Reasons Ex-Mormons give for leaving the LDS Church

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Reasons Ex-Mormons give
for leaving the LDS Church

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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 Mormon.
  • 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:

Accurate 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 motivation.

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 faith."
  • "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 disbelief of the Book of Mormon (5%)
  • Emphasis on blind faith / Obedience to church leaders (5%)
  • Found more peace outside the religion (4%)
  • General mindset of the fanatics of the LDS religion (4%)
  • LDS/religious logical fallacies/manipulations (3%)
  • Cult-like temple ceremonies (3%)
  • Book of Abraham (3%)
  • Character of Joseph Smith (3%)
  • Desire to uphold personal ethics (3%)
  • LDS stand vs. intellectuals (2%)
  • Brigham Young's teachings (i.e. blood atonement, race, etc) (2%)
  • Polygamy (2%)
  • LDS vs. feminist views (2%)
  • Book of Mormon archaeology (2%)
  • LDS stand on gay issues (2%)
  • Fatigue/ depression (2%)
  • Racial issues (2%)
  • Unanswered prayers about LDS "truth" (2%)
  • General dissatisfaction with apologetic (church scholars) answers (2%). 1

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" 8 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

Sponsored link:

Links to ex-Mormon web sites:

Individual essays that may be of interest to those leaving the Church:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Ex-Mormon," Wikipedia, 2007-SEP-03, at:

  2. "ExMormon Survey," Mister Poll, 2001-MAR, at:

  3. Mary Ann and Steve Benson, "It's become Red Square on Temple Square," Arizona Republic, 1994-MAY-22, at:

  4. "Chapter 12: Preventing Personal Apostasy: Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young," Page 79. Online at:

  5. Scott Tracy, "Why they leave," NetXNews, 2007-SEP-23, at:

  6. "Scotts3133t," "The opinion section at the local paper," New Order Mormons, 2007-SEP-=19, at:

  7. Leslie Reynolds, "Mormons in Transition," Gratitude Press. (1996).

  8. Maxine Hanks, "Women and Authority: Re-Emerging Mormon Feminism," Signature Books, (1992). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

  9. Ben B. Banks, "Feed My Sheep," LDS Conference, 1999-OCT, at:

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Copyright © 2007 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-SEP-24
Latest update: 2008-JUL-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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