One of the common challenges that seem to plague Mormons exiting the church is that of family. Fortunately, I’m married to a spouse who has never been a Mormon and has remained pleasantly neutral throughout not only my membership in the church, but in my questioning and exit processes as well. My children have been amazingly open-minded through the process as well and have all exited the church in my footsteps. On the contrary, my parents and one sibling have had a very difficult time with my journey.

Over the last 2 years, my parents seem to have come around to a place of  acceptance with where I am. Although they clearly disagree with me, they’ve had the tact not to show much hostility toward me or my family. I feel like we’ve come to a place of agreeing to disagree. We get together but never discuss religion. On the whole, I’m pleased with how things have evolved with my parents. I hope things continue on this positive path.

My sibling, however, is an entirely different story. She has hardly spoken to me in the last 2 years. She refuses to come to my home and shows obvious discomfort in my presence. Although expressing (through my father) that she is “done” with me forever, I hold onto a glimmer of hope that things will also improve with time with her.

Although pained in the beginning by her animosity toward me, I’ve come to a place of peace and understanding. With the objectivity of 2 years out of the church, I can more clearly see that my sister (and parents to a lesser degree) are simply products of Mormon culture. Their reaction to my questioning and leaving the church has only reinforced my understanding of some of the destructive elements of Mormon doctrine and culture. Among these destructive elements are:

1-     a paranoia of anything which is “anti-Mormon”
2-      the belief that apostates (those who leave the church) are to be shunned
3-     the belief that leaving the church (apostasy) is the worst of all sins and is unpardonable
4-     the belief that family bonds are of ultimate value, can only be preserved through temple sealing, and are surely shattered when a member leaves the church.
5-      the belief that we are saved through our performance and adherence to commandments/rules (such as the word of wisdom, temple rituals, obeying the sabbath, etc)
6-     the belief that men (us mere mortals) can be ordained by God to sit in judgment on one another
7-      the belief that God loves us conditionally (Mormons in turn love themselves and others conditionally)
8-      the belief that the LDS church is the only true church and that all other denominations are “an abomination in the sight of God” (words of Joseph Smith).
9-      the belief that the best angle to investigate the church is from the church, itself (to me, this is akin to asking a homeowner to do his/her own home inspection for a home buyer – no one in their right mind would do this due to obvious bias)
10-  the belief that drinking a cup of coffee or having a glass of wine are indicators by which you judge character.

There are many others, but these are the ones that come to mind now. The list above is ample excuse for the TBM (True Believing Mormon) to sit in judgment on a former member of the church and shun them. The church not only emboldens members to avoid ex-Mormons, it expects them to (refer to temple worthiness interview questions). These beliefs give the member ample reason to resent, fear, avoid, withhold love, and judge not only those who leave the church, but also those who do not strictly adhere to the Mormon party line.

Does this sound like a church of God? I don’t think so.