Minimizing the pitfalls in the journey out of Mormonism

Navigating the uncharted paths leading away from Mormonism is a rigorous stroll through the park at best, and a disastrous, life shattering crash course at worst. Identifying and knowing the potential pitfalls, potholes and cliff edges can help to avoid or minimize the damage these threats pose. Below is a list of pitfalls I have identified through both my own journey and other fellow postmos. Each threat is also reviewed in more depth below the list. Please feel free to add any additional pitfalls or thoughts.

Potential Pitfalls in the journey out of Mormonism
1. Disclosing too much, or too soon
2. Identity Crisis (yours, and theirs)
3. Missionary Efforts
4. Not being present

My Philosophy
I believe that we ultimately only have power and control over ourselves, and even that is limited. Because of this, I approach this subject from the point of personal responsibility and control. It's easy to be in the game of blaming all of our problems on others, whether there's any truth to it or not. While the philosophy and approach I describe in the paragraphs to follow may be less conventional, I hope you'll find it useful for yourself or others as you continue this journey.

Disclosing too much, or too soon
When I first discovered that the church wasn't true, I was excited and rushed home after work to tell my wife, with little to no thought on how that might affect her, or our relationship. Fortunately, my wife took it well and has since embarked on her own journey away from Mormonism. However, that is probably the exception and not the rule. Far too often this news sends our family running to dig in their heels or down some other path we hadn't anticipated or desired.

Whether it's your spouse, kids, parents, extended family or friends, breaking this news too soon, or with too much detail, could put you in a place you didn't want to be. I believe there is some wisdom in the saying, "what they don't know, can't hurt them". This isn't to say we shouldn't ever tell them anything, but being the ones with the knowledge leaves the responsibility on us as to what we feel others are capable of dealing with, not that we can control their reaction, but anticipating to the best of our ability what their reaction will be and how to direct their reaction in a more positive direction. Communication is nearly instant in this digital information age and once anything is disclosed to anyone, be prepared for that disclosure to end up everywhere. By anticipating and limiting what we communicate to both what we feel others can handle, and with what we are prepared to deal with, we can somewhat minimize the pitfalls that disclosure can threaten us with.

Identity Crisis (Yours)
In Mormonism, we are conditioned to identity ourselves very much by our beliefs. When our beliefs in Mormonism collapse, it can feel like our very identity and self is collapsing and dying with it. Anything from our beliefs in Mormon teachings, to Jesus, to God may all now be up in the air, if we choose them to be. This is where we can manage the collapse so that we don't end up in the rubble along with our now defunct beliefs. Take the collapse of beliefs one at a time, when you are ready to face each fear and hurdle respectively. You can wait until the dust has settled from the great and spacious building before investigating whether Jesus is still your savior. Whether God exists can come even later. Learn to trust yourself and face these challenges at your own pace.

Just as importantly as managing the rate and extent of your collapse of beliefs, is to formulate your new identity less by beliefs, and more by your inner self and nature. The most dangerous beliefs are those which become inseparably integrated with one's identity. Should these beliefs ever be challenged, it will fill as though your very self and world is being challenged. So have your beliefs, but keep them at arms length from your core identity. In this way, you can drop and adopt beliefs and suffer little to no consequences. I'm not just talking about spiritual or religious beliefs, but any and all beliefs that are formulated from external influences, past, future or present. Your core identity shouldn't require any external factors to be true for you to be at peace. For example, your new identity of self shouldn't be based on a belief that your TBM spouse needs to leave the church with you. Keeping all of these beliefs at arms length will place you on a much firmer foundation with little to no threats to upset your peace.

Identity Crisis (theirs)
Because Mormons base so much of their identity on external (church) beliefs, their identity will be threatened just by you disclosing your disaffection and exit. Your spouse and family's identity of an "eternal family" will be shattered, as now they may no longer qualify for the highest degree of heaven, and you will no longer be among them either way. Respecting how much we can influence this collapse of identity in others, will hopefully help us be more gentle in how we approach them and maintain these relationships. Be ready to give lots of assurance to your spouse, family and friends that you still love them, that you are still a good person, and that you don't plan on leaving them. This can soften the crisis of identity they are facing and help create a new normal.

Missionary Efforts
Ours, not theirs. Too often when we discover the fraud and truth about Mormonism, we think we'll be able to help others see what we see. While there may be some in our circles who are open enough to see it, the majority of them will not be. If the student isn't ready, there isn't a teacher in the world that can get them to see it. Until their need to know the truth is greater than their need to stay comforted, our efforts to convert them will be mostly counter productive at best and permanently damaging to our relationships at worst. If and when they become ready, they will come to you or others who can provide the guidance they need. Your best tool in helping anyone is to be your peaceful, authentic self. The peace you emanate will say more about where you are in life than anything you can put in front of them.

Not Being Present
We have all probably heard the saying, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but Today is a gift, that is why it is called present". Where ever you may be in your journey, make sure you take time to be present and find peace in what you are going through right now. Just like a roller-coaster, sometimes you'll be experiencing thrilling bumps and other times frightening drops. But in each of these times, if you focus on what is in front of you in this moment, you will likely discover that all of the power you need to face your challenges is there when you need it, right now.

Don't dwell too much in the past, as doing so will only give it power to upset you right now. The past can be helpful when reviewing or applying a lesson learned from it, but otherwise it is just distracting you from being fully present and at peace right now.

As for the future, unless something needs to or can be done in this moment to plan or prepare for it, let it be. It will get here soon enough, and when it does, that will be the only moment that you really have power to navigate it; when the future becomes Now. If you can't be at peace and fulfilled in this moment, you cannot hope for the future to save you and bring peace to you. When the future becomes now, it will no longer be the future. Unless you learned to be at peace in the moment previously, you'll still be looking for some other future event to bring that peace and fulfillment. Whether that is your spouse or family leaving the church, your family accepting you the way you are, or some other goal, if you can't let it go and be at peace right now, with each breath and passing moment, you likely won't be at peace if and when any of these other goals happen. Your spouse may never leave the church; your family may never accept you. If you continue to base your identity and peace fulfillment on external sources, you'll likely remain in disappointment. Put peace and happiness where control exists, within you, in this moment. All that you have ever needed to be at peace has always existed within you, but only in the moment.

Other Pitfalls
Please share your own pitfalls and thoughts.

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That is a really good blog Micah and I have to say that it is different for each of us. For instance, I think you both were raised Mormon and your wife was NOT so upset with you that she would not go on her own search. I think that the overall advice is really good, but it doesn't work with all of us. We are as different as snowflakes so what may work with one spouse will not work with another.

An example of differences might be that I was raised in the Church of England and joined the LDS when I was 23, married to first husband and had two little boys. I lived in England still until that fateful day when the missionaries knocked on my door. I really believed them because they were so sincere in their own beliefs and thought that if God had truly restored his church to the earth and that my church was one of the bastard daughters of that 'great and abominable church; the whore of all the earth' - then I needed to convert to Mormonism. I did and gave it my heart and soul, my kids and my free choices.

When I discovered that it wasn't true I was angry. Angry because I had given so much of my life away to the LDS Church when I could have stayed put in a religion that believes the bible to be the inerrant word of God instead of full of mistakes.
My husband had served a mission and I needed to ask him questions about the things I was reading and hearing. I became angry with him because he KNEW many of the things that I had now discovered but had never shared them with me. I wished he had because I thought he had bought it hook, line and sinker. In actual fact the mopo's spin had been good enough for him because he had been BIC. I WASN'T! I believed in him and the strength of his testimony; he was and still is my exemplar in so many ways.

Being me - a passionate, lively individual I could not have kept my mouth shut even if it has meant the end of my marriage. As I shared what I knew and watched my husband become more and more defensive, I realized the things that you have written here about sharing too much and too soon, but I could not bear it alone. You didn't have to do it alone - you had Jennifer with you. We had this huge pink elephant in the middle of our small condo that we tiptoed around and I tend to be more of a bull in a china shop.

I wanted to stop fighting and arguing but I really was in a personal crisis situation with rifts between some of my kids and me and my sister and her family. I was insulted, threatened, abandoned, criticized and denied access to my grandchildren.

I was in my 60's and felt that I had to make up for lost time in my life. It is a bit like meeting someone and falling in love when you are in your 40's; no point waiting around - you just get into the relationship so as not to waste time.

This group moves us on from ex-Mormonism to a new life and I really appreciate that and part of that new life means finding who the new you will be. Guess what? There is no new me, I'm the same Jean that I always was; I was just hibernating until this beautiful new season of my life.

My advice to people is to be authentic. If you are not the type to play it cautiously, this might be the time to try it or it just may be the chance to be authentic once again and speak up. If I had lost all of my family I would have taken my own life, but I didn't lose them all and my husband is now able to validate my concerns and if he finds fault with something to do with religion, yes even the LDS religion he says so. My other kids still love me, visit me and we have interesting conversations. Even though the 11 members of my family who are inactive or resigned membership no longer believe the LDS church to be the true church, we all have different thoughts regarding an afterlife, what we are to do with this life etc. This is authenticity as opposed to a cookie cutter model of what someone else says we should be. It is freeing but not free - the cost is huge.

Good job on those thoughts Micah. There comes a time when we no longer dwell on the past but it takes a longer time with some than with others so my caution would be that when we leave the cookie cutter mold, we don't start becoming a new cookie cutter mold and have those expectations of others. Viva la difference!!!
Thanks for sharing your experience Jean. I recognize that this isn't a one size fits all approach. If it works for you, great, if not, something else will.
Something else has:)

But your ideas are good and kind and considerate; it is just that I am not, sometimes.
Good stuff Jean, Micah,

All my friends and family are all as different as snowflakes, too. My wife, 4 kids and and 9 grandkids are all active TBM. Like Jean, they all have accepted my loss of faith in the church with different and varying degrees of horror, and or acceptance. They've treated better with time since 5 yrs ago when I told them. I agree it's a good thing to still be your old kind self and they might realize you're worth being nice to in return.
It is so very cog. dis. for me, even now- after 4 years of my journey "out". It is one of the very best decisions I have ever made. I am VERY fortunate to have such a supportive husband, even though he is not all the way out like me. I am very lucky. To see my dear eldest son's decision to leave the church, be the cause of a very painful divorce this past year, has really driven this fact home to me.

I have definitely had to learn the hard way about keeping quiet to some friends. Ironically- it was my best friend's husband, (a friend also) who attacked my decision to leave, the most. Thankfully I live in California, and I have not had to face too many of my old friends...yet. I was quite well known in the Provo area, for my singing voice and the MANY songs that I wrote for Firesides, Morning-sides, road shows and plays. If it were to be made known that I don't believe in Mormonism, after all that I professed in song and in "testimony"...well, I am definitely NOT ready for that one!

I am a deeply spiritual person. Having been ill for 23 years, the one thing that I held to was my faith in the church; including the BoM, 2 patriarchal blessings and a SCORE of other things. Ironically, it was a near death experience, that mirrored Joseph- Smith Sr.'s dream/vision, that Joseph Jr. "stole" for "Lehi's dream" in the BoM, that truly changed my life. What I discovered in my experience in speaking with Christ, was that Religion was starving His word, right out of this world. And...we subsist on what the "pharisees" eke out to us. This emboldened me to do what I felt I needed to do.

As of late, I have been getting much worse and my own Mother suggested that I was being punished for leaving the church. I love her and I dealt with it, knowing that I would have thought the same thing when I was still living in my brainwashed world.

The best thing that has happened to me- especially with the near death experience, was that I completely changed in my ability to love and accept everyone without judgment in my life. I feel that this is the most important step in leaving any religion, but most especially, Mormonism behind. I realize that I would have been terrified and judgmental and that family members and friends are most likely in the same boat. We are talking about brain washing for hell's sake! Set an example of pure love and that you are the same person- they always knew and loved.

Stand firm. After almost 50 years of giving myself- body and soul to the church. I refuse to give it another moment. I know too many angry "ex- Mo.'s"! I was so angry- that the anger, bitterness and resentment literally threatened to engulf me.

Grieving is absolutely necessary- but as for staying "stuck" in that anger and grief... Life is too short!
I still have TBM's in my family, and some still try to get me to return. I usually just ignore or just say "Not Interested". An in-laws parents, as far as I am aware, think I am still in the church. They are in their delicate 70's or so, and I love them; yet I don't want to hurt their feelings by saying that I left the church. I don't want to burden any more pain about my leaving, nor do I wish to discuss with any family member on why I left.

My oldest sister had the hardest time accepting my church departure, now she doesn't say anything about it and I am content that she doesn't persist it.

One of my brothers sure likes to brag about his church involvement. He says it's just for socialization than anything else. One of his sons,oldest, has left the church (after I left, and was a surprize to hear).

My other sister, who thinks the world of the church, is alittle devil. She abuses the church, holds a T.R. and foolishly spends church money on things that are not important.

The rest of the TBM family members don't say much to me about the church. A nephew tries to convince me, but I just say " not interested".

So, I am content not being a member. In fact I am glad I left the church, as it was just boring entertainment to me. I am glad that I have the full freedom from the church. No rules to abide by, no attandance to keep track of, no daily scriptures to keep reading, no temple trips, and no fancy undergarments to wear.
Those fancy undergarments were a pain 'up the butt' to wear anyhow.

So glad that you have arrived at that place with your TBM family members Bill. My TBM family members don't talk to me; that way they can avoid any discussion about the church; a discussion that actually would not happen but obviously they don't want to risk it. In the beginning when I left the church I felt that I owed it to my children to tell them that I no longer believed and that I was leaving the church. Of course, they asked what I didn't believe. I told them about the multiple versions of the first vision and polygamy and the absolute hatred for black people that the early leaders especially Brigham Young exhibited. I told them there was much more but that I did not want to hurt them or their beliefs and way of life. We decided that we could continue on loving each other as a family and the fact that we had different beliefs would not be an issue. I even said that I would not discuss it with their kids and would even attend church so that it would not rock their boat.
This is one of the mistakes that we make when we find out that the church is full of baloney - we make concessions with our family members because we feel that WE are responsible for hurting them. It was not until much later that I said, "It is not my fault that Joseph Smith was a liar."

I kept my word about not talking to the children which was fairly easy seeing that they didn't come to see me or phone me. When I inadvertently discovered that my 18 year grandchild was going overseas, I began an online chat with her asking if she was excited etc. During this chat I broke my word. I wanted to know if she knew that I had left the church and she said, "Everyone knows!" Seeing that the topic was out in the open I told her that I was sorry now that a few years earlier she and I had argued over polygamy. She was just in YW's and had learned about it there and was horrified. I had tried to talk her into the fact that it was God's will for it to happen back then for all the reasons we give when we are active members. She was not to be persuaded and cried that it was wrong and she would never do it. In the chat I told her that today I would fight tooth and nail to protect her from going into a polygamous relationship and that I had been wrong to argue with her righteous feelings about polygamy. I didn't tell her anything about polygamy; how many wives Joe had or anything; just wanted to say that I no longer made excuses for it and I was sorry to have ever argued with her that it was right.

That was more than my son and his wife could take; they saw the whole chat and claim that my granddaughter showed it to them, so now, I was not to be trusted and since then they have found a myriad of excuses not to trust me and yet I have not discussed the church with any of the seven grandchildren that I no longer see unless I bump into them.

I did discuss Joe's lies with my son last year when I asked to take my grandson to a movie with his cousin and grandpa and my son and his wife had to have a discussion over how much access to the kids I should be allowed to have being that I was willing to 'lie in print'. I was so angry at being called a liar that I sent him some of Joseph Smith's lies 'in print' but it didn't make a particle of difference to the way they felt about me and they still love Joe. How does that work? How come they love lying Joe Smith when they have 'proof' of his lies but their own mother who nourished them, fed them and loved them and forgave them for their misdemeanors, gets disowned?

I have tried for 3 years to reach a point of understanding and acceptance with those two TBM kids and their spouses and kids. I have chased them to spend time with them like a stalking lover and have been rebuffed at almost every turn. This year my New Year's Resolution was to not do that this year. I have made a commitment to myself to not chase them, contact them or ask to take the kids out. I refuse to keep putting myself through so much pain and mental anguish. I almost ended up in the hospital after a terrible emotional breakdown. If they don't want to see me, be with me, talk with me then what can I do about it? I can accept the situation and get on with my life; keeping it full of things that are worthwhile to me.
Yes Jean, I think I know which 2 children you are talking about. Well, one day they will see the light(or get the picture).
Good Information. I converted my wife and taught my kids Moronism. How do you undo your doing? My wife still attends, believes it is true but believes the leaders are just men who try to do their best. She wants me to attend but it would be a waist of time unless I could share my views in class. That would not last long. But she excepts me for who I am. Oldest daughter married a Mormon in Brigham City, she is TBM. Last visit we just do not talk church. Second daughter attende so kids will have some religion in there lives. Kind of like my wife,and she married a inactive Catholic.thid a son goes occasionally has not really made up his mind and at least does not pay tithing. the yougest is like me an athiest and my wife feels it is my fault. he also married an in active Catholic Basicly we do not talk about belieefs at home.So I am luky they accept me. If they did not than I would fallow Kates advice "When people are respectful, they are allowed into my life. When they are not, they are kept out" If I had to live on my own I could do it, but aprieciate that many could not.
The reader I gave at the conference last night was from this post under the heading "Not Being Present".
Hate never does anyone good.

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