I ran across a post on Twitter from an individual with the handle name “Ex-exmo“, meaning they are an Ex Ex-Mormon. Their Twitter profiles now says, “Lost faith. Left the Church. Came back.”
After he shared a recent post on the theme of those who leave the Church and claim they are happier, I asked if I could share it. He agreed. I’ll share his post below, and then follow up his statements with scriptures from the Book of Mormon that back up his claims. We should not assume that his experience covers all experiences, but we should accept that his experience can possibly apply to select others as well.
A Post from Ex-exmo About Being Happier Leaving The Church
When those who have left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaim how much happier they are, there’s no reason to doubt them. Think about the path that got some of them there.
#1 It’s likely that—for whatever reason—they weren’t feeling the Spirit through service and worship.
Do you know how awkward and uncomfortable Church can be when not accompanied by the Spirit? I do.
Remember the 2015 Conference talk The Music of Gospel about how difficult it is to dance if you don’t feel the rhythm? It’s true. Without the gifts of the Holy Ghost, church can feel inauthentic, forced, and yucky.
It often leads one to become hyper-critical and uncharitable. Leaving an environment like that and being able take a break from fault-finding is probably good for the soul and would lead to increased happiness.
#2 There was often a gradual process of losing faith in various doctrines.
The intellectual discordance is stressful. Leaving means you don’t have to try to reconcile incompatible beliefs any more and that could definitely lead to increased happiness.
#3 Church life can be demanding.
Even those with strong testimonies and the Gift of the HG can sometimes feel weighed down by callings. Imagine trying to shoulder such responsibilities while grappling with doubt or not feeling the Spirit. Ugh.
Leaving the Church can lift those demands immediately and lift the burden of conscience, not needing to think about those things you’re NOT doing or doing with hesitation and doubt. And, honestly, who wouldn’t enjoy a little more “me time?”
#4 People felt hemmed in by commandments and expectations
People who felt hemmed in by commandments and expectations—especially when their heart wasn’t in it—and then leave the Church often experience an “Elsa Period.” They “Let It Go,” with previous inhibitions shattered and a newfound power to express themselves.
I understand all these things and believe they are totally legit as someone who was born in the covenant but didn’t have many spiritual experiences growing up and ultimately felt like the Church was just a bunch of social pressure.
I’m actually glad I left it when I did. It wasn’t authentic for me at the time, and if I had stayed it wouldn’t have been for the right reasons.
Leading Me Back to the Fold
When a series of events and experiences led me back to the gospel, it was with a much different heart. With the Spirit as my guide, it was a completely different religion and experience.
When I hear of people leaving, while I regret that that they weren’t able to experience the gospel as I do now, if they were experiencing it in anything like the way I was before, I sometimes think, “Well yeah! Don’t stay in THAT religion!”
I want to tell them, “Maybe one day, with a changed heart or different perspective, you’ll be able to experience THIS incredible religion. Maybe not. In the meantime, I hope every saint you encounter will be charitable and kind, because they have no idea which religion YOU left.”
Whatever version of the Church that person left, it almost certainly wasn’t the one a faithful latter-day saint finds peace and joy in. Will they ever find it? Maybe. Maybe not. But being exclusionary or judgmental most certainly won’t help them discover it.
What Do The Scriptures Say? Possible to Be Happier Leaving The Church?
I really appreciated this perspective from someone who has left the Church and came back. I know that for many who leave, they hate being labeled as liars or people who don’t actually feel happier leaving the Church.
But what do the scriptures say? Do they give us any insight which might perhaps show that those who leave the Church are happier? A few that come to mind speak of the comfort level that people have being in a place where they don’t feel spiritual aligned.
In Alma 12:14 it speaks of the judgment and how one would feel appearing before God while having to acknowledge that they ever abused his laws.
“…in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.”
Being in a Church that encourages it’s members to live a certain way could definitely cause those who choose to not live that way a measure of discomfort and dissonance.
Moroni speaks more to this principle in Mormon 9:3-4 when he says:
“Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.”
Based on the principles taught in those two scriptures, it definitely appears that it is possible to be happier living with others who follow a lower law, since not living the higher law among those who do brings misery.
I wanted to share this thought because I think one of the most harmful things we can do is teach things that aren’t true. People who aren’t in the Church, or who leave the Church can most assuredly be happier leaving the Church.
However, everlasting happiness and eternal joy is what we are after. We are not after a fleeting joy or even a happiness that is 7 out of 10. We want a fullness. So, if you hear people preaching that happiness can only be found among the Latter-day Saints, maybe pull out some scriptures and help them see that just isn’t true.
At the same time, please don’t use any of the principles we discussed to be manipulative and condescending, because that won’t help people want to come back. I love what Ex-exmo said at the end of his tweet: “Maybe one day, with a changed heart or different perspective, you’ll be able to experience THIS incredible religion. Maybe not. In the meantime, I hope every saint you encounter will be charitable and kind, because they have no idea which religion YOU left.”
Saturday 11th of February 2023
I truly appreciate this post. Last year I had an experience with family members in the Church that shook both my testimony and my world. I was deeply, deeply hurt by their actions, and when I told them how I felt, they used "the gospel" to tell me that I was in the wrong for not forgiving them right away. (I don't believe dismissing a person's pain is the gospel at all.) After months and months of emotional anguish, I decided it best to forgive, even though they never apologized. Right now we're trying to go on like nothing happened, simply because one of them absolutely refuses to acknowledge their abusive behavior. Things are better than they were, but the "Church" that tells them that that their behavior is okay is not the Church I want to belong to.*
I have another family member who uses the gospel as a tool to shame pretty much everyone. Three of her children left the Church because they couldn't handle her shame and self-righteousness. The rest of us try to take everything she says with a grain of salt, but quite frankly, I'm running out of salt. And hers is not a Church I want to belong to.
I spent my youth and early adulthood with just as severe self-righteousness, coupled with debilitating depression, because the culture of shame influenced every aspect of my life. I was never, ever good enough, and the more I tried, the more I felt like I'd never make it to heaven. This is not a Church I want to belong to anymore.
Many, many close family members and friends have chosen to leave the Church because of their painful experiences, which are similar to mine but unique to each of them. They've all been deeply hurt by members of the Church who use what they profess to be the gospel as an instrument to injure others. As I've recently made a greater effort to mourn with those who mourn the loss of their faith, when I hear their stories of anguish, I agree with them: none of theirs is a Church I want to belong to.
So I'm at a crossroads right now. On the one hand, I can't go on living as though the Church I grew up in is perfect and incapable of doing any harm. On the other, I've had many, many deeply spiritual experiences that have blessed me in ways I find difficult to describe. I'm not sure what direction to choose right now, but I do know that if I hear any more shaming from members of the Church, it'll be that much easier to leave. And if I hear anyone blatantly attack the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I'll stand up and defend it. It's a tricky place to be in and I could use some help.
Any thoughts or support would be greatly appreciated.
*I know the leaders of the Church don't condone anything my family members did to me. In fact, in the last General Conference they made it perfectly clear that the kind of verbal and emotional abuse I experienced from them was absolutely unacceptable and condemned by God. My family members, who listen to every session of Conference religiously, chose not to think that part applied to them.
Wednesday 25th of January 2023
Love this! Thank you for sharing. It gives me a different perspective when considering those (including some of my own children) and their reasons for leaving the church. "The Church they left" may very well not be the church we'd hoped they'd experience when growing up.
Tuesday 10th of January 2023
Did you get rebaptized?
It’s a personal question but I can’t take this seriously unless there was an actual resignation or excommunication followed by a rebaptism and restoration of blessings.
Tuesday 10th of January 2023
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE change your font. This site is extremely hard to read becouse of the font you are using. PLEASE change the font.
Tuesday 10th of January 2023
You're a liar, and the "ex-exmo" you've spotlighted is fake. Only members talk like that. You've misrepresented exmos and their reasons, and owe us an apology.
You also need to exercise better judgement in sourcing in the future. A modicum of critical reading skill easily shows the account is run by a TBM who does not understand exmos.
Thursday 26th of January 2023
@Samantha Twigg, I agree with your conclusion. In fact, I can look back at my life these past few months and see myself drifting. Thanks for your comments.
Tuesday 17th of January 2023
Why do you assume he is lying? I understand this line of reasoning perfectly as a person who has been inactive and come back. Your allegations have no merit. This article is well thought out And has a point of view that we should all consider.
Tuesday 10th of January 2023
Jacob, you are name-calling with no proof of anyone lying. Ex-exmo has a Twitter account that I linked to and you can follow it. Ex-exmo is a member, that's the point. The profile reads: Lost faith. Left the Church. Came back. Just because his/her experience doesn't align with yours doesn't mean the experience didn't happen.