so strict, firm, and self-righteous. I never actually thought that the apostles were actually in on some kind of scam, or that they were deliberately lying to me; however I was definitely afraid of them, and I was deeply afraid of the God they claimed to communicate with. I decided that I wouldn't worship, or be under the authority of, any being that had to gain my respect and devotion through fear tactics.

The best decision I've ever made.

On balance I found Mormons to be good people. Socialization is a big part of their culture, but don't upset the cart or you'll find out that they are not as nice as they could be. I am extremely glad that I am no longer under Mormon misconceptions. I have no desire for religion at all, Mormonism cured me of that...

I was born and reared in the LDS church, am an ex-missionary and a BYU graduate, and have benefited tremendously from what I gained from it.

The main reason I left was that I couldn't imagine leading my five strong daughters deeply into it at today's level of information. Most of them thank me for liberating them from it. And, certainly, it's much more difficult to sustain than before, given the current easy availability of debunking information, especially on the internet.

I just discovered this list about 1/2 hour ago and decided to join. Moments ago, I finished typing bits about myself in my profile and hope that you check it out. I live in "happy valley" (Orem, Utah) right now and am studying church history objectively to try and figure the mess out. I'm feeling a bit betrayed as I'm discovering things that have been kept in the dark my entire life. This may sound funny to Y'all but I can't stop drawing parallels to the church and the movie "The Matrix!"

I live in a real world, where considering the LDS claims as the truth is the same as considering cartoons to be the real world.

[The following is a response to the comment, "There is no analogy to "hitting bottom" with exmormons. Mormons become exmormons for reasons other than hitting bottom."]

I know the experience of 'hitting bottom' since I've done it a few times. (wry grin) I reach a point where I am willing to do 'whatever it takes' to stop the hurting. That's what I did when I left that church. I was willing to forfeit my hope of eternal salvation to stop hurting. I hated myself as a Mormon. I was very depressed. I constantly expected more of myself than was humanly possible to achieve, and thought I was righteous for expecting those things of myself. I tried for many years to squeeze myself into Molly's glass slippers, and they just kept slipping off.

I grew to hate the lack of diversity in that church. I grew to hate the lack of appreciation for individuality, both in personal growth and backgrounds. I grew to hate the lack of depth surrounding me, hidden behind pious Pharisees. I grew to hate the control and manipulation that started at the highest levels of that church and filtered down to my own ward and even my family at times. I hated that I learned to internalize my own damnation.

But I must say one thing: those same things are found in other places and not just that church. My father was an alcoholic and I learned a lot of those same behaviors in my family. I learned perfectionism, not to question 'authority,' not to trust myself or other people, not to believe in myself and my capabilities, how to wear a Happy Mask, how to bury my feelings until I didn't feel anything any more... and the list goes on. That church felt very familiar to me, just like home.

If I had stayed in that church I honestly believe I would have died. Oh, I would have existed another few decades, but the part of me that is Me wouldn't have lived. I would have been living someone else's idea of what my life should be. Easier, but not living.

My dad, a bishop, chooses to ignore me for the most part and casts his disapproving eye at me whenever I see him (on the average about once per year). So, to that end, I have had to accept the fact that I will never have a close relationship with my family. I find it very sad that the church breeds a culture that doesn't support or allow members the ability to share a mutually respectful and loving relationship with family members that are not believers. I know there are members out there that get past it and do accept their non-believing family members, but I think it is the exception, and definitely not a possibility in my family. However, I have made my own happiness in life. I have a great husband and two wonderful children. I often find it comforting that of my mom's three kids, I have the happiest marriage and the most healthy and well-adjusted kids (my other two siblings are still living in the same Utah community and still members). I get a bit of pleasure knowing that it baffles my parents as to how I have managed to remain a "good and moral person with values" all outside of the sanctity of their church, and that they have to admit to the fact that I am the happiest of their children - and the only one fully out of the church.

My Parents and siblings are all NAZI TBM and in the past it has been very difficult for me to spend time with them. I am always held up as the bad example and am a constant recipient of "the attitude". In spite of the fact that I am completely self sufficient, well educated, a great cook, and a helluva lot of fun to hang out with, I find some members of my family seem to be almost offended by my mere presence. The church not only allows them to treat me this way, it seems to require they treat me this way. I guess it comes with the conflict of not being able to associate with apostates. Frankly, I am always surprised when I, my husband and children are invited to family get togethers. I suppose even if they don't want to be around us, they feel they can use the opportunity for missionary work.

Just the thought of IMNSHO, has given me the confidence and permission to field their subtle attacks. In the past I would just hang my head and agree with them. Now, I can respond with my opinion. I have realized that I have that right as a family member and human being. I have also realized that there is nothing I can possibly do to make them think less of me than they already do as an apostate. It really can't get worse. There is a lot of freedom in that.

Last November when my parents were in Central America picking up my sister off her mission, I had a feeling to call my 18 year old brother that was at home alone. When I called he was getting ready to commit suicide. (I'm crying and shaking thinking about how we almost lost him - because of that cult.) We talked for four hours. He told me that he didn't believe the church was true and he could never be "good enough" (he was a "perfect" kid, he had just got his Eagle badge, went to youth temple trips, was captain of the cheerleaders and won state finals, went to seminary at O'dark 30 without a fit, etc). I told him that was why I had left.

He was shocked, he hadn't even realized I had left a year prior. He said, "You!? The molliest mormon I've ever known?!" For four hours I validated his feelings. He said he had hope for the first time in over a year. He is a brave, terrific kid. And now he just finalized on having his name removed. (I've been trying for a year to get mine removed - from start to end he had it done in 30 days.) Guess where he is going at the end of this month when he graduates from high school? .... not a mission ... to Germany to back pack with friends and just have fun! Someone was watching out for my brother, since I was "prompted" to call him at 11 p.m. on a school night -- a prompting that saved his life. Remember the mormon lie? God/HigherPower doesn't help us after we leave the true church ... I mean the cult.

I know that after I started the 'wonderful' Young Women's program and started learning (or getting the message) that women were less important to God, I was suicidal off and on from 15 to 32 years old. As soon as it hit me it was all lies I snapped out of my mobot trance, and I've been fine since. I can only imagine that the plight for gays is even harder than I had it; being raised in the cult and being gay.

I came so close to losing my soul (personality) to that organization. In the church we are taught to focus on god, not to take care of each other. Because if we are righteous, we don't need help. And if we aren't righteous, we don't deserve it. When I look inside myself, I see a blackness welling up with anger and hatred for what has happened. For the life I lost, the family that looks suspiciously at me, the friends that hesitate ... I built my life on a lie -- a lie I told myself. A lie I used to comfort myself when my marriage became less and less what I had dreamed it would be. A lie I believed because I so wanted to live in a community of people that loved and cared for one another. And instead I lived in a community of people willing to judge first, rather than love.

I assumed at age 19 that even though I didn't have a "strong" testimony, I would gain it on my mission. Not to mention the subtle fact that, had I refused to go, the social consequences would have been horrid. I believed the "borrowed testimony" theory. It was time to get my own and the whole prospect of sacrificing two years for the lord seemed noble and appealing also.

A missionary is shot from the role of normal teenager with a borrowed testimony to instant "expert" in the field of salvation. You wear the label, everyone tells you how great you are, you subtly satisfy you ego with your role, you're convinced that the most powerful being in the Universe is on your side. Girls flock to you as never before, you gain experience, learn skills, and you acquire some genuinely good traits along the way. It's almost impossible for a missionary not to become TBM. As a pre-mission teenager, very few delve into any information that is not sanctioned by the church, so you usually arrive at the church's conclusion. During the mission you're basically going through a heavy course in indoctrination far from family and friends. Immediately after the mission, you're the pride of the family. Very few have the courage and personality to question ever again.

I just could not bring myself to believe that God could possibly care whether or not I wrote in my journal, or planted a garden or even whether I went swimming on Sunday. I could not believe he insisted that I had to spend three hours in church each and every Sunday and that I had to sing every word of every hymn or I was a bad person. That I had to use certain words when I prayed, that I had to be on my knees or it didn't really count. Surely a God, ruler over the universe, had more important things to think about than if I was wearing a particluar style of underwear (perhaps world hunger or ravages of war?) I am amazed that this concept is not more obvious to those who remain in the church.
For me, I left the church in tiny increments. I remember many years ago wishing it weren't true! It was just too much hardship and sorrow for me to try to do all the things I was supposed to do and as time went on, especially after my first trip to the temple, my heart just wasn't in it. I officially left when I moved out of my house into another town on my own. I had vague thoughts about going to Sacrament meeting but didn't. Time passed and I started feeling really happy and started feeling like the self I was at 28, the year I converted. I noticed that none of the bad things were happening that were supposed to happen - like spiritual darkness, misery, SIN and so forth. Well, I did sin - but I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt no guilt! I still felt some kind of loving presence around me, but I felt encouragement and not judgment. Go figure. Now it's been over three years. I'm not interested in religion of any kind but I am interested in my own personal spirituality and possibilities of things I haven't tapped into yet. I do it at my own pace, only when I feel interest. I'll never go back. Leaving was the right thing to do.

And the inconsistencies became too much for me to handle. A friend, one of my mission companions, in fact, gave me "Emma Smith: A Mormon Enigma" and reading about how Joseph Smith lied to his wife and associates just blew me away. That's my trigger point - JS's honesty. If he isn't honest in all things, I don't believe God would call him to be a prophet. Forget that "prophets aren't perfect" crap, we still have be able to at least trust the guy. Joseph Smith lost that trust.

From there, barely more than a year ago, the dam burst. I now have a sizable library, that which TBMs like to label "anti- mormon", but it's well-researched, referenced stuff, and no one's been able to refute it.

It's hard for me... Not leaving the church, that's easy enough. I can't stand to have my name associated with a fraud, and I now KNOW, in the true meaning of that word, that the LDS church is a fraud. But dang it, I gave my entire adult life to this fraud, I gave it my heart, might, mind, and soul, only to find I was living a lie. The depths of anger I continue to experience every time I think about a new aspect of that lie keeps surprising me. I've never been so mad at anything in my entire life.

While I have been insulted, slighted, and snubbed by members of the church, they were NOT what drove me away. If anything, their indecent behavior probably made me cling more insistently to my "perfect" church. It was the deception of the Mormon hierarchy, the lies embedded in its basic foundation and claims. Mormonism is constructed in a such a way that if there is anything false in its basic nature as a DOCTRINE, or in the history of that doctrine, the religion in its entirety cannot be true. In my search for truth, I found the cracks, and the result was that I chose knowledge over ignorance, empowerment over submission. The church is not untrue because of horrible, abusive people... it is untrue because it is FALSE.

It was when I realised that the Mormon God, expecting me to swallow all this crap, was completely alien to me. I realised I had no desire to live with a God capable of creating such a mountain of evidence against His Church and giving me a mind incapable of ignoring it. There was then nothing, absolutely nothing I could do to stop myself from admitting it was all a lie.

[The following comment was made on the German exmormon list; it is translated from German]

I wasn't a member of the church for very long; soon after I was baptized, I realized that I had made a mistake. But emotionally I am having trouble dealing with the whole thing. I'm not doing very well. That's why I'm glad there is a group like this. I have made a firm break with the Mormons, even though it isn't easy. Once I had a chance to look into the doctrines of the church, I couldn't accept them. But as an investigator (which I was for quite a long time) you don't get all the details, not at all. But you get emotionally involved, and that's why I am having trouble going back to a normal life. But I hope I'll be able to do so soon.

So I guess I can look for things to get better? It certainly couldn't be any worse. I am counting on a brighter tomorrow. Who else here wakes up every morning thinking "I am free, I am free!" or any other such thought? I am so excited about living life on my terms now. I feel like a kid in a candy store. Every day is a fresh and new perspective on life. To be honest, I really am stuck on stupid because I don't know what to do first. It is amazing how I almost feel like an infant discovering myself for the first time in my whole life. I highly recommend it to one and to all. I didn't know there could be life after church! Now my life can start. HEE HAWWW!!!!!! look out world!
This made me think of how I'd feel after sinning... I'd go to sacrament meeting, hear talks about being perfect or whatever and I'd come home feeling horrible. I remember many times sitting in the shower with the water turned up as hot as it would go, tears streaming down my face as I begged God to give me some kind of confirmation that I was forgiven and that I was not a bad person. Of course, the feeling never came, and I assumed I was a wicked, dirty person and pleaded even more plaintively for absolution from my guilty conscience. I never felt more tormented and in anguish. I felt like I had no control, that there were definitely times I felt powerless to my weaknesses, and I almost hated God for not keeping that promise in the bible about making the weak strong.

Corporations create mythologies about the leaders and doctor the corporate history to ensure the employees feel good about what the company has done and is doing. Sound familiar? I was left feeling I was part of a corporation -- rather than a church -- that didn't give a damn about me personally and was mainly concerned about my "production" in terms of the number of meetings attended, hometeaching visits, and tithing paid. I determined the church ultimately had no respect for me, for the needs of my integrity. This was borne out when I asked my bishop just before I left if I could ever be right on an important matter and the church wrong. He said, "No," and I replied, "Then I will always be wrong if I stay, and I can't live with that." It struck sometime back when Hinckley said in an interview, essentially, that dissenters from the church don't matter because there are always others to take their place. One employee quits, another joins the company. We're all replaceable. What a cold, cold place corporate Mormonism is.

As far as Mormons being the nicest people on earth - I have to say: Not once you've crossed them. Mormons are really nice if you're a member or a potential member. But otherwise, they don't give you the time of day. All their niceness is really done in order to be a good example so that those seeing them might investigate the church. I know this is a broad generalization, and some are not this way, but I believe most are; it's programmed into them.

I, too, was baptized at age eight. Did I want to? Did I understand what the choice was? Did I know anything except my desparate fantasy that the Holy Ghost was supposed to descend from heaven on the morning that I was confirmed and sit on my shoulder and whisper all the 'right' answers to me for the rest of my life? Not likely. But I too, was bitterly disappointed when a few days after my baptism I'd 'sinned' and was once again wretched and stained and in need of God's forgiveness or else I would never see the rest of my family again in the eternities.

The Mormon church is not a benign organization filled only with silly, bland, well-meaning people. It is a powerful, living organism designed to fend for its continued existence by any means possible. Lies, guilt, brainwashing, enmeshment, extreme co-dependency, public humiliation, threats of eternal damnation are among its prods and whips. The most converted members pry, threaten, and meddle extremely and with feelings of total impunity in the private and personal affairs of their family members, friends, ward, or stake members. Lack of respect for the individual member is completely and totally lacking in any aspect of Mormonism or in the Mormon church.

Yes, I have left. Yes, I want people to know I have 'moved on' and have 'healed many of my issues' from 40 years a Mormon. And yet, I desire to keep speaking strongly the truth of my time there; the truth of my Mormon life of fear, guilt, confusion, blind obedience, pain, worry, deep shame, and insecurity. Most of all I desire to express what I feel to be the most damning legacy of Mormonism to me which was the snatching away of my own divine, inner power of self guidance. In its place I was issued a church concocted, electroplated, liahona, made of cobbled together teachings, historical fiction, and the opinions of men mingled with scripture. This theft of self compass through relentless, expertly crafted brainwashing teachings from infancy onward kept me rudderless and relying on church 'inspired' guidance until I was nearly forty. These ten years post-Mormon have been outright grunt work hiding out in bunkers of inner self searching; scaling dizzying cliffs of despair and low self- esteem; and shuddering in blasts of scathing resentment and bitterness from former Mormon friends and loved ones.

Oh yes! I am chipping off the Mormon crust from my life and moving on! But I am still wanting to shine a spotlight of reminder on what happens to an individual recruited as the drone, either through birth or conversion, in service to power hungry and toxic religion.

I joined the church at 19, having endured 19 years of physical, sexual, emotional abuse in my family. Boy, did Joseph Smith sound like a rescuer to me! I needed him desperately to bless my life with his gospel and his religion and the power of his personality, or so I was taught.

But you know, a funny thing happened; I moved in with various LDS families so that the gospel could be taught to me first hand, and the abuse and pornography and lies continued. When I would approach a bishop for help in overcoming this and past abuse, I've had some pretty intense counsel, such as: how old were you when you were raped the first time? (I was 8) Well, then, because you were at the age of accountability, you are morally responsible for it; and also, you could have chosen to kill yourself instead of being raped. Or, this is your cross to bear, you chose it in the pre-existence, so deal with it! Or, smile and endure to the end, even though priesthood abuse just kept coming, they doubted me, not them.

I am a very good abused child, teenager, woman, Mormon woman. I can do that all so well, endure to the end, keep serving, keep smiling, serve, serve, serve, because you'll have it all in the end!

The problem is that after learning about Joseph Smith marrying other women, and coming on to young teenagers, I felt nauseated, deceived by the leaders of today's church. In fact, I never left an abusive home - I joined another one with millions of members! I am now being treated twice a week for post traumatic stress disorder, and let me tell you, I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach, and I am so glad that I've found all of you exmormons! I was married in the temple, I've had seven callings at one time; I joined 25 years ago and have seen many people go through hell. I am glad to be working through this.

I think any time you leave any sort of group like the morg you have feelings of self-recrimination...how could I have been so foolish? let myself get sucked in? etc.. it seems pretty normal, because you are seeing a much bigger picture than you were in the beginning... I just try to remind myself that, had I truly seen the whole big picture at the time, I no doubt would have run away screaming... unfortunatly for us, the church is really good at hiding the parts of the picture they don't want you to see.... the lucky ones are the ones who, like us, saw enough of it to realize that it wasn't a picture we wanted to be in.

That was one of my greatest sorrows about that church - that they keep people from throwing themselves wholeheartedly and joyously into that vast treasure house of learning and culture that's out there and set themselves up as critics and detractors of great literature and philosophy and so on. In spite of their "Glory of God Is Intelligence," they seem to absolutely revel in ignorance and simple-mindedness. I was often embarrassed for people to know I was a Mormon and many times dismayed at the spectacle of some ignorant hick proclaiming the superior spiritual sensitivity and discernment of the Lord's chosen while ridiculing the "learning of the world," etc. Sometimes I thought it was a little like Ma Kettle reciting "a reel good pome" to Emily Dickinson or Lord Byron. I was often so frustrated and felt so deprived that I couldn't explore that great world out there because worldly learning couldn't begin to compare with the true gospel as revealed in the scriptures, not to mention that we who were engaged in the Lard's work couldn't waste time on such superfluous time stealers. I have a primal scream working its way up into my throat from the thought of wasting 30 precious years reading church books, church magazines, "scriptures," R.S. and S.S. manuals, etc., when I could have been learning something.

I used to feel special too. I remember what a rush it was to think I had the healing power of God. Man, I tell ya, I could bless the sick with the best of them. Hell, my voice even changed when I spoke with God's voice. Everyone felt so special when I was finished. How many times did I bring tears to the eyes of the sick and the lonely? I could almost feel the spirit sliding through my hands and into the head of the anointed. Wow.

I could bless the sacrament as a priest with the best of them too. I took that duty seriously. I memorized the prayers and rehearsed them while at home. Several people came up to me and told me how the spirit had touched them during those prayers. Damn, I was good.

How funny it is to look back on it all now. To see how full of shit it is. But also to see how real it can be to the people who live it every day. To see it permeate their lives. I was golfing last Friday with a guy who took it seriously. Both his golf and his Savior. He prayed before he began playing. With the first hole I could tell it was going to be a long day. He hit it down the fairway, a nice shot in my book, and what did he say? "Good thing I paid my tithing." Which might have been funny if he hadn't been so damn serious. My ball also went down the fairway and I was able to say... "Good thing I worship Satan."

I was solidly convinced that those outside of the church didn't have the least clue as to what happiness could be theirs, if only they'd join the One and Only True Church.

I spent way too much time on my mission trying to convince other people that they weren't really happy, that they'd only know true happiness if they let me baptize them. Fortunately, most of them were wiser than I was then. But man, I look back and think of what a jerk I was, presuming that I knew all these people weren't happy, and that I had the only thing that could possibly change it for them.

Indeed, when I left the church, that was one of the main things my wife watched for, expecting me to become a miserable, unhappy creature. When it didn't happen, that's when she began her own quest, leading her out of the church, too.

Yes..."only we mormons are truly happy." I bought that one when I was growing up, but couldn't figure out why I was the only mormon that didn't feel truly happy. After I left I received a five-page typewritten letter from my brother (who I guess was "truly happy") telling me that nobody who isn't in the church has "true happiness and joy." I made him take back all he said in this letter years later, after his many years of agony in the church made him leave. He is now truly happy out of the church. I can tell this time that his happiness is real. The church has no corner on happiness, or truth, for that matter. I guess if you tell people they are happy enough times they will believe it. Or at least pretend to so that they don't stand out in church as a dissenter.

There is a depression that goes with leaving the church. I have been seperated from my family by it for years. I am beginning to rebuild those relationships one by one after almost 15 years. I had to seperate myself from them to get myself "deprogrammed." If I stated I felt separated and wanted to be closer to them, I used to hear that I had chosen to leave the church, so the separation I felt was my own fault. I only need to come back and all would be just great again... except that I would again feel like a total hypocrite, as I didn't believe. I wasn't strong enough early on to fight this battle. The thing was, I had left the church, not my family. They left me, I didn't leave them.

Yesterday I told my sister that I get so angry with the church's rhetoric about "family first." I have always found the priority to be church, ward, family and finally God. I was a wreck by the end of the conversation so I don't recall it all. A lot came out, who knows what will happen next. She will either attempt to be a part of my life or she won't. If not, I think I will walk away. This time it will be her choice, not mine. I refuse to be the only one trying, it's too painful. The church forces people to choose the organization over their families. That in itself should prove how false it is. But I would still take all the floundering, depression and loneliness I felt over the years to returning to the crap that is the morg.

I moved so far away partly because it is less lonely to be among strangers than to be around people who you expect love from and get nothing.

[The following is a translation of a post on the German e-mail list]:

I am still in the process of freeing myself, after fourteen years as a member and almost a year of trying to get free. I suppose the process will take a long time, maybe even years, and maybe as long as I live. Still, I can feel that I am growing tremendously in the process. Nowadays I think much more critically and analytically than I did before starting this process of liberation. The quality of my life has improved, since I have taken over for myself the control of my thoughts and acts and no longer permit myself to be supervised and led by the church.

For more comments from former Mormons: Voices 1,   Voices 2,   Voices 3,   Voices 4,   Voices 5.

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

Comments: packham@teleport.com

©  2001 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included