Imagine yourself going home to your parents’ house for a family reunion. You go up in the attic to look for something and while poking around you find a small chest with some papers in it. You examine the documents and learn, to your horror, that you were born the opposite sex! So if you are now a man you learn you were born a female, and if you are a woman you learn you were born a male. Your parents had wanted a son or daughter and since you were born the opposite of what they wanted, they had arranged for a sex-change operation while you were still an infant. Everything that you had thought about yourself, others, and the world was built on a lie! All the time you were growing up you felt different and did not know why. The way you looked at life was based on who you thought you were and on what you believed to be true. Your world would just crumble around you! You would not know what to trust, let alone who to trust! You would have to re-learn almost everything; the way you interacted with others, the way you dressed, and more, assuming you decided to become the gender you were born as. Even if you stayed the artificial gender there would be psychological ramifications.
What if you had married? What if every major decision you made was based on what you thought was truth—that you were a man (or a woman)? There would be so much fallout your head would be spinning! You would most likely experience rage, despair, grief, sorrow, anguish, more anger, mistrust, confusion, and run through a whole gamut of emotions.
This is the closest analogy I can think of to describe what someone coming out of a cult experiences. The longer they were a part of the false belief system, the more severe the trauma coming out. Someone who had been LDS or Jehovah’s Witness or Islamic all their lives will experience greater hardship than someone who had only been in the movement a year or two. Even a person who was part of the LDS religion for just a couple years feels a great loss when they leave.
Leaving Mormonism is not like finding out that the spiritual gifts are for today (when you thought the gifts ended with the apostles) or that there is not a pre-Trib Rapture (if you believed in one) or that there IS a pre-Trib Rapture (if you did not believe in one). Those things are basically the “non-essentials;” you could go on without your faith and trust in God being shaken. You could easily readjust your thinking. For a Mormon to learn that Mormonism is not true, however, is to discover the following:
He or she did NOT exist before birth. There are not millions of spirit children waiting to be born. Drinking ice tea will not keep them out of heaven. They will not be married forever (to some that may be a relief. To many it would be a great loss). They will never have children in heaven. Their Mormon family and friends will not be in heaven IF they do not receive the real Jesus. They spent two years of their lives spreading a false gospel (assuming they went on missions). They don’t have a heavenly Mother. Jesus is not their older brother. They have a sin nature; not a divine nature. And much more.
They will realize that many of their decisions were based on false premises. For example, I know of Mormons who refused medical treatment because they were given a “priesthood blessing” and told they would be healed. They died instead. I think of myself having nine babies, endangering my health as I got older, because I believed the Mormon gospel was true. I would have kept having babies until my uterus dropped out had I not learned the truth about Mormonism. Ex-Mormons made decisions about careers, moving, dating, marrying, health, life and death, sex, number of children, all based on the premise Mormonism was true and then they find out it was not!
Here is another example: Our tenth child is adopted. He is our beautiful grandson by birth and we raised him from Day One. We were still LDS when this transpired. My oldest son’s girlfriend (now his wife, praise God!) was pregnant. My son had been “inactive” LDS and his girlfriend had no religious background at all. She asked me how I felt about abortion and I told her frankly I thought it was murder. I told her I would adopt the baby or help her find an adoptive family if she did not feel comfortable with that.
The Bishop called us in to talk to us about the situation. He insisted that the Prophet said babies should be given up for adoption rather than be raised by single parents and that we should allow the baby to go to another LDS family. I strongly believed this did not apply to us and our situation. The baby would not be raised by a single, unwed mother. He or she would be raised by a loving family; US!
The Bishop told us “the spirit” was telling him we should give the baby up. He showed us a movie put out by the First Presidency (the Mormon prophet and his two counselors) that portrayed middle-aged parents having to raise their grandchild and being resentful. It was nothing but propaganda. I wanted the baby! I wanted to raise the child! Well, praise God we did not take the bishop’s counsel, but went by what “the Spirit” was telling US. It was only a few months later that we learned Mormonism was not true. Can you imagine how we would have felt had we given up our own grandchild to follow a false prophet?
I personally know two precious LDS women who gave up their own babies because the Prophet said they should—even though they wanted the children themselves. When and if they ever find out Mormonism is not true, can you imagine the pain they will suffer, knowing they gave up their babies to please a god who does not exist? Does this help put things into perspective for you as Christians?
People leaving cults are hurting. They have been deceived. They have been betrayed by the leadership hierarchy. They have made choices—life-changing choices—based on false doctrines. They may feel angry, ashamed, alone—-very alone. Most people leaving the LDS Church do not find the real Jesus. They turn from God altogether and are lost because they reason that if the Mormon Church is not true, then nothing is true.
Ex-Mormons who become Christians face culture shock. Mormon families are generally very close-knit. The ward (congregation) they were in was close-knit. Many Christian congregations don’t have that closeness. In Mormonism the people felt they had a special mission and purpose. Somehow it felt as a Mormon that it was “Us against the World.” We had a common purpose and a common goal of preparing for building the New Jerusalem and the millennial reign of Christ. We felt like an exclusive group with a divine mandate. Our families were going to be together forever. We were going to be moms and dads forever. I was always going to be a mother and that meant the world to me! When I became a Christian and learned the biblical truth I would not be a mother ever again after I died, I wept bitter tears. There is an extreme sense of loss after coming out of Mormonism.
People who leave cults are often shunned by their peers. Some spouses divorce the one leaving the Church. Some people leaving the Mormon Church lose their jobs with LDS employers. Some have family members who will no longer talk to them. Their “friends” disappear. They must start over. Truly, when a Mormon becomes a Christian, he gives up all for the sake of Jesus Christ.
The music is different in Christian churches. Mormons come from worship services that include only hymns and piano accompaniment for congregational singing. Guitars, drums, bass, and horns seem irreverent at first.
In Mormon gatherings the person offering the prayer waits until everyone has their heads bowed and arms folded. In Christian churches the pastor or person praying just starts talking to God whether anyone is ready or not. Mormons have been taught to pray in King James English and were told this is the way to show reverence. Christians just talk in natural, colloquial speech as one would talk to a father or a friend. It feels weird at first to sit in a Bible study and have people give prayer requests and then go around the room taking turns praying.
In Mormonism we gave our tithes and offering privately and discreetly in a special envelope. In most Christian churches a collection plate or bag is passed around. It seems rather “showy” and “money hungry” to someone not used to that, especially when they have been told that pastors and ministers “get paid to preach the gospel” and they are in it for the money.
In some Christian churches you can often hear audible “amens,” “praise the Lord” and “preach it brother” from those in the congregation as the pastor is speaking. That is normal and natural to Christians, just like lifting holy hands to the Lord while singing. These practices are foreign to your ex-Mormon friends.
As Mormons we turned to the LDS prophet and apostles for instruction (“The Brethren”) to tell us what was right and wrong, what was truth and falsehood, what “Heavenly Father” wanted us to do or not do. We prayed and expected a “burning in the bosom” to indicate truth and a “stupor of thought” to indicate error. In Christianity there is no one leader or prophet who knows the answers. We don’t get a burning in the bosom. It is confusing to ex-Mormons because we are at a loss as to how to know truth. We are newborn Christians when we first come out of Mormonism to accept Jesus of the Bible. It will take some time to learn and understand God’s word.
It is like the social experiment I heard of done by psychologists on kindergarteners. A group of young children was observed playing in the kindergarten playground surrounded by a fence. The children ran, laughed, and played all over the yard, coming comfortably right up to the fence. The next day, as part of the experiment, the fence was removed. The children huddled in the middle of the playground and would not venture beyond. They seemed apprehensive and insecure. Likewise, as Mormons we looked to the Church for instruction. They told us what was acceptable to wear (any clothing that covered our bodies to the knees. No sleeveless tops) and what food to abstain from (tea, coffee, etc.) There were firm boundaries and it made us feel spiritually safe. When we become Christians the freedom can be scary at first, because we want to do what’s right.
There is nothing wrong with just asking, “Is there anything I can do to make the transition to Christianity easier?” Just be a friend. Be willing to listen. If they need to rant and rave or cry or be sarcastic or not talk about it at all, let them go through the process of healing in their own way.
Don’t poke fun!
You may personally think some of the LDS doctrines are the craziest beliefs in the world or that some of the Mormon practices are silly, but keep those opinions to yourself. Don’t exclaim, “Yeah, I don’t understand how anyone could believe such a ridiculous thing, blah blah blah…” Comments like that embarrass and offend. Take your friend’s lead. If your ex-LDS friend laughs and jokes about something regarding Mormonism, feel free to laugh with him, but please be sensitive. Try to put yourself in his or her place.
Keep in mind that ever since the LDS person was a baby (if he grew up Mormon) he heard and/or spoke the mantra over and over “I know the Church is true.” Once a month in Mormon Sacrament Meetings (their main worship service) they hold what is called “Fast and Testimony Meeting.” Faithful members fast for 24 hours and meet at church to “bear their testimonies.” Little children barely able to see over the podium will get up in front of the congregation and say, “I know the church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I love my mommy and daddy. In Jesus name, amen.” Adults also get up and bare their testimonies; “I know the Church is true. I know we have a living prophet who guides this Church. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know there is safety in following the brethren…” (and then they often relate personal experiences they’ve had during the week that prove to them the Church is true). It’s really hard to just put that out of their minds.
Don’t tell ex-Mormons to “just get over it and put it behind you.” Healing takes time—lots of time. Some ex-LDS recover in a few months, others in a few years. The longer they lived under a false belief system, the longer it will take to heal. The first year after leaving Mormonism is the hardest. The person will often get little panic attacks like, “Oh my gosh! What if the Church really IS true?” They may hear a scripture read in Bible study class that was used as a “missionary scripture” in Mormonism and it will trigger the thought they might have been wrong.
It takes time for them to learn biblical doctrines. Even years after leaving the LDS Church, with all the Bible study I’ve done, every once in a while I’ll say something and then wonder if it came from the Bible or the Book of Mormon!
Remember that each person coming out of Mormonism has a unique experience. He or she may have had a Christian background before becoming a Mormon. He may have been the only Mormon in his or her family. He may be angry or embarrassed about having been LDS. He may or may not want to talk about it. Like anyone having a traumatic experience, each person is affected differently. The most important thing you can do is to pray for them and with them.
For an interesting way to get an idea of what a Mormon has been subjected to I recommend renting the movie “The Truman Show” and watching that. In the movie the main character (Truman) has been raised in a carefully crafted environment. He believes it is the real world when in fact, it is a movie set. Everything has been constructed in such a way as to keep Truman from discovering the truth. When he begins to notice things that just don’t make sense, the show’s producer takes extravagant measures to cover things up. Watch the movie! It will help give you a clue.