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Post-Mormons at UVU

It shouldn’t be that great of a surprise to know that as a native to Utah, I was born and raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The three years after I graduated high school was a time of great change for me. As I began to explore different lifestyles, I was opened up to a large diversity of thought that never held any weight to me before.

It took a couple years of inactivity in church attendance and a lot of deliberation for me to realize that the teachings and the institution of the church was not going to guide me to happiness and good well-being. For this and many other reasons, I decided to part ways with the church.

Six months ago, I relocated from Salt Lake City to Utah County to pursue my education at UVU. I’m studying Communications in pursuit of a career in Journalism. As part of my involvement in extracurricular activities and classes that require my participation in and around the school, I began to notice something a bit surprising. The more people I talked to and the more circles I hung around in, I learned that there is a surprising amount of ex-Mormons at the school. I had made the false assumption that there are much more current church member than there are former church members. There is in fact a surprising amount of former church members at a school where the dominant religion is overwhelmingly Mormon.

So for my project, I’ve set out to talk to as many exmormons at UVU as I can. Since this project is currently in the works, the website will be a little bit messy until I’m able to clean it up near the end of this semester. I will however begin to post my interviews with exmormons as I complete them.

There is an experience deep and personal that most exmormons have in common. It’s hard to transition out of the church. It can be hard to find new guidance after leaving the church. I hope these interviews will touch some hearts and be there to tell you that you are not alone.

 

  1. Interview with Megan Naomi on February 12th

Psychology major, 23 years old

Unofficially resigned from the church

 

Erik: “Why did you resign from the church?”

Megan: “The very first reason back when I was like 15. I never actually believed in the church. I just went to keep my mom and dad happy and cause all my friends went there. I knew that there was something wrong but the act of being against it would be detrimental and ya know ended up being detrimental to my family relationship so I just kind of stayed in.”

Erik: How did you know something was wrong.
Megan: “Cause it just seemed off. I didn’t like the way they talked about gay people, especially being pretty gay myself. I guess the initial reason for me leaving the church is their view on homosexuality and sexuality in general.”

Erik: “Let me pose a theoretical. What if the church was true and they just got some things wrong. Is that a possibility?”

Megan: “Uh, it’s a pretty big part of their teaching.”

Erik “Do you believe that that has to be part of their teaching for their church to be true or not.”

Megan “To the way I view religion, I don’t think anything is the one and only true church. There was some things between my parents after a long time of being happily married, they just got divorced one day. That was weird for me because i’d been taught if your following the commandments, if you go to all your church meetings, if your good in your callings, you’ll be happy and everything will go fine. And than these two people who’d i’d been holding up on a pedestal my entire life, I realized were human and imperfect and I was like ‘yeah i’m done with this’”

Erik: “So than if it (the church) was true, could it be partially false and still have some truth?”

Megan: “I think currently there are some things that are good and true about the church.”

Erik: “But does that give credit to the full truthfulness of the church like the prophets speak of?”

Megan: “Not even close.”

Erik: “Can you tell me about your life outside the church?”

Megan: “I feel more myself. I don’t feel like I’m being held back anymore. However it has put and immense amount of strain on 99% of my family relationships.

Erik: “Do you still believe in Jesus being the son of God?”

Megan: “I don’t think Jesus was the son of God. There’s a wise man who told me once that he was a very enlightened person perhaps but I don’t think he was the actual son of God. I do however believe that true Christianity and the idea of being christlike is awesome and a great way to live. In the name of Jesus Christ amen”

2. Interview with Kendra Hamblin

18 years old music major
Officially resigned through QuitMormon
Erik: “Why did you leave the church?”

Kendra: “Main reason I left the church was their policy on LGBT individuals. I also thought more and more about all the immoral stuff that Joseph Smith did like sending husband on missions as far away as he could so he could marry their wives. The fact that nobody was allowed to look at the gold plates. Apparently they were taken into heaven. I was going to say that I’m not positive that I ever really believed that’s a lie and I did believe it for years.”

Erik: “So you talked about church history. Was church history secondary to their policies on the gay community? Was that the main reason?”

Kendra: “No, it was because of their policies mostly. I started realizing through their policies that ‘Hey, maybe the church isn’t the greatest thing to ever happen to the earth and so that opened the door for me to be able to really question the church and its teaching.’”

Erik: “Theoretically speaking, if the church was true, do you believe that it would have to be 100% true or not true at all? Could the church be partially true and maybe just have some imperfection of course because human being are imperfect?”

Kendra: “I mean I do believe that there are good teachings of the church, ya know with most christian churches. There are definitely good aspects of it. There’s this homeless center in downtown salt lake. They’re a catholic center but they get almost all of their food from the LDS church. I think that they do contribute to physical beauty like in your surroundings. In the temples yes. The main thing that I’m thinking about is Temple Square around Christmas time. That always brings a sense of wonderment which I think is really important especially in a very negative world that we live in. It’s a little bit looking through the world with rose colored lenses but I feel like at least a little bit of optimism is good.”

Erik: “In that case, is it possible that the church is partially true maybe? When I talk about the church I refer to the them talking about the fulness of the gospel, the whole plan of salvation, the ordinances, temple marriage and all these things. Is that a true construct?”

Kendra: “I don’t believe that really any of it is true and lasting. I really stopped believing that Jesus Christ is the savior. We’ve got concrete evidence that he live and was on the earth and was a pretty cool dude. I don’t believe in the three tiers of heaven, I don’t believe that if there is an afterlife that people who care about each other would be split up. That was also one of my qualms that I had about really the entire plan of the afterlife in the church. If there’s this heaven, if families are so important and families are what make heaven heaven, than what about the family member that don’t get there. That not only negatively affects the ones that don’t get there, but that negatively affects the ones that do get there and aren’t allowed to see each other.”

Erik: “Either it is true and God must be cruel to split people up like that, or it’s not true at all because I don’t believe God could be that way. You touched on something that I wanted to ask you about. We know that Jesus is a true historical figure but do you believe that he is the son of God even if the church isn’t true.”

Kendra: “I don’t, I just don’t believe that that could ever happen. Even if it had happened, I wouldn’t recognize the god who forcibly impregnated Mary as my God. I don’t believe that that’s at all moral. I don’t believe that that’s at all right.”

Erik: “Do you still believe in God?”

Kendra: “Not positive. I’m not so sold on the traditional Christian version of God.”

Erik: “Has your idea about God changed coming out of the church?”

Kendra: “Yes. I don’t talk about it much. I had very spiritual experiences both inside the church and outside of the church with different things. The one thing that connected them all was the fact that the spiritual experiences I believed were coming from the thing I cared about most in life. So like, before I left, it was coming from God and after I left the church, it was coming from music or from actual real human connection. Now I’m leaning toward God being a concept within yourself and it’s just whatever means the world to you or things that can change your world.”

Kendra: “I’m a lesbian. I actually started leaving the church before realizing that. Leaving the church is kind of what allowed me to realize my sexuality just because it was so unthinkable that I was anything other than heterosexual before. I did start leaving the church because of their stance on LGBT individuals. That was the main catalyst. I just thought, ‘I’m a really good ally and gay people aren’t horrible,’.”

Erik: “How is life outside the church compared to inside the church?”

Kendra: “Honestly, it does give absolutely more freedom and I would say overall its (life) more enjoyable. I can ask questions and not be afraid of asking them for the most part. Whereas in the church they always said that you were allowed to ask questions, but there was this unspoken pre approved list of questions that you are allowed to ask and list of answers that you are allowed to give. Now I can really seek out truth whether that be spiritual or scientific or historical. That is very freeing. Especially living in Utah in the Mormon capital of the world, I got very cut off from my community. Communication with my friends, and with family friends and with acquaintances, they were all through the church. We stopped talking as soon as I stopped going to church, other to have them try and bring me back. It has definitely been an isolating experience. Since then, I’ve learned how to actually interact with people in a normal healthy way other than talking about God and Jesus and how indebted we are. I feel like I’ve definitely become more of a human. Overall, I’m very glad that I left and I’m doing a lot better than I was when I was in the church.”



3. Interview with Hailey Sermersheim

22 years old

Majoring in Bottany

Officially resigned from the church

 

Hailey: “My mom kind of made me wait untill I was 18 to make sure that it was my decision. She didn’t want to be the one pulling the strings”

Erik: “Cause she has to sign off on that if your under 18 right? Did you use quit mormon?”

Hailey: “I can’t remember, I think so..”

Erik: “Why did you leave the church?”

Hailey: “Honestly, my mom. I was very young. My dad was never very active. He would never go to church unless there was an event, like one of us was singing in the youth choir. He would come be supportive. He never physically went. He would just work from home on sundays. My mom only had us start going because she had my brothers and she was like ‘well this is what you do in Utah with a family’. So we were raised up fairly strict, umm mostly as a way to keep up with social. That may be what you do around here to be accepted with Utah county.”

Erik: “Was your family devout”

Hailey: “We were pretty devout. Again my dad would like drink wine and beer but my mom was fairly strict.”

Erik: “Was he ever a church member?”

Hailey: “No, I don’t think so. If he was, than he was just very inactive. I was homeschooled for 5th and 6th grade. During that time, my mom got a back surgery so she was laid up in bed for like month, so we just weren’t going to church. My dad wasn’t taking us. My mom was reading up about Joseph Smith and she was like ‘maybe we shouldn’t be part of a religion founded by someone like this’. So I continued to go maybe one or two times almost out of obligation. And then my mom sat me down and she was like, ‘why do you want to keep going to church?’, and I was said, ‘I don’t know, it’s just the only thing that I’ve known that makes sense to me. Why don’t you go to church?” and she said because, ‘it doesn’t make any sense’. She explained to me that if every religion is the one true religion, it’s very uncommon that there is actually one true religion. I’m at such a young age, I need to be more open minded. She made it very clear that she didn’t want me to stop going because she stopped going. She wanted me to make that decision for myself.”

“After a while, I looked into it more. Other than being indoctrinated into it, there’s really nothing that resonates with me. I’ve never really had a testimony. I was only like eleven at the time.”

Erik: “Did you believe in God”

Hailey: “Yeah, once we left the church, I started thinking about it more objectively and I decided that it didn’t really make sense.”

Erik: “Would you consider yourself atheist or agnostic?”

Hailey: “Um, probably agnostic. I used to label myself as atheist. I feel like atheist is more of like a cocky term. Cause I feel like, if your going to be self aware about it, your agnostic no matter what because there is no way to definitively know.”

Erik: “I’m glad you said that. I feel like i couldn’t be an atheist for a same reason because if you can’t really know that god exists then you couldn’t really know if he does exist.”

Erik: “Ok, if the church was true, is it possible that it could be partially true and maybe with some imperfection due to the imperfection of man. Or do you believe that the church is 100% true or not true at all?”

Hailey: “Um, that’s a good question. I think a lot of people who go who aren’t fully into it, do that a lot where they kind of cherry pick teaching the accept and not. That kind of shapes how the church teaches as well. If you look through church history, it was very bigot and racist. They are now making strides to be more inclusive and that is very recent.”

Erik: “How’s life outside the church versus inside the church. Is there a stark difference?”

Hailey: “I think for me, after I left, there wasn’t a lot of difference because I was homeschooled. It wasn’t like I was going to school and being shunned. I know for my brother, some of his friends parents wouldn’t let him hang out with their friends anymore because he was no longer a part of the church. None of my friendships were really affected to heavily. There were some obnoxious times when friends wanted to hang out and it turned out to be a young womens activity. Like you could have just said, ‘Do you want to come to young womens?’ and I could have made that decision for myself.”

“Again, I was very young when I left so I never even had any of those temple worthiness interviews. I never had to have any of that. I think I had an interview before I was baptised. Again I was to young. There were like, ‘Are you fooling around with boys?’ and I was like, ‘No, I’m 8 years old.’

 

4. John D. Lee, 32, post-bacc

Erik: “How long ago did you leave the church?”

John: “I stopped attending about 2 years ago.”

Erik: “Are you officially or unofficially resigned? Please explain why you made this choice.”

John: “I have not officially resigned. I go back and forth about whether or not I am going to do it. Part of me doesn’t want them counting me in all of their stats. Another part of me says that they have no real power over me and I shouldn’t play by their rules and officially resign. I came very close to doing it last fall after Sam Young was excommunicated. I remember writing my wife–an active member–an email about it and she told me that it’s totally up to me, but that she doesn’t like the idea. Even though I’ve spoken with my family about my decision to leave the church, I still fear how my parents would react if I were to officially resign. There’s also a part of me, deep down, that fears the change. It’s silly because it won’t change the way I’m currently living my life and I don’t have any doubt that I’ve made the wrong decision. It just seems like a big decision for some reason. I imagine that I’ll eventually do it though.”
Erik: “Why did you leave the church?”
 
John: “I could write several paragraphs about my entire journey, but it ultimately comes down to this: the church has been, still is, and will continue to be dishonest. They lack the transparency that we all deserve.”
 
Erik: “Many prophets have previously taught that the church is true in its entirety. However, there are many current members who believe that the church’s teachings may be mostly true and with some imperfections (due to the imperfection of man). This being said, If the church is true, is it true in its entirety, or could it be partially true? “
 
John: “The church is not true. How can an organization be true or false? They teach members some correct principles, but that doesn’t make up for all of the harm they have done and continue to do.”
 
 
5. Justus Thomas, 23, Environmental Science and Management
 
Erik: “How long ago did you leave the church?”
 
Justus: “Inactive since 2016, officially told my family and friends I no longer identified as LDS in early 2018, submitted records for removal Fall of 2018, still waiting for confirmation from the church’s law firm. So technically I haven’t left yet.”
 
Erik: “Are you officially or unofficially resigned?”
 

Justus: “I have submitted all the documentation to officially resign from the church, I’m still waiting for the church’s law firm to legally remove my name from church records. I was watching that Sabrina show on Netflix, and she was going through the witch equivalent of the LDS endowment. In that episode she decided to run, even in front of all her family and community. I got emotional because I was thinking of all the times I could have run. Before my mission, at the temple when I was going through the endowment ceremony, at the MTC, in the mission field, etc. So many missed opportunities, so much lost time. I decided that even though I had separated myself from the church socially and culturally, the only thing left to completely sever the connection and move forward was to remove my records, I would deal with the family fallout if and when it happened. I submitted my resignation through quitmormon that night.”

 
Erik: “Why did you leave the church? There may be multiple reasons but what was the one deciding factor?”
 
Justus: “The simplest answer is that it was bringing no positivity into my life. The cognitive dissonance that came from trying to hold the contradictory history and doctrine together was causing major depression, I felt pressure to act against my own morals and values regarding science, the LGBT community, history, the social status of women, and other important social topics. I realized that I had to choose between making my family sad or living in personal misery for the rest of my life. I went to therapy to sort out the emotions associated with telling my family that I was leaving the church. This helped so much and I highly recommend it to those who are in a similar position. The fallout was rough at first but family relationships were back to normal within 6 or so months. I then experienced the best mental health of my entire life. I knew I had made the correct decision. “
 
Erik: “Many prophets have previously taught that the church is true in its entirety. However, there are many current members who believe that the church’s teachings may be mostly true and with some imperfections (due to the imperfection of man). This being said and hypothetically speaking, If the church is true, is it true in its entirety, or could it be partially true?”

 

Justus: “The church could change any doctrine at any time and still maintain the vast majority of it’s followers, as you can see from historical changes such as plural marriage and allowing those of African descent to participate in temple ceremonies. Major changes to the most sacred rituals within the church have barely phased the faithful. So if it is true, which version was the true one? It’s flip flopped so many times any argument to it’s truthfulness is void. You can’t believe in an unchanging god who gives revelation to a single appointed prophet for the entire planet and then turn around and disregard complete policy reversals that happen every few years. Every religion comes down to a man and his book, and whether you trust what the man says about his book is up to you. I need more evidence than they can provide. I studied church history and doctrine very deeply over the course of a two year mission, and even more when I returned. The history and doctrine of the LDS church is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions that the church has tried to smooth over with an ever changing narrative. The only way to maintain belief in it’s truthfulness is to rely on emotion, confirmation bias, and social pressure. It falls apart under any level of academic scrutiny, as does every other religion that I have studied.”

 

Justus: “The most difficult thing about leaving the church is the delicate conversations with my family about this issues. They are understandably very hurt by my decision, but they are unwilling to discuss my reasons for leaving because it is damaging to their testimony. This makes it very hard to explain my views and beliefs, which makes the healing process so much slower. For those who are leaving the church, my advice is to be patient and loving with your family. There will be a ton of passive aggressive comments, backhanded jabs, and unproductive conversations. Stick it out, don’t be confrontational or aggressive. Keep them your number one priority and soon they will find it difficult to fight someone who doesn’t fight back. As a wise man once said, turn the other cheek 😉 For those who are active and faithful who are experiencing the pain of someone they love leaving the church, I challenge you to hear them out. Listen to them without arguing, ask them about what they’re feeling. It’s an extraordinarily painful process made even worse by the insensitivity of those we love most. Find ways to agree to disagree, respect others beliefs and philosophies. Do not assume that because they no longer receive awards on high for their good deeds that they have no morals or values. And most importantly, accept that they aren’t coming back. There are so many relationships destroyed by people waiting for the other person to eventually become something they are not and will never be.”

Justus: “Last note, dating sucks as an exmo in utah valley 😦 we need our own version of the Mutual dating app.”

 

6. Alexander Jensen, 24, Communication major

Erik: “How long ago did you leave the church?”

Alexander: “Seven years ago, though formal resignation came only about 4 years ago.

Erik: “Are you officially or unofficially resigned?”

Alexander: “I resigned officially in 2015. It was partly an act of protest and partly to stop the church from updating my address records. I had been visited by missionaries before and I was sick of it.”

Erik: “Why did you leave the church? There may be multiple reasons but what was the one deciding factor?”

Alexander: “The main reason I left the church is because of the truth claims. It’s the same fundamental issue I have with Islam. The Book of Mormon is said to be the most perfect book in the world and the prophets are said to talk with God, etc. When one is seeing visions and talking with Jesus face to face, then you would assume that their doctrines would be correct and the church affirms this by saying that their doctrine cannot change because God is unchangeable. However, despite God being unchangeable and the church being unchangeable, there has been a lot of doctrine that has changed. The biggest blow to my faith came when I began researching the temple ban on black people and I came across this quote by Brigham Young:
“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”
And yet the church has reversed its course on its racist doctrines completely. I was, at the time, still a believer but I could not square how a prophet of God could be wrong when proclaiming the law of God and how the church could teach an erroneous doctrine for several hundred years.”

Erik: “Many prophets have previously taught that the church is true in its entirety. However, there are many current members who believe that the church’s teachings may be mostly true and with some imperfections (due to the imperfection of man). This being said, If the church is true, is it true in its entirety, or could it be partially true?” 

Alexander: “I think the church has backed itself into a corner in regards to its truthfulness. It’s own claims about itself have been so exclusionary that one cannot with good faith take a step back from them. If the legitimacy of the LDS Church relies on its claims of divine revelation and an ongoing prophetic ministry, then going back on those claims of revelation and prophecy fundamentally damages its legitimacy. I have no reason to believe in the LDS Church’s truth claims without its visionary foundation. 
That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case in other churches and religions. Not every religion makes truth claims like Mormonism and Islam. My own Episcopal Church, for example, does not claim to be the sole legitimate church but also acknowledges that other churches and religions can be truthful. We also acknowledge that we have and can err, unlike the LDS Church or, say, the Catholic Church.”

Alexander: “I find it very interesting how many exmormons leave religion completely. I myself became a rather angry atheist for close to five years. Very few exmormons reassess their priors. The LDS Church claims to be the true church therefore everyone else is false, but if the LDS Church is false then everyone is false. The logical problem with that is that, if the LDS Church is false, the other churches are not necessarily false just because the LDS Church said so. It took me some time but eventually I moved past that stage and reevaluated my religious beliefs while consciously casting aside my previous LDS bias.”

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