When I first told people I was leaving the church, my best friend unfriended me on Facebook. I haven’t spoken to her since. She was the first person I told, and she was the first person to reject me for being vulnerable.

The reason I had approached her before anyone else was because she’d never been super active in the church (though she wasn’t inactive) and because she was my best friend.  One time she told me she didn’t know if she believed in Jesus. So I figured if anyone could understand, she would. I was wrong. The psychological tendency to double down in your religion when someone you know leaves it took away my hopes for compassion from her.

In the coming months, friends both close and distant removed me from their social media accounts, made passive aggressive posts about me, and did nothing to stop me from feeling alone and unloved. This situation only worsened the more time went on and people realized it wasn’t just a phase they could bring me back from. (Though I didn’t talk about it publicly much.) There were others who were wonderful—don’t get me wrong—but too often those people were not my close friends, the ones I had relied on and trusted.

One friend wrote a post about me on his blog about why I was anti-Mormon. His reason? I had made him a “target” by answering his questions, responding to his passive aggressive attacks, and sharing honestly what I believe with him when it came up. Though he had been the one seeking out contention with me, I was to blame because I apparently gave the wrong responses. (Aka, not LDS ones.)

It didn’t stop there. Even after we both removed each other from every social media platform (with me blocking him so he wouldn’t be able to attack me anymore), he continued his tirade against me. He posted tweets about me that I’d never see, but those I knew did. When my husband asked him to leave me alone and stop being unkind, he said, “You allowed her to take you away from your covenants. That’s the most unkind thing I can imagine.” He apparently felt justified in his attempts to publicly shame me because of his belief in Mormonism, all the while unaware of how depressed and anxious his knives were making me feel.

Throughout this, one huge problem I’d never noticed about Mormonism became strikingly clear—the tendency for members to think that their idea of what’s “right” is more important than being kind. (And I realized I’d done the same thing in the past.) By using Christ as a justification in the same way Islamic terrorists cite the will of their God, some less compassionate Mormons feel that like Joseph’s marriage to a 14-year-old can be justified or minimized, their cruelty is somehow justified if it means it brings people back to the church.

Presumably. I find it more than a little bizarre that some members seem to think unkind comments, passive aggression, and the removing of friendship will bring someone back to the church. Maybe that’s not even their motivation, and people really can just be that nasty. So here’s a piece of advice for Mormons, and I’ll use the words of one of your best prophets, Gordon B. Hinkley to illustrate it:

Kindness may be the most pervasive argument for that which we believe.”

You would never treat someone you’re first teaching the gospel to like you treat people who have decided to leave it. Remember that justifying unkindness with your religious ideals makes you no different from any other religion you look down on for doing the exact same thing. Also I don’t know what Bible you’ve been reading, but I don’t recall a time when Christ kicked those who were down in the name of God.

Leaving the church is an intensely fragile time for someone, especially when almost everyone they know is Mormon. They feel alone and afraid. They are usually grieving what was once their entire world. A world they didn’t ever want to leave.

It is not, contrary to popular LDS belief, my fault that I lost my testimony. It is not my fault the missionaries didn’t tell me about Joseph’s 40 marriages to women who weren’t Emma, including teenagers and already married women. It is not my fault no one ever told me about Brigham’s teaching of blood atonement or Adam-God theory or the doctrine that interracial marriage is and always will be a sin. It is not my fault that I can’t accept Thomas S. Monson, a man who has never displayed any signs of being a prophet, seer, or revelator, as having some divine connection with God that no one else has. If honesty means not deliberately giving a false narrative, and repentance means making restitution for wrongs, then I think the church has a lot of work to do.

People who leave the church feel utterly deceived and depressed. And somehow members think it’s ok to make them feel even worse. They fling around accusations of “anti-Mormonism” with no understanding of how awful someone’s journey out of the church has been, or how much they care about those remaining in it. (Not to mention the fact that most of us have never read anything “anti-Mormon”, only actual accounts from church history. There’s not a team of people just INVENTING crap about Joseph Smith. Accounts from witnesses, court proceedings, and even generally accepted church teachings damn him fine on their own.) No one likes seeing people they love be deceived. Think about The Matrix—would you be able to knowingly keep those you love deluded? For some people, the answer to that question is “yes”, because they think happiness is more important than truth. But don’t judge those who don’t think like that.

I have never talked about my disaffection to someone who has told me they don’t want to hear about it. Friends who have asked me not to tell them my reasons for leaving—I didn’t tell them. I respected them. I have censored myself, avoided being authentic to a certain degree, and hidden the deep pain I am feeling all in the name of trying to retain relationships that are important to me. I have been willing to surrender being understood in the name of staying connected. I don’t think it’s too insane to ask for a similar level of respect back. Or at least to not have unkind things said to me and about me.

It’s easy to think leaving the church is “the easy way out” when you have absolutely no idea how painful and difficult it is, and what moral courage it requires.

If I had left the church because of sin, or being offended, or any other less-than-solid reason, people being kind to me might have brought me back. People being cruel never would have. While I believe there was very little chance of me coming back to the church once I decided to leave, that chance is even smaller after experiencing what I can only describe as emotional abuse from certain members.

Be kind. Please. There is so much you don’t understand.

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.
  • PSC9586

    So sorry you experienced this ugliness. Please know that one of the things that makes this country great is religious freedom. As a result, there are so many wonderful religions full of genuine people. I am Jewish and the Reform movement in Judaism is awesome, but if you are a Christian, there are a number of really great Christian churches too. Different types for all different types. My brother loves music and he attends one of those rock-n-roll Christian churches and really loves it. Don’t let mormonism scare you away from other religions. There are so many nice ones out there.

    • Porter Rockwell

      This was an extremely nice comment. We really appreciate people who are loving and genuine. Thank you!

  • Steve Lowther

    “Does it have a name?”

    “It does. Passive aggression, rejection, or sure sign of a cult.”

    • Porter Rockwell

      Ha, I will neither confirm nor deny that I know what you’re referring to.

  • Anonymous

    I honestly don’t understand, but even though I don’t understand doesn’t give me, or any one the right to treat another human being disrespectfully. I myself have become inactive because of people in the church who are so blatantly mean and judgmental that it gives me anxiety and panic attacks to even think about attending church.
    I still believe, but I don’t understand people in the church who attack people who have left or who don’t join, it just doesn’t make sense to me. We should always be kind no matter what. Stay strong!

    • Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young

      Amen! I’m sorry you’ve experienced unkindness. That sucks. :/
      All the best from us. 🙂

  • Seth L.

    As someone who is just leaving the church I want to send this to my entire family.

  • canarycreations

    I stumbled across this article from a friend’s like on Facebook. I admire your courage, honesty and transparency about leaving the LDS church and I am very heartbroken for you to hear about your best friend’s reaction and the reaction of others. Growing up in the middle of Happy valley, Utah my whole life (and ultimately growing up as a devout non-denominational Jesus loving Christian in the middle of it), it’s a very interesting dynamic when it comes to leaving the church and the faith that you may have only ever known.
    Once you leave, you lose friends (close friends, distant friends), family members treat you different, some may even disown you because of who they think you’ve now become. I’ve seen it happen to many, many friends. The truth is, you exposed the truth within the walls of the LDS faith and to you, they crumbled down so hard that you may never look back. I would ENCOURAGE you that you have done an AMAZING thing. God has truly opened your eyes to see the lies, deception and deceit that has gone on around you for quite some time and it’s not something that many people have the courage, boldness and desire to find and expose. Although you respect the boundaries of your friends, I would encourage you to pray for opportunities to tell them about these things you discovered. It’s an uncomfortable conversation for sure, but everyone deserves to know! The LDS faith is 99% truth and that 1% lie, that 1% being the lies they hide/retort/disguise or even give excuses for, that is not truth at all!!
    Jesus said that when you seek the truth you will find it. He is the way, the truth and the life. Not the Jesus of the LDS faith who requires works from us, but the Jesus of the Bible who paid the ultimate price with his sacrifice – where it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.
    God bless!

  • Locke

    As a currently active member of the Mormon church, I do apologize for your experience. I have been so frustrated, and often still am, with all the harshness and intolerance that members constantly portray. Many just fall right into the culture never seeking to know or understand more, completely happy never diving deeper than the surface. Many only serve others and try to do what they’re commanded because they want god hood in the next life, not realizing that doctrinally Godhood’s whole goal is to serve, and that the end of the commandments is to point us to make charity a part of us. That being said, I do see both your frustration with the members and your problems with church history. While i full-heartedly believe the church is true, and because of that hope you one day reconsider leaving the church, I again have to say I’m sorry for all that you had to go through and hope the best for you.

    • paynetrain

      I have to agree with the above poster. I am sorry that you had this terrible experience with friends. I find that one of the most valuable assets that I have from my years of being a member is the friendships and connections I have made with people. You deserved respect and kindness in any decision that you made thoughtfully and carefully. I appreciate you sharing your feelings for others to read and understand what you–and many others–are going through. Thanks for making the world a better place–and for reminding me of that awesome Gordob B. quote!

  • Christie

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this article. I am struggling with how to explain to my family that I have decided to leave “the church.” I am also a returned missionary, a BYU grad with a brother who just left to serve his own mission. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and your experiences.

    • Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young

      This makes me so happy to hear. Good luck with everything. 🙂

  • Swagavad Gita

    1 Corinthians 13: 13 says that charity is greater than faith and hope. Members lose sight of that.

  • Tracy T

    Thank you for sharing your painful journey. It takes courage to step out and speak up about hat you are going through at a time when you are also very vulnerable. I left the LDS Church 15 years ago this Thanksgiving, and while there are a few of my former ward members who treat me with love and kindness, there are a great many more who, till this very day, will not engage with me on any social level whatsoever, not even when I give words of encouragement or well-wishes on Facebook posts they are tagged in by mutual friends. It hurts, but mostly I feel sad for them because they are missing out on what could be a great friendship. I now find friendship and support in the Messianic Jewish community, and have loving and thoughtful friends who are in various Christian denominations.

    I’m so pleased and impressed by the LDS people who have commented on your blogpost so far. They seem to be genuine, caring people and I applaud them giving you words of encouragement even though they may disagree with your view that Mormonism isn’t true. It’s sad to note that Mormons of that calibre are not as abundant as we might wish.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to you, and I hope you find peace and healing!

  • Tricia

    Stay strong. You have to pity the Mormons as they do not possess their own minds. They have no critical thinking process in their minds because they are programmed in the false lies of Mormonism. Just thank God that he gave you the Godly discernment to leave this well-masked cult from the pit of Hell. Now, your journey begins to find the REAL living God of the Bible, with no distortions. May God Bless and Keep you in the Palm of His Hands.

    Tricia Erickson,
    author: Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church VS The Office Of The Presidency Of The United States Of America.

  • Julie Davis Knight

    I am sorry that a few narrow-minded people have done this to you. Please know that we do not all feel this way. I am an active LDS member, and I believe in treating all people as Jesus Christ would. I have several family members and friends who have left the Church, and I have remained friends with most of them (one family member has estranged himself from us.) It is courageous to go against the grain, especially in such a tight culture. I wish you the best in your faith journey.

  • Sker

    Funny how people say that we have thrown away our covenants.
    When we are baptized, last time I checked, we covenanted to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn and to become a disciple of Jesus. In return, we are made members of the church and we get an addition to our conscience.
    Nothing more. Nothing less. Who is the one who’s rejecting their covenants when they act ugly at these times?

  • David Castro

    You know I have lived for the last few well more like 15 years in Idaho which is mostly Mormon and I have noticed most of them are hypocritical in their beliefs they say they follow the teachings of Jesus but they don’t live by the teachings of Jesus I myself am an atheist I do not believe in God but I respect those that have their faith in there GodBut most of them treat people bad that do not share the same belief structure I myself for know that if I’m wrong in my belief I’m going to hell and have accepted that but what I hated about all the Mormons and I have talked to actually more like 90% of them do not have an open mind because they believe their God or their belief is right I just saying live a spiritual life if that’s what you want have your faith in what you believe not what others tell you to believe and if you’re wrong accept it if you’re right I’m glad for you and always treat people with respect whether they believe in what you do or not
    Life your life on your terms

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