Reasons Ex-Mormons give
for leaving the LDS Church
Some commonly used definitions:
Cultural Mormon: A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
-- "... who either "... does not believe in all or part of its doctrine,
or who does not follow all of its practices." 1
Dry Mormon: An individual who follows Mormon teachings,
but has never been baptized.
Ex-Mormon (a.k.a. Ex-mo and exmo): An individual
who has left the
LDS Church, typically because of difficulty accepting some of its policies,
practices, or teachings.
Humanistic Mormons: A free thinker, Humanist,
cultural Mormon, or ex-Mormon who emphasizes Mormon culture and history, but does
not necessarily believe in the Mormon concept of God or in the
inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible or Book of
Jack Mormon An individual who is a baptized but relatively
inactive member of the LDS Church.
Nevermo: an individual who has never been a member of the LDS
church. The term is most commonly used by ex-Mormons.
According to Wikipedia:
"Many practicing cultural Mormons and Jack Mormons may keep their doubts
a secret, and maintain a facade of believing in the doctrines. This is
usually done to prevent conflicts within their families." 1
Lack of information on ex-Mormon's motivation:
measurements of why Mormons leave the LDS Church are in short supply. There are some opinion pieces
on the topic. There are also informal, Internet-based surveys dealing with this
subject. However, all of the latter involved self-selected subjects of unknown
Although the LDS church does issue annual statistical reports on membership
numbers, they do not include the number of resignations. The latter would
probably not be particularly significant anyway, because many ex-members simply
drift away without resigning. One informal survey among self-selected
participants showed that 56% of members who left the church
did not have their name formally removed from the Church's membership list. 2
One source stated that the "administrative action
form" requires that the Church to know the reason why a person elects to leave
the church. 3 If this is true, then we felt that the church probably has
statistical reports describing the reasons that former members have given for
leaving. We asked
for information from the Church, and were pleasantly surprised when we got a response. None of our
previous inquiries over the past decade were ever acknowledged or answered. The
response indicated that no such reports exist.
Teaching of Brigham Young:
Brigham Young led most of the Mormons on a trek to what is now Utah after
Joseph Smith's assassination. He wrote that individuals' own behaviors are responsible for them abandoning the Church:
"Very trifling affairs are generally the commencement of their
divergence from the right path" -- i.e. leaving the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints.
"If the Saints neglect to pray, and violate the day that is set apart
for the worship of God, they will lose his Spirit. If a man shall suffer
himself to be overcome with anger, and curse and swear, taking the name of
the Deity in vain, he cannot retain the Holy Spirit. In short, if a man
shall do anything which he knows to be wrong, and repenteth not, he cannot
enjoy the Holy Spirit, but will walk in darkness and ultimately deny the
"Many receive the Gospel because they know it is true; they are
convinced in their judgment that it is true; strong argument overpowers
them, and they are rationally compelled to admit the Gospel to be true upon
fair reasoning. They yield to it, and obey its first principles, but never
seek to be enlightened by the power of the Holy Ghost; such ones frequently
step out of the way."
"When men lose the spirit of the work in which we are engaged, they
become infidel in their feelings. They say that they do not know whether the
Bible is true, whether the Book of Mormon is true, nor about new
revelations, nor whether there is a God or not. When they lose the spirit of
this work, they lose the knowledge of the things of God in time and in
eternity; all is lost to them." 4
2001: Results of an informal poll:
A 2001-MAR survey of ex-Mormons by Mister Poll asked participants to "Please
indicate up to 7 main reasons why you finally decided to leave the church."
The most common results, sorted by percentages, were:
General disbelief of Joseph Smith as a chosen prophet (6%)
General dissatisfaction with apologetic (church scholars) answers (2%).
One curious result of the poll is that only 88% of participants described
themselves as heterosexual; 7% were homosexual and 3% bisexual. 2 This is slightly more homosexuals and bisexuals than one would expect from studies of
the incidence of homosexuality and bisexuality in the general population. Perhaps the
anti-gay policies of the LDS Church drive many sexual minorities away.
2007: Wikipedia essay on Ex-Mormons:
According to Wikipedia: 1
Research shows that 43% of Mormon disaffiliates left due to unmet
spiritual needs. Of former Mormons surveyed, 58% switched to other faiths or
practices (mostly Christian). Of those with no current religious preference,
36% continued to pray often or daily. 7
However, "single reason disaffiliates are rare among former Mormons"
Reasons for leaving may include: logical/intellectual appraisal, belief
changes/differences, spiritual conversions to other faiths, life crises &
poor or hurtful responsiveness by Mormon leaders or congregations. 2
Although many leave to be true to themselves or to a new belief structure,
they leave at a tremendous cost 9 feeling ostracized, pressured and
missing out on major family events such as temple weddings.
What happens after they leave?
According to Wikipedia:
"After their decision to leave Mormonism and the LDS church, ex-Mormons
typically go through a significant adjustment period as they re-orient their
lives religiously, socially, and psychologically. ..."
"Some ex-Mormons become adherents of primarily Protestant Christian
religions, while others become non-religious, atheistic, or adherents of
other faiths. 2 Ex-Mormon
attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism vary widely. Some ex-Mormons actively
proselytize against Mormonism, while others merely provide support to others
leaving the religion. Other ex-Mormons prefer to avoid the subject entirely,
while still others may try to encourage dialogue between adherents of their
new faiths and active Mormons. Attitudes of ex-Mormons also differ regarding
their church membership. Some formally resign, which the LDS church refers
to as "name removal," while others simply become inactive. ..."
Ex-Mormons who publicly leave Mormonism often face opposition in their
decision. Based upon a belief that those who leave the LDS church are in
danger of negative eternal consequences, Mormon peers, church officials, and
family members are strongly encouraged by leaders in the faith to attempt to
re-gather those who have left the faith. Sometimes these efforts succeed,
and ex-Mormons can rejoin their church after an extensive interview with a
church leader. 1
Recovery from Mormonism has hundreds of personal
stories by individuals leaving the LDS Church. See:
Chapter 14 of the Church Handbook, Page 129, describes the
steps required to formally leave the church. A paraphrase is available at:
"Anti-Mormons: Their 'Little Corner of Cyberspace'," a
review by FAIR -- an agency defending Mormonism -- of the Recovery from
Mormonism message board. The FAIR review is at:
http://www.fairlds.org/ The message board itself is at:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.