As Exmormons we’re often baffled as to why someone would want to join knowing the church's sordid history and some of its stranger doctrines, but I don’t think it’s that surprising. Someone looking to convert, especially if they are on this sub reading this post, probably already knows some of the issues. I’m guessing you’re attracted to the community, emphasis on family, good morals, and clean living which makes sense, since that’s what the church is selling. Before you go any further down the path of conversion, here are some things to consider.
Families are Forever
Did the missionaries ask you, “Do you want to be with your family forever?” I bet they did. What did you answer? I imagine you said, “Yes!” They then offered a way for you to have that. There are a couple of problems with this but let’s get into the time investment first. Everything a fully participating Mormon does is about making sure they will be with their family in the next life and only fully participating Mormons get this blessing. This means they have very little time with their family in this life.
One of the big selling points of Mormonism is the lack of paid clergy at the local level. This makes for a great soundbyte, but what it translates to is regular members doing it all. Your local Stake President, his counselors, your Bishop, and his counselors are all just regular people with day jobs and no pastoral training but tremendous power over their wards and stakes. Every program, Primary (children), Young Men's, Young Women's, Sunday School, Elder's Quorum (men), Relief Society (women), and others including cleaning the church building, are 100% staffed by members and the curriculum is centralized and tightly controlled by Salt Lake. They serve as leaders and teachers in these programs. These "callings" are A LOT of work. They are the reason the promise of prioritizing family doesn't translate into actually spending time with your family. In addition to that, you will be paired with a ministering partner to minister to two other people once a month and give a report. Two people will be paired up to minister to you. While it sounds good, these often turn into spying\tattling as they report the appointment to the Relief Society and Elder's Quorum presidencies who then discuss the needs of "struggling" members in ward council. Speaking of ward council, the meetings are endless. Mormonism is not just church on Sundays. It can take up to 10-20 hours a week depending on your calling.
Tithing (10% of your income) isn’t optional.
Everything hinges on the Temple. The church requires members to pay 10% of their income to the church in Tithing. Tithing is required for participation in temple ordinances (rituals) which are required to obtain the promise of an eternal family. If you have not already watched NewNameNoah’s videos on YouTube
of these ceremonies, please do so before joining. If you do not go through the temple and get the super-secret, I mean sacred, underwear your children will be judged. They will be told they will not be with you in heaven. They will cry themselves to sleep at night over it and I'm not exaggerating. If they end up getting married in the temple and you aren't endowed, guess what? You don't get to be there. Did I mention if you're not completely paid up on 10% of your income for the previous 12 months you're automatically disqualified? Did I mention if you're not completely paid up on 10% of your income for the previous 12 months you're automatically disqualified? It is not unusual for members to fork out large sums of money to attend a family member's wedding, sometimes just so no one knows you don't have your get-in-the-temple-card, because if you don't have that card, well, you're probably a baby eating crack addict.
For the Strength of Youth
One of the biggest draws of Mormonism is its youth programs. Not going to lie, Mormonism is very good at keeping kids away from drugs (other than abusing prescription opiates), alcohol, teenage pregnancy, and those other scary pitfalls all parents worry about. People often wonder how they do it. What's so special about Mormonism? What's so special are vast quantities of time spent being indoctrinated to a very narrow view of a "successful" life, immense social pressure, and discouragement of free thinking.
As an adult convert, you have a choice whether to be Mormon. Your children will not. You can tell yourself they will, because you'll provide a balance, but you'd be lying to yourself. The church replaces the parent if the parent isn't fully invested. While Mormonism pays lip service to free agency, there is very little of it in practice. Mormon children are "free" to choose the life the church prescribes. They are rarely free not to choose it. Unfortunately, this life your children will choose
includes far more than avoiding drugs, alcohol, or sex before a temple
marriage to another fully participating Mormon. It also includes going on a 2-year mission for young men and increasingly an 18-month mission for young women, which YOU will be expected to fund in addition to paying a full tithe. They will be pressured to go to a church school, to marry young, and to have children as soon as possible. The church is no longer growing from conversions, so they depend on good Mormons to raise up new good Mormons, even if it means a couple will struggle financially. It is not uncommon for Mormon parents to withhold financial assistance if a child refuses to go on a mission or doesn't want to go to a church college or university where the environment is even more stifling. They have one goal. To ensure their children will be with them in heaven.
Youth brainwashing activities (remember, all of these are staffed by members with day jobs just like you)
- Church on Sundays of course.
- Weekly Mutual (youth group) activities one night a week (sounds good right? Not when you start to really look at what these activities are. Some of them are downright nuts, like young girls dressing up in wedding dresses preparing to "get married" in the temple).
- Seminary every day of high school.
- All weekend youth conferences.
- Church dances (yes, your daughters will have to kneel on the floor if their dress looks too short to make sure it touches the ground)
- Monthly firesides.
- Standards nights in which they are taught everything about sex is evil, including masturbation.
- Soul crushing "worthiness" interviews where they are asked if they masturbate or watch porn and are then called to repentance through a process of repeated interviews to check their progress. (See 29 questions) These interviews are required for young men to get the priesthood and for all to go on youth temple trips where they get baptized over and over for dead people (have they told you that one yet?)
- Optional EFY, Trek "camps," I'm sure I'm leaving some out, but it's been a long time.
- Mission for boys at 18 is required. They will tell you encouraged, but it is absolutely required. A young man who does not go on a mission is a pariah and totally and completely undateable. Increasingly, young women are expected to go as well.
They monopolize so much of their time and social circle there’s little time to consider anything else. They don't even like youth to have non-member friends and how could they? They're always busy Mormoning. Sex before you get married? No temple for you, which means you will be separated from each other for eternity. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Women are Second Class Citizens
Before joining the Mormon church I encourage you to read Women in Mormonism
and Dear Mormon Man, tell me what you would do
The church is extremely stifling for women. While Mormon young men before going on a mission may be easier going and involved in more regular boy activities like sports and video games, Mormon young women are often all church all the time. It’s religious themed crafts, purity, planning for that temple wedding in the sky, all the time. You know how they say girls are so much meaner to each other than boys? Well Mormon girls are no different. The young women's program, which starts at age 12 is designed as a mommy robot making machine which is not conducive to individuality and free expression.
Your daughters likely won’t have dreams to become doctors, lawyers, politician, or any kind of high-power profession or career, because they already know their "divine calling" is to be a stay at home mom. Despite the church saying a lot of words about women getting an education and a vocation
it's still extremely stifling for women. They will be encouraged to gain a skill or vocation they can drop when they have the first baby and pick up "if needed" as a backup plan, should their priesthood holding provider not be able to adequately provide. It's a just in case plan. It's not the sky's the limit, you can be anything for Mormon girls and most drop out of school once they get married and have a baby somewhere between 19-23.
Unless your daughters are born with a very strong innate buck-the-system mentality they won’t be talking about going to Harvard or Yale or MIT. They WILL NOT have high aspirations. It’s hard enough for women without Mormonism holding them back. As a woman who didn't pursue a career in law like I absolutely should have and popped out four kids, environment matters. The people around you when you're young matters. What you are exposed to when you are at a very impressionable age matters. ***Note: There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman choosing to be a stay at home mother if that is what she chooses. It's a problem when it's presented as the best or most desirable option for everyone.
Mormon youth are often praised for what they don’t do
, as much as they are praised for what they do. This seems to be particularly true of young women. For example, if your child is in a sport that requires Sunday participation, they will feel extremely pressured to give it up and will be praised for their dedication and sacrifice if they do. While our population here is 10% Mormon, there are zero Mormons in my 12-year-old daughter’s Dance Company of 30+ girls. There are a few who take regular classes, but none who participate on the competitive teams which are basically open to anyone who wants to participate. Why? Well, they require several weekends of travel and competitions on Sundays and it’s expensive. “Optional” extra-curriculars are hard to pay for when 10% of your income is going to the Mormon church.
"Worldly" pursuits and achievements are often viewed with suspicion if they don't fall into one of the stereotypical categories, like music. Music, provided it's the right kind
of music is one of the few areas a young Mormon woman can devote time to and excel in and get credit for her achievements, especially since she can demonstrate it at church. It's something they will be able to put to good use in serving the church later in life. There are few others, especially if the schedule conflicts with their participation in all things Mormon. Again, NOT doing these things is often viewed as an honorable sacrifice and they will get praise for it.
You, as a parent can say everything under the sun, but kids pick up on the unstated messages of the company they keep, and girls are already at a disadvantage. Throw them into a soup of other young women with low goals and you're asking a lot. You're asking them to swim upstream against a harder current than they already must swim against. The older your children get, the more they will learn from the world they inhabit and the less your words will matter. It sucks, but it's just the way it is. She may hang on your every word now. That time will end my friend. It always does.
Integrity is not compatible with Mormonism
If you hang around this sub long enough you will find a recurring theme. We learned to lie as children. Because children are asked sexually explicit questions about at age 12, especially masturbation and even a curious peek at porn, they will learn they either must go through the harrowing experiencing of an endless cycle of repentance and confession or they must lie about it. When they lie about it, they learn the "discernment" they were indoctrinated to believe the bishop has is a lie. They learn to pretend to be what’s expected, while keeping who they are a shameful secret, even when they have nothing to be ashamed of. (See Protect LDS Children
Back in the early church there was a saying, “Lying for the Lord.” Members would lie to protect the church. Most Mormons today have never heard the phrase, but it’s baked into the culture, which will be a big part of why you will find it attractive. Members lie to themselves, they lie to each other, and they especially lie to outsiders. Their smiles are fake at least as often as they are real. They claim they're happy, but the vast majority have known nothing else. Everything they say is expected to be positive, so nothing negative is ever discussed.
Facebook is a good comparison. They are finding Facebook causes depression, because everyone is presenting a happy, but false image of themselves and they're all comparing themselves to those false images. It gives the appearance everyone is happy except you, which is extremely isolating. In the church, this is even worse, because not being happy is seen as a personal failing. Because the church stakes claim on the only true happiness a person can obtain, not being happy is seen as a lack of faith and commitment to the church's teachings and commandments. It shouldn’t be surprising then that Utah has one of the highest rates of anti-depressant use in the country and a skyrocketing youth suicide rate.
If you're not happy in the Mormon church, the problem is always
you, never the church. It creates a very Stepford Wives reality in which everyone is putting on an act for everyone else.
It looks benign, because they're all shiny and smiling, but it's a front. I’ve met a few people who are genuinely happy in the church, most I do not believe are, no matter how much they protest. By and large they are bored out of their minds, aren't allowed to do or expose themselves to any adult substance or activity, including rated R movies, and expect themselves and everyone around them to blindly follow whatever the leaders tell them. Down to women only having a single set of ear piercings. There is literally a talk by a current apostle encouraging a young man not to marry a young woman, because she had two sets of earrings and wouldn't take them out (he never asked or talked to her about it). He then applauds this young man, because he broke up with her over it.
What you aren't seeing is the judgment these people inflict on one another over the most minor infractions. Women cannot show their shoulders. Shorts cannot go above the knee. There are a million and one other rules they are not telling you and you will not "fit in" if you don't follow all of them. You won't have the community you want if you don't buy the whole cow. They are nice to you now, because they want you to join. You're fresh meat. Once you're in, it changes fast. It's so passive aggressive and delivered with such "love" it literally makes you think you're the problem. That they're not insane. You are.
It’s not about being good, it’s about being obedient.
The Mormon church's promise
that families can
be together forever isn't a promise at all. It's a threat to tear them apart if every family member is not in perfect compliance. What if the missionaries had asked you, “Do you think you will be with your family after you die?” What would your answer have been? Would you really have said no? This is a cute salesman’s trick used to circumvent what you probably already believed, but never asked yourself because there was no need. They create the disease, then profess to have the only cure.
That sordid history that didn’t seem to matter? That’s where the idea of eternal families originated. It was specifically designed to coerce members into The New and Everlasting Covenant of polygamy. Polygamy (in this life) may be gone. The coercion isn’t.
In Mormonism, true individual morality is replaced by obedience. The church is full of obedience tests, but probably the most well known is the commandment not to drink coffee or tea. When I was a youth the church was still trying to argue caffeine was bad for you. Since science has proven coffee and tea are not bad for you and members have simply substituted sugary soda and energy drinks in their place it is now just an obedience test. Ask the missionaries or members why they can drink Coke or energy drinks, but not coffee or tea? They will likely tell you they do it as a show of obedience. They may say obedience to God or Heavenly Father, but since the prophet of the church actually “talks” to God, it’s really obedience to the 12 apostles and first presidency who are considered literal prophets, seers, and revelators.
Mormons don’t have to develop their own value system, because the system does it for them and they trust it implicitly, despite the fact it’s been horribly wrong on many occasions. It was wrong about polygamy. It was wrong about race (See Black people and Mormonism
). It was and is wrong about Women’s rights. It will be proven wrong about our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. They’ve already partially conceded. Google the November 2015 policy
and the recent walk back
. This implicit belief in the leadership is also dangerous, because the church loves to meddle in politics, despite saying they don’t. Google the church’s involvement in Prop 8 in California
. You will find Mormon god changes his mind a lot and the men claiming to speak for him seem to constantly misunderstand him.
Not all members are created equal.
Community is very important to a well being. Everyone feels like they want to belong to a group that is their own, Mormons are very good at protecting their own including those being accused of serious crimes, but you have to be a stalwart member who does everything expected of them and more. Members born into the church and who have served missions are in a lot better position for acceptance. Converts have to jump through a lot of hoops to prove themselves, but it helps if you’re wealthy, pay a lot of tithing, and go about doing things like financially supporting missionaries in the ward and donating large sums to youth camps, but make sure everyone sees you doing it.
Why are we so angry anyway?
Most of us were not authentically happy in the church, but we literally didn’t know what happiness was and we believed it’s claims and promises. It is a high demand religion which requires a huge time investment and near perfect obedience of its members. It sells a very specific life plan as the only way a person can truly be happy. Members born into the church base the most important decisions of their finite lives around the church’s teachings and commandments. Whether to go on a mission, where to go to school, for a woman whether to have a career, who to marry, when and how many children to have. We were taught the answers to these questions early, to the point they weren’t even questions anymore.
Mormons will claim exmormons don’t and can't have “true happiness." They also claim you don’t, and they probably aren’t wrong if you’re considering converting. Does that not seem a bit arrogant and suspect though? That ONLY Mormons know what “true” happiness is? Mormons will tell you we’re wrong that they’re unhappy and it’s a fair point. Does anyone really get to tell anyone else they’re not happy when they say they are? The thing is, this sub has close to 120k subscribers at this point and most of us will tell you we were not happy in the church even when we thought we were, because we just didn’t know what happiness was. We now understand living authentically, with integrity is far superior to the “safe,” but stifling world of Mormonism.
I encourage you to lookup Stephen Hassan's BITE model on how to spot a cult. Mormonism check almost all the boxes, especially the way missionaries are treated. The shiny happy image they portray is designed to suck you in and keep themselves in, because leaving Mormonism, being separated from their families TERRIFIES them. By converting you, they are reassured everything is well in Zion. That everything is on the right track as it should be. That the church must
be true, because you know all about the historical problems and truth claims and you’re still joining!
Edited to add: I hope this will be somewhat of a living post to help potential converts understand the price of what they see are the good fruits of membership in the Mormon church.