A Grave Misunderstanding

I can't speak for all ex-Mormons, nor do I intend to.  No two people think alike.  However, I have associated with several ex-Mormons and I have noticed that most of what I say in this post will apply to most of the ex-Mormons I have come to know.

Many logical fallacies are used against people who leave the LDS church.  The first I'd like to mention is the straw-man argument.  Demonizing or insulting words are used to describe ex-Mormons.  For example, "apostate", "angry", "bitter, "vengeful", and "anti-Mormon".  Ex-Mormons are painted as horrible people who have nothing better to do with their time than attack Mormons and the Mormon church.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reason I left the church was because I no longer agree with its doctrines.  I feel completely free of the grasp that the church had on me.  I do not need to get revenge, since I was happy while I was a member of the church.  I do not need to attack it because it is an organization that encourages its members to be good people.  I am not bitter because I feel that it has done me no wrong.

Nearly all of my family and a great majority of my friends are LDS.  I cannot afford to cut ties with all of these wonderful people, nor do I have any desire to.  Since those who are active in the church seem to be happy doing so, I would never dream of discouraging them from participating fully in the church.  I have no desire to attack their beliefs nor their practices.  (How could I get mad at someone who is doing what they sincerely believe to be good?)  Quite the opposite, I mean to encourage them in all their endeavors to live according to their beliefs.

The next logical fallacy that I would like to address is that of false dilemma.  Mormons use the phrase "the church is true".  This is a rather ethereal phrase and I have yet to ascertain its precise meaning.  However, there seems to be a false dichotomy in the Mormon brain that a person either believes every doctrine of the church (i.e., "the church is true") or no doctrine of the church ("the church is false").  While I believe that the church is not what it purports to be (that is, that it is God's one true church), I recognize that it has many good things to offer the world.  There are many good things that it does (such as provide help in natural disasters) and there are many good and true things that it teaches (such as to love one another).  I do not reject all of the words of all of the LDS church leaders simply because I no longer believe that "the church is true".  I do not believe that it is an evil institution.

Another logical fallacy is appeal to authority.  Some General Authority says such-and-such about people who have left the church and therefore it is believed to be true.  While such statements may be applicable to some ex-Mormons, I would highly doubt that they are universally true.  But, unfortunately, Mormons will tend to believe their leaders' statements about ex-Mormons without ever giving their ex-Mormon friends the opportunity to prove those statements false.

Finally, I'd like to discuss the matter of a double standard, which isn't so much a logical fallacy, but I still see it blatantly applied to ex-Mormons.  When a person converts either from another religion or from no religion to Mormonism, that person is not only expected but also encouraged to proclaim Mormon teachings to his friends and family--to preach the gospel.  There is actually a great amount of pressure placed on members of the church to share their beliefs with other people and attempt to convert them to Mormonism as well.  However, when someone leaves the LDS church and no longer believes the doctrine that it teaches, they are expected (by Mormons) to remain silent about their new beliefs.  They are not allowed to say out loud what they feel because to do so would be to attack the church.

Think of it this way: John is a Catholic, he meets with the Mormon missionaries, decides to be baptized, and joins the LDS church.  One of the beliefs that the LDS church has is that the Catholic church (as well as all others) is false.  So, as part of his proclaiming the gospel to his friends and family (of whom, many are likely Catholic), he is to tell them that the Catholic church is not true.  Remember, this is encouraged by the LDS church, not discouraged.  Not only does the LDS church teach that it is the only true and living church on the face of the Earth, but that all other churches are "an abomination in [God's] sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to [God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [Him], they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (see Joseph Smith--History 1:19)  To me, that seems to be rather condescending and presumptuous to say of all other religions.  However, that is the official doctrine of the church.  So, when someone leaves one of the "abominable" other churches and enters the LDS church, they are expected to believe that their prior religion was an abomination in God's sight, and not only believe that, but teach it to their friends who are still members of those other abominable religions.

So, with that in mind, where does the LDS church have room to criticize those who teach that the LDS church itself is false?  After all, that is no different from what it asks its own members to do concerning every other faith on the Earth.  Those who preach the gospel in the Mormon church are applauded for standing up for their beliefs.  Why, then, are those outside of the church who do precisely the same thing (stand up for and proclaim their beliefs) tormented?  Why are we ex-Mormons called names, such as "apostate", "blasphemous", etc, when all we are doing is preaching what we feel to be true in our own hearts?  Yes, part of that which we proclaim is that the LDS church is false, but that is no different from what Mormons proclaim--that every non-LDS church is false.

A common phrase that Mormons say, concerning ex-Mormons, is "they can leave the church, but they can't leave the church alone".  I don't know how many times I've been sitting in Sunday school (in the LDS church) and heard a convert discuss the silly things that their previous church teaches--the ex-Catholic instructor, for example, telling us how the Catholic church teaches such-and-such about the afterlife, and how ridiculous such a notion is.  From my own personal experience, I would arrive at the conclusion that what is said of ex-Mormons can also be said of these converts--they may be able to leave the Catholic (or whichever denomination they came from) church, but they can't leave the Catholic church alone.  In other words, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  Now, I don't mean to imply that two wrongs make a right.  What I mean to say here is that when someone has been a part of a church for a long time and then converts to another church (or atheism), it is quite natural for them to make statements (sometimes possibly derogatory) about their previous religion.  It is not unique to those who leave Mormonism.

So, when I say what my religious beliefs are now, and how they are no longer in line with what the LDS church teaches, I do not do so to spite the LDS church nor any of its members.  I do not do so to attack anyone else's beliefs (anymore than a Mormon can be considered attacking Catholics for proclaiming that the LDS church is the only true church).  I do not proclaim such things with the intent to offend anyone.  All I want is to teach what I personally believe to be true.  I believe that the LDS church is not what it purports to be.  I believe that the fulness of truth is not found within the LDS church--surely, there is much truth in the church, but there is also much truth to be found outside of the church.  Just like any good Mormon should be able to be friends with people from other faiths and respect their beliefs (even though they believe that their friend's church is false), I have no qualms being friends with Mormons and respecting their beliefs.