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Note from the author: If you are one of the Reddit users quoted in this post, and would like attribution, just let me know! I know most users on exMormon subreddit aren’t open about who they are, for personal reasons, so I didn’t want to label them just in case.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done an excellent job at demonizing those who leave, quickly attaching the label of “anti-Mormon” to anyone who makes negative claims about the church—regardless of how much evidence they’re based on.

Someone on Reddit today suggested that it’s time for exMormons to “turn the tables”, so to speak, and I completely agree. It’s time we stopped letting the church control the dialogue about why people leave. Members typically have an inaccurate view of why people choose to leave the church (see: Top 5 Myths and Truths About Why Committed Mormons Leave the Church).

It is simply not fair that exMormons are judged into silence by many church members when they leave. Bitterness is a natural reaction to feeling like you’ve been deceived, and exMormons don’t deserve to be treated like they’re bad people because they took an interest in church history and investigating the church’s claims.

ExMormons are currently in a defensive position, thanks to these factors. The church asserts that we have made a wrong choice. So here are some ideas for turning the tables on that idea, and generating a more correct narrative of disaffected members.

1. Don’t be afraid to announce your resignation, and why you made that decision.

Everyone has a different situation when it comes to leaving the church, so for some this one just might not be possible. But for those in a semi-decent position to do so, resigning with openness and honesty can be a powerful tool in helping members of the church want to understand the real issues, and judge less. Cult experts (whose logic also applies to high-demand religions) agree that former members are the most powerful tool for helping members of a high-demand religion or organization “wake up”, or in this case—simply open their minds to the possibility that what they are being taught doesn’t hold up to investigation.

If you decide to be public about your transition away from the church, don’t make it all facts and logic. Unfortunately, these aren’t super effective at opening minds (shockingly). Make sure you explain the emotional process of leaving, and how you’ve felt throughout what was probably a really difficult journey. While combining that with actual information, of course.

2. Don’t let people shame you into feelings of guilt.

Feeling weird, unexplainable guilt can be common when someone leaves a high-demand religion, however solid their reasons for leaving may be. Even the most strong-minded exMormons can be left with remnants of guilt for crimes they know logically they aren’t committing.

State your situation and beliefs with confidence, making it clear why you can’t stay. You are not a bad person for refusing to praise a man who married his foster daughters, or for not believing in a book that is provably fictitious. In fact, you are probably exercising more moral courage than you ever have before, by refusing to accept the moral relativism Mormons exercise by accepting terrible things church leaders have said and done.

3. Be kind.

Mormons typically believe that you don’t need religion to be a good person, and that there is truth and goodness in many places, but this doesn’t always show in their reactions to people leaving the church. Many members, especially those who have only ever experienced life in the church, don’t understand what life and people are like outside of the church. They have been taught to think that leaving the church only leads to unhappiness, sin, and generally becoming a worse person. Essentially, they afraid of life outside th church – as many of us also once felt. It’s important to show Christ-like compassion (your beliefs in Christ aside!) to make it obvious that you don’t become some evil sinner once you decide to sever ties with the LDS church.

Also, people respond to kindness. If you seem attacking/bitter/mean/negative in any way, most members will shut you off, refusing to acknowledge your concerns as legitimate. So let’s do our best to be nice. 🙂

4. Encourage investigation, but don’t apply too much pressure.

You have the ability to verify every so-called anti-mormon claim I have made, and yet rather than check it out, you would rather call me a liar?” – Reddit user

The ideal outcome of exMormons being open about their transition is members beginning to think for themselves as they investigate their claims. It’s not about trying to get people to leave the church, but trying to open up their minds, become more compassionate, and develop a more correct understand about why people leave.

Let members know that you understand why they may choose to stay. As you have been on both sides of the fence, you have the advantage of empathy, while members probably only have sympathy at best. You know how scary it is to have to search out answers for yourself instead of relying on authority figures, so don’t incite any additional fear in members close to you by pressuring them. Be calm, be collected, and as we just said—be kind. If members do decide to leave the church someday, they need to feel like they have some support, because many will have next to none.

 

 5. Let people live their own lives and make their own decisions.

I’ve had at least half a dozen conversations with my mom about some of the real (read: not strawman) issues, and every time I make a claim that isn’t faith-promoting (such as “Joseph Smith was in prison the day of his death precisely because he used his mayoral authority to disobey the First Amendment to the constitution”), she will respond with “I don’t believe that.”” – Reddit user

One of things many exMormons dislike most about the church is how it preaches agency while seemingly removing it. Of course members feel that they make 100% of their own decisions, but do any of us really make our own decisions 100%? Or are we all affected by outside influences, pressures, societal standards, and culture?

Unfortunately, many of us find that no matter what legitimate information we present members with, they will dismiss it or minimize it. (Because cognitive dissonance.) When they are truly not interesting in hearing what you have to say, let it go. Don’t make it your life mission to get people to leave the church. (Though you can certainly be actively engaged in spreading truth in the most respectful way possible… difficult sometimes, I know.) Be loving and understanding above all else.

6. Don’t let members belittle you.

One good tip I saw on Reddit was to avoid religious jargon, and break down the church’s claims etc. using regular language with meanings that are universally agreed upon. Here’s what they said:

To help people face up to the truly extraordinary claims about the universe they are advocating, I think we ought to stop using religious jargon, and unpack it into more ordinary language. Religious jargon has become common and people are familiar with talk of holy spirits and heavenly father and so on, and this can obscure the extraordinary claims associated with these objects. Heavenly father is, if anything at all, a superhuman from another planet, on Mormonism. And that’s what we should talk about him as to break the spell of familiarity and help people face up to the strangeness and extraordinary nature of their religious beliefs, even if they want to keep them. Mormons don’t have a better method for getting at the truth than any other religion. In fact, according to all the evidence available, they are fooling themselves in the same way that all competing religions and superstitions are fooling others.” – Reddit user

One thing most exMormons can agree on in that the tables do need to be turned. Maybe you’re a person who is willing to spend time in the apologetic forest when discussing things, or maybe you’re not—either way is fine. Just don’t be afraid to be authentic. You don’t owe anyone any more discussion about you reasons for leaving than you are comfortable giving, though in my opinion, more is better. Remember that most of the LDS church’s claims are obviously ridiculous to most people, but when they’re all you’ve ever known, anything but them seems ridiculous.

Is it so crazy to believe that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon—even if it was in the short time frame he claimed? Not really. Is it crazy to believe a supernatural force helped him do it with a rock in a hat? Well… that’s your call.



Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Loran

    This is very interesting because it resurrects the classic “how to
    witness to a Mormon” genre of anti-Mormon criticism popular among
    Evangelicals for decades, but in a secular liberal context.

    “The
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done an excellent job at
    demonizing those who leave, quickly attaching the label of
    “anti-Mormon” to anyone who makes negative claims about the
    church—regardless of how much evidence they’re based on.”

    This
    opening bodes ill for any possibility of serious discourse or
    subatnative airing of opposing views with these folks. The
    psychological and emotional dye has apparently already been cast here
    (despite the standard paean to “evidence”). The church has, of course,
    “demonized” no one. Apostasy from that church has a specific meaning
    and certain kinds of processes, attitudes, and modes of conduct
    associated with it, but whether one believes in the truth claims of the
    Church or not, it is the Church that gets to decide the nature and
    definition of apostasy from it.

    “Someone on Reddit today
    suggested that it’s time for exMormons to “turn the tables”, so to
    speak, and I completely agree. It’s time we stopped letting the church
    control the dialogue about why people leave. Members typically have an
    inaccurate view of why people choose to leave the church (see: Top 5
    Myths and Truths About Why Committed Mormons Leave the Church).”

    No, they don’t have inaccurate views about this, mostly because
    ex-Mormons and openly critical apostates are ready and willing to tell
    others why they’ve left ad infinitum. But this is secondary to the
    known patterns of apostasy (known to the saints, that is) that are for
    all intents, following the parable of the sower, invariable among human
    beings.

    “It is simply not fair that exMormons are judged into silence by many church members when they leave.”

    Note that it is not fair that faithful members interpret apostasy and
    evangelical, activist propagandizing against the church in a way that is
    not consistent with the way critics of the church see themselves. And
    what it this about being “judged into silence?” I hadn’t noticed any
    dearth of online venues for attacks on and criticisms of the church by
    those who have left it recently, nor does it appear that the heavy hand
    of Mormon judgement has yet shut down the Snyder’s new forum, which is
    anything but silent (or any of the old ones).

    “Bitterness is a
    natural reaction to feeling like you’ve been deceived, and exMormons
    don’t deserve to be treated like they’re bad people because they took an
    interest in church history and investigating the church’s claims.”

    Its also a natural reaction to “kicking against the pricks,” a
    scriptural reference to the psychological dynamics attending fighting
    against the truth when one knows, or even suspects, that this is what he
    is doing.

    “ExMormons are currently in a defensive position,
    thanks to these factors. The church asserts that we have made a wrong
    choice. So here are some ideas for turning the tables on that idea, and
    generating a more correct narrative of disaffected members.

    1. Don’t be afraid to announce your resignation, and why you made that decision.”

    But wait…I thought you had been “judged into silence”?

    “Everyone has a different situation when it comes to leaving the
    church, so for some this one just might not be possible. But for those
    in a semi-decent position to do so, resigning with openness and honesty
    can be a powerful tool in helping members of the church want to
    understand the real issues, and judge less.”

    No, helping members
    understand “the real issues” and “judge less” has little if anything to
    do with it. What the author really means here is not “understand the
    real issues” but “accept our arguments and leave the church with us.”
    Dost thou doubt? No reason to, really, as in the very next sentence the
    actual game is given away (unwittingly, it would seem, which makes it
    all the more interesting from a psychological standpoint):

    “Cult
    experts (whose logic also applies to high-demand religions) agree that
    former members are the most powerful tool for helping members of a
    high-demand religion or organization “wake up”, or in this case—simply
    open their minds to the possibility that what they are being taught
    doesn’t hold up to investigation.”

    No, they don’t really want the
    faithful membership to understand the issues so much as they want them
    to, in understanding them in the way they wish them to be understood,
    “wake up” and realize that the church and its teachings are a fraud.

    “If you decide to be public about your transition away from the church, don’t make it all facts and logic.”

    I have not observed facts and logic to be the forte of many, if not most active critics of the church, but not to digress…

    “2. Don’t let people shame you into feelings of guilt.

    Feeling weird, unexplainable guilt can be common when someone leaves a
    high-demand religion, however solid their reasons for leaving may be.
    Even the most strong-minded exMormons can be left with remnants of guilt
    for crimes they know logically they aren’t committing.”

    Translation: ignore, talk over, put your fingers in your ears, or accuse
    faithful members/apologists of various ists and isms culled from the
    surrounding secular world when they subject you to serious, searching
    questions and attempt to engage you in coherent, logical argumentation.

    “State your situation and beliefs with confidence, making it clear why
    you can’t stay. You are not a bad person for refusing to praise a man
    who married his foster daughters, or for not believing in a book that is
    provably fictitious.”

    If wishes were horses then beggars could
    ride, and if beggars beg questions, we can only wish those questions
    will at some point be attended to.

    “In fact, you are probably
    exercising more moral courage than you ever have before, by refusing to
    accept the moral relativism Mormons exercise by accepting terrible
    things church leaders have said and done.”

    The author of this
    last statement doubtless believes himself very clever for accusing
    church members of being moral relativists based upon more begged
    questions that are highly contested and subject to serious doubt, and
    most of which have, overwhelmingly, been debunked since the 19th century
    for any fair minded interlocutor.

    “Mormons typically believe
    that you don’t need religion to be a good person, and that there is
    truth and goodness in many places, but this doesn’t always show in their
    reactions to people leaving the church. Many members, especially those
    who have only ever experienced life in the church, don’t understand what
    life and people are like outside of the church.”

    This is because
    most Mormons live on remote mountain tops or isolated valleys far from
    civilization, and have no non-member friends or family members.

    “They have been taught to think that leaving the church only leads to
    unhappiness, sin, and generally becoming a worse person. Essentially,
    they [are] afraid of life outside the church – as many of us also once
    felt. It’s important to show Christ-like compassion (your beliefs in
    Christ aside!) to make it obvious that you don’t become some evil sinner
    once you decide to sever ties with the LDS church.”

    This is
    basically self-serving pep talking intended to rally the troops, but its
    intellectual seriousness and actual connection to the real world is
    questionable.

    Next, the proselytizing begins:

    “4. Encourage investigation, but don’t apply too much pressure.

    You have the ability to verify every so-called anti-mormon claim I
    have made, and yet rather than check it out, you would rather call me a
    liar?” – Reddit user”

    Loran: no, I’ll dismantle your anti-Mormon
    claims syllable by syllable and then point out that your critical
    thinking abilities are wanting. If you have clearly lied, I may point
    that out as well if necessary. I may even bear my testimony – at which
    you will chuckle knowingly – and then turn off my computer, pour myself a
    root beer, and throw “Destroy all Monsters” on the DVD player.

    Oh, and by the way, this next statement is as disingenuous as any I’ve ever encountered:

    “The ideal outcome of exMormons being open about their transition is
    members beginning to think for themselves as they investigate their
    claims. It’s not about trying to get people to leave the church, but
    trying to open up their minds, become more compassionate, and develop a
    more correct understand about why people leave.”

    “Let members
    know that you understand why they may choose to stay. As you have been
    on both sides of the fence, you have the advantage of empathy, while
    members probably only have sympathy at best.”

    There is no
    necessary reason to believe that because one has been both inside and
    outside of the church, one has any special “empathy” for anybody else
    undergoing a “faith crisis” of any kind. One’s motives here, it would
    seem, are one’s own, and based upon one’s own internal thought world and
    interpretation of what one believes is evidence against the church.

    “You know how scary it is to have to search out answers for yourself instead of relying on authority figures,”

    Self-satisfied, smug assurances to the courageous rebels that they are
    intellectually superior to the hoi polloi who have not yet “woken up.”
    Yes, how many times have we seen this before?

    “5. Let people live their own lives and make their own decisions.

    “One of things many exMormons dislike most about the church is how
    it preaches agency while seemingly removing it. Of course members feel
    that they make 100% of their own decisions, but do any of us really make
    our own decisions 100%? Or are we all affected by outside influences,
    pressures, societal standards, and culture?”

    Yes, we are, and
    this is the case whether one is LDS, Catholic, Buddhist, Confucion, an
    atheist, a Wiccan, or a worshiper of Chuck E. Cheese. It is also
    strongly the case among NOMs and ex-Mormons who come to adopt a body of
    alternative, non-LDS standards and practices and who congregate around
    Internet forums and support groups for affirmation and general
    church-bashing. Only “freethinking” progressives who have left the
    church and liberated themselves from its suffocating chains are truly
    autonomous beings and captains of their own ships.

    “Unfortunately, many of us find that no matter what legitimate information we present members with…”

    Begging…

    “they will dismiss it or minimize it. (Because cognitive dissonance.)”

    Or, they may philosophically disassemble your anti-Mormon claims like a
    surgeon removing a cancerous tumor from healthy tissue, wielding their
    linguistic and logical scalpel like a Katana, and not because of
    cognitive dissonance, but because your arguments were fallacious and
    your research slipshod.

    Self-satisfied proselytization continues:

    “When they are truly not interesting in hearing what you have to say,
    let it go. Don’t make it your life mission to get people to leave the
    church. (Though you can certainly be actively engaged in spreading truth
    in the most respectful way possible… difficult sometimes, I know.) Be
    loving and understanding above all else.”

    And, above all else:

    6. Don’t let members belittle you.

    A look at the main webpage, however, will clearly demonstrate that this does not extend to LDS apologists, or to FAIR.

    • Porter Rockwell

      I would counter that the insinuation that this is a genre of anti-Mormon criticism by contrast is the much more flagrant offender of casting “psychological and emotional dye.” Labeling something as “anti Mormon” has the effect of invoking decades of parental inculcation against some scary unseen force. You are more than welcome to call us biased. We absolutely are. The moment you invoke “anti Mormonism” you weaken your argument by appealing to the boogeyman.

    • Brian Kohrman

      Hi, Loran,
      You have a lot to say here, but I’d like to respond to one point in particular. You said, “The church has, of course, ‘demonized’ no one”. I’ll clarify what an ex-member might mean when they say they have been demonized. The church goes to great lengths to portray ex-members as sinful, confused, deceived, miserable, lazy, prideful, rebellious, disloyal, and dishonest. This causes members to fear and mistrust anyone who has left the church. This is vilification, and is unfair. Recently, Elder Uchtdorf has made some kinder statements that admit doubters are often sincere, honest, and diligent. Overall, though, the message the church gives is that doubters are not to be trusted. This has caused a lot of pain for me, and for many other sincere people whose beliefs have changed.
      Loran, I believe that you are sincere. I am also sincere. People can see the same evidence very differently. It is not helpful or kind to say the other person is evil for having a different understanding of the same set of facts. I’ll now give some examples of this from LDS materials.

      “If They Harden Not Their Hearts”, D&C Seminary Manual, Chapter 12
      The lesson quotes Brigham Young, implying that people leave because they are prideful and listening to Satan:

      “Men begin to apostatize by taking to themselves strength, by hearkening to the whisperings of the enemy who leads them astray little by little, until they gather to themselves that which they call the wisdom of man;
      then they begin to depart from God, and their minds become confused.”

      It then gives a list of reasons that people leave the Church. This list discredits people who leave and makes it look like they could not possibly be honest, sincere seekers of truth.

      “Discuss with students reasons for individual apostasy:
      Pride… Rebellion… Sin and Transgression… Faultfinding”

      Here’s another example.
      “Avoiding Personal Apostasy”, Ensign, June 2009, By Elder Claudio D. Zivic

      “Apostasy frequently results when a person commits serious sin but does not repent. To silence his conscience or justify his sinful actions, the individual moves away from the truth, looking for imperfections in others or questioning Church doctrine with which he no longer agrees.”

      Some of the best examples come from these manuals.
      “Preventing Personal Apostasy”, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, Chapter 12

      This lesson emphasizes the idea that those who leave the church are blind and sinful. It also teaches that we should never question church leaders. Keep in mind that these quotes were all from a single lesson and presented together to emphasize the point.

      “It was said here this morning that no person ever apostatized, without actual transgression. Omission of duty leads to commission.”

      “People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness…”

      “They experience darkness, ignorance, doubt, pain, sorrow, grief, mourning, unhappiness; no person to condole [lament] within the hour of trouble, no arm to lean upon in the day of calamity, no eye to pity when they are forlorn and cast down; and I comprehend it by saying death, hell and the grave. This is what they will get in exchange for their apostasy…”

      “You have known men who, while in the Church, were active, quick and full of intelligence; but after they have left the Church, they have become contracted in their understandings, they have become darkened
      in their minds and everything has become a mystery to them, and in regard to the things of God… This is precisely the position of those who leave this Church; they go into the dark, they are not able to judge, conceive or comprehend things as they are. They are like the drunken man…”

      “Let a man or woman who has received much of the power of God, visions and revelations, turn away from the holy commandments of the Lord, and it seems that their senses are taken from them, their understanding and judgment in righteousness are taken away, they go into darkness, and become like a blind person who gropes by the wall.”

      “Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy”, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 27

      This lesson once again criticizes those whose beliefs about the church change. It calls them haughty, prideful, careless, traitors, Judas-like, sycophants, darkened in mind, enemies of truth, servants of the devil, apostates, and covenant breakers. It emphasizes the idea that apostates are evil and that they spread lies about the church and its leaders. It is very condemning in tone. The lesson creates fear of ever disagreeing with church authority, because that would also lead to apostasy. It is designed to defame and discredit any who leaved the church, and it teaches members to distrust and look down on them.

      “Those who apostatize lose the Spirit of God, break their covenants, and often persecute members of the Church.”

      “…the apostate is left naked and destitute of the Spirit of God, and he is, in truth, nigh unto cursing, and his end is to be burned. When once that light which was in them is taken from them they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas-like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors.”

      “Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached, good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant.”

      There are so many more examples like this in church literature. You should know many other organizations say the same thing. Usually, any organization that makes an exclusive claim to truth and authority will also have teachings like this. It only makes sense- if they have the one and only truth, the only reason someone would leave it is because of deception or evil, right? Unfortunately, this kind of teaching damages families and relationships, whether they are true or not. Let me give some parallels from other organizations.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses

      The Jehovah’s Witness organization portrays those who leave their organization as evil, prideful, rebellious, deceived by the devil, lying, treacherous, “mentally diseased”, miserable, sinners who were probably offended and have turned their back on God, and who are trying to lead the faithful away from the Truth. Members are taught to shun such people, and never to discuss or read the ideas of “apostates”. This includes those who convert to another faith. The organization also stresses complete obedience to its leadership and rules.

      I believe these teachings are well intentioned. The JW leadership believes that they must protect their congregation from influences that would deceive them. They are certain that their religion is true, therefore, only the influence of Satan could lead believing Witnesses to fall away. These teachings make Witnesses
      fearful of any information that is not provided directly by the organization’s leadership. They also cause Witnesses to deeply fear former JWs, even family members and loved ones- they must be
      influenced by Satan. Even if a former Witness claims to be happier, Witnesses will not believe him or her. These ideas have the power to rip families apart.

      Here are some examples of these teachings from their publications.

      From July 2011 Watchtower Magazine:
      “If we stop actively supporting Jehovah’s work, then we start following Satan. There is no middle ground.”

      From Examining the Scriptures Daily, Aug 18, 2011, p.83
      “Satan was the first creature to turn apostate. Modern-day apostates display characteristics similar to those of the Devil. Their mind may be poisoned by a critical attitude toward individuals in the congregations, Christian elders, or the Governing Body. Some apostates oppose the use of the divine name, Jehovah. They are not interested in learning about Jehovah or in serving him. Like their father, Satan, apostates target people of integrity. No wonder servants of Jehovah avoid all contact with them!”

      From Feb. 2004 Watchtower Magazine
      “It would be a mistake to think that you need to listen to apostates or to read their writings to refute their arguments. Their twisted, poisonous reasoning can cause spiritual harm and can contaminate your faith like rapidly spreading gangrene.”

      From the recent JW sermon, “Beware of Human apostates”

      “Like Satan, human apostates are unruly men who cook up wicked reasoning and season their brew
      with poisonous lies that deceive minds.”

      “Apostates do not drift away from the truth. They deliberately decide to go out from among God’s people because they are not our sort. Human apostates are part of the seed of the serpent spoken of in Genesis
      3:15.”

      “Apostasy often starts with prideful rejection of counsel and escalates into bitterness and jealousy – James 3:14. Because apostates allow bitterness to take root in their heart, they become defiant of and false
      to the truth.”

      “What is it that apostates want? Most are not content to simply leave the faith they once viewed as true. They want to take others with them. Rather than going out and making their own disciples, many apostates seek to draw away Christ’s disciples after themselves… To accomplish their goal of drawing away disciples after themselves or dividing the congregation, apostates may use smooth talk on the internet, on television or through letters to loyal witnesses of Jehovah.”

      “Suppose a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who was infected with a contagious deadly disease. Would you reason that limited contact is okay? Similarly human apostate are mentally diseased and they try to infect others with their disloyal teachings. Jehovah, the great physician tells us to avoid contact with them.”

      “Avoiding apostates means we will not allow them in our homes by reading their literature, watching TV programs that feature them, examining their websites or adding our comments to their blogs… We love the God of Truth. We are not interested in twisted teachings that contradict God’s word of truth.”

      “Apostates are not sincere in their expressions. Their aim is to manipulate your mind and undermine your faith…”

      “Because they oppose the truth, apostates are part of the Anti-Christ. They are liars and deceivers, out to destroy your relationship with Jehovah God and his son Christ Jesus.”

      “Heeding his inspired warnings means our very life. How thankful we are for divine warnings against apostasy. May we show our appreciation by walking in God’s word of Truth. May we stay busy in the work
      Jesus assigned us to do; Sharing God’s word of Truth with others. By doing so, you will forever enjoy Jehovah’s divine seal of approval.”

      Do you see how similar these teachings are? These teachings literally rip JW families apart when someone leaves the JW faith. Are they justified in using teachings like this? Is it good? Is it right? Imagine being a loyal JW who has come across evidence which, you believe, discredits the JW claims to truth and authority. What would that feel like?

      It’s not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here’s a story from a man who left the Worldwide Church of God, which also claimed to be the one true church:

      “When I was first exiting, I was sensitive to any criticisms against Herbert Armstrong. I didn’t trust anyone that had anything negative to say about him. We had been taught that disfellowshipped members had turned their minds over to Satan, and that they’d do anything to cause members to stumble. I wasn’t about to let this happen to me, so I steadfastly clung to the belief that HWA [Herbert Armstrong] was ‘God’s end time Apostle’ and that it was my duty to protect his image as such.
      …I was told that reading false reports about HWA would lead to demon possession–allowing Satan to enter into my mind and allowing Satan to plant seeds of doubt which would fester and grow into discontent and
      rebellion.
      …I was afraid to probe deeper–truly afraid of losing my salvation if I found out too much. My mind would shut down from fear. To criticize Herbert Armstrong in any way was a guaranteed ticket to the Lake of Fire, so it was best to kill any bad thoughts or doubts before they took root. …I struggled with fear–fear that I
      had allowed Satan to turn my heart and mind against God’s true church. I was warned this would happen and I suffered from feeling that I had allowed myself to gain forbidden knowledge. …I was sure I had fallen into the trap that I had been warned about for years. It tortured me for some time, going back and forth
      between loyalty and doubt.”

      Here’s a couple examples from someone who left the Unification Church (Moonies):

      Jen Kiaba on “Life Without Reverend Moon”
      “In my upbringing, to question what we were taught was to invite Satan and the evil Spirit World into your mind; to fend off evil, one must quiet the questions and dive further into the readings and teachings of
      Rev. Moon.”

      TED Blog: Q&A with Diane Benscoter
      “Often, I would hear a song, or see a headline, or encounter someone that would bring up issues contradictory to the perspective of the group and it would just bounce off of me, because I knew that that was Satan invading. If it would start to make sense to me, it was Satan invading my thoughts. And this was reinforced by the group that that type of experience was as a result of a lack of faith. We were God’s soldiers and Satan was constantly trying to break down God’s soldiers. I needed to pray harder.
      Any critical question… was not acceptable. In circular logic, anything that questions belief means something evil, bad or Satan. It’s wrong to listen, it’s wrong to even play with ideas that are different.”

      You can find many examples like this from practically any group that claims to have the one and only truth- JWs, WCG, Seventh Day Adventists, Regnum Christi, Moonies, Radical Islam, Scientology, Westboro Baptist Church, and many, many more. I believe that it’s human nature to think this way. We tend to think, “I know I am right, therefore, anyone who disagrees must be deceived, confused, evil, or dishonest”. Unfortunately, this is very damaging, regardless of the religion it comes from.

      Loran, doubters in many religions are often sincere, honest, and diligent. We’ve simply come to different conclusions than you have. We are acting according to our consciences. I don’t ask you to agree with me, but I hope you can have a little more empathy. I’ll close with a quote from Russell M. Nelson that I truly love:

      “How can we have freedom of religion if we are not free to compare honestly, to choose wisely, and to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience? While searching for the truth, we must be free to
      change our mind—even to change our religion—in response to new information and inspiration… One’s religion is not imposed by others. It is not predetermined. It is a very personal and sacred choice, nestled
      at the very core of human dignity.”

      -Russell M. Nelson, “Freedom to Do and Be”, International Scientific and Practical Conference, “Religious Freedom: Transition and Globalization”

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